This all started when my friend Nadiya tagged me in a Facebook post for a Yoga + Self-Care for Women of Color workshop, saying, "Roadtrip?" The workshop title had me immediately leaning toward yes. Roadtrip? That could be iffy. Depended where to. Atlanta, GA? Huh. That's what? A 7/8 hour drive? Yeah. From then, all I could think was yes. Absolutely. Of course. Why not? How not?
The workshop was an event held by Black Girl in Om, a collective founded by Lauren Ash (@hellolaurenash) promoting holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color. Making the trip to Atlanta to attend was well worth it. I feel I've been processing the meaning and power of that space ever since. And here are my reflections:
There aren't enough spaces for Black women created by Black women.
I've attended self-care events before. I've been invited to several tables and spaces created to provide safe space for Black people to process or express or pray about whatever issue. These spaces were often created by people who are not of color themselves, sometimes they incorporated one or two Black people, sometimes they were initiated and led by Black people. Yet I almost always found myself one of the only few Black people in attendance.
I'm not making a value judgment. I'm not saying those other events were worthless or of any less worth at all. But I am saying that it is an entirely different kind of experience to attend an event made with Black people in mind by Black people with Black people.
Those spaces created for Black people by non-Black people, at the end of the day always felt more like learning sessions for the white folks in the room than comfort for me.
Have you ever entered into a room and — you can almost hear the whir of your working mind louden — as you consider the size of your hair, the width of your hoop earrings — When you told that man your university... why did he ask "all four years"? — what to do when all eyes turn on you after someone makes a tasteless joke or ignorant comment?
In this room I knew there were experiences I could share, if I wanted to, and no eyebrows would raise, no one would cough, avert their eyes, fall into a tangible uncomfortable silence, or say something that I would then have to respond to with a kind, even-tempered, thoughtful, educationally-minded defense.
And that felt so peaceful.
I'm not alone.
How strange is it that we all have these experiences of feeling so utterly alone in our fears, anxieties, insecurities, weaknesses, or rough life seasons?
How is it that I can still be surprised when I see another woman express similar feelings to those dark ones that I have felt? How have I not learned by now that other people are made of the same stuff as I am?
And then what is it about hearing that someone else has been where you have been or is also where you unfortunately find yourself as well — what is it that provides immediate ease — or if ease isn't quite the right word... simple pause?
My mind quietly rolls through assurances for the woman before me, eagerly lists the things about her I see as beautiful, kind, desirable, capable of encouraging her. I believe entirely that she can win her battles and achieve even greater vibrancy than I already find that she has.
And then my mind quietly suggests, You too, you know.
My mind loves my body.
My body loves my mind.
You can't see me in any of the pictures to the left but I was there in this exact session — both my friend Nadiyah and I. We took the same shapes and I imagine we wore the same expressions at some point or another.
Hip opening has been the mind-body connection that I have felt the most since picking up with my yoga practice in the past 5 or so months. When I fold myself into a widespread child's pose, I imagine the space that I'm created with my body opening up the doors to dusty back rooms of my inner self. I imagine windows being wiped clean, light streaming across wooden floors, the tips of long-forgotten plant curling upward.
I've struggled with anxiety all my life. In my most difficult days of college I distrusted both my mind and my body so much. I expected them to betray me. Fear and confusion surrounded so much of my everyday life.
I'm seeking a more balanced, intentional and healthy connection with my mind and my body these days. Because I don't think they're out to get me anymore. I just think I need to know and take care of them more intentionally.