The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action

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SELF-LOVE TIP OF THE DAY: Be Grateful and Write About It!

gratitude_journal [phoenix rising collective]

Be grateful. Tonight (after your day of doing all that you do), choose to express gratitude by focusing on the positive, inspirational things that happened to you (or even moments that happened to others and how good it made you feel).

Take a moment to reflect on the beauty, love, joy, happiness, and growth you witnessed and experienced – big and small – in nature and/or with people (including yourself). Journal about them. It’s as simple as, “Today I am grateful for…” and listing each one. It doesn’t have to be a large list. In fact, just journal until you feel you’re ready to stop.  Make it a daily, intentional practice, and observe how this exercise in mindfulness shifts your perspective and transforms your life!

Tip: Select a journal/notebook that you love and use it specifically for gratitude journaling. And you can reference it as a reminder of how abundantly and consistently awesome your life really is and to keep yourself centered on the importance of being in the moment.

Be self-love in action.

Do you already have a gratitude journal? If so, how has it shifted your perspective on life? How often do you express your gratitude?


SELF-LOVE TIP OF THE DAY: I Let Go of the Need to be Perfect!



We were searching for a bit of inspiration for the Self-Love Tip of the Day and found that this definitely hit the mark! Perfectionism…LET. IT. GO. once and for all.

You are complete just as you are in this moment. Embrace it.  Healthy striving is a focus on reaching attainable goals, understanding that even when you make mistakes along the way there is something to be learned from them, too. It’s a balanced motivation for self-improvement that supports wellness. “Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?” –Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Shout-out to Samantha Marie Davis (designer) for creating this awesome bag as a reminder to let go of being perfect! Interested in the bag? Check out Lipstick Affirmations.

Create the day you want, Phoenix! Be self-love in action.


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SELF-LOVE TIP OF THE DAY: Support Other Women. Create an Empowered Network.

affirmation_women_networking[phoenix rising collective]1

Women supporting other women, it’s alright. –Ledisi

Yes, it’s as simple as this quote. (We absolutely love it, by the way!) Women need to support one another in our commitment to being better – personally, spiritually, professionally, and emotionally, as there is strength and empowered action in numbers!

Create a positive sister circle, or as one of our contributing writers calls it, “My Goddess Squad,” who believe in what you want for your life, and also believe that there’s enough to go around. We’ve heard it before, “What’s meant for you will be for you.” In other words, if it’s yours, no one can take it away. The universe will open to give it to you in one way or another at the perfect time. And if your Goddess Squad believes this, too, there’s no room for envy, jealousy, and coveting what the next person has. So, do away with that deficit thinking by choosing more positively affirming thoughts and actions, and make one of those actions selecting a circle of women that supports your deepest dreams, goals, and desires.

In essence, keep doing the work (and only you know what that entails). Be patient. Celebrate the process. Remain open. Network with like-minded women. And lastly, support one another on your awesome paths to appointed greatness! You never know; a sister in your divine network may have (or knows someone who has) the perfect opportunity you’ve been patiently waiting to seize. “Women supporting other women, it’s alright.” In fact, it’s more than alright. It’s beautiful.

Be self-love in action. Happy Wednesday.

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Celebrate the Phenomenal Women in Your Life: 10 Simple Ways to Do It!

It’s Women’s History Month and we want to shout out some of the women in our lives who have inspired us. While it is important to highlight women from history, it is often our own life histories that have the largest impact on our day-to-day lives. The women we’re featuring below are exemplars of style and beacons of light on very personal, everyday levels.

Aisha’s Mother – “My Mommy is the Best Mother of All Time”

Aisha_Mother[Womens_History_Month]_the phoenix rising collective

The first person I want to recognize is my mommy. I know that everyone claims this, but my mommy is the best mother of all time. She has always been an inspiration to me and continues to inspire me every single day.

One of the main ways she has been an inspiration is by providing a blueprint for perseverance. When my father became a drug addict, my mother found herself raising three children on her own. In true mommy style, she not only raised us but also did a great job at it. Growing up she found a way to work two jobs and still be an extremely active parent. And she is still the number one supporter of my siblings and me; honestly, she is one of my best friends.

After I left for college and my sister left for the Navy, my mother decided to go back to school. Working two jobs, still, she started putting herself through school and moving toward a nursing degree. She has shown me that perseverance is key. Oftentimes when I feel down, she reminds me that bad times do not last forever – and she is right.

