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ARTIST FEATURE: Dancing as a Healer – An Interview with Emma Davis

Dance_as_Healing[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

Emma is daring. Emma is different. Emma is a dancer. Emma Emma Emma.

That is how I feel when I see her in motion. I feel like playing that one song you really like because of the rhythm or beat. When you want to dance, you hit play. When you want to feel, you hit play. When you want to be in the moment, you hit play.

I am purposely repetitious because the feature artist, Emma Davis, brings that sort of spirit to her environment. She brings a consistent hardworking ethic to this art form. She believes in offering up dance as a gift to the world. And what a gift it is – to dance over and over again until everyone dances with you. I have had the pleasure of watching young women dance with Emma in the Flint detention center. They watch how she and the music become one. In her dance workshop at the center, she is a facilitator and instructor. More importantly, though, she is an inspiration to the young women.

Emma explained that when she began community college roughly a decade ago she had no idea what she wanted to do. A year and a half later she transferred out and attended the school where her mother was pursuing her nursing degree – University of Michigan-Flint. Emma majored in English and Journalism and minored in Dance. At the time, dance was just a hobby, although she had been dancing since childhood. She started a student dance organization at the university. The dance troupe encompassed all styles of dancing. In her senior year she choreographed a show that was student-focused. Soon after, a friend who had been dancing for fewer years inspired her to pursue dance more seriously and professionally. She helped Emma realize her own potential.

I asked her, “What does dance do for you?” Her response was encompassing, “What is a world without dance? Dance is about relationships – the relationships you have with other people. Dance is that thing you can do without having anything to say. Dance speaks.”

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Photo Credit: White Butterfly Studio

She explained that dance was a constant in her life, especially during rough times when watching her parents’ relationship. “My parents didn’t like each other.” They divorced when she was young and moved to different Michigan cities. While living between two homes, dance became her comfort. It carried her throughout primary and secondary school. She was considered an outcast. She talked about not fitting in and being discriminated against for being an artist, but this didn’t stop her from doing what she loved. She said, “Dance was my form of acceptance.”

Emma dreams of pursuing a Ph.D. in Performance Studies one day. She completed her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on American Theatre. Her thesis is on one of her inspirations, Anna Halprin, a pioneer in the postmodern dance movement. She learned about Anna in 2012, the year she created her own dance group called “Flint Dance Collaborative.” This group during the summer of 2012 started performing on the sidewalk during a monthly community event in Flint, Michigan called Art Walk. Again, Emma was giving back to the community by showing people that dance was more than an art form. Her group explored both movement and cultural environment when they performed outdoors. Anna Halprin’s work was just as communal and inviting. Emma explained that this amazing woman of Jewish descent in the 1950s used dance as therapy. When working on her thesis, as well as creating an artistic space in Flint, she applied Anna’s philosophy specifically to the Riverbank Park, located in downtown Flint. At the time during the 1960s and 1970s there were movements to revitalize urban communities, in hopes to increase engagement in the neighborhoods. When I researched Halprin, I understood the link between these two women. Yes, Emma heals others through dance whenever she performs, teaches and simply shares this gift. But most of all, Emma looks within and heals herself through this art form. She is indeed a healer.

Emma is daring. Emma is different. Emma Davis, an inspiring dancer, is her name!

 

The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use 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.


traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie 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.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective 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. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.


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

 

Sheree_LYFF[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of The PRC’s 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 Phoenix is Sheree:

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

Loving myself is a practice, a daily practice, a moment by moment practice mixed with a lot of patience and self-compassion.

Loving myself is becoming more aware of my thoughts, my feelings, my behaviors and actions. Through this I am aware of the woman I am becoming. There is not an end product, no finished version of me to love. I am on a constant journey. Now, I’m on the right path of self-love and there’s no way I can get off. I am aware of the difference between self-hate and self-sabotage in comparison to self-love, and I don’t want to go back.

It’s telling myself that I am loved. It’s about getting out of my own way to allow the love that I hold within to flow through me, to flow through my heart, body, mind and soul for myself, for others, and for the world at large. It is about being open and vulnerable, and growing in strength by giving and receiving. It means not taking on anyone else’s hang-ups while at the same time dealing with my own.

