When she fled war-ravaged Somalia, Mariam Issa at first struggled with the strangeness of the new world she found in Australia. It took time, but she eventually found her peace in supporting other women to find theirs through the joy of cooking, gardening and story-telling.
Finding inner peace is not a luxury – it’s a necessity and a health benefit in these stressful times.
Often, when we talk about health we directly go to physical and mental where we tangibly know what to do or what the symptoms are, but emotional health is one that is most often neglected because it is tied to our feelings, and we might not know how to name these feelings.
We might feel anxious or overwhelmed and not know where this is coming from. It is easy to numb or ignore these feelings and not express them, either in the act of acknowledging them to ourselves or with others. The best way to get in contact with our feelings and find an inner peaceful state is to learn to express, explore and integrate our feelings.
My life experience as a refugee has taught me the power in sitting in a circle with other women and sharing our stories.
In these circles women from different backgrounds and different life experiences sit together and connect in deep and powerful ways. I learned in this journey the resilience and aspirations of women, but I also saw the burdens women carried in their stories. Some were widows, some lost a close family member, and some lost their child or children in the war.
I remember one story that stays with me to this day of a mother who came from Kismayu (Somalia) in a boat that capsized. She had to rescue her children but could only do it one at a time, so when one of her elder children grabbed her shoulder, she let him go because she was carrying one of his younger siblings and so she lost him to sea.
She shared her story in a circle and we witnessed her devastation. I remember how her vulnerability and expression opened a doorway that allowed us to see the burdens of guilt and blame she was carrying.
Something profound happened for me after that experience. I realised that day the importance in expression and exploration of sharing a story.
I saw a transformation in the woman as she put down her feelings in the presence of others. That profound way of integrating a story is where we find the feeling of inner peace, in the fact that we’re not alone in our grief and that it is okay to feel and explore whatever we are going through at any given time.
Now, as a community builder, a life coach, and a space holder, there is no doubt in my mind that connecting to our feelings gives us a profound presence that brings many health benefits to not only ourselves, but with every relationship we have.
Women are the conduits of compassion and when we take care of our health, the health of our families and that of our community is enhanced.
In being present with ourselves and others, we learn to love each other and respect the health of our planet.