I had the pleasure of meeting up at café 1880 with an amazing young woman by the name of Harleen. I met her after attending an event of hers called Echoes and Open Hearts Zine Launch. It was an arts and performance show case revolving around mental health. However, I experienced more than the arts and the performances. What she had done was create a space where I was able to connect with people through poetry and art about the very same things that I was going through. I left both the event and the meet up inspired! Harleen, the amazing person she is had me feeling some type of way – a feeling I would want every person to experience. That is why I am sharing her with you today! Let’s get to know her a little bit more.
Harleen is from Montreal, Quebec but spent most of her schooling years in Toronto, Ontario. She graduated with a bachelor’s in social work and has ever since been involved in community work. Doing so much for our community, she is a youth program coordinator, runs girl groups in local high schools, is a writer, a spoken word poet, event planner all with the purpose of creating a space for people to share and heal.
“I am who I am from a combination of all my experiences in the past 8 yrs. I am all about creating spaces where people can share with an art based foundation. Communities have healed themselves through art.”
To share my own little experience on art leading to healing is exactly how I started this blog. I needed a safe space to express myself in order to be healed from things I was going through and experiencing. During that moment, I found poetry to be amazingly powerful. I was able to construct myself again by taking all my broken pieces and forming art that healed me. I packaged all the pain and put it away. I thought it was only me that felt that way until I started talking to Harleen. She expresses the same type of experience and explains that to be the carving of space for the soul.
“Years ago, I was struggling with mental health and wrote my first poem. All I remember was taking a pen and writing something. Weeks later after reading it I realized how it was good. [odd enough], during a panic attack the first thought was to write a poem and poetry helped me a lot. I wrote out of pain then to empower myself to writing poems for other people, family and [then] events.”
Guess what!? Harleen through workshops she has organized and been to herself, such as Unravelling in Rhymes, has developed her poetry writing skills that she is currently putting together a poetry book of her own. Exciting! Do visit her blog and just read a few of her works there. Naturally, I wondered what she read from other people and who her current top pick poets are. Audre Lorde, Nayyirah Waheed, Yrsa Daley Ward all new people to me. Check them out! I took a look at Yrsa Daley Ward myself and instantly loved her. Harleen actually had the opportunity to have 4 free workshops with Yrsa Daley Ward and loved it. She learnt from her that there is no such thing as bad poetry when its authentic and is your story.
During our chit chat, which I prefer to call it that than an interview because I was really enjoying it. I asked Harleen to teach me and all other women in their 20’s something. As inspired I was by her I wanted more from her. I learnt,
“Learn to carve out time for yourselves. It is not necessarily about taking bubble baths. It is more about what does your soul need right now and how are we going to carve out that space. For example, as a kid I painted a lot. And now I don't paint at all anymore. But think if that really fed me as a child then I need to hold unto it. Usually something you do as a child is something you need to hold unto. A child doesn't do anything if they don't want to. So, it must have spoken to you. I created a more accessible space in my room, so I can paint. Now I can paint more.”
This reminds me of something I read somewhere a while back. The outer world crumbles if the inner lacks foundation, nourishment, attention, and space. Only we can carve out that space our soul is looking for in order to breathe and be. So how do we actually get this done? Whatever it maybe, make it the most important priority of the day. What we are doing is creating a space where we go with a purpose of doing something there. It might be to meditate, to pray, to sleep, to create, – or whatever else that you enjoyed doing as a child. The space is ready to be used. We have a tendency of waiting to earn these days or time in order to take care of our ourselves or we do the things our soul needs only when we have nothing else to do. Feeding your soul is priority. Therefore, as Harleen was teaching, make that activity more accessible. If you need to write, create the space. If you need to paint like Harleen, create the space. If you need to breathe, create the space.
There was soo much discussed and learnt during our moment at Café 1880 . However, this was great and valuable advice.
Thank you Harleen!
Harleen has several events coming up. If you are in the city and want to attend here are few:
The Poetry Harvest on Nov 3rd at Le Cagibi 6596 St. Laurent, Montreal, Quebec H2S 3C6
Stories of Courage and Survival During Historical Crises on Oct. 27th at the South Asian Women's Community Centre / Le CCFSA 1035, Rachel East 3rd Floor, Montreal, Quebec H2J 2J5
"There's nothing you can do that's more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, and become a realization of your own personal myth." – Joseph Campbell