Loving myself first does mean changing my narrative, changing the stories I have been telling myself and living by. I accept that within life, as I move forward attempting to become the best version of me, there will be difficulties and struggles. It will be messy and I won’t do things perfectly. Acknowledging my fears, mistakes, doubts and struggles, and sitting with them (not denying them) means loving myself enough as I am: the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. It means cutting myself some slack if I’m having a bad day. It’s about praising myself, as well as chastising myself, but still being able to believe in myself, always.

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

The mind is a powerful tool if we use it as such. It controls all that we do and don’t do. It affects our thinking, feelings, actions and behaviors. It doesn’t matter how much I want to do something: go for a run, eat healthily, go to a yoga class; if my mind isn’t into it, it ain’t happening.

It’s a constant practice and battle to keep my mind in the zone – focused and motivated. It gets tired, disheartened, distressed, and frustrated. My practice to ward against this happening too often is to meditate on the page. I call it my Morning Pages (thanks to Julia Cameron) or simply journaling. Every day I have to work out on the page. Each day I show up by writing out how I’m feeling, what I’m thinking, dreaming, stressing. I’m connecting with myself on the deepest of levels or even shallowest of levels when I provide the time and space to have this daily inner conversation.

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Journal Collage created by Sheree Angela Matthews

This writing practice is deepened by walking, running, wild swimming and eating consciously. But these other self-care practices go out the window when I’m disconnected from myself, when I haven’t been checking in with myself on a regular basis. The person I am becoming and how I present my being within the world is constantly changing. I’m inconsistent, so having the means to check in with myself keeps me sane.

Self-care for my soul comes through my creativity. Creativity is my jam. Whatever medium is calling me – pen on paper, keyboard, painting, collaging, knitting, dancing, singing, cooking – I need to make things, bring things into existence that were not here before I started the process. There’s a feeling as if something, some kind of energy is flowing through me when I create. I’m in the zone. I’m working intuitively. I’m creating and am at peace. I’m joyful.

This doesn’t happen every time I take the time to create, but I keep showing up in the hope that these feelings, this experience will happen again and again. It’s not about the end product; it’s the process. It’s the practice with patience, of course.

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

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would spin open.” -Muriel Rukeyer

There comes a time in everybody’s life when the unspeakable happens. To say it hasn’t happened or won’t happen to you is a lie. You’re kidding yourself. Believe me.

In May 2015, the unspeakable happened to me. There was a public shaming. My whole world fell apart the day I was accused of being a plagiarist on Facebook by a ‘so-called’ friend and fellow poet. He wrote that he’d found whole scale “borrowings” from other writers’ words, phrases, and structures within my latest collection of poetry. He said that he was just doing his duty for the poetry community by bringing it to everyone’s attention. What followed was what I chose to call a public lynching of me as a writer, poet and person. This was the unspeakable that happened to me. But funny enough, I am speaking about it here, as well as writing a creative non-fiction book about this whole experience. Everything I knew, all I was, how I thought myself to be was taken from me in that public posting. I issued an apology regarding my unintentional mistakes and withdrew from the public realm. At one point, death looked a very promising course of action, but I had my family and some supportive friends who helped me.

Within the Chakra system there is a heart center called Anahata Chakra. In Sanskrit, Anahata means “Unstruck.” For me this speaks to the resilient nature of the human heart. I believe, wholeheartedly, that there is a place within my heart that is absolutely unbreakable.

This experience did break my heart, stopped me from loving, and shut me down and out. However, there was a minute part that kept pulsing, kept the light on for me. Maybe it was my belief in self, my self-love that got me through each day.

