This has been an interesting year (yes, the word interesting is definitely an understatement) thus far. And it's still far from over. Between the pandemic, riots, upcoming elections, California wildfires, and a number of other events, it's hard to even remember that murder hornets was actually a thing a few months ago. It's also difficult - for many of us - to see the good. And so for the month of September, we chose "Appreciation" as our theme.
I'm sure you've heard the saying "What you appreciate, appreciates." I've definitely said it a few times on this blog and it's a pretty common saying. What this means is that what you consider and take care of, grows. I'll admit, I'm not always the best at internalizing this advice. However, when I do, this little idiom proves to be truer than most. For example, when I applied this thought process to my garden, it flourished.
Appreciation is also a nice life-hack when you're trying to get to the next level of whatever something is... be it your career, your relationships, your hobbies, etc. Putting a bit of extra care into the thing that you want, loving it for what it is wherever it's at (and not where you WANT it to be) these are the things that help us to achieve our goals. Additionally, if you don't really have a particular goal in mind and you just want to improve the quality of your life, appreciation goes a looooong way. Taking inventory of and giving thought and care to the things that are going well is a great way to train your brain to seek out the positive.
Now comes the part where we tie in meditation. Meditation (especially of the mindfulness variety) gives us a chance to sit in stillness. On top of giving our brains a rest, we are encouraged to take in our surroundings through our senses. Sounds, smells, feelings, thoughts, tastes, sights... these are things that we use to ground ourselves in the present moment. These are great times to think of what we are grateful for. What we appreciate. Identifying these things gives us a chance to grow them.
I hope in the upcoming weeks, you will find time to figure out what needs growing in your life's garden. What you can appreciate that will appreciate under your nurturing spirit. If you need a little help in this department, feel free to tune into our IG Live Meditations (@blackwomensdayofmeditation) Fridays at 6pm ET/3pm PT where we will be incorporating appreciation meditations into our practice.
Several weeks ago, the ladies of Black Women’s Day of Meditation were offered an opportunity to take a trapeze class with the Trapeze School New York - Los Angeles. I don’t know about Dominique or Ajia but personally, trapeze was something that I’d always wanted to try but was a little scared because the idea of whooshing back and forth through the sky sends my stomach whooshing back and forth along with it. Regardless, I'm proud to say that I put on my big girl panties, donned my mask (of course!) and tried my hand at trapeze, even managing to learn a cool trick where I flipped off of the swinging bar.
The hardest part of the entire experience was letting go. Letting go of the ladder so that I could stand at the tip of the ledge. Then letting go of the ledge so that I could swing from the bar. Then letting go of the bar, so that I could swing, hands-free. Then letting go completely so that I could fall into the net.
It was as if the entire experience - not unlike life itself - was an exercise in grabbing onto new things and letting go of old. A series of acceptance and releases. Inhalations and exhalations. Over and over again. Even the way the trapeze swung back and forth was like breathing. The experience, albeit fun, was a huge lesson that taught me a lot about myself, meditation and how easy it is to move forward when you accept and let go.
So here are 5 things I learned about letting go while doing trapeze:
1. YOU CAN’T TAKE THE LEDGE WITH YOU
When I approached the ladder to the ledge, one of the instructors clipped a harness to my safety vest. This was one of the first instances of “holy crap we’re really doing this.” As I climbed each rung, it got harder to turn back. I screamed internally the entire time but knew it was a bad idea to turn around. And when I got to the top of the ledge, I found myself gripping the harness for dear life. The instructor at the top of the ledge asked me to hold onto a bar, so I did. She then took the harness - the little device that’d so quickly become like a pacifier for my fear - and unclipped it from my safety vest. Cue more internal screaming. She then asked me to stand at the edge of the ledge. My first thought was “this is all happening so fast.” But I did as told. And the next thing I know, I was flying through the air like Spiderman and this cool ass picture was taken.
Lesson: If you want to get to the point of actually living your best life, you must release yourself from the things that have been holding you back.
