The Essence Within

Closing my eyes, I am wrapped in velvet darkness that caresses me. The darkness transforms into the light of peace, calming the storms of my mind. Racing questions, instantaneous thoughts, self deprecating feelings all wash away here in this space. Like my secret retreat. Silent tears sleigh down the hill of my cheeks as I relish in this peace and calm, closing the doors of senses, letting the world fall away. I am grateful for this space. I sit asking the Infinite for strength to continue in my mortal form with its finite intelligence. I ask him to let the peace of this place remain with me when my eyes open. I dread opening my eyes and rising from my meditation pillow before realizing that this feeling in itself is a form of Maya. So I sit a bit longer, praying fervently for me to believe in true stillness and peace of mind. I pray for greater faith in the unseen— Peace. For me, I know not of peace. Not of what it looks like, what it feels like, or how it sounds. It takes much faith for me to believe that sitting here is okay, that this moment is supposed to be okay. That each moment is perfect and peaceful as it is.
No matter how difficult it is at times, I find comfort in meditating. My most favorite places to meditate are in the shower or in the woods while it is raining — because no one can distinguish the rain from the tears falling from my face. I cry often. Gut wrenching sobs that cripple my back forcing me to my knees. I have always cried when I pray, even from a young child. I cry out of sincerity. Out of sheer will for a greater, deeper faith for that which I am praying.
Most of my mediations, I am asking for strength and fortitude to continue with life. Pleading with God to arm with me his blessings of peace and fortitude for nothing else in this world is worth having. I beg Him to equip me with whatever it is that I need to complete this mission called life. I remind Him that I am suffering in this human form and need his help. Stretching my hands to the sky on my knees with tears streaming down my cheeks, I remind God how hard the suffering is. I bare my flesh to him, exposing deep ebony skin. I cry to him, saying “Master, Infinite Creator, please remember me. Remember that I am in this black girl form. This black skin is drenched in suffering, in past pains, past hurts. Though I know I have a mission here on earth in this body to complete, please be with me. The cross of this black skin is heavy. walk with it I must. Times come when I want nothing more than to meditate on you and practice your teachings when this brown skin fails to believe. This brown skin and the pulsing blood in my veins carry with it the sorrows of a thousand slaves. This brown skin knows little of peace and trust. Lord, you know I have the faith to believe in you even though I lack the faith to believe in myself. Lord, God, please give me the love of all loves — the love of myself. For if I am able to love myself, I am able to express that love to others, as it is your will Lord.”
I pray this prayer and have been praying this prayer for as long as I can remember. Not exactly in those words. I find it difficult to meditate deeply or to enjoy life as fully as I can because my mind always seems to get the better of me. Growing up Black, I was always told, “You have to work ten times as hard as everyone else just to get half of what they get”. This philosophy became the backdrop for my life, filling it with fear and anxiety. I overworked myself to the point of exhaustion and then would get depressed when I physically couldn’t go on because to me, if I was not working like a slave, I was worthless. At work I would arrive early and leave late, working overtime even when I wasn’t paid for it. I didn’t mention any of the injustices that happened to me because I was taught that suffering injustices is the norm for my life as a black girl and that to speak up for myself would attract attention, and attention was bad because I should just feel grateful they even allowed me to be there in the first place. I was inadvertently taught to expect and accept a life as a second class citizen both in this country and in my thinking. Was I groomed and primed to hate myself?
I continued through life always trying to prove myself and denying the luxury of knowing peace. I got to a place in life where I questioned the point of any of it. I asked God why did he make me? I felt ugly, worn, and insane. I wanted to know why God was so unmerciful to people with dark skin. We were brought out of slavery only to have physical chains be replaced with mental ones. In my thinking, I was sure that physical chains could not hold a match to mental chains, for who has the key to free a man in mental chains? Oh, how I felt conned again. I felt once more like a loser as if the pains of suffering would go on forever.
After a very dark episode of depression that landed me into a mental hospital for a week and after quitting my job, I began to get heavily involved in meditation. It was through this meditation that my pain and suffering made sense. I learned about reincarnations and the purpose of this physical body. I began to believe that I was not my body nor my mind but I was an essence that was temporarily residing in the current earthly form. It gives me solace for when times are hard. For those times that the color of my skin causes me to doubt and hate myself, I remember that I am not this black skin, I am the essence within. And if God selected this particular earthly form of black skin with all of its pains and suffering for me to reside in during my mission on earth, He must have also known that my essence is already well equipped.

