The Zen Bin: Community Healing in North Minneapolis

By: Alex Stalberger
the zen bin

“Community is the cure,” says Sierra Carter, founder and CEO of The Zen Bin during an interview for the Well Connected Twin Cities Podcast.

Safe space is necessary to begin any healing process. That’s simply how the nervous system works. Unless a person truly feels safe, their nervous system is on alert, diverting more energy toward their fight, flee, or freeze response than energy toward rest and repair.

Sierra Carter’s work reminds us all that safe spaces are not accessible to everyone and are not available in all areas of the Twin Cities. The Northside of Minneapolis is especially vulnerable to health and wellness deserts, and often is without truly safe spaces for rich healing work to take place.

Why is safe space important?

Safe space for communities to gather is the key to unlocking deep, soulful healing, Sierra explains. Healing that can begin to unravel years of individual and communal trauma, especially for our BIPOC neighbors.

Safe space might sound simple enough. . . a space where you can trust to show up as you are and feel like you belong, feel that you are seen and heard. But developing that space can be a bit more complex than that.

Developing safe space for healing individuals and communities is exactly why Sierra Carter created The Zen Bin. Inspired by her time in L.A., Sierra recognized the need for a safe space for healing in North Minneapolis communities.

In the heart of North Minneapolis, and there’s just such a desert  for healthy food, healthy mind, body + soul. [We] provide mental health and self-care resources to the communities that are lacking those opportunities.

Sierra Carter, The Zen Bin

How does The Zen Bin create their safe spaces?

The Zen Bin has identified that in order for vulnerable healing to occur, facilitators must hold space in a way that people feel 100% like they can be themselves without heavy expectations or the urge to conform.

We all have trauma, but it’s essential we have spaces we can just truly be ourselves.

Sierra Carter, The Zen Bin

The tricky thing is, safe spaces look different to everyone.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this? You try on a new routine, a session, or a class that for whatever reason, feels a bit uncomfortable.

You’re self-aware, your mental chatter is incessant, you pay more attention to your external environment than your internal one, your guard goes up. And while that guard is up, you can’t access the deep part of you that actually needs nourishment and attention.

Let’s now zoom out and consider our beautifully diverse communities.

To one person, a dimly lit, quiet studio is a haven, while to another this environment can feel isolating and unapproachable. Any group of people or physical space that invokes an awareness that says “I’m different” instead of “we’re in this together” would not be considered safe. Whether that awareness is due to race, ethnicity, gender, age, body type, social status, or eye color.

Sierra reminds us that self-care and safe spaces don’t come in one-size-fits-all boxes, they are as diverse as our communities.

Then why do wellness spaces tend to all look and feel similar?

The Zen Bin is breaking that mold boldly. Listening and being a mirror for what our Northside neighbors are craving and calling out for. Sierra is curating and leading collaborations that innovate how wellbeing is accessed for our BIPOC communities and beyond.

Releasing things that don’t serve you in community with others reaffirms that you are not alone.

Sierra Carter, The Zen Bin

“We are all healers in need of healing” says Sierra, this puts us all in need of an open, vulnerable community. And to our communities on the Northside, she says, the traditional meditation or yoga studio doesn’t feel like the safest place to start healing. 

Listen to the full episode and hear more about The Zen Bin’s intentional offerings like TrapSoul Painting + Meditation, Hip Hop Yoga, Yoga in the Dark, or R&B Journaling.

Keep up with The Zen Bin and their work to bring accessible healing to life through the creation of safe space within the Northside Healing Space through Liberty Community Church.

Alex Stalberger is the co-founder of Well Connected Twin Cities and practicing holistic health coach. She firmly believes that quality of life is forever changed when we are empowered to take control of our health and discover all that is possible.

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