2. YOU’RE MORE EQUIPPED FOR DOING TRAPEZE TRICKS THAN YOU THINK
After my second time on the trapeze, one of the instructors decided it was time to teach us a dismounting trick. My brain said “TRICKS?! I barely made it up the ladder!” Either way, we stood in a row and listened intently as she described and physically showed us how to dismount from the bar by doing a flip. For some reason, nothing made sense to me. And I couldn’t get why the instructor seemed to be so nonchalant about it all. I wanted to get every detail right but it wasn’t long before they were harnessing me to the ladder. I tried my hardest to make sense of what the instructor said and she assured me that she would shout the commands to me from the sidelines but there was a teensy bit of doubt needling at my rib cage as I imagined myself getting it all wrong and falling to my death. Next thing you know I’m soaring through the air. Nothing but silence except the wind as it rushed past my face. Time felt like it stood still. Then suddenly, I hear a shout. “BACK, FORTH, BACK.” I knew what she meant instantly and did the moves. Then she shouted the next step and the next. And without any second-guessing, I'd landed, having successfully done my first trick to screams and cheers from the crowd. I had no idea that I was capable of doing a backflip off of a trapeze bar, while swinging through the air… but how WOULD I know, if I hadn’t tried.
Lesson: Let go of old definitions of what you can and can’t do and trust yourself. There is a part of you that is connected to the universe in a way that is deeper than you’ll ever understand. That part of you will kick in when it’s needed. But you won’t know when it’s needed, until it’s needed.
3. NOBODY IS LAUGHING AT YOUR SCREAMING… OKAY, MAYBE THEY ARE BUT WHO CARES?
I’d ascended the ladder four times and was going for my fifth. I’d done the “no-hands” swing a few times and was going to try to nail the backflip dismount again as I’d messed up on my second try (...and didn’t die. Go figure!) I climbed the ladder like a pro. Unclipped my own harness (like a badass) and strolled on over to the edge of the ledge to get my Spiderman on again. This time was different, though. As I swung through the air, I felt myself getting woozy. Instead of a scream, an embarrassing grumbling sound escaped my throat. I tried to get a mental grip so that I could listen to the instructor as she shouted commands, but that wasn’t happening. The only thing that WAS happening was this feeling that the world was moving too fast. The instructor slowed down the swinging and immediately, I felt better. I released myself from the bar and fell gingerly into the net deciding to take a brief break, hoping my dizziness would go away. It didn’t. It was then that I knew my session had come to an end. At first, I was disappointed in myself and a little ashamed. I’d done the trapeze four times already, why on earth was I letting everyone down by not doing it again. Regardless, I spent some time chatting with the really cool crew at TSNY-LA and even watched them do some trapeze tricks. (Also want to note, they were extremely understanding and encouraging throughout the entire process so deciding when it was quitting time was not hard at all). In these moments, when I took a step back and realized how much fun I’d had and was having, I was SO happy that I'd decided to listen to my body when it’d had enough.
Lesson: Let go of your perceptions of what other people expect from you. This is YOUR life and no one else’s. If your purpose is no longer serving you, then why continue to do it? Also, listen to your body!
So these are the lessons I learned while doing trapeze. I hope they also can serve you as they have (and will) serve me. Here’s some more pictures featuring Ajia who does a kick-ass backflip dismount.
Leo season is officially upon us. And to be honest, I don’t really talk about horoscopes (well, at least not on this blog. In real life I’ve been guilty of mentioning it here and there) but today I wanted to make an exception because my birthday is around the corner and - for all intents and purposes - I am a woman of the house of Leo. Yup… Leo. That overly proud, overly ego-centric, royal, loyal lion.
I don’t know that Leo is hated like some of the other signs (*cough, cough* Gemini *cough* Scorpio) but we’re certainly not immune to slander… I mean criticism. We’ve heard our fair share of jokes… “Leos are selfish." "They only care about themselves.” “They’re vain.” “Self-centered.” “Dramatic.” “Always want an audience.” “Only care about how they look/are perceived.” And I’m not going to lie… much of these criticisms are deserved. Personally, I’m famous for how sensitive I am about how I’m perceived. My favorite phrase is “Well, that was embarrassing.” It doesn’t matter the stakes, “Will it embarrass me?” is definitely at the top of the list of things that I think about when making decisions. But I’m not here to harp on how annoying Leo can be. I’m here to actually share the superpower of being ego-centric. Yes, it can be a superpower. So get ready to learn how to center yourself, Leo style.
