The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


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

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s adventurous Phoenix is Miriam:

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

Loving myself is a complicated thing and sometimes I’m exceptionally bad at it. I think the secret (and the challenge) is finding ways to live in the moment – to let go of versions of myself in the past and the versions I am worrying about in the future. That’s really hard to do, but the goal is to forgive myself for being human, to accept my flaws, to work to address them, and to live my life developing into the best human being I can be. Doing all this is like watering your garden and warming up it with golden sunshine in spring so that you bloom into your own unique flower.

There are values that are sacrosanct, that define what a healthy, fulfilling life is for me. If I’m not feeling fulfilled then I’m unhappy, and if I’m unhappy then I’m not taking care of myself in the ways I need to feel that. For example, being upfront about my needs with people can feel really awkward because I’m not used to doing it. I’m an INTJ/INFJ – very internal, and I don’t like conflict (see Emotional Intelligence Assessment). But I learned the hard way that if I don’t speak up for myself about what I want and honestly try to engage others to find a solution that works for both of us – whether it’s something as minor as scheduling where and when to eat lunch or as major as figuring out how much of a salary I deserve – the price I pay in the end can be very high emotionally and even physically.

It can also be little things like telling friends, “I am not being social for a few weeks so I can get the emotional charge time I need.” I used to feel really ashamed and “not normal” about that, and then I realized that if I am happier when my batteries are recharged then who is to say what’s “normal?” Nothing terrible happens if you ask for what you need and what you’re asking for is reasonable and doesn’t harm anyone else. You just have to find ways to be respectful and loving of the people in your life as you find ways to be respectful and loving to yourself.

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Miriam’s impromptu trip to Santorini.

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

I love learning and travel. My mind is hungry for stories. I’m a writer and a reader, and although I do love to read I am always curious about the esoteric, but in a practical, real-life sense. I don’t want to find it in a book. I want to travel there, and see and smell it for myself!

Also, I’m always trying to get better at practicing meditation and mindful living. Sometimes I think meditation is a moment between thought and action versus sitting for prolonged periods of time in silence. I try to find those moments between prefrontal cortex and id, between action and reaction. I find I’m able to love myself and others more when I’m in that moment.

I also like to;

  1. Play video games – I love RPGs and first-person shooters like Call of Duty. It’s super relaxing and also engaging in a way that TV isn’t for me. It also relieves stress.
  2. Dance – Hula/Tahitian, bellydancing, hiphop. I take UJam. It’s fun to be in my body and just move without restriction, I feel like in our workaday lives we are generally discouraged from remembering and being IN our bodies.
  3. Improve my health – I’m on a mission, so there are a lot more vegetables going on in my life than there used to be. It’s a new challenge figuring out how to cook a variety to keep from getting bored, but I know my health is worth it!

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

I come from some difficult family relationships that were effectively abusive throughout my childhood, emotionally and sometimes physically. Somewhere in there as a child I realized that if I didn’t love myself the way I wanted to be loved and seek out the love I deserved from other good spirits in the world, I wasn’t going to ever find it. That sounds a bit despairing, but I knew it in my soul with the power of a child’s boundless hopefulness. I knew that I would love and be loved the way I deserved to be and that it had to start with me.

What have you learned from self-love?

I’ve learned that loving myself is the key to real happiness, and that the only person who can truly bring me happiness is me. Loving myself fills me with the strength I need to love others. It’s an elliptical battery that serves power both ways: Love yourself, fill yourself up with good; share it with the world and it comes back to you.

When my battery is full I am at my best – creative, energetic, and connecting with others in new and exciting ways. I’m kicking butt, taking names, and never doubting my success. I grow into a better version of myself, evolving at a faster rate than when I am preoccupied with unhealthy things or people that take me off my path.