Each day has not been wasted. I have taken this experience as a wake-up call, a wake-up to explore and claim my authenticity. Afterwards, I had nothing. I couldn’t even look myself in the face at one point. But writing my book and starting to take photographs of myself have supported me in my climb up. I can’t say climb ‘back’, because who or what I am becoming, I do not know. I have never met this woman. I do know that love and self-love, first and foremost, are at the center of this journey.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love has to come from me. Obviously, right? But it is probably the hardest thing we try to do, have to do. It is difficult, because maybe we are not given the tools to love ourselves, so we struggle to practice it. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to please others, trying to make them like and love me. I thought this was the route to travel in order to develop self-love.

I’ve spent multiple lifetimes making others comfortable at the expense of making myself uncomfortable. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to be accepted and validated. I wanted to be enough, good enough. In the process of pleasing others I’ve silenced myself. I put versions of me into storage, buried them away. I’ve censored myself because I haven’t loved or believed in myself enough to show up in the world as me. I’ve thought,”If I’m truly myself people won’t like or love me.” They’d see my ugliness and disown me. As things have transpired, I have been disowned when I least expected it. When I thought I was accepted. Now, I’ve got nothing to lose except myself. Out of fear I disowned myself, but not anymore.

This past year of reaching rock bottom meant I had nothing but myself to count on. It meant I had to go within, search within the shadows, within my darkness to find my light, to find me. And it’s source is love.

I’m not here to write ‘the happy ever after’, as that just happens in fairy tales. In real life, self-love doesn’t show up every day. It isn’t a constant. Some days I feel worthless, useless and such a failure.

Henry David Thoreau said, “There is no beginning too small.” This I do know.

Each new day is a beginning, so if I fail this day. I can begin again the next day. Simple.

I keep making small beginnings over and over again. In the process, I am learning to love myself more and more.

Self-love is a practice with massive heaps of patience and compassion, but it’s worth it. No. I’m worth it.

___

Share your thoughts about Sheree’s powerfully honest self-love story in the comments. And, to learn more about Sheree and Wild Soul Woman, follow her: IGwildsoulwoman; FBfacebook.com/wildsoulwoman; Twitterawildsoulwoman

 


Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.

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

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of The PRC’s 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 Phoenix is Lilac:

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

I love myself by practicing forgiveness towards myself on a daily basis. Life is so demanding, and we all have our goals we want to achieve, things we need to get done. I have the tendency to be hard on myself, which is not always a bad thing, until it goes out of balance. I have realized I take so much joy in being active and on-the-go, to the point where I can carry the world on my shoulders and just keep pushing, forgetting my well-being in the process. I am very driven by passion but I think still, at times, there is some perfectionism and fear involved, which can then easily make me ill if I don’t stop and listen. The love I practice for myself is through tuning back in, and listening to my mind and my body.

Self-love is also practiced through sharing my struggles with others, instead of trying to prove I can do it all by myself. I know if I forget, they can quickly remind me and help me get back on track.

IMG_0430What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul?

A 30-minute daily morning session of meditation and yoga really helps in listening, focusing and maintaining balance. I have also learned to accept those days when I feel like I just can’t get anything done, so instead of battling it and getting even more frustrated – I just take the day off and go outside, watch some telly or cook something. I absolutely love cooking great healthy recipes with my partner; eating healthy is so gratifying. Friday is my Spa Day. I do yoga, Pilates, and then a spa session of steam room and Jacuzzi. It brings me back to life.

At times of need I am loving myself by creating change in my life and opening new doors of possibility through therapy sessions, guided imagery and holistic therapy. I have recently started a free Sunday meditation group, and I find the collective energy of people meditating together and sharing experiences, unique, powerful and even healing.

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

My childhood was immersed in trauma of different sorts and that has put me on a long path of self-abuse through different eating disorders and over exercising. These also led to other physical issues such as IBS, lower back pain, torn knee meniscus and arm tendonitis. I have had to undergo different types of therapy and treatments over the years to help re-shape my core of self and learn to forgive the past and move on from it as a stronger human being who is compassionate and accepting towards herself and others. Throughout my life, music has been a core strength in this process: writing, composing, playing, singing, performing. It’s given me an identity and a sense of self. I am still learning how to enjoy the healing power of music without focusing on material success.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love teaches me something new every day, in learning to accept others and myself. It has taught me to look at myself first – for better AND for worst. The love starts from within, and if I want my surroundings to change, I first have to change my own perception, behavior and patterns. Self-love has taught me to tune-in closely on judgment, and realize that the things I dislike about myself – will be quickly reflected back to me through others. I have even learned self-love and inner peace from my cat, who easily shows me how life can be joyful and relaxed when you can give and receive unconditional love. By learning to love myself, I can completely change the way I view the world every day, which eventually results in a better world for myself. Because I deserve it.

