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.