“We are a family. Like a giant tree. Branching out toward the sky.
We are a family. We are so much more, more than just you and I.”
Family. Whew! What can I say? We love them and they can gnaw on our very last nerve. Our immediate biological families are usually the first people we are introduced to in life. And just like the word ‘family' is the basis for the word ‘familiar,’ our families can be the basis for how we relate to and understand the world. This month, we’ve chosen it as the focus of our meditation because what better time than the start of the holiday season than to meditate on the ways we are all connected as one big family?
Being in a family is more than just being raised in the same household. Families are made up of persons that we share any kind of commonality with. In a sense, as long as someone is related to you in literally ANY way… they count as family. Sounds weird, I know, but here’s an example: humans belong to the human family. No matter how different we all are, every human being shares a common ancestor. In this way, we're all biologically related to one another. And since I’m - admittedly - over-generalizing the idea of family, I might as well jump to the point that every single being on earth is related. We all belong to the "earthling family."
What difference does it make, you might ask. Easy! When we see the people around us as connected to us in some way, it makes the world a more familiar place. Granted, you’re not going to walk up to a total stranger, pat them on the back and exclaim “Wazzup cousin?!" (this would be super weird and rude) but you can see their humanity and afford them the respect they deserve as a fellow being. The respect that you yourself would want.
When I’m feeling particularly anxious around other people, I find comfort in reminding myself that “we are all one person divided seven billion ways.” I use this phrase as a way to remind myself that I am built of the same stuff as the people around me and that we have more in common than we think. Reminding myself of this helps me to move past negative thoughts about others or even myself. Additionally, it’s a reminder that in any given situation you can find a connection with another person and work from there toward a common goal… even if that goal is to get away from one another, lol. The point is that finding this connection is key.
THE FAMILY WITHIN
Now on a smaller scale, let’s talk about a different kind of family. The family in our DNA. The people who raised us and the people who raised them and so on and so forth. We inherit so many things from our family. Physical traits. Mannerisms. Many jewels (figurative and otherwise) are passed down from generation to generation. In a sense, wouldn’t it be cool if we could tap into these gifts and use them as a kind of superpower?
One thing that I started to do when I meditated, was focused on strengths that I know I received from my ancestors (parents included because they are our first ancestors). Yes, we can think of all of the things our parents may have gotten wrong, but when you focus on the things they do well, you may be able to see how you have it within you. And what you appreciate, appreciates. So by appreciating your family and the many gifts that you all share, you can magnify these traits. Give it a try and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Personally, by giving honor to my ancestors and noting their strength, resourcefulness, beauty and bravery, I see it manifest within myself. I make it a point to concentrate on the fact that a long time ago, a person (who is within me… within my DNA) was strong enough to survive. And therefore, bring me into existence. The thought of this makes me weep with joy and awe. I am in amazement every day that I am alive because someone that I have never met, lives on within me. Knowing this, I am determined to give this person honor by cherishing myself. My body, my mind, my spirit as a way to show them that I am grateful. And how can I NOT be grateful? My very existence is a testament to the strength that I have within thanks to that person... those people, who came together to make me. I could go on and on so will leave it at that. But you get my drift.
Everyone’s family life isn’t perfect, but it’s helpful to dig into the toolbox of our DNA and draw out the many gifts within. Focusing on the concept of family in a productive way - a way that builds us up and establishes our connection with the world - helps us to find joy and peace in the mundane. The familiar.
So this month, we at Black Women’s Day of Meditation encourage you to meditate on cultivating healthy relationships with your families, whether they are your biological family, your chosen family or the world at large. Greatness comes from choosing to focus on the things that bring us all together in harmony.
For the month of October, we’ve chosen CREATIVITY as the concept we want to focus on. It’s especially fitting considering that at the end of this month, so many of us will be celebrating Halloween - a holiday that allows us to honor our inner child and transform ourselves into whatever or whoever we want to be. Also, it means candy… lots of candy!
Anywho… creativity is a big part of the human experience. Some even say that what separates us from animals is our ability to be creative in terms of art and expression. The daily grind keeps us working like machines, but it’s nearly impossible to find anything in existence that doesn’t require some kind of creativity whether it be in its design or function. For example, there were several different designs for the airplane that needed to be tested before finding one that would work in accordance with the laws of nature. Once the functional design was created, the interior then needed to be designed in a way that would make it comfortable for whoever would operate it. And then later, the airplane needed to be designed to the satisfaction of passengers for commercial use. All of these things were created but there is no such thing as creating without creativity. Whether it be creating your Halloween costume to creating an airplane to creating the life that you want.
In essence, all of us are creators. Every single life-form in existence. We create situations, feelings, opportunities, machinery, other beings and the list goes on and on and on into infinity. As creators, we want to use this power the best way possible. Using what we have to get what we want. Being resourceful. As opposed to looking for solutions outside of what we have… we want to look within. Can you see where I’m going with this?
