The global pandemic currently shocking the world is undoubtedly unlike anything. I have ever experienced. A lot of writers and practitioners in the Holistic wellness world speak of The Unknown, and that is the title that has personally become synonymous with Covid-19.
It is granting me the opportunity to fully embody the philosophies of all wellness practices in which I study, pushing past my analytical & anxious ways in order to fully embrace that which is known in the gut. I've been being extremely vulnerable and gentle with myself as I navigate this unfamiliar terrain, leaning mostly on intuitive guidance, and Sisterhood.
I am taking this time of uncertainty as a crazy test of faith, in all aspects of life. I've taken a leap and tried a new style of writing on this blog. I engaged some of the most admirable spirits that I have encountered on my journey in short conversation surrounding holistic well being in the time of 'Covid-19' and 'Social Distancing'. This is what 6 black women in wellness have to say about taking care of ourselves in current times and this is what was shared.
"Mariah Emerson is an herbalist, ethnobotanist, wellness practitioner, and founder of Hrblgy — an herbal wellness initiative and apothecary with a mission to bring wellness back home. Her mantra is “heal self, heal others”, which carries the truth that by cultivating space for healing within, we heal the Collective."
MG: How can descendants of Black + indigenous/earth working people that have "no relationship" to nature introduce themselves to working with herbs/plants in their daily routines?
ME: I'd start by beginning the process of realizing that we all have a relationship to nature, even if we feel removed from the very essence of plant medicine or nature in general. In knowing this, descendents of Indigenous/earth workers can start to understand the systemic measures that have been put in place for us to feel disconnected from our Source which is nature herself.
Then, I'd make a list. Write down any plants, herbs, and practices that pique your interest. Here's an example:
- root work/hoodoo
With this list, start to do some general research on each of these items. There's a reason you thought of them. Maybe you're being drawn towards lavender because you value a sense of calm in your life. Maybe learning about yoga and its many forms will bring you closer to understanding what mindful movement means for you. Maybe you discover that you love mantra meditation, but aren't as fully connected to pranayama meditation. Allow your curiosity to feed your connection to holistic wellness. It's a very individualized path.
MG: Are there any reads that you suggest that take a closer look at Black American relationships with herbal life?
ME: Oh yeah! I love reading about all things surrounding Black healing history. Michele E. Lee documented a beautiful journey interviewing elders and ancestors in the Southeastern part of the United States in her book Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American History. I've also read, and loved, African American Folk Healing by Stephanie Y. Mitchem. The next one on my list is Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (Justice, Power, and Politics) by Monica M. White and LaDonna Redmond.
"Rhonda Wheatley is an energy healer, intuitive reader, workshop facilitator and visual artist whose work traverses the intersection between personal transformation and cosmic wonder. She is currently developing a website with resources for personal growth and healing."
MG: What are a few things individuals can do to get spiritually grounded in such an uncertain time?
RW: At the top of my list of things we can do to ground ourselves spiritually during this pandemic is being true to ourselves as we decide what to do with our time and how to focus our energy. There’s lots of chatter on social media about how we “should” be using our time while on lockdown at home. Some say we should be writing our novels, creating prolifically, or building entrepreneurial empires. Others say we should be resting and diving into our self-care practices.
Essentially, what we’re experiencing is traumatic. And we don’t all respond to trauma in the same way; we’re all different, as are our life situations, our losses, and the levels of adjustment and change we’ve each undergone. So let’s not force ourselves to adhere to someone else’s “shoulds.” Instead, let’s be true to ourselves. One person might be thriving in solitude—creating, feeling productive, even feeling joyful. Another might be anxious, fatigued, and in need of deep rest and stillness. Someone else might balance rest and productivity.
In order to be true to who you are, self-awareness is key. Listen to yourself. Tune in to your heart. If you’re hearing too many “I shoulds” in your head, or if you’re regularly pushing yourself to do something other than what you FEEL like doing, you might be going against the grain of your true needs right now.
Journaling is one of the best ways to deepen your knowledge of self and discern what’s best for you at this time, whether it’s resting, healing, creating, building, sitting in silence, connecting with others, or whatever else you may need in the moment.
MG: Do you have any journal prompts or exercises that might be specifically relevant to include in our daily journaling practices right now?
