Issue 003: Spirituality

Free Spirit

By Zakkiyyah

I’m a firm believer in following “the spirit" which I consider to be the most innate aspect of being human. Recognizing this holistic extension of ourselves is essential to existing in the physical world, which doesn’t always validate who we are or what we believe in. But often times we don’t follow our spiritual instincts due to the pressures of the outside world. I’m completely convinced that being open to listening to your spirit and following it accordingly is the ultimate path to freedom, happiness, and peace.

The ways in which I navigate the world around me, through the senses and by way of thought is very much a spiritual project. I’ve often thought that our spiritual self/selves are what guide our intentions and how we view ourselves in the world.

Growing up in a Christian household, I struggled with the thought of identifying myself with alternative Christian practices or worldviews. As an adult, I am now comfortable with alternative spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, Buddhism and aspects of synchronized practices like SanterÍa and Candomblé.

For this particular piece I really wanted to convey what it means to be lead by spirit and in many ways, to follow spirit. I associate elements like water, natural environments, and certain colors (blue, white, and green) to spiritual well being and guidance…which for me have been heavily influenced by alternative spiritual practices that are rooted in appreciating nature and the elements. 

You, On Purpose

PHOTO: CHRISTIAN TOTTY

PHOTO: CHRISTIAN TOTTY

By Christian Totty

You.
On purpose.
A cacophony of star dust and tissue,
Search high and low for an answer.
Swim channels seeking peace,
Cross borders with bare feet.
The miles traveled,
The stretch marks,
The battle wounds,
The traumatic scars,
Give you character.

You.
On Purpose.
Know the fear of a rootless pulse,
In all positions.
The kind of chaos that steals,
Leaves you deficient,
Void of essential fluids.
Energy has abandoned you.
Your Heart is signaling you,
Beating on the roof of memory
Sunrise to sunset
Calling, calling, calling.

You.
On Purpose.
Running home after all this time.
Bring yourself in full light,
Shine magnificent in the dawn
The crown of you is beaming
Beyond human structure.
Shine magnificent in the day
A stroke of insight
You are.
You are.

PHOTO: RICHARD CONLEY

PHOTO: RICHARD CONLEY

Christian Totty believes with all her heart that women of color hold the deepest truths of healing; from traditional medicines and artistic productions, to social activism and responsible entrepreneurship, their collective memories and manifestations are the key to transforming the world. She is a Black Indian, Ohio-born artist and activist with a passion for botanicals, travel, holistic health and liberation. Currently, she resides in Austin, TX where she is pursuing a Masters degree in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. She also writes a lifestyle blog where she shares her journey as a graduate student, and beyond: www.christiantotty.wordpress.com.

A Conversation on Serendipity and Patience with Jasmine Kelley of Onya'e Naturals

Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Jordan Bentley.

What started as a graphic design thesis project blossomed into a beautiful 100% all natural, all vegan, skincare and candle brand handmade by Jasmine Onya'e Kelley herself. Onya'e Naturals products don't just look good, with minimalist, modern packaging and earth tones, but they are good for you. From Jasmine's personal Instagram account (@Jassyonyae), I picked up on the frequency of the beautiful spirit behind the brand and was curious to learn more about her journey as a creator, business owner, and wellness-oriented woman of color. I'm also excited to partner with Jassy on an upcoming Onya'e Naturals product giveaway at our June 12th Happy Hour. Enjoy our conversation!

LA: I’d love to hear you speak more about the origins as well as the growth of Onya’e Naturals. I know it started as a school project that has now blossomed into a business and strong wellness brand.

JK: For my thesis project, I created a booklet of photographs and how-to grid’s. Then, I created products completely made from ingredients found in my kitchen. At my thesis show, people told me I should turn it into something. I continued to do research, educated myself, and came back to that encouragement. I told myself "I can turn this into something because I’m sick of wearing these expensive and harmful products." I started making my own products and turned it into Onya’e Naturals! I remember being really nervous. I chose the name Onya’e Naturals because I wanted the name and the brand to be personal. Onya’e is my middle name.

LA: I really like how with each of your products, you offer a little bit of information about its healing properties. How much of this knowledge was derived from your formal study versus your own curiosity?

JK: I studied graphic design, so I learned about various ingredients and their healing properties on my own. I’m very big on researching ingredients for myself. When I first got into this, I knew I didn’t want to be the person who jams information down your throat every time that you speak to them. I want to truly educate people as to why this, in general, is good for you. I research a ton, but it’s so easy. Looking up shea butter? Oh, I get lost in the Internet! I ask all kinds of questions: What essential oils work best for you? Does the oil smell good? What else?

I have a friend who loves lavender, but she’s allergic to it. It’s not for everyone. Not every essential oil is for everyone. So I always advise people to do their personal research, as well.

LA: Yes! Sometimes you buy a product and it smells good, but you’re not always mindful of the deeper benefits or harms behind it. So, I really appreciate that you educate your supporters and clients! You recently told me that you practice yoga! There are some clear ways that your brand relates to spirituality. Through incorporating essential oils, for example, and how some of them literally uplift your spirit or ground you in certain ways. What ways do you personally cultivate your spirit?

JK: So, I was raised Seventh-Day Adventist. My Mom converted before I was born. As I got older, I realized I needed to do more research into spirituality for myself, not just because I was born into it. So, I started to learn about the stars, energy, and more and I found it so interesting how good energy and your own spirituality and personal moments with God can arise from yoga, for example. When I practice yoga I’m at peace. My mind is calm. I meditate and feel no burdens. Nothing negative.

I also surround myself with positive people. I don’t want to sound cliche, but it helps with my spirituality. Who you surround yourself, and who you hang out with, with really matters. I had to really take away negative people in my life. Not because I was better than them, but it was bringing me down. I was becoming angry. I would ask God what was going on and would feel mad toward God. So, I took up yoga because of this and my Mom was against it at first because it wasn’t Christian…

LA: I went through that same thing! And now my Mom comes to yoga [laughs]...

JK: [Chuckles] Yes, and that's cherry-picking! Picking certain things over other things, it wasn’t right to me. So, I learned about things myself. I find that when I practice yoga, I’m stretching my body, I’m feeling good about myself, I’m happy with the people next to me. I have my moments with God, when I’m literally at peace, when I’m quiet. And not just with yoga, but when I wake up, I have my morning rituals: I have my tea or coffee; I read. I do everything I can to find stillness before I start my day by opening my laptop. [Laughs]

Reading self-help books helps me a lot, as well. Sometimes reading my Bible, even though it’s so boring [laughs] helps, as well. When you’re a better person you help others more. All of these things come back to spirituality. When I exercise, treat others better, eat right, cultivate my garden,...

LA: You garden?

JK: Yes, seeing nature do its thing is beautiful!

LA: Absolutely. So, do you have anything on the horizon that you’re excited about? It seems that you don’t limit yourself. You have deodorant, mist, body butters...what else are you interested in exploring?