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Lilac Sheer is a singer/songwriter; learn more here. Her new project Zoe, is a music video created to promote women’s self love and acceptance for International Women’s Day 2016. “The song refers to those days when we don’t love the reflection in the mirror, only to realize that our imperfections are exactly what make each of us unique. 40 courageous women chose to take part in this project with me, to help create a heartfelt human testimony, for which I am both humbled and grateful.” Check out the video.

 


Share your self-love story! Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a 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.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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ARTIST FEATURE: Blooming Where You Are Planted – An Interview with Gale Glover

Gale Glover Artist Feature[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

This is a story about a woman who might not call herself an artist in the same way others have claimed their inner artistry from childhood. She did not grow up dreaming of being a children’s book author. She did not necessarily feel the calling in her life to write until her hands couldn’t write anymore. However, her work ethic was cultivated from a young age. She learned about perseverance and determination early.

Gale Glover is from Flint, Michigan. Flint has this wonderful reputation for teaching people how to fight for what they want, because Flint is not an easy city. It does not carry the white picket fence label. Although people can build a white picket fence, if they wish, they have to keep the fence up. They might have to change the color or paint it white every year due to environmental conditions – rough weather, rough circumstances and rough times.

Over the last few years I have watched Gale in the work environment stay late and catch up on work while also going to school, because that’s what people do when they want to accomplish something specific. She explained she grew up poor in a single-parent household. One mother and no father. She started working when she was 14 years old. At age 17 she skipped school and worked three jobs. The next year she moved out of her mom’s home. A few years later she ended up in a physically and verbally abusive relationship. The details sounded like a Lifetime movie. She dealt with the stalking and hiding from someone, being beat up numerous times, and jumping off a two-story house to escape to safety. Gale explained that it is easy for people to say, “Just leave. End the relationship.” But it is not easy. In her early 20’s, when this occurred, she wasn’t aware of the available resources for battered women. She did not know about YWCA or the National Domestic Hotline. She shared that even now it is a journey, because she is still learning what it means to be in healthy viable relationships that empower her.

We talked briefly about the importance of knowing what resources are available to those who have experienced abuse. The statistics on violence against women are alarming. She told me, “It is important for kids not to go through what I went through. That is why I work so hard.” One of her goals is to write an autobiography about her experiences. “I want women to know they can survive. We are survivors. We can get through anything. Knowledge is the key. If we know the resources, then we can get help.”

It is no coincidence that her degrees are linked to her experiences. She received her degrees from University of Michigan-Flint. She triple majored and received a B.A. in Criminal Justice, Sociology and Africana Studies. She then completed a Masters in Public Administration. Presently, she is in a Post-Master’s Education Specialist Program. But her studies and experiences are more poignant. One of the key reasons for her pursuing these studies is also linked to her daughter. Gale has a maternal spirit. At one point in her life she had five children living with her (not biological). Her home was a safe space for youth to develop. One of the children is her daughter, Alicia. Due to a number of circumstances her daughter faced, Gale gained custody when Alicia was a young teenager. She shared, “When I got my daughter she was struggling through school. She had bad grades in middle and high school. In helping her excel I had to ask myself, how can I tell her to go to college if I haven’t done so myself? So because of this, I went to school. I went from being a single person with no kids to a single parent going to school full time and working full time.”

She also shared that at one point they ended up taking a class together. Excitedly, her daughter, Alicia, is graduating with her Masters in Health Education, May 2016.

All of these life experiences lead to Gale’s children’s book series. She started writing the Reach Higher Ed series in 2013. The purpose in creating the series is to educate kids through the literary arts. The books are learning tools that introduce them to higher education. She explained the series is not only for kids. It’s also for their parents.

