Catching Spirit: A Conversation with SiStar, Healer, Writer Helen Klonaris

In “Catching Spirit,” Holly Bynoe Young has a conversation with Bahamian writer Helen Klonaris, her program Healing Hands Bahamas (a program offering community healing after the Hurricane Dorian disaster), and more about shamanism, soul-healing, and restoration experiences.

“To oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.” – Gabriel García Márquez, 1982 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

It started to feel like a knot in my throat

One that persisted and grew over the course of the days

A tense bulge of anxiety

Laddered

Layered

Throbbing

On the precipice of a deluge. 

The warm winds and waters swarmed. 

— 

On September 1 2019, as Hurricane Dorian neared the Abaco Islands and stalled over Grand Bahama in the days to follow, our collective breaths were shallow, gasping and disconnected from our bodies. Then, as Chief Curator of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas bearing witness from our front row seat to increasing hurricane devastation due to the onslaught of climate injustice, we were quick to act. 

For Caribbean people, at some point in our development the automatic, evolutionary and instinctual and habitual conditioning takes over to ensure that we can emotionally sustain ourselves during worsening seasons, sea level rise and the disappearance of our mangroves, biodiversity and life forms. As peoples of low lying territories in the developing world, we wake every day to the dawning of the end, and acknowledge the important role Mother Nature plays in calling us, reminding us of our essence.

A bit of this essence came to life during the healing aftermath through the co-creation of the civic and healing initiative, “We GatChu!!!: Sanctuary After the Storm.” Developed to support New Providence-based communities with access to alternative modes of healing through art therapy, community therapy sessions, public fora, wellness and meditation workshops and the more esoteric energy work offered by diasporic-based practitioners. The initiative highlighted the critical engagements that region-based institutions and Caribbean nations struggle with while illuminating the need for care, love-centred modalites, intimacy and social mediation.

What unfolded over the course of the next two months was nothing short of a miracle. With our communities, partners and stakeholders, we were able to co-facilitate healing methodologies that offered those impacted by the devastation and loss a sense of belonging and normalcy, relief and respite. 

Healing Hands Bahamas, led by Bahamian author, academic, shamanic and energy medicine practitioner, Helen Klonaris was one of the programs, and offered to the community healing experiences, safe spaces to share stories, and restoration through ancient spiritual practices.

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, Helen appeared again with virtual check-ins across our Caribbean space through We Are All Made of Stars. These meetings gave presence and witness to our thoughts around the tremendous shift in our physical and emotional realities while cultivating circles of trust and intimacy to heal our impacted psyches and bodies. 

In communion, we created new stories around our childhoods, sang up forgotten songlines, made inroads to understanding dreamspace, journeyed to worlds via rattle and drum, made altars for our ancestors, cleared our energetic fields, danced, sang, prayed, grew friendships and kinship. We shared how the evolving political, social, economic and decolonising impacts of the pandemic were taking shape, what the fallout looked like, the dark night of the soul and the newborn child self. Helen grew her courage, great wisdom and intuitively invited us to co-create, co-dream, co-manifest this intimate, resourced, slow, rigorous and spirited first cycling of “The Soul Healing Way.

As a StarSeed, taking my first steps to understand shamanic medicine, ways of being and processes, I am deeply humbled by the technologies available, known and unknown, and it is an honor to sit with my SiStar/Teacher/Guide/Mentor/Friend to share more on how alternative healing methods and processes can evolve and innovate our Caribbean strategies of thrival.

HB: What is Shamanism and The Soul Healing Way? 

HK: Shamanism is seeing in the dark. It is dreaming while awake. The experience of the imperceptible reality beneath the perceptible reality. It is a path of direct revelation. The practitioner enters the imperceptible reality (the realm of spirit) and encounters spirit for herself, himself. And why do we do this? For as long as humans have been aware of an imperceptible reality – of a spiritual dimension to the physical world we hear and touch and live within – humans have engaged with spirit to bring about the changes necessary to survival, to healing, to balancing that which is out of balance. 