What if God is a Dick?

I mean really, think about it. What if God is a complete asshole of a supreme being? How would you react?
Would you act differently? If so, what would that make you? How would it shape your perception of religion and life?
Sitting atop a pillow one day in the half lotus position, stoned as a hippie, I saw a floating image of the Mona Lisa. I saw Da Vinci and I saw the floating image of our pictured God. Oh, Mona and her smirk or smile. Is she man or woman? Oh, Da Vinci, how you teased us so! Or did he really? I read “the Da Vinci Code” a while back and found it completely fasciniating, all the secret societies and such. You know a conspiracy is exciting! I read more books after that about great artists and contemporaries of that day and noticed how they were oddly very religious and also very technical. Take Da Vinci for example and the Last Supper drawing. So much has been written and said about that famous piece. What was my take on it? And why am I mentioning this? More importantly, as the daughter of a southern preacher, why in God’s name was I even suggesting that God could even be a DICK or all things?
Please allow me to tell you. All of my tales begin and end with books, just so you know. I have a thing for knowledge and wisdom. At any rate, I developed a strong interest in religions outside of my own. I was tired of the same old church, the same old doctrine, and the same old God. God was some bearded old, wise looking white man. And Jesus was this strikingly, handsome Orlando Bloom-type, goodietwoshoes. And God, along with this young Orlando Bloom looking character were the perfect, docile, spiritual beings that were perfect and gave us salvation. They never experienced any wrong, never got mad, never had a drunk night or fight with the roommate over who left the open condom on the kitchen counter. Just two perfect, super nice dudes, who just give away stuff, and have all of these rules for salvation but didnt get mad if you broke them beacuse they are God, right?
I read more books from all religions that painted God as this completely super nice dude. I also read scripture after scripture about how we were created in his image. That struck a different cord in me. I was now so freaking confused. Wait, so we were created in God’s image to mirror and reflect him who is perfect? How could we? In the same sentence it also tells us how we were born into sin. Let’s not get too technical here for you bible scholars. So here I am in the midst of this kerfunkle, if you will. I keep repeating to myself, “we were made in the image of God. we are also sinners. We also reflect God.” If I hold a mirror to my face, will I not see my face? If I looked deeper, will  I not see both the good and the ugly in me? How can I not expect perfection if I was mirrored after an all-perfect Being. He even sent his Son here to show us that perfection was possible but we are not supposed to be perfect?
Sitting atop that pillow, frustrated as possible, staring at this image of the floating image in front of me, there can a clear question: “What if God is a complete dick?” I mean like a real asshole. You know the type– the type that has no filter and will call out whomever he pleases. The dick that so readily picks out the flaws in others will heralding himself to a higher standard of flawlessness. The dick that girls try to stay away from but cant because they are quite charasmatic and irresitable. The kind that we all love to hate. Yea, that kind of dick who gets away with the impossible and makes everything look easy. What if God’s a Dick? The more I thought about it, the more it became an actual possibility.  For instance, God seems to LOVE calling people out in church. Well, at least the church I grew up in. You could be sitting one minute listening and enjoying the sermon, the next minute God has led this minister to bring up your personal private business in the pulpit. This is called “stepping on toes” in church lingo. Dick move #1. #2 God will use a minister, another imperfect sinful being to preach to the rest of us from a sit of authority.
So what is with the floating Mona Lisa and Da Vinci? I think Da Vinci also questioned the duality of God. I think he thought God was everything and nothing, he was good and bad, pretty and ugly, the yin and the yang, the beginning and the end, He is all of it. Da Vinci best portrayed this via the Mona Lisa painting. There is so much duality in the Mona Lisa, so much room for perception and such. I think Da Vinci also must have wondered about the mirroring image of God and saw that just as there is duality in us, there must be duality in God. Everything begins and ends with God. The most important piece being that life in general is about perception. Is the Mona Lisa a smiling woman? Or a smirking man? Do you perceive God to be a dick or a perfect Saint? How does the different perceptions of God change how you approach life?
Well, we all know how people live if they perceive God to be a saint. Most people can either be frustrated and hate God because they can not relate to Him or they can try their best to emulate him and deal with the accompanying frustration of not being perfect. If you perceive that by some chance that God can also be a dick, I think I would live a bit differently. I would be less timid about life and would match God’s dickness one-for-one. Not saying that I would be a complete dick but I wouldn’t go around thinking that all of this is a rose when it isn’t. I would live more openly. I would live life in the shadows of reproach. I would worry less about losing and focus on winning. Because assuming that God could be a dick sometimes, would remind me that my mortal self, in all of my original sinness, will be okay. I will remind myself then that I am truly made in His image. And that is just fine with me.

