The Clerestory Podcast S1 E25

The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me
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On Therapy and Healing

In the third issue of Clerestory Magazine, writers respond to the question, “what heals?”

Listen to this issue’s playlist on Spotify.

Dear Reader,

At the end of every episode of the Clerestory Podcast, I offer a benediction, of sorts, to listeners, “May you find peace in the midst of chaos, light in the midst of darkness, hope and healing in the midst of suffering, and may you see it all with the eyes of your heart.” “Seeing with the heart” is a rich seam of contemplative thought and practice.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery captured it beautifully, when he said, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eyes.” The Desert Mothers and Fathers advised us to “drop the mind into the space of the heart.” In Ephesians, it is written, “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know.” And the Quakers ask, “Is your heart clear?” In a world gripped and shaped by rationality, seeing with the heart – wise seeing – is challenging and essential.

When the idea for this magazine first germinated a year ago, I envisioned an online editorial space, grounded in personal narratives, that married contemplation and action. By contemplation, I mean deep reflection – a “long, loving look at the real” – on subjects like being human, human interconnectedness, collective life, beauty, and wisdom. Contemplation is never an end in itself, though. Deep reflection should engender in us deep compassion for the suffering of others and commitment to transforming the world in ways that support human flourishing (action).

Writing provides a vital foundation for this heart-work because writing requires uncommon vulnerability. Writers must work to articulate every dimension of their human experience with precision, mining memory and questions most people would rather forget or ignore. The gift of being an editor (and a reader) is receiving the wisdom uncovered, discovered, or recovered by honest writers. This wisdom helps us all dig into our own humanity and see the humanity in others.


2020 and 2021 have not been easy years for anyone. Fear of illness and loss, and illness and loss, have pervaded all aspects of life. We haven’t left our houses without thinking about those threats, how our breath could infect someone else, placing cloths and plastic over our faces to protect others. Most of us have grieved the loss of someone we loved. Some of us have disentangled heartbreak alone. We may find ourselves, now, in places – literal or metaphorical – we never expected to be.

Further, the pandemic revealed and deepened existing inequalities. In the U.S., we’re in the midst of an ongoing reckoning around racism. It has been a painful year, of greater suffering for BIPOC individuals and communities and overdue realizations for White people.

What heals? What heals us as individuals, our relationships, our communities, and our world? How do we heal, alone and together? These are the questions central to our third issue, focused on “therapy.” “Therapy” is derived from the Greek and Latin, therapīa, meaning healing or curing. Most likely, the word “therapy,” in our modern context, evokes images of counseling and psychoanalysis. Sharing the impact of this kind of therapy will be an important part of our issue, and rightfully so. Mental health in the U.S. has worsened in recent years, more rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental Health America reports that overall rates of mental illness have increased, noting particular increases in severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in both youth and adults. Additionally, markers of unmet needs around mental health services have remained stagnant at best. These statistics indicate how ineffectively we are collectively holding our pain.

Over the next three months, we will sit with questions around healing through varied and enriching subjects, including, healing through ordinary life, beauty, grief, trauma, mass incarceration, social healing, physical pain, nature and healing, and personal transformation. While this work may not be easy, it is essential. Many thanks to the Garden Hill Fund of the Mountain School of Milton Academy. Their grant will help to fund the summer issue of Clerestory Magazine.

As Maya Angelou so beautifully said, “As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.” May this guide us in our searching and action.

With deep gratitude,

Sarah James

Editor-in-Chief and Founder

Clerestory Magazine

Sarah James is the editor-in-chief and founder of Clerestory Magazine. A graduate of Yale and Middlebury, Sarah is a biracial South Indian-American woman of color and a writer. You can find her work elsewhere in The Porch, Darling, and Relevant, among others, or on her website.

Discover more from Sarah James.
interview Collective Wisdom on Therapy

Clerestory writers and contributors share their collective wisdom on physical, emotional, spiritual, and social healing.

essay Fat Icon

As a photographic practice, fragmentation has always fascinated me. Images of dark corners in brightly lit rooms; photos of isolated limbs curving toward another subject; highlighted facial expressions and gestures in a crowded, chaotic space.

photo story Vitamin Sea

How the ocean heals us…

essay Original Face

I am listening to Eckhart Tolle on a stale bus filled with 50 Greenwich moms, seated next to a boyfriend I love but do not like, on a dark gray January morning headed to the Women’s March on Washington. It is 2016.

essay Healing from Grief

How does one heal from the death of a child? My son, Wells, died of a heroin overdose last year, the weight of grief shaped me into a woman I did not know – angry, bitter, hating the world and God.

essay Kintsugi

When I was 21, I visited the British Museum in London. I toured the winding exhibits that showcased artifacts from around the world with my college roommate in tow.

poem In the Apple’s Ripening

In early spring I found myself flooded with grief over the death of my uncle Aleksey, whose life was cut short by a car crash just before my 10th birthday in 2000. He was only 24.

interview Healing in Action: An Interview with Compassion Prison Project Founder, Fritzi Horstman

Fritzi Horstman is the Founder and Executive Director of Compassion Prison Project, a Grammy award-winning producer, a filmmaker, and a trauma survivor. A graduate of Vassar College, Fritzi envisions “all prisons as healing and education centers” and works toward that vision of transformation every day.

essay Live from the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The school to prison pipeline is not just a theory. It is not something that social scientists conjured up. It is real life.

poem I have a tribute that stretches from my navel.

