THE ROARING TWENTIES
It’s officially 2020 and if you think we’re not going to use every optometry cliche about clear vision, then you’re sadly mistaken because this month is allll about seeing that big ass E on the other side of the room. Seeing our past lessons clearly, without emotional baggage clouding our assessment. Manifesting our goals by envisioning them. Seeing what we want so clearly in our mind’s eye that when it actually happens it feels like deja vu. We are stepping into this year with a treasure map, a magnifying glass, a compass, hiking boots and a backpack full of delicious snacks. This is not to say that the year won’t come with its own set of struggles, it absolutely will, but after the decade, year, (whatever) that we just had... whew!... you better believe we’re prepared.
Okay, so I know every year starts off like this for many of us. Big hopes and dreams that taper off as our enthusiasm wanes. And sure, maybe new year’s resolutions can be unrealistic and over the top but personally, I LOVE New Years and New Year resolutions for this very reason. Why? Because they are a great way to track our progress. Every year I can go back to my journals, notebooks and planners and see what I wanted the year before. What was important to me. When I zigged and should’ve zagged. Or when my goals shifted and changed. I saw what I was passionate about and also saw how things worked out when put into practice. It was like the ultimate science experiment.
So I say, shoot for the stars. Let the fiery energy that you feel within you, the embarrassingly optimistic one that says “new year, new me” speak loud and clear. And listen to everything it has to say. Write down every goal, every lesson learned, every mantra, every observation in detail. And look at it as much as possible. Because in the future - when you are physically and emotionally sober - those words will tell you everything you need to know. It will become sacred text.
On a personal note, 2019 was definitely a year of preparation for me. After a bit of reflecting, re-visiting earlier goals and seeing how things turned out, I found that one of the biggest lessons I learned was on how to lose. It was a TOUGH lesson to learn, let me tell you. For a long period of time, things were not working out. I’m sure many of you can relate. I couldn’t get anything to go right. And I was surrounded by friends who were making things happen for themselves in amazing ways and while I was genuinely happy for them, it was painful to feel stuck in the same place. Interestingly, with all of the free time I had, I got into board games and card games. I played almost every day. Sometimes I won and sometimes I lost. But the thing about winning and losing was the fact that they happened in streaks. Sometimes the streaks lasted so long that I wondered what was going on in the universe. But being that I was ‘just playing a game’ I didn’t take it personal. I just kept going until I won again. Celebrated my brief victory and played again. When it came to my life (I won’t get into the details) but suffice it to say, I wasn’t always as breezy about my losses. Regardless, the streak of life losses ended with a streak of wins and my personal lesson became clear as day. All the notes I wrote at the beginning of last year about patience and peace and calmness became sacred text. I saw how much I didn’t know those things as much as I thought I did. I also saw how much I was going to be tested on those things. It was really something else. And now I go into 2020 with the knowledge that whatever mountain I say I’m about to climb is ready and waiting for me like a boxer on the other side of the ring. And I’m game!
That said, 2020 is lit! It’s here and we are going into it seeing our past with perfect vision, seeing our present with clarity and manifesting our future with vivid imagery. Deep breaths. Let’s go!!!
Here’s a little ethical word problem for you:
Asha has (2) gargantuan-sized sandwiches that she can’t eat all by herself. Billy has NO sandwiches. Zero. Nada. Nothing. On top of this, Billy is hungry and - for whatever reason - whoever was handing out these monstrously huge sandwiches, decided to skip him. So Asha, who - for some reason - was so lucky as to not be given one, but TWO (very large, jumbo sized) sandwiches sits beside Billy who has none. Now Billy feels even worse because the smell of the sandwich is making him hungrier. In seeing and hearing about Billy’s discomfort, Asha begins to feel bad as well.
What is the best course of action to be taken to make both Billy and Asha feel better?
A) - Asha explains to Billy that she feels really bad about what happened, but that she worked really hard for the excess sandwich and it’s not her fault that Billy didn’t get one.
B) - Asha goes very far away from Billy so that she will no longer have to witness Billy’s hunger.
C) - Asha gives Billy her extra sandwich.
D) - Asha rejects her sandwich privilege and throws both sandwiches in the trash as an act of solidarity with Billy.
I’m pretty sure that what’s being implied by this question is pretty easy to understand. Asha is in a position to be able to help Billy. If she gives Billy her extra sandwich, she can make him happy and she would also be happy. Long story short, the answer to the question is giving. Ironically, that's the answer to many of the world's biggest questions.
MEDITATION FOSTERS EMPATHY
Practicing meditation helps us to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude." In quieting our minds and deep breathing, we recognize the abundance of the universe and acknowledge the things that we are thankful for. By doing this, we can avoid taking our gifts for granted, we can grow our empathy muscles and we can be in a position to be a blessing to others without feeling that we are losing anything.
So first things first, being in a position to be able to help others, starts with acknowledging that we are in a position to help others. As mentioned, this starts with gratitude for our privilege. Yes, I said it! Gratitude. For. PRIVILEGE.
Privilege - the four letter word that’s actually 9 letters but you wouldn’t know it the way people squirm and cringe when they hear it. Go ahead and tell someone that they're privileged. Then proceed to watch how they look for (and find) every single horrible, debilitating thing that’s gone wrong (or going wrong) in their lives. People hide from privilege like it’s the plague, when in actuality, we ALL have some variation of privilege compared to other human beings. It’s all relative. Additionally, privilege is a wonderful thing when put into perspective and used the right way.
To refer back to the example: If Asha hates her privilege so much that she rejects it and throws both of her sandwiches into the trash, this would be an obvious waste of an opportunity, wouldn't it? It stands to say that rather than reject our privilege we should look for ways to share it with those who do not have it.
Additionally, if instead of sharing our excess with others we chastise them, this is also a waste of time. Most of us have been down on our luck at some point and the last thing we needed in those moments was a 'good talking to.' Either help or move out of the way so that someone else can help.
GIVING IS A PRIVILEGE IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Just ask any parent. Giving, in itself, is a beautiful gift because it floods the giver with endorphins - look it up. As we all know, endorphins make you feel good and the person getting the gift feels good as well. It's like everybody's swimming in a pool of good feelings.
On top of making us happy, giving can be linked to better health. It can promote social connection and cooperation. Additionally, it's contagious and leads to more giving.
So this month, we encourage you to give to your heart's content and trust that the universe has you covered. Meditate on your gratitude and seek ways that you can be a blessing to others. Start a chain of "passing it forward." There is literally no down side.
“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.