Ignorance

There was a time when I longed to be an adult so I could go make my own money and buy the good cereal, so I could stay up past my bedtime reading the latest Harry Potter, or so I could skip church on wednesday nights. As I grew older however, things changed. Drastically, the grass is always greener type approach. As an adult now, I miss those youthful days of rent-free living, 3 square meals a day, and not a worry in the world. I actually came to realize that I grew tired of eating cereal for dinner even if it is the good cereal, I can barely stay awake past 8pm, and I like going to a community church once a week. Oh how things change!
Fundamentally, I experienced a shift in my expectations. I found out that life was not as cheeky and rosy as it once was. There a cold bitter truth out there waiting to nip at the bare noses of young adults, fresh out of childhood. you can probably still smell breast milk on the breath of many. This shift happened slowly over time so that one day, at almost 30, I looked around me, startled and out of breathe. I didnt recognize myself nor my mind. I think others noticed the shift sooner than I. My mom went into paranoid freak out mode all the time, fretting over the umbilical cord that was snapped almost 3 decades ago, hoping I wont up and run away into the abyss. My employers saw the change as well as my friends.
Ignorance was the change. I became aware of the fact that I was ignorant about so much in life. This may not seem like a big life changing ordeal but this is coming from a person who thought they had a pretty optimistic view on life as they knew it. What caused this awareness of ignorance? More knowledge. I, like many transitioning adults, realized that there was a MAJOR discrepancy between what I was taught growing up and the way things really are. Like a vast difference. The more I noticed this gaping difference, the more frustrated I became. Then that frustration turned to anger, like it usually does. Officially, I became the sterotypical “too smart for their own good” kind of young adult — you know the ones. The ones that always seem to have a chip on their shoulder, always screaming about the injustice in the world, always raging on about their innocent victim role. I became her. She was me. Pessimism was my new thing. Hating “the man” was in (as if it was ever not in style). And I was in full fashion. I signed petitions, wrote letters, and attended meetings with others who had realized the unfairness of life and their own ignorance. To be quite honest, it gave me zeal for awhile. The anger had an outlet. It also allowed the anger to grow and fester into the beast of arrogance and greater ignorance. Becoming an outright rebel without a cause, just like all the other rebels without causes, I failed to really do a detailed analysis of myself, study my situation, and plan an intelligent way to deal with my ignorance and the injustice. As we know with anger, it poisons you. And poison me it did. Anger sucked all the wind out of my sails. I became depressed and despondent. I hated every job I worked. I hated poor people. I hate depressed people. I hated the man. I hated black people. I hated the south. I hated white people. I hated myself.
At my wits end, swirling a cocktail of meds and whiskey in my hands, I knew I needed to make one last ditch effort to make things right before I ended it all. I could try to save myself. There must be something here worth saving. There must be some other point of life that I was missing. This last minute question of life saved me from taking my own. If I don’t have anything to lose, clearly I didnt as I was about to drown myself in a glass of cheap whiskey and OTC sleep meds, what could I stand to gain I reasoned? I didn’t know but I was willing to find out.
This would actually be a great place to insert [The End] and continue telling the story of how my life was instantly changed. I could tell you that I put that drink down, went home and started an amazing million dollar business and non-profit to save starving children and never looked back. But I would be lying. And I would be doing both you and I an incredible disservice.
What I can tell you is that I did put that drink down. I did alot more crying, alot more hair pulling, took a few more risks and although I am still not where I want to be, I am right where I need to be. Right at the intersection of “making progress and getting there”.
I can say that we all will have that moment, or several of them if you are like me, when we feel that an incredible disservice has been done to us. We may feel like life has not prepared us enough and that in itself feels like a cold hard slap in the face- an injustice. Some of us have chosen to blame our parents, our religion, our skin color, our environment or the cat. The list of the blamed are many, the list of the responsible are few. It’s easy to blame and hard to swallow the pill of responsibility but in order to progress, we must.
I wrote this blog post to encourage someone to not let ignorance fester in you, do not let your temporary frustration turn to anger- and even if it does, I am here to tell you that there is a way out should you decide to seek it. Life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Prizes are not awarded to those who finish the fastest but to all of those who stick with it, those who make progress, those who remain resilient in the face of uncertainty and ignorance.

