The Body Is a Doorway

A four-part course with Sophie Strand


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“It is as if the land secretes pheromones testifying to its abuse, detectable only by those who are themselves damaged.”
– Jan Zita Grover
“It is hardly possible to take up one’s residence in the kingdom of the ill, unprejudiced by the lurid metaphors with which it has been landscaped”
– Susan Sontag

We live in an age of loss, illness, and pain: personal and ecological, human and more-than-human. But our wounds don’t just show up in our bodies. They show up in our ecosystems. When we feel discomfort, we immediately attempt to stop the sensations and resolve the cause of the pain. But for many, pain has no cure and no definitive etiology. When the pills don’t work and we “fail” treatments, our bodies are doubly cursed – with illness and illegibility.

What does it mean to have an illness – physical or psychological – that is incurable or terminal? What does it feel like to have a condition that is resistant to diagnoses, treatment, and resolution? Those who are permanently exiled to the kingdom of the unwell are still expected to perform daily penitential rituals of “wellness”, handing over money, time, and physical energy to a process that is closer to haunting than it is to healing.

When the cut refuses to close, when the neurological glitch clicks into constancy, we must pause and become curious. We are not the only organisms experiencing unresolvable agony. In fact, most ecosystems are contending with pollution and physical disruption. Most species find themselves stranded in a frayed web of symbiotic extinctions.

This course is for those with treatment fatigue. For those lying on the bathroom floor with no hope left. For those who cannot get out of bed. Who cannot try another drug or treatment. This course is for those with emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. It is for those with medical debt and disability. It is for those who have tried every medicine, every therapy, and every healing modality, and still have not accomplished “wholeness” or “health”. This course is for the parents and friends and lovers of the incurable and the unwell. It is for the healers and doctors who realize that their modalities must not become an apparatus of capitalistic optimization. As we relax the Europatriarchal idea of the atomized self as being personally responsible for disease, we can begin to see that unwellness is an entangled web of oppressions within which we are all ensnared, a territory that many beings cohabitate.

Communally, through story, conversation, questions, and weekly exercises, we will begin to release the need to complete a healing narrative. We will create fallow space in our bodies and lives. We will weave tapestries with our failures that cannot be witnessed with human eyes. We will borrow shrimp eyes, bumble bee eyes, dog eyes, to look at a world that refuses visual and narrative resolution. Drawing on research into extended cognition, we will let our minds slip from the prison of our physical selves into our wider webbing of relations, learning from rivers and spiders and hermit crabs and hummingbirds how to inhabit different physicalities and sensory universes.

We will get nothing done. We will lie fallow in each other’s arms. We will sabbath the body and erase our debts. We will see that our wounds are physical and psychic invitations to collaborate with otherness in ways that far exceed our ideas of safety and comfort. We will celebrate that we have done enough for today. For this meal. For this moment. For this empty space that summons the next breath.

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful. Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful. Therefore profit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.

— Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 11

Join Sophie Strand for this 4-part webinar series.

Further Reading:

The Body Is a Doorway: Essay by Sophie Strand

I Will Not be Purified: Essay by Sophie Strand in “Art Papers”

New Gods at the End of the World SAND Community Conversation with Sophie Strand and Bayo Akomolafe

Your Body is an Ancestor: Essay by Sophie Stand in “Braided Way”

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Questions explored in this series:

  • How can we let chronic illness, incurable disease, disability, and grief galvanize us into greater connection with other species and beings?
  • What if my joy, my ease, my bodily ecstasy was not achievable in a single human self, but somewhere past my skin-silhouette, in the body of a bird, or a vine, or mycorrhizal network?
  • What if the ways our bodies adjusted to trauma, trespass, and illness were not universally problematic, but often deeply creative?
  • What if the bodies of the disabled, the survivors of violence and abuse, the neurodivergent, and the chronically ill were not broken and in need of correction?


Sophie Strand

is a writer based in the Hudson Valley who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and ecology. Yet it would probably be more authentic to call her a neo-troubadour animist with a propensity to spin yarns that inevitably turn into love stories. Give her a salamander and a stone and she’ll write you a love story. Sophie was raised by house cats, puff balls, possums, raccoons, and an opinionated, crippled goose. She believes strongly that all thinking happens interstitially – between beings, ideas, differences, mythical gradients.

She is the author of The Flowering Wand: Rewilding the Sacred Masculine and The Madonna Secret. She is also finishing a collection of essays about navigating an incurable genetic disease and early trauma through ecological storytelling.

You can subscribe to her newsletter at, and follow her work on Instagram: @cosmogyny and at

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The Body Is a Doorway

A four-part course with Sophie Strand

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