Guest Teacher Dharma Talks

Please join us for these special evenings of dharma (spiritual teachings) and connection with the Common Ground community. These drop-in programs are an opportunity to hear guest teachers and experienced community members speak about their practice. The evening begins with a 30-minute meditation period followed by a talk and discussion.

Guest Teacher Talk with Susan Raffo

Thursday, December 12th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

In 2009,  I attended the Healing Justice space at the US Social Forum in Atlanta and it changed my life. For the first time I found movement people,  social justice people, who were  interested in the places where systems of power and oppression were held in the tissues of the individual body as well as within systems and communities. I am interested in work that refuses to separate how we individually connect with life from how we collectively claim our lives. I work towards the end of the medical industrial complex and want to lift up practices and traditions that have been co-opted or forced into disappearance.  I have worked collaboratively on workshops applying body and movement practice to collective movement building.

This is also where I focus much of my writing.

I have worked as a bodyworker since 2005. Some bodywork approaches are direct and targeted on shifting a specific element of the body. This is awesome for dealing with recent injury and singular or specific pain. My work is more like the culture change approach of bodywork. Slower, based on deep listening and working with the body, my training and interest is in shifting deeply held (sometimes generational and historical) patterns that show up as pain, anxiety, stress, and disconnectedness. This has included doing work through both study and practice on how bodies hold systems and histories. For seven years, starting in 2007, this meant co-leading a process called More than Skin Deep: Uprooting white supremacy one cell at a time. Our work started as a single day and by 2014 was a three day process. I am committed to continuing to do work that is about ending white supremacy (including Native disappearance, anti-Black racism, and anti-immigrant hatred) that is about systems change, culture change and somatic change.

For the last five years, I have been part of the People’s Movement Center. Our focus has been on the healing in justice and the justice in healing and we center the lives and experience of people of color, indigenous folks, queer and trans people. In 2019, we closed down the PMC space but plan on continuing some of our shared work. I will post updates about where the work continues through my blog.

I am interested in supporting healing practitioners, organizers and cultural workers who want to build skills and practice in working with the impact of trauma in their communities. I am especially interested in working with bodyworkers to move from individualized practices to collective practices or kin-based practices. I am also deeply committed to supporting Black, indigenous, people of color, trans and nonbinary people interested in these practices.

My ancestral lineages represent the colonizer and the colonized. I am descended from southern and western european people and from people native to this land. I spend a lot of time talking with and learning from all of my ancestors. I am a queer woman on the other side of menopause who was raised white and uses she/her pronouns. I have experienced early and deep grief and loss and I have experienced different kinds of violence directed towards my body as well as the people around me. I am also loved really, really well. These are some of the things that inform how I do my work. I have almost always lived in midwestern spaces. I come from a mixed class background. I am currently able-bodied but have been in family with and continue to be in family with people living with disabilities. As a bodyworker, I feel pretty fiercely (and oh how many mistakes I make) about constantly uprooting ableism in this work. I am a mother, oh how I love being a mother. And I love the butch Brazilian woman I’ve lived with for a quarter of a century. I believe that identity is not an individual thing but a collective thing, meaning, my identities are as much about the people I share them with as it is about the things I tell you, here, on this page.





All Common Ground programs are offered freely in the spirit of generosity. To learn more about supporting the center and our teachers, click here.