Category Archives: Health

Meditation is Hard

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Whenever I mention that I am working on a hip-hop meditation project someone inevitably says, “But Toni, it is not easy to meditate.” One of my songwriting students recently told me that meditation was too hard and a good friend told me she’s just not a be still kind of woman.

I woke around 6am today and did Day 1 of Oprah & Deepak’s 21 Day Meditation Experience. It was about 3/4 through that my monkey mind started to dance. I kept bringing myself back to the centering thought until I heard the bell. I heard my student’s voice and smiled. Part of me was thinking like him- meditation is hard.

The sun was just rising so I lit a white candle and incense while preparing my thyme tea. As the sound of Native American flutes played faintly in the background I cleared my chest then got back into my bed so I could focus on the flame. Candle gazing can be a useful meditation technique as it brings focus and energy to the third eye.

This morning’s meditation wasn’t auto-pilot for me. It required deliberate focus and intention but I am reminded of Dr. Deben, one of my spiritual teachers, who would say that mediation wouldn’t be such a big deal if we used the word practice whenever talking about it. It is a practice. Some days meditation is not easy but the more we practice a thing the better we become.

So. I recently slipped into one of my workaholic patterns. My life’s work is beyond exciting right now and my mind wanted to get its Usain on at every hour of the day. Eventually, I crashed and a series of health issues stopped me in my tracks. Meditation helped me make it through commitments  – performances, lectures, panels, teaching and a special event.  We may lose our footing but we can always return to center and our meditation practice will be available to us.

Here are a few ways I have been able to make meditating easier for myself:

  • Clearing my mind almost always begins with writing. I have to empty out the ever present list that is in the forefront of my mind so I pick up pen and paper and I jot it down. I bless the list with love and let it go for later. Sometimes I do this before I sit still to meditate but doing this right before bed also helps me sleep better.
  • Breathing can be a meditation within itself. Slowing down the breath relaxes the mind, calms the nervous system and shifts the focus from stressors to being present in the moment. There are many breathing techniques one can use. I inhale slowly through my nose as if air is entering my belly causing it to expand like a ballon. I exhale the air gently through my lips. Eyes can be open or closed.  It is a simple exercise that can have a profound impact on our emotional state.
  • Focusing on gratitude always rocks. One of the easiest ways to go into the zone is to say out loud – I am grateful for _______________. I say it over and over, filling in the blank until I have run out of things to say. There are some days where I go in so deep that I will find myself in tears of gratitude at the end of this meditation. On other days my heart just smiles.
  • Sometimes my meditation requires motion so I take a walk and listen to guided meditations from youtube or even my own. Hot yoga is another moving meditation that I have grown to appreciate. Meditation does not have to be about sitting still all of the time. It is about making time and space to reconnect and recenter.

We will release BELIEVE, the first installment of the Meditation Mixtape Series just in time for the new year. I want to share more stories from my meditation journey and keep it 100 about the difficulties and challenges. Meditation is not always easy  in the beginning but it doesn’t have to ever be hard. Learning breathing techniques and practicing meditation have changed my life. I’m excited to share what I am learning with you all.

Meditation is not just for relaxation; its primary purpose is to develop the capacity to respond skillfully and gracefully to life’s difficulties as well as its joys” -Shyalpa Tenzin

 

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Accountability is the Answer When Self-Care is Elusive: 5 Tips

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The term self-care is thrown around so much these days that it causes concern. It’s  as if it’s in danger of being put out to pasture in the land of cliches. It’s truly an over-used phrase because it’s talked about much more than it is practiced. It’s almost silly sometimes. We talk about sleeping more. We talk about meditating. We talk about making more time for loved ones. Then we continue to grind.

Grinding feels like the anti-thesis of self-care. I mean, say it out loud. Even the way the word feels in your mouth feels sort of grimy and abrasive. Yet, it resonates with entrepreneurs, artists and activists I know. One who “grinds” is gangsta with his/her commitment to winning at whatever he/she does.

Oh self-care, self-care where art thou? With loads of articles, youtube videos and podcasts about self-care one would think that the self-care movement would have taken a greater foothold by now, but you know that old habits are hard to break. 42% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014. There are host of reasons as to why this occurs but Forbes magazine said that even Americans with paid vacations don’t take the time off. In 2014 only 25% of Americans used all their paid vacation days.

I have some really talented friends. They’re driven, determined and gifted producers, filmmakers, writers, dancers, singers, techies and creative professionals. My partner will close his eyes and be in la-la land minutes after sitting down. He “rests” his eyes in the most random of places and is clearly sleep deprived like many of my fam. I’ve also seen friends work themselves sick. Oh, and in my inner-circle not eating enough is much more common that over eating. Let’s not even talk about water consumption and hydrating foods.