My mother’s style of doing things, of making a way out of seemingly no way, and of pushing that rock to get everyone out of a hard place is simply amazing. So often my mother stops to tell me how proud she is of me – but honestly, I owe everything I am, both literally and figuratively, to her. She brought me into this world and it is her determination and perseverance that have gotten me this far.

Aisha’s Sister – “Having a Little Sister to Play with was Pretty Awesome, Too!”

Aisha_Sister[womens history]

Most of my time during childhood was spent with my brother and sister. Because of this we are all very close. My sister, Jazmin, was born two years after me. Although I was initially my older brother’s partner in crime, having a little sister to play with was pretty awesome, too. Like all sisters who grow up sharing everything (toys, clothes, and a room) we also shared a pretty healthy mix of arguing and getting along. As we’ve grown older we have grown closer.

Jazmin joined the Navy on her 17th birthday. Because of this she ends up spending most of her time thousands of miles away from our family. This can feel rough at times because we miss her a lot, but when we talk on the phone or when she is stateside (and I get to visit her) we always have an amazing time. Sometimes it feels like Jazmin is my little-big sister because she seems to have her life so much more together than I do. She pushes me and our mother to take care of ourselves (even from oversees right now, Jazmin checks on me to make sure I am eating healthy – that is LOVE).

My sister is an inspiration to me because she exemplifies determination. She knew very early on what she wanted and she went for it. She wanted to join the Navy – and so she did. She wanted to make her life and our lives better – and so she has. Jazmin was determined to make an amazing life for herself and she has. One of the greatest pleasures of my life, thus far, has been being able to watch Jazmin grow up into the beautiful and smart woman that she is.


Simone’s Mother – “I Did Not Recognize My Mother’s Light Until She Passed Away”

simones mother_womens history[the phoenix rising collective]First, I want to honor my mother who is my angel. Truthfully, I did not recognize my mother’s light until after she passed away in 2003. So much of it was blocked by her struggle against her insecurities. My mother’s solution, to undergo gastric-bypass surgery, eventually cost her her life; she died as a result of post-operative complications. Initially, after she passed, I did not see my mother as a strong woman because I thought she was always preoccupied with how others perceived her. She chose to have the operation because being called fat made her upset and also made her feel ugly. Sometimes she defended herself against the marks, and there were also moments where I could not tell that people’s remarks affected her. Reflecting on those moments, I realize that my mother did, in fact, love herself. No matter the pain (physical and mental) she was going through, she still laughed and smiled—oh, and took hundreds of pictures of herself (ha—if she had Facebook, we’d be competing with selfies!). I can still see her throwing her head back in laughter the day she had her left breast amputated.

I am honoring my mother for her simplicity. She was in and out of the hospital and had to take care of several children after being laid off. The struggle with her insecurities complicated her life in some ways; however, she never lost sight of peace and happiness. During her panic attacks, she just wanted me to lie with her. And during her stays in the hospital, she just wanted my grandmother to comb her hair. She was aware of the love in and around her, and though “too late,” I think she realized that she did not have to risk her life to be accepted/loved by the people who would never love her anyway. My mother taught me that pain is complicated and will attempt to eat away your happiness. Her journey continues to inspire me to live my life simply, especially in a way that keeps her light shining.

Simone’s Sister – “Brittani is One of My Best Friends”

simone_brittani_womens history[the phoenix rising collective]Ah, my little button-nose lover! (She is probably cracking up reading this right now.) My younger sister, Brittani is one of my best friends, and I am honoring her for her love and positivity. I can always count on her to make me laugh, or laugh at my crazy jokes! And just like my mother, she always throws her head back in laughter.

And speaking of mothers—Brittani is the mother of two beautiful children, Breaker (Baby Breaker) and Brielle (Chunka Munka!). When she became a mother, she was as nervous as any first-time mom would be. She was also very happy and in love with her new role, though some people judged her for becoming a mother at the age of 16. When she had Chunka Munka at 21, people continued to judge her; however, Brittani loves her life and sees her children as on time and a part of the Creator’s plan for her. Sometimes she does call me because she is upset at people and their hurtful remarks. However, before I can tell her that I am on my way with Vaseline, she bounces back. She moves from being upset to “Well, anyway. Grey’s is coming on tonight!” And what’s most beautiful, I think, is her unwavering love. She continues to love and do good things for others despite the pain some have attempted to cause her.

