Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography courtesy of Chetna Mehta.
I met Chetna during Thanksgiving weekend of 2016. Our partners have been best friends since childhood and so sweet serendipity seems to have brought us together. Before meeting Chetna, I was intrigued by her. Her Instagram page @mosaiceye strongly conveys her interests in art therapy, mental wellness, and the power of affirmations and mantras. Her currently unfinished painting (which I love: it reminds me of the beauty in the process) on my partner's back porch always brought a smile to my face. When she sent me her gorgeous and resonant visual affirmation as an encouraging teaser prior to launching her new platform mosaic eye unfolding, I was overjoyed. Perhaps intuitively, she sent it to me at a time I desperately needed its loving message. Later, she sent me a second one, which was divinely in alignment with a statement I personally speak over my own life.
Some of us are artists, some of us as healers. Some of us are both. Chetna is both as she creates art to encourage psycho-emotional wellness. Her platform encourages psycho-emotional and spiritual wellness through self-actualization and interconnectedness.I hope that you enjoy the wisdom that she shares with our community below. Consider gifting yourself one of her lovingly created cards and putting it in your space to inspire, uplift, and affirm you each and every day! Here's some incentive (not like you needed any): use code BGIOSUMMER on her website for 20% off any item or offering, including visual affirmations and workshops, through the summer until the autumn equinox, September 22nd, 2017.
Lauren Ash: Who are you, Chetna?
Chetna Mehta: I am a tree spirit; I live to give shelter, share fruit, stay deeply rooted in the soils of mother earth and expand to the sky unbounded.
In this life, I’m a mixed media artist, mental wellness mystic and healer. I’m a grad student in counseling psychology and a cultivator of a business, mosaiceye, centered on visual art, affirmation and workshop. I love creative expression, ritualistic self-reflection, and the synchronicities of our universal interconnection.
Lauren Ash: What does Black Girl In Om mean to you?
Black Girl in Om to me is the intentional transcendence, by black girls and women, of the worst worldly limitations, the -isms, the patriarchy and even the self.
I’ve experienced BGIO to be spacious, connecting and community-oriented; bringing focus to health from the inside out, defining beautiful bold blackness, and dwelling in intentionality and gratitude.
Lauren Ash: So beautifully interpreted, Chetna. I adore your language about how we find ways to transcend despite attempts to confine! How else do you identify with Black Girl In Om’s mission?
Chetna Mehta: To me, Black Girl in Om embodies the power of creating space, manifesting, and lifting up women of color for the good of the collective. BGIO also highlights a lifestyle of feng shui, wellness, and affirmation; all values that I strive to embody in my work, life and play!
Lauren Ash: Yes: we're all about the collective, and we're all about cultivating a lifestyle that affirms and that resonates deeply. We eschew mindlessness and, instead, embrace intentionality. Speaking of intention: what are your self-care & self-love practices?
Chetna Mehta: Creating a shrine has helped me ground myself in gratitude, truthfulness, and recognition of all that’s beyond me. My shrine reminds me of my power, my gifts and my ancestors. It shows me:
my blessings represented by small gifts to self and from others
a part of my philosophy in a carved wooden Buddha
the cleansing and recharging of my health/energy with essential oils, palo santo, rose incense and sage
my lightness represented by fallen feathers of assorted birds
my love, power and clarity seen through crystals and rocks
the cycles of life and death in fresh to wilting flowers
On a daily basis, I visit my shrine to recognize and give thanks. Sometimes I carry an item or two into the day if I need some extra consoling and remembrance.
Another precious self-love practice for me is climbing trees; I climb and perk up in trees to find solace, fearlessness, belonging and resolution. I receive so much when my palms and feet rest on treebark and my face is tickled by dancing leaves in the wind. I feel light, like a bird, or a monkey...held in the branches of a smooth, wise tree.
The trees are among the greatest and most beloved teachers; whenever I listen, they give me gifts in silence. In my life so far, I’ve found so much energy, reflection and growth especially among palms, redwoods, ancient oaks and eucalyptus.