Miriam’s LYFF Collage:

Here’s a little more about the photos she selected:

Top Right – “I’m hosting an indulgent Birthday Party/Halloween Extravaganza for my friends and I in San Francisco. I chose this because it shows me goofing off but also glamming up. I believe it’s healthy to celebrate yourself sometimes, and have a little fun with it.”

Bottom Left – “This is an impromptu trip to Santorini by myself. When it isn’t blazingly sunny, it’s brutally windy and a little rough on the hair! I booked a room to write in for one week with a great view. It was a chance to recharge my soul and mind. I strongly believe in taking these moments when I can.”

Bottom Right – “On a trip to Koh Samui, Thailand taking a cooking class at a local’s home. I was making coconut milk from scratch! (We even shredded the coconut!) I chose this because it’s me in my element – comfortable and doing something I love while learning something new.

 

To learn more about Miriam check out her travel and culture blog: Black Girl Abroad. It’s “stories, plans, and opinions from an American girl seeking adventure!”

Thank you for sharing your LYFF story, Miriam. You are definitely a Phoenix rising!

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Join the Collective. Share your self-love story with us. Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and we’ll send you follow-up info. Sweet. Short. Simple!

Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.


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Where Are the Black Yoginis? (Part 1)

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“Yoga is the Journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” Bhagavad Gita

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Yogini, KaNeesha in Natarajasana – Dancer’s Pose

One, two, three, four, five…I count silently measuring each inhale and exhale by the rise and fall of my contracting abdomen. Pearls of sweat roll from the widow’s peak of my hairline, down the bridge of my nose, glistening on my upper lip, nuzzling with my chin, and eventually finding respite on the damp towel beneath my left foot. My right leg is extended in mid-air behind me. I’m tightly grasping my right foot with my right hand holding for dear life. I pray to the heavens I don’t lose my balance. I feel strong and confident as I’m holding steady in one of my favorite Yoga asanas: Natarajasana a.k.a. Dancer’s Pose.

Six, seven, eight, nine, ten…my counting is interrupted by a baritone voice gently thundering over the Bikram yoga studio sound system, “Kick, kick, kick aaaand release.”  As I mentally prep myself to balance the left side of my body in Natarajasana, I peer around the room and settle my gaze on the 20-something year old crunchy, and the exceedingly hairy white guy in front of me. By the way, crunchy is a term my cousin made up. It describes anyone that falls into the stereotypical “tree-hugger” category: eats granola (hence crunchy), drinks hot tea year-round lovingly clutching their mug with both hands that rock fingerless crocheted gloves, wears Yoga clothes all day (most days of the week), and could easily be mistaken as hippie or any other “crunchy” characteristic across the spectrum. No shade or disrespect. I’m pretty crunchy 50% of the week, but I digress. As I’m attempting to strike an equally fierce Dancer’s Pose with the left side of my body, I sneak a quick glance at the petite white woman standing next to me: not too crunchy but is a beast with the execution of the posture. Then, I’m met with the recurring thought, “DAMN I wish it was some sistahs up in here!” Sistahs, black women, women of color, with mesmerizing hues of sun-kissed bronze and beige skin. Black men, too! Where are the brothas? For this specific class my instructor was a black man (whom for whatever reasons WOULD NOT make eye contact with me, but whatever). Calling out all the brothas, black men, men of color, with cosmic melanin shades ranging from midnight blue to heavenly milky way. As a practitioner of Yoga for the past 10 years (on and off) and a recently certified RYT 200-hour Yoga instructor, I have yet to visit and/or join a studio where minimally 50% of the racial/ethnic demographic looks like me!

I ponder; at what point did Yoga become a sport exclusively practiced by white people, specifically white women? The dominant imagery fed to us by media and marketing sources in the United States is very slim, not-so-crunchy, Lululemonwearing white women. Public Yogic practices that I’ve experienced – including my instructor certification training – has been comprised of predominantly white women and men, and Asian women coming in second majority; with black women, Asian men, and black men closing out an extremely low population of the statistics. Please note: these statistics are based off my own experience and observation. Yet even more intriguing, while conducting research for this, there was nary a source to highlight the racial breakdown of Yoga practitioners in the U.S.

