Meditation for Broken Daughters

There is something special about the relationship between a mother and daughter. When all is well, there is a unique friendship that can be had; a closeness unmatched. The dark days are more bearable and our burdens not so heavy.

On the flip side, a damaged mother-daughter relationship can cause for a rocky foundation, not just between mother and child but within the daughter herself. Daughters learn from their mothers (or female caretakers) first what it means to be a woman –  how to nurture, how to take care of Self, and walk securely in her feminine being. However, our mothers cannot give us what they do not have.

When a daughter feels failed by her mother on any level, it is very easy for her to point a finger and say, “She should have taught me …” or “Why can’t she just …?”. It is difficult to take in that our mothers could be as lost as we are or worse. As children, it can be almost impossible to understand and harder, still, to let go once we become women. Instead, we learn to adapt using defense mechanisms and other survival tactics before we even realize that is what we are doing.

These methods serve us for a time but eventually its effectiveness will dwindle and in some cases, even become harmful. It starts to become apparent with the difficulty in our friendships, work, and romantic connections. It will also affect how we see and treat ourselves. There comes a very obvious time when we must try something new in order to really thrive and not just deal to survive.

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In the words of  Haruki Murakami, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” The hurt of being failed by a parent is natural and should not be considered a weakness; it also does not have to define us. The shift must happen in the mind! No matter the situation, we can change how it affects and whether it affects us at all. Meditation is a great way to initiate and maintain that shift. Here are a few lines one can meditate on to shift her view about her mother-daughter bond:

Clingy/Controlling Mother: “I accept and appreciate my mother’s love wholeheartedly but will draw necessary boundaries where I see fit without compromise. May we both find peace.”

Hostile/Judgmental Mother: “My mother could not give me what she did not have nor demonstrate what she is not. Therefore, I thank her for being an example of what not to do so that I may be better for my Self and my house. May we both find peace.”

Absent/Unreliable Mother: “I welcome any and all positive energy to fill the space that my mother left open and cherish what [time, gifts, life, etc.] she has given me.” May we both find peace.”

Each saying ends with “May we both find peace,” to encourage the release of anger and bitterness. We sometimes claim to have let things go but will recall memories with harsh words and negative feelings. In this case, we cannot be liberated from the baggage and it will continue to show up in our lives and disrupt our growth. Whenever those negative thoughts and feelings resurface, recall one of these lines or make up your own. You cannot change who your mother is but you can change how you receive her. That change can make all the difference.

Namaste.

Creating a Yoga Flow: Recap Thru Week Nine

I am approaching week nine of my personal yoga flow journey. It turns out keeping up with posting is just as much of a challenge as keeping up with a daily flow practice. I also accidentally skipped an important transitional pose in Part Three of this series. So let’s recap.

Part One

I began with downward dog, child’s pose, and frog pose. These asanas get the blood flowing and awaken joints. It’s preparatory for more complicated asanas.

Part Two

From frog pose, I roll back onto my feet and sink into garland pose or malasana. This a grounding pose and that not only opens the hips but, with hand clasped at the chest, opens the heart for the practice.

Part Three

Next, I place my hands on the floor and push myself onto my feet for a forward fold. Sometimes my feet are close together or hip distance. These details are always important as your practice should reflect what feels right for you. The should have been the focus of my week three post.

Part Four

Once on my feet, I bend my knees into my armpits – or as close as possible – tighten my abs and firmly plant my hands into the mat/floor with spread fingers before me and lift my curled body into crow pose or bakasana. This pose is a test of balance, concentration and upper body strength.

Part Five

Next, I lower one leg to the ground and flexing the other hip and extending the leg straight back. Whichever side my foot is landed, I plant my fingers into the floor and twist my body and extended leg the opposite direction while the other fingertips reaches toward the ceiling . This is half moon or ardha chandrasana. Like most balance asanas, it tests focus. It also increases hip strength.

Part Six

I then lower the extend leg and arm to the floor, extend the planted leg back into the air behind me and push myself back into three-legged downward dog or eka pada adho mukha svanasana.

Part Seven

The foot of the extended leg then falls to the floor behind the body and takes on the support as the other leg straights and the arm on the side of the supporting leg raises overhead. This pose is called wild thing or camatkarana. This also engages the side body and helps with upper body flexibility. It is also helpful in reminding the Self how to let go and open up.

Part Eight

Continue to let the body fall back and plant both hands and feet onto the flow in wheel pose. This pose requires some back flexibility and upper body strength. It also requires trust in yourself for without it, strength is beside the point. Remember to breath!

Eight Nine

Lift on leg straight into the air as far as you can. Do not force this movement. Go slow. With repetition, the thigh and low ab muscles will strengthen as will your confidence.

