Every Friday, we send out a weekly roundup of what’s new on Blood & Milk along with articles you may have missed from the archives. We also include an interview with an inspiring woman, and this week we’re excited to feature Breena Fain. To get the newsletter, sign up here.
Breena Fain is a healer, mystic, and the founder of Gather, a creative community space for healing and growth.
As your IRL friend, I’ve watched (proudly!) from the sidelines as Gather has evolved over time. Can you share a bit about why you started Gather, and how the community has evolved into what it is today?
Yes! It’s crazy how much we’ve all grown (you, me, Gather, etc.) since the early days. I started the community in 2017 as a place where women could *ahem* gather to share their unique stories of chronic illness and reproductive mental health issues. I have premenstrual dysphoric disorder and the internet was ripe full of unhelpful and often dangerous advice. So Gather was this little corner of the internet where people could explore their hardships together.
Since then it’s evolved right alongside me. And because of that, four years later, it’s now a broader community platform focused on creative healing for everyone – not just women. I felt like as I grew closer to myself, it became clear that deep healing needed to be the central focus for Gather… and that just opened up more opportunities for community offerings and membership accessibility.
You just launched Gather’s premier offering, Wild Joy. Tell us a bit about the program—and can we get a sneak peek into what might come next for Gather?
Yes! Wild Joy is Gather’s premier annual membership. With it includes a full online program I built that’s less like a course and more like a really helpful and nourishing self-healing toolkit. Wild Joy is this really magical blend of intentional community, healing resources, and a guided path you can imagine in your own way. It includes many evidence-based mindfulness practices as well as spiritual ones for the soul. (Also Friday, April 9 is the last day for enrollment!)
Wild Joy promises advice for “how to live with more joy just as you are.” What do you feel, in your life experience, has led you to a place where you feel not only qualified to share this knowledge but excited to teach others what you know?
Such a great question. Credibility in this space is always tricky, and it’s so important to find people who you resonate with and trust. And that can be really hard! I’ve been through insane transitions in my life including but not limited to an emotionally abusive childhood, depression, anxiety, one scary suicidal episode, and many, many heartbreaks. And typing this all—I still feel some wild gratitude in it all because with all that experience, I continue to feel so much joy in my life. Not because bad things happen, but because bad things happen and yet, here I am, looking at these flowers on my desk and feeling moved by all that the world has to teach us.
That was a lot, I know haha. But I’ll just say this. The biggest feedback I’ve received as to why people are drawn to Gather and Wild Joy is because I let them be who they are, and I love them deeply for that. I don’t believe we need to change or improve to feel joy, we just need to remember who we already are. And that is the greatest gift I’ve been given here – that I see people for the wild and joyful people they already are.
You talk a lot about the difference between joy and happiness. Can you give us a TL; DR here?
Major TL; DR is this. Joy creates your external world and happiness is created by your external world.
Because of that, it’s really hard to feel happy and sad at once. But feeling sadness while living in joy still means that below the hard emotions, you are grounded in who you really are—which is just love and joy.
You also share so vulnerably about your past and how your experiences with depression and anxiety were a big part in getting you to where you are now. What advice might you have for someone who is currently struggling with their mental health?
This is tough because sometimes people think depression is about not seeing all the good things in life, and so we’re often reminded by loved ones. And in my experience, most depressed and anxious people are deeply aware of the good things… which is part of the challenge. For me, knowing this made me feel immense guilt and when I was depressed, thinking of good things just kind of made it worse. I could barely brush my teeth let alone inspire myself to be grateful. Anxiety feels more like I was being torn apart at the limbs, and my mind couldn’t focus on anything happening now.
But in either case—there is often this persistent voice telling you you are unworthy of love and forgiveness for this thing going on inside you. And it’s so convincing you almost want to agree with it just so the chaos or overwhelm can stop.
So my biggest advice is to reach out to someone you know will remind you you are worthy of love and forgiveness and peace. Someone who will hold you either physically or energetically. Whether that’s a loved one, a crisis counselor via text, or your neighbor. It’s terrifying to do but the only way out is to recognize that you are not alone and someone WILL help you.
I feel like you’re one of the best self-learners I know—you’re so good at tapping into an interest or intuition and following the thread until you’re an expert. On the topic of self love and growth and finding joy, are there any books, podcasts, topic experts, etc., you’d recommend our audience check out?
Oh, so many! I’m currently re-reading my favorite Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s about writing but also contains amazing wisdom on life. Her whole vibe is just brilliant, witty, and wise. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron is a book everyone should have on their shelf. You are a Badass is like a fun, pop version of the other books. Oh, and The Artist’s Way if you’re looking to develop a mindful practice while also learning. 🙂