5 Simple Steps on How To Meditate & Why You Should Do It At Least Once a Day
Meditation found me years ago but at the time I didn’t understand what it was or that it even existed.
My mom believed in prayers and shared some of her rituals with me, some of which I still practice to this day. My dad was an atheist but there were a few times he admitted to believing in a higher power or source. That was as far as he’d go with it. Otherwise, he’d just joke about St Peter not allowing him into the pearly gates of heaven. He believed that people took the Bible too literally and much of its true meaning was often lost in interpretation. Prayer was certainly not a part of his daily life but maybe meditation was at times.
I wonder now if he realized that as he canoed down the Sibun River, Belize, it’s very likely that he was meditating. I am guessing that his focus was often directed to the sound of the river, the falling of leaves into the water and the sunlight glistening on the tiny waves around him. He was likely in tuned with the movement of his body as he switched his paddle from side to side, going downstream in the middle of rich forestry in his favorite country in all the world.
He probably reached constant states of elevation by allowing “absence of thought” to find him. Even he, the non believer, the smoking meditator (haha) surely found solace in those moments where thoughts escaped him and his only focus was to simply be alive. He was, in essence… meditating.
My dad canoeing down Sibun River, Belize
What is Meditation?
Often times, people think meditation is about controlling thoughts but it’s not. It is defined as a mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. The basis of meditation, or what you’re trying to accomplish is to be in a place where there is “absence of thought”.
It has zero to do with controlling your thoughts. Trying to control your thoughts can make meditation frustrating. My friend Florence often soothed me with her assurance that the thoughts will come and they will go… let them rise and let them fall.
Thoughts will always come forth whether you’re meditating or not. That’s the gift of the mind – a tool for us to use to think when needed, except for Math. Don’t waste your mind on Math. There are no answers. Trust me, I’ve tried.
What’s True For You?
Besides that general misconception about meditation, many people also imagine that it requires sitting in lotus position while making the OM sound for hours on end. Like most things, meditation is about what’s true for you, including how you position your body, what you focus on, how long you do it, what sound you make etc. Most of life almost always comes down to what is true for you.
The basis of it all is simply to reach a place where there is absence of thought. This place or moment is often brief. The timespan and feeling may be different for everyone. For me, it’s like an escape that leads to a connection to something far more powerful than I. Imagine this place like the gateway to your connection with God or Source or Spirit, whatever name rings true for you.
Visualize, if you will, walking down a path and easing into light, clarity and peace – that’s kind of what it feels like for me. More often than not, I don’t even realize I’m there til it passes and I take another breath hoping to find it again.
Noticing moments like these are the tiny glimpses into what it feels like to be connected to Source.
How Long Should You Meditate?
15 to 20 minutes is a good time slot for meditation, generally. While you’re meditating, you may find that this “place” (absence of thought) lasts for 3 minutes or less. Even if it’s only that, it will have served you well. It is like opening your bandwidth to receive. Once you experience this, it’s very likely you’ll want to experience it again and again.
Meditating for 15 minutes everyday will make way for more ease and flow in your daily life. As you continue on your journey, you’ll find that you receive guidance more readily on small and big things. In the days, weeks and months that follow, things become increasingly clearer to you. This even includes things like what to cook, which way to turn, who to call, when to stay home etc.
Unshaken and Unmoved
Every time I am out of sync with my meditation practice, quiet and down time, things feel disruptive. My mind gets foggy and I’m more easily overwhelmed, like yesterday when I found myself feeling lost. I know a lot of these feelings of disconnect are tied to a lack of meditation.
I can remember times being so in tuned with my connection to God that I felt I could walk blindfolded. Can you imagine what that kind of guidance feels like?
There is a feeling of being grounded that comes when we keep our connection to Source alive. It’s as if you’re a giant tree – your exterior may sway and dance in the wind or the what is reality but, the core of you is unshaken and unmoved.
There were times meditation meant doing yoga, heading out on a hike or just being generally quiet. Whatever ways I found, they were like a lifeline to a place of calm and knowing.
Meditation aligns you with feeling more grounded.
Inspired Action vs Motivated Action
Answers come and you are lead more by inspired action instead of motivated action.
Motivated action can be narrowed down to the things you “must do” for a specific outcome. Inspired action can be narrowed down to things you are lead to do by your intuition. The outcome is almost irrelevant. You just know what to do, when to do it, how to do it and it just flows. Period.
Life is so much easier when we allow our higher self to guide us. That guidance comes from a place of clarity, ease and flow and that space is created when we meditate.
Outside of doing Yoga, taking a hike or just finding quiet time alone, you may be considering the conventional concept of meditation. Minus the lotus position and making the OM sound for hours on end, here’s my simple take on how to include “conventional meditation” as a part of your daily life.
Focus on Your Breath or the Air-Conditioning
One of things to keep in mind when meditating is that you’re trying to find something to focus on that has no meaning to you. This could be the flickering of a flame, your breath as it goes in and out of your tummy or even the air-conditioning. I learned about listening to the air-conditioning from Esther Hicks. It really is a splendid idea.
Basically, you want to connect to an action (breath) or object (flame) that doesn’t evoke thought.
Today is 100 degrees outside. Focusing on the air-conditioning won’t work because all I’ll be thinking is that it needs more freon. It is super duper hot in here today!
If you choose to focus on your breath, use your visualization to follow it. As you breathe in, connect to it. You’ll become distinctly aware of its magnificence.
As it enters, follow it and let it go all the way down to your tummy. Most people tend to breathe in and they think it stops at their chest.
The action of inhaling basically fills your body with oxygen – first to your lungs then to your heart and onward to the rest of your body. As your chest and tummy feel filled with air, slowly release that breath and start it all over again.
