When Na’la and I sit down to talk, time loses all relevance. We’ve become so absorbed in conversation that she has literally missed flights. At our last gathering for Solstice, Na’la and I were crashed out on pillows in Brandy’s living room, eyes barely propped open, but still singing the kind of songs that celebrate community: Snake Woman Shedding her Skin and I’m a Wild One Now.
In fact, I am OVERJOYED to be co-facilitating a sound healing and singing workshop with Na’la at Resonance in the Mountains this June.
One of Na’la’s superpowers is in the fine art of the check-in. I mention in her video introduction how I’d just spoken to Na’la a few nights prior. “Let’s just give each other, like, five minutes to just hold space for each other with wherever we are at the moment,” Na’la began, inviting me to go first. Having just left work, my answer was very bullet-point precise: Here’s what I’d intended to accomplish today, here’s what I actually did, here’s what I had planned for tomorrow. No real grey areas; just the facts, ma’am.
And then it was Na’la’s turn, and she opened with all the ambiguities behind a major life decision, how it made her feel, her fears, missteps, hopes . . .
It was human, messy, complex, SO beautiful, and, all of a sudden, I wanted to ask for a do-over.
When someone asks us how we are, they are typically not expecting this sort of a nuanced response. Na’la is. In fact, she will gently prod you with insightful questions on a topic, teasing out its full dimensions. I don’t want to waste the precious time I have with this woman on surface pleasantries, because she is willing to dive deep.
Na’la often organizes circle shares stemming from, but not bound to, the Red Tent tradition, and I believe that Na’la’s ability to hold space– especially in this polarized world– is one of the greatest gifts we can give another human being.
Across the years of The Enrichment Project, Na’la, along with her dance partner Hilary and Shakra Dance Company, performed an evolution of pieces that involved them ripping their sleeves and midriffs away to reveal words painted on their skin: anger, contempt, shame. Performing this piece at TribalCon one year left the entire audience in tears, and I watched for the rest of the weekend as the two of them held space for those tears, offering the comfort of a listening ear to those who found themselves moved.
The following year, I sang for Jenny Cohen as she danced part of her emotional journey with cancer. Na’la sobbed her way through it, and she staged the photo above to commemorate it. This is because, at the end of the day: ART HEALS. It has the power to make us laugh, to make us cry, and even, in this crazy full-circle way, to make us laugh again at our tears. Art takes the human experience in all its complexity and nuance and resonates. It connects us, creates community, and offers a safe space where the process of moving through the tragedies of our lives can take place.
This is one of the most vital aspects of the creative process, which is why Na’la is absolutely fine with crying. I can actually hear her voice repeating those words back to me with utter conviction.
Na’la makes me feel absolutely fine with crying too, and it’s one of the reasons I love her so much.
I also respect her for seeking her own particular blend of Na’ledge. She makes difficult decisions in pursuit of her true calling in life, and it’s so rare to see someone not succumb to complacency, but pick up her torch and forge ahead into the mystery. I’m currently celebrating Na’la’s new role of facilitating space in a shelter for people transitioning out of abusive situations. I can’t think of another human more equipped for this work, quite frankly.
By supporting this project, you bring Na’la’s story to life, which means that you, too, can learn about how she facilitates circles. Through Na’la– through you— perhaps Jean Shinoda’s goal of The Millionth Circle will become a true reality.