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 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.

 


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ARTIST FEATURE: Wisdom’s Artistic Journey – An Interview with Mama Sol, A Light

The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, highlights and focuses on women artists using their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion. This Artist Feature is Mama Sol. __________________________

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Mama Sol – Photo courtesy of Rynelle Walker

This is a story about Wisdom with a capital “W.” Wisdom is not to be taken lightly. She comes in various forms – sometimes entangled or even cloaked in struggle and risk-prone decisions. But she takes chances. She leaps off high cliffs and transforms in mid-air. It is then that she begins to sprout wings and fully operate in her gifts. Her wings do not sprout overnight, but indeed they begin developing the minute she steps off the cliff. Yes, Wisdom is gifted; Gifted with experiences that some may call impossibly possible. She is, for the sake of this article, a Mother, a Motivator, a Lyricist, an Artist. She is Mama Sol. Let’s begin with her name. This musical performance artist and writer has maternally taught hundreds of children, thus she was divinely named Mama Sol. She explained when she taught in Detroit at the Afrocentric school, Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology, the children were learning Swahili. All the classrooms included both female and male teachers, Mama and Baba (Swahili for mother and father). Her family and friends started calling her Sol when she started studying Right Knowledge. When she shared that Sol means sun in Spanish, I immediately thought of her influences. She said, “I am influenced by other people’s struggles. When I see other people struggle I can help them see light, especially given my own experience. Darkness inspires me to bring light, which is probably why I am still in Flint…I am from Flint. I’ve lived all over. People have suggested I move to other places where other people are…I think you should bloom wherever you are planted. And Flint needs light.”

I asked her what was one of the greatest challenges in her life and she said, “The toughest thing was the most beautiful thing – quitting my job at Timbuktu.” She was at the pinnacle of her career as a Lead Teacher and the Director of Special Education. Many told her she was crazy when she made the decision to leave, but Sol knew it was time. She explained that although it was important to be with her students, leaving school later than she desired to be at home with her son wasn’t justifying the spiritual means. She said, “I had to do what God intended me to do – WRITE. Write music.” What was running through my mind was my own journey as a teacher. I was thinking, “We compromise all the time. And like a sacred responsibility, we owe our students and their parents the entire package – to support, teach and inspire at all costs.” And it was as if she had read my mind. Sol said without hesitation, “The world is my classroom.” I felt a sudden knock on the inside of my chest. “The world is my classroom.” What an empowering phrase. I’ve often thought that a teacher should teach in a specific space during a specific time. After all, that is what we are taught as we develop into adults – go to school, attend regularly scheduled classes, come home, do homework, go to bed, get up again and start all over. You repeat the process until you meet the requirements and follow the rules that lead to gainful employment, right? Wrong. Let’s consider her statement. If the world is her classroom, she can teach anywhere. Not only that, she can also learn from everything in every possible space. Her highest degree is LIFE itself. ­­Permit me to transition abruptly. It’s important to share why I wanted to interview Mama Sol. Namely, I was familiar with her lyrics. I had seen her on stage perform in packed crowds. What was most piercing was the way her body language matched her words. There was symmetry in her whole being. I observed a whole package that couldn’t be compartmentalized. Thursday, February 19, 2015 I saw Mama Sol sitting in an audience listening to Angela Davis speak. Yes, I should’ve been listening to this iconic being but what caught my eye more than anything was a humble sort of reverence and love that embodied Sol. And I thought of her lyrics from her song Exercise, “I’m just aware that my gift is guided by freedom fighters.” I saw her listening intently to what this regal 70-year old Davis passionately espoused about community activism and reforming education. When I asked Sol about Angela Davis she talked about her connection and interest to the Black Panthers. She mentioned that one of her heroes is Assata Shakur and her mentor was Mama Gloria Aneb House, Human Rights Activist also connected to the Black Panthers. “To hear her [Angela] still speaking and fighting for justice…I can’t be that close [to Angela] and not hear her speak…when I think of Angela I see courage.” It humbled me to watch this artist, who has performed in front of crowds as large as the one on February 19th, quietly listen to Angela share her experiences.
I asked Sol why she creates music and poetry. Basically, “Why are you an artist?” Her response speaks to her being a Motivator, one of the chief identifiers she shared above: “My purpose is to break the destructive cycle of mainstream hip hop. Children need options right now. And they are relying on reality TV and radio and BET. So many parents are doing the same thing. And the music I am doing is giving them options.” This response led me to other questions. She explained that her core audience does not connect with a particular age, gender, or ethnicity. “They are people who understand the necessity for positive change right now!” This dialogue conveyed more than her artistic gifts. She has a spiritual calling that manifests through her desire to empower others and create change. And again I stress, this was not an overnight success. Her lyrical journey actually started in college. Following college she wrote commercial ads in New York for the FUBU clothing brand. This career path was interrupted by a 3-year bout with breast cancer, which she defeated. During her healing she was offered the opportunity to teach in Detroit, allowing her to shift her focus to children. Upon having her own child, she recognized the difficulties she faced with remaining in the classroom setting. “This led to my transition back to what God intended for me; which was writing things that could transform darkness to light – G.I.F.T. God Intended For This.” Her journey has taken years – “practically a lifetime,” she explains. Yes, Sol has great success stories – outputting musical cds, performing internationally, and sharing the microphone with other Hip Hop geniuses like Rakim and Talib Kweli, just to name a few. But she is far from being done. The final point I wish to make about Mama Sol and her continued journey is the importance she places on seeking an inward stillness that comes from meditation. She talked about spending time alone – something she knows well because she requires it in her life. She emphasized the need for quiet. Being in tune with herself, she stated, allows her to go into a big crowd and bring the stillness with her. And being in crowds is as precious as being alone. One of the greatest moments she says is traveling. Now, this may look like I am jumping around, but both her shared space and alone space intersect. Just follow me – one of her best moments was being in the Amsterdam Airport. She saw different people speaking dissimilar languages from various parts of the world. “This is life. This makes you accept every single person,” she says. Realizing that the world is grand yet miniscule is what makes her not only adaptable to situations but also open to the great possibilities her stillness provides. Thus, as an artist she is able to give of herself to a variety of audiences. And she gives 200%! Now that’s a lot of love to give on stage – in massive crowds – among people from all over the world. But remember, Mama Sol acknowledges that this is a journey that takes time. And she has shown us that God willing, she will ride this journey to the very end and continue to give light unto the world with her whole heart. Learn more about Mama Sol here.   ________________________________

