The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


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SELF-LOVE TIP OF THE DAY: Dance!

dance as healing[the phoenix rising collective]

[Photo Credit: Derek Bridges; Jazz & Heritage Kumbuka African Dance & Drum Collective]


Dance! When was the last time you moved your body to release stress and anxiety? Movement is healing. You don’t need a partner. Have a dance party for one! Get up and move. Freestyle. Let it all go. Dance!

Be self-love in action.


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Good Vibes: 4 Ways to Honor and Tap Into Your Intuition

follow your intuition[the phoenix rising collective]

We think, feel, and act on our vibes without question or hesitation. -Sonia Choquette

What are vibes and why should we trust them? Our vibes are our intuition, and we make our best decisions by listening to them.

Learning About Vibes: Aisha’s Story

I only recently got into vibes. I was having a pretty difficult time, with life in general, when Simone (being the lovely friend she is) sent me a book geared at teaching me to trust my vibes. The book Simone sent me was Trusting Your Vibes by Sonia Choquette. I decided to start reading the book at night before bed and low-and-behold, it helped to give me some better insight into this whole vibe thing.

Now that I’m officially on board with the concept of vibes, let me tell you as a beginner what exactly trusting my own vibes has meant to me. There are a few themes that have resonated with me thus far on my journey:

The Importance of Sleep – Wait, What is that Anyway?

Anyone who knows me knows that I have problems with sleep. Mainly my problems with sleep come from just not getting any sleep, or infrequently getting a good night’s rest. Even as I write this, it is 1:47am, and I plan to be up early to go to class. One of the things Choquette suggests in the book is getting sleep, because you can’t listen to your vibes correctly if you are too tired. This resonated with me. As I move toward better listening to my vibes and following my intuition I have begun to focus on trying to get adequate amounts of sleep (if we don’t count tonight).

Paying Attention to What Goes In – Eating Better

Eating right and being nice to your body is also important for being able to pay adequate attention to your vibes. This is one thing that I have begun to refocus on lately, and it has helped. My sister who is on deployment asked me to take part in a fitness challenge with her, which requires that I journal all of my food and liquid consumption and all of my exercise. Taking the time to be conscious of what I am putting in my body has helped me have a better understanding of what listening to my body means.

 The Power of Words

I always knew that words had power – but learning about trusting my vibes has solidified this for me. I now understand how what I put out in the form of words can affect my overall being. With that in mind, I’ve been working with a statement that I try to repeat to myself several times throughout the day – that statement for me is “this shall pass” – and so far it has helped immensely.

Your sixth sense is really your first sense. -Sonia Choquette

Trusting My Vibes: Simone’s Story

I love the quote above by Sonia Choquette. A few years ago, my Godmother let me flip through her copy of Choquette’s Trust Your Vibes. I had always thought of myself as very intuitive; however, it was the skim through Choquette’s book that encouraged me to dive deeper into my intuition and spirituality. I read her book just about everyday because it guides me in following spiritual law instead of living a life where I am not in tune with the Universe or myself.

 Live in the Moment + Expect the Very Best from the Universe

In the past, I was very anxious, always expecting the worst. However, Choquette’s book has taught me to live in the moment and expect the very best from the Universe. To me, this means focusing on and enjoying what is right in front of me instead of trying to control everything. When I live in the moment, I am able to recognize the love around me: The laughter coming from my friends’ bellies, the mason jar of grapes feeling me with energy, and my cat, Ice T staring a hole into my soul!

Recognizing love, for me, lets me know that everything is already all right. I love being full of laughter, health, and good music, so I stay where good things are and expect them to be good, again and again. In the moment, I know that my power lies in being happy and full of love. If you are thinking about that typo you may or may not have fixed in your final draft, you might miss the opportunity to return a smile to a stranger or miss the sun setting on the way home from class. You could also miss the answers to your prayers. The moment is not only filled with happiness and love, it is also a place of intuition. I’ve learned so much about my life’s purpose and myself just by observing the colors, sounds, animals, buildings, etc. that surround me. I often say what I observe aloud or mentally; for example, “Ice T is snoring!” This technique helps me to recognize the love and beauty that surrounds me, which in turn, keeps me happy and full of positive energy.