The Secret of Routine

The only time I can remember solid routine in my life was in grade school. After that, I saw no use for it. It was a mere hinderance to my day. So here I sit on a Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop sipping a spiced chai latte. My soul’s desire is to taste of the place where things were created. For instance, one day soon, I shall taste the warm dark spice of chai in the depths of a remote town in India where it is grown and harvested. I will have it prepared by local farmers who know all the secret things of the herb, it’s medicinal and recreational purposes. Here I will laugh with his wife as I bounce their baby on my lap recalling my first time tasting of it’s sweetness. They will laugh at at how I first attempted to prepare the herb with hot water and sugar. I will tell them how and who drink their teas in my country.
I dream of things such as this. I write them down eloquently, flourishing each sentence and daydream with my signature flare.
I am searching. For me to be searching, some may say that I am lost, or weeded. My mind sometimes adrift like loose leaves in a storm. Yet, I am here, as solid as a fortress nonetheless. I am right here. With you.
Routine, yes, routine. I have read in books how routine builds strength and enables you to replace and reshape the muscle of habit. This is all true but most important or most peril in this instance is what to build routine around, what to make a habit? From an early age, my life and routine was centered around work, either my parent’s work or soon after, my own, or the work of others. School generally started around the same time that parents went to work. Our times to arise from sleep were set to the time of not being late to work. Lunch breaks were timed and coordinated around work productivity. Dinner was coordinated around the end of the work day. Recreation, relaxation, and spiritual activities took place with whatever time was left over from our work day. What we were taught in school was in direct coordination of a work-centered curriculum aimed at shaping young minds into obedient future employees and acclimating them into the work culture.
Gaining entry into adulthood, I faced a crisis. To continue as I was taught or to answer another question that begged an answer or me: Can I do it another way? Is there another way? By another way, I mean, is this all that life is about or can I live it another way? I wished to read and pray in the early part of my day. I wanted to work but a few hours each day. To be honest, most of the 8 hours a day I put into a job, only half of that day was really productive. I wanted to drink tea, read, and sit in deep thought for several hours of my morning. I wanted to have breakfast and let it digest before moving onto other things in my day. I wanted time to write and to be.
I made it my mission to live the life I wanted to live. In books, we are told that we are habit forming creatures by nature. I can see the results and impact of a strong and deeply rooted routine. This is why we are here and have evolved into an universally accepted truth that the perfect work day is 8hr and the perfect work week is 40 hrs. We also accept all of these other truths that are encased in labor laws about work and our time. There is strength in habit and routine. Obviously. I soon learned a thing or two. If you don’t form new habits to replace your old habits, you will not win. I tried a few times unsuccessfully to check the work lifesytle at teh door but  found that the power of a routine was strong. I had to replace it, before completely destroying it.
This is where I am today. I am here, creating a routine to disrupt the alignment of fate the stars have bestowed upon me. To shake the bonds of routine. To be.  You too can change your life with a new routine.
