The Clearing for a Liberated Life by Antoinette Cooper


I have a confession. I have a habit of opening up browsers on my phone, tablet, and computer. I
gather information incessantly and I rarely close those browsers. One time I tried to open up a
browser on my phone, and instead got a warning that I had too many browsers already open. I
had reached the limit. If I wanted to open up a new browser to search for new information, I first needed to close some. I obliged and closed exactly one browser.

Later, in a new search I got the warning that I could not, once again, get any new information because I was at my limit. I tolerate a lot of digital clutter. I then started to have messages in my dreams—“close your tabs, close your tabs.” After several days of dreaming I still didn’t close my
tabs because I was afraid of losing the cherished information open in the hundreds of tabs. My
inability to clear my browser prevented me from letting in anything new.

This is also how we live our lives, with little room to let in anything genuinely new.

I come from a people who have created from nothing. Out of nothing, we created our own
culture, cuisines, artistry, religion, language, dance, music and more. Our influence has been so
mesmerizingly powerful that all I need mention is reggae music and Olympic gold medals for
any person to understand that I am speaking of Jamaica.

We are a formidable people. And there are many other African ascendants who have carved out
a rich life after being scattered across the globe centuries ago. The conditions under which we
were historically shaped meant that to survive we had to create something that would bring us
joy and freedom.

“Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had
Redemption songs”

And yet the conditions under which we were historically shaped has also left its scars—even if
we don’t recognize them or call them by their names. Some of these wounds we have no
language for; to speak of them is to make them real so silence is also part of our legacy. The
consequence of silence though is that whatever it conceals continues to live amongst us, within
us, and all around us.

The silences also create an environment where the invisible wounds, unconscious programming
and limitations can be passed down generationally.

What limitations?? These limitations, or ways of being, can be hard to recognize because
sometimes they’re absorbed into our culture and become cultural norms, or excused as family
patterns that have existed since memory served us, or pushed aside as something that we must
“get over” because “the past is the past.” And yet, we find ourselves still visited by memories we
thought were buried, we act out family practices we swore to never repeat, or we find ourselves stuck in some area that causes suffering.

Who do we get to be when we can let go of the programming that shapes us, and clear our collective browser? What would life be like if we were free, truly free from all that limits us?

These are the kinds of questions I sat with at The Clearing retreat. The bigness of these
questions isn’t part of most of our ordinary conversations. No one at the retreat asked about
the weather, or what I had for breakfast. The mundane was not welcome here because the
questions we ask determine the size of our lives, and everyone at The Clearing came because
they heard that an expanded life was possible. But first, we must make room for that expanded

Over the years I have cleared from my life violences too intimate to tell in this space, and
traumas too complex to capture in a single paragraph. To write them here is to leave a reader
broken open and I have learned to be responsible with my gifts. In the clearing I got to see my
past, develop a relationship with my past where it has no power over me, and then release my
past. “Close your tabs, close your tabs.” I have also cleared societal expectations of what it
means to be a Black woman. Within this clearing I created that I am limitless and there is way
more room for me to take up in this world.

Beyond my personal experiences I witnessed participants confront wounds with an inner power
they didn’t even know was possible. Some participants cried enough tears that they could’ve
drowned in themselves; some were frozen in their traumas and were searching for their hearts
again; and others were ready to run for the hills and go back to their limited, but familiar, lives.
But regardless of where they started, or the various spaces they moved through, each
participant continued to show up because they had heard that on the other side of the wound
was an unlimited life.

Clearing our hearts and minds should be practiced as regularly as we clear our bladders, our browsers, and our homes.

The Clearing offers tools to create a liberated life. This life is not one that ignores the past, but
one that acknowledges both the beauty and the brutalities of the past, while sending love to
those wounds. The Clearing teaches you how to look at the past and say, “I see you. I feel you. I
release you.” Once those tabs are closed, then we can look at the present and say, “Thank you.”
Standing in this deep gratitude, the future then responds, “You are welcome.”

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