About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is the Art + Creativity Contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts.


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She Makes It Beautiful: A Professional Development Series for Entrepreneurs

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We’re so excited, Phoenix!

This week we are launching, She Makes It Beautiful, a new professional development series that caters to the entrepreneurial spirit in you.

The series is part of Shed Light, our continued commitment to offer resources that support your personal and professional growth.  She Makes It Beautiful (SMIB) encourages and inspires women to follow their entrepreneurial dreams by interviewing and sharing the phenomenal stories of women entrepreneurs who’ve already taken that courageous leap and soared.

Put it this way, if you’ve always wanted to start your own business doing what you love every single day, THIS is the series for you!

We’ve asked entrepreneurs in diverse, creative professions to participate, and they were more than willing to pay it forward. From opening a dance studio to starting a bakery to grooming pets and everything in between, you’ll read the unique and empowering stories about how these women decided to just go for it.

That’s not all we’re offering with She Makes It Beautiful. Free SMIB Bonus Materials will be available for download that complement each interview in the series. Why Bonus Materials? Well, this is all about your growth as a budding, ambitious entrepreneur, so just think of this as your personal toolkit to help you get that dream off the ground and also keep you in alignment with your plan. Plus, the bonus materials have been created based on the advice and tips given by the interviewees, so think of them as your very inspiring accountability partners!

No more waiting on the right time and circumstances to give that great idea attention, especially when it really deserves to be front and center now. Shine a light on it. Nurture it. Make it beautiful. This is the moment that matters.

Again, SMIB launches this week; our first interview is with the dynamic Suzan Bradford Kounta, co-founder and creative director of one of Ohio’s leading dance institutes. We can’t wait to share!

