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Gratitude

Compassion, Dreams, Embodiment, Emotions, Gratitude, Healing, Inner Guidance, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love, Power Within, Relationship, Self-love, Transformation, Wisdom

the gospel of James Baldwin

I want to share a piece I was asked to write about my path to counseling and the work I am doing in my graduate program. My adviser nominated me to be featured in our department newsletter, which I found very touching and an honor. I wanted to use my story as a platform for something more meaningful than just simple autobiography. I hope the message resonates with some of you.

In the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, across from the oldest church in Paris, lively conversation spills out of the cafés whose tables clutter the sidewalks. I found myself there this past August, after a relationship breakup and an airline credit flew me over the Atlantic to wander over cobblestone, take in centuries of art and architecture, and soothe my heart with an abundance of chocolate croissants. One morning I decided to map out the addresses of old haunts and habitats of my first and most enduring love, James Baldwin. I made a path through Parisian districts that followed the traces of where he lived, loved, and worked. Baldwin, the iconic gay black writer with the wispy, melodic, and powerful voice, raised in a strict Pentecostal home in Harlem, lived as an expatriate in France for most of his adult years. On my walk I paused at and peered into the places where Baldwin wrote his novels, Go Tell it on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room—bistros, like Café de Flor and Les Deux Magots. I stood at the doorstep of his first Paris apartment along the tiny passageway, Rue de Christine, my feet pressing into worn stone where Baldwin’s feet had landed decades before. This self-guided tour was a sort of a pilgrimage for me, one that began at age 17.

Twenty years ago my high school English teacher gave me a copy of Another Country. Her scrawl in the margins of the inside cover told me: “I know you will love the honesty and passion of Baldwin.” Ms. Hepburn was a small and fiery white woman with a zest for life and a love of justice. The summer after graduating high school, when she turned me onto Baldwin, Ms. Hepburn and I met a few times to talk books. She confided in me then, that she had long been living with a woman, her true love. In our small town in central New York, she hid the most sacred contours of her heart for fear of losing her job. I hid mine in a home whose message was: you are too much, too emotional, too sensitive.  Finally, in Baldwin’s fiction, I found in vivid and breathtaking detail, the intimate secrets and wild frontiers of our relational lives, our connections and ruptures—across race and sexualities—studied, exalted, and celebrated as the heart of what it is to be human.

I also found in Baldwin’s essays and fiction, a new world, or like his title says, another country. It was, to me, as KRS-One raps on the album, Edutainment: “The language of the people ready to hear the truth.” In schools and at home, through textbooks, teachers, family norms and cultural myths that are passed down, I had learned a story of our nation, one that was wholly different from the reality depicted in Baldwin’s books. His voice was my entry into a body of work by black artists, poets, authors, and musicians in whom I found refuge from the delusion of an American culture that acted as if white was the norm, the only subjective experience, one usually cut off from our hearts and bodies, and which flinched and recoiled at real conversations about racism, past and present.

As an undergrad, I studied the history and politics of race and completed an Urban Studies semester based in Chicago that included a 3 day intensive anti-racism training. I continued to devour Baldwin’s books. The Fire Next Time said it clearly: white people are “still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” Baldwin wrote of the past in an uncompromisingly candid yet compassionate tenor, understanding that no movement forward would be possible until we, as a society, acknowledged what we had allowed ourselves to become in upholding systems founded upon dehumanization—that we, in fact, were all dehumanized.

From the study of history in college and at the Masters level at the University of Illinois Chicago, to several years of clinic work at Planned Parenthood health centers in California, Chicago, and Chapel Hill, deep study of Buddhism and a side gig teaching moving meditation, and a foray into being a public librarian-activist and then case worker in social services, I finally made my way to NCSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in the Summer of 2016. Being a Masters student in the Counselor Education Department has nourished and affirmed everything that Ms. Hepburn and James Baldwin first awakened within me when I was 17.  It is powerful to be in a supportive community of peers and faculty, where my strengths are valued and I am encouraged to grow and flourish. I feel a sense of belonging in both my cohort and in the field of counseling, which at the intersection of my passion for personal transformation and healing; embodied, heart-centered, authentic connection; social change and multicultural community; embraces all of who I am and yet holds me accountable to who I want to become.

In Dr. Marc Grimmett, I have an advisor and mentor who models compassionate, whole-person care, and displays self-awareness and sensitivity to the contexts of power, access, and privilege in which we and clients are embedded. That he and Dr. Helen Lupton-Smith developed the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Clinic (CCERC) , as a model of affordable world-class health and wellness services to reach underserved populations was an enormous draw for me in selecting NCSU’s Master’s CMHC program. I am honored and excited to be joining their team for my practicum and internship starting in January 2017.

