Clean Space

What is a clean space? I am borrowing from psychotherapy’s understanding of clean pain and dirty pain here. The idea for clean space is a transmutation from Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and a conversation with a friend. In the book Resmaa defines ‘clean pain as choosing integrity over fear and standing in that fear with integrity and moving towards the unknown. The alternative path is responding from dirty pain. Dirty pain is when we respond to fear and conflict from our most wounded parts. Responding from dirty pain only creates more pain, both for ourselves and for other people.’ Kevin Reese.

Ahhhhh, Clean Space

Adapt Faster
For the past few months I have been engaged in conversations with Joshua Isaac Smith. ‘Clean space’ is a new concept for us to consider. We wondered what ‘clean space’ would mean? A room devoid of clutter, debris from the past, smoke, mirrors, egos, distraction and expectation. A ‘clean space’ would be filled with windows. Allowing safe passage of the used and damaged out, and on the new breeze, fresh exciting ideas and plans.

‘Clean Space’ existing as a hopeful tentative NOW.

Empowered
Recently I was amongst 20 Black men at McMaster’s Black Student Success Centre for an Empowered conversation. Being with groups of Black and Brown men, has been part of my psychotherapeutic experience since joining BAATN in 2010. Forming The Black Men’s Therapy Group, collaborating to start The Diversity Space at NHS Oxleas, being a counsellor of Kwanda’s Mens Groups, attending and co-facilitating the True Roots Check-In and Chat gatherings and now the Empowered experience at McMaster’s University have all been ‘clean spaces’. Every experience supports an understanding of how rare meeting in an unencumbered way can be.

A Waiting Page

These Days
I wrote last year, about when Black people gather in numbers larger than 2, in spaces that are considered White, often that group is interrupted or stopped from happening. Noise, disruption, a perceived harmony considered out of alignment the cause. A closer examination could be that witnessing Black people together laughing, discussing, enjoying time peaceably can cause suspicion, disharmony, an old yet fully present order – disrupted. The observer offset by a preconceived notion that a group of Black men are planning something. Leading to revolt. In solidarity groups arrive at causes that determine outcomes and act accordingly to achieve necessary change.

Ready
The Empowered event at Mac’ was the first of it’s kind at the University. Members of staff (2 sports coaches, a lecturer/PhD student) students from different years and areas of study and me came together to watch Black Boys. A film about the Black Male experience in America, and then discuss our understanding of being a Black man in Canada. The skill of withholding rather than exploding, being assertive versus aggressive, non reactive when encountering micro and major aggressions, the exhaustion of constantly being on guard. Like being in an invisible straightjacket against one’s will…

Community Clean

Rebound
Speaking with Joshua, who wondered about an organisms tendency to shrink, retreat, respond in fear when new stimuli are introduced. Prompted me to write this short blog. Our conversation helped me to think about synapses and encountering difference. Does the brain re-wire initially encountering challenge? Do synapses retreat breaking connection momentarily? Only to reach out and form a link later and then re-enforce that link with others. Or once a synaptic link drops, is the link permanently severed? Being in safe spaces, ‘clean spaces’, do synaptic links regrow? Do we regrow once danger and perceived threat disappear?

Exponential Growth
I believe we do in ‘clean spaces’. If the human has a tendency to self actualise, to improve continually, Black men witnessing another (others) in a space being vulnerable, can identify that the masculine can be compassionate and however that male wishes to recongise and express themselves. That was what I witnessed. A willingness to step outside of a pre-set mold. Tentatively we began to unfurl and live in space without filters. We became hushed, listening intently, focused. We found time to articulate our ideas and experiences like a testimony for the gathered to know ‘You are not alone.’ ‘I see you.’ ‘I have felt that way too.’

Bubble Balcony

You, Me, Us
Being in service to another, is being in service to self, to one’s family and community. ∞ (infinity) is an act of Ubuntu. When as a species (human) we can accept that no person is more important than anyone else on the planet. Death then can be an equalising concept. This final experience has us all in repose, be you a queen, a member of a Junta, or a salesperson. Having access to ‘clean space’ for Black men I imagine contributes to a sense of being seen, heard, valued and fulfilled. I am fortunate to have been a part of the inaugural Empowered event and look forward to many others at McMasters, and beyond. The request from ourselves to humanity is less to seek permission, but taking the necessary steps to live well as Black men.

More of
Experiencing ‘clean spaces’ more than once, leaves me questioning about how members of the Empower group found their time? I am also interested to know how to increase a sense of security and ‘clean space’ beyond designated times and places. As a psychotherapist I am interested to know what the bite point is. When do ideas of connection bloom towards collaboration, action and then implementation? Having access to ‘clean space’ could be the catalyst.