Thank you for your continued support of us. And please, if you haven’t already, join our Facebook and Instagram communities. Share what The Collective is doing with others who are looking for a spirit-affirming space to grow, learn, and shine; spread the word.

Be self-love in action! Happy Monday.

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ayanna_sidebar[photo]Ayanna Jordan is founder, speaker, and coach of The Phoenix Rising Collective, and editor-in-chief for Phoenix Shine, The PRC’s blog. She is happy that Phoenix Shine is a positive space for sharing information on topics related to building and sustaining healthy self-esteem, as she believes wellness begins within, and includes healing old wounds, forgiving others (and yourself), letting go of the past, eating healthy foods, making room for change, sustaining a positive attitude, and taking time for spiritual practice. She is committed to empowering women to be self-love in action.


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

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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 Lizzie:

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

Loving myself first has been a work in progress because my kids are still very young and it seems natural for mothers to put their family’s needs before themselves. However, as I grow older, I have realized that it’s important to reserve some daily down-time for me. I make time to practice yoga often and try to incorporate meditation. I am a highly goal-oriented person who loves to live at a fast past; therefore, my yoga practice helps me to focus and quiet my soul.  I have discovered that when I begin my day with yoga and meditation, my day seems so much calmer, and it feels like I have been kind to my spirit, so the act of loving myself first is quieting my spirit and taking time to just listen to what God wants me to hear for the day.

I also like to reward myself with “spa days.” I enjoy just getting away for the day to be pampered – leaving all the kid-chauffeuring to my husband.

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Lizzie’s first half marathon: “Running is spiritual for me and that is why I don’t even listen to any music while I run.”

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

I truly believe in the connection of mind, body, and spirit. Before kids, I used to run daily, and I went to the gym twice a day (in the morning before work and back again after work) in order to make it back home just in time to have dinner with my husband. Yes, exercise and good health were my life before kids. After all, I lived on the East coast and that was the thing to do.  Just last year, I decided to rekindle my old hobby of running and completed my first Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio. This was probably one of my most exciting days that gave me such a sense of accomplishment (as seen on my photo wearing my medal). Running is spiritual for me and that is why I don’t even listen to any music while I run. It’s a Zen moment where I just want to feel the wind and hear all the natural sounds.

I love to set goals, and my quest to achieve them fuels me, and I feel good about myself.  I also love to travel and see the world. My most sacred place is anywhere near the ocean. The ocean’s power and serenity reminds of the glory of God. My most memorable vacations are in locations where I can hear the relaxing sound of the ocean. I cannot think of anything more calming.

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

Three years ago, I had to make an emergency trip to South Africa because my mother had encountered a serious cardiac illness. After returning from that visit in January, I was so thankful that God had graciously spared her life and wanted to focus more on gratitude. I then made a conscious effort to give up meat during the month of January. I chose January because I do not believe in setting resolutions; instead, I set goals. Consequently, January has become my month of thanksgiving, fasting, and focusing more on what goes into my body. I use this time to slow down and focus more on loving my body and appreciating my life.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love raises my awareness of how important it is to remember to take care of myself. Because I am an extrovert, I have to constantly remind myself that I do not always have to engage in external activities. Literally, I feel like my being craves stillness each day. I am very comfortable with being alone in stillness or immersed in a good book. Consequently, my next goal for this year is to begin to take at least one annual mini vacation by myself just to relax and pamper myself. I am calling these trips a “mommy hiatus.”

Lizzie’s LYFF Collage:

We asked Lizzie to also submit photos demonstrating self-love in action or even photos that radiate the feeling of loving who she is. We created a collage (shown above) of the awesome images she wanted to share.

Lizzie selected these images because “the first one (top right) represents my love of the ocean. This was on vacation in Jamaica, a place that I love! My second photo (bottom left) is of my yoga practice – warrior pose! And the last one (bottom right) is my first half marathon day in Columbus, Ohio with my medal.”

Below is also a quote that she loves and shared with us; it describes her love and comfortability with being alone.

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Thank you for sharing your self-love story, Lizzie! 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.

 


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ARTIST FEATURE: An Interview with Martina Hahn – Quite the Phenomenon

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The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, highlights and focuses on women artists using their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion. This Artist Feature is Martina Hahn.