Meditation as a tool for Creativity
If you are looking for a creative solution and you’re running out of ideas, try meditation. By quieting your mind, you can allow it to dig around and look for ways to use your present situation to your advantage. Personally, when I’m all out of ideas, I take ‘power naps’ or I do a fifteen minute meditation using the Calm app or Liberate app. Going for a walk has helped as well. Sometimes doing something as simple as reading or drawing has helped me to come up with ideas. As long as you’re quieting your mind and giving it a chance to rest, you are on the right track.
When it comes to creativity, children are great exemplars. Children allow their creativity to fly free through play. I know that when left to my own devices as a child, I was constantly drawing or writing stories or trying to invent some zany device with whatever was lying around the house. As an adult, when I want to be creative, I try to tap into my inner child. And she never fails me.
When it comes to creativity, it’s important to understand that a mind free of judgment is the best tool one can have. By allowing yourself to explore all of the possibilities, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, you are exercising your creative muscle and can get stronger when it comes to finding solutions. Not everything is going to work out all the time, but if you block an idea that might not make sense at first, you may be blocking the very idea that could get you to the one that does.
So this month, we encourage you to unlock the key to your inner child. Play, dance, find joy and be inspired by the little things. Create yourself. Create your reality and do so creatively.
Dreams have always been a very big part of my life. They've been revealing interpretations of my inner thoughts, feelings and hopes. They have even been a source of inspiration as well as symbolic glimpses into the profundities of the world. Throughout my time on this planet, I have found that the more I pay attention to my dreams, the more I become self-aware and better equipped to interpret and navigate my life.
In simpler terms:
If I want peace, closure, insight… I pay attention to my dreams.
If I want to understand myself… I pay attention to my dreams.
If I want to understand this world… I pay attention to my dreams.
If I want to reach my dreams… I pay attention to my dreams.
I have had dreams that have inspired - and even predicted - projects, relationships, experiences and jobs. I look forward to going to sleep at night to see how my brain has processed the events of the day. My sleep has been an indicator of so many things for me and I value it so much that I actually keep a dream journal. If I'm still able to remember my dreams when I wake up, I write them down in as much detail as possible and then go about my day. One of the best things about keeping a dream journal is looking at it years later and seeing that my dreams have come to fruition or understanding how my brain and body chose to process a situation.
The brain is super intelligent - smarter than we can possibly imagine - and when given the chance to relay what it knows to us, it is never short of being breathtaking in its infinite wisdom. Dreams have the power to answer questions that we have and I discovered this last year by accident. After a rough day of being hard on myself, I had a dream that recalled a suppressed memory. The memory was presented to me in a way that made me protective of my younger self and even answered questions about why I'd been so angry with myself that day in the first place. From that point on, my life was on a new trajectory towards self-care and healing. And it was all from a dream.
I've had many more dreams like this, dreams where my mind tells me what my body or spirit needs. I've had dreams that have told me when I was wrong or what next steps to take. I've had dreams that have told me nothing, but I still write them down just in case. At the end of the day, the dream world is a space that allows us to be still and listen, un-interrupted (hopefully) to what our brain is trying to tell us and it is glorious.
One last thing... I tend to wake up in the middle of the night sometimes. I used to hate this because it always meant I would be groggy for the rest of the day, but I discovered that I have the best (meaning most detailed/revealing) dreams AFTER these kind of nights. So what I do when I can't sleep is read, write or do whatever I feel inspired to do - because I KNOW the payoff for this lack of sleep is going to be ahhh-mazing and whatever my inspiration is, it will surely clarify itself further in my dream state. When I feel the desire to get back into bed and try to will myself to sleep again, I do. It's not always this easy of course (I mean, what is?), but once I relaxed into sleeplessness as my reality, I found that fighting it wasn't the best way. If my brain wanted me up, we would be up and I would feed it some task or other until it's ready to settle down and talk to me.
I say all of this to say that dreaming is important. It's insightful and beautiful. And no, you're not always going to remember your dreams or always be able to sleep to a normal schedule. But if you can embrace rest in whatever state you can get it in, your brain will find ways to get messages to you. Also, meditation helps with sleep!!! So do that! (Also, alcohol inhibits sleep so try not to drink too close to bedtime).
So this month, go out and dream and talk about your dreams and interpret them and try to understand what your brain is telling you. And while you're at it, follow us on social media to see what we're talking about and share your story with us. Twitter (@bwmeditate) and Instagram (@blackwomensdayofmeditation).
If you live in the United States, surely you know it’s that time of the year. The time when we watch a parade of political candidates on our television screens debating each other about issues that affect the country, its citizens and the citizens of the world. One of the biggest topics that has come to the forefront is that of climate change.
Scientists have been warning us about it for decades but we are now at a moment in history where conversations centered around climate change have reached fever pitch. It’s scary to think about but it’s really important that we all become aware because the more we know, the more we can do. This in mind, one of the key components to taking care of the planet is undoing a lot of the damage that has been done through lack of compassion.
