The Phoenix Rising Collective

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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Leisan

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

I love myself first by working to live my most authentic life. To me, this means being true to who I am and speaking my truth. I started coming out as queer (lesbian) right after I graduated from college. While a lot of my coming out journey has been loving and supportive, there have been definite bumps in the road. I’ve had to continuously remind myself that regardless of other people’s opinion, I am worthy of love, which starts with loving myself first. As I’ve continued to embrace and love all of who I am, my voice has gotten stronger in advocating for myself and for others. Every time I speak up for myself or for others, I feel better about who I am.

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

As the mom of a two year-old, self-care is hard. I need to be more intentional about my own self-care so that I can show up better for my daughter. Actions that demonstrate the self-care I do provide for myself are napping and counseling. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I became a mom was “nap when she naps.” It sounds easy, but when you have a list of things to do and the option to take a nap, there can be guilt when you decide to sleep. For the sake of my self-care, I nap when my daughter naps. I am a better person, and I function better when I have had sleep. Counseling has been important especially over the past two years. In less than 1.5 years I had a lot of changes happen in my life: I got pregnant, had a baby, lost my mom, resigned from a job I loved so I could move back to my home town, and started a new job. With all of these changes, especially the death of my mother six weeks after the birth of my daughter, I needed someone to talk to. I didn’t realize it when I first started, but I was/am definitely battling depression. I know that mental health is something that is often not discussed in the black community, but consistently going to counseling has provided me with good self-care for my mind and my soul.

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

There are two challenges I’ve overcome (and am still overcoming) that continue to lead me to a deeper love for who I am: coming out as a queer black woman and becoming a single queer mom. I love who I’ve become as a queer black woman. With the current political climate and the way folks seem to be coming out of the closet in terms of their racist and/or homophobic beliefs, it has been difficult. However, I continue to remind myself that their loud opinions do not define me, and that I am an amazing woman. In terms of becoming a single queer mom, it is the best decision I have ever made. I knew my biological clock was ticking, so I decided to get pregnant before I couldn’t. I know for sure that I was born to be a mom, and I love who I am as a mom. I am re-defining what some people may think of as a “traditional” mom, and now that I am in a good, loving relationship, we are re-defining what some people may think of as a “traditional” family. I love who I am and who the three of us are as a family.

One of Leisan’s favorite photos with her daughter

What have you learned from self-love?

I love loving others. However, I have learned that the only way I can effectively love others is to start with loving myself. I have also learned that it is okay and necessary to be intentional about self-love. I have to schedule time to take care of me and know that it’s not selfish, but in fact, the best way for me to survive and thrive.

 


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.


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Balancing Balance: 6 Things Mothers Should Know to Actively Maintain It

mothers_and_balance[phoenixrisingcollective]2

Simply seek happiness, and you are not likely to find it. Seek to create and love without regard to your happiness, and you are likely to be happy much of the time. Dr. M. Scott Peck

There appears to be A LOT of discussion around the notion of seeking balance, maintaining balance, mastering balance, balancing balance, and so on. Having convinced myself that I, too, need to somehow master this concept, it often feels quite lofty, unobtainable, and completely impossible for me at times – even after several cups of my Goddess Brew.

At other moments I feel that I’m the closest to personal perfection, and I have transcended my limited human capacity to the realm of a supernatural fifth dimension being. Then reality strikes back like Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and I’m Anakin Skywalker being seduced by the dark and evil Force of imbalance – an absolute failure at living up to the greatest version of the grandest vision I hold for myself. After this mental, emotional, and spiritual war of the worlds has consumed me for a couple of weeks, I find myself starting over again, bringing me to my present “ah-ha” moment of clarity.

#TeamTooMuch

Having entered a new year, with new goals, and new ideas, I’ve committed to one, I repeat, one approach that will assist me in accomplishing balance as I wish to fully and practically experience it. But, before I delve into that, let me say that I had to be fully honest with myself in recognizing that my thoughts and actions towards living a balanced lifestyle were and are in a constant state of flux (which is totally okay, by the way).

