As an interracial woman, I have often been asked the question, “What are you?” A running joke between me and my mixed comrades. I remember telling a social media friend once that I’m going to respond “an alien” the next time I get that question. I am not offended by people asking. I am often curious about people’s backgrounds myself. But the joke is in the “what,” as though I am not human. That is what I am. A human. A woman who is very much still trying to find her place in this world.
At 37 years-old, I continue to grapple with the question of not what am I, but who am I? This year of 2015 has been a very defining one for me. The biggest thing that happened occurred when I decided to take a leap of faith and leave my corporate job after 15 years of being in the professional workforce. I am focusing more on teaching Yoga and aligning myself with my purpose, which I know, above all things, is based in service to humanity. Leaving a corporate job, especially with not a lot of money saved nor a real plan outside of honoring an internal calling, is quite scary. More than anything else, it will show a person how they have defined themselves within a box. What’s scary is learning to think and live outside of that box.
In many ways, I have pushed past boundaries that were either self-defined or created by others. This mainly relates to my spiritual journey, where I was raised as a Baptist but explored Islam in my 20s, ultimately deciding to convert and be a practicing Muslim for two years. From there it was Yoga and a completely new spiritual path opened up for me. I pull Angel cards and believe in Angel therapy. I consult with spirit guides, although I don’t know exactly who my guides are outside of some who have transitioned from this life and who I feel are with me. I light Palo Santo sticks and sit in front of my meditation altar when I write in my journal. I believe in Universal law. My present spiritual station is not one that is defined by religion, but after years of continuos seeking, I feel closer in my relationship with God than I have ever felt. It is not easy embracing such a path when you’re the only one in your Christian family who is doing so, but I am proud of myself for honoring the course that continues to be laid in front of me. Through all my years of constant seeking and asking questions, I was looking for a space where I fit. And when I sit cross-legged in front of my altar with my incense burning, I realize I have found that space. But the question of “who am I?” still remains. The following is what comes to mind.
I am a hippie girl and a Black revolutionary. I love people. I love my people. My vibe tribe scattered throughout the world, sharing their love and light and gifts with others. Helping to create a better, more humanistic global society. I am my maternal family. My mother. My grandmother. My aunts. My brothers, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins. All shades of brown. Rooted with history in Texas, with an extension in New York and New Jersey by way of my mother. I am proud of my mother’s heritage. My Black heritage.
I honor my father. His family with European roots and scattered throughout New York, the Midwest, Pennsylvania, California and now Tennessee. I have less of a connection to these roots, but an unbreakable bond with my father and the stepmother and stepbrother he brought into my life. It was in this world where I learned of Bob Marley, The Beatles, The Eagles, Bluegrass music, Classical music. Woodstock. Politics. Peace. Hope. Yoga. This world shaped my ideals and some of the core principles of who I am.
Combined together, the love my mother and father once shared resulted in my existence. And with it came the elements that would open me to my world vibe tribe. It is all Love. It is all connection. It is all me. Who I am. A balance I am learning to embrace. An awakening and understanding that makes me feel a most subtle sense of peace and happiness
I have often tried to define myself as one of these things. A conditioned way of thinking that comes from living inside the box. But as I continue to grow and make choices that are more authentic and based in how I emotionally, physically and spiritually respond to things, I learn that I don’t have to be just one of these things. I am the sum of all my parts. Parts that I am learning are wild and beautiful. I am feeling myself living more and more on purpose.
I am finding the one thing I have been always searching for. I am finding me.
That is what I am. Human Me. Feeling and being free to be exactly who I am.
I have been in a place these past few days. More like these past few weeks. Tomorrow (July 4) will mark exactly five months from the day I took a leap of faith and submitted my resignation to my corporate job. I was making almost $90,000 per year with excellent benefits for myself and my son. And I decided to walk away from it without a clear plan of where I was going and a savings account that could be laughable. I just knew after ten years with the same company, doing work I was unfulfilled by and feeling a calling in my heart for a more purpose-filled life, that it was time to go. My soul had to find what it was looking for. I was teaching Yoga part-time and I knew if I had nothing else, I had that. Within three months of resigning I landed two teaching jobs, in addition to the classes I was already teaching part-time. I am now up to teaching six classes per week and take on substitute opportunities when they are available.