Now disclaimer before I go into this… I am not a professional astrologer, whatsoever. I’m just a girl with a Leo sun sign, a Leo rising and - in typical Leo fashion - I’ve done a lot of introspection. If I’m keeping it one hundred, at any given moment all of the zodiac signs are a mish-mash of each other and I often get them mixed up. I’ve met Cancers who are like Aries who are like Taurus who are like... etc. so take my analysis or leave it. Take astrology or leave it. But you gonna get this wisdom, homie.
THE MIRROR IS YOUR FRIEND
Leo is famous for having a big ego but one thing that’s often overlooked is that this obsession with image works both ways. I’ll put it like this… I’m an artist. I learned to draw by drawing myself. Over and over and over again. I mastered my face. My profile. My nose. I learned to draw my hands, fingernail beds. My hair. And now, after years of staring into a mirror, completely absorbed with my own form, I can draw and paint convincing caricatures and likenesses of pretty much ANYBODY on the planet. Why? Because I spent all the time I needed with myself.
Additionally, when people point out my traits (physical or otherwise), it’s a little easier for me to know what to take seriously or not because I know what I look like. I have a PhD in me.
So the superpower one can get from befriending the mirror, spending time being a little self-absorbed is confidence. It comes from getting comfortable with yourself. Real comfortable. You have to be willing to draw the lines and curves on your face the way they are… NOT the way you wished they looked. And anyone who knows a proud, confident Leo knows how powerful these traits can be. So step into your power. Step into that part of yourself that is fearless because it will serve you well during these unstable times.
THE WORLD IS YOUR MIRROR
I have a twin sister. And every time we hop on the phone with each other, I notice that my sister (and I’m pretty sure I do this too) always describes people as “Just like me.” My sister will say “There’s this lady at my job and she’s just like me…” then go on to tell a story about a person who sounds NOTHING like her. The reason my sister and I do this is (in staying in line with Leo’s obsession with mirrors) we see ourselves in everyone and everything. The world is our mirror. And when I say we do this with everyone… I mean, EVERYONE. Even people we don’t like. It feels like a curse at times, not gonna lie. But the superpower that can be taken away from this is seeing yourself in everyone is seeing the humanity in everyone.
Yes, the world is not my friend. It can be a hostile place. But there is not one person alive that I can’t relate to in some way or other. Yes, even in their ugliest moments. And along with this swift assessment comes a removal of fear because seeing yourself in others can sometimes be like picturing everyone in their underwear. It’s a quick way of putting into perspective that no one is better or worse than you.
So with all that said, step into your bravery. It’s a little easier to be fearless when you see everyone as equal to you and when you’ve done enough self reflecting to know your strengths and weaknesses, right? Be fearless (or at least pretend to be until you don’t have to pretend anymore because it comes natural). Know that you deserve the best. Put yourself first and don’t apologize about it. There’s a time and a place for humility but the time to be passionately and uniquely yourself is right tf now, so let’s go!!
It’s Leo season bitch! You got this.
As a child, one of my favorite things to do used to be to look out from high places. The top of sliding boards. Looking out of a second or third story window. Sitting on my big sister’s shoulders. Or maybe even a small glance from a see-saw as I sprang up into the sky and then back down to earth again and again. When I discovered there was really such a thing, however, as a glass elevator... it was a wrap. I mean, in addition to being able to push the button (which was always super thrilling) I got to watch the entire world become smaller and smaller as I ascended into the air like Charlie (from the Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in the glass elevator. In the movie adaptation with Gene Wilder, Charlie exclaims “Look Grandpa! I can see our house from here!” This was the part me and my sisters always waited for. This ending. Where a glass elevator soared through the sky in every direction and the child-heir to a candy factory, the one pushing the buttons, spotted his house. (In hindsight, the thought of this was probably a nightmare for parents or people with vertigo.)
As an adult, I may not be an heir to a candy factory, but I can still appreciate a good view from high up in the air. I can also appreciate the perspective I achieve when I put distance between my body and the ground. Whether I’m in a glass elevator, in a skyscraper overlooking the city or in an airplane taking off into the sky. And this leads me to what we’re focusing on this month with our theme for July...
One of the things that I have been happy to achieve when I practice meditation is an elevated perspective. When I close my eyes and focus on nothing but breathing in and out, I often find that images of the universe come to mind. Perhaps it’s because when one’s eyes are closed, it’s easy to imagine the deep, blackness of space. In these moments, my fears, my worries and everything that plagues me drift into the great abyss as the little blue orb that I call home grows smaller and smaller.