JK: When I first started, I just had body butter and lip balm. And then it grew really fast. I’m adding candles now. I learn so much. I’ve met different businesses with the candles alone. I’ve been contacted by a lot of different companies, which I didn’t expect. I’m also making a magazine focused on creatives. Whatever doesn’t work, I’ll put it on hold. It’s always a learning process. I’ve made some things that didn’t do well and I simply took it away. It’s fun.

Also, I’m an open book. When people have an idea or a question, I want people to contact me! People are helping me grow.

LA: Is there anything else that you want to share?

One thing that I struggle with is patience. Being an entrepreneur, it’s important to be patient. Nothing happens overnight. My business helps me take my time and let things flow. It goes without saying, but I think we forget sometimes. Let things be. Be patient with your spiritual life, as well. As you’re learning things about yourself, be patient. 

H(om)e: A Conversation with Johari, Blues Musician & Educator

Interview and Photography by Zakkiyyah.

When I first met Johari, I immediately had the feeling that there was something deeply urgent and necessary about his teaching methods and the way he navigated through the classroom, and out in the world. Johari is one of the most beautiful and engaging spirits I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with. I can honestly say he’s played a large role in personal and artistic growth I’ve experienced since living in Chicago.

With this month’s theme being Spirituality, I thought of Jabir and his willingness to share spiritual affirmations in a classroom setting, in ways I had never experienced before. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this beautiful spirit is that, carving your own paths and following your heart in all that you do is the key to living a rich life.

Johari: When I moved to Chicago, I accidently found this barber in Hyde Park and he was like 80. And he cut my hair as an older man would cut it..And as you know, I’m sort of in touch with this black past of the 50’s. I’m very into that. I think kind of attached myself to him, because he reminded me a lot of my Grandfather. I was just you know afraid to grow my hair out also at that time because I thought internally about what my Grandfather would’ve thought, and what he’d say. But I would really like to have big hair.

Zakkiyyah: He reminded you of your Grandfather, that’s beautiful.

JJ: What I love about living in Chicago is the way that elderly black people see something in me and I can just sit and talk to them forever. If I found a Blues lounge with black people in their 70’s or 80’s I would be in heaven.

Z: Could you please expand more about your living space? I’m sitting in your living room, and it’s so eclectic.

JJ: I'm really into spirits. And, I think spirit is conjured and evoked in any and everything. So, I'm very much into smells, touch, and fabric. And of course, aesthetics. Like the piece of furniture behind you? That was the first piece of furniture, when my grandparents were run out of Mississippi, that they bought when they arrived in St. Louis. So, I'm interested in how the spirit and presence of our ancestors live in material objects. I insist that my space conjure all of that.

Z: Interesting, because I definitely felt that energy when I walked in.

JJ: Yeah, it's all very much intentional.

Z: So do you have any plans for the summer?

JJ: In a couple of weeks I’m going to D.C. to the National Archives, it’s research related. It’s a trip nevertheless. But after that I’ll be headed to the Detroit Art Institute, they have this huge exhibit on Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.. the murals that they created together. It closes in July, but you would definitely appreciate that trip. And I’ll get some writing done on the way there.

Z: Writing, as in for the book you’re working on?

JJ: Partly, yes. But I work in a very collage approach, even intellectually. Like today I was at the Music Center for Black Research and I came across this poster―so my book is on the first black regime of the civil war- and of course I took a picture of it. It was a poster of another black regime from World War II and they were also a singing regime, like the regime I’m writing book about.So there’s this tradition that no one is studying, that there were these black male singing soldiers. You can’t see that if you work as a monolithic artist or intellectual who’s so close sighted. That’s how I approach what I do, like these soldiers ... it’s very multidimensional.

Z: Do you that has something to do with the fact that you are an artistically inclined person? Because I’ve always felt that way about my work, that what I do has to be intersectional with my lifestyle and interests. My personal practices and beliefs have to intersect with my work

JJ: Yea, that’s how I am. You’re not only talking about multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary you’re talking about a worldview that is both theoretical and practical. I’m very much like that. I’m always asking those kinds of questions with the work I do. I found myself looking for examples. Like one of the things I hadn't thought about, is that a lot of what I’m about is embodied in Katherine Dunham.

Z: I’ve never heard of her, could you speak more about her?

JJ: She was a classically trained dancer, and later in her life she came to University of Chicago and studied Anthropology. She worked with a renowned cultural anthropologist of African American cultural history, Melville Herskovitz. She was a student of his, but she was also initiated as a Vodou Priestess. She had this relationship with the academy, with a lot of credentials and she also had her own dance company. She performed on Broadway, and was a very committed teacher. In the 70’s she found some buildings in  East St. Louis and created The Katherine Dunham dance studio and cultural center so that poor children could learn to dance.

Z: That sounds so freeing, that she was able to do all of that amazing work and not confine herself to one specific practice. That’s interesting though. I mean how does one become a vodou priestess (chuckles).

JJ: She practiced Haitian Vodou, and her dance techniques were grounded in African dance and she very much understood African dance from the perspective of spirit possession. Which you know Zakkiyyah is part of what I teach. It’s pretty amazing. She was a priestess in the tradition of Haitian vodou and spent a lot of time with communities in Haiti. That’s where her school came from, because part of what Haitian vodou does as a cosmology, is that it teaches those those that follow it, your gifts and talents exist for the sake of the community and to serve the spirits. So she understood her talent as a dancer as something that she could give back to the community. My work is very much about teaching and my scholarship is reflective of my practice as musician. All of that is also very reflective of my worldview as an African living in America. So she very much embodies that possibility for me.

Z: Could you expand on that, your scholarship as a reflection of yourself?

JJ: I think of the institution as a sick and cancerous place, and I’m there to bring life. To help people, and my students find life in what they do. The path that I have found to cultivate that is building relationships and finding community. It is evidenced in the fact I’m connected to these young artistic and activist students. And they have a different expectation from me, they want something different. It’s been quite a lesson for me to get that, and to trust what I do. I mean, you have to ask yourself Zakkiyyah, those deeply spiritual questions. What is it that you believe? And what is it that your belief leads you to commit to? There’s a type of truth telling to all of this, you have to bear witness to it. 

The Floral State of Mind

Photography by Brandon Stanciell. Interview by Zakkiyyah.

Z: You frequently capture Black men and women with flowers. Why? What inspires you to make Black men and women and the environment the subjects of your work? 

BS: The color black is a combination of all colors, which is why I believe it to be one of the most significant colors of our spectrum. Black men and women aren’t portrayed frequently in fine-art photography, and being a Black male, I wanted to contribute to that. The Black men and women in my work are representations of fine-art and the flowers are a complement to that. It's a side of Black that isn’t noticed often, and people most commonly associate the color black with loss, but I like to portray Black in my work as light―as a new beginning for growth.