Four Ways To Honor/Tap Into Your Intuition

We have complied a list of ways to stay in the moment and tap into your intuition. Get ready to trust your vibes, baby!

  1. Create a Personal Altar – You can use your altar to connect with your spirit, intuition, and God. You can place pictures of family, candles, plants, purified water, and healing stones on your altar to help you connect with the deeper parts of yourself. Visit your altar everyday, and give thanks for guidance.
  2. Keep an Intuition Journal – Create a journal to document your intuitive moments. Did you know you’d win those front row tickets to the Beyoncé concert? Write it down. Did you decide to take another way home and later discover that there had been a huge accident on your usual route? Write it down. The more we write down our intuitive moments and give thanks for our vibes, the more empowered we are to think positively and live in the moment.
  3. Meditate / Yoga – “When you listen you become intuitive.” Meditation really encourages you to be still. In our experiences, being still helps us to become aware of the thought patterns, habits, etc. that keep us from accessing our vibes. Moreover, being still gives us the opportunity to listen to ourselves and connect with our intuition. Yoga does the same for us. And the plus with yoga is that we get both a physical and spiritual “workout.”
  4. Eat Well + Sleep Well + Exercise – As Aisha mentioned, a healthy body is a great starting point for tapping into your intuition. When you’re rested and full of energy, you are more likely to feel your vibes.

 

Listening to our vibes has worked wonders in our lives. We’ve presented excellent papers at conferences, started new activities, met new people, and have been laughing so much more. Oh, and we’ve found missing bobby pins in the moments where we’ve stopped to cook ourselves a nice breakfast. Yes, bobby pins are everywhere!

So, tell us, have you trusted your vibes lately? If not, when will you begin?

Recommended Resources:

Making Positive Change Happen in Your Life: Awesome Tips and Creative Ways to Achieve Your Personal Goals

Check Out My Altar (and Learn to Make Your Own)

Trust Your Vibes: Secret Tools for Six-Sensory Living by Sonia Choquette

 

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About the Contributing Writers:

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.

 

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.


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SELF-LOVE TIP OF THE DAY: Be Your Biggest Supporter!

Why are you concerned about what other people think? What do YOU think? This is what’s important, especially when it comes to your own dreams, goals, or desires; it’s you who has to believe in them more than anyone else. You have to support them before anyone else will. Invest the time and energy (often spent worrying about what others will think or how they will react to what you want) on constructing a plan of action for that project you’ve been putting off; that book you want to write; that business you want to build; that promotion you want to ask for; that big trip you want to take. The support you’re seeking starts with you; the rest is a direct reflection of where you’re choosing to focus. Have your own back! And then, watch what happens; you will be aligned with like-minded people, directed to positive opportunities, and placed in empowering situations that support the awesome vision you have for your life.

 

what other people think quote[ThePRC]2


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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.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday – Find Your Sacred Space

Today’s tip: Find your sacred space. Create a place for reflection, rejuvenation, and gratitude. This place should be just for you! It’s important to have moments that are designated for exploring who you are and sustaining your spirit.

Create a great weekend, Phoenix! Be self-love in action.

LYFF_poster[phoenix]


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday – Laugh Today

Today’s tip: Laugh. We mean a from-the-belly-I-can’t-take-it-anymore kinda laugh. Why? Because (1) it’s fun, and (2) you have a lot to be thankful for. We can think of one thing on the gratitude list right off the bat: a NEW day! And that, of course, means new possibilities – a chance to start fresh. So, let happiness in; open to joy through laughter today!

Happy Friday, Phoenix. Be self-love in action.

laugh_inspire_LYFF[POST]


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday – Our May Tribute to Mothers Ends with Yolanda

Yolanda_LYFF[collage_blogpost]

It’s Love Yourself First! Friday, and this is the last self-love story in our May Tribute to Mothers series. As you know, we extended an invitation to three mothers and they all accepted, so we asked them thoughtful questions about self-love, and they eloquently answered with wisdom!  The last story in the tribute series comes from Yolanda.