Compassion, on a global scale, has been missing from society for a long time. We see it with how major corporations operate, how law enforcement officials operate and even on an individual basis. Having concern for others - even persons who cannot verbally speak for themselves (like the earth and animals) - is something that can change our lives. But as with everything else, before we can have compassion for others, we must have compassion for ourselves. Only then can we understand what it truly is.
Meditation, as usual, is a great way to develop compassion for oneself. By sitting in silence for at least five minutes every day, we allow our brain to relax and heal in a way that it cannot when constantly bombarded with stimuli and external validation or insult. It is only when we set aside our judgements that we can evaluate situations with the clarity and peace of mind that compassion provides. By showing compassion we are living in the present instead of in the past or the future. We are recognizing a situation for what it is instead of what it ‘should’ or ‘could’ be. And only when we do this, can we fix what’s in front of us.
That said, I hope that we can all go into August with compassion and love for our fellow beings and this planet. Find out what what you can do to live a more compassionate existence and watch the world change.
If you keep up with our posts, this one may seem like a do-over. Yes, I’m talking about presence of mind again. Yes, being in the moment is of the utmost importance. Yes, the present is a “present.” I’m going to put a little bit of a spin on this one, though, trust me.
With this post, I want to talk about presence in terms of mastery of our energy and how we present to the world. In terms of self-care, how you feel about yourself is easily more important than how others feel about you. However, to pretend that the way we are received by those around us has no connection whatsoever with how we feel about ourselves would be completely disingenuous. Additionally, there are patterns that we establish in our lives when we are not aware of (or in control of) the kind of energy we’re putting out.
Here’s an example… I have two friends who have the same exact problem. Almost every single time they go to eating establishments, the server or cashier gets their order wrong. Nearly every time. It’s pretty amazing to watch because - in regular, non-restaurant life - both friends are delightful, intentional and super intuitive but as soon as they get into an eating establishment all of these things go out of the window for two, very differing reasons.
The first friend - let’s call her “Meek" - lowers her volume to a barely audible amount when she orders. She avoids eye contact, looking down or to the side as she mumbles out what she wants. In some cases, I’ve cringingly watched as the server asks her to repeat herself - and my friend gets quieter. Other times, I’ve casually repeated the order loud enough for the server or cashier to save face (“Oh!!! The nicoise salad?! That sounds amazing!”). Most times, however, the harried server takes off and comes back with something completely different than what Meek ordered and we start the “I didn’t ask for that” dance.
The second friend - we’ll call her “The Sergeant” - is on the opposite end of that spectrum. She speaks at a good volume and makes eye contact but fires off her order at lightning speed while adding a ton of modifications and changing her mind as she goes. She doesn’t double check to make sure the server heard her and when they ask questions, she says “never mind” and changes back to a previous modification. Her favorite words to say as the waiter walks away is “They’re going to get it wrong, just watch.” It’s almost as if she’s playing a game with the restaurant staff. Unfortunately, with this game, everybody loses. The server, my friend, anyone joining her for dinner, the establishment itself… everybody.
In both cases my friends would say (and have said) the fact that this constantly happens, has nothing to do with them. “She must be deaf,” Meek always says (I’m laughing as I type this because… *le sigh*). The Sergeant just chalks it up to the incompetence of waitstaff these days. Again, both women are great people and very good friends but both are not aware, whatsoever, of the energy they give off.
I love using restaurants and particularly waitstaff as examples of how the universe works because it’s practically the perfect analogy. The universe gives us what we order. It gives us things through the use of people, objects, coincidences, situations, opportunities, etc. Whatever is in existence can be used by the universe to give us our blessings. However, if we’re presenting orders quietly or creating impossible odds, we can’t expect to get what we want. Or if we do finally get what we want, it will be a laborious, long-awaited affair that wasn’t worth the wait.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with the way we present ourselves? A lot. Being aware of our presence (our tone, use of space, pretty much our overall energy) can be the difference between getting exactly what you want and people “getting you f*ed up.” In some cases it will show you your true intention in the first place. To go back to my example, my friend The Sergeant, often seemed like she was so focused on the server messing up her order that I wondered if she WANTED them to. (Needless to say, I avoid restaurant outings with her.)
So how do we become aware of how we’re coming across? If you don’t know where I’m going with this, you’re new here. Mindfulness through meditation can be an invaluable tool toward self awareness. By being intentional about how we present ourselves to the world, we can take some of the guesswork out of how we’re being received. Of course not every misunderstanding can be self-diagnosed away (for example, as a black woman I have to just be at peace with knowing that some people are going to misinterpret my very presence as an act of aggression) but it never hurts to do a quick check in with ourselves, especially when dealing with others. Recognizing patterns is the key.
That said, let’s move through the month of July with full awareness of our presence and how it affects our lives.
Have you ever said something you really regret? I mean something REEEEALLY out of character? And right afterward, you may have thought… ‘why on earth did I say that of all things?’ The thing that you said, you may not have even believed. It may have even felt like your mouth was talking all by itself, untethered from your brain. And you retrace your steps over and over again, only to find that there is no connection between logic and what just came out of your mouth.