Z: What was your guiding inspiration for this particular photostory? 

BS: I was inspired by the name of the model: Halo. After arranging several flowers in her hair wrap, I knew I wanted to call the photo story "Floral State of Mind." 

Located in Downtown Los Angeles, we shot in an empty walk through shopping center. This location was perfect because of the gold high rise ceilings that compliment the yellow flowers. A place crowded with people and noise is parallel to a mind with congested thoughts and emotional instability.

Z: In what ways is spirituality visually addressed in your photostory?

BS: I used yellow gerber daisies for the shoot; yellow, in spirituality, represents the Solar Plexus which identifies with emotional healing, clarity of thought and guidance. There are seven flowers in her hair wrap signifying the seven chakras. Furthermore, three flowers located midway between the navel and the sternum represent the third chakra location. Halo is centered in the middle of the photograph in the lotus flower position to embody balance between herself and her surroundings.

Brandon Stanciell is a 21 year old photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. View his work at www.valleyhoodlum.us, follow him on Instagram @theflowerpapi, and follow him on Twitter @Valley_Hoodlum.

A Conversation on Tea Culture, Ritual, and Spirituality with Charmaine Bee of Gullah Girl Tea

Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Nasozi Kakembo.

Charmaine Bee, the Founder of Gullah Girl Tea, is someone you could speak with for hours. Well traveled throughout the diaspora and incredibly knowledgeable about herbs and natural healing, she offers a lot of divine wisdom fundamentally rooted in her experiences growing up in the South amidst Gullah culture and rooted in what she has learned as a woman of color cultivating her craft as a healing artist and entrepreneur. Zakkiyyah and I have been sipping on Gullah Girl Tea, and sharing her teas with our community, since she first gifted us with some amazing healing blends in December. Issue 003: Spirituality offered the perfect opportunity for us to share more about Charmaine, and Gullah Girl Tea, as deeply spiritual and aligned with wellness and self-care. Be sure to follow Gullah Girl Tea on Instagram and on Twitter @GullahGirlTea and stock your cabinet, or gift a friend, with some Gullah Girl tea or tinctures.

LA: Something really strikes me from your website. You mention “tea culture” a lot. How do you perceive and experience a culture surrounding tea?

CB: It’s shifted and evolved, for me. Growing up, tea culture in my family was simply defined by drinking tea when we were sick. That was the only time we drank tea. There was rarely drinking for enjoyment; we didn’t drink iced tea. Hot tea was delivered when you had a cold coming on or when you were shifting out of a cold. And it was Lipton’s black tea. There was always this association of drinking tea when there was an illness.

The next step of tea culture, for me, was upon learning about various teas as an enjoyable healing beverage. The only tea that I knew about and drank growing up was Lipton’s black tea. So when I left home and began learning about different ways to approach wellness through food and through drinking, everything opened up. I learned about white teas, herbal teas and oolong teas. I previously learned about Life Everlasting and the herbs people drank to cure the flu at home, but I didn’t really know about my Grandmother working with these leaves. There was a period of time when I was exploring tea as a healing beverage and learning about different processes of refining the leaves and oxidation. I began to understand the healing properties of tea but also how we can enjoy it as beverage. People who drink tea to relax, people who drink tea as part of a meditation ritual, and people who drink tea when they want to feel energized. It doesn’t have to be this beverage that you go to just when you’re sick. I think my personal tea culture practices grew with these understandings.

So, I learned how tea can be engaged in a way where you experience enjoyment and healing at the same time. That’s now how I approach making my blends. I want them to be aesthetically beautiful, to smell really good, and to have a healing component.

LA: Do you have a personal tea ritual?

CB: Every morning without fail, first thing I do is meditate. Next thing I do is enjoy an herbal tea, usually. Today it was a black tea. Usually lemon balm is the base. It sets the tone for a calm day. Because the culture of New York is so quick and fast paced, my personal tea ritual sets my day. I have a lot of those things going on and my personal tea ritual allows me to set the day.

My community tea ritual and tea culture includes me thinking about my friends, who I may have not seen for awhile, who will be gathering together. I think about the intention of the gathering. Is it an artists space? Can I bring in teas that support this creativity? Teas that calm the mind and promote creativity. My approach is similar to Karen Rose, my teacher in herbalism: making medicine that tastes good as well as addresses a healing issue. That is a really big thing that she passed onto her apprentices.

LA: Beautiful! You spoke a lot about healing and ritual. You’re a business owner and it would perhaps be easy, because of a seeming need to focus more on getting things "done," to disengage from the spiritual, ritualistic elements of tea. Did you figure out early on, or later, that you would have to cultivate ritual in order to stay calm amidst a busy city and focused as an entrepreneur?

CB: It may have been a bit of both. Ritual was always a part of how I grew up. I grew up in the church. I had ritual every Sunday. I went to church every Sunday without fail. Every Thursday there was choir rehearsal [laughs] Every Monday evening there was usher rehearsal. Having life structured around the space of ritual was a really big part of my upbringing. When I left home, that was one of the first things that I stepped away from to define my own spirituality and my own ritual and what worked well for me. Although I do enjoy going into church spaces and enjoy the music in church, particularly black church services in other parts of the world, that ritual doesn’t necessarily align with what works best for me now. I have to say it has been an ongoing journey.

When I left home I started learning about different foods and beverages for healing and everything alternative to the way I grew up in South Carolina. You know, as soon as you leave home you have conversations with people from different spiritual backgrounds, different class backgrounds, you’re inundated with people who look like you and with people who don’t look like you.

Outside of my family, the church was my skeleton and my framing for how I identified with ritual. I definitely have to say that when I left the house and left the church at the same time and began learning about healing I dove right in to learning about other forms of healing traditions and practices. I also began learning about the history of Gullah culture and where our language came from. I started learning about how African spirituality manifests in the diaspora, particularly in the Caribbean, South America, and South Carolina. I learned about Yoruba traditions in Nigeria. I went to Jamaica and Cuba to see how spiritual traditions manifest in the revivalist churches and spiritual houses of Cuba. I went back home and then I went to Brazil and I went to the black churches there and I was like “wow, these services are really similar to the Baptist church experience from back home!” Also, with yoga practice I started learning about Buddhism and Hinduism and started looking at the Hindu deities and started learning about the similarities between those deities and orishas. I began seeing large connections. This was over a decade of ingesting, learning, and going to different places. A lot of it really brought me back home to look at our family and our passage as Gullah people. My Grandmother’s passage as a woman who spoke Gullah but who didn’t go to the Baptist church, but who went to the Methodist church....and my Mom went to the Methodist church. I was like “how did that happen?”

