Touching, Hearing, Writing and Releasing the Energy of Pain:
A Program Timeline
Beginning with the Body:
1988. As a body worker, I focused on finding and unraveling patterns of pain at their origins. At my wellness center in St. Louis, Missouri, holistic physicians referred patients for chronic pain relief. One client said that I’d touched the “core” of her pain. Another joyously reported that for once in a decade, she stopped taking regular pain medication.
Akoma ntoso – “Linked Hearts”
Listening to the Stories:
1992. The majority of women in my practice, now free of their body pain, began spontaneously sharing their stories with me. Theirs were stories of violence. I was stunned by and unprepared for what I was hearing, but honored to be a trusted listener. I consulted with colleagues about this and was told to pay attention. I was also told to see this as a personal wake-up call. Was I, too, carrying an untold story of trauma?
Nyame Nti – “By God’s Grace”
Healing the Whole Person:
1994. I had begun my own healing process, and learned to identify as a survivor of family violence. I developed and launched an empowering, holistic women’s healing program in Atlanta, Georgia. The local church and media community supported this work with donated space and radio and television interviews. In healing circles, women shared as much or as little of their story as desired. I witnessed changes in participants’ affects from bitter and hostile to more open and hopeful. I wrote and produced our interactive text (manual and workbook), Landscapes of Abuse (2001) and offered this service for the next ten years in various formats.
Gye Nyame – “Go back and fetch ones essence”
2011. Going deeper, my graduate study explored the Indigenous roots of this work. I approached it with sacred ceremony, added new components of study and writing. My own writing across genres of drama, poetry and fiction became rooted in story medicine. I completed my MFA in creative writing with story as medicine and my novel. After graduation, and with good support, I launched Story Medicine Asheville, a six-month, Indigenous healing/writing program. At last, I recognized pain as the energy of our untold stories.
2017: Having completed ten groups (7 for women, 3 for men), and certified 6 gifted facilitators, we shifted from the long-form program to a schedule of short-term writing classes, with a new year-long internship. Today, our classes continue to grow, the quality of work our students produce is outstanding, and our internship will celebrate its first graduates in the Spring of 2019.
Meta Commerse, MFA, CWP is the author of 7 books, including Rainsongs: Poems of a Woman’s Life, The Mending Time (a story medicine novel), Blues Doula: Poems by Meta Commerse and her forthcoming memoir.