Here’s another one… the times where you might’ve been at a loss for words. In those moments, it seems as if the silence is suffocating you and as you drown in a whirlpool of “what do I say?” you realize that the time to respond is swiftly passing by and there won’t ever be a more perfect time to revisit this moment, articulately saying the exact thing you wanted to say. And you kick yourself with regret, maybe even rehearsing for some improbable future when the moment repeats itself and you get a do-over.
Here’s the thing… we all get do-overs. Those do-overs are called the present.
For the month of June, Black Women’s Day of Meditation has chosen ‘mindfulness' as our focus. We’ve chosen mindfulness because it’s a big part of meditation. Some even call it a practice all by itself. Mindfulness, places you, your mind and your body in the present. So that your mind and body are connected (and you’re not worrying about what’s going to come out of your mouth.)
In his book Mindfulness for Everyday Living, Christopher Titmuss says 'Mindfulness is an indispensable tool for daily living. It helps us to cultivate a clear and comprehensive awareness of what is happening WHILE it is happening without allowing the mind to wander.' The reason I chose to start this blog by talking about “brain farts” and its many variations is because when we are not mindful, we increase the odds of experiencing regretful things.
Being aware and absorbed in every moment gives our brain the ability to be sharp and firing on all cylinders. When we’re thinking about the future or the past or all of the things we need to do - in other words, when our mind is everywhere but in the present moment - we force our brain to operate without us, inadvertently bringing us to an outcome we don’t want.
So how can one be mindful?
There are a number of techniques that can be used to pull you back into the moment. One of the things that I like to do is focus on my surroundings. Whenever I find my mind doing backflips and jumping all over the place from thought to thought and worry to worry, I stop and look around. I ask questions like "Where am I?” “What am I doing right now?” (Sometimes I ask this out loud). I then think about whether I am giving my full attention to this task. For example, if I’m making a sandwich, the answers to my question would be “I’m in the kitchen. I am making a sandwich.” The biggest question of all - in my opinion - is, am I giving this task the respect it deserves? In thinking like this, I recognize that the thing that I am honoring with this task, deserves to have my full attention. I don’t want to give my taste-buds and stomach a crappy sandwich. I want to pour my love and attention into this important task. And so I will take my time and be in the moment, focusing on nothing but making this sandwich and when it is finished, I will enjoy it.
Having respect for the present and whatever task you are doing is a huge part of mindfulness. Many times, when we split our focus between what we’re doing and what we hope to achieve (or don’t hope to achieve or whatever else), we are rejecting a positive outcome. I’ll give you a real world example. When you do not chew your food thoroughly, it messes up your digestion. So while that big chunk of stuffing and chicken might be the least of your priorities while it's going down your throat, the disrespect you had for your stomach when you were mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth is going to show up in the form of indigestion. This is a universal law. You get what you paid for.
So mindfulness is a form of showing respect, PAYING attention to the things that you are doing so that when it’s time to GET what you paid for… your return on investment comes in full.
In addition to being aware of your surroundings, there are a number of breathing techniques that you can use in order to practice mindfulness. I like to observe my breath. Breathing in and out. In doing this, I become aware of whether I was breathing at a fast rate or very slow. (In my case, most times it’s the former). In managing my breathing, I regain my sense of calm and become aware of my body, relaxing parts that were tense. Once I get my body and mind to a peaceful and manageable state, my attention is then put toward whatever I am doing. In these moments, I honor the present.
So this month, I encourage you all to honor the present. Take in every moment (yes, even the crappy ones) with gratitude and respect. Because every moment is here to teach us something and if we’re paying attention - especially when things are at their worst - we can reap amazing benefits later on. Additionally, in showing respect to the present moment, we are honoring ourselves, our loved ones and essentially, the entire Universe. I can’t even begin to think of a better gift than that.
Life is a classroom. And every experience we have can teach us something about the world we live in. One of the biggest lessons I’ve had the opportunity to observe this month has been about graciousness and appreciation. I’ll start by telling you about an experience I recently had with my niece and the lesson I gleaned from it...
A few weeks ago (shortly before the Black Women’s Day of Meditation holiday), I had the pleasure of staying with my very pregnant sister for a few days. She was getting closer and closer to her due date and aside from throwing her baby shower, I also took it upon myself to help her do a deep clean on her house and get the baby’s bedroom in order. My partner in crime was my thirteen year old niece (we’ll call her “K”) - a hilariously wisecracking - and sometimes moody - teenager who wanted nothing more than to play on her phone all day. Getting K to help me was, at times, harder than actually getting things done myself. But when she worked with me, things moved along swimmingly and I wanted nothing more than to kiss her chubby cheeks and reward her for her services - which I did, as much as I could.
