I’m beginning to see things in such a way that perhaps there are no true enemies, or not as many as we may think. That instead our oppressors are our pathways. A link or thread in the complementary chain of existence. Woven and compressed together as the two faces of the same coin. Necessary oppositions for strengthening resolve; a cosmic fortification of each others’ convictions. Granting us realities that help us educate ourselves about ourselves through evolution. And allowing us to come to know that we, too, are oppressive in our own right.
And so we dance together through space and time. Learning through the ways in which we harm and have been harmed. Growing through the ways we choose to love and have been loved consciously. Abiding by the state of our condition as it cycles but never truly fades. And never means to in spite of naive expectation.
Perhaps, in truth, life is the stage that Shakespeare quipped about. Playing our roles for one another. We build. We deconstruct. We move through dimensions without end. We seek a silver lining and maybe find some semblance of Self. The spirit behind the character. The “ghost in the machine”. Having only found itself down the hard road.
It becomes aware of its performance and can practice cherishing the ease.
I am a member of a Facebook group dedicated to black women who practice yoga. A community space in which we get to share our collectively unique thoughts, opinions and experiences of our demographic living in a society that primarily markets this South Asian practice to thin white women. And while our cultural experiences are similar, it’s is a mixed bag of personalities.
Obvious from the posts and comments, we do not agree on everything and, naturally, are on different spiritual paths and/or parts of our paths. A woman shared a photo from Yoga Journal that depicted Pasasana which is translated as Noose Pose. Anyone familiar with Black American history knows that the sheer sight of a noose or sound of the term can be quite triggering. Heavily affiliated with the terrorist practice of lynching, nooses tend to be perceived as quite negative by the Black community, even in a neutral context. I am no different.
When I initially came across the pose, I felt triggered. I immediately asked myself, “What the hell is this?!” My feels jumped suddenly into anxiety mode as the images in my brain teleported me to the days of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ youth and my mind flooded with the countless images of “picnics” black people strung up on trees amidst a crowd of smiling white folks. But then, my yogi skills kicked it. I stilled myself long enough to breath and gander at the posed question: “Did ya’ll know there is a yoga pose called noose pose? What is your immediate reaction when hearing that? How would you feel if a teacher used that word to describe this pose in a class? I’ve attached a photo of the pose for reference.” And just like the group itself, the answers were mixed.
A few responses were, “Should definitely update the name. It is insensitive.”, “Folks just make up poses and put asana at the end …pass.”, and “I completely agree that using the name is not mindful of trauma informed teaching.”. Others were more like, “…No, it’s never triggered me as I’ve always been taught the Sanskrit names …”, and “I personally wouldn’t care. To me thats like being offended at the word cotton.” This was my response:
“As yoga is a practice that reveals ourselves to us, I think triggers like this (while not [likely] the original intent for the pose) are meant to guide us into diving into those traumas so we can heal and learn to experience things as they actually are in the context they come.
I’d be mindful of the audience and my approach but I wouln’t let my trauma of black history stop me from teaching it ever. I see a way it can be done significantly and purposefully. So long as I could tell the instructor was on a similar page, I could respect it being taught in a class I was taking.”
To elaborate, I would likely implement my personally understanding of these negative feelings into a very specific type of class geared towards this trauma in the Black community. Even in my own practice, I can imagine the nooses that hung our ancestors from trees like strange fruit; swinging and burning in the wind. Then I imagine myself as that noose but hugging them lovingly and holding up their spiritual bodies. Not burning, but the memory of them being carried in my being in strength and courage. Understanding that they are forever with me in my work as a yogi – internally and externally.
I truly believe in the stance that I posed wholeheartedly. I’m sure that my view will not be accepted by everyone but it is my truth and I’d like to hope that anyone attracted to a class of mine will be receptive or at least neutral. It is, also, my hope that all yoga teachers – while practicing mindfulness and sensitivity – will not shy away from challenging their students and themselves to address their pains as much as they support their peace. In fact, I see these focuses as going hand-in-hand.
For years I’ve been consciously working to heal myself from a primarily natural and holistic approach. I’d like to think progress was made as I’ve certainly done my best to live in spiritual flow and embrace life as it comes. Still, I couldn’t help but notice significant periods in which I felt I couldn’t maintain it for long. I would backslide into major anxiety and/or depression, put tons of effort into regaining some healing and peace before life would undercut me once more. Intellectually, I understood there were tough experiences to be had in order to learn some important lessons. Energetically, however, I was stuck. Stuck in fear, confusion and resentment that seemed to grow back stronger with each attempt to bring them to their end. I knew I was in need of something immersive and almost drastic but safe. To my heart’s joy, I found exactly what I was looking for in my first psilocybin trip.
