The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women. Empowering Change.


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New ‘I Thrive’ Meetup: Meditate Your Way to Clearer Intentions

What I know for sure is that whatever your situation is right now, you have played a major role in setting it up. It is you who have created your circumstances. With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice. And beneath each of those thoughts and choices lies your deepest intention. If you are feeling stuck in your life and want to move forward, start by examining your past motivations. -Oprah

This is the last I Thrive #selfcaresunday Meetup of the year!

So, join me for Setting-Your-Intention Meditation & Self-Care Book Swap. And, at the end of the afternoon we’ll share a toast to the new year.

Special guest, yoga teacher, Ellen Smith from Love Yoga Flow and Yoga on High will guide you through a meditation to support your intention and affirm your vision for 2018. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner! All levels are welcome. Come with an open heart to release the old and embrace the new.

I’ll also be sharing tools you can use from The Fullness of Me Intentional Living Guide; it provides clarity on your goals so that your actions can be in alignment with what you say you want.

Now, about the book swap. All you have to do is bring your favorite book on self-care (or just one you’re inspired by for personal growth) and be ready to gift exchange with someone else who brought her favorite, too. Everyone will go home with a new book for the holidays! (In my Oprah voice: You get a book. You get a book. You get a book! Every. Body. Gets. A. Booook!)

What you’ll need for this meetup:

  • Yoga Mat
  • Journal/notebook
  • Your self-care/personal growth book for swapping!
  • Dress is casual. Please wear workout/comfortable clothes.

I can’t wait to see you at this one – for sisterhood, to hold space for one another as we let go of what no longer serves us, and to make room for new experiences and clearer, healthier perspectives.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 has been a pretty challenging year. I’ve learned some invaluable and significant lessons. Lessons that have definitely taken my personal growth to the next level…and for the better I might add. One of the biggest is to always trust myself. So, I am ready to clear a path for 2018 because this wisdom has made me even more resilient. Watch out!

What lessons have you learned this year that have provided more clarity? I’d love to know. Share in the comments.

And, of course, register HERE for Setting-Your-Intention Meditation & Self-Care Book Swap. I’ll see you Sunday, December 10. Continue being self-love in action.

 


Ayanna Jordan is founder of The Phoenix Rising Collective. As principal consultant and leadership development trainer and coach, she develops and facilitates dynamic women-centered workshops with a focus on how putting self-love into action can transform your life. She also creates coaching seminars and training that support women’s professional growth in authentic leadership, entrepreneurship, and passion-filled work. Her interactive approach inspires action and creates a non-judgmental, sacred space for women to truly explore their personal and professional goals while gaining support and sisterhood from others who’ve also made a commitment to sustaining self-love.


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IT’S LOVE YOURSELF FIRST! FRIDAY: This Phoenix is Tathina

LYFF_Tathina[thephoenixrisingcollective]

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 wholehearted Phoenix is Tathina:

I am learning to love, accept, and allow everyone freedom to simply be…however they are in the moment.

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“I am in peace with being alone. I would not have thought this could be possible for me years ago though! Aloneness is different than loneliness. Aloneness is innate to each of us. We are connected through this Love-space.”

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

I was taught, like many of us were taught: to put others before Self, to put myself last after everything and everyone else. Taking care of myself was seen as selfish and wrong. With this social conditioning, I felt like I needed to be punished or perfected because I wasn’t okay or good enough as I was. I wasn’t allowed to simply rest in the moment. Some goal always needed to get done first and I had to postpone this deep rest I was yearning for. For years I tried to do this. I tried to put myself into a box of “doing it right.” I tried being what I thought others wanted. I sought to please others and to also help others through studying psychology in college. But during my senior year, I realized that I was not fulfilled. I had a lovely mask on. I may have tricked others into thinking I was happy, but I was far from it. I realized I was not giving myself love and seeking it outside of me. I truly didn’t know how to love anyone else because this love was not discovered within me yet. I sought to find true fulfillment through relationships, spiritual paths and texts, careers, material things – everything that came across my path – but none of it lasted.

Loving myself first means putting myself first. This means not taking care of other people, but really taking care of myself, as only I know what I need and only others know what they need. This means allowing myself to be however I am in the moment, and allowing myself to feel however I feel. It means not fighting with fear, but using it as an invitation to really discover what cannot die in the moment. Self-love is stopping when I know I need to stop. It is allowing mistakes and not trying to be perfect. This means ignoring the idea that I am not good enough.

What I have discovered is that when I love myself first, put myself first, cherish the Life that is expressing itself through and as me, this is inspiration for others to do the same.