Yolanda is the mother of Akil Houston, one of the contributing writers for the forthcoming book, Chasing My Father, Finding Myself: Journeys to Healing and Forgiveness.  We extended the invitation to her because she is spiritually conscious, committed to helping women build healthy self-esteem, and full of inspiring words of wisdom and truth. Akil asked his mother these heartfelt questions, and here are her responses! Thank you, Mama Yolanda.

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

As I reflect on this question I am reminded of a piece of sage wisdom given to me by an elder: “Baby, if I don’t take care of me, I will not be able to take care of anyone else.” She provided this tidbit as she was preparing to take a road trip with her 18-year old niece. In order to take this road trip she had to find a caretaker for her husband who was terminally ill. She instilled in me the need to make sure that I lovingly took care of me, and to make myself a very high priority, as opposed to giving until I was worn out.

I have learned to embrace my passion for reading books or watching television shows that have absolutely no socially redeeming value, for example watching Scandal or reading romance novels. In the bigger picture of life, watching Scandal will not cure world hunger and reading romance novels will not bring world peace. However, what they will do is provide a bit of down time that brings me peace and feeds my soul.  Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t read books or articles of substance, it just means that I need a break to recharge my battery.

There are also times when I just need to be around small children who are able to smile and laugh as if this is the greatest gift anyone could ever give.

When deeply stressed, I will retreat to my altar space to have a good conversation with my Yeye Oshun only asking that she listen, allowing me to reach a place of clarity.

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

My spiritual practice demonstrates the greatest show of self-care. While sitting in my altar space is quietly refreshing, I know that I can access that spiritual essence from wherever I may find myself.

Alternative healing practices such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, and massage have come to be the most effective methods of healing for me. Now, that does not mean that I won’t use westernized medicine if needed, it just means that alternative medicines have been the provider of the greatest healing for me. It was alternative healing practices that discovered the root of my chronic ear infections, laryngitis, and swelling as opposed to the numerous medications provided by my western physician that only masked my food sensitivities and allergies. My basic and most enjoyable form of exercise was dance. I danced for over twenty years taking classes, performing, and teaching until I had a serious fall at work and suffered a back and knee injury.

I now find that there is no form of exercise that gives me as much pleasure as dance.

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

When I met my son’s father, we were both in college. He was a junior and I, a freshman; it was instant love. He was so handsome, self-sufficient, and intelligent. We had talked a great deal about what our lives would be like once we graduated and were married.  He was going to be an educator and I had plans to become a school social worker. At that point, I felt as though I loved him more than life itself. We always used protection so I was not worried about becoming pregnant; however, at one point the protection did not work.  I had been sick with a seemingly endless ear infection and strep throat and was on antibiotics for several weeks. Little did I know, the antibiotics and my form of birth control did not mix.  Upon finding out that I was pregnant, he informed both me, and our parents that there was no way he could marry me or provide for our child. Graduation and attending grad school were his highest priorities. Once he achieved his goals, he would then be in a better position to take care of a child.

I was devastated and wondered how this man, whom I loved so much, who I would have given my last everything, could say this to me.  At that point, everything changed; I had to make it for my son and me. Knowing that I always had the support of my family, knowing that I could go home at any time, and knowing that I could ask for help and not have to be constantly reminded of how much my family had sacrificed for me, made the task of raising a child doable.

Being a single mom did not allow me to take the time to view issues as obstacles or challenges, I just had to make sure that my son was taken care of.  I also realized that putting my son’s father’s needs above mine was the greatest mistake that I had ever made. I came to realize that by loving him more than I was willing to love me, I had not set any expectations for his behavior, allowing him to do whatever he wanted while making excuses for his lack of responsibility. It was through that lesson, that I came to realize that self-love was not selfish, and that I was and needed to be important to me. If I was not aware of my value, no one else would ever be aware of my value.