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I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with a phenomenal speed painter named Martina Hahn. I use the word “phenomenal” with great purpose, because she reminds me of Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman.

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(l to r) Martina Hahn, Painter, and Traci Currie, Poet at the 14th Annual Black History Month Brunch – Photo Credit: April R. Nunley

I was invited to share poems written by Maya Angelou at the 14th Annual Black History Month Brunch this February at Genesee District Library. While I recited the poems, Martina was next to me painting Angelou’s portrait. By the time I finished my 7-minute recitation Martina was done. I had heard of speed painting but I had never experienced it – definitely not in this manner. Although I was focused on myself on stage, I felt Martina’s presence next to me. I heard the movement of her hands over the canvas, splashing colors in purposeful directions to shape Angelou’s image. At some point, I wanted to STOP and focus on her the way the crowd was focusing on her. I had this odd feeling that the audience was bouncing back and forth between two artists, more so with an emphasis on her work because they were trying to figure out what she was creating. By the time I had started the last poem Still I Rise the audience and I began calling-and-responding the infamous refrain “I Rise,” at which it was becoming abundantly clear who Martina was painting. What a feeling! But this feeling is exhilarating for more reasons than you can imagine. Martina called it the “law of attraction” that brought us together.

Let me share a few things about this German born artist who first pursued a college degree in psychology. She shared the concerns her parents had about her pursuing visual arts as a college major. I suspect others can relate to this experience. I think some of us can guess what that infamous question is when expressing interest in being a professional artist: “How will you make a living?” Well, in Martina’s case she admitted to the struggles she had gone through to reach her dream. She said it wasn’t until the late 1990s (about 17 years ago) when she was given an opportunity to paint a mural, which took her nine months to complete.

At some point in our conversation Martina revealed she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008. I told her she didn’t have to share details if she didn’t wish to, and she explained a concept her family came up with: The Voldemort Syndrome. Do you remember Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter? He’s the evil guy whose name you are not supposed to say. If you’ve never seen the films or read any of the books, this may appear foreign, but think about it like this: Never speak of anything bad or else it might manifest in some way. However, Martina explained how important it is to name the things we consider terrible. She said, “If we don’t say them they will stay with us [like a dirty secret]. I talk about the bad things because when you name them they lose their fear-factor and power.”

And so she talked about the cancer. She also talked about the domestically abusive relationship she was in and how unhealthy her mind and spirit were during this time. She started seeing a therapist who was helping her. Then two years later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was fortunate to learn about this in its early stages. As a result, she was able to undergo treatment that removed the cancer. A year after the diagnosis she found speed painting. Although she had seen speed painting before, she did not pursue this form of art until her son wanted her to paint the character Jack Sparrow from the film Pirates of the Caribbean. She was unable to paint the character because, she explained, she was over-thinking the process. Martina became so frustrated one day that she ended up slapping the paint onto an 8×4 piece of plywood. She found herself furiously creating Jack Sparrow in roughly nine minutes. When a friend saw this wonderment, she was asked to do it again for a fundraising event. And this time the adrenaline rush took over and she created the image in six minutes. She learned to stop over-thinking the process and allow it to flow. She has a magnet on her refrigerator that says, “Don’t take things too seriously.” Over the years this phrase has become a mantra in her life.

She says that she found her peace and joy through art. “People need to find that one thing in life that gives them joy…that calms them.”

May 2015 it will be seven years from the time she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In those seven years she has focused on healing her mind and spirit. “I believe in the trilogy of the mind, body and spirit. Over the years I have come to believe that in this western world, we focus on the body – whether it be short or tall, big or small, black or white. But there’s so much more to us. There is a soul, a mind and a spirit. We don’t give the full attention to our true bodies. I feel that these diseases like cancer are caused by our unhealthy minds and spirits.” She reinforced what I mentioned above: two years after the escape of her own abusive relationship is when she was diagnosed. Although she was unhealthy she explained how fortunate she was. Her body warned her, so to speak. She had a 6.5-inch malignant cyst removed. “The way I choose to look at it,” she said, “is that the cyst encapsulated the cancer. The cancer was actually contained so that it wasn’t spreading in the rest of my body.”

