The Rain Will Fall Like Tears From The Sky…

 

Loss, even when expected, can be a mix of grief, mourning and fear of uncertainty. That not knowing what’s next thing. It’s such a big part of the human experience yet learning to manage our emotions and energy around it can make each loss feel brand new. It’s as if we’ve never been here before when in reality loss has knocked at the door many times before.

Some avoid the pain of loss by living a life of detachment.  They’re detached from dreams, hopes and love. They live from no instead of yes, from ‘maybe one day’ instead of ‘right now’ and with the past ever present as the gift of the present moment blends in with all that once was. It’s an unconscious resistance to ascension and expansion, an avoidance of pleasure and joy. It’s a version of playing small and living life at half-measure all in the name of avoiding pain.

Many of us say the right things, wear the right clothes, wear a face that projects something to the outside world that is in total contradiction to what is in our core. Living life authentically, loving fiercely and dreaming with my eyes wide open brings its share of growing pains, but I just couldn’t imagine stifling myself. I’ve been guilty of playing small and diminishing my own light. I’ve run from love and sabotaged opportunities. That’s why it feels so good to be liberated from those bad habits and be able to honestly say I have reprogrammed my mind and my spirit.

A number of people have told me they’re experiencing an intense transition this fall. This seems to be a common theme so I’m not surprised to find myself in the same space. Last week I had a series of conversations and events that in the past would’ve led me to hiding in my purple sheets, but this time I chose to stay connected to community, to reach out, to choose to focus on the good. I am doing things differently, breaking a few of my rules and finding ease because of it. Once a woman becomes of a certain age she has earned the right to define her own healing path.

My alarm is going off now. I’m sipping ginger root tea, breathing through a little discomfort in my body as the comfort food from the weekend reminds me of my commitment to detoxing today. Grief looks so different for me now. This Stevie-Sting performance made me cry. I haven’t cried in a few days. It was a good cry – like tears from a star as Stevie sings.

It reminds me of this guy friend from my long ago past. We sat there on a beach in Dakar at 4am after a night of freestyling, singing, dancing and beatboxing. A few other artists from the jam were with us. Orchestre Baobab was blaring from a boom box at the stand where we just bought poisson frit avec patates frites from a woman with the darkest skin, the whitest teeth and a smile I remember 15 years later. He says to me in thick French accent, “You know what I discover about you?” He paused for a moment sucking the fish from the bones then looked at me. “You are so strong, yet so fragile. Most would not know how fragile. Delicate may be a better word.”

He didn’t know that I didn’t know. He helped me to know myself better. I was discovering myself right along with him. After that trip I started owning my fragility, embracing those delicate parts of me without shame. I let go of the programming that told me I had to be strong all of the time. Today, I can stand in it without feeling weak or like a punk. There’s nothing left to defend anyway except maybe my dreams and my dignity. The rest? They can have it. I am giving myself permission to cry, to let the rain fall like tears from a star.

Manifestation Monday: Special Mix By DJ SMii

A number of folks in my life have become ministers, life coaches, healers, spiritual teachers and inspirational speakers. I’m surrounded by reminders to tweak my thoughts and habits. Two of my home girls refer Monday as Manifestation Monday. They speak it, tweet it and believe it so deeply within their souls that it sets their work week in motion in such a powerful way.

I’ve spent the last year and half working with an incredible DJ/Producer to develop my meditation project. We were working with these concepts around transformation, healing and belief so much so that we couldn’t help but start living it.  It’s amazing how that works.  It’s the perfect example of being mindful of the company you keep, words you speak and the thoughts you think.

Well, ladies and gents, brothers and sister, kindreds from near and far away – my DJ has put together an incredible mix of music, sounds and words.  It is the DJ SMii mix for Money Mondays aka MoneyDay! This one is called Money Magnet, and is a 10 minute mix designed to get your mind in alignment with it’s magnetic nature and focus that power toward attracting money. Play it in your car, on the train, while walking or sitting on a park bench. Blast it in your home while making your morning smoothie. If you are interested in conditioning your mind to be more magnetic to abundance, prosperity and money, by all means–whatever you do — Listen.

#thankmelater and have a magnetizing day!

3 Things to Do When Your World is Going Crazy

Poem Warshan Shire

Hefty servings of chaos and crazy seem to be what the world is putting on our plates.  We get to choose from natural disasters, war or terrorist attacks perpetrated by zealots and even by some police.  What’s a sane person to do with all of this besides go into information overload and ride emotional ferris wheels? The world is hurting, people are hurting and people are hurting from watching others who are hurting. Redundant? Yes. And so is all of the bombing and killing and oppression.