Now when I visit home, I always bring a little cash - a few fives and tens - to randomly hand out to my nieces and nephews. Sometimes I hide the money in weird places to surprise them, etc. So this week, I had a little extra money in my pocket in full preparation to reward K handsomely for helping me (and therefore her mother) around the house. Considering she had a new sibling on the way, I imagined that it would feel good for her to get a bit of something to show her how much she was appreciated and loved. I also wanted her to see how beneficial it is when we all work together to help each other. $100 should do it, I told myself.
So for the week, we worked. I hauled tables and chairs, dressers and boxes from one room to the next. Scrubbed, cleaned and “saged." Made runs to UHaul and Salvation Army and Home Depot to drop things off, pick things up and move things around. K was beside me the entire time, helping when she could but also being very “teenager-y” (I’ll spare you the details) and slowing me down.
Regardless, the week ended on a great note. I’d finished everything I set out to do and was preparing to fly back to the West Coast when I remembered that I wanted to give my niece her money. In an effort to get her to leave the room so I could retrieve the funds, I asked her to do me a small favor and let her rambunctious puppy outside to pee. This, surprisingly, proved too much for my niece. She groaned and complained as the anxious pup ran back and forth. I asked again and again, hinting that it would be in her best favor to do so. Still nothing. In other words, K wasn’t budging and I couldn’t get her to leave the room so I could surprise her with the money she’d worked so hard for. And the worst part was that the more she complained, the more my enthusiasm for giving her the money evaporated until I no longer cared to give it to her in the dramatic fashion I’d initially planned. In fact, I didn’t want to give it to her at all. So rather than do the big surprise I was planning, I dug into my pocket and gave her whatever I had on me.
It was $40.
She hugged me tightly, smiling from ear to ear. I was happy to give her this money but felt a little saddened because deep down inside I knew she’d screwed herself out of the full amount and in the words of Tyra Banks, "I was rooting for [her]… we were ALL rooting for [her]!”
Now I’m not telling this story about my lovely niece in order to criticize her. She’s a really great kid and anyone with teenagers knows that they can be (to put it nicely) horrible, lol. There will also be many more opportunities in the future for me to shell out money to her and her thousands of cousins. I tell this story to say that my niece - in this anecdote - is every single one of us. And the universe is the exhausted auntie who is conspiring to love on us and give us what we’ve asked for (and more) if we would only get out of our own way.
The Universe is ALWAYS Conspiring in our Favor
That’s right, everyONE and everyTHING is in on this grand conspiracy. You are sharper because of the experiences in your life that challenged you. You are smarter. More empathetic. And when you flow along in the direction of the universe, you are rewarded… handsomely.
Now for the record, “flowing in the direction of the universe” is NOT about blind obedience. Many religions and belief systems promote rigid conformity in exchange for reward but you are not under any obligation to blindly obey any person on this planet (just like my niece isn’t under any obligation to blindly obey my every word.) Additionally, if you are ONLY doing it to be rewarded, you’re missing the point entirely. What I mean by flowing in the direction of the universe is being "a helper."
What I could’ve used from my niece - and what I suspect the Universe could use from all of us - is a bit of assistance. The times that my niece helped me the most were when she voluntarily did little things like grabbing me a cup of water to drink after I’d lifted heavy boxes. Or cleared my path because she’d seen what I was doing and knew it could be done more efficiently with a bit of help. It was the times when she did these small things - when she WORKED WITH ME - that I wanted nothing more than to shower her with kisses, shove money into her hands and, hell, give her whatever else she may have wanted. The thought alone that she cared enough to make my life easier brought tears to my eyes. To her, these were small gestures, for me, they were huge. And unlike her, I had the ability to show my appreciation in very generous and grandiose ways.
Working alongside the Universe means exhibiting small kindnesses that contribute to the greater good of the world. It means making things better NOT worse. Imagine, for example, that a house is on fire and the fire-truck can’t get to it because no cars are moving out of the way. In this case, everyone would be a hero and flow in the direction of the Universe, by moving out of the way. Sometimes, it’s that simple!
Your friends, family and acquaintances who give you a kind word or pop up at the perfect time to help you or say some encouraging thing that you needed to hear… they’re the Universe. The big tip you got from a customer, the lady who gave you her extra coupon at the store the other day, the man YOU helped after he dropped his credit card… these people and experiences are all part of the same Universe. When we help each other we are part of the Universe’s wonderful conspiracy of abundant kindness, peace and love FOR ALL.
When we don’t appreciate the people, experiences and things that we have… when we work against the greater good by having a bad attitude, holding onto toxic behaviors, discouraging those who are attempting to be better versions of themselves and mistreating ourselves and others, standing in the way of progress… we are telling the Universe that we don’t deserve nice things. And everyone knows that one of the hardest things to do is to give a gift to someone who doesn’t want or appreciate it. In fact, sometimes the easiest thing is just to withhold the gift altogether.
So how do you know how you’ve been treating the Universe all this time? How do you know if you’re a helper?
That’s actually a really easy question to answer.