Brittani does not always think she is this positive and loving person, but I want her to know that when she texts me things like, “Good morning, my sista!” or posts Facebook statuses about how much she loves her family, I melt on the inside. She is such a beacon of love and light. I want her to know how resilient she is, and how her resilience inspires me to bounce back and keep moving. And I know watching Netflix through a wine hangover is not the same struggle as changing diapers on 3 hours of sleep, but all that strength and happiness in her, encourages me to live in love and positivity. Mother Earth loves you, Sissy Button Love.

So, who are you honoring for Women’s History Month? How has she inspired you? What does her life mean to you? What does her style of doing things teach you?

Below we’ve compiled 10 simple ways to honor and celebrate the women in your own life:

  1. Have tea/coffee or a meal together (or cook a meal for her) – A home-cooked meal or hot beverage always warms the soul; it’s also a very inexpensive way to show someone how much you appreciate them.
  2. Plan a craft or cooking day – If she’s artsy/crafty, this will be right up her alley; not only will she love spending time working with her hands, she’ll enjoy doing it with you.
  3. Write her a letter or a poem – This is almost a lost art, especially in the days of social media. A letter or poem will provide an opportunity for you to carve out down-time to write and to be thoughtful with your words while writing. She’ll definitely know that it’s from your heart.
  4. Go on a hike or walk in the park – It’s great exercise and nature has a way of opening the imagination, making it a perfect time to share what’s on your mind.
  5. Make sugar scrub or a piece of jewelry for her – Self-care should always be at the top of the list, so selecting her favorite scents for a sugar scrub or the perfect stones for a necklace will make the gift even more special to her.
  6. Tell her that you love her everyday – Time is precious; let people know how you really feel about them.
  7. Work out/do yoga together – Having an accountability workout partner can provide that boost of energy to keep going! Why not make that partner someone you consider a phenomenal woman?
  8. Do a wine and movie night – It’s another great way to relax; in fact, let her choose the wine and her favorite movie.
  9. Send her an inspirational book – We all need inspiration to maintain resilience – even the women we’re inspired by, so send her a book that has empowered you.
  10. Make her laugh often – It’s definitely the best medicine, and nothing is more special (and hilarious) than hearing someone you love laugh!


Let us know how you honor the women in your life. Share your own life stories in the comments section—we want to continue to honor Women’s History Month with the stories we don’t read about everyday.



About the Contributing Writers:

SimonePic3Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably. Simone is teaming with Aisha (read about her below) to bring you a unique take on Life + Style.


AISHA_BLOG[PHOTO]Aisha Upton is a second-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests include Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance.  Be sure to read Aisha + Simone’s unique take on Life + Style and the importance of letting who you are shine through when defining your personal style.


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bell hooks, Growing Pains, and Womanhood: How My Commitment to Feminism Empowered Me to be the Change I Wish to See

womens_history_month2014[the phoenix rising collective]bell_hooks

bell hooks.

“SHE is NOT a feminist!” I adamantly expressed to my male mentor/adviser (whom I’ll call “David”) during a heated exchange as a high school senior. He was just as livid and turned up in opposing my viewpoint (with a very condescending smirk on his face) stating, “YES SHE IS!” We were referring to the beloved bell hooks. I was so sure in my conviction that she was not the man hating, ball busting, dyke (please excuse my terminology as this leads up to an excellent point of correction) that I assumed in my very, very, very young and immature mind that ALL feminists were. The little bit that I knew about bell hooks was that her writings heavily criticized the lack of historical literary recognition of black women’s presence within the U.S. women’s liberation and feminist movements. Her writings also sought to empower black women to find our voices and speak our truth in eradicating any and all forms of oppression against us. So, after the debate was over with David, my female mentor/adviser calmly pulled me aside and said very sternly, yet in a loving voice, “Sistah, I admire you for speaking out so passionately about something that appears to be so dear to your heart, BUT bell hooks is a feminist.”

Growing Pains

kaneesha[feminism_March article]I was CRUSHED. CONFUSED. BEWILDERED! I felt so dumb for arguing a point with very little merit or specific facts to support my claims. She, Regina Laurie, my high school mentor/adviser (and now best friend of 15 years) explained to me why bell hooks was a feminist and how my perceptions of feminists were extremely flawed. She also kindly referred me to a bibliography of bell hooks’ writings that provided more insight, as I OBVIOUSLY needed to get my facts straight.