I channel the love and wisdom from tree life into my art, which is another major self-love practice. I treat art as a meditation; requiring my full attention, my trust in the process, the need to re-focus on breathing into my creations, and releasing the inner critic’s judgments of my actions. I allow myself time to play and create for the sake of self expression; I watch guilt and frustration and negativity pass by, trying not be affected by it, keeping a flow. I also try not to expect much from the piece afterward, I put it aside and honor the process of creation rather than the outcome.
Lauren Ash: I appreciate your relationship to your art and how it parallels and is to connected to what you hope to cultivate within your self and personal development. Play and the cultivation of our curiosity is so important and yet so many of us lose both as we "grow up." I recently painted for the first time in ages, and shared my painting in my current project 'for you and for me,' which I'm glad you were able to witness! During the process of creating it, I found myself desiring this "perfect" image, but let it go by focusing on the feeling of the brush against canvas and by remembering that the result actually shouldn't look perfect because of what it symbolized for me. I can't wait to paint again and continue to cultivate it as a practice of meditation, like you describe.
What’s one ritual you recommend more women of color adopt to cultivate inner beauty and wellness?
Chetna Mehta: Long hugs with consenting ones is my latest and greatest ritual to cultivate inner beauty and outer wellness!
I went to an “arts for social change” jam/retreat recently and came out feeling so much love; hugs between creatives in this community lasted much longer than they do in the “real world.” Longer, wonderfully platonic hugs were normalized, and it contributed to a profound effect of compassion, nonjudgment, connection and creativity between us all at the retreat.
Hugging consenting/loved ones for at least 20 seconds allows us to receive the full power of a hug. It gives times for our bodies to release oxytocin, the bonding hormone a.k.a. the cuddle/love hormone that decreases blood pressure, makes us feel less depressed and anxious, and interconnects us at a level beyond words and rationale, without necessarily being creepy or weird… I highly recommend making long, heart to heart, breathing-into-it hugs a ritual with the ones you love <3!
Lauren Ash: Wow. I'm going to ask my boo if he'll hug me for 20 seconds tonight! And I love the scientific support for why hugs are fantastic for our health! What’s one wellness product you cannot live without?
Chetna Mehta: My journal is a wellness “product” that I cannot live without; usually a comp book from the dollar store. The empty pages provide me with so much relief; I need to write and draw as an outlet for my cluttering thoughts and energy. When I sketch or write, especially free-association writing, my fears are less daunting and my dreams are more real. I can bring necessary spaciousness to my mind when I have pages to pour out excess psycho-emotional chatter.
To add for skin wellness, I’ve been really into a homemade sugar, honey and EVOO scrub for soft, smooth, glowy skin. I give my face a massage with the scrub 2-3 times a week and if i’m feeling fancy, i’ll take a shower or bucket-bath to give my body a rub. I play around with the ingredient portions to adapt it to the seasons and my moon cycles; more oil for moisturize or more sugar for exfoliation.
Also, floss. My teeth and gums are transformed after a nightly floss :D.
Lauren Ash: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Chetna!
More about Chetna Mehta. Chetna Mehta is a self-taught mixed media artist and mental wellness mystic completing her Master’s in counseling psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA. She is an activist in her art; her work is rooted in feminine and intuitive creation, psychospiritual health and collective healing. She creates to speak languages of compassion, acceptance and interconnectedness with nature. Her mixed media art also includes work as a commercial and fashion model and actress with recent clients like MAC, Sephora, SFChronicle, Mill Mercantile, Old Navy, Wells Fargo, Stella+Dot and Biossance.
Travel and exposure to various cultures contributes to Chetna’s adaptability, multicultural awareness and sensitivity. At age 7, she immigrated to the U.S. from South Africa, where all her grandparents and most of her extended family continue to reside. She studied in Thailand, Costa Rica and the U.S., taught English and mathematics in India and Colombia, and was an immigration specialist at Netflix Inc. for several years, working closely with foreign national employees, organizing immigrant work visas and relocations in coordination with employment. She switched careers a couple years ago to explore the field of mental and spiritual health and has since served as a workshop facilitator and wellness counselor at a high school in San Francisco’s Mission District. She’s collaborated clinically with youth of color through issues like depression, anxiety, systemic oppression, immigration, dysfunctional family dynamics, relationships, anger management and creative blocks.