Gale Cover

The first book introduces them to higher education and encourages them to reach for their goals. This book includes 10 tips for being successful in college. It also has a glossary of academic terms. The second book is the activity and coloring book. She is presently working on Reach Higher Ed Learning Our Degrees. This third book introduces kids to the different programs like biochemistry, astrology and astronomy, as well as professions that kids can pursue like being a teacher or doctor.

This led me to ask Gale about her own bucket list. She wants to pursue a Doctorate in Education and start her own organization to help kids reach their highest potential. Moreover, she wants to do this in Flint, Michigan. She’s a die-hard supporter and fan of her city. She is the essence of the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.”

When I think of Gale, I think of my own dreams as a writer and traveler. I am reminded through her that it takes work. When times are rough, I have to put on thick skin and keep going. This is why I chose Gale as the feature for March, because I notice her efforts. She does her work with a smile. Between pursuing this Post-Master’s degree, she is the Administrative Assistant in the Communication and Visual Arts Department at University of Michigan-Flint; She is the Marketing Editor for Qua, the University’s literary magazine; And she is a writer. She is blossoming where she has been planted. She is the fruit of her own labor. She is Gale Glover, a work of art always progressing to the next thing to support a generation following her lead.

She is a great reminder that this is blooming season. Spring!

 

Domestic Violence Statistics:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Intimate Partner and Sexual Assault Survey

Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Finding – Female Victims of Violence

More information about assault:

RAINN

Full Report of Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women

 

The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use 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.

 


traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie 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.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective 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. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.

 


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The Golden Rules of Eating Holistically

Eating Holistically[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like eating healthy is a great mystery? And if you add eating holistically into your quest, the journey can seem even more mysterious and intimidating.

Many don’t know where to start outside of upping their spinach or kale in-take when it comes to pursuing more balanced nutrition.

Taking a holistic approach to eating healthier is simple. It just requires gaining awareness about a few golden rules to get you on your way to Holistic Goddess status.

Eat as close to whole foods as possible

Eating holistically in essence means taking your nutrition to a deeper but also more basic level at the same time. When the choice is available opt to eat whole foods.

Meaning, instead of canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, get them straight from the produce section. Or instead of frozen Lean Cuisine lasagna, make a simple tomato and mozzarella whole wheat pasta dinner.

Herbs Heal

Herbs serve as the foundation for eating holistically. To truly reap the benefits of adding herbs into your holistic eating endeavors, there are three categories of herbs to keep stocked in your kitchen.

Adaptogen herbs strengthen your immune system.

Common adaptogens to have on hand include:

  • Ginger Root
  • Maca Root (enhances physical performance)
  • Maitake Mushrooms

Anti-Inflammatory herbs balance out your digestive system.

Common anti-inflammatory herbs to have on hand include:

  • Alfalfa (helps to regulate estrogen levels in women)
  • Cumin
  • Echinacea

Anti-Bacterial herbs are used in response to a health issue or to prevent them; colds, viruses and allergies, for example.

Common anti-bacterial herbs to have on hand include:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Eucalyptus (a strong cold and flu fighter)
  • Lemon grass

You can add these herbs into your diet in a number of ways from adding them to your food, to your tea or organic fair trade coffee or water, to taking them in pill form as a supplement.

Eat Throughout The Day

Eating throughout the day is necessary because it helps you to burn calories faster and boosts your metabolism.

A quick eating rule is this:

Eat five small meals a day or three meals and two fruit and vegetable smoothies along with 2-3 glasses of detox water. Ideal detox water combinations include lemons and limes, raw honey and ginger or cucumbers and curry.

To truly take your eating to a holistic level, end your day with a cup of herbal green tea and lemon juice.

Eat Meats That Were Fed A Vegetarian Diet

The phrase, “We are what we eat” couldn’t be more true than it is today. Modern diets now consist of eating meats that are filled with hormones and antibiotics. And if you are eating meats that have been fed processed foods that contain harmful chemicals, then I am sure you can only imagine the unhealthy strain that doing so puts on your body.

