Autumn Wellness: Balancing Metal

The leaves are falling from the trees and the weather is cooling. The active summer vibes are transitioning into modes of relaxation and some species of animals are beginning preparation for hibernation. It’s the season of Autumn!

Like the macrocosm of Earth, the body is capable of sustaining itself through the carrying out of various cycles and activities that operate in an interconnected flow, vitalized by what is referred to as “qi” or “chi”. This is the energy that flows through and connects all forms of life as the animating force that ignites us beyond pure mechanical functioning and bodily existence. Within this cyclical system are five elements; metal being the element associated with Autumn.

Photo by Lukáš Dlutko from Pexels

The Fall is a natural time for slowing down, enjoying the harvest of what we’ve sown the previous year and planning to store the abundance of what we’ve gathered for the coming winter; so does Traditional Chinese Medicine recognize metal as an element of structure and organization. When molded to do so, it can act as strong foundation for connecting pathways as well as a collector of liquid (water). It symbolizes themes of purity and making space for rest before the cultivation time arrives again. This process is best represented in our bodies in the lungs and large intestines.

The lungs are considered the yin of two metal-related organs as it is receptive in nature. The crisp dry air of the season is easier for taking in. It’s important that we use this time to truly catch our breath as we recover from the high activity of the summer months. And, just as the falling leaves nourish the soil for future growth, so does the lungs work to oxygenate and nourish our cells. Beyond the organs themselves, the energy of the lungs travels from the large intestine, diaphragm and lungs, into the armpit, down the inner arm into the radial part of the hand, to the tip of the thumb and through the index finger. Dysfunctions and blockages of this channel may manifest as arm, elbow or thumb pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and other symptoms. Emotions associated with the lungs include grief and sadness which is why taking a deep breath is more challenging when we experience feelings of loss. On the other hand, healthy lung energy allows for clarity in thought and open communication.

The large intestine are considered the yang of the metal-related organs as it operates to eliminate. Just as harvesting clears space for future growth, so must our bowels clear space for the nourishment that is to come. The energy meridian for the colon travels from the tip of the index finger, through the inside of the thumb, up the outer arm to the highest point of the front of the shoulder. It then branches off in the lower gums to opposite side the nose as well as two the lungs and diaphragm. Dysfunctions of this channel include constipation, abdominal pain and cramping, toothaches and even nosebleeds. Sadness is, also, associated with the large intestine as well as worry and trouble letting go of the past. However, an ability to digest experiences well and letting shit go (both, figuratively and literally) when it is no longer serves are signs of a healthy LI.

Photo by Joshua Abner from Pexels

If you suspect that your metal element may need some balancing or you’d just like to sustain your metal health throughout the fall season, here are some practices that have worked for me:

  1. Spend time in nature and breath deeply often – this is especially important in our current heavy mask-wearing society.
  2. Stay hydrated in response to the dryer climate.
  3. Drink warmer beverages and eat foods with ingredients like apples, cinnamon, cardamom, sweet potatoes, garlic and almonds.
  4. Practice yoga poses that include twists and open the chest like child’s pose, camel pose, reclining twist and wall plank.
  5. Create your own rituals for letting go of things you may be holding to.
  6. Manage your time in a way that allows you to slow down and enjoy a healthy balance of work, play and relaxation.

May your Autumn season be full of peace, balance and abundance.

Ashe’.

Black History Month: A Personal Checkpoint

Here we are in February 2020. Happy Black History Month! It’s a time intentionally designated for the reflection of what African people have endured and how we have overcome. From the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the Civil Rights Movement, our culture has been embedded with the knowledge of our resilience. However, I’ve noticed how this has come with a price. The celebratory nature of this season aside, the revisiting of our historical trauma compiled with our individual experiences with prejudice year-round takes a psychosomatic toll on us that shows up in how we interact with the world, each other and ourselves. James Baldwin describes it clearly, “To be negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

As is well-known, African-American history is filled with devastating atrocities that have had lasting affects on the collective psyche of Black Americans. Not to mention the systematic oppression and displacement that continues to this day. I recall periods when my social media timeline was overflowing with gut-wrenching images, and stories of acts of violence against the black community, many of which were not historical at all but quite current. Still, in all forms, debates ensue over policies that govern how human existence should be valued, expressed or just how human some groups should even be considered for that matter.

The most frustrating of which are the dividing issues within our community that these matters create. I, myself, have been caught up in the back-and-forth with what there is to do and how to perceive our collective situation only to end up at tiring odds with the people I wish to stand by to achieve a common goal: peace. I first recognized this in 2014 after Mike Brown was killed. I had lived in St. Louis almost 2 years when I became consumed with outraged and took to the streets in protest for change. What I found, unfortunately, was inconsistency in our ability to organize and a well-intended group filled with mentally and physically overwhelmed individuals. I saw how it only added to the rage.

