The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: Today’s Phoenix is Santana

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How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself means making consistent intentional choices every day that place my well-being first. It’s a philosophical practice that manifests in almost every facet of daily life. For me, it’s been evolving as my life and my demands have transitioned from college student to working professional.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned regarding self-love is that I cannot and should not think of acts of self-love as an indulgence, but rather as necessary maintenance. I am at my best when I place my personal care first. This was a surprisingly difficult shift for me to make and maintain. It requires a lot of work, but it’s the best kind of work. I had to expand my definition of personal care to encompass a variety of activities that make me feel my best, and allow me to take time to focus on nurturing my mind, body, and soul.

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Santana and her dog, Cassie, after a hike.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practices, etc)

When I’m feeling down about myself, I find a quiet place and repeat (out loud!) the mantra “Although (insert reason I’m upset or anxious), I love and accept myself completely.” It’s a striking physical and emotional experience to say that out loud. I’ve learned to own and accept my reactions and feelings, while reinforcing my self-love. I’ve learned I must take ownership of how I feel about myself. I am the only person who validates me.

This year, the most important change in my self-care ritual has been taking care of my body. I spend much of my work week sitting at a desk. When I was in college I spent much more time being active and walking and so physical activity was much less of a concern. This year, I noticed that my mood was becoming more variable, and my daily anxiety level was growing, so I decided to start making efforts to temper that. To be my best self I must make an effort to show love to my body by using it and learning about all the wonderful things it can do.

Yoga has been a transformative and complete self-love activity. Two to three times a week I spend an hour or so focusing on my body, my breath, and my soul. I love that yoga is non-competitive and that I have so much freedom in practicing it. Yoga can be modified to any skill or mobility level and the goals are personal. So often, we’re critical of our bodies and yoga is my favorite way to temper that negativity. Every movement is intentional and self-loving. I’ve gained so much confidence in myself through it—not because I’m particularly good at it, but because I’ve learned to be okay with not being successful at some poses. I can be a perfectionist, and yoga is a time for me to fail, and come out on the other side feeling proud of myself for just trying my best. In my last class, I fell over at least three times! I didn’t feel judged by anyone else there though, and I didn’t judge myself either—actually I found my failures kind of endearing! Philosophically, yoga has taught me about the importance of effort and surrender—I can place my full effort into anything, and because of that, I can feel okay about surrendering the results to the forces that be. This thinking is very helpful for my inner perfectionist and “control freak.”

Hiking is another way that I can work my body in a non-competitive and fulfilling way. I live in a rural area, and there are plenty of trails that match my comfort and skill level (which is fairly low). I can set my own pace when hiking, which I love. I bring my dog, Cassie, and we can bond through the activity. My favorite part is reaching the top and feeling like I’ve succeeded. Through setting physical goals for myself and then reaching them, I gain confidence and love myself.

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Bell peppers – Santana’s garden

The act of cooking is another way I nourish myself completely. I live in a different state than my family, so one way I can feel close to them is through cooking recipes that my mother and grandmother have taught me. If I’m feeling homesick, making a favorite meal is a way to temper that. These recipes are a gift that they’ve given me and that I can share with people close to me. I’ve taken more initiative with my diet by adopting recipes that are not only tasty, but healthy too. When I sauté kale, garlic, and beets, I know that I’m providing my body with strength, nutrients, and something yummy, that’s empowering!

Eating healthy is doubly exciting when I cook the vegetables I grow in my own garden. How fulfilling to till, plant, cultivate, and harvest your own produce! I maintain my connection to the Earth and nature and I remind myself of the sanctity of food. I feel like a shepherd to my garden and my vegetables. After spending all day inside an office during the work week, I love to kick off my shoes and walk barefoot in the soil while tending to my plants.

One of my most important self-care actions I practice is allowing myself to be silly! I embrace having solo dance parties (in the printing room at work, in my car, or the kitchen while cooking dinner). If I catch myself being critical of my reflection in the mirror, I’ll start making silly faces at myself until I laugh. Part of growing up for me has been learning to take care of myself in an internal way and being silly is sometimes the best medicine.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led you to a deeper love for who you are?