I’ve come to realize this ebb and flow is inevitable because many days, weeks, and months, I’m in different and varying spaces emotionally, mentally, and sometimes spiritually. Why am all over the darn place, you may ask? I even ask myself that question. The answer is; because I am growing up and I am growing out. Yup, that’s it! I’m maturing, shape-shifting, metamorphosing, transforming, and awakening into the womyn (spelled this way intentionally) whose self-actualization process in mastering a balanced lifestyle is more complex than “taking the much needed ‘me-time’” I suggested in a previous article. Although taking the time for self is an extremely important component to any major lifestyle adjustment, striking a balance and envisioning precisely how that will look in our individual lives will change depending upon our deepest needs and desires.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Young Woman Meditating on the FloorAs we mature, and also come into full authentic beings, certain things simply no longer belong or reflect our trajectory. Case in point, at 22 years old I could pull an all-night study session, sleep three to four hours, and ace the exam the next day. At 32, I look like Ricky Raccoon with anything less than seven to eight hours of unbroken sleep. Or, every New Year’s Eve for the past several years I passionately looked forward to hanging with my best friends at the club dancing the night away. NYE 2014, I spent a relaxing evening with my mother watching The Butler on DVD and eating popcorn while my four year-old son played with his new train collection on the floor. The list goes on. For example, the morning meditation sessions I deeply needed six months ago were well suited for me during that time. Now I’ve found that an evening meditation with an accompanied journal reflection is more conducive to the place I’m in spiritually. Last, but definitely not least, yoga practices (ranging from Bikram to Vinyasa) were key exercises incorporated into my weekly routine throughout 2013, as I was yearning for inner strength and peace. However at the dawn of 2014, I’ve committed to the 30-day squat and plank challenge to push myself beyond my current physical capabilities.

This is not to say I’ve reached nirvana and no longer have a use for yoga and its amazing benefits. This modification in my exercise regimen is an attempt to align my core inner and outer strengths. So, it’s only befitting that throughout the rest of this lifetime, I progress and surpass the “me” of yesteryear or yesterday whenever I’m moved to do so, according to my deepest needs and desires. Thus, a balanced lifestyle will look and feel different at each crossroad.

Redefining Balance in Your Life

I have a renewed vision and shift in thought consciousness that focuses primarily on the power of recreating my reality and re-presenting myself anew. This is the approach I was referencing earlier. In doing so I’m able to:

  1. Recognize and embrace the goodness in all things and everyone as God’s perfect creations.
  2. Take full ownership of my life being exactly how I choose it to be.
  3. Cultivate the courage to be vulnerable.
  4. Be creative and love without attachment and expectation.
  5. Relinquish fear and feelings of lack.
  6. Accept abundance in all areas of my life.

 

Freedom, love, and prosperity are my themes for this year. I’ve placed strong intention on having my thoughts, behaviors, and daily manifestations in direct alignment with one another. My current state of balance during the week is 35/40/25. I dedicate 35% of my week to myself, 40% of my week to my family, and 25% to my current job. This could (and I’m sure WILL) look different in a few months.

The Balance Challenge

Mothers, my challenge for you this year, this month, this day, and this moment;

  1. Redefine the idea of balance you’ve previously held for yourself. Dig deep to assess what a new balanced lifestyle will look and feel like as you ponder your true needs and desires in your current state. Think about what may have worked for you two weeks, two months, or two years ago that doesn’t fully resonate with where or what you’re working towards presently.
  2. Then set your intention on what you truly wish to see manifest each day – Yes, each day in your life!
  3. From this point, uncover what is necessary to rebuild and recreate the scales to fit your current lifestyle thus re-presenting a “new” you.
  4. Actively work towards maintaining your renewed state of balance and be willing to make the adjustments as often as needed. Please DO NOT harshly judge yourself in the process.
  5. Remember, where you are, is exactly where you need to BE! But, you can always choose to be somewhere else.
  6. Lastly, if you have some free time, check out some of my favorite authors/life coaches/Buddhist Monks/bestselling writers whose work covers subjects and topics related to content in this article; Neale D. Walsch, Brene Brown, Thich Naht Hahn, and Paulo Coehlo to name a few.