My ritual today begins with meditation; my yoga practice is one that is rooted is in Kundalini; while I’m in my Kundalini practice I’m thinking about my ancestors who practiced Christianity. When I’m meditating, I’m thinking about my Grandmother. While I’m taking hour-long walks, that is even a ritual. To keep me calm in the city. When I first moved to New York, I was like “this is a lot of energy!” and I wondered how to center myself. I really do feel like I’m coming to this place of home and it does relate to being Southern and Gullah, and is also related to this larger African, diaspora, spiritual network, which is related to a larger spiritual network.

LA: What’s on the horizon for Gullah Girl Tea? You offer teas, tinctures, tea gatherings...what’s next?

CB: There are a couple of things. Last year, during Afro Punk, a good friend of mine introduced me to the Candida cleanse. I learned how to cut sugar out of my diet. This has been a lifelong journey for me, especially with family members who are diabetic. Sugar is something that I tend to go to when things are hectic or when I get out of my ritual. It’s one of those things I’m trying to remove for life or have in small moderation. While I was learning of this cleanse, I offered Gullah Girl Tea tinctures at Afro Punk. My tinctures are alcohol-based. And lot of them have honey in them. This goes back to what I learned with my herbalist: to have medicine taste good. I incorporated some of that into my practice. At Afro Punk I would hand out tinctures and encountered people who were really curious about the intentions behind the tinctures and the herbs included in them, but did not want to consume them because they were alcohol-based. People were seriously trying to eliminate sugar from their diet, even if only for a short period of time. So, inspired by that experience, one project I’m working on now is to make tincture variations of all of my teas, including the Creativity Tea, the Post Break-up Tea, the RestFULL Tea. And I’m working on making a non-alcohol version of my tinctures for people who are interested in the intention behind the blends, and interested in supporting Gullah Girl Tea, but who don’t want to compromise whatever health cleanse or path they are on. So, as a part of my Kickstarter, I took a lot of the funds and invested in my herbs and in vegetable glycerin. Those will be ready by the fall.

LA: Yay!

CB: Yes! [Laughs] I’m excited about that! And, vegetable glycerin is still pretty naturally sweet. Also, I went over my Kickstarter goal by almost $1,000 which is really exciting! One of the things I want to do with that money is a YouTube channel where I share about herbal tea, recipes, and offer a space for people who can get information for free and learn about the herbs that they can put together themselves. Maybe someone will be inspired to become an apprentice in herbalism themselves! I just want to create a fun, accessible space where we talk about tea. I might have some of my friends come on and drink tea and make things together. I’m working on that project right now.

And I'm getting all of the Kickstarter rewards out to everyone who generously supported. I've been traveling a lot since the beginning of the year. Now I'm finally in one place with all of my teas. I called a customer recently to let her know that I was out of some teas and wanted to let her know her alternatives and we ended up speaking for about fifteen minutes. She was telling me about her family from my hometown. People are so generous with their own stories and I want to continue to share my own!

LA: That goes back to that first question about tea culture. It promotes dialogue and allows for different stories to open up. One last question, after studying herbs for awhile, like some people experience when studying crystals, have you experienced an intuitive knowledge and understanding when interacting with herbs?

CB: Yes! That does happen. I had a co-worker, who told me he had trouble sleeping at night and asked me what I would recommend. I was at the beginning of my herbalism training. I asked him some questions and kept seeing the color yellow. It just wouldn't leave my head. I started thinking about the liver. And thought "oh, bile is yellow!" I went back to what I had learned recently during my level 1 herbalism training. Maybe this is related in addition to some insomnia because he is up late at night on his laptop and then shuts the laptop and rolls over to try to sleep. That's definitely contributing to him sleeping throughout the night, but I thought something else was going on. So, I incorporated an herb for the liver. After that, I went to my teacher. I told her about my coworker and how I kept seeing yellow and that I thought he needed dandelion. And she said "yes, that's a beautiful formula!" I feel so fortunate to have had a teacher who is a holistic herbalist. She knows pharmacology, but she also honors the spiritual and the emotional aspects of working with herbs. That is how she taught me and how she teachers all of her apprentices. I feel really fortunate to have been nurtured in that training. Her affirming that was really affirming.

So, when I hear something in my intuition, even if it seems like this person wasn't bringing up a certain issue, I follow it. I research what I don't know, I go to my teachers, and I continue to learn. Studying herbalism and teas, especially after my Saturn Return, I know that my intuition is on point. You know, how we know that we have strong instincts, yet we question if we're on the right path or if we;re doing the right thing. For me, it's just been this journey of "yes! my gut is always on point!" It's the voice of my ancestors. It never fails me. It's definitely a part of how I practice.

What Spirituality Sounds Like: An Interview with Rae Chardonnay, BGIO Music Curator

PHOTO: RJ EL

PHOTO: RJ EL

Rae Chardonnay is fiercely attuned to the energy of a crowd — logically so, as a sound curator and DJ. She acknowledges the energetic, spiritual nature of sound and of music — how music can alter our mood, emotions and interpretations. I was eager to have Ms. Chardonnay curate our mix for Issue 003: Spirituality; and was able to learn more about how her creative practice as it relates to spirituality. If you’re in Chicago, catch her spinning at our next Sol: Stay Woke yoga and music pop-up at The Promontory. And follow her on Instagram to stay updated on all of her creative projects @raechardonnay.

LA: How does your craft as a DJ relate to your spirituality (to yourself as a spiritual being, and to spiritual energy around us)?

RC: I believe that music and sound can be a very spiritual experience. When I'm selecting music during a set I am very conscious of the energy put out from the songs I choose. Music can evoke lots of different emotions for many different folks, so when I DJ I make my best attempts to set an atmosphere that is healthy for the spirit and fulfilling for those who are listening.

LA: What song, or artist, gives you a feeling or sensation of otherworldliness? Or being transported somewhere new and outside of what we typically experience as humans?

RC: Often when I listen to Shafiq Husayn I have that feeling. Also, Alice Coltrane and certain house or house-inspired music can really put me in a place outside of my being. There are also a few other indie artists making some tunes that may distance me from this realm. Wu-Tang definitely gives me a sensation of otherworldliness.

LA: What are your self-care tools and wellness practices?

RC: I like to make sure I get a good laugh in at least one time a day, preferably more. It's one of the most healing things for me at the moment along with cooking meals using fresh ingredients. I also enjoy doing my own hair. Maybe it's therapeutic. I drink lots of tea, pray and meditate from time to time.

LA: When and why did you fall in love with music?

RC: I fell in love with music because my memory of music as a child was usually associated with a good time. It was always in the background of my life. I regularly made up raps as a child and my mother sang. She also played a lot of music and so did my cousins that were around. The moment I fell in love with music was when I learned that it had meaning. My mother taught me to really listen to music, especially the lyrics. I think I had a natural understanding and reaction to the sound of it.

LA: What are some of your favorite songs that you included in this mix and why (how do they relate to the theme)?