Perhaps most unexpected and rewarding to me, is that I have been able to bring my passion for history into my counseling education. For a class presentation in Dr. Grimmett’s Intro to Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I made a website exploring the connection of historical memory to healing and what I can do, as a white counselor, to take action in recovering the past and de-centering whiteness for integration of the collective psyche. The website, Counselors for Courage, Truth, and Justice (http://counselorsforcouragetruthjustice.weebly.com/), is an ongoing inquiry of how I, and other counselors, can help foster healing, justice, and community in a nation that has not adequately addressed its white supremacist foundations and our inheritance of pervasive racism. The project integrates liberation psychology, theories of counseling, research, and interviews, and offers suggestions for historically competent tools, counselor-facilitated community consciousness raising groups, and the creation of safe spaces for public remembering and grieving. Dr. Grimmett encouraged us to submit one of our class presentations as a conference proposal to the North Carolina Counseling Association (NCCA). My proposal, “Historical memory and healing the national psyche,” was accepted and I am looking forward to presenting this as a poster board session at the 2017 NCCA Conference in Durham this coming February.

NCSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and CCERC are exactly the settings I need to be in to become the kind of counselor I want to be. I’m eager to keep learning alongside and from fellow counseling students and professors and to find ways to build and broaden the multicultural community of care I experience here, out into the rest of the world. I see us, as NCSU counselors, carrying on James Baldwin’s s message of truth and love, for widespread healing and justice.

 

Celebration, Emotions, Gratitude, grounding, Healing, Intention, Joy, Life Path, Love, Relationship

the quiet power of being truly you

I cried when I learned that my downstairs neighbor is moving out later this summer. Yes, I cry at puppy and panda videos, so maybe it seems like that isn’t saying much, but, when my landlady told me the news, I felt a strong wave of sadness and loss come over me that surprised even me.

My neighbor and I aren’t besties. Save for a couple tarot readings she gifted me, we’ve barely spent time together. I’ve watched her affectionate cat during her trips away, we’ve exchanged updates on barred owl sightings, I’ve drunk in boisterous laughter traveling upstairs from rooms below, and we’ve met on her stoop for a few 5 minute conversations in passing. All of this, and more–something intangible and sweet in how she makes this brick fourplex her home–has helped to make it feel like my home, as well, these past 2 years.maria1

This is just to say that we don’t know how our presence affects another. Even if we are not having much interaction, how we show up and who we are being in the world, can truly make someone else’s life better, or in this case, make a space feel comforting, warm, like hearth and home.

Don’t underestimate the power of being a caring, authentic, and passionate person in your daily life. You might never learn how your presence is influencing the world of people, creatures, and things around you, but trust that it does. Living a heartfelt & genuine life matters in more ways than you can know. Cherish those around you who uplift your day to day. And be generous by living your best and most true to you, as others will benefit from your life-affirming energy and love.

Celebration, Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Gratitude, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Meditation, Open, Radical Acceptance, Relationship, Transformation, Uncategorized

breaking up *is* hard to do

heartcracking heartcrackingheartcracking

 

 

 

We made it just a month shy of June 6th, what would have been our two year anniversary.

A few months before, I thought we would make it to June…and beyond. I prayed we would. At moments, I could picture a long life together. I wanted to believe it possible.

So much goodness danced between us, that made day to day life happier in many ways. Having a quirky and caring companion to share the mundane with…to laugh and cuddle with. That so much love and goodness was there, made letting go of what was ultimately not the right fit for each of us, that much more painful.

In my hopeful days, I saw a future together, but it was one that depended on my mate showing up differently than he wanted or knew how. I grew tired of striving and forcing, of initiating the long talks that never came to resolution, and I guess he, too, became tired of knowing I wanted more, of not just being able to be himself, to relax and experience ease in relationship.

We stopped and restarted in the winter, tried (briefly) couples counseling. I read relationship books and binged on podcasts about attachment styles and conscious loving. I questioned what were true needs from a primary relationship and what can be fulfilled from friendships and other connections. I wondered, frustrated at myself, how someone could be such a kind and wonderful person but still not be the right partner for me.

I came to a deep knowing that the romance was over, accompanied by fear of losing this wonderful friendship, and frozen with sadness as the dream of our future changed and our journey as partners came to a close. Too frozen to act. I hung and clung on a bit longer, though our connection became more strained and I depended on our therapist to help mediate misunderstanding.

My love for him, and for us, prevailed through all the difficulty, and for me, it was important to put that love in front of everything else, and to have that shape how we forged ahead in moving forward as friends.