RW: If you’ve been experiencing emotional and mental ups and downs during this time, I recommend taking advantage of the times when you’re feeling good and using that time to do some positive list-making. That way, if you fall into a low period, you can re-read your positive writings to raise your vibration. But remember, you don’t have to feel positive ALL the time—ups and downs are normal, and you don’t want to deny or repress negative emotions or attempt to simply steamroll over them with positive thoughts. Confront and work through your challenging emotions, but use your positive lists to help bring you back to equilibrium.
You can make a gratitude list and include even the littlest things you’re thankful for along with the biggest. You can create a self-love list to remind yourself of your positive attributes, positive contributions you’ve made in your community, and more. Additionally, you can make lists of your favorite things, as well as events or experiences you look forward to. Lastly, when your vibe is high, you might also write a letter to yourself to remind yourself at low moments that this too shall pass.
"Jasmin Kyla is a Community Wellness Advocate, Meditation & Yoga teacher, Behavior Therapist and Behavior Analyst in training, HipHop Womanist, and warrior of Radical Love & Gratitude. She uses her open diary and social media platform (@JasminsBloom) in addition to signature events (Meals & Meditation and the Breathing Cypher) to fertilize the culture both online and off. Her current community work is centered on cultivating community wellness through using HipHop as a mechanism for healing."
MG: What type of impact does music’s role have on our collective consciousness?
JK: Music affords us to connect us to certain patterns of vibrations and frequency levels. These vibrational patterns and frequencies have the power to influence our mood, feelings, and level of consciousness. Instrumentals alone can be constructive or destructive of our interaction with healing. Lyrics provides us with the opportunity to resonate with another person's expression of language. Lyrics can serve as affirmations or chants.
MG: What is your response to the ideology that certain music (lyrics in particular) in current rap/trap/hip-hop is lower vibrational and do you believe in this time we can separate the music we consume from the life we manifest?
JK: Hip-hop music is a 2 way street: it feeds our culture and our culture feeds it. Low vibrational music in Hip Hop specifically is a result of low vibrational aspects of our culture. We must stand guard at the door of our minds and be aware of what we are allowing to enter into our psyche. Gratefully, low vibrations are not useless, we have the responsibility of learning from our low vibrations in order to raise individual and collective consciousness.
I think when interacting with low vibrational music it is important 1. evaluate the presence of that vibration in our personal life and the culture 2. evaluate our attraction or lack of attraction to that sort of music/ vibrations and 3. create boundaries and limitations surrounding our intake of such music. This approach creates space for us to face the realities of our culture (high and low vibrations) and create awareness and strategy surrounding the improvement of community wellness.
We will definitely manifest what we consume consciously and subconsciously. However, coming across low vibrations in music gives us a red flag "Hey this vibration is present around me in my community, in my culture, in my own day to day life". Avoiding the music sadly will not afford us the opportunity to avoid the vibration, our culture will expose us to it through some medium. It does however give us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with what about that particular vibration is "low" and prepare to cultivate change. For example, I create boundaries surrounding my consumption of sexually exploitative and vulgar lyrics in rap. However, I am familiar with their presence and in response curate conversation, content, and events that cultivate high vibrations in regards to sexuality.
"I exist as a spiritual and creative doula for the vision of women of color entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and world changers. I create space for women of color to breathe easy through holistic wellness, mindful lifestyling, and intentional living. I do this largely through directing Black Girl In Om as well as through my life philosophy and the values that I express continuously throughout interactions in my daily life. I continue the legacy of my ancestors, the matriarchs who always and forever nudge us lovingly onward."
MG: How integral of a role has sisterhood been in your wellness journey & in what way can every woman of color benefit from having a holistic wellness centered community who looks like them?
LA: Sisterhood with black women is, quite simply, the foundation for my wellness and healing journey.
In 2012, I entered graduate school at Purdue University. Studying black feminist literature, theory, and practice, I found myself simultaneously thrilled at my coursework, yet entering a period of isolation and depression for a year. For the first time in my life, I was alone, truly and deeply. As I navigated a breakup solo, and juggled an intense courseload and teaching responsibilities, I gravitated towards yoga out of necessity. While yoga offered me release and a place to channel my energy, what happened the following year changed everything for me.