Now lucky for me, my meditation doesn’t stay in the blackness of space. Just like the see-saw, I am gingerly brought back down to earth where I can reassess my situation with fresh eyes. Eyes that have “seen the mountaintop.” My mind knows what it feels like to have a moment of peace and clarity, elevated above the mish-mash of everyday ‘earth-life’ scenarios and can act like a kind of Google-maps satellite for the rest of my body, translating this peaceful information.
All is well. All is as it should be. Everything is at peace. We are at peace. These are affirmations relayed to me from the great beyond, putting me at ease. A beautiful reminder. A sweet surrender.
That said, we at Black Women’s Day of Meditation challenge you - with your next meditation - to elevate your mind and therefore your body and spirit.
When you get a chance, we encourage you to try this meditation...
Find a quiet place where you won’t get distracted. Turn off any electronics that might disturb you (unless, of course, you want to listen to soothing music). Get into a comfortable position, sitting in a chair. Or on the ground with your legs folded.
Close your eyes and inhale deeply. Using your belly. And exhale slowly until your lungs are empty. This is a preparatory breath.
Now on your next inhale, imagine that you are ascending up, up, up into the sky.
Up... up... up...
Until earth’s atmosphere drifts away behind you.
Up... up... up...
...as earth disappears and you are in the peaceful, quiet blackness of space.
You wait there a moment. Taking in the beauty. The majesty of distant stars and planets.
And now you exhale, lowering back down to earth.
Down... down... down.
Earth is back into focus again.
Down... down... down.
You can see the geography of your continent. The terrain of your country. Your neighborhood. The beauty and majesty of your body, as you return to it.
Continue to do this exercise, inhaling upward... ascending, elevating your energy into space. Then descending peacefully back into your body.
And once you have completed this exercise to your liking, feel free to continue your meditation however you see fit. Whether it be focusing on your breath, continuing to inhale and exhale in and out of the universe or resting in another safe mental space.
Whatever you do, please remember that your mind, body and spirit are worthy of wonder, of peace and of rest.
Yesterday was surprising in a wonderful way. The entire country celebrated Juneteenth together. CLICK HERE to understand what Juneteenth is. Seeing so many beautiful, Black, smiling faces venerating the ancestors on social media timelines (because I’m still very much social distancing #SafeAtHome) was inspiring, self-affirming and breathtaking.
Here’s the thing that stands out to me... when we honor those that came together to create us, we honor ourselves. And when we honor ourselves, we empower ourselves. And with the kind of power we generated yesterday (and will hopefully continue to generate) we WILL change the world.
This is not to say that we’ve officially arrived. I think we all know that Black people are a long LONG way from where we want to be as a people in this country (and this world, for that matter) but the thing that stood out to me the most was our recognizing those who have gotten us this far. If you read the blog posts, you know one of my favorite sayings is “what you appreciate, appreciates” and yesterday we appreciated our freedom. I just... ksksksksksksksks...!!! I mean!!! Guys!
One of the things that bothers me as a filmmaker is when I hear people complain about “slave” movies. As if the three or four movies that Hollywood managed to painstakingly squeeze out over the past few decades were just too many (meanwhile, there’s a million and five World War II movies... but I digress). It always bothered me because it felt like no one wanted to know about Black American history and what’s worse... they were ashamed of it. “We’ve done more than that” or “We’ve done more since that.” I’ve always thought, ‘yes, but slavery was also a really significant part of our reality in this country and it was no small thing’ My thinking has always been that it’s important for us to know and tell these stories because it speaks to the strength of who we are today. What we’re capable of due to what we survived. The immunities we developed while - quite literally - being warriors, for generations. As well as the harmful coping mechanisms that we picked up and passed along, that need to be broken. Our origins in this country is quite literally a blueprint for how to overcome oppression in the world.
That said, I hope that for every Black American person reading this that yesterday allowed you to focus - for maybe just a moment - on the wisdom of your ancestors. Love them. Love yourself. And recognize that they built this country for YOU. It is yours to take with both hands. And you are so worthy.