I was still vehemently angry though. I was angry because David knew that I did not know what I was talking about and he continued to argue with me. I was angry because the tone, the words, and the body language (in my opinion) that he used during the dispute further validated my foolish beliefs about how feminists, and in particular, bell hooks preached jargon that was strongly anti-strong black man,  anti-heterosexual relationships, anti-nuclear black family, and any other “anti” that somehow emasculated black men. This is precisely why he was so obstinate in expressing his viewpoint.  I was angry because of my realization that both our assumptions were completely inaccurate, yet he deliberated as if he was speaking THE absolute truth; thus, we both were guilty of the same crime. As my participation in the youth group progressed I recognized that I was the only one between the two of us committed to challenging my erroneous perceptions. David was completely comfortable in his male privilege. Through my awakening I gleaned he was slowly but surely interjecting his views into the fabric of the youth group comprised of precocious high school students trying to “figure it out.” Somehow the youth group committed to organizing the community, undoing racism, empowering and educating youth, and celebrating the arts as a form of social justice, experienced some major internal conflicts leading to tension and the loss of some members. We were, however, able to regain our focus and intention, and also reclaim our mission before the sponsoring organizations were no longer able to support us.


This series of events over a period of six to seven months set the stage for me to completely fall in love with bell hooks’ writings. Through her work I was able realize my life’s purpose. These experiences were also the catalyst to transitioning my relationship with Regina from mentor/mentee to best friends, as I legally had become an adult and was entering my freshmen year in college. She continued to informally mentor me, helping to shift my juvenile thought processes and foster an enlightened young woman seeking the answers to some very real questions about life, self-identity, the “isms,” my ancestral history, and essentially what it means to be me. So between the gifts of knowledge, enlightenment, and unconditional love bestowed on me by these two powerful black women, I felt I was ready to take on the WORLD!

bell_hooks_ain't I a woman

Sisters of the Yam, Ain’t I A Woman, Talking Back, Killing Rage, Salvation, and Communion were on heavy reading rotation during my first couple of years in college. I became heavily immersed in the books, articles, lectures, recordings, interviews and anything I could find written or spoken by bell hooks. She was my introduction to truly re-examining and re-defining the ideas of being a feminist, feminism, sexism, racism, hetero-sexism, homophobia, and classism. She helped me understand the intersections of race, class, and gender, and how these variables impact black women. I gained a sentience of my place in this world as a black woman and what that generally means pertaining to my interactions with everyone else and their perceptions – and possibly preconceived notions – about me. Through this same lens, I was able to critically analyze my relationships with black men ranging from my father to the males I dated. More importantly, bell hooks challenged me to look deeply within my conditioned self and how I had learned to perpetuate the stereotypes popularized within mainstream U.S. culture in what she would call, “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Ultimately, her extensive work helped liberate my mind and soul and that allowed me to begin accepting all of humanity as a reflection of me. And only through committing to my life’s work based in feminism am I able to BE the change I want to see in the world.

I AM A Feminist

I have since been deeply inspired to define and write my own story through my work with precollege and college students, my close relationships, my home life, as well as social activities about how feminism, womanhood, and motherhood looks in my life. I’m also exceedingly encouraged by women’s stories from around the globe that define, walk in, and own the power of self-defined feminism.

In honor of Women’s History Month; March 2014, I salute the phenomenal, brutally honest, lovingly critical; author, feminist, and social activist, bell hooks.

Thank you immensely for planting seeds of self empowerment and truthful self identity as they continue to blossom, destined for greatness.


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.

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5 Practical Ways to Stay Grounded and Get to Happy (Yes, saying no is one of them!)

balance_happiness_black woman[phoenixrisingcollective]

We’re not sure if there’s a concrete definition for balance, but we know that a huge part of it is self-love. We know that it involves honoring yourself as you take on that long list of To-Dos…or To-Don’ts. Because really, we shouldn’t be cultivating our twerk instead of writing that three-page response paper due in four hours—or should we? But, seriously—honor yourself in everything that you do. That means getting to know yourself, recognizing and voicing your limits, and knowing when to say no and when to say yes.