How do you treat the people who love you the most? How much do you appreciate and take care of what you have? Do you give thanks for experiences big and small? When it’s time to get things done do you moan and groan and side-eye? Or do you put in the work? These are your answers in a nutshell. Just like every Black mom (at least in MY Black-ass family) says “Y’all gonna appreciate me when I’m gone,” this is the same energy that the Universe has. So appreciate Her while she’s here, all around you. Providing, giving and conspiring in your favor. Sharpening you, motivating you. Because just like your favorite Auntie, the Universe loves you dearly and wants you to be happy beyond your wildest imagination… but if you don’t care, then She doesn’t either.
I want to end this blog post by saying that I want nothing but good things for you. Just like the Universe (and Tyra Banks), I’m rooting for you. We’re ALL rooting for you!
Now go and be great. And for the love of all things good, clean your room!
Today I want to focus on an epidemic. “Busy-ness.”
Everybody is busy these days. This is a word I hear a lot. “Oh I’ve been soooo busy this week” or “I haven’t found a second to myself” or “I’m booked and busy.” To be honest, when I hear these things, it NEVER sounds good (ok, maybe that last one sounds good, lol). A few years ago when I was jobless, I would hear these words with jealousy. Hell, I wanted to be busy too. Like many people, I thought that being busy was a badge of honor.
But when I think back to times that I was at my busiest, I was usually doing things I didn’t want to do. I was stuck editing lengthy videos for people for cheap or for free. I was working extra shifts to make ends meet and missing major life events of friends and family. It felt like I was being pulled along by some strong outside force and life was passing me by. Being busy meant eating on the run, which meant a horrible diet and digestion issues. It meant rushing from one crisis to the next. The times in my life when I had the most car accidents, the most money issues and the most horrendous, life-altering events were when I was at my busiest. And in hindsight, I see how much that wasn’t a coincidence.
These days I find joy in NOT being “busy.” I work, yes, but my main focus is on taking care of myself, enjoying my life and doing things that I WANT to do. When I make plans, I make them because I want to have a good experience, not because I’m coming up for air. What I do for a living is not exactly my life’s passion, but I thoroughly enjoy it and it pays the bills. Also, it’s flexible and gives me enough down-time to be able to pursue my own personal hobbies like traveling and painting. I don’t have children, so that’s another bonus to my non-hectic life. I say all of this to say I’m NOT busy. And I’m proud of this.
It means I’ve taken charge of my life.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that discourages everything I just said. Busy-ness is associated with productivity. Words like “hustle” and “slay” are part of “grind culture” vernacular. People are making decisions to pay the bills, but not paying any mind to their bodies or spirits whatsoever. Yes, paying bills are important but if you’re working long hours at a job that is physically and mentally taxing with no end in sight... what are you sacrificing? Valuable relationships? Valuable time? Your health? The life you actually WANT to live? These are ALL things that can NEVER be replaced. They’re priceless. As the saying goes, most of us will never be on our death bed talking about how many more shifts we could’ve picked up if we had more time.
One of the things I wish I’d have been taught in my twenties was meditation and self-care. Why? Because this would have allowed me to stop and figure out what I actually wanted in life and - in turn actually ACHIEVE this goal - as opposed to making reckless life decisions based off of fear and desperation. These decisions lead to years of stress and low-paying, dead-end jobs which lead to more stress and additional dead end jobs to supplement the money I wasn’t making at dead-end job number one and then two and then three. There was a period of time when I didn’t see my friends or family for years at a time. And every time I spoke to them I was frantically driving to my next gig talkmbout, “Yeah, sorry! I’ve been busy!”
Which leads me to my next thing...
STOP TELLING PEOPLE HOW BUSY YOU ARE
As a rule of thumb, I steer away from putting these words out there too much. I rarely say it for several reasons...
1. IT’S A WAY OF TELLING PEOPLE THAT YOU DON’T VALUE THEM OR THEIR TIME - I don’t tell anyone I love that I’m too busy because I don’t ever want them to feel like I’m too busy for them. If I’m in the middle of something and they call, I ask if I can give them a call back. Sometimes, I tell them when I’ll next be free and ask if we can talk then. Only exceptions are when I literally can’t pick up the phone to say this. I, personally, try to be accessible to people because I feel like life is precious and tomorrow is not promised. Of course, it’s important to set healthy boundaries and make sure that no one is abusing this accessibility but my main point is to make sure your loved ones know where they stand with you while you have the luxury of being a part of their earthly lives (and they, yours). If you don’t value them or their time and don’t want them to ever call again... yes, tell them you’re busy until they get the point. But if it’s friends, family or people who’s relationships you actually cherish, imagine your last words to them being “I’m busy.” Imagine how that would feel to hear.