Malidoma Some, a Dagara shaman, says that everything has spirit – trees, rocks, people. He says that when we change something in the spirit world, we cause a change in the physical. Ritual is a way of effecting change in the spirit world, in an effort to bring about desired changes in the physical world. Language is challenging – because it sounds like I am saying there are separate realms, and in a way, they are separate, but they also coexist, parallel dimensions that interconnect. For example, in Christian liturgies we have a ritual in which a priest gives wine and bread to a congregant, Holy Communion; and in some branches of Christianity, it is believed that these, when swallowed, are transformed into the blood and flesh of the Christ. Two parallel dimensions meeting inside us through ritual. 

The word shaman or ‘saman’ comes to us from the Siberian Tungus tribe, studied by Russian anthropologists in the 1550s. It means ‘one who knows’ and involves the use of altered states of consciousness in order to commune with Spirit. Shamanism has roots that go back at least 40,000 years in Australia, as well as in Europe, Africa, North and South America, Asia. It has existed in cultures in every continent across time, in forms particular to those cultures. And it continues to exist in Indigenous societies wherever they have survived colonization. It is a spiritual technology that, simply put, has been used by humans to communicate with Spirit for the healing of human beings and our world. It has been used to connect with the spirit of the Earth. To bring balance to the earth through connection with the spirits of plants, trees, ocean, air, sun – everything that is alive. It is a spiritual system that embraces the aliveness and the sacredness of all things, and so really, it is not only earth-based, it is cosmic. 

The Soul Healing Way is a shamanic healing program that has as its foundation the knowings that everything is alive, everything is connected, and everything is sacred. Knowings I’ve lived with since I was a child. It is upon this ancient premise that The Soul Healing Way begins its work. The work of pre-personal, personal, and trans-personal healing. It tells us that in order to do the work of healing our communities and our planet, we first have to heal ourselves. In order to heal ourselves, of traumas – those we have experienced, and those our families and even our cultures have experienced – to heal ourselves of the stories those traumas have inscribed into our very cells, and that we continue to live out every day, we actually have to have an ego strong enough to withstand the healing work necessary for transformation. If our ego is wounded, it will fight the healing, and will run far and fast from the very transformation it said it wanted. Or, we bring our wounded ego (and all its stories) with us into the work we are trying to do in service to others, and end up perpetuating the very stories we are trying to transform. And so that is where the pre-personal work comes in: we heal the inner children. They are the ones running the show, really. 

Science tells us that 80% of our brain synapses have fired and wired our brains by the age of 3. Three years old. That is deep. By five years old 90% of our brain development is done. By seven we are fully wired. What does this mean? It means if you didn’t get the love, the holding, the nourishment, the security, the safety, the sense of belonging, the attention, the guidance, the freedom to be you at those tender ages, your ego – the part of your psyche that is the knower and the doer in your life – has grown up feeling unsafe, fearful, not good enough, unworthy, needy, needing to please, looking outside for validation, and on and on. We develop all kinds of defenses aimed at not feeling these deeply uncomfortable feelings. But we can’t really get rid of them, and often they block us from living our best dreams. And so, this is where shamanism comes in. By traveling into the spirit realm, we can connect with our child selves, and bring in the experiences they needed to have as children to feel safe, good enough, worthy, loved. It’s like being able to travel back in time to rewire our 3-year-old brains so that we can take a different pathway to our adult self – and experience a new way of being where we feel the world welcomes us, wants us, celebrates us, and it’s safe, finally, to be all of ourselves.

HB: Why is this gesture towards healing so important in this current moment?

