Browsing Category | Spirit

All things touching on yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

Let’s Talk About “Black Veganism”

 

This is for my black family.

When it comes to mainstream veganism, it is very clear that most people are left out in the hopes of building a cruelty-free world. Even with the pioneers’ promises and attempts at “inclusion,” there still seems to be a disconnect of what lack of representation does to marginalized groups.

Yes, it’s hurtful at first and feels like everything you learned about veganism is a lie, but then you come to find that it’s not ALL about saving the animals. There are several valid reasons why people choose to live vegan or plant-based; including environmental, food/social justice, cultural, health, spiritual, feminist, or even for a family member; the list goes on and on.

Does this make animal rights vegans invalid for choosing their path? Naw, but it becomes a problem when humans are scratched off their list of beings who deserve respect.

When the mainstream conversation doesn’t extend to those who can’t go vegan overnight no matter how much money they can scrape up, it starts to take an ugly turn and gets repetitively uncomfortable. It’s incredibly tired, and fam, we deserve better.

This is where our own type of vegan community comes into play, one where our cultural uniqueness and disadvantages are centered without an ulterior motive. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives, especially since odds have been stacked against us for quite some time.

With the help of many insightful and talented black vegan celebrities, conversations about the lifestyle have been forming in our favor and feature real folk with our perspectives.

So, in that case, what does Black Veganism look like? Maybe it’s promoting black folk of all sizes and colors, only featuring black vegans in advertisements, talking about our collective and individual struggles, working on food accessibility, considering other forms of injustice including speciesism, or bonding over vegan soul food. Whatever it will be it’s completely up to us, which is the beauty of it all.

Of course there will be those types who feel as though we’re being divisive, and I say fuck their opinion. Like honestly, fuck that noise. Even the ones who cry “reverse racism,” just laugh at their ignorance. We experience actual division on a significant scale, so nothing they will say can negate the awesome work we’re capable of doing.

All in all, there is no one answer to what Black Veganism is or could be, but I know damn well we’re going to make it happen. It’s been far too long that our pleas of recognition have fallen onto dismissive ears and it’s obvious our existence in animal rights spaces aren’t favorable. So we got this, all we truly need is each other to create the compassionate community we deserve.

Are you black and non-vegan? Don’t let this intimidate you, you will be accepted as a vegan despite the belief of it being a “white” thing (which it’s definitely not). For our situation, a proper way to start would be to download a free African-American Vegan Starter Guide from public health nutritionist Tracye McQuirter and see where the road takes you!

Are you black and vegan? Then what does Black Veganism look like to you? Let me know your thoughts!

Earthy Herbal Tea Recipe for Gnarly Allergies

Yup, it’s allergy season, and for some it means misery and sneezing fits. Unfortunately, I’m a part of that group and it sucks to the 150th degree, but in my luck/creativity I’ve concocted a tea that erases the irritating symptoms that Spring brings! With these five herbs (which I purchased from The Crystal Fox in Laurel, MD) I went from scratching my eyes to feelin’ fine in 30 mins flat, but get what you can or make substitutions to your liking. Now onto the tea!

What You’ll Need: 

  • Nettle leaves
  • Raspberry Leaf
  • Chamomile
  • Turmeric
  • Lavender buds (optional)
  • Teapot or mug
  • Strainer

 

Instructions: 

Add 1-2 tbsps of each herb to your strainer and steep in boiling hot water for up to 5 mins. Stir in a bit of sugar if drinking straight up herbs ain’t yo thang.

 

Have a less sneezy Spring!!

Are Mainstream Self-Care Tactics One-Size Fits All?

