If You Can’t Love Yo’ Self …

Once upon a time, I was a victim of the sad and lonely. I didn’t have a line of prospective baes lined around the block for me and Valentine’s Day bummed me out big time. Even the romantic semi-relationships I had between grade school and college were no cause for envy. Somehow, V-Day does not hold the same power over me that it once did. How’d that happen?

One could argue that it’s because I’m currently happily engaged. However, the truth is that it has nothing to do with it. My guy does not go all out for Valentine’s Day and I’ve heard many a story of couples breaking up over a lack “WOW” put into its preparation. Of course, he and I are all for celebrating our love. We just don’t need a designated day to do it. We make our feelings known to each other daily – the good and the bad.

So where was the transition for me?

It came when I decided to love myself unconditionally. Sounds corny right? Well, in the words of Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder, “Doesn’t make it not true.” I’ve learned not to allow my relationship status to dictate my happiness. I enjoy my alone time and appreciate my personal space. I also appreciate those who enhance my space by adding light and love to it. That is the type of love I care most about.

The love that matters to me is not commercialized or on sale. It does not come at its best one day a year. It’s around me constantly because I bring it to me from within.

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I will not lie and say that if my guy left me tomorrow I would not be sad. Surely, I’d miss him quite a bit. However, my desire for companionship would no longer wane my feelings about myself. I would simply chuck it up to him having given me all he could. In fact, I give him credit for helping me discover this intense love for myself.

Believe it or not, everyone around you encourages you to love yourself be it in the best or worst of ways. Maybe a foul attitude reminds you of what it means to be patient with yourself and others. Maybe a random act of kindness inspires you to get out of your comfort zone. Whatever it is, pay attention to the signs!

When I developed a higher level of loving-kindness for my Self, I started caring less about superficial expressions. I realized my lonely days were teaching me to be content with being alone which, in turn, taught me how to be better in the company of others. Joys in life became less about the effort someone put into making a holiday special or, in this case, even romantic partnership. It’s more about the love I receive from friends and family. When they fall short, it’s about the love I can keep showing my Self.

Namaste.

 

 

Black and Spiritual

I grew in the church during a time where there was still a stigma attached to being “spiritual”. My latest church experience confirmed that while the energy around that has shifted a bit, it is still a lingering negativity associated around it.

One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced was coming into my spirituality as a black person with a traditionally religious background.

Like many black families, mine are primarily Christian with Baptist ties. They hold the teachings of the church very closely to them and once upon a time so did I. I went through several stages of emotion towards Christianity as I learned more about the past of blacks and how faith and religion correlates.

Now, It’s not that I have completely cast Christianity aside. My understanding of the teachings have simply changed. Although dated or culturally specific in many aspects, I think the Bible holds much validity and relevance. For instance, to me, the Bible makes it clear that one can be both spiritual and religious. In fact, I give credit to my Christian upbringing for being the foundation for my spirituality today. However, it is no longer my end all be all.

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Instead, I choose to study various faiths and philosophies and apply them to my life as I feel most called. Unfortunately, this has put me in a position to be called a number of things from doomed to questionable by those who practice their religion in a more traditional fashion.

I used to become defensive about this but, thankfully, my spirituality has lead me to understand that we all have our choices and are on different paths. Anyone’s conclusion of me is based on their own perception, one that is founded on their experience of not just me but their own life. I’ve learned to let people be where they are and to carry on in a way that makes me happy with myself by any means.

I realize those who are intense when it comes to their faith are in a different internal space than I am and I appreciate their passion. Still, in no way does it diminish what I feel to be best for me.

At the end of the day, I am black. I am spiritual. It is what it is.

Namaste.

Epiphany

You are, You are, You are Me,

I am the sky, the land, the fish in the sea.

I am my companion, my lover

I am Him, He is Me.

I am salt, I am light, I am space

just as the tears rolling down my face.

How real I feel now that I see

all at once what it is to be Me.

Black Wellness History

So it is February 2018, Black History Month. Let’s talk about Black wellness. In my experience, wellness isn’t a common topic at dinner tables in the black community. In conversation with fellow Black healers, it is usual to have to face side-eye, an abrupt conversation change, or “Jesus will fix it” mantras when wellness does come up. It’s not that we never show concern for each other but it’s typical that we may only inquire on a surface level. As long as Uncle Bob is functioning well enough to attend work on the daily, we probably won’t worry too much. However, wellness is deeper than that isn’t it? Indeed, our history has much to do with this state of mind so I’ll touch on it.

Although some of the current history books have attempted to rewrite this fact, many of us who identify as Black or African American did not have ancestors who ventured to America by choice. They were often sold or stolen and brought over not only to live out their entire lives as working property but to also endure a great amount of dehumanizing torture and trauma. There is no such thing as “well-being” in these conditions and after hundreds of years, the circumstances left a huge and lasting imprint on the minds of the people which is where I believe wellness begins, the mind.

In spite of the work we still must do, it is my belief that Black people have managed to overcome such terrible ordeals because of our roots. Africans are a strong people whose varying cultures traditionally stem from family connection and spirituality. The lifestyles were bred from an ancient understanding of the feminine and masculine energetic balance. The physicians were shamans, witch doctors, etc., whose solutions for health integrated ideas of the spiritual and physical. They understood that all aspects of our being are connected, there is no separation of mind, body, and spirit. Luckily, some of these beliefs remained preserved among a few and is beginning to gain more popularity in the states.