HK: This time of pandemic has ripped the remaining masks off the hurt of the world, I feel. It has brought to the surface so much of the suffering that has been endured for generations by Black people, Indigenous people, People of Color (BIPOC). By people living in poverty. By people who have suffered wars. People living at the centers of climate emergencies – like countries in the Caribbean that are right now at risk of another superstorm, like Dorian, and Maria. There are two reasons now is an important time for healing – one, because the wounds are open. When the wound is open, we can acknowledge it and attend to it. Second, we don’t have any more time to pretend that things are okay. The earth is suffering. Octavia Butler said it so clearly: “We can choose: We can go on building and destroying until we either destroy ourselves or destroy the ability of our world to sustain us.” Writers from every field, from science to science fiction have been telling us for decades that we were in trouble, and that we needed to change course; that our very air supply was in peril, but people who had power to do something did not, or did very little. And here we are, in the midst of a global pandemic, amplified by superstorms, fires, floods, uprisings. The wounds are open. I feel a deep urgency to remember us to our shamanic roots – we all have them, no matter what our lineage is. If we can remember that we are all connected, that humans and the earth and all beings are our relations, we will remember that our survival depends on the survival of all. 

HB: Given the nature of our complex colonial histories/experiences, this work feels like a reparative offering. In a space that has been dominated by conversations around reparative justice being monolithic (one dimensional) and driven by capital (economy), how do you, as a Caribbean woman, see the role of shamanic healing in the healing of hostile environments/histories? 

HK: Holly, when I think of how our countries were birthed, on land that was terrorized through the genocide of Indigenous peoples living here – the Arawaks, the Tainos, the Caribs – some of whom survived, but many who did not; and then that round of traumas followed by slavery, plantations, the violences inflicted upon individual bodies of enslaved Africans, as well as upon their cultures, and upon their spirits; and then too the hard stories of Indian and Chinese women and men crossing over as indentured servants, when I think of all this what I know is, the pain is still here. Now. It has not gone away. It is in the ground we walk on. It is in the physical structures of buildings we dwell in. It is in the air we breathe. And of course, it is still here, in Black and Brown bodies, and in Caribbean bodies. And I say Caribbean bodies, because when you grow up in these islands, whether you are of African descent or of English or Chinese or Greek descent, you grow up in the energetic field of this history that is alive still. You are affected by it. As a writer and healer, I am always thinking about transformation, and what justice looks like when we have transformation as our goal. I think reparative justice has to take many forms – economic, educational, material, and definitely spiritual and psychological. 

Trauma doesn’t just go away, even if communities are being offered economic and educational reparations – trauma is wired into our brains and lives in our cells, and is passed down from generation to generation, and so psychological and spiritual healing is profoundly important and necessary. Trauma has to be brought to consciousness and transformed. Shamanic healing shows us how to bring consciousness to wounds in the land, wounds in the culture, and in the individual. It shows us how they are interconnected. It shows us how to begin mending the past in our bodies here, now. And by healing the past, we can begin to grow new, different pathways towards new possible futures. 

HB: What other kinds of capital/wealth generation might this work be engaging with?

HK: This work helps us to heal the places in us where we believe (because of trauma, because of intergenerational traumas) that we are not worthy of receiving the goodness of life, the sweetness of life, the wealth that exists in life (and by wealth I mean everything from sunshine and seagrapes to a solid roof over our heads and money in our bank accounts). Traumas like slavery or occupations and civil wars that are passed down generationally intersect with the challenges we experience in the present. A child in the womb is affected by everything its mother has inherited culturally, as well as how she lives in her own body in response to the world; that child begins in the womb to form ways of defending its own small self from toxicity, pain, fear, anxiety. If there is too much pain, she or he will pull away from life, instead of towards it. If she is born into a situation where the mother is bombarded by life, is ill, or just can’t be as present as she would like, a newborn feels that too… and again forms a kind of visceral story (because remember, trauma wires our brains, lives in our cells…) about herself and the world: the world doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough, there isn’t enough time for me, there isn’t enough food for me, there isn’t enough… there is anxiety about having what she needs, there is anxiety about sustaining herself, and this visceral story (of scarcity, not enoughness) lives on inside her until a new story can replace it – which usually happens only if we can do the healing work to change it at a visceral level. It’s this kind of visceral, embodied change this work is all about. 

HB: Ancestral work is no longer underground or subterranean. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing uprisings, revolutions and acts of resistance (#metoo, #occupy) in tandem with the ongoing genocide of Indigenous People and the war against the Natural world why are the ancestors critical to acknowledge at this juncture?