In the beginning of June, I signed on for a one-time weeklong teaching gig which, for some reason, left me exhausted and energetically depleted. It was my first lesson in the business of Yoga. Learning that I didn’t have to take every offer just because it seemed glamorous or would connect me with a certain level of clients. I have found it difficult to fully pull myself out of the space I felt I was left in after that gig was done. I have been questioning my decisions and my choices, more concerned about my finances and experiencing bouts of Yoga burnout. I know I am not alone in this and I find relief in this knowledge. I also know it takes every day work to keep a positive mindset and not give in to the feelings of worry and anxiety that can lurk in our hearts and minds.
Struggling with this feeling as I woke up this morning, my eyes landed on a book I purchased months ago but have not yet read. “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers,” by Debbie Ford. I picked it up and within the first few pages, I came across these words from the I Ching:
“It is only when we have the courage
to face things exactly as they are,
without any self-deception or illusion,
that a light will develop out of events,
by which the path to success
may be recognized.”
Once I read this, I knew Spirit led me to finally picking up the book. Instead of being hard on myself for what I am feeling, I am going to honor myself for having the courage to see and feel things exactly as they are. The road to peace comes with having honest conversations with yourself. I know I still want to serve. I still believe in my Light. But to be able to truly assist others with their healing process, which is the work I want to do, I have to know what my own dark sides are. I have to embrace my shadows. And right now, I am dealing with the shadow of questioning everything and feeling somewhat unsure. I know the answers will come as long as I keep moving forward with an open heart and a commitment to serve.
These are the spaces in which we are challenged to follow our own intuition. As the words from the I Ching remind us, when we accept things as they are, we learn and recognize the direction in which we need to go. This is when we truly begin to live an authentic life. That is my ultimate goal. And inner peace. Always inner peace.
Have faith that all will be will. This is a reminder to others as much as it is to myself.
Love and Light. Namaste. And Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
My Soul Mate. My Companion. My Life Partner. The One with whom I share the most intimate love.
You accept me for who I am. Quirky. Questioning. Talkative. Sensitive. Emotional. Energetic. Passionate. Wild. Free.
You accept my moments of co-dependency. You let me be when I choose to withdraw.
You support my Yoga. My dreams.
You understand my quest for peace, but calm me when I get anxious. Worried. Fearful. Some of the things I try to work through every day.
You call me at random times. Ask me on random lunch dates. Share my dream to travel. To create. To have a family.
You hold nothing back in loving me, and allow me to love you in return.
You love my son as if he were your own.
You encourage me to always love myself.
You accept my irrational moments. My moments of run-ins with my family. My debts. My mistakes from the past. My hopes for the future. My journey of trying to live in the every day present.
We love. We laugh. We live. We are.
Because we allow each other to be.
From the author: I was thinking of love today and how I’d like it to show up in my life. It took many years of living, learning and being “in love,” to truly understand that more than anything else, you have to be and let be. I decided to write the words down as a vision. Intentions I am putting into the Universe. Love self. Love others. And allow yourself to receive love in return.
“As for us, if things fall, we will reach for them. If things break, we will try to put them together. If loved ones cry, we will try to soothe them – because that is what we do. I have often reached out, and sometimes it feels like a mistake. Sometimes, I have been stung. But it doesn’t matter, because that is what I do. That is what we do. It is the reaching out that is more important than the sting. In truth, I’d rather be fooled than not believe.”
This is the closing paragraph from today’s reflection from Mark Nepo’s, “The Book of Awakening.” Man, it hits home.
It’s the blessing and the curse of being an Empath. Your heart makes you want to reach out and help. To reach out and love. But putting your heart out there also means subjecting it to the energy and actions of others. In a nutshell, your heart emotions can get hurt. In a word, it’s vulnerability.
As I continue to grow in life and along my journey, I realize I’ve always been okay with being vulnerable. It’s what drives this blog and probably part of what draws me to Yoga. A true commitment to the yogic path, both physically and mentally, requires a certain level of openness and willingness to come face-to-face with who you are. It’s the place where you learn that it’s more important to you to reach out, than it is not to be stung.