For a long time I wrestled with my racial identity. Largely because the way others viewed my racial identity varied so much depending on what part of the country or the world I was in. I’ve always dreaded the “what are you?” question because my answer is so complicated and normally the person asking isn’t looking for an answer that’s been 23 years in the making. Although it is still a work in progress, I’m learning to embrace the fluidity of my identity. Rather than thinking of myself as an outlier or outsider because of my varied experiences, I’ve learned to see it as a tool through which I can more easily connect with a wide range of people. Through changing my perspective, I’ve learned to see my experiences as empowering rather than exclusionary. I’ve learned that I don’t owe an explanation to anyone regarding myself, and the way that I navigate my identity can be personal, unique, and special. Developing and naming my own agency in potentially marginalizing encounters has been a huge step in my own self-care.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love spills over into all other aspects of our lives. When you’re at your best, you provide so much more positivity and light. In many ways self-love is the best act of kindness. I’ve learned that if I want to have meaningful and beneficial relationships, self-love needs to be my top priority. I think in many relationships, the idea that “I’ll take care of you and you’ll take care of me” is common and potentially detrimental. That mentality can lead to a lot of pressure, false expectations, and resentment. I’ve found that in reality, the better philosophy is “Because I love you, I’ll love, take responsibility for, and care of myself.” Self-love translates into healthier, more supportive partnerships. It’s the foundation to a beautiful life.

Santana’s LYFF Collage:

We asked Santana to also submit photos demonstrating self-love in action or even photos that radiate the feeling of loving who she is. We created a collage (shown above AND below, because they were too inspiring to just choose three or four) of the awesome images she wanted to share.

Santana selected these images because “these photos make me proud of myself. In these moments I was trying something new, enjoying outside, or being exuberant and joyful. These are moments where I felt truly alive and in the moment!”

santana_collage_2[the phoenix rising collective]

Thank you for sharing your self-love story, Santana. You are definitely a Phoenix rising!

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If you’d like to share your self-love story with The Collective contact us here.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Beautiful, diverse women tell stories of triumph, share personal affirmations, and declare love for their lives! The series is meant to inspire and empower women to fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self-esteem.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.


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I Forgive Myself: It’s More Than Just An Affirmation

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There is freedom in letting go. Stop beating yourself up already! Stop holding on to old wounds, things you should or should not have done and said, etcetera, etcetera. Blaming and shaming will not change what happened to you or what you did and said to yourself or someone else; however, releasing the pain around the experiences will support healing and moving on with a newfound sense of freedom.

There’s a beautiful book by author and life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, that I’ve had for a long time (long enough for the pages to turn yellow), Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Women. I found this book (or it found me) years ago when I worked in a bookstore and was also becoming much more diligent in my spiritual development. I loved the self-care rituals in it (and still do). It’s an easy read with powerful step-by-step guidance that can be used every day. Let’s be real, guidance on how to let go and forgive is the challenge, so being armed with tools that support practicing forgiveness makes all the difference in the world!

I hadn’t opened Tapping the Power Within in quite a while but found myself drawn to it again about three years ago – right around the time I took the major leap to start The Phoenix Rising Collective. I began to doubt that I could create something of this magnitude on my own from square one. And you know what happens when doubt rears its ugly head? Its companion, negative self-talk, is just around the corner ready to pounce with questions like, “Who in the world do you think are? What makes you think you’re qualified to do this? What if you fail?” Once that starts I’m in the rabbit hole called The Past – past hurts, past pains, and past failures. A close friend and I hold each other accountable when we go to that dark place by saying, “Get outta there! Come back. That’s over. Be present.” We’ve all got our own personal rabbit hole, and the key to digging your way out and keeping it closed is self-awareness: developing the ability to catch negative self-talk when it begins, understanding what triggers it, and committing to practices that heal and create change. So, with that in mind I took Tapping the Power Within off the shelf for a refresher course and immediately turned to the chapter on forgiving and releasing. This is the paragraph that struck a cord: “The Forgiveness Diet included in A Course in Miracles, is a helpful exercise for releasing past hurts, those you remember and those you do not. It requires a commitment of 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at night, and a brand new notebook.” Well, I grabbed my journal and went on a diet.

It was important for me to start this exercise again because I did not want an inability to forgive myself (or others) hindering my success or sabotaging my commitment to live in the fullness of who I am. The Diet says to the ego, “I am well aware that the culmination of my past experiences has prepared me for what I am embarking on now. All is well.”

Two major things that I noticed after completing the exercise were 1) the inner chatter dissipated and I was able to easily replace it with more loving thoughts and affirmations, and 2) I physically felt lighter (when I am thinking about hurtful past experiences I usually carry the emotional load on my shoulders and upper back).