In 2013, one of my close friends from college Fushcia Hoover joined me at Purdue. She enrolled and was accepted into one of their prestigious PhD engineering programs and I was thrilled to have a friend, and a black woman at that, join me in a largely white, conservative space. And, I attracted a new friend, Chelsea Frazier who had visited after being invited by my program the year prior. As a fellow black girl from Minnesota, she saw both the enthusiasm and slight desperation in my eyes when she visited and thought to herself: if she can do this, and be here, so can I. In 2013, the three of us created a blueprint together. Bonding over the simple things: oatmeal, the Bible, and doing each others' hair. Soup parties (seriously, I'm nerdier than most people realize), seeking out spiritual communities, and swapping eye-roll moments from our trials and tribulations as black girls in a conservative white town and institution. In this year I learned how to take care of myself and be taken care of emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise. This was the foundation for Black Girl In Om.
Black women and women of color benefit from having a holistic wellness centered community who looks like them because having our stories, our experiences, and our histories validated, affirmed, and held as sacred -- without question -- is healing in and of itself. I know because I've experienced it. I'm grateful to be tasked with creating space for black women and women of color to breathe easy and to see every single day just how much my God-given purpose leads to intergenerational healing and awakening.
"Seobia Rivers, The Fitness and Health Creative, uses fitness & health as her main creative outlet; she is an artist in the world of wellness. Equipped with a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science from Illinois State University + being an ACSM certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer, Seobia has been committed to making fitness + health safe, fun, effective, & liberating since 2011. Seobia believes choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is revolutionary, especially for African American & African people + other people of color. "
MG: How has being a community fitness facilitator affected the way you look at community organizing on a larger scale?
SR: Being a Fitness Director for Healthy Hood, a Non-profit community organization whose intention is to decrease the 20-year life expectancy gap between communities of color and affluent communities, has made me realize we must always keep the mission & the community we serve in mind first. That's true when looking at community organizing on a small or large scale...any scale! No decision can be made without first considering the needs of your community & how they will respond. I've learned that even in community everyone won't be pleased, but getting to know, engaging and keeping your community wanting more is extremely important.
What are the benefits an individual gets out of participating in fitness as a community vs as an individual?
When individuals participate in fitness as a community vs. by themselves they will gain a sense of togetherness, support, encouragement, accountability, knowledge, guidance, relief, and joy. These benefits are prevalent now more than ever because gyms & parks are closed, group fitness classes are cancelled, people are losing their jobs or experiencing pay cuts, and most of us are stuck at home due to what's happening in the world right now. That means loneliness, stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and indolence are starting to creep in. Being a part of a fitness/wellness community during a time as this will help alleviate those feelings, it will bring a bit of fresh air to those who choose to participate... and I truly believe it will help people see that we are stronger when we work and come together.
"Candis Oakley(E-RYT 200) founder and CEO of The Alter, produces memorable experiences that connect us more deeply to ourselves and each other. With over 10 years of experience in various mindfulness practices, Candis is driven by her desire to guide people on a transformational journey to embody their essence and live an empowered and abundant life."
MG: What are some benefits of adopting/continuing a yogic practice in this social/political climate? A lot of individuals in marginalized communities, Black/PoC/LGBTQ/Low-income, experience life through rather Westernized fragmented reality with little connection between spirit/mental/physical/emotional worlds.
CO: The collective energy that we are experiencing at the moment can feel unsettling and destabilizing. If we aren’t paying attention, this energy can impede our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. For this reason, embracing yoga, or any other type of mindfulness/spiritual based practice, is more important than ever.
What we are experiencing globally is a moral and spiritual awakening, and I personally find this period exciting and ripe for the opportunity to expand and serve. If we want to navigate the “chaos” that is constantly unfolding before us (and inside of us) with grace, and be of greater service to the world and those we love and care for, then we have to come home to ourselves to know who we are and make space/peace within to operate from a place that is divinely guided. Yoga does just that.
MG: How have you witnessed yoga bridge those gaps in these communities?
CO: Yoga brings all things into union. Yoga grounds us and provides a path to develop greater self-understanding. Yoga connects us to our Higher Self and to the present moment. Yoga teaches us to pause and observe what's happening before we respond, which is an essential skill to develop if we want handle uncomfortable and challenging situations that inevitably come up. Yoga helps us to become aware of our own brokenness and suffering, and when we acknowledge this suffering we give ourselves permission to heal and in return we develop a greater capacity to hold space for other’s pain and suffering as well. Yoga is a practice that we can always lean into to reflect and recharge and move back into the world a little wiser, a little stronger and a little softer, bit by bit.
Simply put, yoga helps us to heal ourselves and as a natural consequence, we heal the world around us, too. All things are interconnected— there is no separation. We all win when we commit to a practice that expands our consciousness and connection to something greater.