This leads to the title of my article: Where Are the Black Yoginis? Yogini is a term that refers to women that practice yoga extensively. For Part One of this article, I’ll be delving into a brief history of Yoga and how Western practice perpetuates the cultural appropriation of Yoga.

Historical Roots of Modern Western Yoga

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Padma Asana – Lotus Pose

While it is difficult to trace the exact geographical and cultural origins of Yoga, it is said to have been practiced thousands of years ago throughout ancient Egypt a.k.a. Kemet and ancient India. Cultural, religious, and spiritual influences were heavily integrated into the practice of Yoga within both of these areas. This makes the approaches somewhat different. However, prayer and intense study and practice of meditation along with the art of proper breathing are sacred rituals and fundamental components of both. With the exception of certain practitioners (which I’ll discuss in Part Two) many posit the notion that modern day Western Yoga primarily draws lineage from East Indian Vedic spiritual belief system, Hindu culture, Eastern Buddhism, and several other Eastern religious and spiritual practices. Some of the major gurus and yogis of this lineage are Maharishi Patanjali, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Vivekananda, T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and B.K.S. Iyengar to name a few.

There were a myriad of connections between these gurus and the Western world stemming from collaborative scientific research based in Yoga, Yoga seminars and retreats held in major U.S. cities, establishment of Yoga studios in the U.S., mentoring and teaching individuals that have become well known U.S. yogis, and a multitude of written publications. The spawn of all this work is Western Yoga. Newly decorated yogis within the U.S. began spreading the Sanskrit “word” – the message of yoking the mind and body through meditative practice and choreographed postures into sequences.

At some point (which I’m still investigating for greater clarity) the major distinction between Eastern and Western Yogic practices became a large omission of prayer, intense study and practice of meditation, and the art of proper breathing. Now, I’m not talking about the quick inhale/exhale breathing that happens for 15 seconds at the beginning and end of a Yoga class concluding with Namaste. Or even the fire breath at the end of a Bikram session (which as a newbie to a class several years ago, I wasn’t even instructed on how to do it appropriately). I am talking about chanting mantras that promote balance, praying to evoke our ancestors, maintaining meditative states of consciousness for hours, and pranayama breathing as a method of healing. In Western Yoga, these have been far removed from the source.

However, there are many exceptions to this including my Yoga Instructor Trainer, Lex Gillan, who founded the Yoga Institute in 1974 in Houston, Texas. Lex is one of the few Western Yogis that has immeasurable appreciation, respect, and admiration for many of the specific elements inclusive to the voluminous Eastern Yogic traditions. Thus, it’s provided him with a robust, impressive, and long-standing personal and professional career within the world of Yoga on a global scale. I’ll discuss more of these “exceptions” in Part Two.

Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Appreciation?

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Yoginis – Top Left: Dianne Bondy; Top Right: Queen Afua; Bottom Left: Maya Breuer; Bottom Right: Jana Long

While researching, I was fortunate to uncover a jewel written by Dr. Amy Champ; Race and Yoga: Negotiating Relationships of Power. Dr. Champ is a scholar of feminism, author, speaker, and Yoga instructor. This article summarizes key themes from her dissertation which explores women and Yoga pertaining to race. Dr. Champ references Sociologists and Race Theorists, Howard Winant and Michael Omi’s term racial rearticulation which is used to “describe the acquisition of beliefs and practices of another’s religious tradition and infusing them with new meaning derived from one’s own culture in ways that preserve the prevailing system of racial hegemony.”

I also analyzed numerous sources, their usage and definition of the term Cultural Appropriation. Cultural appropriation is socially defined as, “the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.” Oxford Reference suggests that the definition of cultural appropriation includes, “ …Western appropriations of non-western or non-white forms and carries connotations of exploitations and dominance.”