Today is just like any other day. As I type this from my bedroom in Los Angeles, sunlight pours in through my window. The birds are outside, chirping their little hearts away. And I know that, should I turn on the news or go on social media, there will be some horrible reminder of Black life in America. Last month ended with a viral video of a Black man, George Floyd, being murdered, suffocated to death, by a police officer. This was the image that assaulted our eyes, day in and day out. But it isn’t the first time we’ve seen it. We have been seeing Black people suffocating to death - whether it be by a noose, or a knee on the neck, a chokehold, etc. - for hundreds of years. Forced to watch loved ones and strangers alike murdered because of the color of their skin.
This is America.
If you know anything about Black Women’s Day of Meditation, you know (or should know) that we started this group as a way to encourage meditation amongst Black/Indigenous people. We wanted to create a mental sanctuary in the minds of those who needed it the most. This has been our plan since inception. And every day that the inequality and suffering of Black people continues, we grow stronger in our purpose. In the midst of the protests (as I type this, there are major protests happening in big cities all over the country) we need a place of mental reprieve because white supremacy is not just a physical battle, it’s a mental one.
For the month of June, we at Black Women’s Day of Meditation would like to offer our services in the best way we know how. If you follow us on social media, or have been looking at the rest of the website, you know that #JuneBlackLives is our hashtag this month. We are setting our intentions to meditate and focus on Black Lives, putting our mental, spiritual and physical energies toward the support and protection there of. If you have Black ancestors, we encourage you to meditate on them. To call on them for strength and guidance during this time. We implore you to channel them within yourself. Unlike the quote on those trendy t-shirts, WE ARE ABSOLUTELY OUR ANCESTORS.... come back to demand what is ours.
For my white readers (not sure if we have any but, if so... “hi!”) this is the time to understand that you are living in a day of reckoning. If you didn’t know that Black people were THIS angry, it’s because you weren’t taught to know this. Understand that despite the bliss of white privilege, willful ignorance has been a huge disservice to you as well. I encourage you to learn what you can. Do what you can to support. And most importantly, stay out of the way. This is four hundred years of righteous anger. RIGHTEOUS anger. You will not make any valid points during this time. Just listen and support in any way you can that doesn’t involve policing Black people or attempting to excuse injustice.
These are some interesting times, that’s for certain, but I hope that we can keep this same productive energy even after the rage has died down. That said, while standing in the streets and shouting and holding up signs that say “I Can’t Breathe” let’s remember to do several things...
2. Tap into the infinite resource of your inner support group - your ancestors
3. and breathe!
May is here! It's the month of "The Big Day" and it's also the month that we are focusing on GRACE as our theme.
The word grace has been coming up quite a bit for me and my circle this month while in quarantine. Whether it be in the context of "grace under fire" or "showing ourselves and others grace," the common denominator in a lot of my conversations has been 'grace.' I've thought about what it means in preparation for this month but had a hard time because the definitions are endless. In some contexts grace represents 'thankfulness' like 'saying grace' before a meal. On the other hand it can mean giving others room to make inevitable mistakes (i.e. showing grace). In other definitions, it can be blessing a thing or situation by just being there/being a part of it. Gracefulness can be a manner. Have you ever met a graceful person? They might be a person who perpetually handles a situation with a level of elegance and appropriateness.
Grace means soooo many things and all of them good. I'll admit I was having a tough time trying to narrow it all down for this month's theme but then I decided, why try? This month we're doing alllllll the graces. Every single one. We are grace. Our name is now Grace. Mmkay?
So before the month started, I decided to dabble in meditating my way into 'grace' a little early as a kind of experiment because I wanted to see something. Here's the thing, I've never imagined myself to be a graceful person. I've been blessed to know a lot of people that I consider to be "graceful." People who are kind, elegant, appropriate, beautiful, intelligent and the list goes on and on. However, I always thought of myself as loud, clumsy, inappropriate and just not a graceful lady. I'd set the limitations on grace - as it pertained to myself - to the highest standards and came up short every single time. So I decided to define 'grace' for myself and become a graceful person, just for a day. I made a mental list of graceful qualities that I wanted to manifest and here's a rough version of said list...
1. Appropriateness - knowing when to zip it and when to speak up. Maintaining peace being the top priority.
2. Kindness - Being courteous and gentle with others.
3. Alert - Mental awareness to avoid being caught off guard.
4. Mature - Not seeing EVERY single opportunity as a time for jokes or play (this is a tough one for me!)
5. Forgiveness - Not sweating the small stuff and knowing that if things go wrong, we're all human and life goes on. This is the most important one (FOR MEEEEEEE... into infinity).