I later realized this discord was due to our personal relationship with this upset and minimal understanding of how to transmute it into sustainable positive change. Instead of dismantling the system, we’d only get stuck in our disagreement which only led to further frustration. My inner pre-Mecca Malcolm and Rev. Martin became at odds with each other, so after a while I decided to put my protesting on pause and look deeper into the bigger picture. Was I fighting for peace or fighting to fight?

“Was I fighting for peace or fighting to fight?”

The fact of the matter is, as rightfully dismayed as I was by our society, I knew that change was slow and it was up to me to take accountability of myself first. I reflected on the many years resisters before me marched the streets with their picket signs and chants, subjected to arrests, the pressure of fire hoses and the sickening of dogs. I concluded that in order to make change, something different must be done and that I could not preach love and respect to anyone that I decided I no longer felt love or respect for.

My inner journey eventually helped me better comprehend Dr. King’s point, ” …hate cannot drive out hate …”. I had to take a long, hard look at myself and become change opposed to demanding it. This brings me to Brother Malcolm’s point, “Nobody can give you freedom …equality or justice or anything …you take it. So I did. In spite of the outward chaos, I began to liberate myself by cultivating my own balance. My own peace.

Photo by Nappy

While I never shy away from diving deeper into the history and the truth of my people – the good, bad and the ugly – I, now, take more time in February to see where my heart is. I ask myself, “Am I truly practicing the compassion and mindfulness I study? Am I contributing to the chaos or to the path towards peace?”. I admit, it is the absolute hardest thing I have ever worked to do but I have found my personal world has changed significantly for the better since I’ve shifted my energy. I am not as quick to anger (although not perfect) and therefore less controlled by the things I have no control over. I observe more closely, show others more patience and understanding when I can, or do my best to kindly walk away when I cannot.

I am healthier in my body when when I worry less about who is offended by my presence. I have also found that when the times comes for me speak out against an injustice, my voice is stronger, clearer and I feel more resolve to take action opposed to just feeling anger that will eventually turn on me later.

Now, I am still a work is still in progress, may always be and this inner change may have no effect on changing the view of those who insist on being judgmental and oppressive. However, I strive to stay on the path of doing my work, being the change I want to see, gaining new perspective along the way and sharing it with others when I am able. That’s all I can do for now and acceptance of that brings me peace.

Blessed be.

A Note To Self for 2020

Dear Self,

You have come quite a ways – one decade after another. There have been plenty ups; all to remind me of the beauty in the world. There have been plenty of downs, all to strengthen me for the better. I am grateful for each hill and every valley.

Going forward, there is one main thing I expect and that is for us to becoming the closest we’ve ever been. I wish there to be no boundaries between us. No disconnects. No blending in at your expense. Like all relationships, I’m sure it will take time for us to reach the next levels just as it has taken time for us to arrive where we are today. I will grant you the necessary space to develop freely with compassion.

We both know that healing is spiral, time isn’t linear and life does not occur in a vacuum, therefore, patience and discipline is key. Continue to gain knowledge not just to know but to improve and to share for the knowing of others so that they may be supported on their journeys just as others have directly or indirectly supported you.

I know that you will always have purpose, even if in some moments that it is just to love and/or be loved. I recognize the grandiosity of your dreams and desires but remember that you save the world each day that you display kindness, share a positive or enlightening thought and take care of yourself in all the ways needed. You are a part of the world and therefore the world is you; as are we all.

Despite those that may cross your path and challenge you in the worst of ways, you are strong. Just recall that those people are also living in their momentary purpose and they are in your life at that time for a reason. Experience them but do not let their harshness linger on your soul and taint how you radiate who you are.

Lastly, never forget that you are divine. Even in your sadness, your anger and in the midst of your setbacks, you are magical being with the power to turn things around with the proper work. And, it is my hope that we will be so intertwined that every desire reveals itself to be pure and that every positive manifestation proves to be effortless.

I love you very much, Self. Continue to do great things.

Mote it be. Aṣẹ.

4 Listening Styles to Consider When Telling It Like It Is

During September full moon in Pisces, I so happened to be with some yoga mates on a retreat in the woods. The energy was great and having nothing but clean well water alongside delicious homegrown vegetarian meals placed me in a very pleasant and clear state of mind – the clearest I had experienced in quite some time. On the final evening of the trip, a few of us stayed outside late around a fire pit to share in each others’ company a while longer when I noticed one person having a hard time fully relaxing into the moment which was apparent for most of the trip. In my efforts to extend a hand and grant this person space to bask in the coolness of the moment, I did this thing I tend to do and started intuitively reading into the individual. There was resistance but the point was eventually grasped as I made my positive intentions clear. Next thing I know, others were asking me to read them, too. I felt overwhelmed by what I was getting myself into but something in me was up for the challenge and I couldn’t stop myself.