RC: I had to start with Nina Simone - Feeling Good. The song lyrics resonate so much with the elements that feed me spiritually and Nina, as a musician, is always a top pick for me. J Rocc - Chasing the Sun is one of my favorites in terms of sounds that shift the energies around me when I'm listening. I use it for meditation sometimes. Shafiq Husayn - Cheeba ft. Bilal is such an explorative sound that reaches a few different components of my being.

Bhakti Reality

by Nkechi Deanna Njaka, Msc. Photography by NDN Lifestyle Studio.

I have never considered myself a religious person — even though growing up, I attended church religiously. My intrigue and my interest in religion had less to do with the institution and more to do with a space that would allow me to know and experience God. It was through those experiences that I am able to cultivate a personal spiritual practice and connect to my God in a way that feels meaningful and purpose-driven.

From a very young age, I was very sensitive to energy, emotions, people and beauty and it was through those sensitivities, that I felt connected to the One that created me. I still am very sensitive to all those things and now I see how they are connected to one another. More importantly, I see how they are connected to my dharma — my purpose.

Searching and seeking, I was interested in a relevant, postmodern experience that had less to do with institutionalized religion and more to do with a relationship with God. I wanted to know why I was here and how I was suppose to be as I lived in the image of my Creator. The most profound thing that I have learned in my spiritual journey is that it is so personal. Communion with God (Spirit, the Universe, Energy, Source, etc.) is as unique as there are beings on this planet. No one can tell you what it looks like to know God. And it is completely your journey to uncover.

As I mentioned, I grew up attending church with my family. When I turned 16, I made the decision to observe and practice Orthodox Judaism for a short period of time. I grew up in a neighborhood where my family was the only family that was not Jewish, so I was interested in learning more. My best friend at the time introduced me to her culture and it was very meaningful for me to have that opportunity.  From there, I returned back to Christianity — this time to a “post-modern church” that caught my attention. The one thing that was constant in my spiritual journey was the concept of prayer as a form of communicating with God. I was always devoted to prayer, no matter what religion I followed.

As the years went on, I supplemented my curiosity with meditation, creativity, yoga and reading spiritual text that were not Judeo-Christian. My favorites were Khalil Gibran and Rumi. I continued to pray. Every day. Sometimes I would pray about my worldly concerns, a guy I had a crush on, getting into college, simple requests for people I loved, ending world hunger, finding a dream job, the list goes on. Perhaps it was the way I perceived God or my relationship with Spirit, but I often felt like—especially if I didn’t see immediate results— that I was asking for something that God didn’t want me to have. Sometimes it confused me: did I really know my Creator? 

“We are not accustomed to thinking that God's will for us and our own inner dreams can coincide.” ― Julia Cameron

As I got older, I started to pray in a way that didn’t require an answer. Or if it did, I most certainly had to wait for it. I was OK with that because my prayers shifted. I trusted more. Was my boyfriend of seven years the one I should marry? Why was I brought here? What are my unique gifts? Show me how to love this person more. What is my dharma, my true purpose?  As my prayers were answered through revelations and epiphanies, I knew that I knew my Creator. 

I have learned through this shift in expectation that I have two emotions when I pray: fear and devotion. I want to be the best person, living fully aligned with how I was created so I fear not honoring my dharma. I am brought to my devotion through humility. I am humbled by knowing who I am created to be and even more so when I say yes to the desires of my heart. It is so important to not let the ego confuse the two.

"Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity." ― Julia Cameron

Let me put this concept into practical terms. I just returned from the La Mar Yoga Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. This was the sort of retreat designed for me. It was located at Haramara, one of the top yoga resorts in the world. This gift presented itself at the perfect time which happened to be three weeks ago. I was feeling stuck in my rituals and in my creativity. I was also feeling pretty stale in my yoga practice and not super connected in my spiritual practice either. 

This retreat was described by instructors Erica Jago and Mari Sierra as “cultivating spirit flow.” By seducing our artist muse, we could expect to discover how best to utilize our inner artist to speak our truth through creativity. There would be yoga, dance, meditation, creative time, live music, vegetarian meals, warm weather, gorgeous ocean—like I said, perfect for me. Even though I knew I wanted to go and the Universe was saying yes (money appeared in my mail along with a statement of un-used miles I had with a favorite airline), I was still resisting it. 

"Bhakti is when you go mad for beauty, but you don't try to grab and hold on to it." ― Jeffrey Armstrong 

This is where I confused fear with devotion. I was afraid to trust that I was meant to go. Renewing my passport only took 3 days and it was incredibly simple—the whole time I thought someone was playing a trick on me. I thought the mystery miles and the mystery check were dubious instead of Divine. I came up with excuses and called it “responsibility” or a “commitment to my work,” even though I had been longing for a proper vacation. It had been years since I had traveled internationally or for pleasure or invested time in myself for my personal growth. 

I had to step back and look at the ways I was being supported by the Universe. It was clear that it was possible for me to go; I just had to say yes and trust that there was going to be a net. I booked my flight 2 days before I traveled, expedited my passport renewal and pulled an all-nighter the day before I left to make sure I that everything I needed to get done was completed before I left. There were some slight interruptions to the flow (for example: I missed my flight, lost my passport, had my passport returned to me mid-meltdown and then I instantly got rebooked on a new flight-- all in the course of 10 minutes). But like I said, there was a net and I was totally supported. 

The retreat itself was an amazing experience for far more reasons than I can even articulate at this time. This is not to say that I won’t share more about it after I process everything, in a later article. 

But I want you to know this: despite my resistance and chaos, there was a reason the opportunity presented itself to me and it had everything to do with who I was created to be. The longing of my heart to live fully expressed in that creation and the relationship that God wants to have with me as a result are the reasons I ended up in Mexico last week. The experience shook me back into my spirit-reality. The one where I know and experience beauty everyday, both around me and within me. This is the same spirit-reality that teaches me to trust myself and to surrender and accept when my manifestations are right in front of me. Saying yes honestly felt like a step closer to Nirvana. 

My reason for sharing that story about the retreat explains a lot about Bhakti. Devotion and spirituality are: seeing beauty and being curious; surrendering with great trust; experiencing God through the desires of your heart. That is the entire process.

PHOTO: NDNLIFESTYLESTUDIO

PHOTO: NDNLIFESTYLESTUDIO

Nkechi Njaka is the founder of NDN Integrated Lifestyle Studio where she curates lifestyle and wellness content for brands and individuals. She is a woman of color, deeply concerned about personal and global well-being. Nkechi holistically approaches her wellness with mindfulness, movement, nutrition and style. She attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA where she majored in neuroscience and dance and went on to complete an MSc. in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. She attended the Institute of Integrated Nutrition and holds a certification in Holistic Health and Nutritional Counseling. When not involved in NDN projects, you can find Nkechi teaching Mindful Movement or Mindful Style classes + workshops, taking a yoga or modern dance class or choreographing independent work. She creates, curates, coaches and collaborates in San Francisco, California. Read Nkechi's article on growth through meditation in Issue 001: Growth, and on transformation and death in Issue 002: Death and Transition. Follow Nkechi on Instagram @Ndnlifestylist and Twitter @NkechiNjaka

Wanderlust: A Conversation on Spirituality and Travel with Lo of Can't Stay Put

Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Árni Víðir Hjartarson.