So I made this little list and I went about my day putting it into practice to the best of my ability. I was grace. I thought of Grace Kelly and Grace Jones and graceful ballerinas and graceful gymnasts sticking graceful landings. I thought of Claire Huxtable and Coretta Scott King and my third grade teacher Ms. Brown. I thought of all of the people in my life who exuded and extended grace and what that meant to me. I made sure not to try to become something that I wasn't, but instead, chose to quiet my mind and let these qualities seek me out in personal ways. Breathing deep, keeping the image of grace firm and in the forefront.
So here's the thing... I don't live alone. I have a husband (his name is Greg) and he has been quarantined with me every. single. day. Sometimes we get on each other's nerves but, for the most part, we get along pretty well. Anywho, after a full day of being my most graceful (appropriate, kind, alert, mature, forgiving) self, I wondered if he'd noticed that I was acting a little different. As mentioned, I don't consider myself a naturally graceful person. Long story short, he did NOT notice. Not even a little bit. He still has no idea. And this is not a bad thing. AT ALL. It means that the qualities and traits that I've always aspired toward - traits that I didn't think I possessed - are a big part of who I already am. It's been inside of me all along!
(*twirls into the sunset*)
At the same time that I was proud of myself for being such a 'graceful lady,' I also felt a little bad because I realized that I hadn't been showing myself grace all of these years. I focused on a lot of the times that I was too loud or temperamental or times when I'd said the wrong thing or didn't 'stick the landing.' I defined myself by these moments, disregarding a lifetime of having been kind and graceful. And in ignoring these moments, I was depriving myself of actually BEING graceful because had I seen myself as a graceful person, I would have been more intentional in SHOWING grace. Do you get what I'm saying? It's cyclical. A catch 20/20. And it applies to so many things, not just grace.
From this point on, one of my main objectives in life will be to show myself grace. I will continue to hold an image in my mind of what grace means to me, but that image will now look like me. That's MY personal goal for this month. How about you, dear reader? How will you grace this world? How have you graced this world? Would love to hear about your positive qualities in the comments below.
This month, we’re encouraging “patience.” And I’m sure you know why. As the title says, we’re in this for the long haul. And when I say “we” I mean the whole entire planet. And when I say “this” I mean the global pandemic known as the Coronavirus or COVID-19. Can y’all believe that? We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Together. The entire human race. We are officially sick as a family.
A few days ago, it was announced that the social distancing order is being extended throughout April. What this means is that most of us, who have already been shut away in our homes - away from friends, family, coworkers and the majority of civilization - will have to continue in this manner for another full month. To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. And it shouldn’t surprise you. Viruses are not human beings. They don’t have anything to lose by spreading to every person on this planet, thereby incapacitating society.
When faced with a situation like this, it’s easy to see why people will exhibit the very opposite of patience. Most of us are used to being able to go wherever we please, whenever we please and with whomever we please. However, the more people choosing not to social distance, the longer this virus will continue to spread and infect vulnerable populations - which is terrifying. Also, it’ll extend the time that we’ll all be bored in the house and be in the house… bored. In this instance, patience is going to literally mean the difference between life and death for ALL of us.
So here’s the deal, spending twenty-four hours with no distraction from your spouse, child, parent, friend, roomie or whoever you share your space with is gonna be tough. And for those of us who live alone, it may even be tougher attempting to battle your thoughts or your loneliness. However, this is the perfect time to be intentional about building our patience muscle because patience is going to have to do some serious lifting in the next few months.
Of course, offff fricking course, I’m going to recommend meditation to help build this muscle. There are a ton of apps, websites and social media pages that you can find online that can help you to build a meditation routine and that also provide free meditation tips and support. Additionally, you can follow us on Instagram and join us as we do some guided meditations on IG Live. Trust and believe the resources are out there.
That said, I want to call attention to the foundation of building patience….
That’s right, fellow control freaks. This is not your show. It is Miss Corona’s show and she is going to be here as long as it takes for all of us to get the message. Now I’m in no way taking any of this lightly. Viruses are a serious thing and what we’re going through right now is not only scary, it’s never been experienced by anyone living today. I get it. That said, the changes that we are seeing in the world are profound because it is forcing many of us to see how fast things can change in our lives. Additionally, it is forcing many of us to see what is in our jurisdiction of control and what is not.
