By Black Girl In Om Team. Photography By Rikki Wright.
It has been incredibly inspiring to see how in 3 years, Lauren Ash has led the cultivation of a beautiful transformative global community for women like myself, who desire freedom for themselves and for their communities; women who know they need to heal in order to thrive in this world, but don’t always have access to the right tools. Lauren has nurtured a strong community from the ground up, and today we are reaping the many benefits of the Black Girl In Om team’s hard work.
When I first joined BGIO as an Editorial intern in 2015, things were much different. Based out of New York at the time, I recall meeting Lauren in person once, as most of our work and communication is done remotely. She had an instant impression and impact on me; she is truly a leader and devotee of the community whose light shines bright and encourages the same from those whom she crosses paths with. This woman had become one of my biggest inspirations. After graduating college, I switched states and no longer had the capacity to take on additional projects as I wanted to focus on a smooth transition and a successful start to my first post-graduate job. Looking back, all I can do is laugh. Things didn’t work out with my first experience in the corporate world; I felt incredibly unfulfilled and I realized how important the work that I was doing with BGIO was to my spirit and my community overall. Everyone around me at the time longed for this service of love.
From my internship, I knew that the work that I was doing with the BGIO team was the most fulfilling work I’d been a part of. It meant something deep to me; not only did I need the services that we were providing to our community, but I also craved to give this knowledge to other women who lacked the access. Lauren and I remained in contact throughout the year, and divine timing led to my transition back to the team as Editorial Coordinator right before our first #BGIOBreatheEasy retreat, which just so happened to be in LA, my new home. I was excited, but quite nervous. I’d been dealing with a lot of personal trauma and didn’t know how I was going to relate in-person and in such an intimate setting with people I didn’t really know and with whom I had only communicated with occasionally through our internal digital platforms.
And what did I discover? Black Girl In Om’s retreat healed me in a way that I’d never expected. I cried, I let my hurt go, and I found love in a community of like-minded women who uplifted me in ways I didn’t even know that I needed. It was an honor to be able to relate and expand with my team. Black Girl In Om is slowly but surely changing the world one step at at time and our team retreat is ultimately a true gift to the community in which we serve. Since then, we have received a lot of interest from our supporters about how the community can get involved in these type of events, including our BGIO Self-Care Sunday series and soon-to-come retreats for our community.
My heart desires most for others to benefit from our in-person events and experiences in the same way that I did. In an effort for you to get to know our team more intimately, and to get some firsthand insight on how impactful the #BGIOBreatheEasy retreat was and continues to be to this day, I talked to the team directly to find out how they’ve been breathing easier since our last communion. Check out our reflections below and remember to cultivate space for you to breathe easy and pour into yourself in whatever way you can!
Lauren Ash, Founder & Executive Director:
In holding space for our team to experience our first team retreat together during our year of intentional expansion and elevation, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that is challenging to explain with human language. Black Girl In Om exists to create space for women of color to breathe easy. So, to be able to cultivate a sacred space for and with those leading this movement was not only special but necessary.
Every woman on the BGIO team pours herself fully into her role, and also juggles many other beautiful creative projects, many of which also center black women and other people who occupy identities that are too often marginalized. It's crucial for us to pour back into ourselves to continue to move forward in doing this work with integrity, vigor, and enthusiasm.
Daily we moved with intention and rooted ourselves in our BGIO values. Starting each day with a question of the day, word of the day, and song of the day allowed us to view each day through a particular lens. From reiki and breathwork, to healing conversations and spiritual breakthroughs, retreats curated with compassion and authenticity offer black women a space to heal and be healed.
Our spiritual advisor, Dr. Crystal Jones, stood in the gap for all of us spiritually as we needed additional support when Spirit guided us to move to new levels energetically, to release through tears and other physical manifestations of growth. To Crystal and to our other BGIO tribe sisters who intersected with our experience -- Erica Chidi Cohen, Brandie Gilliam, Dr. Kristian H., Koya Webb, Jess Puccelini, and Rikki Wright -- I am eternally grateful.
I left behind the notion that healing is only reserved for the moments that I decide; that I am anything less than powerful; and any remaining lies threatening to tell me that what I've been cultivating through BGIO isn't life changing, personally transformative, and culture shifting. I carry forward a collective energy of generational healing, determination, and certainty in our BGIO values.
Deun Ivory, Art Director:
The #bgioretreat inspired within me a desire to go deeper into my introspective journey.
Creatively, it inspired me to be very intentional and thoughtful about the experiences I curate and offer my community moving forward. After communing with the team, I’m leaving behind the fear of dependency. A lesson that I’m carrying while moving forward: community does the spirit, mind and soul good.
Danielle Lyles Barton, Director of Programming:
Among many aha moments, the #BGIORetreat ignited a new level of spiritual healing for me and helped me to address outdated narratives around choosing Self and worthiness. My intention and personal mantra going into the retreat was: I Choose Me. Being in communion with our dynamic team empowered me to walk in the truth that I am worthy of making both small and huge daily choices on my own behalf for no other reason than because I deserve it. The magical, and unanticipated, gift I walked away with was the gift of also being chosen by so many beautiful sister souls. I have since been inspired to cut off all of my locs — releasing my hair along with all the things that tried to trick me into believing I'm somehow unworthy. My new mantra? I Choose Me + I Am Chosen.
