In Transparency • Rachel Saunders

Curious, leisurely, passionate— Rachel Saunders is a Vancouver-based artist creating with clay. For quite some time, we have observed Rachel's output in entirety, admiring how she effortlessly shares truth with her community. Thoughtfully open dialogue is an inherent undertone to TMC's work with glass. The material is transparent, malleable, transformative. The In Transparency series brings these properties forward through a holistic exploration of mental well-being.

RS: I'd like to believe that the place I am at now and how I got here is in direct correlation to the places I have not wanted to stay. Would it have been a more peaceful journey had I not had to visit those places? It's possible. But through healing my trauma, I'm able to view my darkest and most challenging chapters in life not as any sort of hindrance to some idyllic potential outcome but instead as fundamental building blocks that aided me in getting to where I am now and want to go. My own experiences with depression, anxiety, generational trauma, hypochondria, and mental breaks have been important human experiences that have shaped how I show up for myself and others. I question if I did not have these direct and personal experiences, would that have hindered the type of person I've grown into? Would I lack the deeper empathy and compassion I have now? I believe that as a result, these experiences helped in furthering my development and understanding of what healing can look like on a personal and communal level.

For me personally, mental health means honesty, acknowledgement, community and connection. I feel the concept of ‘mental health’ is one of the most important aspects of our human existence and unfortunately one of the most under supported and under prioritized parts of our society. Every person in existence should have access to accessible and inclusive resources to care for their mental health, care that comes without stigma, shame, or judgement.

I am the truest version of myself when I find myself engaging with a childlike wonder and curiosity, having that ability to be playful and free of inhibiting conditioning. It is then that I feel most at home with whom I am, most who I came onto this planet as. It's in those moments when I am able to show up as my truest self.

I am soothed by nature always, bodies of water, soft colours, birds singing, human touch. Sounds and voices like harps and flutes, humming and singing. Nina Simone and João Gilberto. Connecting to source energy through the breath. Using my hands to disengage with my mind through simple tasks or crafts.

I feel like I’ve never really known how to feel content without having something to look forward to. I've always tended to plan for the future, exciting plans, things that made the current moment feel more bearable and worthwhile. But given the circumstances we’re collectively going through, I’ve been reflecting on how much I have used the idea of the ‘future’ to escape from the ‘now’, and what some of the consequences of that may be. For the first time maybe ever, in a liberating kind of way, nothing in particular comes to mind that I am looking forward to. And I'm at peace with that. I'm leaning into and surrendering to a heightened sense of being present in my day to day, and marvelling at how little, simple pleasures seem to bring me the most joy right now. Anything past this current moment feels overwhelmingly unknown and rapidly changing, but finding the gratifying moments in the here and now is actually what’s been keeping me the most stable.

We have to acknowledge that we live in a society that purposely keeps us disconnected from our true selves via distractions, manipulations, and abusive structural systems that have been designed to keep us disempowered for a myriad of reasons, some much more than others. The mere act of being connected to one’s innermost self is a radical act of resistance, but it isn’t an easy process.

I’ve never known life to be anything but fluctuating— always going up and down like a rollercoaster or in and out like the tide, and moments of disconnect in any sense are completely part of the process. In those times of disconnection and in that process of connection, be tender be patient. All that space, that time, that energy you've been gifting to the world, the world that is rooting for you to stay disconnected, give it to yourself. Intentionally chose to begin to allow yourself that space to be fully still, the time to mourn the inner parts of you that are hurting, and give energy to healing and reconnecting. Allow yourself to be fully still for a while, whether it's for 2 minutes or 2 weeks.

I know that sounds like a simple solution, and that’s sometimes the frustrating part. We’ve been so conditioned to distract ourselves from feeling, but feeling is healing and allows us to connect. There is always so much guidance and love that wants to come through for us when we let it.