5 Simple Steps Before You Inhale, Exhale… Namaste
1. Find a quiet and spacious spot in your home that’s easy to access at all times.
Is it possible to put something in that space that is a reminder of meditation, quiet or silence? It will help to create a visual/internal understanding that this is your place of meditation. Some people use an altar but you might use a simple photo or element that tells you “This is the spot where I connect to my higher self”.
2. Choose a time of day that works with the daily operations of your home.
If you have a big family or other people to consider then this time would be either when they are out of the house, all quiet or asleep. This time could be morning, midday or night – it all depends on what works best for your lifestyle. All you’re trying to do is establish is finding a time that works best.
3. Think of a position for your body that is comfortable.
Are you able to sit cross legged? Do you need back support? Are you better off laying on the floor? Will you likely need a chair? Consider what’s the best possible way for you to be in a still position for at least 15 minutes at a time in a way that your body will comfortable doing so. This allows you to put your attention only on your choice of focus (breath, mantra, flame, air-conditioning)
4. Set a Timer
You can set a timer for 15 minutes on your phone. I usually set mine for 18 minutes and I use the 3 minutes to light my candles or sage and get comfy.
5. Close Your Eyes
Just close your eyes and start to focus on your object of attention – breath, air-conditioning, flickering flame or whatever serves you best. As thoughts come, and they will, let them rise and let them fall. Let them come and let them go. As you become more and more aware of your ability to be connected to Source, you’ll naturally draw your focus back to your object of attention.
One Meditation A Day Helps the Clarity Stay
Before you know it, 15 minutes will have passed and you’ll carry on and get back to daily living.
Just remember, as the days, weeks and months pass you by, you’ll understand how important it is to find your way to Source at least once a day whether it be through conventional meditation, being in complete awe of a rose, falling instantly in love with a puppy or taking quiet alone times for yourself.
As with all things, there’s always more to learn. Studying the teachings of Abraham Hicks has given me a much better understanding all the ways in which we connect to our higher selves.His simplification of mediation has helped me to fully understand the purpose of it.
Some days, it’s a hummingbird outside but if I can fit in conventional meditation at least once a day, I will get back to feeling completely guided. One meditation a day helps the clarity stay.
Outside of these pointers, you can always look up meditation videos on YouTube. They are often specific to your desires. For example, if you are trying to quell anxiety or stress, just search for a meditation that helps alleviate those or any other nagging human emotions that are wreaking havoc on your feeling centered and grounded.
I’d love to know how it goes and if this post made meditation more clear to you.
What Is Your Truth? Ask, Release and Let The Answers Come
There’s only one way to heaven. So I’ve been told. It’s not my truth. Religion has shown me that people have varying beliefs that they hold firmly to. I used to wonder how would anyone know what the “REAL” truth is if two or more religions share different teachings absolutely? How do you know which one to follow? Well, you follow the truth.
But what is the truth?
My conclusion: the truth is whatever you believe it to be. Period.
My wish: that you always know what that is, for you.
A Teacher Teaches Best What He Must Learn
I met an amazing woman a few weeks ago. Her name is Caroline Larkin. As we were chatting from one thing to the next, these words flowed from her lips to my ears, “A teacher teaches best what he must learn.” Perfect! That is so me and felt like I was granted permission to teach, as imperfect as I am.
I often feel like there’s so much I want to share.
But I’m not an expert on anything so who will want to hear?
I’m a poet though as you can see. That, I can do. I can drop a rhyme out of the blue.
See I did it again 🙂
I keep wanting to share things I’m not a master at yet they keep tugging at me as if to say “Please, like the truth, set me free”. So, in all my imperfections and often not following my own advice, I long to encourage you to find your truth.
Forget The Peanut Gallery
The thing about us humans is that we always have 20/20 on everyone else’s lives. We are so in tuned with what they should do, what they are doing wrong and all the ways we would do things if it were us. We are just so insightful when it comes to others and often have minimal vision on ourselves. Listening to friends and family as we share our everyday experiences, so many of us are just not being honest with ourselves. We are either delivering our profound findings on their lives or we are bogged down with the opinions and thoughts of theirs about us. Abraham Hicks refers to this as listening to the “peanut gallery”.
It’s like trying to meditate while sport enthusiasts are watching the world cup. Although, if that’s a feat you can accomplish, I might consider just following you into all your truths. Well, not really but I’d be highly impressed.
Forget The Peanut Gallery. Hear your own voice. Find your truth.
Most times, we know exactly what to do – when to go to the store, when to visit a friend, or if we should turn back because we forgot something. The ordinary, everyday things feel seamless. Not much thought has to be given but every now and then we find ourselves feeling conflicted and unsure of the next step. These moments can be lead by something as simple as whether to attend an event or as complex as contemplating divorce.
Live and Let Live
One of easiest ways to find answers when we feel foggy and out of sync with clarity is to ask ourselves, “What is MY Truth?” and answer honestly, even if only just to self.
The moment I ask, an answer is given but there are times that I have to wait for the clarity of it to find me. Releasing the need for a response in the moment helps although more likely than not, I’d like an immediate response.
Deep down I know that eventually the answers I seek will come and they will come with a knowing I can’t deny. Understanding that the answer is true and may be true for me alone is something that’s starting to sink in. After all, I’m not here to live anyone else’s truth but my own.
“Live and Let Live”. It’s a good practice overall, especially for people or life choices I don’t understand. It’s been a work in progress but I’m learning. When we get too caught up in other people’s truths, it can create noise that doesn’t serve us. It uses up so much energy – energy I’d much rather put into my vortex of dreams and desires or a couple bars (yes a couple) of Cadbury fruit and nut chocolate with a VERY COLD coke. Awful, I know but we are discussing truths and that’s one of mine.
There’s Only One Way to Heaven
I remember being told that Yoga was evil and that doing sun salutations was basically praying to a false god. It was so serious that the concern for the sanctity of my soul seemed dyer.