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

I am always learning how to take care of myself more in all areas as Life guides me. Meditation has been a blessed key – not just sitting for a few minutes and then going back to giving attention to the thoughts and stories in the mind for all the other hours in the day (though it definitely started this way). This is also not meditation where I am striving for something to happen or appear. It is very simple. Along the way, I discovered Satsang, which means coming together in truth or meeting in truth in Sanskrit: Sat means Truth and sangha is being in company. I see my whole Life as Satsang now. I see every experience as an invitation to simply be in the moment, to discover the truth of myself. So, meditation for me is simply being in the moment. We do this by ignoring the thoughts, and using the feelings or the breath to bring our attention back to the moment. To really be in the body grounds us in the present, in presence. This is good for all parts of us. The body gets to relax and simply be. The thoughts are allowed to be (not being fought or clung to). The feelings are allowed to be. Everyone is given this permission to simply live in freedom. Also, being present encourages me to listen more to my body and what it wants or doesn’t want. I listen as to where there is a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ coming from the truth of the moment. I give myself full permission to simply be a human being, this particular human being, and this particular flavor. Self-care can reveal this peace to us again and again.

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

As I mentioned, after college I was searching for truth, fulfillment, and a way to take off the mask I was hiding behind. I was ready for healing, and I discovered that healing came from letting go of my story of suffering, a narrative I would tell others and myself over and over again. I had hidden behind painful childhood experiences (and experiences passed down through generations); this story of not being good enough, needing to fix myself until I was perfect enough to love. So, I adamantly searched, and Life crushed all my lifelong dreams of going to graduate school to be a psychologist. Life had something else in store and brought me to a point of retreat. Life stopped me, gave me a break, and brought me face-to-face with my true Self as if It was saying, “You wanted freedom and healing so here is this spiritual detox.” I was also being invited to make peace with aloneness. I had been trying to help others through my professional career choice, but the truth was I wanted to really help myself. I can’t help others to discover the tools to nourish themselves if I am not nourishing myself.

I was brought to a challenging point. A lot of resistance and all types of feelings like depression, anger, fear, and everything we feel as humans came for me to finally make peace with them. This was self-love even though it did not feel like it in the moment. Because through feeling my feelings, I took power out of this story of being a victim. The feelings brought me into the moment. They brought me into the space that is unshaken by any storm, by any emotion. I asked for real help at the end of 2012 in a moment of total surrender and was mysteriously led to my true teacher. He pointed me back to this moment where there was no one seeking; there was just infinite peace and love. This love is unconditional and it can be ruthless when it wants to free you from the limitations and chains of the conditioned mind. All the challenges of my Life always bring me to a deeper recognition of the love that is here, the love that I am, you are, and we all are right now.

Through loving ourselves as we are, unconditionally accepting the cards we were (are) dealt, something powerful and mysterious begins to happen that I cannot write about. It cannot be spoken. Only you can experience it for yourself in this moment.

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What have you learned from self-love?

Through self-love, I have learned how to love. Period. Loving myself when I was in a personal hell or when I was considered wrong or when I was stripped of everything I once used as a distraction taught me how to love all of existence. Compassion started to grow. I have discovered that when I’m taking care of myself, everything else is taken care of (even when my mind judges it to be wrong). Yes, some who are not in peace with this change may not be happy with my self-love/self-care and will get their feathers ruffled and think I’m selfish. This is their issue to make peace with.

Selfishness is expecting others to do for you what you should be doing for yourself. Self-love is our sole responsibility and freedom. It is empowering for all! I allow those that don’t accept me for who I am to leave my Life; this is their freedom and mine to be ourselves. Namasté.

About Tathina’s LYFF Collage:

These three photos are when I am in nature, meditating, enjoying, simply being and/or playing/exploring – bowing to the mirror of Life’s vastness and Love everywhere (Namasté meaning).”

 

Thank you for sharing your self-love story with the Collective, Tathina. You are definitely a Phoenix rising!

Learn more about Tathina’s journey; she is the author of The Invitation (to Live) (the Truth). Want more? You can also get info about Satsang and how Tathina gives herself permission to just “let go of all the defenses and BE” by following her blog, HERE, for self-love/meditation challenges that mirror some of the practices in her LYFF story.

 


 

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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Love Yourself First! [FLASHBACK] Friday – Today’s Phoenix is Natasha

natasha_LYFF[poster]

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

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

Like so many women, loving myself first has been a challenge. Women, in particular, are socialized to care for and assume responsibility for others in ways that can be detrimental to wholly loving and caring for ourselves. We’re conditioned to be “givers.” This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a wonderful quality but women should also be encouraged to be givers to ourselves as well. At 33 years old, I am finally learning this lesson. I have finally heeded the advice of my husband, mother, and friends. I now take time to nurture myself through writing, performance, and other creative pursuits. I read, meditate, and do yoga. I make the time to regularly get with my close girlfriends (see photo below of Natasha with her Goddess Squad) who provide me with constant encouragement, enlightenment, good food, and laughter. Loving myself first also means treating myself with compassion. So often, I would beat myself up trying to be the perfect mother, wife, career woman, friend, mentor, student, daughter, etc. I’m getting better at saying “I’m doing the best that I can. That’s all that I can do, and it’s enough.” Loving myself means honoring my process and embracing my authenticity. It means knowing that I am abundant and absolutely worthy of giving AND receiving.

Goddess Squad 7-9-2013What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc.)

I am very big on meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. I jump between Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Kundalini yoga. I also do strengthening core exercises. I don’t follow any particular diet but I am mindful of what I put in my body,  and I eat in moderation. I love creating a very Zen-like environment in my home. There is lots of natural sunlight.  I like fresh flowers, candles, and art. It’s important to me that my space reflects the beauty of nature. I am heavily influenced by indigenous spiritual practices and am an I-Ching practitioner. I also like to sing, dance, and play with my kids.