The next person I began to read, although requested it, was even more resistant. Thankfully, there was another intuitive woman in the group who contributed to the conversation in a very significant way. I felt like I had some much needed help. The back and forth, although productive, was draining and got into some pretty personal topics. Perhaps, however, it was the vibes from the moon or something else that lead to the shift in my confidence but I remained persistent in getting the message across. Just before the night officially ended, it felt like I had done a good deed …until the next day. I woke up with “the morning after” feeling of awkwardness. Thinking I might have said too much to these people and about their own lives no less, I tried to go about the day as normal as I could pretend to be. However, I could not ignore that one of the persons I had read the previous evening was not their usual vibrant self. I could feel a nerve was struck and I started to feel regret. Should I have done better at shutting myself up? Could I have said some things differently?

In the world of yoga, there are two very thought provoking concepts that are approached differently even depending on what type of yoga one practices: satya and ahimsa. Standing alone, they are easy enough to digest. Tell the truth and do no harm. Simple enough right? Here’s the plot twist: what happens when the truth causes harm?

As an Aries born of a Capricorn woman and married to a Leo man, one can imagine that there are no shortages of hard-truth daggers being thrown at any given moment in my world. It gets rough at times. I’m mostly used to it and find at least some appreciation for it even when it stings. However, as a mindfulness practitioner, I must remember that what works for me does not apply to all and what applies in one moment may not apply in the next. As I grow, I never want to hurt people but to promote awareness and make room for positive change. For this reason, I’ve made a great deal of effort in softening my honest nature with compassion. A big part of this work is learning to recognize the listener for which I have found there are four types: the Hit Me’s, the Be Gentles, the Meet Me in the Middles and the Let’s Argues.

The “Hit Me” Type

The first type is the one that let’s you tell like it is, raw and uncut. They expect the worst so they are not so caught off guard and are adverse to “sugar-coating” as it feels like a downplay to what they can handle emotionally. Even if they get defensive along the way and visible change is slow, they eventually digest the message and appreciate the forwardness.

The “Be Gentle” Type

The second type is all about the feels. Sensibilities lean more towards the delicate side and language and tone are especially important. As you read into them, they are likely reading into every word spoken. When triggered, reactions are extreme. They may be the ones who exhibit self-deprecating behavior when hit too hard with a message or may shut down completely. It is best to discuss more personal matters in a private setting with this type. Avoid sarcasm.

The “Meet Me in the Middle” Type

The third type is a blend of the first two. In my experience, they tend to be the most receptive because they don’t dwell in either extreme. Even if they disagree with the message, they are more likely to hear one out respectfully to at least gather further insight into an outside experience of themselves. They appreciate forwardness but do not take well to unnecessarily abrasive language or tones. They may not require a completely private setting but being surrounded by people they trust is important. Limited sarcasm advised.

The “Let’s Argue” Type

The last type describes the ones who debate for sport. Regardless of your helpful intention or their willful solicitation, they will argue you down. They want to challenge you to support your claim well. It’s wise to be prepared for deflection with this type. They have strong minds and will go to some length to justify their viewpoint. Even those on the opposing side of logic will attempt to find a way to be right or at least confuse you which they may still take as a win. If they choose to be receptive, they will eventually hear you out. You may need to employ some skillful psychological strategy with these guys.

Something else to remember about these types – and this is very important, okay? Most of us are any one or a combination of these types at some point or another. Life is a roller coaster. Sometimes we’re receptive, understanding and willing. Other times we’re sensitive, argumentative and closed-off. There are topics that make us feel more triggered than others and depending on current life events, we could be more short-fused. I’m thankful that all the people I read that night seemed to later appreciate the messages delivered. I think we even became a bit closer because of it. Still, it was a risk I had to take with a certain level of delicacy and consciousness.

It’s also important to note that in spite of the truth we are so certain of from our own experience, there is a possibility that it is not the entire truth. Even after objective observation with the best of intentions we are inevitably biased, judgmental and sometimes hasty. Our brains work this way to make processing easier but we must keep human error in mind and not forget that silence can be a good choice as well. This is where ego can get out of the way to make room for ahimsa if your intention values non-harming over truth. This is for each of us to decide.

Namaste.