 

When I think about self-care nowadays, I always picture a blonde yoga teacher who swears that the spiritual practice is the only pathway to true happiness. Well, I have been practicing yoga, meditation, and other self-help type thangs for most of my adult life, and I can definitely say that they induce feelings of joy and calm unlike no other. Whenever I feel purposeless and constantly uneasy, it’s nice to know that a little quiet time devoted to being present will shake off some of those nerves; and I emphasize “some” for a reason…

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve experienced depressive moods and bursts of anxiety that I just wrote off for being an awkward kid. You can imagine how hard being a teen was: always hating myself for feeling out of place (mostly because of my skin color and hair texture) while silently worrying that bad things will happen to me. Now that I’m an adult I have no choice but to acknowledge my mental health concerns, especially since I have personal goals that require my full attention.

When I first started doing yoga at 15, it was more for the exercise than the spiritual aspect; but once I practiced yoga as a whole after I went vegan, it felt like a new world had opened up to me. I followed the lifestyle to the best of my ability and even then did something feel off. I’d get so pissed at myself for slipping up and not being conscious with my actions, having weak core strength, or having my mind wander too much during meditation, and I wasn’t focusing on why I felt like I had to be hard on myself all of the time.

Never will I blame yoga or other similar activities, but they are not the cure for ailing mental health. They are great for relaxation and developing positive self-talk but it is not helpful to believe that meditation will automatically resolve severe anxiety just because it sounds cute. Not everyone is able to sit still or complete a yoga pose or even have their mind stop racing, so most typical self-care practices we see today totally leave those folks out. Why are those with mental health issues often left out of the conversation?

I wish to highlight that breathing exercises, regular movement, and positive self-talk/image are all very important ingredients to a better mood, but there are people who truly don’t have control over how they think or feel and should be included in the discussion about self-care. People should be encouraged to do what’s right for them rather than follow a super specific template of finding happiness.

I’ll always have my yoga and meditation routine down, but you can bet your ass I’ll never deny my deeper issues ever again. Sure, my fluctuating depression and anxiety might not go away but it’s the price I pay for experiencing life and I wouldn’t change myself for the world.

For those who are seriously struggling with their mental health, I encourage you to talk to a professional if possible or maybe even visit http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/self-care if it works for you.

Herbal Craze: My Experience with Cannabis and Thoughts on Legalization

It’s 4:20 pm on my side of the world and it inspired me to not only pack a bowl, but to share my experiences with marijuana to my fellow stoners and cannabis-curious folk out there. Now that I have my lungs full, I think it’s time for my testimonial…

It wasn’t long ago that I started experimenting with the magical plant; beginning when my sister (being the saint that she is) bought me vegan special brownies for my birthday three years ago. For my first time ingesting edibles, I think I did well, but lawd were they strong and tasty!

I was surprisingly not frightened and loved the psychedelic yet relaxing effects. However, my face did feel like it was melting off and my thoughts were jumbled as all hell; but again, I had no fluffy expectations of how my first time would pan out. It was still super chill nonetheless!

Then I moved on to smoking. I’ve always been against smoking for health and environmental reasons, but how does one resist when bongs and pipes exist?? I absolutely love glass for my after-work toke sessions and doing that for a few years gave me lungs of steel 😉 And don’t get me started on how it alleviates symptoms of my anxiety and depressive moods, especially on incredibly busy or emotional days. In all honesty, I just fucking love weed and that’s how it is! Recreational, medicinal, you name it.

It’s not always fun and games, though. Being a social justice activist means that I have to recognize the downsides and possible oppression that goes into my actions, so I can’t smoke herb without also talking about the drug war and its devastating effects on Black and Brown communities. Over the past couple of decades, our leaders have decided that it was drugs, namely marijuana, that causes spikes in crime in inner-city neighborhoods rather than crippling poverty due to a fixed social hierarchy.

This drug war strengthened in the 1990s and has resulted in millions of petty incarcerations and broken lives. Did I mention that it mainly effects Black and Brown communities? Well yes, even though Whites, Blacks, Latinx, etc., do recreational drugs an equal amount, it is more common that the darker-skinned of the crowd will be busted for it; which then feeds into the mass incarceration of Black folk (see the movie 13th on Netflix for more details) for cheap labor and controlled domination.