If you're an aspirational nomad like me―meaning you spend too much time every day contemplating your next adventure halfway across the world―you know and love Lo Mille, Founder of Can't Stay Put, a lifestyle brand focused on travel and meant to educate, influence, and inspire. Can't Stay Put, and Lo, have definitely inspired me. Every time I look at her Instagram page or website I add another experience to my bucket list and gain an ounce more of courage to just get up and go! What I noticed recently was Lo's adventures to places with deep spiritual roots. I hope you are motivated to book your next adventure after reading this interview, and that you are encouraged to step out in faith and live the life you want! After reading, be sure to follow Lo's adventures on Instagram @CantStayPut_ and Twitter @LoMillie.

LA: You're a self proclaimed Inspirational Entrepreneur, how have you inspired others, especially women of color, to get up and go? Do you have a favorite story of someone who you have inspired? 

LM: Because of my childhood and past experiences, I’ve been able to be an example and show people a new way of living that they very much deserve and can have. There is an emphasis on traveling and seeing the world, however, the bigger emphasis should be placed on my desire to inspire people to go, do, and be. Whether that be starting a business, going back to school, choosing happiness, essentially creating whatever life they want, because it’s very possible. I am a living example of that. There was a time I didn’t believe, so now it’s my duty to inspire others through my experiences and lifestyle to show them that they too can have what they dream about at night.  

There have been a few instances of how I’ve inspired others along the way that still make me tear up today. One in particular, almost two years ago, I met a young women on a video set in LA. She was doing my make-up and we started to have a conversation about what I do and Can’t Stay Put. I shared my story of how I started and expressed how you have to really sacrifice for your own amazing. I told her all of the things I gave up for my dreams and how I feel those sacrifices everyday, but it’s worth being uncomfortable to live a purposeful life. 

She began to open up about her dreams, her current place and her life. I just remember telling her to go after it. Two weeks later I got a text from her saying that I had inspired her to put in her notice to move to NYC. She said she hadn’t been taking her dreams seriously, that she was expecting something major to happen without really doing anything major to make it happen. She thanked God for bringing me into her life at that very moment because I brought a message she needed to hear to change her life. 

Fast forward to now, she’s lived in NYC, met amazing people, traveled to Cannes Film festival for a once in a lifetime opportunity and she is taking on ventures that have gotten her closer to her dream life. 

LA: You created vision boards of travels with your Mother when you were young. What places or travels did you manifest through that experience? 

LM: My mother is the vision board Queen! For as long as I can remember she has been creating vision boards and writing out her visions for her life. As a kid, I would spend a significant portion of my summer with my mom. I remember one summer drawing out various experiences from going to the beach, to exploring D.C., to getting on the airplane, to going to camp, etc. Every last thing we drew out, we did. My mom stressed the significance of drawing out your hearts desires, but it didn’t really sink in until I got much older. 

LA: You've traveled to some places with deeply felt spiritual energy― your trip to India and to South Africa, for instance. Can you share one or two of your most profound spiritual experiences you've had while traveling? 

LM: Towards the end of my India trip, I remember exploring a royal tomb in Jaipur and having a conversation with God about my experience in India thus far. He was making it clear the impact that I was making on others back in the states and the people I was meeting throughout my travels. He gave me vision of what I needed to do moving forward to spread my light and energy to change the world. It was as if … He was revealing more and more of my purpose to be. Dots were being connected. It’s hard to put into words, but in my stillness God was sharing how He wanted to use me.

LA: You share the importance of stepping out on faith to create the kind of life you want to live. Can you share two recent ways you've stepped out in faith and the subsequent result of those decisions? 

LM: Most recently, sharing my experience about how all of my things were stolen. Sometimes when trials like that happen to you, you prefer not to share it because it exposes you and some may come at you for not being smarter to keep situations like that from happening. But I knew I needed to share it because often time people think my life is perfect and that I don’t go through anything. It was important to share that I go through shit. Even then you have to stay positive and keep from asking, “why me?” Instead ask, “what’s the lesson in this?” 

The day after I shared my story, I received over $1,000 in financial assistance to help recover my things. I received business opportunities and even got some of my things back. 

LA: How do you cultivate wellness and practice self-care while jetting from city to city? 

LM: Praying. I’m a very spiritual person. I pray for God to be with me at all times, because I have the habit of putting a lot of stress on my body. I also try to meditate and be still. The beautiful thing about what I do is, when I travel to places and see God-made wonders, that provides therapy for me. Not only does it calm me, it inspires me to be great.

An Interview on Cultivating Our Inner Magic with Bri Luna, The Hoodwitch

Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by michael pierce.

When Zakkiyyah and I discovered that Bri Luna, often referred to as The Hoodwitch, is a woman of color, we were so excited! We’ve been drawn to her beautiful crystals and aesthetics for awhile now and she was so kind to gift us some sage, rose quartz, citrine, and the most beautiful abalone shell I’ve ever seen. She is a giver, a healer (both of herself and others), and a light. It was a joy to be able to connect with Bri about sisterhood, ritual, and the magic we all contain as women of color. Be sure to follow Bri on Instagram @TheHoodwitch and Twitter @ThatHoodwitch for more inspiration related to wellness through ritual!

LA: Alrighty, so … Ms. Hoodwitch [chuckles], I think one thing that I first noticed, the first thing that attracted me to your platform was your imagery, to be honest. Really striking colors, crystals, your own hands, where you always have the flyest manicure of all time, alongside some tarot cards or candles or crystals. Obviously, we live in this really visual culture now, where there’s a lot of people out there doing and promoting wellness and spirituality, but not necessarily in a way that really will catch your eye right away. I’m just curious for some of your thoughts in the intention behind it. Because it’s clear that it’s intentional. That you’re an artist, perhaps, and that you’re really attune to aesthetics.

BL: I am a very visual person, so color and pattern and all of those things I’m really connected to my senses visually. I’m a very aesthetically driven person and so, for me, this is just very natural. I look at things the way that I would want to see them presented. Like holding a crystal … I kind of just do what feels natural to me and what looks really beautiful to me via my own personal alter or just having these pictures in my mind of what I want to see before I even really do it, if that makes sense.

LA: Oh, it does make sense! And I feel that probably rings true also with generally creating this platform, too. Like, you saw something in your mind that didn’t already exist and then you went about creating it.

BL: Mmhmm.

LA: Another thing that I really appreciate is that you do really give space and allow for the voices of other women that you deem “Goddesses” [chuckles] to be shared every week. So, what was your motivation behind these Goddess of the Week spotlights? And what have you learned from speaking with all these women from really all over? Is it international too or have you mostly stuck to the US?