There is only one way to heaven. Chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō will certainly summon your entire being to the fiery depths of hell. Not to worry though, you’ll have company because that’s where all atheists go so you won’t be alone. I guess that’s where my dad went. NOT. Side note: some of the sweetest people I know are atheists, my dad not included lol. He wasn’t always nice but I appreciate that he was my “not always nice dad”. #AllIsWell
Sex before marriage is wrong, so you need to get married. Once you do marry, you can’t divorce. EVER. Just stay there in your misery because that’s the price you must pay to preserve the sanctity of your soul IF you haven’t already lost it practicing yoga.
All these belief systems that were not of my own resonance began to push their way to surface and in March of 2009, I started to release them one by one. I wanted to find my own truth.
It had to make sense TO ME, FOR ME and WITH ME.
Yoga, Meditation and The Truth
My truth continues to evolve as time goes on. Yoga and meditation provide a connection to my higher self. It helps to clear my chakras, align my body and allows for “shakti” to enter and flow through me. Then again, so does hiking and long walks, adoring a puppy or someone I love. There are many ways to connect with your higher self – it’s always about finding the ways that vibrate with you. By higher self, I mean God, Spirit, Inner Being, Source – whatever name feels good to you. Of course, that’s just my truth.
Choosing to marry someone doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them for the rest of your life. Life happens and people change and if your truth tells you it’s time to move on then it is. BUT, the truth is also that all relationships bring their own set of challenges so if you’re expecting perfection, you’ll forever be moving on. There I go, minding your business. That’s just my recent truth about marriage and relationships.
What is MY Truth?
Asking this question has been one of the most freeing things I’ve put into practice in recent weeks. What is My Truth?
It feels so good to just admit certain things to myself – what rings true for me even if it’s not in alignment with what others think or believe. The truth is I would prefer to spend my time with my “KAYA” (not cannabis, a person) than to go out with the girls sometimes. Most times. OK, maybe all times. Maybe there should be more balance. Maybe… but I’m not there right now. Truth be told, I enjoy soaking up my “KAYA” and that’s my truth.
The truth is I agree with so many of my son’s views – like why does he need to learn certain things in school? Things I’ve NEVER used in my daily life. The truth is I hear him and agree with him on so many things. He questions things that I wish he would just go along with so that I don’t have to question those things myself.
The truth is there’s no one way to do things – well, maybe. There’s only one way to put a new set of acrylic on my fingers and I’m hoping I can show the new place I go to how to do it. I digress.
The truth is I have no idea how to make these posts go viral because SEO (search engine optimization) eludes me and I often wonder who am I really writing to? Dammit, it could damn well be just to myself. “A teacher teaches best what he must learn.”
Say It Like It Is
It just feels better when you can just say it like it is – what you like, what you don’t like, what serves you best and what feels like a complete waste of your energy and time. And, if in the moment you still feel like as much as you can see the truth, you are not ready to make a different choice, the truth is that’s ok too. Sometimes the truth hurts a little, even if we are just admitting it to ourselves.
We’re all just going through our journeys learning and growing. While you’re here, try to make peace with your own truth, not what you’ve been fed or are afraid to face because of the chatter that may surround you. Just find a way to be honest with yourself even if you never utter the “truth” to anyone else. At the very least, to thine own self be true.
By now, you may have guessed that this is me, talking to myself encouraging the openness to truth.
This Is An Amazing Time To Be Alive
You are here to live your life, to connect to YOUR higher self and to create continued expansion for the universe and in doing all that, you will inevitably find your truth.
Can you imagine that there was a time when people got around without Google maps? That there was a time when handwritten letters were the “text message” of the day? How did long distance relationships survive?
My mom had a book about 4 inches thick for medical references for ailments in our family. Nowadays, I and my friends and family continue to diagnose ourselves on several websites and apps per week. Most people are walking around with the most intricate encyclopedia ever distributed, the smart phone.
We used to have to take pictures and wait two weeks to know if our belly fat was showing! So much of life is instantaneous. NOW, we can take 25 selfies before choosing the right one to post all within a matter of 5 minutes. Not that I have ever done that. Five minutes is simply not enough time.
This such an amazing time to be alive. It really is.
There’s so much available to us – so many choices we can make and so many freedoms that were once not within our reach. Why would you, in this day and age, choose anything but the truth? Your truth?
Whatever it is that’s on your mind – heavy or light… whatever answer you seek… ask yourself: What Is My Truth?
What do you want? What do you feel? What serves you best? What works for you?
Soak it in…
Whatever it is, at least YOU KNOW what your truth is. May your truth lead the way for you and clear all paths for a sweet journey through life May it all fall into place for you and me. I always want things to fall into place for me too. That’s another one of my truths. I wish it for you AND FOR ME. I can’t share all my truths though – some of them are private, some of them can be troublemakers…
But you should at least know that much since I’m pretty much being an open book in some of my writing or maybe all.
Oh! and you should probably know that I do yoga – often.
Nourish Me Sweetly – Mind, Body & Soul but Don’t Forget Your Emotions.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the words Nourish Me Sweetly and the life events that brought them to me. The name seemed to come out of thin air. They just sort of flew in among a myriad of thoughts as I was driving one day. I was finally coming up for air from what felt like a dark and weary place. Slowly, I was emerging to a new footing, light and some love. Slowly, but surely.
It was a much needed reminder of what it felt like to have support and to feel safe. It was sweet nourishment. And, it became all I wanted to experience.
I only wanted to entertain people, places and things that could bring sweet nourishment to me.
Nourishing Others Felt Intuitive and Easy
Growing up in a hotel and later working it, I learned to anticipate the needs of others. A part of the role you play running a small family hotel is to care about the wellbeing and safety of your guests to a certain extent. Most of them were total strangers.