Everybody knows we should be taking better care of ourselves especially in the current climate. If one has any ties to being actively engaged in the movement in even the smallest of ways, it’s important that people remain vigilant in the fight for peace of mind and optimal health.

If you’ve been trying to cleanse for the past year and haven’t done it make it to yoga class or the gym, and haven’t gone or if you want to drink more water or go to bed earlier at night,  consider enrolling a circle of people to support you as you transform your habits. Engage an accountability team that will help you stay on point. The first step is stop lying to yourself and thinking you can do it on your own. There’s a reason why community exist.

5 Tips to Creating Your Accountability Circle:

1-Be specific and tell people how to challenge you. Tell them what your goals are and where you tend to fall off track.

2-Remember that at the end of the day it’s still your responsibility. You have to show up with the mentality that you are doing to take better care of yourself.

3-Choose people who will tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear. Avoid the loved ones who co-sign your crazy. Also, make sure they deliver in a style that speaks to your personality. Avoid those who cannot share without judging. You don’t need judgment, you need support.

4-Don’t try to do everything at once. Choose one or two self-care habits you want to build.  Work on that for a month. Write it down and post it in a few visible places. Put it in reminders on your phone and insert it into your calendar.

5-Find a self-care buddy. It’s sort of like a work-out partner. Identify someone who is working on the same thing and willing to stay in touch with you for a few weeks or a month while you both work on the goal. It may be a friend who wants to drink more water or someone who wants to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Text each other, inbox inspiring messages or videos and exchange information. Team work makes the dream work so get yourself a buddy!

So stop chasing your self-care. Looking within, look at the mirror and resolve to love up on yourself properly. Establishing accountability can be intimidating but commit to making the changes and letting others know how they can support you. The discomfort will melt away. Self-care is the best care and self-care is self-love.

Love yourself.

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“Self-care is not about self-indulgence. It’s about self-preservation.” – Audre Lorde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Lessons I Learned/Confirmed

About Life in 2015

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Some of these are thoughts I have had for some time, but only recently fully accepted. They are reflections of my current beliefs. A year from now, things may be different and certain points might no longer feel true for me, but as of December 31, 2015 this is where I stand.

I have learned some really painful lessons about relationships in the past year. Please note the word relationship is not limited to my love life but applies to all of my relations with other human beings. As I mature, I am growing to believe that we underestimate the impact friendships and platonic relationships have on our lives. We spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about romance but there is so much growth to be found in other areas of life.

If there were a title for 2015, it might be “Innocence Lost”. Idealistic, but no longer naïve, still somewhat innocent but grown as hell and with an eagle eye for fronting and bullshit energy, I am still taking a stand for love as often as possible. It can be a challenge once we begin to acknowledge the depths of human nature and how flawed our species can be. Choosing to stand in love makes the reality pill easier to swallow. It also serves as a reminder to focus on the good in the midst of so-called negative experiences. As I write this list I realize I have about 20 more lessons to share so I may do another post but here goes:

  1. Listen to my gut. My intuition will not lie to me. Details are not always necessary.
  2. I need community. As an extroverted introvert and empath, I enjoy my own company but I am remembering that no woman is an island. Good people give us good energy and good energy nourishes our minds, souls and bodies. Sometimes this means talking myself into going to events.
  1. Energy matters. I am sensitive and pick up on the energy of others. It impacts my peace of mind so I have to use discernment when it comes to the people I hang around and allow into my personal space.
  2. Quiet, seemingly “nice” people can be at the same time manipulative, bitchy drama queens. Stay woke. Once again, trust the gut.
  3. People lie. People will lie. Grown ups will lie. Accept it.
  4. Anxiety looks different on different people. I normalized certain kinds of stress so much so I didn’t know when I was stressed. I have learned how to see myself and pay attention to the signs. Self-awareness rocks.
  5. Stress triggers all kinds of physical health ailments in my body. I feel better when I manage and release stress. I must be vigilant in my efforts to avoid stress, shut it down and accept that sometimes doing this means others will not like me.
  6. Yes, I have good love but I cannot love others into being better people. They have to want that on their own and then they have to do the work to transform themselves and their lives.
  7. There are grown women who simply do not have the capacity to process their emotions, communicate directly and speak up when it is important. They disappoint and hurt others unintentionally. It’s hard but don’t take it personal. Distance from them when you need to do so.
  8. Some people are self-absorbed, selfish, lack thoughtfulness and consideration and you calling them out is futile. They cannot see what they do not want to see. Acceptance and release is the only option.

