I wrote this about the concept of Trauma Tapping in the tradition of African Storytelling. Illustration by my friend and illustrator Gerard Osenele Ukpan.
A Little Bird This is the story about the gazelle that cannot sleep, and at the waterhole meets the zebra and wants to talk about it.
The gazelle wonders if it has to do with the fact that it constantly lives in fear of the crocodile. The zebra knows the feeling but has its own problems, those of nightmares and flashbacks from being chased by the lion.
They are both very tired. Even if neither lion nor crocodile have been seen in this valley for months they are living in constant anticipation, jumping at small noises and yelling at their offspring for little reason.
In this valley there is a small bird that picks the teeth of the crocodile when it sleeps with an open mouth in the sun.
Imagine, said the gazelle to the zebra… imagine if a bird like that could come and pick our worries out of our heads and bodies as we speak… The little bird heard them and landed on the head of the zebra… how can I be of help? it asks… We are both so very tired and we don’t know why, because there is no danger at this moment like there was a while back.
The little bird flew high up in the air, so high that it could see the calm of the water, the green of the grass, and the energy of life in the zebra… and this energy was like small rivers of pure life flowing from the hooves to the head to the heart and around… but some of these rivers did not seem to flow properly… as if they were dried up or blocked.
That night as the zebra looked into the stars of the night, the little bird started tapping with its beak, firmly but gently, to awaken the rivers of like under the eyes of the zebra… at the head… over the lips, under the lips… the little bird was like a drummer, drumming for life to come back.
At one point the zebra took two really deep breaths and suddenly felt like a blanket was lifted, like getting air after being closed into a cave, like finding light after darkness… What did you do little bird? She asked… but little bird had flown away… and zebra tries to explain to gazelle what happened, but to gazelle it sounds like a fairy tale, how silly it seemed.
That night when gazelle tried to sleep, zebra took the very tip of its hoof and tapped ever so gently but firmly on the same healing points around the eyes, lips, chest and hoofs of the gazelle, and the reaction was different… gazelle went from irritated, to crying, to shivering, to sleep…. with a smile that only the sun could compete… and as the little bird knows and the river of life can tell – healing is possible and can be passed on…