Monday, 16 May 2011

Sustainable Self-care Practices for Activists & Community Workers: A Learn-Through-the-Body Workshop

UPDATE MAY 20 - BOTH WORKSHOPS ARE COMPLETELY FULL! Please send an email to to be put on the wait list.

with Vanissar Tarakali


UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming popularity of the workshop, we have decided to add an additional workshop date. Workshop content will be identical in both workshops (Please only register for one)

Sunday May 29, 2011
1:00 – 4:30pm
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto
Room announced with registration
252 Bloor Street West
$10 - $50 sliding scale
No one turned away for lack of funds


Saturday June 4, 2011
1:00 – 4:30pm
ASL interpretation provided
Location TBA
$10 - $50 sliding scale
No one turned away for lack of funds

*****Registration is required, details below*****

Workshop description:

As social justice and social service workers we are continually exposed to the trauma and oppression of others, often while we work to heal these same traumas in ourselves and our communities. This trauma-laden context calls us to find sustainable ways of doing the work.

This workshop will support people who work with communities dealing with intimate and social trauma (oppression) be more effective and resilient in the wholeness of our lives.

Through discussion, reflection and embodied/somatic practices, we will explore: oppression as social trauma; how internalized dominance & internalized oppression show up in our bodies & communities, working with situations that trigger us, increasing our visceral sense of mutual trust/allyship, honoring our established collective survival strategies while expanding our repertoire of creative responses to trauma. We will practice using “emotional first aid” tools for soothing, calming and centering triggered states, and explore some longer-term trauma-healing principles & practices to prevent burn-out and support personal healing.

Participants will take away practical tools that support awareness, creativity and choice for collective healing and social justice.

Accessibility information: This workshop and washrooms are wheelchair accessible. The workshop is scent free – please do not come to the workshop wearing scents, including essential oils. ASL interpretation will be provided on the June 4 workshop. If you have any questions or access needs, feel free to contact us at

Acknowledgements: As happens all too frequently, we neglected to acknowledge that this workshop will be taking place on land that rightfully belongs to the Three Fires and Six Nations peoples. It is because of their generosity and at their expense that we are occupying this land. Our omission in stating this was pointed out to us by an Indigenous activist, who shouldn't have to do this work, but who are often placed in the position of reminding us that all our work here is being done on stolen land.

About the facilitator: Vanissar Tarakali, Ph.D. creates learn-through-the-body workshops for people who are transforming our world. She teaches how to collaborate wisely with our bodies to heal trauma & sustain social change. Former Healing Oppression Project co-lead at CUAV & current DiversityWorks trainer, Vanissar passionately practices Generative Somatics, Intuitive Reading, Energy Bodywork & Tibetan Buddhism. For more info, please visit or look up Tarakali Education on Facebook.





Registration involves sending an email and pre-paying for the workshop.
We will fill workshop spots on a first paid/ request for scholarship, first served basis. In order to fully register, we ask that you:

1) Send an email to with:
- your name
- the date you are attending – either May 29 (no ASL interpretation) OR June 4 (with ASL interpretation)
- how much you are paying to attend (see below for suggested rate)
- organizational affiliation (if you have one)
- any access/ body needs (eg: child care, ASL interpretation, scent-free spaces)
- email and phone number

2) Pay for the workshop by:
a) Sending an email money transfer to
b) Using PayPal below



Workshop fees are as follows:
$50 – from large organizations
$40 – from smaller organizations
$30 – standard for waged people with a higher income
$25 - standard rate
$20 – standard for waged people with a lower income
$10 – scholarship for underwaged and low income people
$0 – full scholarship

The actual cost per participant is $25. We encourage you to register at the highest level you and/or your organization can afford in order to subsidize low income people’s attendance. All registration includes the same benefits: 3.5 hours of workshop time and snacks. All fees generated go directly to the costs of the workshop, including ASL interpretation, facilitator fees and food. Please only register for one workshop (a reminder that ASL interpretation is only being offered on June 4).