Like Nepo, I’d rather be fooled. Because it’s in those foolish moments where it all happens. Where you experience the dizziness and passion of love. Where you taste freedom – if even just for a moment. But enough to know that freedom is what you seek and what you won’t compromise. In a way, choosing to be fooled is what gives you the strength to take another step and keep on trying. It is how we learn to surrender to the flow of Life.
Another holiday season is behind us, and another new year lies ahead. We’re already 4 (almost 5) days in and we still have about 360 days to visualize, plan, incorporate and live the changes we want to see in our lives. Like many others, I have already thought about where I am right now and where I’d like to be by the end of this year. Some of the big transitions I want to see in my life are desires that have carried over from last year and the year before that. On one hand, I continue to remain excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and how the unknown will pan out. But on the other hand, I am working hard not to let into my spirit a sense of anxiety that seems to be lurking.
There’s different factors playing into the feeling of anxiousness. I had two luscious weeks off from work and was able to spend a significant amount of time with my family and loved ones. I always tend to get a feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’m hours away from returning to my job after being off for a long while and having to prepare for the regular 9-5 routine. It was hard to leave my family in NY and come back to DC, but I adjusted. I had a chance to spend quality time with a special someone, but now we are back in our individual spaces and I am having to adjust again.
I am fully aware that life is constantly about adjusting, but there are times when the adjustments challenge me. It is all a part of staying present and remaining focused on the work of detachment. Not living in the past and not worried about what the future will bring. But speaking to the latter point, there is also anxiety about what I have not changed; namely my career. At the end of 2012, I thought for sure I’d be in a different place by the end of 2013. At the end of 2013, I thought the same for 2014. Now here I am at the starting line again. The biggest – and most important – difference though, is that I personally feel different. Stronger. More mindful. Aware of the tools I have developed and am armed with as I grow and encounter and overcome challenges that have come about on my journey towards my most authentic self. Whereas at this time last year I would have been emotionally blindsided by feelings of anxiety, I can now see it coming from a mile away. That means thinking positive thoughts and reciting positive affirmations to myself. Instead of fretting about how quickly my two-week break has come to an end (something I really want to do), I am reminding myself to be grateful for the time I had to myself. The time that allowed me to nurture relationships that are important to me. And while I may not love my job, the work comes in reminding myself to be grateful that I have a job to return to. The transition into 2014 found me kicking and screaming about going back to work. This year I am focused on acceptance and gratitude. As my Yoga teacher and mentor always says: The quickest way to change a situation for the better is to constantly be grateful for it. It is my intention to approach tomorrow morning, and the hundreds of emails that are likely waiting for me, with a most triumphant attitude. Perhaps this will make the biggest difference in me being in a different place career-wise by the end of 2015.
At this time last year, I did not desire to be in a relationship and spent most of my time consciously not dating and making overdue investments in myself. Now I feel like I am ready and more adept at being able to truly coexist with another. I want to know what that will look like and when and how it will happen, and while I have “a feeling” there will be big changes in the romance department for me this year, I know that I have to approach this in the same manner as I am approaching everything else. Acceptance of what isn’t. Living fully in what is. While in the past I may have moaned and groaned about being single, I now know to fully embrace this time I have to solely dedicate to myself and my son. The freedom that comes with not being in a relationship allows me to consider new career options that I otherwise might not be able to if I had a significant other to think about. I have often understood in theory the importance of guarding our thoughts. I can now see the value and benefit of actually applying this theory to real life situations.
It’s funny. As I write this, I think about how I strongly desire change in my life. But my intention when I sat down to write was to channel the anxiety I feel about the changes that are occurring. I guess sometimes you have to talk through your own situation or step outside of it, to see it for what it really is. What I really want more of is the change. What I want less of is the anxiety. That has been the focus of my Yoga, learning meditation practices and grounding myself more in faith and spirituality. I also want to write more and so perhaps it is a good thing that I’ve done so on this 4th day of the new year. Especially since it’s been months since I last wrote.
“They” say the only constant in life is change. That statement is a juxtaposition within itself, but I get it. In the same way that I want to bring about change in my life, but am anxious about it once it happens. Even though change is a constant, it is also a process. And with every process there must come a level of patience. For me, it is having patience with my job, patience with my Yoga practice, patience with relationships and most importantly, patience with myself. I believe I have personally changed for the better over the course of 2014. I look forward to and embrace all that is to come with 2015. We’ll see what I’m writing about in 360 days.