Category Archives: Women

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Stressed Out: Healing in the Midst of it All

Toni Shining the LightI’ve reached a new level of “healing” with my body.  I am detoxing, eating to live, exercising, meditating and de-cluttering my car, my closets and my files.   I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I’m channeling the prayer warrior skills of the elders from St. Marks Baptist Church, a place where the old folks would moan the spiritual hymns.  It smelled of Avon perfume and sweet potato pie and was filled with women and men from the deepest parts of Louisiana.  I am choosing to believe that I can heal  and if there is surgery needed I  will have a speedy recovery.

Part of my healing approach involves minimizing stress and anxiety.  Right now, many of us are functioning at a heightened state of awareness as we see injustice being replayed on our television and computer screens.  It’s hard to fathom how our ancestors coped with all of this nonsense.  Although the church no longer functions as the safe haven that it once was, I am understanding why it was so important to our grandparents.

I am finding it impossible to be signed in and not read, watch and listen to every single thing about Ferguson. I am finding it challenging to not think of my heart as an aching machine with I think of Mike Brown’s friends and family. I am finding it difficult to not cry at least 2 to 3 times a day. Behind on work  and deadlines, important meaningful work that I believe makes a difference, I find myself needing to check out–often. 

New research revealed that the shorter lifespan of Black men can be partially attributed to the pressures they deal with in society. I know, I know it seems like common sense, but there is now scientific proof  that racial discrimination causes a reaction in the body and impacts stress hormones in a myriad of negative ways. This same stress affects Black women and children as well.  It’s the build up of micro-assaults and the cumulative affect of dealing with them that creates health issues and conditions that can lead to early death.

This morning, I signed onto Facebook and saw that an old friend and classmate who I love and adore is on the ground in Ferguson.  Within 20 minutes I felt a knot form in the upper left quadrant of my back. I was immediately reminded of the importance of feeling my feelings, not trying to stuff them and why we must let the tears fall. I did a prayer for him and his safety.  I then repeated the following:

I release all pain. I release all stress. I release all fear. I release all anxiety. I release all worry. I release all anger. I release all resentment. I release all fear. I release all pain. I release all fear. I release all pain. I am filled with good, with love, with light, with faith. 

Sunset in Yamoussoukro

One of my little “sisters” works in a conservative corporate environment in the south and is dealing with daily microaggressions that have intensified now with recent events in the news.  My recent conversations with her reveal classic stereotypes about Black women and textbook examples of the stresses that women face.  She is expected to be strong, to carry more work than others, to not be emotional, to work without acknowledgment and to not complain.  When she complains she is perceived as angry.

The strong Black woman stereotype is another issue for us to address because many of us internalize it adding even more weight to our wellness challenges. I no longer try to be strong.  I admit when I feel powerless and frustrated while at the same time clinging to the idea that I/we can overcome any challenge as long as we believe it’s possible.  Managing stress means being present to how I feel at any given moment, monitoring what I ingest mentally, emotionally and energetically and establishing practices and rituals that support me feeling peace within. I just don’t have the luxury of being able to not manage my emotions. Stress shows up as physical reactions (i.e. illness) in my body and it is my intention to be well. Insomnia, binge eating or loss of appetite can be a reaction for some women. In my body, anger, rage, fear and worry each trigger symptoms like physical joint and pelvic pain, nausea, a weakened immune system, tension in the back and hips, edema, even more painful PMS symptoms and worsened monthly cycle issues.

images

This month I am channeling the prayer warrior women of my childhood.  Here are a few of the things that I do to stay as grounded as possible.  Check out the list below:

1)Slow down and take a minute to just breathe and pay attention to the breath. There are plenty of breathing exercises on youtube where you can learn how to breathe properly if you want to go deeper.

2)Do a body scan.  Go from the bottom of your feet to the crown of your head paying attention to the places where there is tension and letting it go. Wiggle your toes, move your hips, breathe into your back, relax your tongue and loosen your facial muscles. When we’re busy we often forget to check-in on our bodies.

3)Listen to inspirational audio.  It might be religious or spiritual, it may be motivational or meditational, but find audio that helps you to tune into ways of thinking that benefit you and your health.

4)Take walks, exercise and/or dance. Movement helps us to release tension.

5)Stay in touch with loved ones.  It’s easy to feel isolated so stay connected to those who love you and make you feel safe.