Remember that your practice is your own and this will more than likely not play out the exact same way each time. Go with your gut and find your flow.

Happy flowing! Namaste.

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!

 

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!

Vegan Diet or No Vegan Diet?

I have tried many diets over the years in search of something that would put me on the right direction towards a healthy lifestyle. Going vegan was something I heard of for the first time over 10 years ago and I had absolutely no intention of participating. I was and am still a meat-lover, and considered the debate on whether veganism was even a reasonable lifestyle. However, I’ve just decided to go vegan/vegetarian recently and I have felt better in the last two weeks than I have a in a long time.

The argument between meat-eaters and vegans is on whether or not eating animal-based products is a healthy choice and/or a compassionate one. It is apparent that humans, like other meat-eaters on our shared planet, are built with the ability to digest meat products as we have for the last few thousand years or so. Meat tends to be packed with proteins necessary for our health and partaking in meat does not exactly equate to lack of compassion for other living beings. We are inevitably born into a food chain, the great Circle of Life in which all living beings rely on each other for food and other resources for survival. For this reason, I do not find it fair to judge anyone who eats meat as it is in our nature to do so; however, if we can find adequate nutrients in plants, shouldn’t we take that route instead?

This is, of course, the side of vegans and vegetarians who have made their choice for the purpose of compassion. This position should, also, not be shunned. I made the choice to become vegan/vegetarian because I finally listened to my body when I’d consume meat and dairy on a regular basis. My taste buds thanked me but my brain and my digestive system did not. I am now in the process of learning new and exciting ways to cook meals at home and to meal prep for work. I feel lighter, more energetic and aware of what my body actually needs opposed to what it is craving. My choice was also influenced by my spirituality and desire to be more compassionate towards animals. However, when I feel like the vegan diet may not be supplying me with enough (which could be due to the lack of knowledge of all my options), I may turn to a vegetarian dish to remain properly nourished. I am also willing to admit that if I had no reasonable alternatives in front of me, I would choose meat over deprivation for the sake of my health. There would be some hardcore vegans our there who would detest my flexibility but that’s why I took the time to make sure I had a handle on the “why” for making my choice.

Indeed, there is a right and a not-so-great way to carry out either decision. If one is a meat-eater and gives no thought to the life or lives given for the meal, there is something to be assessed. On the same token, if one is vegan just to keep up with the Jones’ and ridicules the meat-eater without regard to the individual’s personal journey, there is something to be assessed. There are also things to be aware of in either decision. The over-consumption of meat (especially red and/or low quality) can put any person at risk for a number of illnesses and disorders. Likewise, the vegan should be mindful of their intake of soy which should be limited and what ever nutrients what may require supplement due to their lack of animal product consumption. Whichever side anyone takes, it would do us all well to diminish or perhaps even abolish judgement on the other as we all have our “whys” and what is right for you may not be right for someone else. Namaste.

 

Creating a Yoga Flow: Part One

Although now a highly ridiculed phrase, I’m on my “New Year New Me” game. Truthfully, every day is a good time to start enhancing ourselves and setting goals towards our ideal life. However, there’s something special about this season that seems to motivate us. Each year is like a new chapter in our lives in which we get to start fresh with new goals. Unfortunately, many of us tend to fall off the wagon within a few months, weeks, even days. Some find it scoff-worthy; you may even come across comical memes about it online. I think it’s unfair to judge the lot who strive for change even though many of us run into regular life obstacles which, frankly, don’t care about our timelines. On the other hand, some of us simply get bored or overwhelmed with all the goals we’ve set in front of us. I’m certainly guilty myself. So, for 2018, I’m taking a new approach to reaching goals by encompassing them into my yoga practice.

On January 1st, I will begin building a Vinyasa flow that will grow every week. For those new to yoga, Vinyasa is a yoga practice that uses a continuous movement from one pose to another opposed to holding a single pose for an extended period of time – although these methods can be somewhat combined. I’m beginning with 3 asanas and will add a different pose every week accompanied by meditation and a written journal in which I will explain my practice of the 8 Limbs. I will also post a video of the flow on Instagram for visual feedback. The goal is to track my progress throughout the year to see how much I improve mentally, physically and spiritually by the end of 2018. Weekly additions will hopefully ward off boredom and because I choose my own poses and because I am only adding one a week, I will reframe from getting too overwhelmed.

The initial three poses are downward dog, child’s pose and frog pose. Feel free to join me in this challenge and share your progress on social media also. Remember that yoga is more than just poses and physical fitness; it’s a lifestyle! However, it is what you make it and the possibilities are endless. Happy New Year! Namaste.