What have you learned about yourself from being a mother? How has it helped your personal development?

I have learned the importance of having patience, humility, and the ability to laugh at myself. As a parent, just when you believe that your child would never do anything to embarrass you, they do something to challenge your parenting.  Sometimes your child will say something that makes you want to laugh, but you know as a parent that sometimes that laugh is really about something that you have told him/her, interpreting what you have said in a manner that you never intended.

Things that I thought were so important to being a great parent, really had very little to do with true parenting. Loving with expectations for behavior, setting limits, and being consistent were some of the greatest gifts I have received as a parent. The ability to multitask and listen beyond the spoken words have all been great assets to and for my personal development.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned that self-love is the greatest gift I can give to myself while showing others how I expect to be treated. It is looking beyond the pimple on my chin, the graying hair, the last ten pounds that I need to lose, or the self-sabotaging criticism that can destroy a person quicker than anything.

It’s about trusting in myself, being able to forgive me and not carrying those things I will never be able to change. It’s making sure that I love me and can have no less than one big heartfelt laugh a day. But most of all, it is about never lying to myself. It is about finding that inner peace, and appreciating the beauty of the simple things that life has to offer. It is also knowing that I am connected to spirit and how spirit is connected to me.

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Love Yourself First! Friday is a weekly self-love series created by the Phoenix Rising Collective. Beautiful, diverse women of color tell their stories of triumph, share their personal affirmations, and declare their love for their own 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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Coconut Oil, Self-Loving, and Healthy Sexual Relationships

quote_may_post[upton_savannah]Besides the joyous feeling we get after completing an assignment or grading forty students’ papers, graduate school leaves very little time for feeling good, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t make the time. We realize that loving ourselves is about creating balance and finding time for touch. Yes, we’re talking about sex. We’re talking about creating time and space to touch others and ourselves. We are talking about finding out what we like and might like when it comes to our bodies. Now, we’re not telling you to skip work or neglect your responsibilities; however, we do want you to make this type of loving a part of your busy schedule. Make it a part of your life.

Before you leave the shower or after you get home from volunteering, reach inside yourself or massage your skin with oil to find out who you are. Get into you; make a relationship out of it. Self-loving is about knowing yourself, then about using that knowledge to build those outside relationships that we all know and love.

So, let’s talk about the sex we’re having, not having, or would like to have! We’ve decided to compile some tips and questions for creating healthy sexual relationships with others and ourselves. Before we get into the tips and questions, we would like to tell you why it is important to be in tune with your body by sharing our own personal stories.

Simone

Simonepic2Cut to a cold spring semester. Until recently, the maintenance man has been the only man in my apartment, and he has come only to fix the drought that my kitchen faucet experiences from time to time. What about my kitchen sink, Mr. Maintenance Man? Moving to Kansas in July 2012 meant that I would be leaving behind some special people, and that I would have to find new options for sexual pleasure. Now, I have always been okay with diddling my own skittle. Spending time with myself and discovering new things about my body makes me happy. An entire spring semester with myself has given me the courage to continue to awaken my body through my own physical and spiritual movements and touches. I have spent time in the mirror getting to know more about my body and how it works. “Oh, didn’t know I had a mole there. How pretty! Oooh, that’s the spot!” I’ve learned that my sexless life is not so bad when I’m using what I already have to get what I want. However, I like when someone else touches me, too.

I find sex to be a healthy, liberating experience. Though I am able to recharge my body and spirit through masturbation, I admit that there is an energy that I cannot recreate on my own. For me, touching someone else and being touched by someone else sends a colorful, electric shock through my body that often saves me from running to my local grocery and buying all the chocolate ice cream that I can fit into a little green basket. Though it was a fruitful, peaceful period in my life, four months without sex was a little frustrating at times. So, I was delighted when someone else—a very special someone else—walked through my front door. I had the opportunity to combine my energy with someone else’s, and to use that energy in my personal time. The experience did not replace my self-loving moments, but it did add to them, and recharged me in a way that I wanted to be recharged. Thank you, Mr. Not Maintenance Man.