As a way to illustrate how we achieve and try to maintain balance, we’ve decided to share stories from our lives during graduate school, which basically never stops happening until it stops happening. Let us explain:

Aisha – Learning to Balance Graduate School and the Rest of My Life

I have to admit that learning to balance surviving graduate school with the rest of my life has been very difficult. At times I have felt completely overwhelmed – trapped “between a rock and a hard place” – by things like my homework, research, community involvement; and being a daughter, sister, friend, colleague, and girlfriend (whew, even that list was exhausting).  I think that this year in particular my feelings of being overwhelmed have come to a head as I have really begun to feel like a fish out of water in this graduate school environment. I often find myself needing to sit down and regroup. When I do make the time to do this, I reflect upon a few lessons I have picked up along the way – and these things help to ground me.

1. Learn to Say No

One of the most useful lessons in balance that I have learned is to say no. As cliché as this sounds, for a person like me who can tend toward people-pleasing, it is very difficult to say no to tasks, especially ones I would enjoy if I wasn’t busy with other things.  Often I would find myself looking at my calendar for the coming week and wondering how I committed to so many activities. I would push myself through that overbooked week, skipping out on sleep and self-care, and would end up regretting doing things that normally would have made me feel pretty good. Once I finally came to terms with the fact that this is what I was doing, I resolved (with some help from a trusted mentor) to just start saying no. As much as I want to be able to do everything and to help everyone, I have had to come to terms with the fact that this is not a real thing. I’ve had to learn self-preservation above all else. Don’t get me wrong though, saying no to people can be hard – but people who care about you will understand.

2. Celebrate Your Small Victories

Another lesson I’ve learned is the importance of celebrating small victories. Almost nothing I do in graduate school is something that can be started and completed in an hour, and that sometimes makes me feel completely unproductive. What I have begun to do is make my goals on my to-do list smaller. I’ve broken down bigger tasks into smaller tasks so that when the smaller tasks are finished I can celebrate them. This completely solved my issue of feeling unproductive. That in itself has been a huge victory for me.

Simone – Honoring How You Feel to Achieve the Balance You Deserve

Balancing is so damn hard to do sometimes, y’all. Often, I have to tell myself, “Simone, do not work on that assignment until you sit down for a bit. And yes, drink that glass of wine later.” As Aisha pointed out, graduate school can be exhausting and rewarding all at the same time. I used to think that a successful day in graduate school was all about quantity. However, between last semester and writing my intentions for the New Year, I discovered that a successful day is actually about improving your quality of life. It means that I do what I can without compromising or hurting myself. And of course, if I slip up and drink that glass of wine before noon, I know that I always have tomorrow. I think that honoring yourself is a beautiful process that will help you achieve the balance you deserve.

1. Establish a Daily Routine

Not too long ago, I used to sleep until I had only an hour and a half to be on campus. Sometimes, that meant skipping breakfast to get some extra sleep. Consequently, my energy levels were low and I had to force myself to check items off my To-Do list. That type of life became too tough for me to handle, so I decided to make some changes. Now, I give myself enough time to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, exercise, and do some personal reading and writing/prayer. This morning routine really helps me enjoy my day. I feel happy about going to school and work. I also feel energized all day long! Except today—I need a nap.

But, speaking of all day long, I often find that I have a lot of tasks and a bunch of deadlines. Just like you all, my friends want to drink wine all the time and my students want me to give them a detailed list of what they missed in class this morning, but, um, no. Similar to Aisha, for the sake of self-preservation, I’ve learned to say no to things I don’t want to do. And, I say it unapologetically.

Jan Post pic

You do not have to apologize or provide a reason for not doing something. Your time is your time, and you should be careful with it. Spend it doing things that you love and spend it in a way that will help you love and live life to the fullest!

2. Commit to Healthier Lifestyle Choices

In addition to prioritizing my time, I’ve learned to create a healthy lifestyle. For me, this means making sure that my personal life is in check. A few weeks ago, I fainted at the gym because I did not have enough water that morning. I learned my lesson as soon as I hit that floor! Eating/drinking well and enough has become really important to my life over the last few years. Eating/drinking well and enough not only keeps me on my feet in the weight room; this personal task helps me become the best Simone. You can bet that I have water and snacks with me at all times now!