If you cannot pay through the website or through email money transfer, but would like to arrange an alternative way to pay, please send us an email at If you are requesting a full scholarship, please send us an email. We will not be accepting payment at the door unless pre-negotiated.

NOTE: You will not receive registration confirmation and a room number until you have paid, asked for a scholarship or determined an alternative payment system with Arti. Please be patient -- we are a group of volunteers and it may take awhile to hear back from us.


This workshop was generously funded by an anonymous donor, the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racist Studies and the Centre for Women and Trans People at the University of Toronto

All funds generated go directly to the cost of the workshop.

Who we are: This workshop is organized by Teresa CW Cheng, Anu Radha Verma, Zahra Murad, Muna Ali and Arti Mehta. We are a group of community workers, artists, social service workers, organizers and students committed to centering healing practices in our vision of sustainable transformative change.

Statement about Anti-Racism by Vanissar

From Vanissar:

Hi folks:

Arti (one of the organizers of the workshop) has asked me to write about what my name means to me in terms of my antiracism

My last name is a complicated story which began years ago with a series of visionary experiences I had as an adolescent, one of which was a visit from Kali Ma, who appeared as a non dualistic creator/destroyer, and who told me she would be guiding my life. I had no knowledge of her or of Hinduism when this occurred, and it took me years to find out who she was. But I took her seriously.

Later in my twenties I discovered Green Tara and saw her as the embodiment of compassionately acknowledging and entering into the injustice of the world and doing something about it.

Much later, in the middle of a process of healing from child sexual abuse by my father, I decided to shed his name and legally changed my name to what it is now: Vanissar Zondra Tarakali.
That was almost 18 years ago.
My focus at the time was on replacing my father's ownership with a meaningful name that would enable me to join other wounded healers in transforming violence and oppression.
I was unaware of cultural appropriation at the time.
For the last 5 years, as my awareness of and discomfort with cultural appropriation has grown, I have been wanting to change my name again so that it is connected to my genetic culture, but until recently I was in a difficult,  protracted green card process, and did not want to give Homeland Security yet another thing--an additional name change--to scrutinize. So at the moment, this remains my legal name.

The first 8 minutes of the radio interview on March 8th of my blog also cover this subject, if you want to listen:

What does anti-racism mean to me?

I began exploring anti-racism 24 years ago, when my beloved biracial niece was only three and someone called her the N-word. I have made many mistakes along the way, but have kept going. In 1998 I began immersing myself in anti racist trainings, preparing myself to heed the advice of Hugh Vasquez in the movie The Color of Fear that white people need to educate each other about racism. I did my (very personal, experiential) dissertation on the psychology of how white people come to make a commitment to anti-racist practice and action, and as part of that began teaching anti-racism workshops for white people in 2000. Those early courses included Buddhist practices, because I was seeking a way to quickly cut through the typical denial, reactivity, defensiveness and guilt/shame responses of myself and other white people to learning about the realities of racism and white supremacy, and I felt Buddhism would be very effective at reducing white folks’ resistance. It proved to be true, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with appropriating Buddhism. When I discovered generative somatics, I was overjoyed, because it contained principles and practices that were equivalent to Buddhist wisdom, but in a secular form.

I continue to teach white people to take responsibility for racism and support the leadership of people of color, and racial justice is still core to me.
I have expanded my work to include healing the trauma of oppression in our bodies and communities. I collaborate with co-facilitators of color on a regular basis to teach healing oppression workshops, and am held in a multiracial community of accountability in the Bay Area, who advise, support and correct me when my white privilege blindspots. I continue to make mistakes, but I plan to keep going.

Feel free to check out my resume, resources and blog writings on my website if you want to know more about my ongoing commitment to racial justice and healing oppression educator.

Some have expressed concern that I would be coming to teach people of color about their own cultures:

I am a grateful, respectful student of Tibetan Buddhism, but I do not presume to teach Buddhism or Hinduism.
For this Sustainability workshop, I am bringing tools based in generative somatics, trauma stewardship, trauma healing theories, and decades of experience doing direct service and education in social justice and social service settings.

Thank you for questioning me, I deeply respect and appreciate it.

Be well