HK: This is such an important and complicated question. For me, ancestors are memory. Ancestors are guardians of histories. And of us in this time. Ancestors hold stories and experiences of trauma, as well as the gifts of their own survival, creation, love. When we begin healing ourselves, we begin to transform our lineages backwards, and forwards. Imagine a tangle of rope in your hands… and the other end held in the hands of an ancestor… as you untangle the knot in your hands, it shifts the tangle of rope in the hands of that ancestor; I think of our energetic ‘chords’ to our ancestors in this way… as they heal in the spirit world, we feel the shifts in our lives; as we heal ourselves, they also feel the shift in spirit… we are never alone or simply individual, always interrelated…

HB: Why is it important to do this work rooted in Caribbean soil and from the belly of the Americas?

HK: “This is the place, and we are the people” – a Bahamian teacher and mentor used to say. It was a way of claiming a center; there was no someplace else to get to, no other people who were going to discover us, save us, make things better. It was a way of saying, if we want a revolution, we must make one. If we want transformation, we must generate it, from this soil, from this people, from our own hearts and minds and bodies. Agency in our hands, instead of feeling at the mercy of the hands of others. I want to also say that it’s important for me to root this work here, in this soil, because this is where the colonization of the so-called new world began. Landfall on San Salvador, Bahamas. Columbus’s ships and men. The beginning of massive genocide. The beginning of take over. The beginning of a new world indeed, one that demonized the earth-based religions of the Indigenous peoples who lived here, and set about clearing the land to build plantations and churches. There is a lot to heal here. In the land, in our bodies. 

I have to say, I am often afraid. Even now as I talk with you. Afraid of being called ‘witch’, ‘of the devil’, ‘pagan’. All the words that have been used for centuries to discredit and demonize and harm anyone who was deemed other, and those who did worship the earth as Mother, the sky as father, the stars as our great grandparents… who saw nature as holy. The same people who landed here in 1492 were steeped in generations of witch burnings, locking up heretics, demonizing their own shamanic elders. It was a terrifying time across Europe, if you were a woman, a healer, a diviner, a mystic, or an outsider in any way. The same devices of torture we recognize from the brutalities of slavery were first used by Europeans on those Europeans the Church deemed heretical. It was during hundreds of years of ‘holy’ Inquisitions across Europe that Europeans fine-tuned their abilities to brutalize other human beings, so that by the time slavery began, they knew what they were doing. These are linked traumas – the destruction of European practitioners of earth-based shamanic knowledge, the destruction of Indigenous peoples and their cultures, and the enslavement of Africans on European plantations in the Americas are profoundly interrelated. 

HB: Most healing programs, modalities and therapies connect back to the personal. Some deal with ancestry and lineage, others look at past lives, but very few find ways to integrate healing with social justice and transformation. What power lies in rerouting this connection and creating more intentional fusion? 

HK: Over the past several decades I was part of healing communities where I could wail my pain about unbelonging, or sexual violation, but I could not let out the grief of racism and how it had affected or infected me as a Greek Bahamian girl child and woman growing up in an African Bahamian society that was still reeling from the violations of colonization. In these healing communities, the dark was what we had to clear, and heal, and even if we did not call it evil, we were told as most of us are, that the darkness was in need of the light to set it straight. I was always conflicted about how we treated and perceived the dark, especially in healing communities that were mostly filled with white people. Especially in a world where we are daily inundated with visual narratives in which darkness is at worst evil, and at best a necessary sacrifice in a world where whiteness triumphs. So, yes, I was troubled. There were silences around race and class and colonialism; there was the feeling that the personal was the only valid lens through which to address healing, and not much attention given to systemic oppressions. But, as someone who had come into feminism reading bell hooks and Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Mary Daly, and frankly having grown up in Nassau, Bahamas, I did not know how not to talk about these issues in relation to our personal healing. Racism is as much an issue in the womb as it is on the streets of Minneapolis. By bringing a social justice lens to healing and transformation, we make space for intersectionality, and in that space, there is greater freedom I think for people to bring more of themselves forward. More safe space for more of their pain to be acknowledged and attended to. 