However, as consumers we do have choices available to us when it comes to the meats we eat. When shopping buy meats that have the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) seal of “Vegetarian Fed” or “Grass Fed” on the packaging.

Eating meats that meet this standard is a chief golden rule of eating holistically, because you are eating food that is as close to whole foods as possible. You are eliminating excess toxins from your diet this way, which leads to the next golden rule.

Eat Certified Organic Fruits and Vegetables

The same logic with meats applies to fruits and vegetables as well when eating holistically. When you eat organic fruits and vegetables you are giving your body the opportunity to be nourished at the highest level for optimal health.

To be considered USDA certified organic, fruits and vegetables must contain no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers and have not been exposed to sewage.

They are easy to spot because they will have the 100% USDA Organic sticker on them.

To discover the highest concentration of 100% certified organic fruits and vegetables, visit your area’s Farmers Market. Most Farmers Markets carry a much higher percentage of certified organic produce versus most major grocery stores, where only about 4% of their produce is certified organic.

Ditch The Guilt

This will sound counter intuitive to eating holistically because doing so requires a higher level of self-awareness, but I am going to go ahead and say it, ditch the guilt.

Meaning,

  • It doesn’t matter if you get your groceries from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or the corner bodega.
  • If you didn’t buy grass fed ground chuck this week, don’t sweat it.
  • Skip your green smoothie if the idea of eating spinach one more time this week bores you to tears.

Getting healthier and eating holistically can feel like a race towards wellness where bragging rights and self-image are the ultimate wins. However, going that route can lead you to a rabbit hole of choices that may result in guilt when you do have to deviate from your perfect holistic plan.

Ditching guilt is by far one of the most important golden rules of eating holistically for long-term benefits of living healthy.

The golden rules to eating holistically do require some mindful application and commitment, but doing so will allow you to strengthen the foundation of your health.

During your journey keep in mind the ultimate benefits of eating holistically: less stress, better sleep, glowing skin and a balanced digestive system, to name a few.

Once you get into the rhythm of eating holistically your body, mind and spirit will experience newfound radiance, and that is simply golden.

 


About the Contributor

CJChildressCoachCJ Childress is a holistic health coach, indie author and owner of a healthy meal delivery service in Houston, Texas. She began her journey with healthy living as a child by drinking green smoothies and eating organic peanut butter. But after watching her young mother die in 2012 from a rare autoimmune disease she became more convinced than ever that food really is medicine. She works with women to break their addiction to dangerous foods and heal their relationship with their bodies through a fun and focused 60-day transformational program.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.

 


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

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of The PRC’s  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 Phoenix is Denise:

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

Loving yourself is always remembering to be true – true to your mind, body and spirit. In learning to love myself I’ve learned how to love all of me, all the time.

I am learning to listen to myself. I am such a giver that sometimes I give until I have no energy left. However, not the new and improved me; I’ve learned to stop and think about how it will affect me. As I’ve gotten older, I realize how we’re quick to question others, but won’t question ourselves. In learning to love yourself first, you have to be willing to question yourself and come up with solutions.

Putting yourself first isn’t always the easiest feat but it’s a must.

I love to listen to music; it’s my biggest stress reliever. I can go for hours listening to Jill Scott, The Foreign Exchange, Dwele and a host of other Neo Soul-type artists.

I also love being by water. (SN: I cannot swim, and I don’t know if I want to learn!) Since we have no “real” beaches in Cleveland, I settle for going to the lake and sitting for hours just listening to the water. I actually do some of my best self-reflecting there.

I love to read and travel as well.

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

In October 2014 I began my fitness journey. The experience of going out of my comfort zone really opened my eyes to “how to be a better me”. I never had a true purpose for why I wanted to change; I just knew I had to. I looked at my fitness journey just as that, a journey. I was totally clueless when I began losing weight so I started following an Instagram account: fbffitness. After weeks and weeks of debating, I joined her 8-week weight loss challenge. The challenge consisted of being on a virtual team where you were to complete certain daily tasks and receive points. In the end, you had the opportunity to win money! Well, I didn’t win but I made it to the top five out of 100+ contestants.