Also, there are many contradicting studies (mostly positive) about cannabis and its effects yet many will still hold on to the belief that it’s dangerous because it’s criminalized. From a legal standpoint, I would agree, but there has been no true evidence stating that marijuana is lethal in itself, even though it is considered a Schedule 1 drug right next to heroin. Heroin. DAFUQ?

I think I know why weed is illegal, but I really could be over-speculating. This herb that induces so much pleasure indirectly causes pain because of fear of its mind-altering qualities. I feel like it helps us see things for what they really are, which I’m sure is a huge threat to our leaders. Cannabis has seriously aided me in questioning the world around me and to be proud of not conforming. Of course I didn’t need it for those purposes but that was a lovely perk from my high times. Then again, that’s probably not everyone’s experience though developing consciousness is a definite side effect of weed.

To close out, I heavily fuck with marijuana and encourage y’all to learn more about the drug war and mass incarceration. Yes, I’m a mega biased stoner with a knack for conspiracy theories but that’s all the more reason to research and experiment for yourself. Just remember that not everything is a coincidence!

What are your experiences with cannabis? Good? Bad? Let me hear it!

 

 

Where Have I Been?? Lawd, Lemme Tell You…

If it hasn’t been apparent already, I’ve been M.I.A (on many things actually) for quite some time now. It’s not my fault, though! A LOT has been going on…

After I graduated from Bowie State University last Spring, I got the opportunity of a lifetime by accepting a position at a mainstream vegan organization. Exciting as hell, right? My job includes grassroots outreach tactics like leafleting, touring the Southeast for HBCUs, tabling, organizing events, community building in Black spaces, etc, which got me flexing my activism muscle hardcore. I never knew I had the courage to do any of this before, but now I can’t get enough of grassroots activism! Organizing, writing, and educating are perfect outlets for my desire to tackle social justice issues, so I’m privileged and pleased to have a platform to do so.

My outreach schedule wasn’t the only thing that kept me from blogging all this time, I’ve also been learning more about myself and my beliefs. In reading my old ass posts I discovered that I’m a completely different person now; I have different opinions and character traits, and use different language to describe them. I am never the same person twice and I constantly evolve based on new information. So good to know!

These wild experiences and newfound biases has me mega motivated to build my own as a confident Black, queer woman. We are totally under-represented in most social justice spaces and deserve to have a voice. Marginalized folk of all kinds (Black and Brown, LGBTQIA+, and differently-abled people, and women) are usually excluded from conversations that especially pertain to them because of the West’s obsession with the straight, white, cisgender, middle-class, male template of a human being. Naw, I’m not going to accept that.

So, I’m going to follow my calling and hopefully watch it grow. I have no choice but to go full-force into it if I want to see progress, so I’m going to keep organizing and writing and educating my peers about intersectional justice until I’m purple in the face! NOW is the time to resist, learn, and undo all the conditioning we’ve endured. I refuse to sit idly by while the world is crumbling and will use my platforms to make shit happen. Best believe.

Are you into social justice, too? If so, follow my activism adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Snapchat!

 

Why Intersectional Feminism is Automatically Vegan

Not your mom, not your milk

Let me just get this out of the way: I am NOT a typical feminist. To me, feminism has kept its ties with its first-wave in America, focusing on the political equality of middle-to-upper class white women beginning in the 19th century. That’s cute and all, but what about the rest of us?? There’s definitely more than one type of woman who needs peer support and equality, then why not include all of them? And that’s where intersectional feminism comes in! The term was established by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, defining it as “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity…Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” 

Although I focus closely on womanism, which is feminism for women of color (mostly Black) and all abilities, intersectional feminism is a great way to understand the challenges of all types of women (and men, too) regardless of our biases. And when I mean ALL types of women, I’m talkin’ ’bout the non-human ones also. Not following me? Well, plainly, I feel that intersectionality amongst females shouldn’t have to be reserved only to humans, especially since it supposedly accepts all ladies despite their differences. Just like denying a disabled woman her rights is ableist, assuming a cow doesn’t have rights is speciesist and should be against the “code” of acknowledging all female issues.

