A prayer of gratitude and grounding.
I heard some excellent advice recently. As a fan of Dr. John Gottman’s works, I was thrilled in hearing a speaker reference one of his great pieces of wisdom. For 1 thing that’s bringing you down, you should have 5 reasons to be thankful. An attitude of gratitude is excellent for your overall health, especially emotionally.
While away in Vietnam and Indonesia, there was a lot of downtime in my hotel room. I made the most of it by meditating, praying and listening to sessions by Eckhart Tolle and Mooji. Their offerings were sage and timeless reflections on mindfulness. Mindfulness is the best starting point for gratitude.
I don’t subscribe to any one religion. That’s a conversation with many layers for me which I don’t care to bore you with. However, I made a point to start my days out on my hotel balcony, looking up at the clear blue skies or out on the ocean and praying:
Thank you for waking me and allowing me to see another day.
Thank you for providence.
Thank you for putting me here and keeping me safe.
Thank you for these people, this beautiful land and sea.
I am here to do good things.
I am here for joy.
The city hums, industrious and traditional, metallic clangs and soft chimes, feels like home with different faces of many hues. The smells that waft from store fronts, street carts, clandestine alleys vary from rich meat broths, offal slices, succulent produce, centuries of rich culinary heritage. Many of them curious about my own. I wonder how many think I darkened myself with years of sun or pounds of dark chocolate. Who knows that my ancestors have worked alongside theirs for many, many generations. How many think I am from some foreign land, closer to that of my mother’s mother’s mother’s. How many think I am rich because I am simply here. Teens, Millennials, thirtysomethings hardly glance. They have seen us before, grown up with us in their social media feeds, have seen us on television or heard our songs on the radio more times than they can count. My presence is accepted, at least in front of me as I am sure my back could tell another tale. Children and middle-aged or old stare me right in the face as we walk side by side on already crowded sidewalks. No one seems to know what to make of me. Dark brown skin that won’t rub off, jet black kinks and coils of dreads beg a touch.
The city, expansive and teeming with possibility. The skyline ever-changing as the years go. Much like home, like Chicago threefold and shaded in different hues, with different languages and landscapes. For us newbies, the limits are within our own minds.
Would I do this all over again? Without a doubt. I have to stop my mind often from getting too far ahead of itself. The habit of pursuing instant gratification is extremely difficult to break considering American culture and tendencies. There is beauty in the details and the process that you can’t see if you make the time and effort to see them. The most important thing here is staying in the moment and only going as far as needed for the time being. There’s no real need to get ahead of oneself. Sitting in the airport, I calmed myself by thinking “What are you so jumpy for? You only have the rest of your life to look forward to!” This experience has started to force change within me, often much-needed changes.
Unlike anywhere I have ever been, this city is filled with learners young and old. Schools of every discipline, after-school and enrichment programs, library centers, conversation clubs. Four-year-old Kindergarteners beginning to learn English. The society learns and grows together.
look beyond the pale
shed Your second and third life’s skin
and be who You love
– Adaora Allure
May 15, 2017
Journal entry from December 2016
At times, it’s hard to believe that a full month has passed. I have learned so much through this remarkable change of life. I know that Shanghai is part futuristic metropolis, part remnant of the Old World. I know that the people are mostly warm, passionate, curious. I know that a handful are resentful and bitter at change and the influx of expats. Some are curious about my chocolate skin, wide nose, almond eyes, my long, black, faux-goddess locks. The hair gets stares for sure, the occasional thumbs up from lil’ ol’ lady shopkeepers. Some might instantly dismiss me because I am a dark-skinned black woman for one reason or another. Little do they know that I am so content with the very notion of being here, finding my place here, gladly embracing their culture. Little do they know that I gladly wake up daily to educate their own. Little do they know that I wake up to and run home to just that: home.
In a taxi bobbing and weaving through Shanghai morning rush hour, on the way to work as an English language arts teacher, hair of long black faux dreadlocks with deep-spiral curled ends, wearing a dark rose satin bomber jacket and Uniqlo black skinny jeans, listening to Solange with my twin flame waiting for me at home. This is how I ended 2016. Everything is a far cry from the overweight, ceaselessly unhappy, couch locked dreamer that I began the year as.