Once I had my son, I understood the responsibility of completely caring for another human being. I suppose over our lifetimes, we all learn these traits albeit in different ways. On a whole, we are almost always caring for someone else on a daily basis even as we let someone with fewer items than we have check out before us in the line, or holding open a door for someone. The list can go on and on.
I was learning much of mine through service to others in a hotel setting. By and large, the nourishing of others felt intuitive and easy. To a certain degree, so was caring for myself.
9 Years of Ballet
I’d done ballet for about 9 years which instilled a sense of discipline in terms of exercise. I understood what strength and flexibility felt like and what it was like to be in a body that served me well.
Over the years, I’d learned to run for extended periods of time, did Taebo with masterful delivery, inverted my body into headstands with ease and hiked for hours at a time. Eating was something I constantly came to new agreements with, in a good way. I understood the vitality that physical care brought to my life experience.
Turning to Silence as My Friend
My mom was an avid positive thinker and she was fairly religious by way of catholicism. Her favorite Saint was Saint Jude. She’d sit on the verandah in the wee hours of the morning before the guests got moving and she’d say her rosary and in times of despair, she’d direct her prayer to Saint Jude. It felt like he’d always pulled through for her and later for me.
My best recollection of my interaction with St Jude was when I lost a book at the payphone (you do remember what those are, right?) across the street from Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale (AIFL). My mom reminded me to pray to St Jude and voila, someone had found it and turned it in to the school.
Spiritually, I’d come to know meditation and prayer as my refuge in times of despair and recently learned to turn to silence as my friend.
I Adore Spirit
While my belief system has been constantly evolving since March 2009, or at least that’s when I became aware of it, I have a general grasp on what resonates with me spiritually. I don’t subscribe to religion but I adore spirit and I lean wholeheartedly into the awareness of the divine, mostly. I understand that I am fueled by an inner being that knows all, sees all and can tell me all I need to know if I only remain open and free of resistance.
It’s that whole #LetGoLetGod movement and it lures me in deliciously when I let my defenses down.
Practice What You Preach
I’ve rigorously studied positive thinking, The Secret, Law Of Attraction and Abraham Hicks philosophy and have enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned with so many people. I’d manifested many things that seemed impossible to others. The Negative Nancy train was not for me and I’d often adopt the words of my mom when things seemed impassable – Team #WatchMe.
One of the people I often share information with is my #SisterGurlCousinFriend (SGCF). She now boasts that she’s way better at this stuff than I am and that she hadn’t even fully listened to even one YouTube link I’d sent her. The Nerve!
She does give me some credit in the area of listening. She’s told me time and time again that I should be a therapist and then scold me for being one of the only people who makes her cry just by listening. Can’t win with some people, I tell ya.
I suppose I’m a fairly good listener. It’s a skill I really tapped into through my friendship with an amazing woman named Florence. Whatever the story was that was being relayed to me, I’d somehow tap into more than just their words and took great pride in making Melanie and one other person I know cry haha. I was good at being patient and super intuitive with what they were trying to say or clarify BUT I was falling short of those things for myself.
My SGCF has caught a whiff of that and started telling me: #PracticeWhatYouPreach.
It’s been hard to hear.
Physical, Spiritual, Mental and Emotional Care
Physically, spiritually and mentally, I feel good about my general knowledge and practices.
Physical Care – Check. Spiritual Care – Check. Mental Care – Check. Emotional Care – Meh.
Emotionally, There Was Much to be Desired
As an artist, I’m told that my emotions serve my creativity – it’s where my writing and art come from. From my perspective, it can be exhausting. I feel too deeply, see to keenly sometimes and everyone’s energy is somewhat tangible. Emotionally, there was much to be desired. Where is the balance?
Dancing and Romancing with the Contrast of My Mind
I understand the Law of Attraction and that it is a “FEELING Universe”. I get that we all vibrate and all you have to do is to become a vibrational match to that which you desire and it will manifest.
However, if my emotions were in the depths of their turbulence, not much could calm my roaring waves. I’d go into bouts of bawling, anxiety and despair. St Jude could have been standing before me waving his prayer and I’d probably just dwell in the drowning of my tears fueled by an avalanche of relentless negative thoughts.
I’d been teaching others about the power of their words, their thoughts and outlook – intuitively knowing what they needed to see. Yet, there I was dancing and romancing with the contrast of my mind.
Nourish Me Sweetly, why hast thou forsaken me?
Keeping Inventory of Thoughts
I understood the importance of entertaining people, places and things that could bring sweet nourishment to me but I missed a key aspect. Nourish Me Sweetly isn’t just about entertaining people, places and things that bring me joy.
It is most importantly about the joy, love and peace I bring to myself and much of this required keeping inventory of my thoughts. I had to learn to reel them in quickly when they start heading downhill.
Ease was a much better place to be. Ease and easy were nicer words to hold on to.
Nourish Me Sweetly – Mind, Body & Soul but Don’t Forget Your Emotions.
It’s about daily meditation, connection to source and making all of it a priority in my day. It wasn’t just about doing things that made me feel good or being around people who made me feel light although those are amazing experiences. Keeping better tabs of my thoughts delivers organic nectar to my emotions and my emotions serve me in ways I never imagined. Even when they feel like they are bad, they are serving me letting me know to shift direction as soon as I’m able to. I understand now that I may not always be able to and in those moments, just try to ride it out. Eventually, it passes. Well, usually unless I have an anxiety attack and pretend St Jude isn’t in front of me waving his prayer.
Nourish Me Sweetly – Mind, Body & Soul but don’t forget your emotions.
I am slowly learning to choose a different thought, step by step til I gain more and more leverage in a better direction. It’s hard sometimes to come to grips with how much I’ve put into studying the law of attraction, having a very clear understanding of how it works, being able to convince others of it, yet finding myself ruled by emotional upheaval.
I had to face the truth of what I was being told – practice what you preach.
