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.