I also want to say that systemic structures – like racism and homophobia – do not live outside of us only, they are forms that have consciousness, and that consciousness lives inside our skin, inside our internal organs, inside our cells. Histories live inside our cells. James Baldwin told us that “History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.” 

So, I think there is power in an intersectional approach to personal healing – asking ourselves to look at trauma through the lenses of gender or race or disability or sexual orientation, for example. To be embodied means these are not abstract labels, or even really lenses – they are alive in us and matter to how we feel and experience ourselves in the world. When we begin to understand how whiteness, for example, shows up in the ways we not only experienced trauma, but how we cope with our wounds, how we defend ourselves against intolerable feelings, we begin to see how the structures of our societies get organized. So, healing can become a way for us to transform not only ourselves but our social structures as well. 

HB:  A lot of this work might feel uncomfortable, foreign, strange and esoteric to those who are still lurking in the shadows, unable to understand where to begin. In a region where we have ingrained cultural amnesia, made small our complex and vast histories, forgotten our ancestral connections and the essence of accessible technologies, how do you make these virtual offerings embodied, welcoming, and practical? 

HK: I say, if you feel something familiar in what I’m speaking, come. Come and sit and remember for yourself what your body knows. This isn’t new technology. It is old, old. And we remember it because it came out of our bodies in the first beginning. We know what it is like to dream. We know how it is to know something before you are supposed to know it. We know what it feels like to touch someone we care about, who is hurting, and have them say, thank you, I feel much better now. Don’t mind that we are gathering inside the computer in your living room. Energy and Spirit can meet anywhere. All you need is your body. All you need are your emotions, and your longing to feel better. What brought me to this kind of healing? My sadness that wouldn’t go away. How I tried and tried and still felt like I wasn’t getting where I wanted to go. All the projects I started and never finished. How hard it was to love. Despair. 

The first time I journeyed with my teacher, I came upon a baby girl who had been buried deep under the earth. I unburied her, and brought her straight into my heart. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just did it. I cried and cried. I didn’t know what part of me I was bringing back to life inside my heart, but my body knew; my spirit knew; and that was all I needed. That journey was the beginning of big transformation in my life. So, come. The work is gentle, and yes, deep. We will share the fears, the worries. We will tell stories. We will dance. There will be drumming. Rattling. You will remember how to dream while awake. You will find parts of yourself that want to come home too. Your body will know. Your spirit will know. And you won’t be alone; we will be in community, together. 

HB: As someone moving through the obscure, painful, revealing, waking up, I am fascinated by the ways in which intersectionality, mutuality, and active love are presenced as cornerstones of this co-creation. What ethical framework do you uphold (hold up) around the work of healing? 

HK: This is an important question. And I’ll pick up where I just left off. First and foremost, the work is a co-creative process with Spirit. I do this work in collaboration with Spirit, and I do this work in collaboration with each student; I am deeply committed to co-creative processes – this is how we heal best, in community.

Secondly, a belief in the wholeness, sacredness, and autonomy of each student. Yes, we are community, but we can only be healthy community when there is respect for the individuality and integrity of each person. So, this is important. 

Thirdly, do no harm: this means I am constantly doing my own work, looking at my own shadow, clearing and healing and wholing up myself so that I do not act or speak in ways that are harmful to my students. It means striving for impeccability – and being transparent when I get it wrong. 

Finally, bring to healing a spirit of justice, and to justice a spirit of healing: this means that the healing container we co-create is one in which ideals of justice have to be alive and in use always; it must be a safe place for everyone, AND, especially for those most marginalized in our society; it also means that I bring a spirit of compassion to those moments when we fall short of our ideals, and embrace a healing process through which we can grow and heal. 

And, one more thing – you are right about love. That is really the beginning of any ethical framework in this work, for me. There is love. That is what compels me. That is why I do this. It is love for my sistren and brethren, my non-binary siblings, and love for all my relations – human and more-than-human – on this planet and beyond, that compelled me to dream up The Soul Healing Way, and that keeps me dreaming. 