For me, remaining in touch with myself is about balance. I know that I have the power to be alone without being lonely, as well as the courage to achieve an orgasm without the help or presence of a man. Cue Kirko Bangz: “She want a man, don’t need a man.” And I also know that I enjoy someone else’s company when my silver bullet isn’t enough. Getting to know myself through masturbation and interactions with others gives me the power to love myself. And loving myself means being honest about how I feel and how I want to feel.

Aisha

aish_black_white[photo]I’ve been single since 2009. I know that sounds like a long time, but before we cue Ne-Yo’s So Sick – I have to say that it hasn’t been that bad. In the meantime, I’ve attained a Bachelors, Masters, and started a PhD program, so I guess it’s safe to say that I’ve invested my energy elsewhere. As much as I’d love to be in love and dating someone seriously, I’m not rushing fate. Also, being out of a relationship doesn’t mean I haven’t had sex, or established a relationship with my own body. Of course I have! And honestly, those things have enabled me to stay the course, stay focused, and combat some stress!

Like Simone, I find sex to be a healthy and liberating experience, and I believe that remaining in touch with my sexual self is all about balance. Though striking a balance can be difficult, it is doable. For me, this is really all about forming healthy sexual relationships with whoever is my partner, and with myself. I have had healthy sexual relationships where I’ve felt a sense of reciprocity from my partner, and felt that he respected my overall personhood, my body, and me. It should feel energizing, stress-free, and fun, and that requires an immense amount of honesty and trust, as I don’t trust my body to just anybody (and I’m picky, and I don’t typically like tall guys, and I prefer facial hair, etc.)

I have, however, also tried abstaining from sex completely three times over the last four years, and that just meant not having sex with another person until I felt like I was physically and emotionally ready to form another healthy sexual relationship. I’m currently in one of these phases right now. In these times, as well as when I’ve not been involved with anyone, I still have myself. Learning to find peace in just having myself has been a great life lesson. Finding peace with me is a powerful feeling. Finding peace with going to bed and waking up alone, and finding pleasure in just me requires the utmost amount of honesty, because it’s hard to lie to myself.

1. Get Into Yourself: Self-Loving

Be alone often. People often confuse being alone with being lonely. However, we know that being alone encourages us to be less dependent on someone else for sexual pleasure. And when someone else does not please us, we don’t get angry; we put our pants back on, and do it ourselves.

Experiment with toys, your fingers, or watch something by yourself that you know or think will get your juices flowing. Experimenting on our own empowers us to try new things without judgment. Also, experimenting on your own encourages you to be in tune with your own body. That means looking at and touching your physical self, and also loving how you look and feel. This, indeed, will help you cultivate a positive self-image, and also foster a sense of self that you’ll want to share with others…or even keep to yourself.

Write about what you love. Toni Morrison stated, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Make lists or journal entries about what makes you feel good or how you’d like to feel, and refer back to them often. Your own words may encourage you to spend more private time with yourself and others. We’d like to think that writing about what you want and feel encourages (sexual) freedom.

Talk with your friends. We recently read an article: True Friends Ask How the Sex Is. We talk to each other and our other friends about sex all the time. Sometimes, we talk in detail about our sexual experiences in order to support or advise each other in our sexual ventures. Talking to your friends about sex and self-loving may encourage you to be more open about the private time with yourself as well as the private time you have with others.

2. Create Healthy Sexual Relationships:

If you do want to engage in sexual activities with other people (or if you just want to share your coconut oil experience with another), keep in mind that fostering healthy sexual relationships can increase your satisfaction. A sexual relationship, like any other relationship, is healthiest when all of the people involved are honest and open about their wants and needs.

Maintaining an open line of communication with your sexual partner(s) can help to increase your overall sexual satisfaction. Whether you are communicating with your partner(s) about your fantasies or distinguishing between things you enjoy and things you could live without, healthy communication is key.  If you want to bring in the coconut oil, sit your partner down and tell them that you read this post and learned that coconut oil would be a natural alternative to your previous lubrication techniques!