I remember how my community ached after the Trayvon Martin verdict and the Mike Brown murder. There have been many other moments of collective aching but those two stand out in my mind in this moment. I think about Sandra Bland daily because she is one of my sister friends. I don’t know her literally but she could be any one of my friends. She could be me.

How do we stay grounded during times like these? How do we find moments of peace? How do we create an internal environment for emotional well-being? Well, I discovered that stress and anxiety cause major health problems within my body so I’ve been exploring a few ways to manage. I thought I would share a few of them with you:

  1. Look for the lessons. Not the lessons in the hatred and in the pain, but notice your reaction and responses to it, notice your triggers and coping mechanisms and notice how people in your circle respond.  Ask yourself what your “self” needs.  If you reach for biscuits and gravy or cheesecake each time something happens, ask yourself what you could reach for instead. Maybe your self needs to turn off the news or take a social media break? What do you need? Also, what do the people in your life need? Sometimes the best way to take care of our own hearts is by nurturing someone in need. These kinds of lessons help us sustain ourselves over the long haul. These lessons become self-care practices and make us more resilient.
  2. Identify healthy distractions.  Focus your energy on your loved ones smile or the laughter of children. Do things that make you feel good.  Write in your journal, make the perfect cup of tea or cook a nice stew. Go for a run or workout at the gym. There are times for stillness but sometimes we need to be in action and in motion to keep our energy flowing.
  3. Share what’s on your heart. Share what is present for you. Talk to someone you trust. If you need a professional go see someone.  Another option includes the online services like TalkSpace that you can use for therapy. A woman I know had a conference call with a few sister friends who live in different places. Another friend is hosting a last minute Sunday brunch.  Community is important. Isolation can make the world seem even more gray so let others shine their light on and around you.

There are not many things we can control so let go, let it all go.  We can control our thoughts and manage our feelings.  We can make choices that empower us and make us feel good. We can choose love. We just have to remember that love is a verb and loving ourselves is comes first so that we may better be able to serve others.

20 Years in the Game: Still Doin’ Cyphers

Fall Cypher Series 1

The launch of the Fall Cypher Series is Tuesday, September 8th at 6:30pm.  It’s at City Lore Art Gallery, 56 E. 1st St btwn 1st Ave and 2nd Ave and I’m feeling kind of nostalgic this morning. Please pardon me while I share a piece of my Cypher history.  {Ok, so here is where I want you to imagine Souls of Mischief 93 ‘Til Infinity beat dropping.}

(Click this if you need audio for your visualization) 

I started organizing and facilitating Cyphers in 1994.  Young, in love and idealistic not only about Hip Hop but the world. I had a vision for using freestyle Cyphers as a way to promote artist responsibility, preserve the oral tradition and bring crews together.

The event started at State of the Union, a bar on U St in Washington, DC.  It was called Talking Heads but I soon realized that the stress of two drink minimums was killing my vibe.  I also discovered that even the MC’s who drink don’t drink much while rhyming.  The artists were coming to the event to build skills.

Kenny Carroll and Brian Gilmore, both professional writers and poets, were DC natives who outside of their day jobs recited with a collective, hosted events and readings and didn’t mind spending hours waxing poetic on any and everything from the science of Parliament Funkadelic to the history of Mambo Sauce, local, national and global politics and there was no limit to their knowledge of poetry.  Their circle of writers could speak to Anne Sexton as well as they could Amiri Baraka or Lucille Clifton. They were like big brothers.  Not only did they teach me a lot but they also supported, encouraged and challenged me to do what I do.  That’s how I ended up at a place called 8-Rock on Martin Luther King Avenue and Good Hope Rd in Southeast Washington D.C. hosting Cyphers in the land of GoGo.

Initially I called the Cypher, Freestyle Fellowship because a good cypher always made me think of a spiritual experience.  My childhood reference for getting open started in St. Mark Baptist Church in my Bay Area hometown in California.  However, a week after the flyers were made, a fellow Hip Hop head handed me a Project Blowed Mixtape.  Freestyle Fellowship was on it. My mind was blown by what I was listening to and it was proof that when a concept is out in the universe there can be a number of people thinking and feeling the same exact thing on opposite sides of the country or planet. I was kinda’ amped and proud that the group Freestyle Fellowship was coming out of Cali too.