Sitting here at 5am re-reading this list and it looks like my rose colored glasses are definitely stored in the case these days. I am an optimistic realist now. Objectivity is a useful muscle to build. It allows us to view life without living inside of a story. One of my intentions for 2016 is to become a better leader in my professional life and a better partner in my personal life so I anticipate a major break through in self-understanding. Taking notes on the life lessons is an important part of the process. Being willing to be objective helps us to be accountable for what transpires in our lives and it can also help us in practicing Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements:

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Honor Your Truth

Honor Your TruthHonor your truth. Honor what is in your heart and on your heart. Honor what is on your mind. Honor what is present for you. Honor your feelings. Honor your boundaries. Honor yourself. For some of us the ability to honor ourselves is a learned practice.

In my life experience, the stereotype of the angry Black woman couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yesterday I chatted with an Afro-Latina friend who says she got the “be a good girl” injections from a few different angles. She also reminded me of the religious guilt and shaming that often influenced our mother/grandmother’s words of “be nice”. Another friend recently pointed out how it is connected to a history of oppression and the the programming of staying in one’s place, but a white friend insists that the tendency for women to withhold their truth is universal. I agree with her and for the purposes of this morning’s post will express myself from that perspective, but must begin from my own. Black people were often taught to suppress their anger and frustration because our parents and grandparents are/were afraid for our safety outside of the home. The women in my family and women I know tend to be so appropriate and so damn “nice” that it often exasperates me.  stop being nice .jpeg

I went through years of smothering my voice, my feelings and my truth. That was followed by years of anger and rage where if someone pushed the wrong buttons it would trigger an explosion. Then the healing began. I met healers, traditional priestesses and priests, shamans and spiritual teachers. I sought out therapists but traditional therapy didn’t work for me. When I do inner-work I want to go in and get it done so my therapist had to be rooted in a myriad of holistic practices. I found that through incorporating various modalities into my healing protocol and being open to different belief systems and spiritual practices that I could expedite the healing process. Once I make a decision to confront an issue I tend to dive deep into the healing waters and now this is the only way for me to live. It impacts both my emotional wellbeing and my physical health.

Well, the other day I sat in my living room as the morning sun blasted through the curtains. It was so bright that it warmed the brightly colored space as I sipped my green juice. I felt liberated. A sense of peace washed over me. I wasn’t carrying any would’ve, could’ve, should’ve said this or that to this or that person. I realized just how much I have been honoring what is present for me. It’s still new. It still feels slightly awkward but damn it feels good.

I’ve accepted the friend who won’t return my calls and acknowledged that my desire to speak with her is about serving my own need for completion. I’ve accepted that the guy I had to block is a narcissist and may never be able to hear me. I shared with my uncle the pastor when I felt like he was being mean and I have set boundaries in a number of friendships. At some point I had to own up and be fully accountable for the kinds of relationships I had in my life. I had to stop blaming anyone but myself. I also had to go through a list of people one by one and as they say in Landmark — get complete.

It’s crazy because the easiest way to keep life simple is to tell the truth but it is not always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes it is not about saying anything at all but it’s about walking away and giving a person space to sort things out for themselves. A friend called me recently to talk about things and I was reminded of how often we make up stories. Then I thought about our mutual friends and how easy it is to then share these stories. Before you know it these stories that aren’t rooted in any truth whatsoever take on a life of their own. This happens because we have failed to honor what our truth with the person. Fear Black Woman

There is so much change and transitioning happening right now.  I know so many relationships ending and new ones beginning. There is death and birth. So many loved ones are sharing the details of what my mentor called “going through”. Life is real and adulthood brings with it a never ending journey of growth and discovery. It does not stop until life stops.

In my world, the words honor your truth simply mean to speak up and say what is on your heart and mind. They also mean to respect your boundaries if you expect others to do the same. It means you get to say no when you want to say no and you get to make your own choices regardless of what others think. It’s not really that deep at all. It means you don’t have to be “nice” if you’re in a bad mood, you don’t have to smile if you don’t feel like smiling and you don’t have to accept mediocrity in any of your relationships/friendships. Margie, one of my “Jewish mothers” (I’ve collected “family” along my journey) taught me how to write a complaint letter that gets results. That was 20 years ago and I know she would probably let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that I have finally arrived to the space of giving voice with no apology.