3. Practice Gratitude

Lastly, Aisha mentioned the importance of celebrating small victories. I, too, have learned to tell myself, “Great job, girl!” I find that this pushes me to complete more tasks. Oh, after that nap, of course! I like celebrating my achievements, so I balance my life in a way that allows me to achieve the things I want and need at my own pace. I break my To-Do list into chunks so that I feel a lot more productive. Additionally, at night I thank the Creator for everything that I did and everything I didn’t do, and I journal about what made me feel good. Knowing that there are things to be thankful for and that I can feel good everyday motivates me to maintain balance. I think that it is the key to feeling and doing your best.

So, now that we’ve given you the scoop on how we twerk this high up, let us know what you do to achieve and maintain balance. What does a healthy/happy and productive day look like for you?

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and intentions, we want to invite you on our journey toward balance and self-love. To begin, try creating a new routine. Make a list of your limits and create boundaries. If you don’t want to talk about work at home, honor that. If you feel like you need some time to diddle your skittle or spend some time with your significant other, “Go ‘head, girl!” You’re the timekeeper.

Again, let us know how you’re performing that great balancing act! We’d love for you to share your secrets for staying grounded and getting to happy!


About the Contributing Writers:


Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably. Simone is teaming with Aisha (read about her below) to bring you a unique take on Life + Style.


aisha_reflectAisha Upton is a second-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests include Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance.  Be sure to read Aisha + Simone’s unique take on Life + Style and the importance of letting who you are shine through when defining your personal style.

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


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.


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…


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.


Happy 2014 from The PRC: What’s Your Word for the Year?

We are very excited about the new year because we’ve got a lot more inspiring articles, programs, and series in store for you. Our word, our theme for 2014 is BALANCE. Women are responsible for and juggle a multitude of things with our families, careers, communities, and of course, ourselves. So, the question becomes, “How do we create balance so that we are happy and healthy?”

Our goal is to tackle this topic with care so that we empower women to intentionally make balance a part of the daily routine. Our contributing writers will share their experiences on aspects of maintaining balance, as well as provide some insight on what to do when things are totally out of alignment and we need to come “back to the middle,” as India Arie so beautifully sings.

What is your word for 2014? What area of your life are you consciously making an effort to strengthen? What are you giving your full attention for positive self-growth? Patience? Focus? Health? Love? Happiness? Whatever your word is this year, make The PRC a space for getting the support, encouragement, and of course, inspiration, you need to keep moving forward throughout the journey.

Lastly, did you notice our new look? This is our way of starting fresh, thanking the awesome women who’ve participated in bringing our mission to life, and showing our supporters that The Phoenix Rising Collective represents real women doing extraordinary things!

Let’s continue being self-love in action. Happy 2014.


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Self-Love Tip for the Holidays: Release All Expectation

I let go and the universe lovingly takes care of me. -Ayanna M. Jordan

During this time of the year many of us start putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and the ones we love. Getting stuck on what we THINK our holidays should look like will rob us of the beautiful, meaningful moments that ARE happening.

Let’s give ourselves and our family and friends a break by letting go of “would have, should have, and could have.” Instead, recognize and concentrate on what IS bringing joy, and put more energy into that. Take a deep breath and release all expectation. Enjoy the season.

Happy Holidays! Be Self-Love in Action.

tumblr_m3fli10BFl1qbi118o1_500Photo: Sun Kissed – Sabriya Simon Photography


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Bouncing Back After Baby: Learning and Loving the Skin You’re In

post_pregnancy[black_women]“Beauty is present in all creation, but the danger lies in the fact that, because we human beings are often cut off from the Divine Energy, we allow ourselves to be influenced by what other people think. We deny our own beauty because others can’t or won’t recognise it. Instead of accepting ourselves as we are, we try to imitate what we see around us.” – Paulo Coelho

It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. My response to this statement has always been, “Well, it depends on what or who I’m trying to imitate and why.” What is the intention behind contemplating imitation in whatever form(s) it may manifest? What do I stand to gain, if anything? How much of myself will I potentially lose and/or sacrifice?

Through my personal experiences and observations, I’ve witnessed some women, particularly mothers, and more specifically mothers who are of color, attempting to imitate the images defined as beautiful by mainstream American and European cultures. The images painted are very vivid and could lead us to believe that there is a one-size fits all model for our bodies and what they should look like in general, moreover, what they should look like after 10 months (yes, I said 10 months after pregnancy) and a year or two of breastfeeding.