“Ok, but you’re not an artist”, I’d want to say to her. “You don’t understand FEELINGS”.
Insert big rolling eye emoticon here.
It’s About Feeling Good. Period.
New light has been shed on what Nourish Me Sweetly means. It’s about feeling good. Period. Sometimes it will be in the form of people, places and things. Many times it will require a shift in my thoughts – creating an easier carpet to ride on so that the magic can be more readily available to me, maybe to you if you can relate to any of this.
It’s been hard to hear but I hear it. My desire is to get better and better at choosing how I want to feel and becoming a distinct vibrational match to it by shifting my thoughts.
Three Amazing Things That Happened After My Mom Passed Away
December, 1999. I had just returned to Belize City. I went with my mom to Guatemala for a routine surgery and she died three days later – totally unexpected. It was a simple biopsy. We would be in and out in no time and I was excited about Christmas shopping with her. I went with her and came back without a mom. One day, in one of my dark moments, I was curled up in a chair in the living room thinking about how lost I felt. I didn’t want to die but I wasn’t sure how to live. The sun rose and set each day and somewhere in the midst of the world continuing to revolve, so did I. And, somewhere in the midst of that and the years that followed, I found a connection to her spirit. I would eventually have moments with her that were unexplainable. There have been many but here are three amazing things happened after my mom passed away that have stood out over the years. They have helped me in dealing with the loss of a mother.
Stop … Like My Heart.
As we were driving around making arrangements for her service, we came off the main bridge in downtown Belize City and turned right into Water Lane, passing the home of my grandfather. People were walking, riding, working and talking on street corners as if life were just carrying on. Baffling to me.
Did they not know my mom had passed away?
What are you doing out here?
Talking and acting as if nothing has happened.
Did you not get the memo?
HELLO! My mom passed away.
Cease and Desist from all activity!
STOP … like my heart did when she died.
It was TOUGH.
It only took 10 whole years for me to be mostly ok with her passing on. Only 10!
Memorial Facebook Covers made in her honor
Poetry in Motion
If you’ve ever watched a Medium episode with Theresa Caputo or Tyler Henry, then you understand how spirit nudges you and guides you often, if you believe that stuff.
Unbeknownst to me, my mom had gone to a funeral many years before and found a poem on the back of the program that apparently made her think of her own mortality.
She so loved this poem that she brought it to her sister (Tia) telling her that whichever one of them passes first, the surviving sister should share this poem with the children of the one who passed on. And, my mom wanted them to agree to do it three months after the passing. Tia agreed and put it away in a bin and carried on with her life, completely forgetting her promise.
One Big Crying Fest
Belize City – March, 2000. Somehow Tia ended up in her closet sifting through boxes and bins and lo and behold she came across the poem, almost exactly three months after my mom passed. You can imagine how awe struck she felt when she stumbled across the poem. I wonder exactly what that moment was like for her knowing she had to have been guided to the bins and boxes that held her forgotten promise.
She called and asked if I could take her to my mom’s grave.
As we sat in the car, the story unfolded and tears flooded my being… a sense of loss, love and comfort all interlaced into one big crying fest. The poem basically speaks of moving on, to cry if you must but not to hold to grief too tightly. It spoke of limiting the time spent at the grave site for only the body is there but the spirit is free. It was what I needed to hear. Not only did it give me comfort but it was a glimmer of hope that her spirit lived on. Always was, is and always will be.
Letting Go and Moving On
She wanted her children to be ok with letting go and moving on. We were to come to her grave if we saw fit but we were free to choose and she hoped we’d choose happiness and joy. It’s as if she was still there in deed. As a mom, that’s how she was – always supportive and always wanting us to be happy.
I held on to that poem for 14 years but lost track of it in a move I made but the impact it had on me will never be forgotten. It was my first of many experiences with her after her transition. The connection I feel to her was still there. Sometimes the signal seemed low but mostly it was there.
6 Months and a Puppy to Smile Again
It took 6 months and a puppy for me to really smile again. Two years to fully focus on a new love, the arrival of my son, and 10 years to forget to write her annual poem. It takes time.
It’s now 18 years later. Some days, like yesterday, it still feels surreal. I was talking about her and how she was and felt fine in the moment. As soon as I got home, the emptiness found its way back to me. Before I knew it, tears were washing down my face in the shower. It was a harsh reminder that the sadness can still grab a hold of me no matter how much time passes. Disorientation often accompanies it.
I’d try to convince myself that she was here.
I did have a mom.
She did exist.
Dealing with the loss of a mother was not easy.
Mostly though, I’m ok. Mostly.
When I sit and recall special connections like these though, I’m reminded that she is never far even though it may feel that way sometimes.
My mom and one of her “sons”, Mark.
My Pity Party and Shannon’s Dream
Fast forward to some years later… I was having a moment. Anger ensued. I felt like my mom died and left me.
Imagine! She left me.
How could she just pass away like that, knowing that I was still here and needed her? I had already had my son. My brother and I were running the business she left behind. I remember thinking that she hadn’t reached me out to me again, like that time with the poem. It’s hard to rationalize this feeling of abandonment even though in my higher consciousness I knew that not to be true. It was a pity party I was having and no one knew but me, or so I thought.
A couple days later I got a call from my friend Shannon. My mom took many of our friends as her own kids, especially if she saw they were good to us. Shannon is the wife of one of her other “sons”. It was so fitting that she’d choose Shannon. She’s a natural story teller and what better way to send her direct message to me.
Hello From The Other Side
Shannon had a dream and a message for me. She said she saw my mom in a car waiting and was so excited to see her. She went up to my mom, ecstatic to see her. “Ms Jean, how are you? Where have you been? What are you doing here?”, she asked. My mom smiled and told her she was fine and all was well but said “Can you give Jeannie a message for me?”. “Sure”, said Shannon. “Tell her I said hello. Make sure you tell her you saw me and that I said hello”.