My new routine involves taking care of me and my priorities first in my day. At first this seemed so backwards to me. I felt out of place. But I did it anyway. You would think that doing what you wanted when you wanted to do it would feel liberating. It did but worry would sometimes threaten to get the better of me.
Setting Your Intention
Intention is the power of your will. Setting your intention means stating, believing and affirming what you mean and want to do. I like to write so I always set my intentions in writing, meditating and verbally.
I took a hard look at my life and discovered that I had lost my curious zeal and appetite for life. I found that by asking myself what I really wanted, I did not know. So for now, I found a routine that sounded promising and went with that one while promising to myself that I would spend some time investigating what I wanted. Something gave me the inclination that I would soon find an answer to what it is that I truly wanted.
Routine:
Early rise with tea and meditation, writing, then work, home, relax, read, tea, meditation. I wanted the majority of my time to be spent working on myself vs working for someone else. This is not to say that I neglected my responsibilities of taking care of myself and my family. This is all I needed to know.
I found that there was a purpose and a mission beneath the madness. I was not a mental health case. I was a human. Being. Human. This was of little solace to me. But it gave me enough room to work. So I set to work. Each day I made it my mission to live as if I were already free. I set my intention as I knew I was able to bring it to fruition. I felt my the muscle of my will growing stronger. I knew I was close to that which had called me. A familiarity settled upon me. Like an old friend coming to visit, I felt a peaceful nostalgia.
This routine awakened and tuned me to postulate what I will write. This book was meant to be a guru. I came across a guru in a book. An omnipresence that existed everywhere and nowhere. I knew things that I could not prove but was content to know. The need to show and tell relaxed. I begin to drink from the fountain of knowledge, gaining real truth and power. I felt a dawning arise in me. I knew there was a common denominator of all things in this world. All we needed to do was awaken to it. To feel it. To experience it. To be one with it.
The secret is to wield the power within and act responsibility without.

Not There Yet

Our life is a journey. I learned to stop asking are we there yet and instead just sit back and enjoy the ride. At least that’s what my mommy told me. She also told me not to make her pull this car over. She told me that repeatedly. Did your mom tell you?
I like it better when I am just riding. No where to rush off to. No need to rush. No need to hurry. No need for the split second thinking involved in speeding up for a yellow light. Can you make it before it turns red? It was red when you looked up, wasn’t it? Did anybody see?
Today we are all steady rushing around. No time to smell the roses. No time to smell the coffee. It’s usually instant anyways. Straight into an insulated mug it goes. How do you drink your coffee?
I have a bedtime. I like going to bed early. I enjoy good sleep. Don’t you?
That was a nice little distraction. But I just gotta ask one last question…are we there yet?

Productivity and Multi-Tasking: The Benefits of Reducing Distractions

As an avid self-help book reader, I have read a lot about productivity and time management. Most self-help books read the same on how to increase productivity by making the most of your time. This concept has proven to work time and time again as business continues to boom and more employees enter the workforce requesting full-time employment, which in America means 40 hours per week. Employees are pushed to produce more in less time.