Of course, sometimes the truth is not a popular concept so honoring yours can make you feel a little less popular amongst loved ones. Let them be and love them anyway. Love them in new ways. Love them from afar. Don’t waste energy figuring their feelings out.  Focus on your own. Honor your own. Honor your truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Apologize and Why It’s Important

ApologizingEarlier this year I sent an apology note to someone. He appreciated it but said that he didn’t understand since the hurt he caused had been so much worse. I explained to him that my apology wasn’t really about him. It was a part of my forgiveness process. I promised myself that I would step into 2016 lighter, with a lot less baggage and with a clear heart.

When I was much younger I would write what my big sister, Adrea, and I called cleansing letters. They were long, detailed and dramatic. Each letter, filled with prose and poetry, required time and energy that would’ve been better spent working on material for publication or for the screen. This morning I give thanks for grounding, healing, emotional and spiritual maturity. Don’t get me wrong, I am an entrepreneur so some of those letters still might make the cut for the HBO special in my head, but my priority now is my own well being and truth. I am powerful. I am not a victim. I no longer beg for others to see their wrong doings.

Being accountable for what transpires in our lives is also a critical part of understanding forgiveness and apologies. *Sometimes we play a role in the experiences we attract. Be clear about the other person’s actions but be honest with yourself about how you may have participated.

I’ve been gangsta’ about my inner-work, emotional and energetic healing. This is not by choice.  It is a necessity. Stress and anxiety manifest as immediate physical symptoms in my body. After years of naturopaths and doctors, healing diets, hypnotherapists, acupuncturists, bodywork specialists, herbalists, spiritual counselors, energy healers, traditional priests and priestess, I have the data. My research has proven this to be true time and time again so I started this emotional cleansing. Guess what? As a result, I am also experiencing less illness.

Walking in the light, focusing on the light, practicing random acts of kindness, inhaling love, exhaling gratitude, dancing in forgiveness while honoring your boundaries will attract more goodness and abundance into your world than you can ever imagine. Choosing to love and be love is a daily choice. It is not easy some days especially for a drama addict in recovery but for me it means less pain in my body, fewer symptoms to worry about and good sleep.

When others feel your light it creates a safe space for apologies and authentic communication. (Note: this also creates space for love and gratitude to be shared with you as well!!) I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. I made a few notes from my experience with receiving apologies and wanted to share a few things with the world. Here goes:

  1. Make sure you’re ready to apologize. It’s not effective if you’re not able to fully own up.
  2. Focus on yourself and your stuff. Do not use your apology as a place to point out the other person’s wrong. Let them do that and be prepared for them not to own up to anything. Sometimes sorry is not enough and things will never be the same so focus on you.
  3. Be clear about what you are apologizing for.  You may need to rehearse it in your mind. I wanted to apologize for ___________, _______________ and ____________. I could have handled it differently. I was not being responsible and I did not honor you.
  4. Share what you have learned, new insights about yourself or life and the reasons why you will never do it again.

Being humble, vulnerable and transparent are important parts of the apology. Doing it without an expected outcome is also a healthy part of it because the apology loses its power when we have too many expectations attached to it. Remember it is not about shaming yourself but about empowering yourself through love and truth so you can lighten your load and hopefully contribute to the other person’s healing as well.

December is an auspicious time or at least that is how I have always viewed it. I do “spring cleaning”, set goals for the new year and give voice to my gratitude. My new year momentum starts in November and I ride a wave until it hits. The world may be in chaos and filled with all sorts of tragedy right now, but we control our inner-world and can choose to be filled with peace. Happy Healing Fam.

I thought about posting Ginuwine’s “I Apologize” but Abiah’s “Sorry” seems like a better fit. Check out this incredible musician and his latest release:

Waking with the Sun

IMG_3213Last night before going to bed I googled to see what time the sun was going to rise. I was contemplating an early morning beach meditation but remembered I had a list of things to do to prep for my cleanse. Of course, the seed for sunrise waking had been planted in my subconscious so something nudged me at 4:54am even though I resisted the tap on my soul’s shoulder.

I fell asleep with the fan pointing directly at me and that usually leads to me rolling over feeling dehydrated at some point during the night. Finding my water bottle meant opening my eyes and stretching my arm to reach for it. Not quite ready to rise, I repositioned myself for more sleep. My mind, however, had already begun etching a poem in the sky.   Two things were clear: 1) my mind wanted to write and 2) my heart wanted to watch the sun come up.

Sleepy, I reminded myself that it’s Sunday and I can nap without guilt. I also remembered that the market opens at 7am so it’s possible to finish all of my errands by 10am. I like the sound of that. Anyway, in the Ayurvedic tradition they say we should wake before the sun rise so we can synchronize with the rhythm of the sun and that it leads to better physical and cognitive function.