I never really celebrated that accomplishment until recently. In my mind, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Wrong! It was huge. After I finished the challenge, I began personal training at a local gym for a few months. With personal training and a new diet I was on a roll…so I thought. I was still unhappy. I had to learn that this lifestyle change is all mental. I realized I can make all the physical changes in the world, but until I changed my mental outlook I would still be exactly the same.

I am happy to say that I am 40+lbs down forever!

Women Weight Loss Journey[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

LYFF Feature, Denise, sharing her 40+ lbs weight loss

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

Embracing change is a huge challenge for me. I’m now allowing myself to try new activities, new foods and new adventures. Being patient with myself is also an obstacle. My friends would say I am one of the most patient people you would ever meet, and I am…with others. In my own life I want things to be quick, fast and in a hurry. Learning to be more patient with myself has allowed me to relax and understand that things will happen when God says so.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned from self-love that no one will love you like YOU! Self-love allows you to be your own advocate. Self-love allows you to be a better woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. Self-love has taught me to be happy with all my flaws.

 

Thank you, Denise, for sharing your self-love story! You are truly a Phoenix rising. Congratulations on such a major lifestyle change. It most certainly is a big deal!

Were you inspired by Denise’s story? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Want to share your self-love story?

Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a 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 features.

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ARTIST FEATURE: Awakening to My Truest Self – An Interview with Jade Ponds

 

Womens Art and Creativity[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

There are many characteristics I love about the February 2016 feature, Jade Ponds. Her punching dry wit and her determination to reach personal goals are two obvious aspects that stand out. Also, she has a gentle and kind spirit mixed with tough love. There is a lot to this young woman whom I have had the pleasure of knowing in different capacities.

She was born in Banbury, England but moved to Flint, Michigan as a child. She had written her first poem when she was 10 years old. In actuality, her teacher placed her in “time out” for getting in trouble. She told Jade not to move until she wrote something. Soon after, without ever having written poetry in her life, she produced a poem called Love. Jade years later joined the Navy and served a four-year term, traveling to places like Dubai, Singapore and Hawaii, just to name a few.

I met Jade at a poetry event in December 2007. She came to the venue to support her cousin who was in the first spoken word class I had taught at University of Michigan-Flint. After the event, she approached me. She explained how shocked she was to see her cousin not only perform but sing on stage. This evidently was an anomaly. The next year Jade registered for the course. She wasn’t just a student in the class; she was a mentee. The odd thing about talking about mentor-mentee relationships is that the flow of knowledge and wisdom feels one-sided at times. But that was not the case with Jade. She shifted the tides in how I saw learning because she was someone who wanted to learn everything she could about writing, performing and developing as a person. She always asked a lot of questions – Jade kept me on my toes!

When she finished the spoken word class in 2008, she didn’t just move on to other classes. Oh no! Jade registered for credits to assist me with the other spoken word classes. She started producing the chapbooks for the course while working on her own poetry book. She graduated from University of Michigan-Flint with a B.A. in English literature. She continued her education, graduating with a M.A. also in English literature and a concentration in Creative Writing. I had asked her to emcee a monthly performance set I was organizing. The shift in the relationship moved from teacher-student to friend. Not long after, we started working together at Genesee Valley Regional Center, a Flint juvenile detention center. We co-facilitated a spoken word workshop with young women Monday evenings. Jade (after graduation) accepted a job with General Motors as an UAW supervisor while still publishing poetry books, co-facilitating the performance workshops as well as teaching martial arts on Wednesday evenings. Yes, she is a 4th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. She is a woman of many talents.

