I’m so excited to introduce you to the Modern-Day Medicine Woman interview series. Over the coming months, I’ll be spotlighting women like you who are doing incredible healing work in the world in a wide variety of ways. These women are nurses, social workers, acupuncturists, yoga teachers, coaches, massage therapists – and they’re practicing their vocations in the midst of busy lives, as full of transition and challenge as yours or mine. My hope is that you’ll be as inspired by them as I am, and that hearing their words of wisdom will spark insight, curiosity, clarity, and hope.
Our first medicine woman is Patty Adams, yoga teacher extraordinaire and soon-to-be social worker. I met Patty at our local yoga studio a few years ago, and was instantly struck by her depth and fierce commitment to social justice. Her presence is both fiery and healing, and it’s impossible to be around her without being inspired to look for the best version of yourself. Be sure to check out her workshop at the end of April if you’re in the North Carolina area!
[Healing] is a collective process, an iterative process, and an ever-expanding process: Being available for and prioritizing my own healing makes it possible for me to do so for others. And co-creating containers which support other people’s healing absolutely contributes to my own.Patty Adams
What’s your name?
Patty Adams (Patoi Roja on facebook!)
What’s your professional background?
MSW / clinical social worker in training (graduating May 2016); 20+ years in social justice/social movement/collective liberation struggles; 7+ years teaching yoga in the Anusara alignment-based lineage; 10+ years total teaching yoga; 12+ years practicing yoga.
What’s one random, interesting thing we should know about you?
I’m the youngest of five, and I was born after three consecutive girls, so my parents figured that the odds were in favor of me being born a boy. They were going to name me after my dad, James, but the Gaelic version, Seamus, to honor my mother’s Irish heritage. I turned out a girl…so they named me after her instead. So even though I’m the youngest child and the fourth girl, I’m named after my mom (who’s also the youngest).
In other news, I’ve been struck by lightning and survived a head-on collision with a semi on the highway.
How has your work shaped you – for better or for worse?
I often say that social movement work saved my life, and I feel increasingly convinced and convicted about this. Growing up in a family of origin rife with dysfunction and dis-ease (lack of ease, lack of wellness), I found my way into collective liberation work at the ripe old age of 15 and have never looked back. In movement spaces I found my own voice, my own strength, and the utterly catalytic and transformative power of collective action. I found a welcoming and supportive chosen family who held, accompanied, and challenged me in ways I had never experienced before. I found that a life of purpose is a life of service — not charity or philanthropy or “doing good” or “helping others” but rather service in the sense of selfless commitment to living from the Highest Part of myself, in a way that seeks to connect with and lift up The Highest in all beings. Service can take infinite forms, and has for me throughout my life and my work.
What tools in your “medicine bag” are most valuable in your work with clients & patients?
The most valuable tools I have include the tools for deep listening – to all parts of myself and to others.
And what tools in your “medicine bag” are most valuable for your own self-care? What could you not stay sane without?
Unstructured time – time in which I’m not “on the hook” or having to “show up” in any way for anyone else. These times are crucial in helping me show up as fully as possible for myself. I simply cannot function without some unstructured time – if I try to evade it, I ended up deeply dishonoring (read: sabotaging) myself! Also, running in the woods and salt baths in winter.
What do you know for sure about healing?
That it is a collective process, an iterative process, and an ever-expanding process: Being available for and prioritizing my own healing makes it possible for me to do so for others. And co-creating containers which support other people’s healing absolutely contributes to my own. It is healing to be in the presence of others speaking their truths in whatever ways make sense for them…to be immersed in that kind of energy field is potent and transformative.
What are you up to that we should know about? Where can we find you online?
I have an upcoming workshop planned with kindred local yoga teacher / therapist / anti-oppression trainer Michelle Johnson. We’re teaching a weekend-long workshop combining the wisdom-streams of trauma-informed yoga, self/community care, and social justice in what we hope will be a powerful opportunity to co-create spaces for truth-telling and healing. This will be rooted in anti-oppression principles, and will include a critical exploration of dominant culture and the ways it is harming us. We’ll be turning the “logic” of diagnosis (so overused in the mental health field) back on the system – highlighting the ways that our individual and collective responses as humans to the toxic environments we’re living in are not the problem, rather the problem is the environment itself which invalidates our experiences, and encourages isolation and disconnection. We’ll be exploring these interconnected themes using dialogue, story-telling, asana (postures/poses), meditation and breathwork. That workshop is April 22-24 in rural Chapel Hill. You can find out more about this and my other work at LiberationHealingArts.com and Facebook/LiberationHealingArts.