Jasmine Roseboro, Social Media Strategist:
It’s hard to put into words all that our #BGIORetreat awakened within me. Lately the concept of walking in your purpose has been following me. I often times feel like I’m going in circles around what my purpose is and sometimes I feel pulled between what my purpose is and what I know others expectations of me are. To be surrounded by trust, love and secured by the team during those four days was so refreshing. To finally feel safe enough to break down and to admit that we don’t have it all together all the time.
For me, our team retreat was everything I didn’t know I needed. I was inspired by seeing the power of living with intention. Everything, every moment felt so seamless. Everyone involved in the retreat, some of whom met in real life for the first time during those four days, fit together like pieces in a puzzle. We laughed, cried, shared and made space for one another. As I’m writing, I’m literally smiling as I reflect on the emotions I felt at the time. This retreat experience enabled me to explore my intention of vulnerability, share space with AMAZING black women that are rooted in their purpose and gave me a chance to look inward and face some aspects of my being that I hadn’t given myself time to asses. Moving forward I’m embracing the idea of journeying, which seems simple enough but it can be easy to focus on the beginning and ending points forgetting everything in between. I understand that I’m not where I’d like to be, yet, and that is totally fine. I’m leaving behind self-doubt and limiting thoughts that don’t serve me. Lastly, I’m learning. I’m learning to be more open and vulnerable with others and myself — there’s such power in that. I’m learning to lean into the word picked for me by Zen Mama Lauren: Create. There are so many meanings to this word to explore and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
I am so so grateful to have had this experience. I have to express gratitude to our wonderful BGIO team, all of the women who came together to share and guide us through the workshops and most of all to Lauren for her vision. A true testament of the power of manifestation, an empowering example of what it looks like to be rooted in your purpose.
Valerie Titus-Glover, Social Media Strategist:
#BGIOBreatheEasy was a breath of fresh air for me. It inspired me to challenge my thoughts of myself and my relationship to spirit with countless moments of deep self-questioning, introspection, and confirmation. Given our disparate locations across time zones and cities, it was so refreshing to share physical space with the women on our team that I've grown into my role with over the last few months. I left the retreat knowing I was fully supported by our loving and always enthusiastically open BGIO Team members, life-changing and absolutely affirming Tribe thought leaders, and a newly refreshed and incredibly powerful connection to myself and the Universe. Leaving the retreat was bittersweet because it was such a life-changing experience and I didn't want it to end, but I take solace in knowing I can carry the energy from those days spent growing, laughing, building, and loving together for the rest of my life.
Akudo Mez, Executive Assistant:
The #BGIORetreat was an amazing 4 days of in Southern California. From the food, to our minivan, amazing guest speakers there was so much goodness to soak up. The #BGIORetreat inspired me personally to practice what I preach when it comes to self-care and actually make time for rest and recharge. Keyword: recharge. Creatively, after listening to the #BGIOTribe talk with Erica Chidi Cohen of Loom on periods I want to be more connected and aware of the role my cycle plays into my work and creativity flow.
After communing with the team I am leaving behind playing small. The BGIO team is full of such powerful, amazing women that are here to support and expand. The lesson I am carrying forward is from Dr. Crystal Jones and that is to mind my business and do the work.
Chante Dyson, Editorial Coordinator:
On a personal level, the #BGIORetreat healed my spirit in ways I didn’t even know I needed. The experience was divinely timed, and I had the opportunity to leave a lot of limiting beliefs and trauma behind me, and welcome the abundance that my new life in LA has provided. This was the first time in a LONG time that I was in a room of women who looked like me and had a similar passion of collective healing and community building. I felt like I’d truly found my tribe and was reassured of my purpose. Our work is remote, but taking this time to bond and ascend with my teammates truly uplifted my spirit in profound ways. I left accepting myself for who I am, and gained confidence to know my worth in places that don’t feel as safe. The beautiful women who were a part of this experience sent me affirmations that I still repeat to this day - I am enough. I am here for a reason. I am living in purpose and with intention. I will reach my dreams. My mantra for the experience was - Be simple. I know that I am most at ease when I choose to take a pause and live my life in a way that embraces simplicity as opposed to rages against it. I used this retreat as an opportunity to continue living simply and more mindfully by using all of the tools that were shared over the weekend. Today, I am better because of it.
On a creative level, I have decided to ‘simply’ take my time with it. I have the knowledge and the tools needed for my healing, which I must do in order to create my best and most authentic work. I am allowing myself the time to process, which ultimately brings more room for my creative pursuits. I look forward to the future of Black Girl In Om.
I am leaving behind the notion that I am not enough and I do not “fit in”to certain spaces. I know that if the Universe brought me here, it is my right to shine my light even if it feels like new territory. I am great and a reflection of The Creator so I will never doubt myself again.
I am bringing with me love. I embody love. My work is love. My relationships are love. Love, is always the answer.