6)Don’t hesitate to seek out support or professional help if the pressure gets to feel like too much to bear or if it’s consuming you. I see a counselor who is also an energy healer rooted in spiritual healing practices and I sometimes go to a monthly healing circle she facilitates.

 

 

4 Quick Tips & Lessons From My Healing Journey

2HealthSystems_Slider

 

 

Let’s start with a few take-aways from the healing process so far:

1)Take care of your mind first. Don’t beat yourself up when you have to ease up on your plan.

2)Create a community of supporters who are fully enrolled in your being well. It may only be 2 or 3 other people but identify people to help you be accountable and inspired.

3)Be prepared to let some people go while on your journey. Some folks are a hindrance to wellness because the new you makes them uncomfortable. Bless them with love and create distance.

4)Own your choice to heal naturally.  Thicken your skin. Be prepared to speak the truth to whomever needs to hear it. Set those boundaries and honor your own inner-guidance.

******************

As a foodie and lover of all things tasty, I never imagined myself being so in love with the food lifestyle I’ve adopted. I’ve bought a 9 Tray dehydrator, a Vita-Mix and a food processor. Then I turned into an 8 year old on her birthday when my mom sent me a NutriBullet.  I was so excited when I opened that box.

Still with all of these tools and equipment, I’m discovering that the first priority on my wellness journey is me.  It’s not my diet or food plan, not the exercise, herbs or the acupuncture, but it’s me.  When I say me I mean my mind, my attitude and my beliefs about getting/being well. One of my accountability partners is battling lupus like a fierce warrior. She’s incredibly physically fit now and committed to her work out activities, but today realized that her mind was a priority and the gym was secondary. She chose a peaceful walk in the park instead of her normal routine. Choosing peace sometimes means missing a workout. Once we’re centered we can actually get the true benefits from our healing activities whether it’s food or exercise.

Julia, an acupuncturist/ healer at Third Root Community Healing Center in Brooklyn often speaks about how important community is to making health changes and healing the body. Walking this wellness journey with women who have just as much at stake as me has made such a huge difference in my life. Having that exchange with one of my wellness partners this morning reminded me to focus on peace, to choose a few hours of quiet.  My circle has served as a protective shield from loved ones who either with good intention and sometimes judgment say/think some of the darndest  things about my choices.

DoNotJudge

People can be impatient, unknowingly insensitive and selfish.  Unless one has been on a healing journey of their own, I’m finding that it can hard for them to have compassion. The phrases “but you look so good” and “but you don’t look sick” is so far from a statement of support. A person may not look ill and they may not carry the disposition of a “sick” person but it does not mean they don’t still need the same amount of love, support and encouragement on their wellness journey.  There are so many women suffering quietly from symptoms triggered by tumors and cysts, lupus and other autoimmune related dis-eases, diabetes, sleep disorders, severe food allergies and insensitivities, fibromyalgia and the list goes on.  This is more evidence as to why random kindness is a good idea. You never really know what another person is going through.

The changes I have made in my life have not been easy. It has affected my friendships, my interaction with family and loved ones, my social life, what I eat and how I eat it, my work and my schedule.  I am reading and watching youtube videos for one to two hours a day so I can learn as much as possible about how to heal myself. I still have to navigate through a corporatized medical system that is designed for crisis care but not prevention and health care. Then I have to figure out how to afford staying alive while making time for the rest of my life. Oh, and don’t forget eating right and exercise.  It’s possible to reverse most conditions but it is not without dedication and sacrifice.  It can also be the unpopular choice. Still, I am choosing life.

Growing up on the standard American diet (i.e. SAD), being medicated (asthma/allergies) for the first 25 years of my life and having no awareness of how stress and sadness impacts the body all resulted in a toxic body and a compromised immune system that I am now patiently committed to healing.  I choose wellness. I choose me. I choose life.  I’ll continue to share insights that I’ve gained and please check out my video diary:  Healing Naturally.  It hasn’t been as easy to share as I thought it would be but I’m committed to doing posts at least once a week:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U0tczpnNKk They will post on my Youtube channel:  www.youtube.com/user/ToniB104.

Be well.

Food Will Test You: 5 Things To Do To Support Your Dietary Changes

So the waitress places every single fried food appetizer near me.  That’s how last week’s adventure began. Me, with nine other visionary social entrepreneurs at a fancy Thai restaurant getting the shakes as I reminisced on the fatty goodness that lay before me.  I don’t over eat anymore because I cannot.  There is no room for the food and it causes pain if there’s too much in there. I do, however, rationalize my greatest pleasure on earth:  food.  Even when it is blocking me from my goal:   healing my body.  I am a human raised in the United States of America, the home of the quarter pounder, the foot long sub, the double-decker deep dish pizza.