Moving energy collectively forward.

Little is achieved without community around.

The first ‘clean space’ may well have been the family unit…

Resources
Black Boys hyperlinks to the site of the film. The link below is a Blog discussing the film in some detail by The Curvy Critic Sonia Lowman.
With I stand Alone, the outro of this piece of music bites down on the kernel I have been mulling on throughout this blog. Patrick Stump presents an idea on repetition. Without ingenuity nothing new can be introduced. Amongst community – everything is out for reinvention.
Black Folk introduces a wonderful love song to Black People about the Black experience. As insightful as the music is wistful. Poetry filled with pointed observation. Again we observe community.
Clean Pain links to a short piece by Kevin Reese who looks at his life following release from prison and integrating with community.
Jason Reynolds has a 4-part podcast where he in his smooth baritone, observes life post CoVid19 alongside his mother’s influence. Community for me is more than 1.
QLS Classic with Common, highlights Common’s rise from Chicago to being a global figure. Note how he observes community, influence and movement that helps to shape his career.
Black Boys by Sonia Lowman a review
Robert Glasper, Common, Patrick Stump  I Stand Alone
Tank and The Bangas Black Folk
Clean Pain and the necessity of healing – MSR
Radiotopia Presents My Mother Made Me – Jason Reynolds
Quest Love Supreme – QLS Classic: Common

Images
Image Theme: Clean
Cover photo Hands Clean Eats by Wasa Crispbread on Unsplash
Living Room photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
A Waiting Page photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Window Clean photo by Victor on Unsplash
Bubble Balcony photo by Salman Hossain Saif on Unsplash

**Backlinks
Adapt Faster – Joshua Isaac Smith
Canada links to the Blog Encounters of the 3rd Kind
Black Student Success Centre or BSSC at McMasters Uni
BAATN The Black African and Asian Therapist Network
The Black Men’s Therapy Group Blog
The Diversity Space Blog
Kwanda’s Mens Group Blog
True Roots Blog
Ubuntu: Recovery – White Supremacy Blog

**Whilst I find backlinks useful in the main body of text. They can be distracting for you the reader. I would be interested to know if you find links at the end of the writing helpful.

Structure Them

As with most things in life structure is an important part to creating anything.

Taking Inspiration and Flying
My blog writing has been a flight of fancy, of fantasy and for me a moderate success.

Flight
In 5 years I have grown my readership organically from 10 readers to just over 100. Organically meaning I have posted and readers have liked and then followed the blog. I have attempted campaigns where I have invited friends and family to take a look and subscribe. This took me from being scared to being willingly vulnerable. I had to as Brene Brown would say call on my courage to complete this task. The worst that could happen is readers, family and friends state that they are not interested in reading my work and not click subscribe.
That’s it?
Yup.
Bad huh?

1000’s
The number of readers could always be greater. With time. With consistency. With diligence. With transparency. With vulnerability. With a clear call to action and a clear message the number of quality readers/responders will grow. I am interested in the number of readers growing as some of what I write and think, I intuit is relevant, useful and slightly educative for a few people.

Tate Modern London

Structure Meaning
I will be spending time over the next few weeks re-writing most of my blogs so that they are clear in what they are inviting readers to act on. The blogs are written with the intention to be informative. I have found that the thought that begins the blog post sometimes does not travel all the way to the end. The inspiration leads on to other thoughts and ideas that could be confusing. Leading you astray is where I can get better as a writer. The craft of blog writing is about clarity and information leading to an action.

Action
For me the intention of the blog was to inform others about the thoughts I had about the life I am living. I am still interested in that aim, however the call now is to drive readers to take action. That could include responding to the blog post or any of the 70+ I have written. Read the links included in the blog to increase perspective of what I have written and then respond. Read or buy the book listed in the hyperlink (I currently am not an affiliate marketer), listen to the podcast I have included or watch the youtube video.

Pointing
The aim here – I am interested in having in depth conversations either online or in person with others who have a wider appreciation for the life we are living/leading. The writings of the blogs helps articulate my thinking the aim is not to end the conversation there but to grow the thinking and generate further ideas.

To End

My blogs are going to change. Bare with them and me. A metamorphosis is happening, it possibly is happening for you too.

CTA

The aim of this blog was to share that from a simple and chaotic yet interesting beginning the Therapist on a Journey is changing. If you have read on to the end can you:

  • Send this on to 5 people that you feel would benefit from reading these words
  • Post a comment below or drop me a line at michaelforfieh@gmail.com