I’ll examine our conditioned thought processes around what our bodies should and/or should not look like post-pregnancy, as the post-pregnancy time frame can range from six months to six years after childbirth. I’ll also travel briefly through history exploring the journey of a specific woman of color and how her life experiences largely contributed to western cultural misconceptions about our bodies. Lastly, I want to offer some recommendations that could shift our views about our bodies and help us learn to fully love the skin we’re in!

Hottentot Venus

sarah baartmanHaving extensively studied Cultural Anthropology in undergrad, I’m an advocate for the ‘Out of Africa’ theory. This theory simply posits that human life originated in the region currently known as Africa. Thus, many of the people who were and are born in this region have distinct physical features that may help to distinguish the specific area/country they are from. One of the key features for many people born in this region of the world (especially those located south of the equator) is brown to dark brown skin complexion. Furthermore, a key feature of some of the brown to dark brown skin women from southern parts of Africa are broad noses, thick and full lips, tightly curled hair, wide hips, medium to largely rounded buttocks, and medium to large breasts that may or may not appear less perky or “sag” before or after childbirth.

At the point that European colonists “explored” various countries in Africa during the 1400s – 1900s, the physical characteristics of many women as described above were of vast interest to them. So much in fact, a Khoikhoi woman of color and mother named Saartjie “Sara” Baartman, from what is now known as Eastern Cape, South Africa, became a spectacle on exhibition throughout London and France during the early 1800s. Saartjie, who became known as “Hottentot Venus,” possessed a dark skin complexion, thick lips, tightly coiled hair, and a natural full figured physical structure. Her size could be comparable to a modern-day woman wearing a size 16. Apparently, this was something these Europeans had never seen so they coerced her into involuntary servitude. This form of slavery was for the primary purpose of marauding Saartjie’s body in caged environments that also showcased other “oddities” and “animals” for public viewing. Saartjie’s treatment during her tenure in Europe was less than that of a zoo animal. The intention was to convince themselves of racial superiority; and more specifically in this case, to convey that African women’s bodies were naturally of lesser human value – primitive and animalistic.


After Saartijie’s death at the young age of 26 in 1816, her remains were dissected. Her brains and vagina were pickled and placed in jars, and a plaster cast of her body was displayed in the Musee del’Homme (Museum of Man) in France until 1971.

No, you’re right. You didn’t ask for a history lesson; however, highlighting the tragic story of Saartjie Baartman is important to understanding the ideological framework behind her inhumane treatment, and is central to recognizing that we are still being delivered the same exploitative, unrealistic messages about our bodies; furthermore, within these messages lies the idea that we are somehow abnormal.

Redefining Beautiful

Take a moment and think about the last time you watched TV.  As you very impatiently waited for Liv and Fitz’s next scene to continue on Scandal, you were hit with at least five different commercials telling you to nip, tuck, pluck, straighten, lighten, lose, cover up, conceal, brighten, whiten, leave in, take out, and permanently say goodbye to SOME part of your body. This message was more than likely presented to you by someone that physically did not look like you, obviously doesn’t wear your size, has no visible stretch marks after claiming to have given birth to two or more children, and apparently has A LOT of time on her hands.

Similar to Saartjie Baartman, the divine essence of who we are as mothers and women of color with distinct physical features is rarely embraced and portrayed as naturally beautiful. Instead there is a great imbalance within American culture and mainstream media depicting us as exotic, hypersexualized, long-haired, weave-wearing, big breast and big booty divas – when the reality is that our physical beauty ranges in all shapes, sizes, skin complexions, hair textures, and facial features.

So, when we learn stories about women like Saartjie Baartman, we must honor her legacy by drawing upon her strength when our inner struggles with our post-baby bodies get the best of us. We can challenge the images that suggest we subscribe to insane workout plans and diet regimens to lose the extra 10 to 15 (or even 20 pounds) that may have been gained during pregnancy.

By deeply looking within and truly accepting the inherent beauty present in ourselves as vessels created to carry life, we will realize that there is no need for imitation or replication. There is only room for extending ourselves grace, for remaining patient with our natural physical changes and transitions after child birth, and for doing the best we can to maintain healthy balanced lifestyles.

Pregnancy Facts

So, let’s quickly recall the key facts we learn from our doctors, as well as books about what an average healthy pregnant woman “should” look like:

  1. Expect to gain minimally 25 pounds which is comprised mostly of fluid and actual weight of the baby.
  2. Eat healthy balanced meals during pregnancy and try to maintain an active lifestyle which could possibly facilitate an easy pregnancy and labor.
  3. Moisturize the belly with cocoa or shea butter to prevent stretch marks.
  4. Breasts will begin to swell from milk production primarily during the third trimester.
  5. Breast feeding after childbirth for up to six months to a year will help the uterus contract and return to its pre-pregnancy size as well as help burn calories encouraging weight loss.