If you’re not teary eyed now, don’t worry, I’m tearing up for both of us. It was my message that I was not alone. She had not abandoned me. She was close by and was letting me know.
No one knew how I was feeling or that I’d felt like she disappeared into thin air leaving me with only memories that often felt illusory. I cried and told Shannon how I had been feeling. It then made sense to her how adamant my mom was about delivering the message to me.
Hello! (from the other side).
It was important. I did need to hear from her… it was soothing even if only for a moment.
Dreaming of Tuesday
Later, my mom came to me in my own dream.
I had been marketing a property for sale. It wasn’t moving as I expected. I found myself feeling despondent. It felt like business was taking a downward spiral that was out of my control.
In the dream, my mom asked me if I could take some people “up the road”. In my country, this meant up the highway – one of the four that we have. She needed me to take them on Tuesday. I was concerned about the time because I was dating someone at the time and I didn’t want to miss his call. (Yes, in my dream I was concerned about my love life. Pathetic, I know. When I’m in, I’m in, what can I say?) Of course, I didn’t explain the latter to her – only that I wanted to know the time. She was a business lady first. I would not even fathom the thought of arranging her need around a phone call from a man. Even in my dream I knew better than that!
She said she was not sure of the time but just to make sure that I’d be available on Tuesday and I said ok.
Let Light In
When I woke up and got to work, I pulled the curtains, tilted the blinds and felt these words flow from my thoughts “let light in”. I decided I wouldn’t be sad. Instead, I chose to be expectant and to trust. The dream was so sweet and felt so real like I really did talk to her, I had to call my Tia to tell her. Our phone call ended with both of us toying with the idea that the property would sell and it was going to be Tuesday. “Hahaha”, we both chuckled away.
Growing up with our mom, we watched her turn regular visitors into repeat customers who grew to love her and whom she could get to watch her front desk and even answer phones if needed. She would take them to church, local events and they’d come back for more. As much as I often declare that I didn’t have the “people person” gift like my mom did, it became clear over the years that I had at least learned it. Some of our repeat guests included missionaries. One of them that has stood out to me since was named Mr Tibbs. That morning, I saw him outside waiting in his truck. We had a quick chat and he offered a prayer. He prayed that God send the man that needs that land… specifically saying those words. It felt good and far reaching. It brought a further sense of well being to me.
I carried on with my week and I left despair behind.
Tell No One of This
That weekend, I decided to get out of the city a bit and go inland to one of my favorite places tucked in the village of Burrell Boom. As I sat around relaxing, I got a phone call that I needed to come to the city for a quick meeting about the property. I was informed that some people had gone through the property and were prepared to make an offer close to my asking price. It was serious. If you’re in the business of real estate, you know words are just words. Period.
It gave me some comfort but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. For now, it was just words. So until it was a closed sale, I’d tell no one of this.
Tuesday morning just before midday, the buyer arrived and the property sold.
Tuesday. It was the day my mom told me to be available.
I was beside myself. I called my Tia to tell her and it was the best hahahaha we had, besides the other day when she told me she thought BFF meant Best F*cking Friend. THAT WAS HILARIOUS.
My mom had delivered a message directly to me this time. She’d even given me a day to be available and the property was “up the road”.
These are only a few instances I’ve had with my mom. Some are too personal to share but this gives an insight into the connection I’ve had with her since her passing. Losing her was one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure. In recent years, I became very interested in NDE (near death experiences), spirit, intuition, third eye opening and the like.
My Personal Experience that Rings True for Me
My whole belief system took a shift in 2009 and has been ever evolving since. Some will chalk these things up to coincidences or get into debates about it. I opt out of those. Lover, not a fighter… remember?
Or is this my first blog post you’re reading?
These are just my personal experiences that ring true for me.
Two weeks ago, two friends of mine lost their mom. I wanted so badly to share this to let them know of my experiences which I humbly share, knowing that it’s not for everyone. Instead of writing, I found myself with “writer’s block”. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring up any feelings of missing my mom, especially when I know I sometimes still have to convince myself she was even here.
Dealing with the Loss of a Mother Was Not Easy
My mom’s passing felt hard and dark. It was confusing and lonely and terrifying. I even moved into my brother’s room for some months. Eventually I adjusted and these experiences remind me that she’s available, like the dream I had where she messaged me on Whatsapp. It was her way of telling me she was that easy to reach – as if she were a contact on Whatsapp.
It finally got manageable … I’d dare to say easy.
The sun continued to rise and set for 18 more years. People continued about their lives even though I wanted everything to stop. It only stopped for me and even then, only momentarily. Now, I manage well enough, with a few random break downs here and there.
Dealing with the loss of a mother was not easy.
Mostly though, I’m ok. Mostly.
Of all the amazing things that have happened since my mom’s transition from her physical form, there are none so great as having had her as a mom for 26 full years.
She was AMAZING. She really was.
Even If You Had a Twin I Would Still Choose You
I would not have it any other way even if someone said I could have a different mom for 50 years. I’d take one day only with her as my mom over any other amount of days with any other woman to call my mom. In the words of Drake in his duet with Rhianna, “Even if you had a twin, I would still choose you”.
The Other Half of My Split Personality and Unfriending Intafayrin Betsi
It was just about a year ago that my friend and fellow artist, Malachi, suggested we do a painting together. She’d paint one side of a face and I’d paint the other. I thought it was a fantastic idea and I offered the name “Split Personality” for this joint venture. She accepted. Fast forward to April 2018, up to two days ago, I was still working on it. If you’ve been reading my posts, then you already know the reason it took me so long – Perfectionism. One year later and I finally just stopped. Perfectionism was not only holding me hostage to procrastination. It was now holding me hostage to “undone”. There would always be something else I could add or learn and apply. Meanwhile, she’d started and finished her half of the face in about three months. This wasn’t just about “Split Personality” though. Three years ago, I started another piece named “Intafayrin Betsi” and that was also undone, until now. I have decided that the wait was over. It’s time to unveil the other half of my Split Personality and unfriend Intafayrin Betsi. She’s too damn nosey any way.