BL: It’s international as well. I feel like my biggest inspiration behind Goddess of the Week, to be honest, was reading all of these wonderful stories throughout history and through mythology and just historical figures that I always found very fascinating. I feel that all women truly have this inner magic, inner … something that you can’t quite describe with words and I know that every woman … just really embodies this goddess, this goddess archetype and I’m always very intrigued to know, like, who they relate to? You know? Because I feel like reading through all of these interviews and speaking to all of these women, it’s just like, you’re like, “Ahh!” Like a light comes on, you’re like “Ahh! That makes sense!” I totally feel like, you know, “Oh, I see Lilith in her,” or “I totally see her as an Athena.” You know what I mean? Like you see these, “oh she’s definitely like an Isis.” You can kind of … you understand them more on a subconscious level of, like, how their mind works and how they relate to these goddess archetypes. For me, it’s just been such a joy to have these women be able to share this information with me and to learn and read more about these goddesses, their strengths and how they affect other women!

LA: The focus of Issue 003 is spirituality, so I thought it would be really appropriate to get you in time for it. You just seem very spiritual, from identifying with different goddess through mythology and through history, to even speaking about sexual health to talking about different rituals that we can practice that really help us have clarity about who we are, where we’re going in life. What are some of your favorite rituals? Perhaps, at this point in your life? So, what do you try to cultivate maybe daily, maybe weekly, maybe monthly that you would also recommend other people try?

BL: One of my daily rituals that I absolutely have to do and that I love, and I know this is going to sound really strange, but I really love to wake up early early in the morning. I wake up before anyone else in my house is up and I like watching the sun rise. I have a really huge window, I mean like, my apartment is pretty awesome [laughs] so I have this crazy window that overlooks the whole city and I just ... I like to light some candles and depending on my mood I’ll hold a crystal. My favorite crystal at this moment, I’ve definitely been working with amethyst a lot. So, I will hold a crystal, whatever I’m feeling drawn to at that specific time and I’ll just sit and I like to really focus on what my intention is going to be for that day. What is it that I would like to accomplish for that day. If I have any friends that are not feeling well or they’re going through really difficult times, if I’m going through a difficult time, I like to just sit with that or I like to  send healing to them, I like to send love to them to help them get through, you know, whatever situation that they’re going through. And then for me, I like to just call on my own guides and, I guess, just listening to what information that they have to give for me to help me to focus on that day and, you know, either with signs … I’m really big on paying attention to signs or certain symbols via, like, numbers, or repetitive numbers, or you know just little things … a song or something that will come on or a book title, or you know just anything, ... there’s always that moment when you’re like, “Oh, wow. That totally connects into what I was thinking about.” That’s one of my daily rituals, just really holding space and sitting in silence, being completely quiet and having that time to myself is just really, really important. And with each new moon, I like to start with having an intention … on my Instagram and on my website I’ll post up a different new moon ritual or a releasing ritual or a letting go ritual. So, I like to really time those depending on what astrological signs the moon is going to be in. I will work with that energy. For full moons, I love having big dinners. So, I’ll invite my friends to come over for dinner or it’ll just be myself and my family and I’ll cook a big dinner and we just laugh and talk about our day and what good stuff has happened for us and we call it a moon party.

Bri: I always do moon ritual and, like I said, I share those. I share a lot of those and working with crystals, that’s something I just do daily anyway and it’s kind of like not … I don’t really think of it anymore, it’s such a part of my life. I’m either wearing pieces, like big chunky pieces of something like Quartz, or I’m having something in my bra. Yes, I carry lots of crystals in my bra!

LA: Hey, you just gave me an idea! [laughs]

BL: I really do, I literally have ... like what do I have right now? I have a piece a Yellow Calcite in my bra right now. \ Lauren: love it! [laughs]

BL: I mean, it’s giving me, it gives you lots of energy lots of creativity. Really helps add a little sunshine to your life. 

LA: Ok, I’m going to try this now and I’m going to let you know how it impacts me because, I’m not kidding Bri, I went from probably in January having two crystals to now having probably about 10; which probably to you is not that much, but considering…

BL: No, that’s a good amount! That’s a good collection.

LA: And they’ve all been gifts! How crazy! That’s a sign that I’m supposed to be having them in my life.

BL: Yes! That’s the best way to receive them. Definitely by having loving intention behind them and the people who love you feeling like “you know you could really use this” I love crystals as gifts.

LA: Well beautiful, I’m glad you’ve shared some of your rituals because I’m going to try them. I’ve also tried to start getting up early lately and the way that you feel when you do it, just to clear your mind when no one else is there distracting you, is the best. It’s the best!

BL: It really is, it’s such a [sighs in relief] it’s like, a really, it’s like magic and you’re like, “Wow, I can see the world while its sleeping and I’m already awake and just getting ready to start my day.” I don’t know ... it feels like such a powerful time for me.

LA: So, obviously, there's this idea of energy and we've both used this word during our conversation today. What do you think about negative energy? How do you cleanse? How do you keep the haters and the hating away, so to speak? What are your practices for that?

BL: My first practice is looking at myself. I know that sounds corny, but I know I feel like if I’m attracting … I hate even say this, like “negative energy” because the way that I’ve always felt is like energy is energy. Just like money is money and this is, you know, it’s really the intent…it’s the intention of where it’s coming from. So, a lot of stuff where it’s like, “Oh, this person’s hating on me,” and this, that and the other, I know in my heart that we’re all mirroring each other. People who are hating on you are definitely reflecting back to you parts of yourself that are still needing a little bit of work. You know? A little bit of tweaking. So, I definitely feel like if I’m being bombarded by negativity from someone else, it usually makes me stop and I’m kind of like … I like to sit back and really think to myself and I like to meditate  and I’m just like this, “What is it that I’m projecting? What energy? What am I giving off that is drawing this type of attention in?” And so with that being said, I like to … I feel that there’s a lot of things you can do to just keep yourself protected from receiving other people’s energy anyway. So, I do a lot of space clearing, be that with white sage or working with different incense. I love Frankincense, I love Myrrh, Cedar, I like … what else? I like working with sprays. I have a lot of friends who make me custom sprays, like essential oil blends, because a lot of those oils can help with space clearing. They’re really good for that. This is one of my favorites to do, if you definitely feel like you’ve been in a negative environment or you’re in a place where the energy is very mucky, kind of heavy and just not making you feel healthy, a lot of times I feel like people know this because you won’t feel like yourself. If you’re in an area or you’re in a situation that leaves you feeling drained or really irritable, really grumpy, you’re just not feeling like yourself, a lot of times you are picking up on other people’s energies and it is important to clear.

LA: Wooo, I do that far too often!