2. IT REEKS OF INCOMPETENCE - Being busy isn’t as good a look as people think. Part of what I do in my professional life is form relationships and partnerships on various projects. People who are constantly “busy” make the worst business partners, hands down. It takes them longer to return messages. They’re forgetful and irritable. They can rarely carry their end of the work load. They’re rushing from one thing to the next. Eating on the run and careening into crisis after crisis, similar to me when I was a slave to my ridiculous schedule. Against common belief, busy-ness doesn’t always mean an abundance of opportunities... often times it means poor time-management skills. I steer away from working with people who wax on about their busy schedules because it is not a good selling point. But it surprises me how much people think it is. I don’t tell people how busy I am because I don’t want to scare off opportunities. If you tell the universe you’re too busy, She’ll believe you. (And every one of us is a small part of the universe.)
Sidenote: I also don’t tell people how free my schedule is but that’s its own blog post. The point is to make time in your day for yourself and don’t go blabbing your whole schedule to the whole world.
With this post, I hope you feel encouraged to set some time aside to recalibrate and ask yourself important questions like am I busy with things that I want to do? Do I make time for the experiences in life that bring me joy? Do I appreciate them? (Remember, what you appreciate, appreciates.) If you’re not feeling the things that are taking up most of your time, think about the state of mind you were in when you accepted those responsibilities in the first place. Visualize exactly what you want and stay in whatever state of mind this visualization conjures in order to attract the life you want.
Take control. Don’t hand over the power to anyONE or anyTHING to create your life.
9 months of planning, promoting on social media, handing out flyers, sending emails and DMs, blogging and applying to grants and sponsorships so we can get this holiday going and this weekend, we gave birth (hence the picture of the baby) to what I’d like to call one of my greatest accomplishments. Black Women’s Day of Meditation is a holiday built around healing the world by first healing ourselves, starting with the group that is most affected by stress and systemic oppression.
I’m so proud of what we’ve set out to accomplish and to say that the day went off without a hitch would - well, it would be a lie - but it would go against the whole point of the day. Meditation isn’t about finding peace in a perfect world. It’s about finding peace in a world that is absolutely chaotic at times.
To be honest, on the day of this beautiful, peaceful holiday built around love and solidarity, I woke up in a crappy mood. My brain was racing from one worry to the next. I laid in bed trying to figure out why - of all days - my brain would decide to do me like this. Nine months of zen and calm and today I woke up ready to have a panic attack. I took a few deep breaths and sat up. Then something strange happened.
My brain had conjured up the image of me walking into the venue ready to kick off Black Women’s Day of Meditation while looking a hot-ass, frazzled mess. It was almost as if I’d pictured looking on the outside the way I felt on the inside. Something about that image helped me to relax. I shook my head and focused on what I was doing. Making tea. Brushing my teeth. Making my bed.
I’d like to say that my brain quit with the shenanigans but homegirl was still on some bull, so I did something that surprisingly worked really well. I put on some ratchet music. This allowed the kinetic energy inside of me to find an outlet.
So I’m on the road rapping along to City Girls when I arrive at the venue. I got my medi-TEA-tion juice (peach tea infused with herbs and fruit), some cups, my speaker and a number of other things. Then it hits me… I forgot to bring my own damn yoga mat. Again, I laugh and go around to the trunk, collecting up the things I DID have. I figured that I’d make it work somehow. No big deal! In this light-hearted state, I was able to remember that I’d always kept a yoga mat in my trunk. I dug it out from beneath all of the stuff, thanked my ancestors and ran across the street to the venue.
I’m not going to get into too much detail about the hour and a half of meditation. If you were there, you know what happened. If you weren’t, here’s the gist… Ajia and I introduced ourselves and we did a number of introductions around the room. Then we played a guided meditation from the Liberate App. After this, Ajia guided us in a meditation of her own. Then we listened to soothing music for about 25 minutes and concluded the evening.
When we first started, there were a number of sirens going off. Anyone familiar with Los Angeles knows that ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles are a part of the auditory ambiance in this city. The walls of the venue were thin and every outside sound permeated the room, including music from the place next door. I’m not going to lie, I was freaking out. Thoughts of inadequacy and guilt - lower frequency thoughts - found their way to the forefront of my mind and I worried that people would regret having attended our event. Then suddenly the sirens seemed to stop as I sank into the words from the meditation. I’m not sure if it was because my focus had shifted or whether it was because the sirens really DID stop, but I was relieved and happy to have found my peace in that moment. I was also happy to have been reminded of the point of meditation. Again, it’s not about finding peace in a perfect world. It’s about finding peace in the world we live in.
From there, we drifted into our meditative states and when the music hit, I knew everyone was in a peaceful state right along with me. It’s hard to explain, but you know when the energy in a room is peaceful. For me, my confirmation came when I heard a small snore.
Once the meditation was over, everyone sat up and we talked a moment about how we felt. Some people grabbed more tea and socialized, others gathered their things and drifted toward the door. It was mission accomplished. Whether they (we) knew it or not, every woman in the room took their moment of peace with them to the outside world, better equipped to handle the chaos of life. Perhaps more clear on things. Perhaps more aware. Perhaps not. Regardless, for a moment, this small room of beautiful Black and Indigenous women were in tune with each other. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to start a movement.