 

Peace and Bountiful Blessings Sistren! Until next month…

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About the Author:

Kaneesha_bio_pic[shine]W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.


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The Balancing Act: 7 Tips for Creating the “Me-Time” You Deserve

balancing_act[KaNeeshaOCT]Like hunger or thirst, the instinct for balance is built into the human body.” These words spoken by Deepak Chopra express the very essence of what I strive to manifest each day.

Establishing and maintaining a balanced lifestyle is an extremely prevalent theme in my life and should be in all our lives if we choose to commit to honoring its significance.

As mothers we often get so overwhelmed with responsibilities and expectations involving external variables that we tend to neglect the single most important factor of the equation – ourselves. We forget that our identities are not solely mom, career woman, spouse/partner, daughter, life coach, problem solver, love maker, cook, house cleaner, and a slew of other titles that come with specific expectations.

Truthfully speaking, women take on these identities and try to live up to the expectations associated with them because we start believing that we’re supposed to be Superwoman, that our DNA is a mixture of extraterrestrial-Zena-Warrior-Princess-medicine-woman-big-sister-Almighty-Goddess-with-super-duper-unbreakable-strength. We also buy into the notion, “If I want anything, and I mean anything done right, I HAVE to do it myself!”  Whelp, my dear sistas, I have breaking news for all of you. While, I too, truly believe that I embody many (if not all) of the aforementioned extraordinary out-of-this-world powers, I equally have to recognize that each day that Father Sun graces me with his presence, I’m human. I have feelings. I’m imperfect. I make mistakes. I fuss at my children. I get too tired to express intimacy towards my significant other. I sometimes burn the chicken for dinner.  And dang on it, “I should’ve worn flats instead of these four-inch heels to work, knowing good and well I’d be standing up most of the day! Now my feet are killing me, and I’m giving everybody the look of death each time I see another hand go up to ask a question or voice a concern.”

So, the million-dollar question is, how and when can I get some time for me, ALL by myself with absolutely NO interruptions? Well, I’ve learned the billion-dollar answer. Are you sitting down? Fully tuned in? Got your smartphone on silent? Waaaait for it. We have to TAKE the time.

It’s that simple. I know. I know. You were anticipating something a lot more complex and profound. But it’s really that simple. Taking the time to fully nurture, nourish, balance, and heal ourselves each day, of every week, of every month is absolutely imperative to our womanhood. We commit so much of our time to and expend so much of our energy on those around us – family, friends, careers, etc – but how often do we make ourselves the number one priority? How often do others make us the number one priority? That’s an “ah-ha moment” (said in my best Oprah voice). The light bulb comes on.

Striking a Balance, Concocting a Goddess’s Brew

KaNeesha[meditation]Mothers, I challenge you to embark on a journey with me to explore the essential ingredients necessary for concocting the sweetest, tastiest, healthiest, soul shaking, lip smacking, energizing, regenerating, spirit filled Goddess Brew of what I like to call, Me-Time. Since all of us are unique, and have our own desires and needs, each Goddess Brew of Me-Time will consist of different ingredients, and that is totally fine. What works for me may not resonate with someone else, but the idea is to take the time. I repeat. Take the time you need to be with yourself while doing, thinking, acting, and feeling exactly what you want, when you want, how you want with no judgment – no judgment from others, and especially no judgment from you. This is your time to convene with the Goddess within, to reclaim your identity, and to unpack and sort through unnecessary baggage while loving and healing you. My Goddess Brew is a blended mixture of the following:

  • 10 to 30-minute morning meditations and/or visualizations
  • Prayers of gratitude
  • Vinyasa and/or Bikram Yoga at least 3 times per week
  • Dining at my favorite restaurants; either Thai or Eastern Indian cuisines
  • Consignment/thrift shopping
  • Creating my own facials with natural ingredients like avocado, honey, and Greek yogurt
  • Jogging
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Cutting my hair
  • Dream charting

These are all major activities that keep me in alignment with the divine energy within. However, my daily and weekly must-haves are morning meditations/visualizations, gratitude prayers, yoga, reading, and newly added to my list, dream charting. By making very intentional efforts to engage in each of these, I’m allowed to unabashedly honor, love, and dote on myself. I’m reminded of the beauty that exists within, without, above, and below. I’m able to see through and own all of my imperfections and insecurities. I’m open to be completely and utterly vulnerable with myself and God. As a result, I’m learning to wholly understand myself, my emotions, my gifts, my limitations, my place in the world, and ultimately the true connection I share with other entities – especially the people I spend time with and the things I expend energy towards.