I am remembering a poem by Mari Evans – an African American poet who wrote “Speak the truth to the people/Talk sense to the people/Free them with honesty/Free the people with love and courage for their being.” These words walked with me for years in my 20s and 30s; they came out of the civil rights movement in the US, and were also taken up by liberation theologians like James Cone in the 80s, which is when I found them as well. When you ask of an ethical framework, it is Mari Evans’ words that are somehow imprinted beneath my own. 

HB:  By healing our bodies and psyches, we heal our families, communities, broken/dis(eased) systems and world. It is an emergent strategy to work from small to large, from micro to macro, to witness change as the constant in life and develop other ways to access joy, pleasure, freedom and resourcefulness. I see this work continuing the legacy of the ways in which people of colour have resisted centuries of injustices through self-help, society-help, and planet-help.  This restorative justice is cellular, it is at once personal and political. It is a part of the often invisible labour done by women to hold sacred space for their communities. Can you speak towards this?

HK: That’s beautifully said Holly. Here is a story. When I was in my early twenties, my grandmother told me that her mother, my great grandmother Yiayia Maria, had been a healer in their village in Skopelos when she was growing up. She said she knew all the plants, how to use them to make people feel better. She said, the doctor only came to the village once a month, and so he had taught my Yiayia Maria how to do certain things. She could deliver babies, and practiced bloodletting. She was the yiatros when the other doctor was not around, which was most of the time. 

I remember where we were when she told me, the Grand Central Restaurant on Charlotte Street, sitting at a table just the two of us. I was transfixed. I was a feminist. I was researching goddesses and matriarchies of the European Neolithic. I knew about the witch burnings. I considered myself a witch – the word we were so scared to speak. But I’d had no idea my great grandmother had been a healer. Someone who in an earlier time could have been burned at the stake for her healing hands. I felt as if my whole body breathed a sigh of relief. You speak Holly of how this ability of self-help, society-help, and planet-help is cellular – in that moment I was handed legacy, it was a naming of legacy, and I did feel it cell deep. I felt I could see myself by seeing my great grandmother Maria Diamantis. Until that conversation, she had been all but invisible. She died in Greece when I was a child. And no one else in our family seemed to know she was the village healer. I fear that without these kinds of details about our ancestors, we do not see ourselves properly. We do not value the wisdom that is alive in us. We don’t see how our wisdom could be useful in the world. Because the so many frameworks that do exist are meant to keep most of us out. If we are women or queer or or trans or Black or People of Color or Indigenous.  

Years later, I had a vision. I was walking down a long hallway, and stopped at a door. I was guided to open it, and inside were a group of people sitting on chairs in a circle. They were from different cultures, dressed in the clothing of their people. And I understood they were all healers of different kinds. My Yiayia Maria was there. When I realized who and what they were, I began to weep. I did not feel worthy of being in such company. I was called in, I was invited to slowly make my way around the circle, to see and be seen by each member of that circle. I wept some more. With each pair of eyes, I felt the weight of the responsibility of healership. Finally, it was my great grandmother who took my hand, opened it, and laid inside my palm a small handful of black seeds. She closed my fingers over them. All wordless. But I knew. She was passing on the seeds. I was to plant them. Grow them. Use them to make a little bit of the world better. Starting with myself. 

HB: How can these tools be engaged with to build a healthier life? Why is healing important for our evolution, elevation and transformation?

HK: When we are locked in cycles of woundedness, our consciousness gets stuck; we don’t evolve. Our imaginations fail us. We tell the same story over and over: don’t trust people; everyone is out to get me; I am not loveable; the world is a scary place; people are evil. The stories we tell are the reverberations of woundings we experienced, and those our parents experienced, and even those of our cultures. And we don’t just tell those stories, we act on them. We make worlds out of them. When we begin to use these shamanic technologies for our healing, we begin slowly to lay down new experiences, like a new soundtrack inside us, and the more we play that new soundtrack, the more the old one fades, loses its power over us. The new soundtrack is a soundtrack of freedom, and it allows us to imagine new stories. And the new stories ripple out into our relationships, our communities, our cultures, and I believe this is how deep change can happen in our world.