Lately, I have noticed a new  trend in the genre of self-help. Once upon a time, self-help books insisted that those seeking to increase productivity master the art of multi-tasking and tedios scheduling. In recent times, self-help books have begun to realize that multi-tasking and over scheduling actually decreases productivity after a certain point. Why is this? I have a few theories on my own based on personal experience.

What is Multi-Tasking and Why Did We Once Prize Mastery of it?

Multi-tasking is the act of doing several tasks at one time. Simple enough, right? Some examples of multi-tasking:

  • Talking on the phone as you check your email;
  • Scrolling through your social media feed as you do homework;
  • Eating dinner while watching TV.

Trust me, the list can go on. I am sure you can list other examples of multi-tasking that you never really considered as multi-tasking. We will discuss one of those instances later. We understand what multi-tasking is so why would one prize mastery of it? To get more done in less time. Why? Because productivity and profits go hand-in-hand.

What’s Changed in Recent Years Regarding Multi-tasking and Productivity?

Firstly, multi-tasking is more recently being defined as distracting. How so? Multi-tasking lacks the focus required for efficient productivity. This comes from the idea that when you are doing more than one thing at one time, you are not focused on any one thing. Your attention and focus become diluted, increasing the risk of error. I am pretty sure that I also read some scientific reports that monitored our brains when we multi-tasked and compared it to our brains when we focus on a singular project and studies revealed that certain areas of the brain involved in decision making and focus showed more brain activity when working on a single task than when the subject worked on several tasks at one time.

What Does This Mean For You?

This new way of looking at multi-tasking makes me call into question all of the other distractions that affect my productivity. I have since begun to reduce the number of distractions in my daily living. Living a life with minimal distractions and more focus gives me more peace, calm, and tranquility. With the reduction of distraction life seems more rich as you see more and hear more of the world around. You will begin to live life by the moment as you learn to savor instead of rushing and multi-tasking.

Ways to Reduce Distractions

  • Commit to focusing on one task at a time;
  • Become aware of when you are multi-tasking by taking small pauses throughout your day to notice what you are doing at that moment. If you find that you are doing more than one thing, simply pause one task and work on the other if possible.
  • Be more present.

Benefits of Reducing Distractions

  • Increased productivity with less risk for error;
  • Less stress;
  • More mindfulness;
  • Greater satisfaction completing tasks.

These are just some of the benefits and ways to reduce distractions.

Peace and Love.

Unplugged: What it Means to Be Bored

Now that I have been without social media for a few years and as of recently, I have also gone without a mobile phone, people are always asking me questions. I find it a telling sign of addiction when people cannot imagine a life without social media or a mobile phone. For this article, let’s tackle boredom when you have unplugged.

I think it may be safe to assume that many of us do not fancy being bored.

In this digital age, boredom is a rare occasion when your boredom can instantly be quenched by social media.

A ready-made, cooked-to-order boredom killer is at your fingertips. What is my issue with such a fierce and effective boredom killer? I believe boredom can be beneficial to our mental well-being. It is the way we first learn to meditate or create as it enhances the use of our imagination and feeds into our thirst for curiosity.

Since not having a ready-made boredom killer, I find that my boredom turns into productivity and creativity.

I have taken up different hobbies and meet people the old-fashioned way by walking up to them and holding a conversation. When I am bored, I use it as a time to meditate or read. Most often, I simply use boredom to fuel my curiosity. Recently, I began birdwatching because I was really bored one day at home and I heard a very long and seemingly intricate birdsong. Boredom caused me to be really curious as to where the birdsong was coming from. Since that fateful bored day, I have invested in a thrifted bird book, binoculars, and walking trails. Not advertising boredom as a weigh loss supplement here, but I also lost weight from all the walking around.

If you do not want to fully disconnect but would like to be more creative or productive, give boredom a try. Schedule a day or a chunk of time where you will not be connected to social media or your phone. When boredom arises, take the challenge to not engage in social media, instead, remain in your boredom and see where it takes you.

Peace and Love.