So, considering the history of Western Yoga, the terms and definitions of racial rearticulation and cultural appropriation, it is my summation that Yoga as practiced in the U.S. pervasively demonstrates the acquisition of a singular element from ancient multilayered Eastern religions, spiritual practices, and cultural traditions, and thus has been manipulated to preserve and fortify the dominant racial and socio-cultural hegemonic Western identity. This identity is whiteness. And whiteness being portrayed as the creators and innovators of a way of life that is proven to have existed in different parts of the world B.C.E.

People of color have long suffered from the effects of colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, neo-imperialism, capitalism, all based in racism as unwilling participant-observers whose ethnographies reek of cultural acquisition, demarcation, marginalization, commodification, and exploitation. The constant relegation as other has transcended into marketable products pushed for Western cultural consumption. Thus terms like exotic, aboriginal, African, Asian (as if Africa or Asia is uni-cultural), ethnic-inspired, oriental, tribal, native, etc. have shape-shifted into phantasmasgorias and likenesses wholly detached from the cultures they’ve callously been extracted. Western Yoga is no different.

Generally speaking, Western Yoga is promoted as an exercise and competitive sport with primary focus on executing asanas (postures) with acrobatic and contortionist precision. Accuracy, poise, and form is the crux of what’s taught in many Yoga studios throughout the states, especially the popular ones associated with “celebrity” trainers and practitioners who’ve gained millions in revenue off this one aspect of Yoga. I am of the opinion that this deceptive propaganda postulates a continued blatant disregard for the totality of Yoga.

Minimal consideration is given to various body shapes, weights, sizes, and to how certain modifications may be needed to support reaping the full health benefits of a posture. Or the complete opposite perspective that assumes a fuller body shape, weight, or size is unable to perform certain postures. Again, nary a Yoga magazine, Yoga based website, published article, Yoga clothing ad that features and celebrates women of color, specifically black women. Many black women in the U.S. like Maya Breuer, Dianne Bondy, Jana Long, and Queen Afua to name a few have been long time students, practitioners, instructors, trainers, and Yoga studio owners since the birth of Western Yoga to the present. Drawing from both Kemetic and Eastern traditions, prayer, meditation, and pranayama breathing are integrated into their practices with equal attention given (if not more) to the asanas.

In Part Two of this article, I’ll link cultural appropriation to the mainstream media invisibility of black women in Western Yoga and conclude by highlighting the global movement of Black Yoginis and Yogis.

For now, I’ll leave you with the powerful Oneness; Moola Mantra in Sanskrit:

Om Sat Chit

Ananda Parabrahma

Purushothama Paramatha

Sri Bhagavathi Sametha

Sri Bhagavathe Namaha

OM– We are calling on the highest energy there is

Sat- the formless

Chit– Consciousness of the universe

Ananda- Pure love, bliss and joy

Para brahma- The supreme creator

Purushothama– Who has incarnated into human form to help guide mankind

Paramatma– Who comes to me heart and becomes my inner voice when I ask

Sri Bhagavati– The divine mother the power aspect of creation

Same tha– Together within

Sri Bhagavate– The father of creation which is unchangeable and permanent

Namaha– I thank you and acknowledge this presence in my life and ask for your guidance at all times

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About the Contributing Writer:

FullSizeRender (6)KaNeesha Allen is an educator and Yogini with extensive community outreach and project management experience in education and non-profit sectors.  She is also the mother of two extremely high spirited and intelligent boys – Ausar and Mikah. While often 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, Yoga, writing, traveling, and building with her “SiSTARS.” As the Motherhood Empowerment contributor, 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: This Phoenix is Tonya

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s courageous Phoenix is Tonya:

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

I love myself first by learning to take care of me and recognize that I need to practice giving love to myself as much as I do others. It means I have to be more in tune with myself.