HB: These portals of and to healing feel like coming home to self. In the moments of fusion/alignment we are cultivating substantial connective tissue deep into the spirit and natural worlds. Opening up the psyche to the work of remembering, returning, and building resistances and resiliencies. In your latest newsletter you called on your communities’ communities, on us, to join you in a healing journey to “open up the locked doors and liberate the house inside.” We all deserve to be at home, secure in bodies, held by our communities, blood and chosen families. We deserve to be resourced by Pachamama and to gesture and act swiftly and consciously to repair the devastation, exhaustion and exploitation of our equilibrium. 

At this slow passage through the dark night of the soul, our planet’s exhaustion is nigh and late stage capitalism has broken down homes but not our spirit. What kind of home/ile do we need for the future, sister Helen, where is its hearth?  

HK: Holly, I think this time is really asking us to do all that you have just spoken. Remember our relationship to Earth. Remember that Nature is not just decoration, not just entertainment, and definitely not something to be bought and sold and exploited for profit. Nature is everything. Nature is home. Pachamama is home. Our bodies come from Pachamama, Madre Tierra, Gaia, Ge. And because our bodies come from Earth, our bodies are also home, our own sacred skin and arms and legs and hearts and bellies. And because it needs to be said, because we have been made to forget (and this forgetting is a deep wound) our bodies are inspirited, the Earth is inspirited – the soil, the trees, the flowers, the birds all have spirit – there is nothing alive that does not have spirit. We need to remember this. 

To come home again and again to this truth, that Spirit is alive in all things. And then it will be clear that the kind of home we need for the future is one built around this truth. Its hearth is that place where we celebrate the (re)union of spirit and flesh. Make an altar outside, under a tree, in your yard, light a candle on your kitchen table, put a sprig of poinciana in a bowl of water on a window sill and give gratitude for life – that is hearth. 

I remember the words of Indigenous Australian elder, Grandmother Mulara, who told us as the Pandemic began to rage around us, shutting us in, many of us afraid and alone, to go outside and lay ourselves down, our own belly to the belly of Earth. That is really it. When everything else has been stripped away, we come home to this – our body laying down on Mama Earth. And just so, you feel your heart beating against the ground. You feel a letting go, a surrender. You feel safe. You feel held. You feel your breath slow, your nervous system calm. In that moment, we know, we remember, there is nowhere we can go that is not home. 

Helen is welcoming second-year kin with The Earthseed Group. To know more about The Soul Healing Way program, visit https://soulhealingway.com/the-soul-healing-way/

Helen Klonaris is a writer, healer, and educator. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and If I Had the Wings, her debut collection of short stories was a finalist for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2018. 

Helen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Wesleyan University, and has studied with renowned Caribbean writers at the Caribbean Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami; she studied theology with activist theologians at the Women’s Theological Center in Boston, Massachusetts; received her Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Consciousness from the New College of California; and walked The Shaman’s Path with Patricia White Buffalo in Santa Cruz, California. She teaches comparative mythology and religion at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, and is the founding director of The Soul Healing Way.

Holly Bynoe is an independent curator, writer, artist, educator, spiritualist, Earth Ally and researcher from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Bynoe is the co-founder of ARC Magazine, and is a graduate of Bard College | International Center of Photography where she earned an M.F.A. in Advanced Photographic Studies. She is co-director of Caribbean Linked, a regional residency program held annually in Aruba supporting cultural exchange, and co-founder of Tilting Axis, the annual meeting charting arts activism, decolonial methodologies and models of creative sustainability across the region. 

Bynoe held a 5-year tenure as Chief Curator of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas through 2019. Most recently she joined arts non-profit, The Hub Collective Inc to build out their sustainable, regenerative, environmental and intergenerational pillars and is co-founder of Sour Grass, a newly founded curatorial agency supporting contemporary Caribbean art practice.

One thought on “Catching Spirit: A Conversation with SiStar, Healer, Writer Helen Klonaris

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