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Justice and Tenderness

Justice and Tenderness

Justice and Tenderness



A question I ask myself often: How is it possible that we continue to navigate daily life with so much violence in our society? Is this a sign of resilience or bypass? I strive to not normalize violence against black and brown lives and the culture of mass weaponry that continues to allow domestic terrorism and gun violence. I don’t always know what to do with outrage but try to stay in my body as I experience it and other challenging emotions.

And then there are experiences of such tenderness that break through these moments like rays of sunshine that emanate through dark and cloudy skies.

Today, I drive to the Palliative Care Unit where I have returned after a year,  being fully vaccinated now, to see patients in my capacity as a Certified Music Practitioner, providing therapeutic music with harp at the bedside.

I drive on a beautiful spring day with the dogwood, cherry blossom and all the early spring flowering trees blooming  as well as the forsythia, the bright yellow firmly announcing its presence, while the earliest hints of green buds shyly emerge on trees.

The contrast of the emerging life of spring and listening to NPR reporting on the closing arguments of the trial of  police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd felt surreal and disorienting.

9 minutes and 29 seconds. This brutal act prompted the entire world to speak truth to the ugliness of racism.

My mind went to these jurors deliberating not only the fate of this officer, but the potential trajectory that could lead us towards or further away from racial reconciliation in this country. I breathed into this responsibility these jurors carry. I breathed out a desire for these persons and the Judge to show the righteous courage necessary to deliver a guilty verdict and appropriate sentencing.

I turn off the radio a few moments before arriving at the Palliative Care Unit. I sit in my car and steady my breath, clear and focus my mind. I mask up and enter the unit, getting my temperature taken and tune my harp.

One of the patients I see was a new admit. Her daughter was with her when I entered the room with my harp and her face and the face of the patient lit up at the sight of my small harp.

Keeping my eyes on the patient who met my eyes with so much openness and trust, I began to play a couple Scottish airs in a major key. Beautiful melodies that evoke for me, feelings of connection to land, to space, to life. As I continued to play, moving into a minor mode called the Aeolian mode, that I refer to as the “blankie mode”. To me, as I play, this mode offers comfort like a well loved quilt. The patient continued to hold my gaze, a slight smile on her lips as her daughter stroked her brow and held her hand and whispered loving words to her mother. The sense of aliveness and compassionate exchange seemed as if we were outside of linear time and all there is that exists is this enormous, powerful connection. It was as if the music created a container where this tenderness could flow and expand. I am in awe of the spaces we can create where we can show up and in minutes have these experiences of loving people that we don’t know anything about and how really natural and easy it is to love beyond personal emotion and relationship.

I find my compass and orient myself here to be clear in the middle of so much chaos.

I don’t know much, but I have clarity here.

May I be open and willing to see the ugliness of racism and use my words and actions to seek justice and build equity for all Beings

May I be open and willing to enter into spaces of tenderness and love beyond personal relationship.

May I be open and willing to repeat as needed.






Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, B.A. Political Science/Sociology, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience of working with some of the most amazing people on the planet; hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse, adults with mental illness and most recently, incarcerated women. Rachel is also passionate about supporting and working with caregivers to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Locally, Rachel teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Regionally and nationally, she teaches and presents at conferences and retreats, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self acceptance, and transformation. Rachel is committed to engaging people from all walks of life in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities.