Girl Gone “Spiritual”

I come from a traditional Black Baptist background. Practically growing up in the church, I’ve done a lot to serve it. From dancing and singing to ushering and speaking, I was very involved and proud of it. Through 5th grade, I had only attended private Christian schools. When I began attending public school, I was the girl respectfully inviting all of her friends to church events and services.  It was all I had known and what I believed was the only way to go until about halfway through college, although the exposure to new thought frames really began in high school.

The public school system in Sacramento, California is highly diverse and I found myself floating amongst and fitting into various circles. Consequently, I was exposed to many frames of thinking which was initially a culture shock but still intriguing. From my peers, I was introduced to Numerology and the details several other religions. I still considered myself a devout Christian but I had started to develop questions. I was particularly thrown back when the First Lady of my church gave a brief Astrology lesson to a group of us girls on a trip as I was taught such things were Satanic. When I questioned it, she insisted that was not so. Needless to say, this prompted further questions.

In college, although predominantly Black environment, I was even further exposed to a plethora of belief systems and ideas. I could feel myself changing with each piece of new knowledge I’d obtain. A close friend of mine, Theo, was greatly responsible for this expansion. He would passionately fill me in on what he had leisurely studied about ancient traditions from all over the world. We would watch films and listen to music while deciphering the emotions and thought processes behind its creation. Ironically, we were both also a part of the campus church choir. We would discuss the differences between our Baptist and Catholic backgrounds and critique sermons. There were several others in my circle with different beliefs about God and the world and some who did not believe in God at all. It was a remarkably enlightening experience to have close friendships with such a smorgasbord of people. Such was the case with my instructors; no two seemed to have the same views on religion despite most coming from the same Catholic background. I took note of these things which slowly shifted my approach to spirituality but outside of adding meditation to my practices, my religious ideas were fundamentally the same until I met my fiance.

DaMarko is gnostic and extremely argumentative. He hit me with tough and triggering questions that really made me think outside of my emotions. I stayed grounded in what I knew initially but our debates encouraged me to study further. Truthfully, he reminded me a lot of my closest uncle (and probably the only relative) who did the same. Consequently, I developed my intellectual understanding of faith and religion. They both inspired me to consider the history of my heritage which also played a big part in how my initial faith came to be.  They also encouraged me to look inside of myself for answers. All of these experiences prepared me for what I eventually received that completely change my views.

Theo, having remained my good friend and go-to for ethereal conversation, sent me a link to a video that changed my life. It was episode 12 of the Spirit Science series on YouTube. Presented in the fashion of a cartoon, it was seemingly childish at first but the more I listened the more engulfed I became. It touched on everything from ancient practices of spirituality and religion to the mayhem of modern day society and the philosophical theories that connect them. It helped me connect the dots in my own experiences and granted me a different understanding of everything I had been taught. I still rewatch it from time to time to catch the information I might not have before and I always pick up on something new.

In a nutshell, my spiritual journey has seen many phases. I believe the Universe set me up to be exactly where I am today. I no longer consider myself a Christian but I have an appreciation for what Christianity brought to my life. I also embrace other forms of religion and spirituality. Religion taught me discipline, spirituality taught me openness and connection. Now, life and human nature take on more evolved meanings for me and I want to share what I’ve learned with the world. Wherever you are in your journey, be there and embrace it. Learn what the Universe is attempting to teach you and you just might be surprised at where you end up. Namaste!

Warming Up for Yoga Practice

Ever since I began posting my yoga journey on Instagram, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to start a practice. I usually suggest joining an online challenge or looking up YouTube videos of guided routines. There is also the option of going out on a limb and joining a class. I engaged in a combo of all three of these avenues as a beginner and found them helpful in various ways. However, after reviewing my own advice (and my practice), there was one thing that I had a tendency to fall short on: warming up. The downside of online guides and even some studio classes is that the warm-up is often skipped or significantly shortened, especially for beginners.

My yoga journey began in 2013 with a Kathryn Budig tutorial video for building upper body strength. As the video addressed something quite specific, there was no warm-up portion. For quite a while, I went through the struggle of often beginning my practice with a rough start which led to me cutting sessions short. It wasn’t until I spanned out and dug deeper into the World Wide Web that I found out more about yoga and how to begin a full practice. Finally, I stumbled across a few yoga flow tutorials that began with a warm-up and finally the light bulb went off for me. I realized that not only had I not been properly warming up my body but also neglecting the mental and spiritual aspect of the practice.

For me, yoga started as a means to get moving. I was eager to lose weight and get in shape in a new and exciting way. As time went on, it became more and more difficult to maintain my practice. Yoga began to lose its luster and movements I had done over and over were not getting any easier. Once I learned to engage my mind and my spiritual sense of self, yoga became a totally different experience overall. I began to see physical results but more importantly, I began to evolve into a better person entirely.

