listening: three brains (or more) instead of one — Susan Raffo

Susan Raffo
15 min readFeb 27, 2021

A reading of this blog post that supports the practice below is on my website which is listed at the bottom.


I am going to share a teaching with you, something I learned from I had started to disappear before she had her stroke. My mind made up all kinds of perfectly reasonable explanations for why I left. They weren’t wrong — but they weren’t the whole story. What I didn’t do was sit down with her and let myself shake and be afraid and angry and confused and just say to her: I don’t like you when you are like this or like that. This hurts me. I didn’t do those things and instead, I disappeared. When she had her stroke, most of her other students, including those who struggled with her in similar ways, went to her. I did not. Again, my mind made up a lot of justifiable reasons; how she had treated a beloved trans friend, how she was around race and indigeneity, how she was around power. They were, of course, all justifiable based upon my politics and various belief systems. I would like to say that somewhere I felt guilt or unsettled, that some place deep within me was raising its eyebrows when I wasn’t showing up, but that wasn’t true. I mostly felt nothing except when, for some reason, I needed to remind myself of why I wasn’t going to her side, why I had left. When that happened, I just felt hard. Belly-hard. Heart-hard. But brain-fluid. My brain could spin and dance, explaining in ever greater complexity so that I fully convinced myself that my leaving was justified. When she passed, shared beloveds asked if I needed a ride to the funeral. If I was going to her ceremony. I stayed hard inside. Unforgiving. I felt justified in withholding my love. I think it was three years ago when that hard place in me started to soften. It was slow, not a quick spring but a seep. There are so many mind-words I could share here, understanding about why I did what I did, stories about how the past became tangled with the present, but those stories don’t really matter. Because no matter what, I left. I disappeared while she was dying. It doesn’t matter if she missed me (I know she did, even if in the smallest of ways). It doesn’t matter if she was angry at me or understanding. What matters is this: I behaved in ways that contradict my deepest sense of what it is to be human. This softening continued

Susan Raffo

Thinking about the healing in justice and the justice in healing.