Fried Spring Roll Temptations!

Fried Spring Roll Temptations!

I was one of ten Echoing Green Fellows selected to be a part of a week-long inflection retreat. It actually felt more like an “intensive” than a retreat but it was absolutely powerful.  The experience was mentally challenging like a good work out that makes you feel exhilarated from the sweat but a little sore from the muscle stretching. This was the first time I ever clearly articulated and outlined my dietary needs.  In my memo I admitted to my awkwardness and made a series of bold requests including the suggestion that if my dietary needs were overwhelming for the planners that I would prefer to organize my food myself.  To my surprise the response could not have been more supportive.

The week had all kinds of tests with regard to food choices. The only time I did not feel confronted was while in my hotel room making green smoothies.  I made one to drink in the early morning and one to take with me for late morning. Here are five things I did to make sticking to my diet a little easier:

1)I requested a refrigerator from the hotel in advance.

2)I rinsed off parsley, dandelion leaves, organic apples, and chard ahead of time and stored the greens in a small insulated freezer bag and carried the rest of my foods in an insulated grocery bag I got from Whole Foods. I had a couple of bananas, a bag of hemp seeds, and spirulina, as well as a few snacks. It also helps to have a knife or buy one upon arrival.

3)I communicated as directly as I possibly could and outlined exactly how I wanted to be treated. I clearly stated the awkwardness that can come with being the one who is “different” and I wanted to avoid the weirdness that can occur at restaurants by handling food planning in advance. This left me feeling incredibly empowered.

4)Drinking a smoothie early morning and having another before lunch helped to not only fill me up but the nutrient rich drinks also helps to reduce cravings.

5)I had snacks in my bag so when the urge for crunch, for salty, sweet or chocolate came up I was armed and prepared.  There are the inevitable moments of someone offering to split their fair trade chocolate bar spiced with cayenne and cinnamon but filled with sugar.  There are those plates of afternoon cookies that do the devil dance when they bring them out warm. Even though I didn’t eat them all, having an arsenal of snacks in my bag calmed my anxiety around slipping.

Last week’s tests were made easier by Maggie, the event coordinator and logistics point person.  Her attention to detail was a gift, but I know this is only the beginning.  I am now operating from a space of integrity with myself and my body’s needs. I am learning to be gentle myself while still being firm about what is good for my healing and what is not. Some of what I’m doing is temporary but I now see a lot of it as a lifestyle change. I know a lot of smart people ruining their organs, their insides and diminishing the possibilities of a high quality of life as they get older. I also know what it feels like to put something in your mouth knowing it may trigger bronchitis symptoms, a rash or abdominal cramps. Change is not easy but damn if it don’t feel good to feel good! I am releasing the need for pain.     greensmoothies

I raise my glass of greens to each of you.  The toast? May this summer inspire the motivation to honor the changes you have been wanting to make. I am wishing you the best on your journey. Remember it is a process. Love yourself, be gentle with yourself and forgive, forgive, forgive…yourself while focusing on one new habit at  a time!

My Summer Video Blog— HEALING NATURALLY:  FOOD WILL TEST YOU  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A86tINF5DGM

 

 

Learning to Speak Grow(n)

Like a toddler waddling the room reaching in the air for the right words, I find myself humbled by recent life experiences.  Each growth moment has demanded that I –umm—grow. The expansion has required a fierce commitment to transformation not only of myself but of each and every one of my relationships. This is giving new meaning to the phrase grown and sexyMouth out of service

I am not learning to speak French or Wolof so there is no Rosetta Stone to help me through this phase.  I am not learning to speak in public so a speech coach won’t do.   I have, however, benefited greatly from a circle of spiritual teachers.  Some of them trained practitioners while others are friends who have taken time to listen my story and share an experience or an insight.

Over the past 10 days I’ve had four conversations that in previous years would’ve been categorized as awkward, tense and would have fallen into the column of not happening.  Learning how to speak, to honor what’s most present for me without worrying about the outcome has been liberating.  It’s less like a toddler streaking around the house naked and more like a grown woman standing without clothes on, in front of a mirror appreciating and celebrating her own body with each of its imperfections.