Freestyle Union Cipher was born.  In the 90s Cypher was spelled with an “i” but the “y” spelling has become more popular over time so I thought I would evolve with the times. I added workshop to the end of the name after the Cypher started to grow.  It was becoming bigger and all kinds of personalities were showing up.  I interned for a year with a media training firm in DC and received Train-the-Trainer training. One of the key insights I gained from the training was how important it was to focus on activities and creating an environment for participants to get from point A to point B in a set amount of time. I added “workshop” and called it Freestyle Union Cipher Workshop to keep the hard heads out.  There was no budget so we didn’t have security.  My theory was that the only people coming to a workshop were people who wanted to work, develop and build. It worked. 300 Cyphers and never had one fight.  There were a few emotional outbursts by MCs who got frustrated with themselves or the process but that’s about it. Freestyle Union shot in front of Kaffa House

When I first moved to NYC I reconnected with a number of people who I met working in the arts with Kim Chan, who was then a DC based arts professional, over the years. At one point I thought I wanted to become a professional arts presenter but after co-producing a Hip Hop Festival with the Smithsonian and Washington Performing Arts Society I realized I’m way too much of an artist to focus on developing that skill set. Professional arts presenters like Laura Greer, Maureen Knighton, Baraka Sele and Micki Sheppard showed me incredible amounts of love.  Linda Walton, Bob Holman, Lois Griffith and Miguel Algarin also embraced me as a poet, MC and arts organizer.  I met Steve Zeitland, co-founder of City Lore Foundation, through Bob and he became one of my arts mentors and I am excited to be working with him again.

Well, this piece is a little longer than I wanted it to be so I’ll tell you the rest later. Maybe when I see you at the Cypher.  Spectators welcome.  Just be mindful of your energy.  Everyone’s energy matters in the Cypher. It’s all ages, all skill levels and for all those who believe excellence and commitment to the craft matters. Cypher Deets

Please Note:  My book, Wisdom of the Cypher, will be released this fall.

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.

bright sun

I had a Health Scare

Fear Black WomanI had a health scare Friday afternoon. After contemplating an ER visit, I realized I had to pull out of a performance event (something I never do). It was scary. It was also very humbling. The human body is a complex organism comprised of thousands of individual systems. These systems work in concert and in complementary ways to make our bodies work. I couldn’t understand why it was happening Friday when I had set a plan with June 1st as the start date for my new healing protocol.

Although I’ve had a myriad of health issues during my life, I’ve never had an overnight stay in a hospital. I am not naive and understand that as the body ages there may be times when it is necessary. I’ve had outpatient surgery but never had any major surgery. As I reflect on this Sunday morning I am grateful for the blessings.

I grew up in a small working class town eating soul food from Louisiana and Mexico, as well as, China, the Philippines and Italian foods. Of course, American fast foods were also on the plate and lots of it. I ate loads of fried foods and sugar and I can’t remember eating many vegetables for the first 26 years of my life. I do remember taking lots of medications from the age of six. Pills, inhalers and weekly shots were a regular part of my schedule. Back then no one was aware of just how damaging prescription drugs could be. Last night as I lay still I had a rare moment with my remote and the TV. There was one show that had so many pharmaceutical commercials promoting drugs that I laughed and shook my head at the end of each advertisement as the announcer went through the potential side-effects. I laughed to keep from crying, to process my anger with the way our medical system is set up. A doctor will often prescribe drugs before suggesting nutritional medicine, energy healing or simple solutions like exercise and juice fasting to alkalinize the body.

This past week was an incredible experience that included travel, memorable teaching moments and connections with powerful people. I interacted with a number of successful people whose accomplishments I admire and received so much confirmation about my path. I am in the divine right space and doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I also had people I don’t know approach me to share inspirational messages, wisdom and give me pep talks about my purpose. Trust, I listened intently because there were consistent themes and there was something here I needed to hear and receive. As I sat on my bedroom floor in pain, afraid and knowing that I’ll soon have to make decisions about surgery, I drew from the gifts each of those people gave me. The week was intense because so many people contributed to me by injecting me with love, support and useful insights that I can apply to my journey. You never know when what you share will make a difference in someone’s life. Each of those people made a difference for me.