I was so grateful he had the courage to end our relationship and so grateful, as well, he was open to being in ritual with me to honor our past, acknowledge the present, and bless the future (and for allowing me to share this here). Inspired partly, by one of the million podcasts I listened to, an interview with author Katherine Woodward Thomas on Neil Sattin’s Relationship Alive (episode 21, for those curious to hear), when she shared her own experience of moving through loss gracefully, in partnership with her now ex-husband. Because they didn’t go into detail about what a closing ceremony might entail, I meditated on how to ritualize our parting. Here’s what I came up with:

Step One: Use sage to cleanse his home  sage

Step Two: Use sage to cleanse one another

Step Three: Sit in silent meditation together 5-10 minutes (we did 7)

Step Four: Express gratitude for the relationship, speak to the gifts and lessons (Also in meditation, I typed up some prayer-like reflections on the purpose of relationship and the how we might find strength in letting go)

Step Five: Say some words to release the relationship and wish for each other’s highest good

Step Six: Light a candle and select 2 scrolls each from a vessel, each with 1 word blessing to mark a new beginning

Step Seven: Back alone in my home, sage to cleanse my living space

The ritual was very healing and love-filled for us both. If you can move back into love enough to remember what brought and bonded the 2 (or more) of you, this is a very beautiful way to say goodbye to the shared romantic vision, and transition into something new.

xoxo

“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty.     I hear your need. I feel your feelings.” -Gandhi

Celebration, Emotions, Gratitude, grounding, Joy, Power Within, Soul, Winter

Skip the Eggnog. Drink in the Gratitude.

(okay, you can have eggnog, too)

For those of you who don’t know, I collaborate on a project with a community of fabulous ladies called The Coaches Table. Each month we tackle a topic and invite you to share your thoughts and reflections, as well, to create connection and meaningful conversation. The holiday season has been quiet over on our Facebook page, but hopefully this video will start a bit of end-of-year discussion.

The topic for December: Gratitude.

When remembrance of loved ones who have passed, family stress, holiday expectations, or sugar crashes get you down, call in gratitude! What are you grateful for?

 

Celebration, Gratitude, Joy, Life Coaching, Life Path, Personal Growth, Self-love

Your Year of Being Awesomely You

Yeah, yeah…we might could stand to exercise more, eat less sugar, and live more in the present. I am all for setting intentions and creating more time to honor our soul’s priorities. This is why I am gathering a group of brilliant women-identified women to come together and support one another around body, mind, spirit wellness. We start with the new year–there will be daily offerings and encouragement on your journey–whatever your goals may be! You can join us by sending your email address to me. Message me at lionessasoleil at gmail dot com. I will send an invite when our Google + group opens at the end of December.

That being said, I am officially encouraging you to stop with the list making and resolutions for now. Take some time and look back–not on what needs to change for the new year, but what went well and how much you rocked in 2o15. And, I have some fun exercises to get you started. My gift to you.

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Let me know how it goes! Send a snap shot of your completed certificate and I’ll celebrate with you!

Compassion, Gratitude, Intention, Joy, Life Coaching, Love, Mindfulness, Soul

Happy Lovegiving

Maybe it was the fraught family gatherings. Or perhaps the shady origins of a holiday that perpetuates a myth of white settlers living in harmony with the indigenous and glosses over the violence of colonization. Oh, there was also the elevation of indulgence and gluttony in a culture that worships consumerism. Some or all of this led me, in college, to adopt a tradition of fasting and solitude on Thanksgiving. I’ve since softened my stance on the yearly tradition of pigging out and convening with family and friends. Even though there is a bit of mourning and solemnity in the day for me still, I am more open to joining in on a day that is about gratitude and the abundance of the earth.

But why reserve such appreciation for 1 day out of the year? As we return to the generous and thankful spirit of the season, we can remember how life is enhanced when we live from the heart year-round.

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I am calling it Happy Lovegiving, not only for November, but a way of being each day. To kick it off, here is a practice I invite you to try out:

For the next 2 weeks, call, email, or write  someone every day to appreciate and thank them and send some love. See how you feel when you give gratitude, compliment, and shower with people with love. Brainstorm some people now who’ve impacted you in ways, big and small. 2nd grade teacher? Someone who introduced you to great music? A constant and consistent friend? A mentor? Someone who smiles at you and takes the time to listen to your answer to the question, “How are you?” If there is someone you need to thank who is not with you today, consider finding a photo and saying your thanks in its presence, while lighting a candle. Or, pass on your message to someone they were close to.

And in honor of this Lovegiving, I am announcing my coaching will be offered by donation for the time being. My normal rate has been $50 for an hour of focused coaching with practices tailored to your goals and contact between sessions. Now, I’d like to invite anyone who is interested in receiving emotional and spiritual guidance into their own wisdom to schedule a session at no charge. After we meet, over phone or in person, you can make a donation. In the Buddhist tradition this is called dana, giving freely from the heart. I will give freely from my heart–my time, attention, and coaching process –and if you feel moved, you may give a donation from your heart. Create the year you want in 2016. Book a session now.

I am thankful to all of you for believing in the power of Lovingkindness, reading my blog, & supporting my work! Happy Lovegiving today, tomorrow, and every day.