Think about it, all animals have genders just like we do; we are not unique in that. So it only seems fair to recognize and challenge the human-made exploitation of female animals in the intersectional feminist movement. Like how dairy cows are raped repeatedly for impregnation so people can have a glass of milk, how hens are forced to lay close to 300 eggs a year when they would only do so about 10-15 times in nature, or how sows are locked in tiny cages where they can’t turn around with their only purpose being to breed more piglets for slaughter. The list goes on and on, just so we can blindly consume their body parts and secretions. Vegans can’t be the only ones who think this is a huge social error!

And of course male animals probably perform behaviors in nature that seem unfair to their female counterparts, but we have no say in that because those actions are most likely instinctual. We can’t control what animals do in nature amongst themselves, yet we do have control over how we treat them and use them solely for profit. I won’t assume that intersectional feminists will pick up this cause and that the world will go vegan, but I am hopeful that people will see the injustice in the animal agriculture industry (amongst other industries) and will match their morals to their actions.

To wrap it up, it is quite hypocritical for feminists of all kinds to consume animal products, especially if they’re educated about the exploitation of female farm/fur animals. I totally get it if it never crosses one’s mind due to lack of education, but no true practicing intersectional feminist would take this injustice lightly. Don’t forget about the males though! Males, human or non-human, face issues that are similarly daunting, so we can’t leave them out in our message of equality. Regardless of the labels we identify with, we all know that we should treat others with compassion, respect, and love; so it’s time we align that notion with everything we do.

My Calming Journey to Sirsasana (with Back-bend)

As we all know (or at least hopefully), yoga is not just about the physical; it is the union of the mind, body, and spirit. It’s just as much of a meditation session as it is an exercise, so asanas (poses) like these create small mental shifts with every achievement of them. I didn’t complete this task because headstands are cool as hell, but because I knew I would overcome a mental roadblock along the journey to it.

For me, this pose represents my new-found ability to sort through troubling thoughts and unwanted emotions. The headstand itself pushed me to achieve this mental clarity and the back-bend allowed me to be flexible during the mindset change. In the past I would give into neurotic and irrational thoughts, always trying to make a solution to every problem I faced, but I realized that not every problem has a solution that’s in my control. Also that problems are only problems based on my outlook on life: I can see them as negative and wallow in my pain or see them as positive and know these struggles will help me grow; and there’s NOTHING negative about growth!

So, thanks to my practice on this asana, I have been more aware of my monkey mind and choose to not allow it to take control of my emotions. I am calm, I live presently, and my mind is tranquil.

Is There Really Such Thing As Humane Slaughter? Let’s Look at the Facts…

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…Actually, no. There are NO “facts” supporting this oxymoron because it is simply impossible. Have you ever heard of humane rape, humane slavery, humane pedophilia? No? Well maybe because they don’t exist! You see, our egos as humans have grown so large that we believe we can oppress other species in a compassionate way…as if. Some people even believe that animals have been put on Earth for us to consume, and although I will never mock their belief because I have no idea where it stems from, I can’t deny that that is a very narcissistic and sadistic point of view. Amirite?

But really though, why do people truly believe in humane slaughter? Why do they fall for the “cage-free, grass-fed, pasteurized-raised” marketing ploy when purchasing animal foods, as if a farm animal possibly having a well-to-do life before it’s murdered is morally acceptable? As a former meat-fanatic, I can attest that it is most likely due to tradition/conformity, religion, or lack of education or empathy. Shit, even I was raised to think it was my moral obligation to eat animal products since God said it was totally cool, so I get it! It’s just that these animals are sacrificed for our guilty pleasures and we’re desensitized to their suffering. We turn a blind eye to the slavery, death, and torture they face so that we may be comfortable and entertained, and that’s just not okay.