This weekend has been about recovery & acceptance. My kitchen is my healing center, my bed my vacation retreat and my mind and heart have become a laboratory for manufacturing belief, faith and confidence in my ability to both strengthen and heal my body. If surgery is a choice I will be healthy enough to endure and recover quickly. I surrender. Acceptance of my weaknesses and shortcomings, my food addictions and the time and commitment it is going to take is also a main priority. There is a need for rituals and routines. It’s also critically important for me to enroll a few loved ones in helping me to be accountable.

Everything I’ve ever worked on the past 20 years is happening right now. It’s all unfolding. It’s an exciting space to be to watch your destiny unfold right before your eyes. It’s like watching the movie that you are starring in. So I’m digging deep. This is bigger than living a dream. It’s about making an impact, leaving a legacy and changing lives. It’s bigger than self-
care. It’s about health care and being committed to not only changing my food lifestyle but the way I think, respond to crisis, deal with negativity, release the emotional baggage I’m carrying and belief, believing life can be good and my body can be as well.

On this Sunday morning, I not only ask that you say a prayer for me, but say one for yourself and for each of us. That scene from the movie Car Wash is in my head. The one where Richard Pryor is dressed like a pimp-preacher surrounded by the Pointer Sisters singing “You’ve Gotta Believe Somethin!” I’m taking the chains off my brain. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life. I’ll be juicing up a storm but belief, working on belief will be just as important.

The Cypher: We Can Use Hip Hop to Prevent Violence

As I read this morning’s headlines I am neither shocked nor disgusted. I am sad, I am hurt but I am not surprised. Between the newscasters who said that rap songs caused slavery, Don Lemon defending the mom of one of the racist fraternity chanters in Oklahoma and the people recording a brutal beating of a teenage girl instead of intervening, I feel like we are living in a Boondocks episode. Someone put me in touch with Dave Chappelle because this stuff needs proper analysis and it’s so raw we need to laugh while we break it down. We need  to laugh to keep from crying.

Dave Chapelle

Over the past two years I’ve been diligently working to get my affairs in order and organize the vision for my life’s work. It has not been easy. After 20 years of facilitating cyphers and cypher workshops I started doing cypher trainings on how to lead nuanced cyphers that create space for transformation. In the wake of the political uprisings this work is too often seen as “soft” and not “real” activism, but I stayed committed to it because it is my ministry, the cypher is my purpose.

The cypher is a circle of sharing. In my new book, Wisdom of the Cypher, I define cypher as representing 360 degrees. It is completion of thought, the continuum, the giving and exchanging of energy, information and ideas. Whenever you see a gathering of artists in a circle or semi-circle formation, whether they are rapping, dancing, telling stories or sharing the spoken word, you are witnessing a cypher.

I proposed a focus on the cypher in two of my residencies this year but it gets inserted into larger programs because administrators and decision makers don’t get that the cypher is its own program. The cypher as I present it deserves its own platform because both youth and adults need a safe space to express themselves from their core.

My cyphers are disguised as freestyle rap, improvisational poetry and impromptu speaking workshops but are really spaces for people to release stress, confront fear and self-doubt, improve critical thinking skills, build vocabulary and confidence, heighten access to creativity and learn to think on their feet. The cypher helps us to build community while providing leaderships development and transformation.

Unable to secure the proper funding, I currently host cyphers out of my home or the home of my partner. We know that the cypher is a sacred space. We know that the best intervention is prevention. We know that as much as we complain about technology, emotional detachment and the lack of human interaction people have nowadays, that we are still human and deep down we long for moments of connection. The cypher reminds us of this need.

Akua Soadwa, founder of the Sista2Sista Summit, reached out to me this morning. Her online comments about the teenage girls fighting and what we need to do to help our youth inspired my commentary. She said that young people are dealing with spiritual warfare and that hurt youth without the right resources and support become angry, uncontrollable youth. Violence happens when people are not able to say what they want to say so they act out physically.

Prevention is some of the best intervention.

Prevention is some of the best intervention.

Of course, I am waiting for one of the newscasters to blame the melee at McDonald’s on a rap song. I’m sure that will happen at some point today, but these are the folks that know very little about Hip Hop music and culture. Part of me gets it. Hip Hop still has a stigma and when educated people formulate opinions about it based solely on mainstream media then ignorance will pervade, but I know the richness, the beauty and the spiritual consciousness that Hip Hop provides millions of people around the world. I also know how many lives it has changed and saved. This is why I am promoting the cypher, a concept my work borrows from Hip Hop culture, but is universal and relates to the human experience.

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