Split Personality by Jeannie Shaw & Malachi
It was my word that got me to commit and finish.
Malachi sent dimensions and tried to explain them a few times but they all missed me. My being a visual person, I needed to see the dimensions laid out on paper, complete with arrows to make sure I had it right. And, like the flood waters pushing all things aside, creativity started flowing. And then it stopped. Perfectionism consistently got in the way. Instead of art being an outlet, it became another proponent to angst and frustration.
Anxiety was looming in other areas and growing on my canvas as well. For a long time, anxiety always felt like a word that was foreign until I saw how it impacted me. It could easily gather momentum and take off like the wind, taking all my good senses with it. Art is a medium through which many people soothe anxiety but it doesn’t work if the creativity is held captive by perfectionism. At any rate, I kept going, mostly because I’d made a promise to her.
It was my word that got me to commit and finish.
Dimensions of Split Personality
It Is What It Is
Even after her detailed sketch of the dimensions, I still put the eye in a different location.
Oh, Perfection! Would you kindly just leave me be.
I’m trying so hard, can’t you see?
After unveiling her portion of the face that I’d kept wrapped up all this time, I wondered if I should follow a suggestion to do it over and align the eyes. There were so many things I could have done differently and better! My cousin’s interpretation of the misalignment of the eyes were that we don’t always see eye to eye, that indeed these personalities were “SPLIT”.
Great! I’ll take it.
If I go back to fix the eye, it will be another decade before it’s complete. It is the “perfect” lesson in perfectionism – it eludes me. And, it always will because there will always be much to be desired. We are constantly expanding and evolving. I’ll take the experience and the misalignment as another step toward embracing acceptance of the now.
“It Is What It Is” mentality.
Split Personality, I’m through with you!
This was a different piece for me since there was no picture for me to reference. I had dimensions and I would just let the brush and paint take on a life of their own, come what may. I started then stopped. Then started then stopped for weeks upon weeks and then started again. This time with intention to complete, period. Finally two days ago, I gave it my last stroke of creativity and signed my name to solidify it was over.
Split Personality, I’m through with you!
If only you’d take anxiety with you. That would be nice!
Here’s a video of the unveiling of the other half I’ve waited so long to see. This project and the completion of it thrilled me to no end as I unwrapped the other half of the face. I am grateful for the suggestion of the painting, the lessons learned and the willingness to release all the things I wish I could change on my half.
KREM Krismus 2010
Intafayrin Betsi (kriol for interfering Betsy) is the other piece that perfectionism got a hold of. She was inspired by a skit created by KREM Belize starring local radio and TV personalities. Namely, these personalities were Linda Blease, Sharon Marin and Mose Hyde. It’s one of my favorite Belizean-made skits to date. One scene that always tickled me was the scene where Linda was looking through the window at all the goodies her neighbor received for Christmas. I took a screen shot of Linda looking through and decided I’d let it inspire art. It was such a typical scene of nosey neighbors and it felt specific to Belize because of the wooden louvre windows.
Well, three years later, I finally finished Intafayrin Betsi. My aim was to capture the popular Belizean phrase “Intafayrin Betsi” because this scene encapsulated what that phrase means to me.
This piece was for me – the word I’d keep to myself.
For a while I struggled with getting everything just right and damn near stalked people during the recent Easter break to get pics of wooden louvre windows for me. The only person who sent a pic after much begging and pleading was my brother. It was a pic several hundred feet away from of a house on stilts.
Great Help! NOT!
But thanks for trying BFF.
Next time, do better or NOT.
It’s not perfect but it’s mine.
I could either remain stuck waiting on someone to send me a pic or just start using my imagination. So, I did. It’s not perfect but it’s mine, just like so many other things about myself I wish I could perfect.
This is my waltz back into the art world. Yet I know I never left. Art is beautifully obvious to me daily. If I could see your eyes while reading this, there would be a painting in your expression, the way your eyes dilate or maybe a smirk you give tells a story about how post reaches you. It’s all art. Everything. All so beautiful.
I’m exploring my gifts, following bliss and the things that wrap me up and sweep me away. I accept that sometimes anxiety will win but I’ll always come back to the people, places and things that fill me with joy.
I’ll always find the ways to…
Some way, some how.
My dance with my creative side is giving myself permission to twerk if I want, slightly sway if it suits or walk away if I so choose.
For now, I’m here. Split personality and all. Intafayrin Betsi can get to steppin’ though.
23 Chromosomes, Me and Afrobeat(s) – My DNA and The Beat of West Africa
It was probably a year ago – another “girls night” for the books. We made our way to Savoy Entertainment Center in search of Caribbean music, longing for the rhythm of our culture. As we got through the security pat down and ID check, we finally got to the main door – the portal to the beat that brought instant “yassness” to us. One more step and we’re IN. Bad news. There would be no reggae this night. A Nigerian singer by the name of Iyanya was performing and Afrobeat(s) was on the turn table. I’d never even heard Afrobeat(s), or so I thought. Whether there should be an ‘s’ at the end or not, is up for debate. But, I’m a lover, not a fighter so I leave that alone. Arguments aside, we were open to new experiences. One week later I found myself on 23AndMe ordering a DNA kit.
The Whole Caribbean Feels Like One Nation
We paid our $20 and walked in, open minded and ready to witness a different culture.
Growing up in Belize, Caribbean music is a part of who we are. In some ways, the whole Caribbean feels like one nation. There’s a familiarity that permeates gatherings and events born of Caribbean culture. It’s as if there’s a basic foundation from which we all evolve. Of all the music from our region, reggae/dancehall resonates most profoundly with me. My friends would jokingly call me a Jamaican and I’d jokingly suggest, ok outrightly and proudly say, that I must have Jamaican ancestors on my mom’s side. I love many genres of music but no other sound makes me want to sway my hips the way reggae music does. Until this night.