I know there are people out there who seriously don’t give a fuck, and I accept that I can’t change their minds, but killing any being for personal “gain” is just plain sick. And I’m talking about those who have a choice; ones who choose to support animal cruelty when they really don’t have to. Was it humane when Jeffrey Dahmer drugged, raped, killed, and ate dozens of men solely because it felt good? Probably not. So why is it different to do so with another species? They are not inferior because they can’t communicate with us, they were not put on Earth for our enjoyment, and they do not deserve to be subject to the bullshit we put them through. Then what’s the point?

 

A Cure for the Insecure: Why We Allow People to Make Us Feel Like Shit and How to Get Over It

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We all know the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but does anyone truly believe that anymore? I think not, so I call bullshit. Yeah, words definitely do hurt, but nobody truly questions why. Why should we care what another person thinks of us? Why should someone else’s opinion ruin our moods? Why should I let someone browbeat me into wearing a bra again (ain’t gon’ happen, sorry hater!)? I believe it’s because of our desperate need for acceptance, approval, love/community, and to be well-liked. Pathetic, isn’t it?

Actually, it’s human nature to desire such things and we’d honestly be lost without them. I mean, how could one survive without love or being a part of a community? Isolation from the world sounds like a great idea and is ideal for a loner like moi, but the loneliness would literally drive us mad…like Tom Hanks in Cast Away mad. So it’s ingrained within us to want to be loved and have others like us because those are survival instincts, which is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

But emotions, doe! It makes sense why we are so sensitive to other people’s petty opinions, judgments, and remarks, but think about it, those things aren’t completely necessary for our survival. If anything, they keep us from thriving when we become obsessive about our “need” for their approval. For example, constantly thinking about that one time a customer called you a “bitch” while waiting tables 10 years ago will do you no good; the situation already happened, that customer was clearly a sandy cunt, and you have to permit yourself to let it go. We have to understand that hurt people hurt people; no one who is truly happy will feel the need to insult or belittle another person, so it is best to sympathize with the crazy asshole who’s tailgating you on the highway rather than get upset with them. You would do the same thing if you were them, and luckily you won’t have to experience their apparent misery.

In my many years of lessening my monkey mind and practicing mindfulness/meditation, I have developed a few tips for people who really let others’ bullshit put a stick in their craw:

1. Always remember that people are people. They shit, sleep, and eat just like you have to, therefore no one is truly superior or inferior to you. We’re all intimidated by each other to some extent, so just practice the golden rule and take their harsh opinions with a grain of salt.

2. Choose to let it go. Ultimately, happiness and the art of letting go is a choice, so don’t allow someone’s comment about your spider lashes bother you. Of course it was an extremely lame thing for that person to say, but that is something you can change and they’re super weird for staring that hard to notice anyways. Shame on them!

3. Opinions and judgments are ALL subjective. You can’t please everybody! Not everyone is going to like your hair texture, voice, or personality, but that’s totally okay because there will always be someone else who will. So a person’s rude comment to you is basically invalid since it is not factual that all people feel that way. An opinion is called an opinion for a reason; it’s not based on fact.

4. Lastly, have enough confidence and self-love to realize that you are not what people tell you. You are you, you are unique, and you are fuckin awesome. Do NOT let anyone tell you otherwise. Rude people want you to feel just as terrible as they do, so don’t give them that satisfaction and know that you are fabulous despite their tongue-lashing. If you are truly comfortable in your own skin, then it will become a habit to shrug off others’ negativity with ease. Raise your vibration higher than that petty shit!

With mindfulness comes great responsibility. You are responsible for how you let others treat you and make you feel, so don’t fall for their misery trap. Words totally can hurt, and I will never dispute that, but do they really hurt enough that you can’t live your life in peace because of it? Hell to the naw. You should be free to do what you feel without the approval of others (as long as it does not hurt anybody else), so choose happiness, let shit go, and love yourself more because you definitely deserve it.