Ngala-Najla

I Celebrate Myself…


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Upon Reflection

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Each morning I wake up, I work hard to not take it for granted that I am here. The realities of death and life are more poignant as I get older. I am so grateful for this moment of reflection. The fog of the morning beckons me to be still and sing praises to the Most High. I am in Prospect Park where the chirping of the birds and the gentle waves of the lake are soothing. The intermittent passing of ducks on the lake and birds flying low so that their wingtips touch the water leaves me in awe. And every time a bird flies close to me, so close that I can hear the fluttering of their wings, I feel even more blessed.

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Full Circle

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I have been working on being better to myself for about 2 weeks now. I found out recently from my doctor that in addition to having high blood pressure, I am pre-diabetic, have very low Vitamin D levels and anemic. I have since lost 7 pounds in the two weeks and have increased my veggie intake and stopped buying breakfast and lunch from the community I work in. East New York is a food dessert. Sodium is often high in the food and almost every other thing is fried… even if the end result is a stew.

Ironically, my current weight (after the 7lb loss) is the same as I was a
approximately 10 years ago when I begun the journey of losing 70 lbs. After losing that weight and then suffering from an injury and a broken heart, I went right back to food. The way in which I lost the weight was healthy but exercising became my obsession; it became my new vice in a lot of ways and I didn’t deal with the real stuff: the internal self hate and feelings of unworthiness that led to the overeating. I can say that more and more I feel and see the connection between how I treat my body and the love that I feel about myself and the way in which I allow others to treat me.

So, as I sit here in the Prospect Park looking upon the water, I pray for physical and spiritual healing and I am grateful for each moment, each opportunity to start anew.

Ashe!


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Between Race, Privilege and a Hard Place (Part I)

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This past Saturday, I stood in front of my friend Megan, in Prospect Park, with tears streaming down my face, feeling open and raw as I shared with her the pain and hurt that I have been feeling around my experiences with discrimination and racism. I am Jamaican, black and living in America. Although I have lived in this country more years than I have lived in Jamaica, I had the privilege to experience what it meant to be a majority in terms of race there.  I wasn’t judged or treated unfairly due to my skin color. People weren’t afraid of me before they got to know me. That was a privilege I took for granted.

I arrived in this country, to live here permanently, in my teens and was pretty sheltered all the way through college, I would say. With each possible experience with racism and discrimination in my twenties, I was a bit shaken but I think I bounced back quickly from all (but one of those experiences) because part of me believed that if I did the “right thing”, I would be spared the brunt of what happened to others who look like me (mainly my African-American brothers and sisters) have to go through. Somewhere, somehow, I was fed this lie that being a Caribbean black and educated would give me a pass. It was a subliminal belief. I have now come to realize that it was belief planted by people from my community, by the media and enforced by others who when they heard that I was Jamaican then placed me in the “model minority” category, reacting to me differently. “Oh, you’re from Jamaica, that’s why you have such a good command of the English language.” Yup, someone said that to me once.

So, what was the perceived  “right thing”? Well, it is being formally educated — attending college, it’s speaking “properly”, it’s being eclectic in musical and reading tastes and mostly importantly, it is playing small. And in the space that I am to play big, it is only to create laughter and joy…not bring the heavy stuff.

These “right ways” of being have not, however, stopped me from being followed in stores, being assumed to be the maid in my neighborhood, have a potential roommate turn away from me once she saw me or not be able to get cabs, etc. This is compounded by how other people of color (some who share my skin tone or who are darker) treat me with disrespect and make assumptions about me because of I’m black. It doesn’t matter that I have a Masters, or that I served as an Americorps member. The constant tale of what it means to be black in this country prevails me. The fact that I am now informed of the injustices that occur (like this one and this one, and this one and this one) is often not helpful but darkens, a little more, the side of me that is becoming jaded. And yes, there are blacks who are racists, xenophobic, homophobic but the truth is I am not. The experiences that happened, happened to me. I have been treated unfairly for no other reason but the color of my skin…and although I may share, more than likely, the same education and income level of my white neighbors and yes, some of my Asian neighbors (who yes, face racism too but that model minority category lends a hand), it doesn’t matter. That was a hard reality for me to face.

After my conversation with Megan, I asked myself, what changed? I mean I have experienced racism before, why is it affecting me so much? And my answer, I have removed rose-colored glasses from my eyes.

 


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Red Jasmine

It’s 4:30 in the morning, and the rain is falling outside. I hear the rain and also the sound of the fan that’s on to offset the humidity.

It’s humid and it smells humid.

There is (or was) a lunar eclipse but due to all the clouds — the heavy rain ladened clouds, I can’t see the “blood moon” as they call it. I can feel it though. I think my jasmine plant that sits on my beside table can feel it too; its only flower bud actually opened today. The smell of the flower is strong, sweet and alluring.

Jasmine, blood moon and humidity. Very different realities to experience but at the same time, the combo just works for me, especially while accompanied by the rain.

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The Jasmine flower next to my bed.


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No Mas

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I’ve made a pact with myself. The pact is around the purchasing (or not purchasing actually) books until I read 30 (okay 31!) books from my personal library.

As someone who is trying to save, I find that I am spending too much on books, especially when I have a lot at home that I have to finish reading or even start.

I think I have book ADHD.

Today, I went to BookCourt, my new favorite bookstore in NYC (sorry Strand)  bought a book and then went to the Barnes & Noble store in Park Slope and bought two additional books. A total of three books may not be a cause for concern, however, I can sense the slippery slope. In the picture above are the books that I will complete before I buy another book.

Here’s to self control.


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Living the Questions

“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

                           –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to A Young Poet

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The Berkshires (December 2013): A view of the lake, mountains… and trees.

A few days ago I returned to New York City after a few days in the Berkshires. I just wrote that line in the voice of a woman of luxury but in actuality I went to Kripalu, a yoga, holistic center to assist my teacher/mentor during her workshop. Unlike other years I have visited Kripalu, I did not have much time to myself. I did set up and set down each morning before each session but still I was able to get some nourishing just being there. I had some time to walk the grounds, see the trees and look at the sky. I ate their yummy meals and took in the energy of other seekers. I am a seeker, a constant seeker I think. I am seeker of love, of understanding and answers. Answers to questions that I sometimes cannot articulate but feel them so strongly in my body.

My practice has been been inconsistent at times and although I know that being consistent in yoga, prayer and meditation is the time when I feel truly connected to my true self and to Self, I have been rebellious against my practice. Why? I really do not know. I feel as if I am in a quagmire of a sort, waiting to see who or what will pull me out of it.

This morning I came to the realization that it is my ego that is leading me, telling me that I am separate…I think I read that somewhere. And although this premise might have been originally conceived by another (unknown author), I claimed it today as my own. Now, I believe that this possibility of truth (that my ego is leading me) is in a big way reinforces the subliminal belief within myself that I am somehow disconnected. That I am not understood and so why practice.

It is interesting to be a witness to it all, actually, as if it were a play and yet I am not sure if I am the villian or the victim…the saviour or saint. I am not sure…???