Divorce Your Excuses: 3 Ways I Made Room for My Ideal Life

On June 21, summer began. Many in the spiritual community honored Litha, or summer solstice – the longest day of the year. Yogis, like myself, celebrated the International Day of Yoga with sun salutations and great excitement. What this time of year represents is the peak energetic time to get moving on our personal goals. It is seen as another chance at a new beginning – just in case things haven’t quite worked out for you since January. To be honest, 2019 has not gone quite the way I imagined it would at this point.

In many ways, it has turned out to be so much better. Sure, I could have doubled-down on my weight loss and financial goals. Things may have been a bit less stressful had my husband not needed to be diagnosed with an incurable heart disease. However, as I reflect on everything that has happened so far, I feel pretty blessed. It just took a while for me to realize that I am.

In the whirlwind of drama that seemed to be my life when the year started, it was hard to see the bright side. Between the trips to the hospital, emotional breakdowns, unexpected bills, workplace drama, sleep deprivation, time management failures and stress-induced binge eating, I felt like my goals became impossible as fast as I had set them. I never seemed to have the time, energy, or funds to carry out all the plans I had in mind. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t seem to gain control and create the life I wanted to live. Thankfully, right when I thought I should back-burner my entrepreneurial dreams, I had an epiphany: I have way too many damn excuses.

How I came to this conclusion you ask? Well, it just so happened that I was verbally laying in to a couple of close loved ones (in my mind) about how they get in their own way when BOOM! I realized I was in the exact same boat. The hard truth is, I used my perceived lack of time, energy, and money as a crutch. When I finally got honest with myself (with the help of Gary Vee videos), it turned out that I have all the time in the world, I just don’t use it all productively. Same went for my finances. Sure, more is always nice, but it really boils down to what we choose to do with what we have.

When I look at the people I aspire to, I have to acknowledge that they work with the same amount of hours in a day as I do. In some cases, those people started out in a much more unfortunate financial situation as well. So what’s the difference between my struggle and theirs? That they have already made the choice to perceive the struggle in a useful way. No, this is not necessarily an easy feat and depending on where a person is in her process, there may be a lot of old ways that require sacrificing. However, the keyword in the solution is choice.

Changing my viewpoint changed everything. The lethargy and lack of motivation I had been experiencing really was my body’s way of saying that it was time for a routine change. So I added gym time back to my schedule which helped me better regulate my sleep and food cravings (which also helped me save money). The time restraints I felt turned out to be due to dedicating too much of it to things that were not aligned with my personal and entrepreneurial goals. So, I started clocking out of my 9 to 5 on time. This freed up space for business planning as well as time for my dog son and my husband. It was difficult knowing that I couldn’t do anything to alter my husband’s diagnosis, but it ended up bringing us closer to each other than we ever have been. It took time, but now, we are better about planning our health goals together and supporting each other in following through. Instead of allowing my issues to send me down the path of another anxious-depressive episode, I just starting making different choices.

Yet, in order to make a choice, we must first understand that we really do have one in spite of the circumstances we cannot control. This is where our self-empowerment lies! Here are a few things that helped me shift my perception to realize the power I do have over my own life:

Practice gratitude.

It sounds virtuous but the reason why gratitude is something I practice is because it is actually a skill I needed to develop. So many of us in American society have been programmed to dwell on what we don’t have. This is how we are kept on the hamster wheel towards the next best thing.

Meanwhile, we damage well-being and miss out on so much of life because we fail to take time for what’s right in front of us which is often everything we ever really need. No matter how much you attain, if you do not appreciate what you already have, it will not matter. Nothing will ever be enough.

Let go of the past.

It’s probably accurate that the majority of humans have had a traumatic experience at some point in their life. In fact, it’s pretty well accepted that hardship is inevitable and an important part of growth – although some ordeals are considered harder burdens to carry. However, we’ve seen proof time and time again of individuals who have undergone immense suffering and yet have triumphed in the face of the worst.

Although it is natural to feel pain in hard times (and even after), we cannot grow if we remain victims to these circumstances and allow them to debilitate us. Instead, we can choose to see the simple truth in these matters and allow it to teach us something. In the words of author and speaker, Steve Maraboli,

” The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”

Petition for the future.

In my spiritual practice, there is an exercise referred to as petitioning. Put simply, petitioning is the writing down of a desired outcome as if it is already so. It is done in various forms be it vision boards and goal journals. It is also commonly done among those who, like myself, practice a form a form of folk magic. The only thing you need is a pen and a piece of paper.

Although a seemingly simple task, it can be a challenge on several levels. When done regularly and intently, though, one can form a whole new relationship with her inner will to make things happen.