I pay closer attention to signs when it comes to my body, my mind, and my soul. For instance, when I can barely drive home from work in Washington, DC to my home in Maryland, due to exhaustion, that is my cue to get home, eat lightly, take a quiet, relaxing bath, and immediately go to bed and sleep as long as I can. I also release stress by taking long walks and/or going to the gym for an hour. When I am done, the stress dissipates. While walking, I thank God for all that He created and has given to me.

Our brain handles a lot of information. There’s a dark side and a light side. When the dark side creeps to the front, I shut it down quickly by focusing on things that are going well. The negativity that creeps up is when that voice tells you cannot do something: “You’re not smart. You’re not qualified. You’ve messed up.”  I shut it down quickly!  Negativity has a tendency to consume us if we allow it. I try to keep my mind away from negativity. Even when I hear gossip, I attempt to steer the conversation to something positive.

My soul is my heart. I’ve allowed it to be hurt many times because I trust until someone gives me a reason not to trust them. I’m not that way anymore. I now put my total trust in God, and I’m more protective of my heart. By being this way, I do not get hurt as easily as I used to.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?

I have a closer relationship with God now. I give Him all my cares. I exercise to alleviate stress and keep myself fit. I read motivational books that empower me to keep moving forward to fulfill my dreams. I spend quality time with family and we have movie nights and catch up with one another. Sometimes, we take walks and just talk. I also have date-nights with my partner. Although we have busy careers, we make time to be together and enjoy each other’s company.

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

Trusting people was my biggest flaw. As I trusted, I was disappointed over and over again. I believe I trusted others more than I did myself. It’s a big difference when you begin to trust and rely on God. My second biggest flaw was that, as my mother puts it, “People know where your buttons are.” As a result, people that I trusted knew how to hurt me because I showed my vulnerabilities. When I began to love me, I no longer allowed people to know where my buttons were to be pushed. I became stronger.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love is the most critical element of love. You cannot give love successfully until you learn to love yourself first. Now that I love myself, I’m more protective over me. I’m not as vulnerable or as accessible to being hurt. Self-love simply means loving who you are – and that’s what I do.

 

Tonya Barbee is author of The Little Girl Inside: Owning My Role in My Own Pain. She’s excited about encouraging others, particularly women, to find their way during transgressions and to never, ever, give up. She lives with her two youngest of four children in Bowie, MD. Check out her website:  I am Still a Rose.

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Join the Collective. Share your self-love story with us. Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and we’ll send you follow-up info. Sweet. Short. Simple!

Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.


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

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority. This week’s motivated and courageous Phoenix is Tanu:

 

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“I read books on spirituality from around the world, attend weekly seminars, and meditate. I indulge in creative activities; I paint and sketch because it’s like meditation.”

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

Loving myself first means that I pay attention to my needs and ensure my progress, growth, and experiences as an individual.

I love myself first by taking care of my health: mental, spiritual, and physical. It also means to respect my time by focusing my energy on fulfilling and nurturing relationships. I surround myself with people who respect me and friends whom I can count upon.

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

To take care of my mental health, I push myself out of mundane and repetitive tasks and put myself in new and challenging environments. I play puzzles and games and maintain a healthy social life.

To cater to my spiritual needs, I follow the teachings of a live Spiritual Master.  I read books on spirituality from around the world, attend weekly seminars, and meditate. I indulge in creative activities; I paint and sketch because it’s like meditation.

I stretch twice a day. I love the outdoors: biking, walking, and hiking. I am a vegetarian by choice, and I don’t have a sweet tooth. I eat home-cooked food with fruits and vegetables, and I have a nutritionist in the family who is always available for sound advice about food products and the nutrients in them.

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

Spending a year being bed ridden and then bouncing back to life made me empathetic. It also made me respect my time, energy, and every moment spent without being in pain. I understand the real meaning of living every moment.