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This resonates with me on a personal level because I am one of the many who have achieved a sense of wellness in my adulthood via the journey of reconnecting with my heritage. I do not know exact story of all my ancestors (although aware of my general Native American and African roots) but it is important to me that I study and dabble in the ancient practices of people from the past. I had the joy of knowing several of my great-grandparents and was very close to one of my great-grandmothers who nursed herself back into wellness after suffering from obesity. Creating in the kitchen with her and learning her natural remedies are experiences I forever cherish. They assist me still on my journey to a better life. Imagine the changes we can make for our collective future if we improved our own wellness, shared and lead by example for the up and coming generations?

Of course, educating ourselves on the what it means to be well and how to go about achieving this will be the first step for many of us. On a wide scale, wellness for people of my culture will need to be addressed from many levels and thanks to those who have already taken a stance, we are well on our way to better fitness, finance, nutrition and spirituality. May we all find our place in this endeavor. Namaste.

Creating a Yoga Flow: Part Three

Yoga has been a significant part of my self-improvement. As explained in my What “Yogi Life” Really Means post, it is more than just exercise. Each asana has revealed something to me about myself in multiple aspects.

This week, my Inner Self chose crow pose or bakasana as the next addition to my yoga sequence. I struggled so much when I attempted to conquer this pose for the very first time. I had what felt like zero strength to achieve it. Although I still would not say I’ve mastered it, I certainly see my growth over time as I can now hold it for roughly 10 seconds.

I do not practice this pose as much as I should and it has been noticeable in my yoga practice and my spiritual life. My upper body strength is something I’ve always wrestled with as is trusting myself entirely. This pose requires both upper body strength and a enough self-trust to shift my entire body weight onto my hands with my forehead hanging in a way that it could potentially catch a mishap. Given my more recent personal struggles (that I will not dive in to in this post), I say the Universe/Higher Self is trying to tell me something, eh?

Namaste!

 

What Becoming a Dog Mom Taught Me

In June 2017, I became a parent for the first time; a dog parent. My fiance and I welcomed home the first dog he and I had ever owned independently. His name is Grayson Richard after Dick Grayson of the Batman comics. He is a Blue Nose Pitbull with a ton of energy and human-like mischievousness. I love him to pieces but truth be told, neither my fiance nor I was ready for what we had signed up for. Regardless, I have learned a lot about dogs and myself since our plunge into dog parenthood.

The first thing I learned upon Grayson’s arrival was another level of sacrifice. Our space had to change, our availability had to change, our concentration became amplified. While he was still a tiny puppy, there was an overwhelming concern for keeping this little bundle of life happy and healthy. This often meant, and still means the excessive spending of money to ensure he is never bored, ill or malnourished even if it means less for the adults of the house. I thought romantic relationships were inconvenient, it turns out I didn’t know what true inconvenience really is until taking on this venture.

Since becoming a dog parent, I’ve become more inspired to get moving. As Grayson grew, so did his energy and we immediately realized we needed to put in work to keep up with him. He carries a lot of weight with his puppy-like wildness and stamina which requires us to be not only in physical shape ourselves but also quick-minded. In order to prevent utter chaos in our home, I had to learn the patterns of Grayson’s personality and teach myself to think at least one step ahead of him. In our home, this means always having cleaning materials ready and keeping the doors to certain rooms in the house shut when he’s roaming about.

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The most important thing I’ve learned about myself with Grayson around is my actual level of patience. I used to consider myself relatively slow to frustration until I adopted a dog. Every bit of his adjustment required steady repetition, failures, and revelations. There are some days he appears to be the most precious and obedient son a dog parent could have. Other days, it’s like having a demon spawn in the house! Whichever day it is, I am constantly challenged to bring my best self to the situation along with the proper training tools and a heart full of love. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never fallen short of this but over time I have improved tremendously and so has he. I have to remember that even though we understand each other sometimes, we do not speak the same language nor do we have the same instincts. Once I get back into the mental and spiritual inner space of accepting Gray where he is in his learning, we enjoy each other a lot more.

I am not the same person I was before being a dog mom. I was forced to grow so that I could be the best support for my puppy. He challenges me daily to do better, to speak up, to share, to have fun and observe the little things. I do not recommend this journey to everyone as it requires a great deal of time, love and dedication. It may not suit every personality or situation. Although I did not know what I was getting in to, I’m glad I got into it. I truly have no regrets.

If you’d like to see what Grayson is up to, follow #graysonrichardthepit on Instagram.

 

Creating a Yoga Flow: Part Two

In a recap of my 2018 goals, I am creating a Vinyasa yoga flow for myself that will grow weekly with a new asana. By the end of the year, I will have a 52-pose-long flow that will be a representation of my physical and spiritual growth. I began with downward dog, child’s pose and frog pose. This entry is a bit late as life has already become quite stressful this year which is why my second week’s asana is malasana or garland pose.

Malsana is a squat pose. The knees are to be separated as far as possible in this pose which stretches the adductors and lengthens the muscles around the sacrum. It’s a great asana for balancing the root chakra or Muladhara which has an effect on our level of groundedness. When accompanied with clasped hands at the chest, the heart chakra or Anahata can also be engaged which can help promote overall energetic balance.

During a week such as the one that has just past, this pose helped me to stay level-headed and balanced in spite of some obstacles I have been facing lately. I believe it has contributed to my ability to remain optimist and self-aware on an external and internal level. In engaging in a grounding pose that balances my foundational chakra, my other chakras are better able to flow which will, in turn, have a positive impact on my practice.

I am still encouraging everyone to join me. It’s never too late to get started. Namaste!