And remember, be with someone who appreciates your body just as much we know you do. Believe us when we say that it makes sex so much better! Being with someone who is in love with your body will help you to maintain a positive self-image and a healthy sex life.

3. Grab Some Coconut Oil

Oh, you thought we forgot about the coconut oil? Of course not! As we continue our journey toward natural living, we’ve discovered that this cooking, skin, and hair-care product is also perfect for the bedroom. You can use coconut oil as a natural lubricant. What? Yes! And get this: it can balance your ph. So, go ahead and introduce some organic coconut oil to your intimate moments.

So, Some Advice and Sample Questions…

Safe sex. Know yourself and your limits. Additionally, invest in some toy cleaner and/or condoms for your sex toys, whips, and chains! You’ll want to keep those instruments clean in order to protect yourself from bacterial infections. And don’t forget to use some form of contraception/condoms when engaging in sex with other people. Your body is your temple. Wrap it up, you sensual lover, you!

Research! The Internet and library aren’t reserved only for class or that all-nighter (well, wait). Explore the “dark” sides of the Internet (there are tons!) and check out a Zane book for your private time.

Become in tune with your body. Really create the time and space for your self. Being in tune with yourself makes moments with others so much more powerful and fulfilling. We are more confident and courageous in the bedroom as well as in other parts of our lives.

Love what you like. Be open to new experiences; however, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re weird for…well, whatever you like.

Know that sex is great. An orgasm a day gets those projects done and out of the way!

Again, communicate with your partner(s). Ask them questions and get to know them, too. Do you like this? Do you like that? Would you like to have sex with me? Do you like coconut oil, too?

Remember that consent is sexy. Always get consent. And don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do.

There is no one right way to have sex or get to know yourself. Explore and do what makes you feel good! Our best advice: Have sex with whomever you want (including yourself), wherever you want, however you want, as long as it’s consensual!

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Aisha + Simone are the Life + Style contributors for the Phoenix Rising Collective; continue supporting their posts on the  importance of letting who you are shine through when it comes to self-care and defining your personal style.

AISHA_BLOG[PHOTO]Aisha Upton is a first year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests: 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.

 

simone_writer[shine]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.


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Natural Healing for Food Addiction: The Power of Making Healthier Choices

stay_awake_collage

Collage by Tonya Adams

As beautiful as the sun rising and setting each day, so is the beauty of our lives. The light of the sun shines, and we must not let anything obscure its radiance, as growth is ever present.  Enjoying life and feeling good should always be our natural state of being, but we know through experience that life often brings us growing pains and uncomfortable situations in order to check our egos, to force mindfulness, or to lead us toward our purpose. In order to maintain peace through our adversities, it’s important to develop healthy habits that support transcending painful experiences.

Unfortunately, many of us seek unhealthy forms of relief, like abusing harmful substances, to reclaim peace. These substances are toxic to the body, and with prolonged use can control the body’s cells and functions causing physical, mental, and spiritual deterioration.  In the words of holistic wellness entrepreneur and natural health practitioner, Queen Afua, “When we are addicted to anything or anyone, our lives are not our own.  Addictions are a toxic reflection of how we view our connection with ourselves and the world. All addictions drain our life force, leaving us less than we are.” (1)

Throughout my life I have witnessed and experienced the suffering caused from the dis-ease of addiction. I observed that the majority of adults around me had some form of substance dependence. Today I realize that many of them perceived life’s challenges as suffering, as opposed to a springboard to something greater; they viewed life as a hell they had to escape.

One of the most serious addictions I’ve witnessed is among African American women. Our poor relationship with food has led to having the highest rate of obesity in the U.S.