So, you’re probably wondering, WHEN do I take time to do these activities? Great question! Here’s what I do, and I’ve added a few suggestions for you, too:

  1. Make the initial commitment to whip up a batch of Goddess Brew; Me-Time. Your mind, body, and soul may be shocked at first, as your ingredients may appear to be foreign substances. But, after a few more sips each day, your body will get used to the transition, happily comply, and become so very thankful. Trust me!
  2. I wake up 30 minutes earlier than anyone in my home. This time is very quiet and peaceful. The sun may be dawning and nature begins to sing her morning hymns. I can pray and meditate in front of my window that faces east while basking in the sun’s rays.
  3. I create a structured weekly routine that consists of a set bedtime for my boys. At 8:30 PM, its lights out! Yes, even for my  11 year-old. Moms, be mindful that your growing children between the ages of one to 13 require minimally nine to 12 hours of sleep at night. Even if they’re not actually falling asleep at 8:30 PM, at least their minds and bodies are peacefully resting until R.E.M. is in full effect. This allows time for me to catch up on my reading and possibly get a quick 20-minute Vinyasa yoga session in with Gaiam TV.
  4. Develop a schedule at least two months in advance for your Me-Time with the disclaimer, “non-negotiable.” Unless something earth-shattering happens, commit to your schedule, and others will too.
  5. Say NO! And mean it! You truly don’t have to be everywhere, doing everything, ALL the time.
  6. I’m more transparent and authentic in my communication about what I need and how I am feeling. If I’m too tired to cook, we order takeout. If I get frustrated at my children or significant other, I attempt to calmly communicate that and go into a different room or outside until I calm down. If I truly don’t feel like going to work, I contact my supervisor and tell her I won’t be in the office.
  7. If ever in need of a reminder, refer to numbers 1, 4, and 5. Especially 5!

 

I hope these suggestions provide a strong foundation for beginning or rebooting your journey to establishing and maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle.  Before we finish, let’s do a couple of quick exercises.

Managing Your Stress, Practicing Deep Breathing

meditation_book[KaNeesha]Sit still for a moment and pay attention to your breath. Not recognizing how it smells (although that’s important too) but more specifically, assess the depth or lack thereof of your inhalation and exhalation.

Notice if your breaths are short and shallow or long and deep. Does your breathing flow freely or is it restricted? Does the capacity in which you breathe expand down to your abdomen or does it start and stop at your throat?

Now, try to recall during stressful and challenging times whether you’re even aware of your breathing patterns at all.

The answers to these questions can paint a very vivid picture about your overall health, how you manage your stress levels, and if the seven major centers (known as chakras) in your body are functioning at their highest potential.

I won’t delve extensively into the various spiritual and metaphysical practices that focus primarily on unblocking and balancing the chakras and other energy points in the body, but there is a plethora of resources available and books written by amazing healing practitioners/authors on this subject.

I would, however, like to challenge moms to take the time to participate in the following breathing exercise for managing stress, at least four mornings out of each week. This exercise is from one of my favorite websites: MindBodyGreen.

  1. Sit up straight in a chair.
  2. Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process.
  3. Breathe in silently through your nose to the slow count of 4.
  4. Hold your breath to the count of 7.
  5. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, making a slight audible sound.
  6. Repeat the 4-7-8 cycle another three times, for a total of four breathing exercises.

 

If you’d like to learn more about these breathing exercises, read MindBodyGreen’s full article, How to Manage Stress in 76 Seconds.

Moms, what will be your Goddess Brew for creating Me-Time? We want to know what ingredients you’ll mix into your daily self-care routine! Remember, you deserve it.

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About the Contributing Writer:

Kaneesha_bio_pic[shine]W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for the Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.