As I vented and processed with two different girlfriends I realized the way these women cosigned my pressing the mute button on my own voice.  It’s what many girls are socialized to do. We’re taught to be quiet, to not rock the boat and that the truth is not nice. It’s also way too easy to succumb to playing the victim. Meanwhile my male friend insisted that I needed to speak up and out and directly to these people in my life who were out of integrity.  I also needed to give voice to new boundaries.  He challenged me to do this as a way to de-clutter and detox my mind.  In two instances I initiated communication by picking up the phone, and in two others divine order created the perfect ‘random’ meetings.

What’s the payoff of my  staying silent? I wouldn’t have to go through the growing pains and I could sit with the familiar, but I’ve found that the reward for walking through the difficulty is that I get the satisfaction that comes with honoring both my voice and my vision.  The uncertainty of how it will unfold is part of the adventure.  Sometimes moments like these are indicators that a relationship has come to an end, but in this case it wasn’t about endings.  I’ve preserved  relationships with people I care about, who love and care for me deeply and who are sharing the journey with me for purposes much greater than ourselves.

Indeed there are definitely times when it’s better to let things work themselves out and not give energy to them, but discernment is key.  Our gut will tell us the difference. I am finding that the more often I exercise these muscles of learning to speak, the more grown I feel.  I’m not sure if sexy is the word to describe my elation, but damn I’m feeling good inside my own skin.

Fears Be Gone (in honor of International Day of the Girl)

The worst mind games are the ones we play with ourselves. We stick post-it notes to our own foreheads as reminders of what worries us just so we don’t forget to focus on those fears. Before we know it our subconscious mind is programmed and like puppets we dance to songs of fear whether those fears are rational or not. Eventually the music in our head gets so loud we have to make a choice:  succumb to it and believe what we’ve been telling ourselves or confront it head on and fight until we can turn the volume down.

JahiyaCrewInternationalDayOfTheGirl.jpgThe UN has declared this Friday October 11th International Day of the Girl. It’s also the day of the biggest performance I’ve done since my April show at the Apollo Music Cafe. The only thing I’ve done more consistently than teaching workshops is perform. Poetry, dance, music, theater–I have always performed. Every possible distraction that could exist has come up. The guys in my inner-circle say that it just means it’s going to be a damn good show.  I am adopting their perspective but still wanting to meditate on letting go of any negative energy I may be carrying. What is in my way?

Last week the answer to my question came.  I finally admitted that I am in my own way. What is it that makes us humans so uncomfortable with being our best? Why do we resist shining our brightest light? Why do we not give 100% of ourselves to the very thing that we say we want? I have performed thousands of times, where are these fears coming from?

Last year I had a performance where I made a major mistake in a song.  It was the kind of mistake where you find out who your friends are. When I worked with my coach, he walked me through an exercise to demonstrate that my mistake was based on my not warming up. Simple enough but self-forgiveness has still been a journey. I am absolutely comfortable freestyling in front of thousands of people yet the fear of singing until now– persists.

I know it is tied to letting go of the good opinions of others. The fear of not being perfect can be self-destructive.  Atelophobia is the scientific term for the fear of not being good enough. Our fear may not be at the level of an anxiety disorder, but not only do many artists have it but people in general carry these feelings of unreality and extreme disappointment when we fail at something.  It’s ironic because I work professionally as a communication coach, an area where I know I am a master teacher. I coach my clients to let go of the very fears I am dealing with in another realm. I can see their potential greatness and massage their resistance. In my freestyle rap and improv poetry workshops I coach artists to make mistakes material and to embrace their imperfections. Getting over these things is critical to our personal development and to reaching many of our goals.

I am a performer, I am a speaker, I am a presenter, I am a conveyor of messages and music and I have been groomed for this very moment in my life. I rap, I sing, I speak the spoken word. I am a writer with stories to tell and feelings to share. There are insights that are unique to me, that were meant to come through me. I am not my mistakes nor am I my fears. I remind my mind that I am in charge. I control the tapes that play in my head.  I am whole, healthy and in complete harmony with myself, my gifts and the universe. God rocks mics through me so every time I perform I get open, I do my best, I honor my gifts.

I plan to play a new kind of game with my mind this week.  It’s the least I can do to honor the girl within and all of the girls watching. My drummer has assembled a tight band that can support what it is that I do and my girls Yolanda Zama and Gabriella Callendar will bring both their love and musical genius to the stage.  The show must indeed go on…

1236923_10151749689859086_643941910_n