BL: Yeah, you have to keep yourself protected! Especially if you’re doing a lot of spiritual or energy work, you’re doing yoga or you’re doing a type of mediation and stuff, sometimes you are going to interact with people who you know that you don’t really necessarily vibe with; and sometimes their energy can affect your mood and it can just make you not feel so good. So, I love ritual baths. Cleansing baths are key, essential to me. Especially if I’m doing tarot work or any type of tarot readings for people who are experiencing a lot of negativity. It’s very … you know, you can feel it, or just even interactions with people.

So, one ritual bath I love is called the Aura Protection Bath which is using some sea salt, white vinegar some people like to even add baking soda to it. I don’t. You can add lemons ... but what you do is, you mix all of those ingredients into the bath and you get in. Some people like to light a white candle, lighting a white candle, you’re purifying the room. You can light some white sage and then set an intention, say a prayer and, you know, just speak with your guides. Speak with your higher self of releasing any energy that doesn’t serve you, releasing energy that doesn’t belong to you and that, I feel like, is key. Where you just, like, “You know what? Cleanse me of any energy that is not mine, that’s not coming from me.” And so yeah, I have this on my site as well. So, I’m really big into ritual baths, space clearing, be that with really good uplifting music, white sage, using essential oils, even singing. I love to sing in my apartment and I feel like that definitely helps.

You know what else clears the space? Opening windows, getting lots of fresh air, not letting the air get too mucky or stagnant in your living space is really important. Getting rid of old documents, old stuff that you don’t use, broken things. And I feel like that all comes into play with even Feng Shui, you know? Just getting rid of broken stuff, things that you don’t use anymore. Because your home and your workspace and your living area, those are all direct reflections of your mental state. So, if you have a really junky, cluttered, icky kind of office, you’re probably not going to be feeling too good mentally anyway.

LA: Everything you’re saying is particularly speaking to me right now, too, because I am on the cusp of being a little bit of a nomad for a while. My lease is up in July, but then we’re planning on traveling a lot for BGIO, so I made a decision to not actually sign a lease right away. But to kind of just see what happens. So everything you’re saying is really food for thought for when I do decide to get my next place. It’s so important when based off of people or things or experiences that happen in your space, that energy totally can linger there, and it is so important to cleanse that or just remove yourself from it if you’re able to!

BL: Oh my god, even with my clients in this business, sometimes people will come in and they’ll just have icky energy, you can feel it, or they’re like, “Oh, my day has just been horrible! And my husband is pissing me off,” and generally I’ll tell them, “You know what, before we get started, I just want you to lay on the table and I want you to just close your eyes and I want you to inhale and breath in through your nose…” we have candles going, and we talk. I feel like it’s almost like a therapy session. [laughs] I feel like they end up talking it out. I think it really helps them. But for me, to not take that on, you know I already have black Turmaline in my bra.

LA: Nice. Yaasss.

BL: I have really protective stones, especially if I know I’m going into … I don’t know, let’s say, for example, I don’t know … what are some places that I would go? I don’t really go to places that I feel like people are going to be mean to me [laughs] I guess, when I do have those kind of interactions with people, I like to just, I try not to internalize those things and just release them by, like I told you, doing a ritual bath, meditating really helps me because I feel like I can just let it go, like, “You know what? I don’t even need to keep this on, like that’s that person’s” Either they’re projecting something deeply rooted inside of them onto myself or I’m projecting something. One way or the other it’s like I release this energy from my being, releasing it from myself, and then I just hold unto my black Turmaline and I feel Turmaline mediation and I’ll just sit and just feel more rooted. I’ll do a grounding meditation sometimes, where I’m just like, “You know what? I need to be more reconnected, like re-center me because something’s off.” I feel like bad interactions, a lot of times, with people let me know that there’s something that’s not aligned, something’s off balance with me.

LA: Balance. I feel like a lot of us need to focus more on that, because a lot of us focus on things manifesting in our lives and focus on relationships and all that stuff, and at the end of the day, you have to go home to yourself. I mean, we sometimes live with people too, I guess [laughs] But at the end of the day, when you fall asleep you’re in your own head, you’re in your own body and soul and spirit; and to be able to be comfortable with that, I think, is what a lot of people are not even focused on. And this is my own journey, too. This is not me speaking from a soapbox …

BL: No, I understand that totally. I feel like there’s so much of my life is filled with so many rituals that it really is hard to pick a daily ritual. It fluctuates from day-to-day. One day I could feel doing naked yoga, the next day I could feel like making myself a beautiful bath product or a scrub or making my own tea blend; and I feel like all of those things can be pretty ritualistic. You know what I mean? When you’re setting up for all of your supplies, you’re working with your hands, you’re doing a meditation or any of those things – I feel like you can add and make so many mundane activities into a ritual for yourself.

LA: That’s beautiful and then that’s all about intention, bringing intention into our lives and bringing our attention to the present moment, which is also just really hard to do sometimes with the way that everything is so go! go! go! I think the last thing, is just, what else might you want to share with our community? You know our community is mostly women of color, but we have some lovely Brothas who love to support us as well. What support or words of advice or wisdom you might offer to people who want to dive a little bit more into what it means to be spiritual beings with ritual or with crystals or with whatever else you’re advocating through your platform?

BL: You’re going to make me cry [voice shakes] I feel like, most importantly for me, being a woman of color is like learning to trust your intuition. Being okay with being different and being okay that a lot of people might not understand your practices or a lot of people might not understand why you’re outside with no shoes on looking at the moon and just being happy with that. It’s okay for people to not understand your practices and I feel that you should always honor yourself and honor your heart. Just truly trust yourself. And inside of you, you have all of the answers that you need. You don’t need to have a teacher or you don’t need to even understand what the word “metaphysical” means. If you like a crystal or you feel really drawn to something in nature, that’s beautiful, let that be your teacher and learn to trust nature and trust yourself and know that you’ll never be weird or wrong because nature is the best teacher. I feel like more people, especially more women of color … just trust yourself, because you’re magic and you’re magical and you just have these innate … you’re innately powerful and you are magic! Just learn to trust yourself,  that’s all I’m hearing in my mind right now. My higher self is just saying to tell more women like me to learn how to trust yourself and connecting with nature and really just giving yourself that love and nurturing that only you can really give yourself. I guess, that’s my biggest thing. Intuition is the only word that keeps really flashing for me.

LA: Just as you got emotional saying that and feeling this wisdom kind of bubbling up, I feel like women really need to hear that. Especially women of color, because a lot us grew up in households where a lot of these things that you’re advocating on your sitethat are really just powerful and beautiful and cultivating our creativity and cultivating our spirits and cultivating expressionswere shunned for various reasons. I think it’s really beautiful to reconnect with a lot of these things or connect with it for the first time and see what it can teach us.

BL: Yes, and cultivating these beautiful and natural self loving practices are our birthright. Women are the healers, and life givers. Learning to heal ourselves is the only way we will be able to heal others. We can truly do anything, and that in itself is magic!