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

I am learning the importance of emotional self-sufficiency. It involves honoring my emotions by owning them.  It’s really rooted in the understanding that others are not responsible for my emotional health.  I now understand that having an emotional state that is predicated on other people’s actions is like living your life on shifting sand; you will always live in that unstable and reactionary place. I’ve made a conscious decision to shy away from that kind of co-dependence and to know that authentic happiness comes from my internal source.

What have you learned from self-love?

I’ve learned that self-love is not a destination. It’s an ongoing, lifelong process. There will be an ebb and flow to it. There are so many elements in this world that work very hard to prevent us from fully loving ourselves as we are. So, it’s a constant challenge. There will be days where I won’t be so good at it and that’s okay. It’s really all about the process of constantly growing in ways that require me to keep unveiling and rediscovering myself. _________________________________________ We asked Natasha 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 chose to share:

  1. Top left – Showing a naturally beautiful representation of happiness
  2. Top right – Sharing her Mala prayer/chanting beads and rice bowl for meditation
  3. Bottom left – Spending time with her son and the participants in her RAISE IT UP! program; Natasha is the co-founder and executive director.
  4. Bottom right – Meditating with her sons

Thank you Natasha for sharing your LYFF story with us. You are a Phoenix rising! Happy Friday. __________________________________________ Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Diverse women 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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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! A Mother’s Day Tribute

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It’s Love Yourself First! A Tribute to Mothers. Usually we celebrate our self-love stories on Friday; however, because we’re honoring our mothers we’re doing things a little differently by sharing our first story on Mother’s Day. Since May is their special month (although every day of every month should be a celebration of motherhood), we’re dedicating LYF to them.

We asked three mothers to participate; they agreed, so we asked them thoughtful questions about self-love, and they eloquently answered with wisdom!  So, over the next couple of weeks in May you’ll hear profound stories of resilience, courage, and love from seasoned women who embrace change!

Our hope is that you will be inspired by their journeys, and realize that your mistakes, challenges, and obstacles should not be viewed as failures but invaluable lessons that (when learned) most certainly make you stronger and more capable of fulfilling your purpose.

The first self-love story is from Shirley, mother of the Phoenix Rising Collective’s founder, Ayanna. She shares how she learned to move forward after several physical and emotional challenges in her life.

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

It means that I make time to take care of me, as it is essential for rejuvenation and balance. It helps with making decisions that respect what I value most in life.

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

I usually start with meditation to get my mind right for the day; giving honor to the Higher Power in my life is important to me. In addition to that I always take at least one day out of the week to pamper myself. This could be getting a manicure/pedicure, shopping on my own for items that are creative, working on projects that I love like sketching, arts and crafts, making costumes for my Sunday school students’ plays and musicals, watching sunrises and sunsets, and most recently going to my local fitness center to work with a personal trainer. I do things that bring me peace.

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

Speaking up for myself! The older I get the more I value speaking up for what I believe in. I don’t let things go by. When I was younger, finding my voice was always a challenge. I felt like if I said something it would hurt the other person’s feelings, but now I consider myself in the situation, and I honor what I bring to the experience.

Another challenge for me was regular visits to the doctor’s office. I wasn’t going as often as I should out of fear of the results and not valuing its importance. When I had to have a biopsy on my thyroid and a cyst removed from my left breast (both were benign), I made a vow to keep up with my doctor’s appointments, because longevity is important to me, and I also want to be more in tune with my body’s rhythm.  I kept faith, and pulled through those health scares. These difficult experiences gave me the courage I needed to commit to my physical health.

Divorce at an older age was also difficult, but it made me stronger. I realized that I stayed married for as long as I did (almost 20 years) because I was in love with the idea of being married, not the person. Fortunately, I recognized that truly loving myself meant that I had to do what would make me happy, and getting a divorce was the key to opening that door.

I prayed for the marriage to get better, but what the Creator really wanted for my life wasn’t going to happen until I moved forward. I knew that, but gaining the courage to take the first step was the hardest part of the process. Honestly, I didn’t think I would make it but I did. I’m a survivor!  I love my independence; it provides an opportunity to really get in touch with my own feelings, to understand what I need from a relationship, and to have new experiences that really fulfill me. It has been five years now, and I’m happy with where I am and what I’ve learned.

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

Above all, I’ve learned patience, communication, and compassion. Motherhood is challenging and rewarding at the same time, just like life, and as a mother you have to treat each situation you’re face with differently depending on the circumstances or even the child that you’re having the experience with. The same is true of my personal development; I have to be patient with myself, communicate about what I want for my life, and have self-compassion in the midst of the ups and downs along the way.

What have you learned from self-love?

That it absolutely matters that I put myself first; I won’t have anything to give if my well is dry. I’m more compassionate and understanding when I take care of myself. It gives me the energy to give to others. I can be of more service when I haven’t forgotten about my own needs.

Happy Mother’s Day, Phoenixes! Love yourself fiercely.

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.