I have a tribute that stretches from my navel to the place where my mother hangs her rosary and this is where you kneel because, this is not the only part of the poem that may need a little worship.

essay Dewdrops on the Flowers: On Grief and Gratitude

My grandmother loved flowers. Originally from a farm in South Korea, she knew how to tend to things, how to get them to grow and thrive.

interview How Comedy Heals Us: An Interview with Comedian and Writer Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James is a comedian, writer, actor, and podcast host. A graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, Geoffrey writes for Carpool Karaoke and works for the Headgum Podcast Network, where he hosts The Headgum Podcast, co-hosts Review Revue, and appears in Headgum’s original sketch series.

essay Nine Months to Moksha

On Sunday, March 21, 2021, my mother began a self-imposed, nine-month period of silence and isolation at her apartment in central New Jersey. Had it not been for Covid-19, this experience would have taken place in an ashram in Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

essay The Pleasure of Looking Again

About 20 hours after my second COVID-19 vaccination, I awoke from a nap with a foot cramp that took my breath away. I hobbled to the bathroom for more Ibuprofen, then sat down at my desk and reached for the last pen in the box.

essay Number 331

I watched from my window as my father-in-law pulled up in front of our house with the trailer hitched to the back of his truck. He got out and lowered the metal ramps at the back of the trailer down to the ground and undid the straps that had held the wrecked car in place on the trailer from Ohio home to Connecticut.

essay How My Retail Job Healed My Lingering Social Anxiety

At first, I attributed the feeling of unsteadiness that I felt in college to being far from home; I envied my friends who drove home on weekends to do their laundry. But by the end of my sophomore year, I knew that something was wrong.

photo story There Is No Ordinary

It’s a very strange thing, when you consider it, that sleeping or waking, you exist on an immense globe of atmosphere-wreathed rock hurtling through space.

essay How Prayer and Inner Healing Will Lead to Reform

May 25, 2020 changed America’s trajectory. On that day, Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. This murder sparked protests in cities across America.

essay Unraveling the Mysterious Contents of Dreams

Through dreams, it is possible to fly very high; to tell secrets without fear; to meet someone who we don’t see anymore; to perceive that impossible things come true when we fall asleep.

photo story Becoming Ownerless: Therapy, Hefker, and The Mojave Desert

Wrestling with my thoughts and emotions is my national past time. My preferred coping method has always been intellectualizing, or removing myself entirely from, an emotionally stressful situation rather than dealing with it.

essay A Path to Healing

The morning light beckons. To the east, the sun rolls over the ridge, a yellow beacon piercing the gaps in the tall evergreens, blinding and bright.

essay Peace in the Process

Sudden grief overwhelmed me to a point where I couldn’t function in my second year of college. I had never viscerally experienced an emotion so deeply it made me sick.

essay Sure, Time Heals All Wounds, But It Doesn’t Work Alone

Near the end of our work together, I mentioned to my therapist that I’d been feeling “weirdly okay” lately – for the first time since the betrayal that ended my engagement and propelled me into therapy, I was sleeping better, spiraling less, and even thinking of my ex in a more detached way, when I thought of him at all. 

essay Shapeshifter

You are not the same shape that you used to be. Your body has grown solid. It’s filled out the peaks and valleys of your ribs and hips, and there’s a slight glow in your cheeks.

essay Addiction and My Assembly Line Job

I am a former refugee, and I held a factory-floor job in Canada in 2018 on arrival. I woke up at 5:00 am for a supposedly eight-hour job that extended into 12 hours when you counted the time it took me to climb endless stairs and the necessary three-hour Metro train ride to get there.

essay The Financial Cost of Therapy

What happens when you’re past the point of talking about it? What happens when I’m abundantly aware of my mental health to the extent that I’d much rather just step away and ignore that nagging itch in my head?

essay You May Be Miserable Now

A tall Victorian at the end of the line for the J-Church streetcar was home to The Integral Counseling Center. I caught the streetcar a block from my apartment on that most rare of things in San Francisco, flat ground, and rode the car as it lurched around the curves up a very steep grade.

essay Taking Care of Ourselves

My friends know me as ‘Jen’, but marketing agencies know me as ‘a mid-20s American woman.’ I am the target demographic for those shilling self-care products, and I am bombarded with ads for them constantly.

essay Gentle-Therapy: An Interactive Fairytale

There is no magic deeper than re-telling a story, for you are giving yourself agency to assign meaning and (most importantly) to assign usefulness to time and events. When fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “Our lives are fairytales written by God’s fingers,” it was not just a cute ditty— it was a magic healing spell. 

essay Healing Trauma through the Writing Process

“You healed yourself through writing.” a friend said to me, her eyes locked to mine through the Zoom screen, as I finished telling her my story of how I became a writer.

interview On Embodied Liberation: An Interview with Leadership Coach and Founder of Embodied Black Girl, Thérèse Cator

Thérèse Cator is a mother, leadership coach, embodiment practitioner, storyteller and founder of Embodied Black Girl, a collective dedicated to the “embodied liberation,” flourishing, mental health, and wellness of Black women.