This new moon is ushering in a healing, restorative cycle. My best friend said she spent the previous two weekends planning for a successful 2018. “About to reap a good harvest,” I told her. I can say the same for myself. Since returning from Bali, my spirit needed some extra attention. The summer had been non-stop meetups and meet-and-greets, team meetings and pressing deadlines, finding new tribes and untried haunts. All the while, I was half-awake, continually moving, coming home at late hours only to rise early and start again. On the trip, my subconscious caught up with me in a really unsettling way. This was a clear sign to reset and reinforce my intentions.
The last three weeks have been emotionally and spiritually intense. I’ve had to relearn the importance of true surrender and fruitful stillness. Showing up to adult at work and on projects was becoming automatic. Showing up to work on myself was sliding out of view. The trip reminded me how vitally important working on myself needs to be.
This new moon calls me to manifest what I need and I sincerely wish the same for you. To manifest truth, forgiveness, clarity, strength, and perseverance. To manifest light, to educate, entertain and inspire. To always be clear about my intentions and purpose. To give selflessly where needed. To be a blessing to others. To see the grace in others and allow them to see the same within me. Most importantly to make way to receive love and light. May we all breathe beautifully to end this year and shine into 2018.
The blazing sun peeks just enough through the courtyard’s palm trees. The rays heat your typing fingers, sandal-bound toes and brown bosom in a green, red and yellow crochet bikini top. The typing comes from boredom, the last thing you wanted to encounter on this hard-earned, exotic Bali trip. Get out of your head, you think and say to yourself all bloody day. There’s a new world out there but you’re too “something” to escape. An island paradise awaits on the other side of the busy, high-trafficked roadway.
The locals are beautiful dipped in every shade of caramel and chocolate, their language rhythmic and lyrical. Where’s your curiosity? What happened to that sense of adventure you promised yourself? Instead of letting last night’s surreal dream keep you in the throes of subconscious paranoia, let go. Remember why you are here. Divinity. Peace. Reflection. Renewal. Not reviewing old ways, no more post-mortems of loves that were never built to last. Accept and overcome. What’s keeping you from you? Nothing. That changes here and now. Loving the sight of black people in non-traditionally black spaces is the move. Be in that. Don’t talk a good game and fail to live up to it. Now is the time and more than ever.
It doesn’t take a plethora of megahertz frequency YouTube meditation videos or enough vibration raising pressure point tap and chant combinations to escape the fact that you are you. It doesn’t matter where in this world you are at or who you are with. You are you. Embrace and own that shit in the full. Change your mindset. Failure comes in living yet not truly living and making the most of every step, every breath. Tomorrows are never promised so make the most of today.
Stay outside long enough to see that chocolate skin of yours turn to a deep mahogany. Go run your toes through the white sands you have been dreaming about. Go see the Indian Ocean from this side of the bay. Go. Seek. Do.
Go be free.
In the coming days, I will post some additional reflections from my Bali trip. For now, I want to highlight the beauty of Pura Taman Ayum. When your guide, a local driver, looks at your pictures and says, “Is that your hotel,” you know that you are in a place of great beauty and prestige. There was a sense of calm and inner peace with each temple that we visited but this was a unique experience.
…the wonder of the marvelous sunset, the brilliant natural balance of light and dark at Tanah Lot
For months now, I’ve existed in between bustling concrete roadways and cobblestone sidewalks, between old Shanghainese lane houses and modern high-rises. Every now and again, I would slow myself down enough to ponder a scurrying ant or stray cat. There were many days of missing the kaleidoscope sunsets over cobalt blue Rocky Mountain peaks from my backyard in Colorado. There were days of missing the drive through the majestic red rock formations of Garden of the Gods. But I am here now. Today, “here” includes appreciating the wonder of the marvelous sunset, the brilliant natural balance of light and dark at Tanah Lot in Bali.
Instead of clinging to the thought of “uprooting” from the comforts of the country I call home, I have made a conscious choice to embrace my new surroundings. The focus now is to bloom where I have been planted. Renew, recharge, refocus.