May is the month of “The Big Day.” May is also mental health awareness month. It’s also the month where our theme is Inner Peace. So, yeah… a lot going on. With this blog post, I’d like to focus on all three of these things because in the awesome and beautifully poetic way that life works, they’re all very closely connected.
The Big Day
The Big Day is the national holiday that is Black Women’s Day of Meditation. It is the building block of our movement. It is the point of it all. Back in October when me, Ajia and Dominique set out to create this holiday we had massive plans that involved gathering thousands of people together in one place. We were going to have big celebrities like India Arie, Oprah and Halle Berry - people who promoted and embodied a lifestyle of mindfulness and meditation. Being that we were a few months out, it was going to be a big deal if we could pull it off. Of course, things didn’t quite go as planned but what was learned in the midst of our efforts was that small beginnings help you to build a sustainable creation. One that - like an infant - has time to grow from the inside out, taking on a life of its own. So for now, we are being patient with our little group. We are mindfully devoting our time to it and watching it take baby steps toward the worldwide movement that it will become. And I am happy to say that on May 11th 2019, small groups of women all over the United States will be gathered in celebration of an inclusive meditation holiday that encourages people all over the world to slow down, rest and come together in mind, body and spirit to make the world a better place. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, please feel free to join us. If you’re not in the Los Angeles area, please feel free to start your own group in observance of this day.
The point to everything I’m saying is that when you set out to do something, the energy in which you do it has to match the message you’re sending to the world. Starting out small, being patient, mindful and grateful has to be a big part of our process or what we’re trying to accomplish won’t mean anything. Additionally, the process forces us to embody those things. So the fact that our initiative didn’t blow up to Oprah levels doesn’t mean that we failed. It means that we must make peace with the process of building a movement. Slowly. Steadily. And patiently. Peace is the key to receiving all of the blessings that come with life’s many lessons. (Hey, that rhymed! :)
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is mental health awareness month. I didn’t know that until I saw all of the social media posts educating people about mental illness. After reading through dozens of Instagram and Twitter posts and articles online, however, I’ve learned a number of things that I didn’t know before. For example, did you know that 1 in 5 people in America suffer from mental illness? Or that an estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness? These statistics are surprising but when you really think about them, it’s clear that mental illness affects all of us and has been surrounding us all along.
In my family - as with many African American families - the stigma of mental illness is high. I’ve heard family members dismissively refer to relatives as “crazy” or “sensitive.” The term mental illness was rarely (if ever) spoken - at least, not to my knowledge. Those who struggled with psychological disorders, like addiction or depression, were encouraged to go to church, seek prayer or just ‘get over’ their problems. Being “crazy" was something to laugh at or ignore. This was the old school way of dealing with mental illness. And this way was wrong.
Now that I’m older, my heart breaks for the people in my family who lived and died not having access to any real support or resources to help them with their illness. They’d instead been marginalized, ignored and humiliated for something that was out of their control. And the judgment must have surely agitated their situation, dissuading them from seeking help on their own (if they had the capacity to do so). It is my hope, to be a part of the movement that breaks this cycle in my family and in the world. Mental illness is not a joke. It shouldn’t be dismissed or treated like an embarrassing secret that has to be swept under a carpet somewhere. It is something that should be looked in the eye and death with. The resources that exist in order to help people who are struggling with their mental health are plentiful and becoming more and more prevalent as wellness and mental health gain attention as a societal priority.
With meditation, it is my hope to provide additional reinforcement to those who seek to make mental and emotional wellness a priority in their lives. While it’s not a replacement for professional medical help for mental illness, it is a great way to give our brains (and therefore our bodies) the rest it needs in order to relieve stress and prevent further agitation. In other words, meditation helps you to take care of your brain. Again, this is NOT to say that it is the only treatment needed. It is, however, a great resource to use in addition to whatever professional help may be needed.
Inner Peace, to some, may seem like a nebulous concept. A person might wonder what it really means. To me, it’s about finding peace within ourselves and therefore with every situation we find ourselves in. Being able to quiet the mind and observe the universe from a distance but with empathy and optimism. I’ve struggled a lot with finding peace within myself but meditation has really changed me and my outlook on life. It’s a lifelong learning process but one that is worth the effort.
This month, the month that we celebrate Black Women’s Day of Meditation, it is my hope that our collective efforts to find peace within will lead to world peace. Yes, I have high hopes but that’s because I know that all major changes on this planet start from within. The body of a fetus grows from the inside out. Plants grow from the inside out. Buildings can’t be built from the top down. The foundation must be set first and, from there, the structure is built - up and outward. With this in mind, I hope that we can all look into ways that meditation will help us on our journey to world peace. Because if we’re not at peace with ourselves, we cannot receive the blessing of finding peace with our neighbors.
So let’s take care of our mental health, find our inner peace and come together on May 11th to heal the world through collective meditation and consciousness.