The guy across the street, who refuses to cover his mouth when he coughs…. not in our control. The lady at the grocery store touching her face… she don’t belong to you. She belongs to these coronavirus streets. And the streets are out of your jurisdiction. The only thing we can all do is follow the rules as laid out by the experts and hope that eventually, everyone will be on the same page. When will that happen? We don’t know. How will that happen? We don’t know that either. But the point is not to worry. The point is to have patience. Because if you can not sit still, you will not survive this. (And I mean that on a mental level, but it also applies physically because mental always comes before physical).
Many of us have been using our free time to pick up hobbies, binge our favorite TV shows and movies, connect with friends, and engage in fun social media trends. I don’t know about you but I’ve found it comforting that people are using this sudden shutdown of society to do things that feed their spirit. Personally, one of the things that I’ve been doing to ease my mind amid the craziness, is read. I’ve been reading a book about (don’t judge me but…) the plague. I’ll get into more of that later. (Yes, I know I’m weird). Others of us have used this time to shame others into being ‘productive.’
Now let’s get into that for a little bit before I tell y’all about my plague book.
STOP SHAMING PEOPLE INTO BEING PRODUCTIVE!
Productivity is relative. It’s relative, guys. What that means is that it is arbitrary. A construct defined by individuals, dependent on various situations and/or factors. We are all in the middle of a global crisis. Being productive does not mean the same thing for every single person right now. For some of us, being productive means keeping our mental state together. For others, it means talking to a sick family member. If you see this time as nothing more than an unexpected writer’s retreat than good for YOU. However, do not pressure other people to conform to whatever your idea of productivity is. In this time, I beg you to have patience with other people who may find this situation harder than you are finding it. Extend grace to those who are having a bit of trouble adjusting to this new (and very abnormal) normal. Release your sense of control over anything that lies outside of your jurisdiction. We are all coping in different way. Have patience with others and with yourself (because if I’m keeping it all the way real, some of us are talking to a mirror with all this ‘be productive’ business).
All right, so let me tell y’all about my little book I’m reading. It’s about the Black Plague and is called The Great Mortality by John Kelly. So far I’m only a few chapters in, but one of the things that stood out to me the most about this book has been the fact that the book’s author implies that mental/physical wellness could’ve been a contributing factor to the black plague’s mortality rate. Many times the plague hit societies after a particularly traumatic experience. So people during the Middle Ages, already weakened by social collapse, war, famine, etc. had especially weak immune systems that couldn’t withstand illness. This, of course, led to higher death rates. Now I don’t say this to scare anyone. But I do say this because I want to emphasize that anything you can do right now that’s going to boost your mental wellbeing… I encourage you, to do it. If exercise helps to get you going, find yourself a good routine and get to work. If it’s chatting with friends, give them a call. If movies are your life, indulge. Try to find what brings you joy, peace and life in these moments and do not feel guilty about it. You are allowed to cope in whatever way you see fit. You are allowed to rest. Sleep in. Relax. Your body will tell you what it needs in order to battle this situation. It knows more than you think. So trust yourself. And for the love of all that is good and pure and holy, define productivity for your own damn self!
We are in uncharted territory folks, but I have a feeling we’re all going to get through this as a stronger, better and more patient people. Stay safe, stay well and stay home.
That's me in the picture. Doing a bit of patio gardening. I'll admit that when I chose "Gardening" as this month's theme for Black Women's Day of Meditation's Instagram page, my intention to physically garden was not fully realized. Sure, I'd played around with the idea of planting a little something on my patio but I'd never set a date. Hadn't settled on exactly what I wanted to plant. Hell, I hadn't even gotten the supplies I needed to do the thing. Then, COVID-19 hit and - as I'm sure you know - the world changed, seemingly overnight.
Something deep inside of me - I'll admit that that thing was panic - came alive. "What if the grocery stores run out of food? What if food sources become contaminated?" My brain was on fire, fueled with every frightening scenario and instinctively I went to my safe space. Meditation. I closed my eyes and tried to stay in the moment as best as I could. When I emerged from a personal session of deep breathing, I decided that I wanted to fully commit to tending a vegetable garden. It was my brain's "solution" to a good portion of my mind and body's problems because it would provide food, I told myself. So at least, if the poop truly hit the fan, my household wouldn't die of starvation. And just the idea of doing something to stave off this imaginary death by starvation would put my brain at ease. I'd told myself that I would plant a few seeds and voila!... hunger eliminated.