“Forgiveness allows us to be free of the negative experiences of anger, pain, disappointment, guilt, and shame. When we are free, we are open to experience love, joy, happiness, success, and peace. When we forgive, we learn. When we learn, we grow – mentally, physically, and spiritually.” –Iyanla Vanzant, Tapping the Power Within

My challenge to you is try this exercise! I’ve even attached the instructions: The Forgiveness Diet. This will be another productive, spirit-affirming tool to pull out of your I-am-a-self-care-goddess kit, a part of your guidance on how to forgive yourself and others when the need to do so strikes.

Be open to the experience. Remember to give yourself grace throughout the process, and if you have to start over, then start over – as many times as necessary. This is your opportunity to let go of whatever you’re holding on to. It’s your chance to finally let it fall away.

Release the weight. Be light. Be self-love in action!

And don’t forget to share your progress with me in the comment section below. What did you observe while on the diet? How did you feel? I’d also love to hear about your go-to books on and practices for forgiveness.

You can also check out these books on the topic of self-love and forgiveness:

Book_Recommendations[ThePhoenixRisingCollective]

Specifically on Body Acceptance:

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IMG_20150204_073625 2Ayanna Jordan is founder and Women’s Leadership Coach & Trainer for The Phoenix Rising Collective; she is also the editor-in-chief for Phoenix Shine, The PRC’s blog and spirit-affirming online community. She has always had a passion for inspiring others through writing, coaching, and teaching. Her diverse career experiences have positively shaped her overall perspective on what it truly means to be a change agent: “I believe a change agent is someone who is in alignment with what she loves to do, and then connects, utilizes, and shares that love to make a difference and transform lives.” Learn more about Ayanna HERE.


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AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: Notice Great Things!

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Believe it, Phoenix! Great things DO happen to you everyday – big and small. You can recognize them by choosing to live in the moment.

Practice mindfulness. Take a few deep breaths and just be present.

In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.”  (Book: Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life)

Tip: As a way to express gratitude for and assist you in the practice of recognizing those great things (big and small) that happen in your day, journal about them or share the experiences with someone who will appreciate and support what you’re doing, the new, positive habit you’re creating. Notice how these simple, yet very impactful, exercises shift your perspective and overall mood.

Mindfulness is integral to your commitment to be self-love in action. Practice!

 


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Are You Aware of Your Breathing?

The Phoenix Rising Collective

Sometimes (well, most of the time) all you need is a deep breath to bring clarity to a situation and/or to lighten the load. Whether it’s a big decision you have to make or a matter of seeing things from a different perspective, don’t hold your breath in the process of figuring it out. Breathe.

Release anxiety and worry by slowly and consciously inhaling and exhaling your way through it. Surrender. And with each exhale visualize what letting go looks like for you.

Lastly, repeat an affirmation that supports this intentional breathing practice; here are a few of my favorite:

  • I am easily and divinely guided to solve my challenges. All is well.
  • I let go and the universe lovingly takes care of me.
  • I am light and love; it exudes from me and is part of all that I do.
  • I commit to peace within myself and to peace with others.

Take a breath! Be self-love in action. Happy Sunday, Phoenix! Create a positive week.

 

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ayanna_sidebar[photo]Ayanna Jordan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Phoenix Rising Collective. She has always had a passion for inspiring others, particularly women, and especially through writing, coaching, and teaching. She is happy The PRC provides an opportunity for her to write about one of her favorite topics: self-care, as she believes that true wellness begins within – healing old wounds, forgiving others (and yourself), letting go of the past, eating healthy foods, making room for change, sustaining a positive attitude, and taking time for spiritual practice, are all a part of the journey to authenticity. Right now, she is most inspired by Love Yourself First! Friday. Learn more about it HERE.


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AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: I Am Grateful For…

gratitude affirmation of the day[phoenixrisingcollective]Gratitude opens the door for so much more abundance and happiness in all aspects of your life.  And this is the season for deeper spiritual reflection and renewal, so as you contemplate and do a personal review of this year (or even this week or just today) what are you most grateful for?

Start your affirmation with four simple words: I. am. grateful. for. Let the other words that follow simply flow. Don’t put any restrictions on what comes forth for you. Allow each expression of thankfulness to fill you, and then take a deep breath and release it.

Share in the comments below. We want to hear from you!  Be self-love in action. Express your gratitude.