Jade Ponds [womens art and creativity] The Phoenix Rising Collective]

However, the information above is not the story I want to tell about Jade. The story I want to share is specific. It’s about the shift in her life. I begin this story by sharing an excerpt from her poem Fair Exchange:

Life hangs in the balance

Balance no longer an option as one side dearly

Outweighs the other

Death is near

She is set to be a mother

Complete with belly rubs from well-wishing strangers

Never knowing the danger lurking around the next bend

The end

Much closer than before as she

Blacks out and falls to the floor

Pain overwhelming

Not just a throbbing

Or a stabbing

Or a shooting pain,

But a combination of all three times ten

Accompanied by blood

Horrific at best

With no chance for rest before rushing to the E.R.

Hands trembling

Scenes skipping from one to the next

to the next

then darkness

This poem speaks to an experience that made her rethink her life and the sort of legacy she wants to leave on earth. In July 2009 Jade was at her annual family reunion in South Carolina. Big family. Lots of children. All sorts of food. Playing games and talking smack – what every reunion should have, right?

She explained what happened on this particular summer day:

I woke up that morning because I am an early riser. I was also the only adult who would play with the kids. We were on the trampoline around 8 in the morning for about an hour, jumping up and down like kids do. When I got off I couldn’t stand up without feeling like I was going to fall over. I felt a pain in my abdomen – the lower right side. I ignored it though. Although the pain persisted, I kept moving through the day playing other games. Around 6 in the evening I was unusually tired. My mother-in-law gave me two Tylenol so I could lie down on my back because my stomach was really hurting. It got worse. I stood up to get somebody and then I passed out. I ended up waking up and calling Mike (her husband) but then I passed out again. I was rushed to the hospital. There were moments where I could see everything in front of me but then it got darker and darker until I couldn’t see anymore. And that’s when I had an outer body experience. It was sudden. It was like stepping outside of myself and seeing me on the hospital bed, along with Mike and the doctor. It was peaceful and I didn’t feel any pain.

What I learned was I needed an emergency surgery. My fallopian tube was removed because I had an ectopic pregnancy. Unlike normal pregnancies, the fertilized egg stayed in the tube instead of moving to the uterus. I was 7-weeks pregnant and the baby was growing in the tube, which had ruptured. Essentially that day, I had been bleeding in my belly. I had lost the baby.

This moment of awakening represented both death and new life. On one end, my child had died and I could feel my life draining out of my body. For a moment I thought, “This is my last day on earth.” And it could’ve been. I asked myself how were people going to remember me. And I didn’t like the answer. What I understood about myself was that I had been holding myself back in life. I was the person that didn’t allow people into my world. I was very guarded (and still am to a degree). But I wasn’t living up to my full potential. I was not fully writing my truth or loving completely and fully. I might have to be responsible for other people’s feelings, especially if I impact them and I connect with them. Yes, I was shy, but it was more than just being shy. I was afraid of publishing my book because I was afraid to share. So this brought on that question, “How am I going to be remembered?” It was time for me to recognize the things I liked to do. For example, I liked helping people. But it was also time for me to recognize the experiences that placed me in a corner. In the past, I didn’t want to give people an opportunity to get to know me. And I think that stems from my hurtful relationship with my dad. He was the first person who truly let me down in my life. When I started to acknowledge resentment from within, I also had to acknowledge the discomforts and vulnerabilities related to our father-daughter relationship. I listed the discomforts:

On my dad’s watch I was molested.

On my dad’s watch I didn’t feel a sense of security

On my dad’s watch I felt like he wasn’t listening to my heart.

On my dad’s watch I felt unloved.

 

Although Jade acknowledges these experiences and feelings, she also admits she is still healing. And she doesn’t shy away from the anger or frustrations she feels about her dad today. She writes about it; She talks to trusted people; She uses her experiences to empower and help. When I am with Jade I am pushed to the next level of artistry because she reminds me that my truth should be spoken and shared, if for no other reason than to release and speak aloud as a way of acknowledging myself in the universe. That is where my healing begins.

It’s befitting to end this article with her words I carry, especially during times when I want to shut everyone out, “What I have learned is to treat each person as an individual and not as a collection of failures.” Yes, what I have learned is that there are some people who will show you how to trust. I’ve been fortunate to connect with a woman who shows me what trust means in my artistry and in myself.

Thank you, Jade Ponds!

 


 

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.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective 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. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.