If you have never practiced yoga but interested in giving it a try, here are a few tips for warming up before you start:

Prepare Your Energy

Albert Einstein helped us out tremendously when he developed the formula that explains how everything is energy; this includes our moods. It’s likely that if you’re weighted down by stress or other forms of negativity, starting and maintaining your practice will be a challenge whether you’re an expert or novice. A great way to replenish your joy-joy feelings (as I like to call them) are energy exercises.

Donna Eden, a pioneer in the field of energy medicine, is well-known in the holistic health community for helping people understand the body’s energy system. She has developed energy exercise routines that help stimulate energy flow, perfect for beginning a yoga session.

Prepare Your Mind

Getting in the right state of mind for a practice is very important. Even if our energy is in the right place, if our minds are focused on something other than the present moment, it can be more of a challenge to execute poses and flows. A great way to calm the mind is with meditation.

Ashtanga, a yoga style commonly practiced in the U.S. and my primary practice, is a part of a philosophy that consists of 8 Limbs; asanas or poses being the third of these limbs. The second limb, Niyama, addresses how to develop self-discipline and spiritual observances with the use of meditation. I find it important to emphasize that this part of the practice is prioritized over the physical aspect of yoga and seemingly too often overlooked by many beginners. Here is a guided meditation I find helpful.

Prepare Your Body

There are several ways to approach a physical warm-up for a yoga session. A Sun Salutation is great for beginners and experts alike, consisting of specific yoga engagements that introduce your body to the type of movement you will be building up to. Some go for walks to help increase blood circulation or perform repetitions of joint loosening exercises. On days I feel my absolute best, I tend to do light and fun dancing to my music of choice. As your practice develops, you will find what works for you on which days.

Yoga is a personal journey so first and foremost, go at your own pace and find your own style. Study the 8 Limbs and apply them to your own life accordingly. You’ll find that it will add quality to your practice, warm-up included, and your practice will build to take shape unique to your personality. Good luck on your journey! Namaste.

Happiness Journey: An Introduction

It seems, today, that everyone is trying to find their happiness in something. We strive towards the lives we think we want through our careers, relationships, and even health. Somewhere in the midst of all the grinding, we realize that with each promotion, new lover or pound lost, after the initial elation has faded, there is still something missing. Why is it such a struggle to find long-lasting satisfaction? The answer for me was to simply stop looking outside of myself.

I grew up in a happy home for the most part …or so I thought. As I got older, truths were revealed to me that had not been so during my childhood. Consequently, I became more aware of myself and realized that things were not as peachy as I had originally perceived. While I cherish the beautiful moments of my life, in retrospect I was, in fact, not really happy. In reality, I was riddled with anxiety and depression. I often felt unheard and did not have a handle on my emotions. I was physically unhealthy; overweight and lethargic. Regardless of being blessed enough to vacation regularly and receive lovely gifts on holidays unlike many other children, true happiness was not something I understood until much later.

I’ve had quite a few experiences that chipped away at my self-esteem. So much so, after a while, I further perpetuated the idea that I did not have much worth. Once I began to turn my life around, it was like I had developed a new set of eyes for how I saw myself in the past and present. It turned out that my lack of respect for myself opened the door for others to treat me with disrespect. I would complain and take out my frustrations on others (usually by accident) and myself, in unhealthy ways which only made matters worse. Paradoxically, I was self-conscious but not very self-aware. Thankfully, I’ve made some significant improvement with this. It is a on-going process.

It was not until the end of 2016, age 27, that I really started on the path to genuine fulfillment. I gained more life experience and knowledge about the world and myself. I was tired of the mundane lifestyle of doing what I thought others wanted of me. Instead, I decided to take a different route and live life my way. I turned to a more holistic and natural lifestyle. I distanced myself from toxic people and worked consistently on making myself less toxic. I started on a career path that brings me joy and purpose without the need of approval. Most importantly, I learned to love and appreciate myself more deeply which trickled onto my interactions with others.

I find it important to share this as it is the fuel behind my writing and all of my work. I almost did not begin this blog because I do not consider myself an expert writer or life liver; however, I realized that wasn’t the point. My passion in life has always been to bring joy and healing to the world in some form or fashion, so I decided to join the ranks of sharers – experts and novices alike – who have unknowingly poured into my life so much and helped me along my journey. I’ve come across many people over time from varying backgrounds and one thing is constant – each of us has a story. That story is usually filled with pain and a quest to find happiness. So, as you find bits of my story throughout my blog, I hope that it helps you find the answers you need and inspires you to pass the torch. Namaste.