INTERVIEW BY DRONILE HIRALDO. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLEY RAYE.
When I first stumbled across Black Girl In Om, in summer of 2016, I didn’t realize how timely the intro to self-love, self-care and wellness would be to my life. I was at the start of a spiritual awakening, and asking myself "who am I?" I began meditating and exploring the mystical side of life–everything from tarot to God to universal signs. I had completely lost touch with who I was. I was burnt out–physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
The Black Girl In Om podcast was (and still is), for me, a huge part of getting back in touch with myself. Last season, our cohosts Lauren Ash and Deun Ivory, had a wonderful conversation with healing facilitator Dr. Crystal Jones and yoga and mindfulness instructor Tie Simpson on healing that spoke deeply to my life and soul. What struck me most about the conversation was this idea of not just going within, but learning to love what's found below the surface–no conditions, no questions asked. Intrigued, I invited our lovely friend Crystal back for a chat, to help us explore what it means to do the deep work that leads us to awakening and true wholeness. We hope that as you take inventory of your wholeness this December, this conversation with Dr. Crystal below will open up more avenues of love and awareness for you. Be sure to let us know via social how this year has brought you closer to accepting your true Self.
Dronile Hiraldo: Hi, Crystal, thank you so much for joining us again. After listening to your conversation on the BGIO podcast on finding true wholeness, I was very intrigued by this idea of being at peace with our shadow. I just started my own journey into myself and I was wondering how one can make peace with these multiple aspects and layers of the self. Could you talk a little more about what shadow work looks like as a healing facilitator? When a woman comes to you, are there initial steps you walk her through to help her face the darkness? How do you personalize the work to each person?
Dr. Crystal Jones: This work looks different for so many people. And I should say, this is a path towards mindfulness. The path that this work takes is based on the experiences, truths and agreements that the person is living by. It is a process of alchemy and observing collateral beauty. This work often looks like sitting with a woman while she meets her true self for the first time. The layers are peeled back. The rocks that were once perceived as weapons evolve into power, and through this, a beautiful new narrative prevails.
Initially, it’s often important for people to redirect their language from polar words. I think the words "shadow" and "darkness" are very scary and keep people from exploring within. The first two questions that I ask a woman redirect the power within. I must know who they are on a fundamental level and where they are going. As a healing facilitator, I am an observer. So, I become aware of the narrative that the person is living on all levels by listening to the subtleties. We dive deep into the root of the narrative and evolve based on readiness. This is an intense process, often full of detoxing through highly repressed tears.
This work is personalized as I walk into each session as a vessel. I take interest through curiosity and we curate the experience in dynamic fashion - I never have an agenda.
Dronile Hiraldo: That's so beautiful. I love that you mention letting go of polar words and becoming aware of the narrative we're living by. I think often times we’re held back by our own perceptions and inability to break free from what we tell ourselves. Why is shadow work necessary to healing these stories? Is it possible to truly, wholly and completely love ourselves without loving our inner selves?
Dr. Crystal Jones: This work is important because it brings us to wholeness. How would a day look without night? This happens in nature every single day. Only in mindful wholeness can we heal foundationally. Some are here as ascended masters and the work for them is different. While I believe in the possibility of anything, I do hold the philosophy that true love is not actualized without wholeness. I believe that without this work, attachments and agreements are left for others to process throughout lifetimes. The “shadow” is just a piece of the whole, rather, than an entity outside of the self. It’s vitally important to love the entire spectrum, including every shade of gray.
Dronile Hiraldo: How can we begin the process of healing ourselves? What should we be aware of as we explore the entire spectrum of who we are?
Dr. Crystal Jones: Without any facilitator, modality, guru, etc., people are always healing. Realization of that process comes through actualizing this choice and consciously doing the work. The body’s primary responsibility is to heal herself.
I believe that people should be aware that the process is alchemy and that honesty is the language that must be spoken. The power of the work is directly proportionate to the level of truth willing to be experienced.
Dronile Hiraldo: “The power of the work is directly proportionate to the level of truth willing to be experienced.” I love that. In this time of heightened consciousness, this idea of truth and owning our truth has become a really rich topic of conversation. With self-care, we encourage one another to tune into our intuition and to listen to/following our own hearts. Can embracing our shadow help us create a clearer lines of communication with our intuition? How does one even begin to cultivate one’s own truth?
Dr. Crystal Jones: Practice. Practice. Practice. Sitting in silence is often key for this practice. The world will think for you if you choose not to think. Intuition is that still small voice. Meditation is a beautiful way to practice this listening. This practice can be started with thirty seconds and progress. Embracing wholeness allows for this experience to be in truth without the fluff of what light work should look like. And then it is all about acting on the voice and opening to what the results of living in truth looks like. Once again, it is a practice - and you get better with time. It isn’t until this part of the work is actualized that I even entertain modalities such as chiropractic, reiki, reflexology, etc. I use those modalities to align to new truth rather than my truth of what healing should look like. Processes require time.
