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.

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.