In the aftermath of her explaining her journey to me, I thought of the number seven. When I completed the seven-minute performance with Angelou’s Still I Rise it dawned on me, this poem is a part of Martina’s living truth. Upon completion I looked out into the crowd of faces, and they were in awe of the painting. I was stunned and humbled because I honestly thought her painting spoke for itself and that it was unnecessary for me to be on stage. After all, my job was done. But Martina called me over when she completed the painting with her signature. She assertively grabbed my hand and we both took a bow. Afterwards she later explained that it was important that “we” performed this together. She explained that accolades are fine, but more significant is what we displayed on stage – a communal process. Our job was to come together as one and share our gifts so that others might go home and be inspired. Also, for those not familiar with Angelou’s work, they will hopefully research her legacy and the path she has created so that we could be on stage at that very moment honoring not only the phenomenal woman she is (even in spirit), but also the phenomenal women we are, simply because we rise to the occasion every time we take a breath.

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About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is the Art + Creativity Contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts.


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

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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 DeDe:

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

Loving myself first means – putting myself first and being okay with it.  I have always valued my self-worth and put effort into keeping my mind fed with spiritual and positive affirmations and pampering myself at home/spa, etc.  I always knew God made me unique, and I’ve embraced my blessings.  The blessings I was foolish not to embrace in my younger years, I’ve learned to smother with a huge Bear-Hug today!  I love me, and that is why I’m always striving to have a center of peace, happiness, and love overflowing from my being.

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DeDe, LYFF Phoenix Feature, “I’m learning to live for what makes ME happy.”

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

Unplugging from the “in thing” to do helps me center my mind and spirit.

Give me a great novel, tea, and quiet time to myself – just me, my thoughts, and positive affirmations or soft music – and I come out of this peaceful place freshly revived! Reading also allows me to get lost in an adventure while blocking out life’s distractions (work, social media, errands, etc.).

Exercise rejuvenates me, too, in so many ways; and it’s one of my biggest stress relievers. Dancing is self-expression and makes me feel free.

Spending time with positive women also makes me feel alive!

Having a church home helps me start the week in touch with my faith and provides spiritual rejuvenation.  It’s also my check-and-balance for the life I want to live, along with daily morning and evening prayer to center and nourish my mind, body, and soul.

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

An obstacle I overcame was learning to say no to things or people that do not enhance my life.  I’m learning to live for what makes ME happy.  I learned by going through a divorce how to make better choices for the right reasons.  It was a difficult decision, but because of the experience it strengthened my friendship with my ex-husband and gave me deeper understanding to ask the following questions: (1) What would I do if fear wasn’t a factor? (2)What is the lesson in this experience?

What have you learned from self-love? 

In the words of the late, but great Whitney Houston  I’ve learned “…Learning to love yourself is the GREATEST love of all.”

 

Thank you for sharing your LYFF story with us, DeDe. 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.

 


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Daily Inspirational Reminders from My Sons

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I laugh out loud at even pondering this subject. BUT, If I dug deep enough and really tried to muster up a precise calculation of how many times I hear the word “Mom” in a given day, I’d argue that it’s minimally between 30-40 times – and this is during a school day. Please note: my children are at school for at least seven hours out of the day. On the weekends its usage must peak somewhere in the hundreds (sometimes it feels like thousands).

That said, there normally isn’t a monotone inflection in the young voices that have acutely etched the word “Mom” into their consciousness. The sound ranges from a high pitched yell, “MOOOOOMMMM!”, when I am being beckoned to solve a math problem, bandage a profusely bleeding bruise, extinguish a small kitchen fire, OR most importantly, when the iPad chargers can’t be found in the collective messes called bedrooms. Then, there’s the alto scale. This is typically used when pleas of hunger are being expressed (a half-hour after said culprits have eaten a four course meal with dessert), snuggling, kissing on the cheek, a wrestle-tickle-pin-down ensues, or some other form of physical affection is warranted, and lastly, when my 12 year-old is “putting me up on” the dopest Eminem lyrics from the song Rap God circa 2013 (he was 10 years old and completely absorbed in superheroes when the Marshall Mathers LP 2 was released).

