September Newsletter: Innerstanding, Presence And The Beginner's Mind

Greeting friends,

I hope you had a safe & healthy summer! As you may have noticed I've been away for a good portion of this summer. I needed a break. Over the months, and immense feeling of frustration & overwhelm surged throughout my being. A major contributing factor was I wasn't being present for myself--I had too much on my "plate" and not enough in my "cup."

My attempts to be present was constantly usurped by worrying thoughts about the future. As a self-employed person, one of my biggest worries has been if my 3-year old yoga & Ayurveda business is established enough to make it though this Pandemic recession. As a Black woman, one of my biggest worries has been if where I live, the American South, is a safe place for me to eventually settle down a future family of my own black children. As a Black American, one of my biggest worries has been if my country actually values & respects me, my brothers--both decorated veterans--my family members, my friends, and the lives of countless other melanated humans that call this country home. As a yoga teacher, one of my biggest worries has been noticing that it was becoming increasingly difficult to hold space for my students with so much going on within my being.

With all of this stress, anger, worry, frustration, doubt, uncertainty & overwhelm, I did the best thing I could think of: I committed myself to take a break until September--and I kept a strong boundary around my commitment to rest and go inward.

This summer I engaged myself with a lot of "soul-searching" in a myriad of different ways. I was selected to be a contributing author for a book and wrote a chapter detailing my journey as a black yoga teacher, including the challenges, opportunities & growth I've experienced; I participated in the inaugural BLM Global Rocket Yoga Collective 100-hour Rocket Vinyasa training and was a student in an exclusively, unapologetically black yoga training experience; I spent a month away from my partner with two weeks of it by myself in Connecticut and visiting family in New York City. I rode my bike along the boardwalk traversing the stretch of Atlantic Ocean I called home growing up in Rockaway Beach, Queens. I played basketball on the beach-side redtop courts with one of my little cousin, swam in the familiar waves of salty ocean water, and even caught a few sand crabs to admire before letting them scurry away in the tide.

I really needed this time off to reconnect to who I am when I'm not worried about everything that's seemingly falling apart. I really needed time to rest, play and hold space for just me. I really needed time to tend to my self-healing even if it meant I had to tell my beloved students that I can't be with them for the rest of the summer. I really needed time to practice being present for me.

In this time of Coronavirus, disinformation and global pandemic; in this time of digging deeply for the gnarled taproot that is systemic racism & white supremacy; in this time of fear & uncertainly when it feels like nothing is guaranteed--not even the mundane routines of our modern Western society-- practicing presence is vital. Innerstanding in vital. Being willing to admit you don't have all the answers but being willing to learn is vital.

Practicing presence allowed me to show up again for myself. Being present reconnected me to what's happening right now while still having access the discerning wisdom of my past to mindfully re-imagine the trajectory of my future. Practicing presence empowered me to feel exactly what's going on in my moment: to cry, to be angry, to feel curious, to explore the deeper means without assumptions.

One idea I've considered this summer is Śūnyatā, a Buddhist philosophy of emptiness one of my teachers defines as "awareness of the presence of an absence," and a core concept of what's often called "The Beginner's Mind." While I'm not new to the idea of the Beginner's Mind, contemplating it through the lens of Śūnyatā is new and gives me an opportunity to perceive a little differently; to lean into the discomfort and embrace uncertainty & unfamiliarity as an chance for expansion & growth.

In my time away, I'm grateful I gave myself the space to for innerstanding. While there's a lot I don't know and am still learning, what I know for sure is if one person in a community is suffering or struggling, we are all affected by that suffering & struggling. What I know for sure is, as human beings, we all have an innate capacity for immense compassion, even if it becomes buried and guarded by trauma. What I know for sure is when we have time, space & tools to feel safe, rest & take care of ourselves, we can more easily recognize when other people need the same and be more willing to provide time, space & tools to help our fellow human beings. My hiatus provided me time to be present for me, space to establish healthy boundaries and tools for innerstanding through the teaching of Śūnyatā.

ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।

तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।

मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥


Asatomā sadgamaya

Tamasomā jyotir gamaya

Mrityormā'mritam gamaya

Oṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