As an on again, off again lover of both the late night and the early morning, getting my inner 3 year old to go to bed by 10pm is like trying to get an actual 3 year old to go the heck to sleep. On some days I am so happy and creatively inspired that my energy bubbles like water in a teapot on the verge of boiling. Then there are days where there is so much to do, plan and prep for that stopping the work flow requires a set of rituals. My wake up time always seems to be in flux. Sleeping in is often necessary for me to be able to have a productive day, but today is not one of those days so we shall carry on.

I grabbed my liter bottle from the kitchen, made my cayenne/lemon daily detox drink, lit a white candle, burned one of the good incense sticks and opened both curtains wide. I started writing. It was still dark outside but the sky gradually became lighter and brighter.

The trauma that recent current events have caused is real. Sandra Bland was laid to rest yesterday but she is alive in my heart and mind. Feeling frustrated, hurt and angry about her arrest and death, I caught myself before I slipped into a low-funk. I made an energy shift, which elevated my emotional response. I keep remembering this line from a Lauryn Hill song – I was hopeless now I’m on Hope Road. Embracing my personal power and that of my various communities has been spiritually empowering.

Watching this morning’s sunrise functioned as a prayer. It is a prayer of rebirth. Today is yet another new beginning. There are a number of ways rising early can impact work life and your habits but I’m really focused on the spiritual benefits which include the following:

  • The quiet, noiseless early morning means the mind is free. There is more room for clutter free thought. Our mind can access solutions to problems with greater ease and ponder decisions without distractions.
  • It gives us an opportunity to practice what coach Cheryl Richardson called the art of extreme self care. It can actually be viewed as a gift to self. You can create a ritual whether it’s lighting a candle, aromatherapy and/or making a special tea.
  • Some of our best ideas hit us in that space where we are awake but not fully alert so the creativity can really flow.
  • It increases your peace of mind because you have more mental organization around your priorities, self-care and responsibilities.
  • Meditating before the noise begins while all is still quiet is extremely powerful.

Yes, I know that we have to go to bed earlier if we are going to wake with the sun. Yours truly will have to practice bed time to get to that point, but for now I am giving myself permission to enjoy the early morning and to take in the sunrise every chance a get.

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I Feel Good #TheLoveSeries #ValentinesDay2015

Mama 1942ish   My Grandma Bessie could cook her little hind parts off. She cooked at the hospital, at the church and for every family event and holiday.  There was so much love in my grandparents home and the kitchen became a symbol of it.  It makes sense that my spirit responds to food as love.  I attribute my highly developed  taste buds to all of that Louisiana goodness that I grew up eating.  Part of me hates that I can taste and identify every seasoning, know when there’s too much baking soda and I can tell just how much mustard was added.  I’m finally accepting it.  It is what it is.

I came out of the womb with a slow digestive system and with allergies and sensitivities.  Then I grew up in the era of fast food and junk food innovations, new preservative discoveries and ate it all alongside soul food from the deepest parts of Louisiana.  Since I was raised in California’s Bay Area I also grew up eating soul food from Mexico, China, Italy and the Philippines. International before I went international, my palette is almost always doing the most.  Now, my body is in recovery. It demands healing foods and when I slip, it talks back to me.  Shoot, sometimes it shouts! The shout manifests itself as pain and inflammation, mucus and coughing, skin eruptions and tummy discomfort.

It has taken a few decades but I finally figured out what I need to eat and drink to feel good. Well, I was told years ago, but wavered back and forth until the pain has now become too great to bear.  I would do what I needed to do for six months and then go back to the old way of living and eating.  With friends and family serving as my co-signers, I would throw caution to the wind and eat whatever I wanted to eat.  The phrase,  you can eat anything in moderation, is one of the biggest bullshit myths if there ever was one on earth.  For some of us there is no thing called moderation.  One bite is a slippery slope toward downhill hell.  We would never tell a coke head to have one line of coke, would we?

heart-arrow-2As we enter this week of love, I’m exploring what love means to me.  Love feels good.  I want to feel good. I choose to feel good. In the past food has represented love and I’m now at a point where I want to shift that perception.  I want my entire life to be a symbol of love – my life’s work, my relationships with others and myself.  If I want my personal relationship to be special then I have to treat myself accordingly so I am mirroring how I want to be treated.  It begins with me and with my self-care.

And I’m done with the conversations that loved ones want to have about it being in my head. Believe me, I love to eat but I am choosing life.  I love breathing, so I am on this path. I give thanks for those who support me and I am opening the door for those who would like to join me.  Change can be hard.  Community makes it easier and provides the support that we need to make those important changes.  I am shifting to a new definition of love. Now, let me go make my morning smoothie.


My thought for the day – #IFeelGood #IChooseToFeelGood