KaNeesha_Sons[Nasr_Mikah]DailyInspirationalReminder[phoenixrisingcollective]There’s also my personal favorite! The deep Barry White meets Darth Vader baritone breadths of “MUUUUMMMM” that are echoed in great annoyance most Saturday mornings when I’m fussing about chores going undone, pulling the cantankerous five year-old away from Clifford the Big Red Dog re-runs to eat something more nourishing than Honey Nut Cheerios, or when I decide to jokingly reverse the parent-child dynamic. I become self-absorbed, nonchalant, and quasi-aloof during my interactions with the usual suspects for the sole purpose of giving them a taste of their own medicine. As you could imagine, this role reversal doesn’t last too long. My children become completely fed up and disinterested when my world doesn’t revolve around them.

Throughout the challenging moments, the days I wish I had more patience, the tears from extreme feelings of being overwhelmed, the WTF thoughts of “WHY GOD didn’t he turn in his homework?!”, and the somehow-reaching-profound epiphanies from dialogues in which the main subject is who said “booty, doo-doo, and you farted, EEWWW!” –  I wouldn’t trade in the experience of mothering for anything in the world. Ausar; 12 years old and Mikah; five years old are exceptional human beings in every way imaginable. I give thanks that they chose me to act as one of many facilitators in the global village that nurtures, provides, and empowers them to live according to their hearts’ desires. These two guys are creativity, raw energy, and stand-up comedy; they are Neil DeGrasse Tyson meets Steve Jobs intelligent. They are personified beacons of hope in a chaotic world.

It is clear that their charge, along with many youth in this generation, is to re-create a new realm that wholeheartedly welcomes expansion of ideas, redefined identities, assorted spaces and places of existence, and mutually beneficial social exchanges unlike anything humankind has ever experienced. Many days Ausar comes home raving about the latest technological advance in gaming or smartphones in a language that I have minimal knowledge; thus, he has started learning computer coding with his first project being developing an app for Apple iProducts.

As for my little rambunctious one, Mikah, I’m completely amazed at the usage of his extensive vocabulary while explaining to the lady standing behind us in line at Barnes & Nobles the difference between toy trains made from wood and die-cast metal. As much as I attempt to teach them, it’s returned in abundance ten-fold.

Here are Five Inspirational Reminders from My Sons:

  1. Express Daily Gratitude– Joyfully expressing gratitude for all things and all beings in God’s creation. Mikah loves to sit in the dirt and dig (and would until he reached China – if possible). Through this he finds great solace and demonstrates his appreciation for the beauty that is Mother Earth.
  1. Unconditional Love– Loving someone when it’s most difficult to do so. You’d be surprised, but your kids love you in spite of your fussing, limiting their screen time, or burning the brownies for the school bake sale. Perfectly imperfect I am, and my boys love me still. They even tell me sometimes!
  1. Forgiveness– Fully letting go of the past (even if it was yesterday) and accepting the present. Kids get over things quickly. They don’t hold grudges, and they accept you just as you are each day. Extend this same grace to someone you know.
  1. Mindfully Living in the Moment– I observe my children when they are focused on something. Learning a new game, playing with friends, drawing, or riding a bike. They are completely absorbed in that one task with full enjoyment. The concept of multitasking has no meaning in their scopes of comprehension. Yesterday is the past, tomorrow isn’t promised, all we have is the NOW. Be present.
  1. Playtime– Stop taking yourself so serious and have fun! Remember what life was like when you were seven, 12, or 16 years old? Stomping rain puddles in freshly ironed clothes, rapping freestyle lyrics to the Ne Ne song after a long day, or posing for a family collage of selfies are cool ventures that have landed me a membership into the “Cool Mom” club. It’s good to let your kids see that you know how to have a good time. Too, it balances out the other times when you have to lay the smack-down. “DO YOU HEAR, what the MOOOOMMMM IS COOKING?!”

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About the Contributing Writer:

d81392516be0b26c1094730815028b17W. KaNeesha Allen 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. 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, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. 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. Read her latest posts.