“Currently, major causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States are related to obesity, mainly caused by poor diet and inadequate physical activity. Some specific diseases linked to poor diet and physical inactivity include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and some cancers.” (2)

According to the Office of Minority Health (3):

  • African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.
  • In 2010, African Americans were 1.4 times as likely to be obese as Non- Hispanic Whites.
  • In 2010, African American women were 70% more likely to be obese than Non-Hispanic White women.
  • In 2007-2010, African American girls were 80% more likely to be overweight than Non-Hispanic White girls.
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Medical Image Credit: Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine (A.D.A.M.)

Obesity is linked to higher risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a host of other maladies.

The prevalence of night eating syndrome (NES), binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa (BN), and the general experience of food cravings are key words to describe some of the addictive habits behind the high rate of obesity among African American women.

Those cravings are usually for junk food, which can be defined as highly engineered toxic substances; and often times their effects are far worse than narcotics.

Unfortunately, this is especially prevalent in predominantly low-income communities due to food inequality; fast food restaurants, liquor stores, and convenience marts are on almost every corner. Processed foods that make us sick, tired, and addicted are easily accessible while healthy, nutritious foods that our bodies need are unavailable and unaffordable. For example, in Columbus, Ohio (specifically near the South and Eastside), there are no grocery stores in walking distance, so people are mostly dependent upon the local convenience marts that sell junk food and other toxic products that are destroying our health.

What are some inexpensive natural healing methods that can be implemented to address food addiction? A part of the answer to the healing process is embracing the concept that was introduced in my previous post: Health is W.E.A.L.T.H.S., the acronym for water, exercise, air, light, thinking happy thoughts, healthy food, and sleep. Other key steps include the following:

  1. Recognizing and admitting that you have a problem.
    Flush your system: Begin to cleanse the body by fasting. There are many detoxification recipes that focus on cleansing and healing to break addiction. A great place to begin? Health Thyself: For Health and Longevity by Queen Afua
  2. Meditating on a daily basis, as often as three to four times per day, to build mental and spiritual strength to overcome the addiction.
  3. Incorporating more raw fruits, vegetables, and super greens such as spirulina and chlorella into your body to feed and nourish your cells. When we consume empty calories, our cells become malnourished.
  4. Spending your money wisely, not from a state of addiction and poor eating habits, but as a wellness activist!
  5. Eating healthy as a family to develop better habits, especially for children.
  6. Creating a wellness plan that includes food education – taking time to research and understand the nutritional value of your food choices is very important.
  7. Surrounding yourself with people who will support you on the path to wellness.
  8. Supporting the development of local food systems and cooperative economics.
  9. Growing your own food for sustainability, ensuring that you’re eating foods while they are in season.

 

children_Circle77

Photo by LeRoyna Edwards

If you don’t know how to begin these steps, there are many organizations and programs that can help you get started.  Circle 77 builds a healthy institution on the South Eastside of Columbus, Ohio that supports the restoration and revitalization of our community by offering products and services that promote healing and wellness.

Invest in your health!

Sources:

 (1) Afua, Queen. City of Wellness: Restoring Your Health through the Seven Kitchens of Consciousness. Heal Thyself Incorporated. 2009. Print.

(2) Institute for Alternative Future. School Based Wellness Programs: A Key Approach to Preventing Obesity and Reducing Health Disparities. The DRA Project. Report 08-04. October (2008): 72 pgs. Print.  

(3) Obesity and African Americans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Minority Health. Web. 6 September. 2012.

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systar_roni_ausetSystar Roni Auset is a licensed yoga instructor, healthy living practitioner, holistic educator, master joyologist, and founder of Circle 77! Her aim is to improve her community’s quality of life by promoting a healthy lifestyle. By offering educational workshops, health oriented events, youth productions, and training programs, Systar Roni teaches and encourages holistic health as a way to empower people to make choices that will positively impact their own health and that of their peers, families, and communities. Using the latest information about nutrition and natural living, as well as sharing knowledge about the benefits of physical activity and meditation, she intends to be a strong source of vitality within the community. If  you would like to schedule a workshop/yoga class, participate in the Circle 77 buying club, or support her work with youth,  please visit The Children Shall Lead Them Productions.