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Massy Interviews / Phiroozeh Petigara

On Sunday, December 11 at 1pm, join Massy Arts + South Asian writer and healer Phiroozeh Petigara for BIPOC Reflect and Release 2022, an in-person reflection workshop that invites attendees to pause, and turn the gaze inwards.

Petigara says: “At the end of another long year of uncertainty, the strain of capitalism, the harm to BIPOC communities, this gathering is an invitation to pause. Slow down. Turn the gaze inward. In safe BIPOC space, we gently sift through the nuances of this human experience and reflect on the year gone by. Through writing, art, and somatic practices, we amplify the joy and uplift the spirit. Through ritual and guided meditation, we release the heartache, the loss, the things that linger but no longer serve. We tap into our inner wisdom and call on plenty of self-compassion to do this tender exploration, and you are invited to do it at your own pace.”

Please be sure to register for this event.

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To celebrate the workshop, Rafael Zen interviews Petigara for Massy Arts, investigating the importance of tenderness in healing.

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Phiroozeh Petigara / To heal, we must be tender with ourselves, and grow our capacity to have compassion for our humanness

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Rafael Zen – Why coming up with a workshop that invites attendees to pause, slow down, and turn the gaze inwards? When asking folks to slow down, what do you think your workshop says about Vancouver/Canada and our economic/political establishment?

Phiroozeh Petigara – I used to dread the holidays. The forced merriment, the money spending, and worst of all, as I grew older, I wondered why my Pakistani immigrant family did any of this, let alone all of it (although the curried turkey they came up with was really delish). A few years ago, I did something radical. I stopped going home for the holidays. Instead, I put on fuzzy slippers, made tulsi tea, grabbed my journal and coloring pencils and spent the last few days of December reflecting on the year gone by. I ended the year feeling soft and tender towards myself instead of stressed and broke.

The end of the year tends to be outward focused. Parties, people, gifts. Capitalism smiles greedily at the end of the year because it fattens off our salaries and deepens its reach into our souls.

This workshop subverts capitalism. We do this by going inward. Looking at all we do have instead of what we don’t. Looking at what we did accomplish instead of what we didn’t. Each time we celebrate ourselves just as we are, with all our flaws, we subvert capitalism. We heal. Individually and collectively.

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RZ – This is a “reflection workshop”. What do you think is the importance of inviting people to gather around and reflect on the year that has passed? In this context, what is the role of writing, creating art, and meditating?

PP – I used to end the year with a vague sense of, “I probably didn’t do enough, write enough, earn enough.” But when I began this end-of-year ritual, a different picture emerged. I wrote down my achievements, heartaches, challenges. I wrote down the moments that made me laugh and be in joy. That tested me. I drew doodles about my emotional landscape that only made sense to me and I laughed with myself. I considered my whole human experience. It was the sweetest, most tender way to spend time with myself. I felt uplifted and more in love with myself and this life I was living.

We often move through life with our focus on the next thing. We rarely pause to examine the thing we just did. And how it impacted us/grew us. This is where the healing lies. In the slow down, in the reflection.

Practices like writing, art and meditation, by their very nature, slow us down. You can only write so fast, right? When we slow down the body, we slow down the mind. We open space within. For our spirit to breathe. For the thoughts to settle. The feelings. Then we examine all parts of our lives, our selves. Get curious about them. Learn from them. Grow from them. Release them. Meeting ourselves with this level of intentionality is the biggest gift we can give ourselves.

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RZ – Why do you say this workshop will establish a tender exploration of one’s self? Why the word tender to describe the investigations that will be proposed? What is the importance of tenderness in healing?

PP – A frightening number of us are taught to be hard on ourselves. As BIPOC, we work harder than the white folks around us which, again, feeds into a hardening of the self, just to survive. As BIPOC, we come from cultures where 99% isn’t good enough. So we internalize all this, harden ourselves towards ourselves.

We speak to ourselves with the same harsh tones that adults used on us when we were children. I’ve learned that in order to do any healing, we must be tender with ourselves. Grow our capacity to have compassion for ourselves. Our humanness.

Many of us have spent a lifetime being told we are not good enough. Because we are women. Trans. Queer. Racialized. Disabled. Or all the above. To me, to heal is to befriend the self. To show up for yourself in the exact ways that you wish others would or had. To be your own friend and ally, lover and teacher.

This is one of the core areas I’ve had to heal for myself, being tender and compassionate with myself. And it is something I explicitly teach folks to do for themselves.

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4 – Who do you think this workshop is for? What can attendees expect from this space that you are facilitating?

PP – This workshop is for anyone who is seeking something different. Who’s feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Who is interested in exploring something healing but feels nervous to. A group workshop is a great way to dip your toe into a healing space. In my workshops, participation is always optional. Folks can do and say as much or as little as they wish.

It is also for folks who want a slow down, want healing, but don’t know how to do it for themselves. Getting support from a teacher is a great way to introduce healing practices into your life.

This space is, first and foremost, a safe space for BIPOC. We will talk, eat, journal, draw. I’ll guide folks through grounding exercises incorporating breathwork and guided visualizations. You will explore what your inner world and desires are calling for in a safe guided way. You are welcome to write or draw or think or take a nap as your way of reflecting. We will also do rituals to release things that no longer serve. This is a powerful part of the process that most folks resonate with.

Best of all, being with other BIPOC means a) we can make new friends! and b) this healing is personal and collective.

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