Dronile Hiraldo: It’s interesting, you said something that really spoke to me there, about our truth being found in choosing to think for ourselves. Earlier in the year, we explored towering the tabu and embracing those parts of ourselves that society tell us are “wrong” or that may be more challenging to love and accept. In learning to loving the deeper (darker) parts of ourselves, how can we protect our energy and practice acceptance?
Dr. Crystal Jones: Unlearning judgement is the process. Most often, a huge block to the work is a series of truths that must be evolved. So many people have been taught what to think rather than actually becoming aware of why they believe that way. I think it’s important that people aren’t seeking a destination, rather, a lifelong experience of remembering. Once again, this process is about experiencing collateral beauty and reframing the mind through critical thinking and observing rather than judging. Practicing curiosity over judgement is a mindfulness practice and must be observed. As a woman of power, the choice is always there to go at your own pace, remember the integrity of the healing process and trust that. A helpful tool is becoming aware of core values and living through that.
Dronile Hiraldo: Are there additional tools, such as self-love or self-care practices, you would suggest to help us do this deep work?
Dr. Crystal Jones: Meditation. Embodied Movement. Intentional bathing as a baptism experience. Journaling, honest journaling – asking the deep questions and answering them unedited. Fasting and prayer.
Dronile Hiraldo: We’ve talked a lot about the personal work. Is it possible to include our family and friends in our healing, too? Are there ways to start this conversation on self-love with our loved ones, to voice what we need and how they can support us?
Dr. Crystal Jones: I am sure that it is possible, but my truth is that this journey is one that should be delved into alone or in a cultivated group setting. I have noticed that working with families at the beginning of this process often caused more blocks than clearing. Often deep seeded truths have been silenced by those that are closest in proximity. Although the intention is likely very different, I think that bringing in close people may water down the ability to be as vulnerable as desired. Once the foundation is set, I believe that family and friends should be beautiful witnesses to the evolution.
Being honest about needs and desires is fundamental once the awareness of what those particular asks truly are. Yes, it may be taken personal, so it is important for them to know that it is not about them. Afterwards, opening to their decision to support or not at whatever level honors their truth as well. Be aware that their level of support may or may not be in a language that you may speak fluently.
Dronile Hiraldo: So, it’s the work that we do on ourselves that really creates a shift for the others around us. Are there breakthroughs in shadow work? When someone is exploring this deeper part of themselves, how does one know whether to continue to go deeper or let the work go? Are there times when people will begin part of the work, pause and come back to it?
Dr. Crystal Jones: Absolutely, yes. There are always breakthroughs in this work. Wholeness looks like a bird flying free from the cage. It is best for the person to listen to their inner guidance. People who facilitate this work go as far with the person as they allow.
Throughout the lifetime, people are always working to remember themselves and reach actualization. This takes time and is not a race. Rest is fundamental for integration. This work is about flow, it is never a project with a completion date.
Dronile Hiraldo: That goes back to what you said about the process requiring time, doesn’t? I'd love to just like wake up tomorrow and be self-realized, but you’re saying it really is about the journey more so than the realization. With this being a lifelong process, how can we celebrate our shadow?
Dr. Crystal Jones: I believe that we best celebrate our wholeness by expressing fully our unadulterated truth.
Dronile Hiraldo: What advice do you have for women looking to express their full unadulterated truth and begin this journey into themselves?
Dr. Crystal Jones: I advise women to become comfortable with being. And through this, allowing that to be enough. Start in the silences and listen there. Journal those thoughts that you keep trying to throw in the closet. When you cannot quiet your mind, explore those stories and sit with them. And then bring in movement. This sacred path of complete wholeness and alchemy is mindfulness. Mindfulness is presence. In this place, we are all peace. This is the work, not the destination.
Dronile Hiraldo: Whoo. That’s deep. I’m definitely still learning to be comfortable with expressing who I am and knowing that yes, who I am is enough. There’s no need to add or to change me, but to more fully become me. This was so enlightening. Thank you Crystal!
Dr. Crystal Jones: Thank you!
Dronile Hiraldo is a New York city born and bred writer with a love for donuts, Michael Jackson and the stories women of color tell. She credits her alma mater for empowering her to explore her Dominican-American identity and take deeper interest in the experiences of women of color and their representation in pop culture. As a senior in college, she accidentally fell in love with running, cooking, and horseback riding. Dronile founded the little dominican, her lifestyle blog, to share her challenges as a woman of color learning to love her body, eat healthy and become a full-time creative: writer, filmmaker, photographer. As part of Black Girl In Om she hopes to help other women of color discover themselves, re-connect with their passions and love themselves fiercely. Her self-care go-tos include journaling, meditation and dancing in her living room.