My reality looked like this during my pregnancies:

  1. I gained an average of 45 pounds between both pregnancies because I ate everything in sight!
  2. I was not very physically active before pregnancy, so I was not intrinsically motivated to become more active during or after pregnancy.
  3. I breast fed both of my boys for two years (don’t judge me). I returned to my pregnancy size after having my first son. I was in my early 20s, not fully into a career, had more free time, and enjoyed the nesting phase. My six pack returned and my breasts remained perky.
  4. I was in my late 20s when I gave birth to my second son, fully into a career, had a whole lot less free time, already raising a very active child, and didn’t allow myself to enjoy nesting time. He is four years old and my body has not (and very possibly will not) return to how it looked before pregnancy with him. My six pack is quite questionable and my breasts although small in size, now sag.
  5. I have stretch marks on every part of my body that was literally STRETCHED during each pregnancy!


Life After Birth

PhotoGrid_1386818902866This may sound a lot like your reality as well, so please believe that you’re not in this alone. I have definitely fallen into the abyss of mainstream media messages, and thought that if I forced myself into some extensive workout regimen and low carb diet, I’d miraculously lose weight, gain self-esteem, and become more beautiful. However, after each failed attempt, I found that I felt spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically worse than I had before I even started having children.  In fact, it was my children, my boys, who taught (and continue to teach) me the very lesson I still struggle to internalize, “I’m perfectly fine just the way I am, and I’m loved unconditionally.”

During other times of vulnerability and insecurity about my body, my significant other quotes the comedian, Katt Williams, who talks about women with stretch marks, “Either you was big and got small, or you was small and got big – either way, I’m loving on you.”

And finally, I’m blessed to have other women of color who are mothers in my Sistah Circle that affirm my body and me. We share stories about how our hips, no matter the size, possess the cradle to bring forth life and how our stretch marks are love scars gifted to us by God as we carried and birthed future generations. We explain how our breasts have metaphorically nursed generations of kings and queens, Gods and Goddesses, and how each time we look into our children’s eyes, we are reminded of how amazing and miraculous we are as human beings because we can contribute such goodness and greatness to the world.


Loving the Skin I’m In

So the next time you look at your post-pregnancy body with disgust and disdain:

  1. Challenge yourself to question the intention behind the thoughts. Then refocus and attempt to think of affirming and positive sayings or mantras to bring into awareness the true beauty you possess. This really works! Classic case of mind over matter.
  2. Learn to listen to your body. Silence the thoughts in your mind when necessary and listen to your womb, your digestive tract, your shoulders, your back, and your feet – to name a few. All of these areas are in alignment with each other and can offer very real suggestions about what type of foods and exercises that work specifically for YOU to gain optimal health. I highly encourage you to work with healthcare practitioners to develop a plan designed to cater to your body’s needs.
  3. Surround yourself with uplifting and encouraging women and mothers who can relate to your experiences and challenges, but who also are actively striving towards maintaining healthy and balanced lifestyles such as you.
  4. Make time to connect with your children to do fun activities. My boys have me rollerblading, skate boarding, playing soccer, attempting to swim, wrestling, climbing monkey bars and many other extra-curricular goings-on. Much of these things I recall doing in my youth but gave up once I entered adulthood. You’ll spend quality time with your children, burn some calories, and admire their greatness in helping you become the woman and mother you are today.
  5. Extend gratitude to all our foremothers through prayer, meditation, visualization, or other methods. They labored HARD for us to be in many of the positions we’re in now. I know that we still have quite a long way to go, but their contributions to the world and contemporary American society have afforded us the right to vote, to educational access opportunities, to quality healthcare and housing, and to make informed decisions about our bodies and how we’re portrayed.
  6. Last but not least, be easy on yourself, honor your heart, and breathe.


To learn more about Sara Baartman:

Race and Erasure: Sara Baartman and Hendrick Cesars in Cape Town and London, Pamela Scully and Clifton Crais; Journal of British Studies , Vol. 47, No. 2 (April 2008), pp. 301-323


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.