On a Saturday evening, I created a safe and pleasant space for myself with the help of my husband. From comfortable clothing and good snacks to a ready playlist and movie choice, I did my best to cover all the basis. The toughest part was preparing my mind. I did all the research I could do to know what to expect. The psychedelic known as psilocybin breaks down in the body into a chemical named psilocin which attaches itself to our serotonin receptors, preventing reuptake. This usually leads to sense-altering effects such visual hallucinations, intensified sensation and spiritual epiphanies. This is exactly what happened for me.
I humbly admit I was a pile of nerves going in. Even after taking the plunge of actually ingesting the ‘shrooms, I couldn’t seem to shake my anxiety. I tried to relax at the beginning, hiding the frustration with my G.A.D.. As the effects gradually took hold, the anxiety grew, or it became harder to ignore rather. My nerves were slightly shaking as I realized my perception was changing but I remained as calm as possible. Recalling what I had read about people having bad trips and panic attacks filled with terrifying paranoia, I decided that wasn’t the experience I wanted. So, I reminded myself of the mantra meditation I did prior that evening; repeating in my mind, “I am joy. I am love. Surrender to the moment and I’ll be fine.” Before I knew it, that’s where I found myself. In glorious surrender.
I felt a sense of gratitude come over me as the high sunk in but the nervousness continued to weigh heavy on my chest and solar plexus. I started to talk about it out loud with my husband. He let me ramble about my thoughts and feelings for a while and before I knew it a wave of truth was pouring out of me along with a pool of tears interluded with bouts of laughter. I felt like a ketchup packet being emptied of its contents with a relieving squeeze. The anxiety was dissolving. My shame was diminishing. Suddenly, I felt an unbelievable love and acceptance in myself like I had never done before. In that moment, I began to feel the joy I had been praying, meditating and working so hard for. I felt liberation.
Inanimate objects seemed to shift. The walls and ceiling seemed to breathe. I saw colorful faces of African art staring at me from the spinning ceiling fan. Movement had an echo and beauty took on new meaning. I wasn’t anxious, afraid or confused anymore. I was whole. I shared a night with my husband that felt like old college days. Dr. Strange made it’s way to my top Marvel movie list. I was patient, considerate, and forthcoming without effort. I knew what I wanted and didn’t want clearly and how to express it. I felt no tension or pain in my body. I didn’t care of anyone’s opinion, including my own. Trivial things no longer mattered. I was in a space of true love.
I happily conclude that it’s an experience I’d be more than willing to have again with hopes of realizing even more of who I am and the truth of all there is. While I’d like to think it could be an experience for everyone at some point in their life, it very well may not be and it is certain that everyone will not be ready right away. Post-trip, I came to figure that those who’ve had a bad experiences with mushrooms went in unprepared, with deep-seated inner turmoil or at least with too much negativity in the forefront of their heart-mind. Although still somewhat controversial, under proper guidance and supervision, I think those cases can mostly be averted and instead be positively enlightening. Ultimately, though, everyone is different and the choice is up to each individual. For those who decide to try it, may your trips pleasantly expand your consciousness as it did mine.
Do you find yourself rushing? The most sustaining results are the ones that come with real and gradual work. Not quick fixes and short cuts. If this pandemic has given us anything is time to be still. Sounds painfully false in some ways. Certainly ironic. But let’s consider a few things.
Many of us now have more time with our families and/or with ourselves. An activation to spend time more time with our friends and elderly, even if it’s just one last time. We have time to think about what we really want, how we can create and where we want to go the next chance we get.
The catch? You’ve got to take a beat and give your Self the time to even think about where you are right now and what is most important. Mind, body and soul. Don’t waste it!
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, January 20th, brought us our first full moon of the year and it came with embellishments. Luna in Leo, was a beautiful blood red and relatively close in proximity to the earth making it a super moon at that.
Luna encouraged the lion in all of us to roar in one way or another. For some, that might have been troublesome depending on what’s going in our lives right now and how we chose to be expressive. The stars are positioning themselves in a way to push us to seek healing in the deepest places of our being so we can transcend beyond the places in which we have been stuck all this time.
I pulled a tarot with the intention of having these recent occurrences explained and gaining clarity on how to move forward. Watch the video below for to see the reading:
What challenges have you faced or are you facing since the Blood Moon?