Centering Queer Healing: An Overview and Review of the Pop-Up event, “Counterclockwise”
facilitated by @fieldtherapy

Illustration saying Centering Queer Healing
illustration by Julianne Dalope

Warm, Recharged, Content, Grateful, Held, Present, Love. 

At the end of our weekend experiences, and when asked to go around in a circle saying one word to describe how we feel, that is what we expressed. 

“Counterclockwise” was a two-day workshop that focused on Queer trauma and healing. On March 1st & 2nd facilitators/curators/space-holders, Sam Field and Michelle Castor created an experience that brought together Queer community members in Portland. Through the combination of education, writing, movement, sharing, and witnessing “Counterclockwise” embodied what it means to recognize and give grace to Queer experiences. 

Sam and Michelle have been working together for ten years. Each of them doing their own work—Sam as a therapist, and Michelle as a postpartum/fertility doula—but side by side representing the collectivity that is needed in LGBTQ+/BIPOC communities. In addition to therapy, Sam is also a consultant, writer, and connection-seeker. As for Michelle, they work as a herbalist, bodyworker, and grief-worker. Both of these facilitators are not bound in one entity but exist with a multitude of interests, goals, and intentions. Such multiplicity is exactly what Queer communities/folx reflect in our identities and lives we live. It was an honor to learn and create not only alongside Sam and Michelle, but with the entire room of Queer voices. 

Sam made sure to mention that “Counterclockwise” is typically an eight-week session workshop that she and Michelle specially condensed into a two-day event for Portland. The intention behind this is that they believe the work of Queer healing must be done, and must be done in the company of a collective. So, the efforts at trying this new timeline (two days vs. eight days) was at least worth the attempt. 

Day one took place at the queer-owned bookstore Bishop & Wilde. When considering where to hold the workshop, Sam and Michelle kept the Queerness alive and well by collaborating with other Queer entrepreneurs. Michelle and Sam’s ongoing effort at Queer connectivity exists within the work they do, but as well as where they do the work they do—space plays a significant role in creating the magic that exudes out of Queer environments/experiences. The bookstore so kindly allows community members to utilize the space on the building’s top floor. A studio-style space that displayed windows on every wall; with the sun peeking through it felt open, cozy, and inviting. From 2-4 pm the thirteen of us present were guided through definitions, ideas, infographics, poems, and writing prompts. This day mostly pertained to laying the foundation by defining 1. trauma, 2. Queer/Queer Theory, and 3. Queer trauma. Distinguishing these entities and exploring their complex meanings and representations in society, established the framework that we would continue to work with and through for the remainder of the workshop. 

Considering the name, “Counterclockwise,” we focused on counter-narratives/counter-storytelling as a way of reclaiming autonomy. During a writing exercise, we named some of the stories that society tells about Queer folx (and about our own specific, individual identity). Then we got to re-tell these narratives in our own way—centering our truths and realities that oftentimes are not allowed the space or acknowledgment in an actively-suppressing society. The independent writing time granted us an outlet to introspectively reflect, while the group sharing encouraged us to witness others in their vulnerable moments. They heal. We heal. 

As much as I enjoyed learning more about the lenses Sam and Michelle presented, I was very much moved by some of the more subtle moments that occurred during our time. One of my biggest takeaways was the immense amount of intention behind the language that was used. Not only did they begin with a land acknowledgement, but they also made time and space to discuss their community guidelines that we were to respect and give any feedback on. Every sentence that was spoken—from all the folks, not just the facilitators—felt so purposeful and soulful. Words are definitely my love language, so it makes sense why these moments felt so significant to me. Our conversations held a level of mindfulness that I have rarely experienced. We held an active consciousness that everybody (mostly all strangers) came into the room with varying backgrounds, traumas, triggers, and circumstances. The only way to beneficially create a “safe” space where folks feel seen, is to create an accountable space where we understand the impact words hold. 

Another aspect I adored was the breathwork that began each day. Michelle’s background in bodywork manifested in the meditation moments she guided us through. Dedicating a time for us to feel embodied allowed us to get into a mindset that would hopefully sustain us for the rest of the workshop. Meditation is a practice that I love engaging in, so I was very appreciative of its incorporation. 

Day two took place at The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center—a Queer BIPOC + South Asian-owned studio. Similar intentions as day one, but with different activities/practices we began by walking into the space and grabbing a blanket and yoga bolster(pillow). About twenty-five folks situated themselves in the studio, making our own little blanket-islands with our workshop packets and snacks. In the center of the room was a tapestry—also referred to as an altar—with the elements earth (rock), water, air (butterfly wing), and fire (candles). This area was intended to acknowledge intergenerational trauma/healing; we were to bring something that represented our ancestors’ past and future, or something that was dear to us. The objects, personal and private, sat in the center of the room throughout our session. Like day one, Michelle and Sam started with land acknowledgments, introductions, and breathwork. We then transitioned into more hands-on activities, with three different stations we could work at. The first focused on intersectionality—starting by writing down words to describe our identities, then crafting picture collages to represent what we wrote. The second station highlighted intergenerational connections—we drew a life tree made up of our past, present, and future. Lastly, my favorite station was where we assembled our own little “take care plan” zine. We answered four questions related to feeling activated/triggered/stressed, and how we can self-soothe/seek out our taking care network. These interactive projects encouraged us to reflect and reveal our thoughts physically through writing and collaging. To conclude our time together (4-6:30 pm), Michelle led us through a movement meditation. We were invited to find a position that felt comfortable—standing, sitting, laying down—and to close our eyes, once again focusing on our breath. As we grounded our bodies into the floor, we were encouraged to explore small movements—wiggling our toes, rolling our ankles, stretching our legs, stretching our arms, rotating our necks—finding anything that our body needed. Once our movements felt complete, we re-grouped to say some final feelings: 

Warm, Recharged, Content, Grateful, Held, Present, Love. 

“Counterclockwise” provided a dedicated time for a self check-in and to practice self-care. I believe it’s a necessity to not only do these things for ourselves, but to have space-holders who take on a leadership position and advocate for this kind of healing work. 

I’d like to once again give a thank you to Sam, Michelle, and all of the additional Queer folx who showed up and put in the work to slow down, learn, and heal. I would encourage others to seek out connecting with either of these facilitators or businesses. We can continue the futures of Queer communities by directly supporting those within. 

Resources to connect!

Sign up for their next session this Summer/Fall (open to anyone, not just Portland folks) 


Instagram: @fieldtherapy 




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