Although, I cannot control everything that happens to and around me, I find power in knowing that I have control over myself. I also realize that my growth in this is a process and I am still gaining understanding of my own full potential. I may not have all the riches and other material possessions I desire (yet) but the journey is what I live for. The millions of moments in between each milestone – this is where gratitude comes in. I see now that I am actually indeed wealthy, accomplished, loved and beautiful. And, it makes all the difference when I choose to notice all the ways in which I am already living my ideal life.

May you realize it for yourself as well. Namaste.

What’s in a Label?: Discovering My Sexual Orientation

As Pride Month approaches, I feel called to share a journey that took a very long road to its realizing. In all the things about myself that has taken time to understand, my sexual orientation was at the top of the list of most confusing.

Looking back, when I was really young (elementary school age) I was not afraid to experiment. I kissed boys, I kissed girls, I talked about what I thought sex was and would it possibly could be. The topic fascinated me! However, growing up in a highly religious environment (at home and at school), the topic was not easy for me to discuss with the grown ups. Whenever I did bring it up in mature company, I was usually left with at least some inkling of regret after the conversation had ended. The shame was too much to bear to continue to risk it further so, like many other children, I sought answers myself through peers or media. I actually learned a lot about the physics of sex but not enough about sexuality itself until much later.

There was always a stigma around homosexuality (as there tends to be in Christian settings) so I dared to not inquire about my urges towards other girls. This suspicion was solidified for me during the 6th grade. I came home with my boy crush written on my hand in pen. My mother asked me about it and I reluctantly explained. She responded with, “You are at the age now, huh? Well, I guess I should be glad you didn’t come home with some little girl’s name on you.” My instincts immediately told me that this was not a good time to come forward about my past girl-on-girl experiences.

I never felt like my sexual attraction truly conflicted with my spirituality but I learned to suppress it for social reasons. I suppressed it so well, in fact, I became a bit homophobic (projection, much?). Being around gay people made me rather uncomfortable and I found myself judging in a very stereotypical way (probably because my own tomboyish nature often caused people to perceive me as a lesbian which really annoyed me). This criticism didn’t last terribly long as I spent most of my teenage years in a very culturally diverse environment in which I gained friends and associates of various backgrounds and sexual orientations. However, it wasn’t until college that I became reintroduced to the idea of widening my own personal options.

Like many college kids do, I found out a lot about myself both in the classroom and the dorm room (if you catch my drift). By this time, I had never considered being with the same sex since my grade school days. I figured it was a developmental phase that had come and gone. Then, ironically enough, after several failed attempts at having a romantic relationships with guys, a good gay friend of my told me to consider trying women. I was shocked to hear his suggestion, wondering what it was about me that would prompt such an idea. Hadn’t I feminized myself up enough to be with any of my male counterparts? I eventually learned that wasn’t the point at all but that there was a side of myself, more obvious to everyone else at the time, that I had not been in touch with; a side that I had, in retrospect, apparently forgotten to some extent.

Years after graduating from college, I still had not acted on my friend’s recommendation. Luckily, I found the guy (or should I say he found me) who would become my husband and didn’t give it much more thought after a while. Yet, the question resurfaced between him and me – apparently he saw the same thing everyone else did. At first, I was aggravated that this notion had not yet died along with my frequent wear of sports gear and over-sized hoodies (because sexuality is all about the appearances, right?). Then, I had a serious reckoning with myself. Why would I be so aggravated if some part of it weren’t true? Why would the questioning linger in my mind like it did if there wasn’t a “question” in the first place?

And so, it took my fiance’s nudging to finally make me do some exploring back down memory lane. I came to realize that I was not acknowledging a part of myself because I was afraid of what it meant to be that. I was afraid it meant something more than just being myself or that my Self would have to live out loud in an uncomfortable and probably not fully accepted way. I’m glad to say now that I’ve come to terms with that – privately and publicly.

Thankfully, I live in a time where the concept of sexuality is expanding and while it is confusing and even upsetting for many traditionalist, it’s actually very relieving to those of us who have lived our lives in the previously undefined gray areas. As for my label, I currently accept bisexual heteromantic as most accurately describing my experience. At first I thought, “Oh god, I’m one of those people with an obnoxiously complicated sexual identifier”, then I thought, “Who cares?

I’ve come to figure that anyone who does will have to carry that burden on their own. I’ve already done that. I cannot say that I understand all the sexual walks of life just yet, and I may never. Nonetheless, I am learning that it’s most important that we give people the space to figure it out. And, if there is something in us that struggles to allow that, then the time may call for your own self-reckoning and I hope, if no one else does, you grant yourself that safe space.

Happy Pride Month!