I suffered immense pain for six long years with a deteriorating back and hip joints mobility until I was finally diagnosed and given the right treatment for arthritis which had destroyed both my hip joints; by then I had been completely immobile. This was the time when a few things happened to me: One, the realization that a disabled person’s life is really hard. A lot of people don’t seem to give it a thought. I used to be one of them. Two, emotional pain, that of my parents. I saw in their eyes the look of helplessness as they watched me suffer. They were more miserable than I was. This made me look for solutions even more aggressively. Three, realizing that we are all fighting or have fought silent battles, and some struggles are not visible to the naked eye. We should always make an effort to be kind. While I look very normal from the outside – no bruises, no cuts, no bandages – within it’s not the same. Never judge.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self love is one of the most empowering facets of my life. If I love me, I can then take care of my surroundings and people who surround me.  It gives me confidence and immense inner peace. This helps me take on challenges in life, and also make balanced and courageous decisions.

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Join the Collective. Share your self-love story with us. Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and we’ll send you follow-up info. Sweet. Short. Simple!

Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.


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What’s Your Love-Yourself-First Story?

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) shares stories of phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem.

Want to share your self-love story with us? We certainly hope so! You would definitely be among our strong, courageous collective of women, here, who – through their experiences – learned to fully embrace, accept, and love who they are.

Ready to share? Send an email here. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and we’ll send you follow-up information. Sweet. Short. Simple!

Stories post bi-weekly on Fridays.

And lastly, a big THANK YOU to all our LYFF participants. Your powerful journeys have empowered someone else’s life.

Be self love in action!


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AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: Notice Great Things!

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s inspiring Phoenix is Monique:

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

Loving myself first means realizing my own value and walking in that light at all times. Loving myself first means understanding that I am worthy of all of the positivity, joy, and PEACE of mind that I can experience in my God-given 24 hours – without guilt or hesitation. Loving myself first means believing I am worth it not because someone else told me so; because my Creator made it so!

 What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?

I demonstrate the love I have for myself by making sure that what I take in physically, spiritually, and mentally is beneficial to MY health. From drinking water and walking to daily prayer and keeping a positive circle around me; I strive daily to honor the God within by treating myself well. Some days are more challenging than others, but with each new day, there is another opportunity for me to improve in self-love, and for that I am grateful!

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

Experiencing separation, divorce, and the challenges of rebuilding my life showed me where I needed to grow as a person. I had time to reflect on the mistakes I made and the reality that I really didn’t love myself, making it impossible to truly love someone else. Through those experiences, I learned that in order to heal and move forward, I had to first love myself enough to forgive – forgive others, and most importantly, forgive myself. Guilt, shame, and doubt were like weights around my neck. Once I shed those, I NEVER looked back. I knew God had more for me, and I was ready to go after it.

What have you learned from self-love?

From self-love, I have learned that as a woman I have the power to attract who and what I am into my circumference. All of my relationships are mirrors of some aspect of me, whether good or bad. Negativity doesn’t just magically appear; I either cause it or allow it in my life. Period. Love for self doesn’t produce victims; it gives birth to survivors. Once love for self became more than a cliché and actually became my way of life, I began to repel what didn’t add to my life, and I attracted genuine love in return. On June 17, I will celebrate 3 years of marriage to the man I believe God sent to me.  And I am enjoying the journey of finally meeting the Monique I never knew. When I look at myself five years ago and now, all I can say is God is the Greatest!

 

Monique’s LYFF Collage:

We asked our Phoenix, Monique, to submit photos demonstrating self-love in action or even photos that radiate the feeling of loving who she is. We created a collage (shown above) of the images she wanted to share. Here’s what she had to say about why these authentically reflect her self-love:  “The photos I have chosen are a powerful testimony of the transformation that loving God and myself have caused in my life!”

Thanks for sharing your self-love story with us, Monique. You are definitely a Phoenix Rising!

 

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

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