In hindsight, I see how presumptuous this line of reasoning was. If you remember my post from earlier in the month about "gardening" (oh, how naive and untested I was in those days *sigh*) you'll recall that one of the biggest points I made was that you have to be in the moment when you garden. It's not about the fruit of your labor so much as the work you put in, day by day. Regardless, I set to work on my new garden with the sole intention of feeding my household (and the entire apartment complex if it came down to it) with my bountiful harvest that would sprout up moments after I plugged a few seeds into some dirt and sprinkled some water on top of it.
I went to Home Depot without having done any research. Grabbed a bunch of seed packets and tossed them into my shopping cart. "Peas, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, eggplant, thyme... sounds good!" I mumbled to myself as I imagined the salads and fancy veggie dishes I was going to make. I picked up some soil, large plastic flower pots, fertilizer and a fancy hand plow. When I got home, I filled the pots with dirt and re-planted a few of the store-bought herbs that I'd gotten. I was nailing this gardening thing. Just call me "Farmer John."
When it was time to shove the dry seeds from the packets into the soil (I'm sure those of you who know anything about gardening are cringing right now), I realized that I was about to make a grave mistake. A quick internet search revealed that you have to incubate most seeds until they sprout first. *Insert loooong sigh* Okay, fine.
I found some containers - incidentally, we'd just bought a bunch before the pandemic - and followed the directions carefully. Wetting paper towels, we rolled the seeds up into them and put them into their respective containers and into a dark, warm place so that they could incubate. While doing this, we played music and worked slowly but diligently. It was a relaxing process. And, not going to lie, I began to feel a bit of love for my little seedlings. I was putting them into little paper blankets and sending them to a kind of nursery after all.
Over the next few days, I learned how much - with all of my rushing - I'd been doing wrong. We had to set to work replanting a number of plants, because some of them - which I'd put into the same pots together - had different watering schedules that didn't match. In other words, some plants (like thyme) were drought resistant and didn't need much water while others (cucumber) needed to be in moist soil as much as possible. I set to work learning what each plant actually needed in order to be fully realized.
Essentially, what I was doing was respecting the process. And in doing so - in respecting the process of gardening - I found something to concentrate on that wasn't my overwhelming anxiety or fear. I saw (see) my plants as the living beings that they are. With varying "personalities" that require different levels and kinds of care.
The pot of strawberries sits hanging outside of my living room window, watching me and my family through the slits in the blinds. It likes a lot of sun and moist dirt and the berries are losing their green tints, getting darker every day. I like to imagine that it tells the other plants what we (humans) are up to. My cacti, which are pretty low maintenance have been getting more love and I'm seeing their color return. The other veggie plants are - hopefully - doing their thing and getting what they need. It's too soon to tell, but if they don't make it it won't be for a lack of attention and care.
So a few days ago, we checked in on our incubating seeds and saw the most amazing thing. They are officially sprouting! Little vines are growing out of our little beans and I have never been more proud. Filled with smiles, me and my husband looked at each other like proud parents. We'd left these little seedlings alone after putting them into an element conducive to their growth and we were patient. The gratification of this experience was indescribably rewarding. I literally cannot... I canna
So anyway, it's still not time to plant all of the beans/seeds (some of them need to grow little leaves before we can plant them) but we're chilling. And for the record, I am NOT a chill person but this entire process has forced me to be this way. These plants are going to do what they want and there is literally nothing I can do about it except stay in the moment doing what I'm supposed to and hoping for the best. (Sounds a lot like, uh... like symbolism for everybody's situation right now, doesn't it?)
Now for the record, I don't recommend gardening for everyone. It takes time, patience and a lot of research but, I will say this... if you don' have anything else to do, gardening is an excellent way to pass the time and restore some zen to a choatic world. Maybe I'll get some food out of this, maybe I won't. But if I don't invest my mental, physical and emotional energy into taking care of these veggies in their current state, then it doesn't matter either way, does it?
So that's it for my gardening adventures, I hope you are all finding productive soul-fulfilling ways to pass the time. And - for the love of your fellow human beings - stay inside!
UPDATE!!! (April 1st - this happened today! Pic #1 are bean sprouts and Pic #2 are cherry tomato sprouts. They grow so fast! *sniffle, sniffle*)
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