Jamaican dancehall music was bouncing off the speakers. We felt right at home and guessed that Afrobeat(s) wouldn’t be much of a shift. There must be some similarity and we will feel right at home. Of course, looking back now, that would make perfect sense since Caribbean culture is a sweet drop of Africa for your cultural palette. Same vibe, different tribe.
People Watch and Catch a Vibe
I wasn’t expecting anything other than the music to be different. We walked in and headed over to the bar like we normally do. The girls got their usual drinks and I opted for my one glass of merlot. We took pics to show off on Facebook – we have a life and new outfits.
Don’t judge. It’s what people do.
Finally, we waltzed over to our usual spot and planted ourselves firmly to “people watch” and catch a vibe.
We were in a familiar environment but something felt different. There was a vibe and the women were different too – their hair and attire spoke of a more regal essence. Confidence oozed out of their graceful struts. There was a nature about them that struck me, as if they were indeed queens. Yes, I know all women are innately of a queen like nature. We don’t always acknowledge it or feel inspired to notice it, maybe. I’d just started my natural hair journey and in this place my fro, frizz and random curls coming back to life were accepted. My pale skin was irrelevant. It was all about good vibes, good music and good people.
Lineal and Magnificent
Besides feeling a sense of royalty in the room, I realized that the music had shifted. It wasn’t dancehall but it felt familiar. It reminded me of a song I heard some time before. It was catchy and my girls and I felt like we were one with it. When it played, everyone seemed to know it except us.
Side eye to everyone that night. [-.-]
We had no idea how to search for the song since we didn’t know the words, the artist or the exact genre. These songs were similar and we were listening keenly to see if it would play.
I enjoyed every single song that played even though I couldn’t understand some of them. All I knew was that Reggae/dancehall would not be the only music that makes me sway my hips. I loved the beat of the music and the people – especially the dancing.
There was something about this “Afrobeat(s)” that I knew. I recognized it as my own –lineal and magnificent. I was sure that this music was a part of me. Maybe it was the drums. Whatever it was, I knew it.
My brother had suggested a few times that at least one of us take a DNA test to learn our roots. This was it. I’d finally do my DNA test to see what I am made of.
Hook, Line and Sinker
Iyana made his grand entrance and once he did, I was sold. A new genre was in town and it won me over. Iyanya Onoyom Mbuk (born 31 October 1986), better known by his stage name Iyanya, is a Nigerian recording artist and performer. Although I’d never seen or heard of him before, I was just as excited as anyone there who knew all the words to his songs. It got me – hook, line and sinker as we say in Belize.
I felt at home. This vibe, this tribe – it was my own.
As much as I knew who my mom was, where I was born, that my skin was pale, that the sun rose and set each day no matter what was happening in the world, I knew this was a part of me.
Pablo Escobar and Me
I leaned over to share my new found ethnicity with my girls, but they laughed. They figured it was another claim to a culture that wasn’t mine. It was kinda like the time I claimed to be Colombian because I binge watched Narcos on Netflix. Pablo and I were family that weekend. He was bad and he was good and we were family.
I swear he and I had a connection. For real. For really real.
After my experience that night, I wanted to know more about my mom’s roots besides her being mixed or as we call it in Belize, Kriol. Her mom was Mestizo and her dad was mostly Black (African) and European (Scottish). The concept of African origin seems to be shun upon in Belize. That’s just my observation – as if it isn’t a part of who we are. History would show otherwise. Our ancestors were brought over from West Africa and scattered across the Caribbean.
Many of us are great children of slaves and slave masters.
Kuk, Wash ahn Mash
My dad was all European (to my knowledge). My mom was a melting pot of many things. While her skin was fairly pale, her hair was thick and coarse, a beautiful reminder of her roots that didn’t show in the shade of her skin. She knew she was a “kriol gyal” – proud of who she was and where she was born. My mom was dealt her own share of racism, especially being married to a white man. Some people still saw her as inferior because of both her gender and her ethnicities.
It didn’t matter to her, or did it?
She also had her own inner dialogue to contend with. Occasionally, she would mention that my dad thought slavery days were still upon us and that she was not there to “kuk, wash and mash” (cook, wash and mash). This is a pan-Caribbean idiom for women who were at the beck and call of their men. Mash is another word for sex.
She was a kriol gyal and my dad was a limey (local name for British soldiers).
But who was I exactly? I wanted to know.
Jean Shaw, Kriol Gyal
Tom Shaw, Limey
I had a general idea what my mix was and I knew I was mostly European. It wasn’t enough. I wanted concrete information so I put my spit in a tube and mailed it to 23AndMe.
Less than 6 weeks later, I got my results: European, Native American andWest African.
Here’s the breakdown that comes close to 100% of me.
11.9% Native American. I was a bit lost on that one til I realized it included Mayan ancestry.
12.2% West African, anywhere from Senegal to Nigeria.
Finally! I was claiming a culture that was actually mine this time!
That’s why the music hit me the way it did. Having grown up in the Caribbean, it was the part of me I felt most connected to. It was mine. Pablo and I were through. Well, not really. He may have had Native American ancestry which was also mine so maybe we could still hang Pablo.
Woman of Many Colors
The pie chart showing the ancestry by color tickled me.
My dad is on the right – mostly blue, indicating British/Irish and Eastern European descent.
My mom is on the left – mostly deep reds, indicating West & North Africa, some yellow for Native American and orange for East Asian descent. I have yet to understand where the European on my mom’s side is.
At any rate, she was a woman of many colors – kriol gyal, indeed.
Powder Bun and Me
When I shared my newfound understanding of who I was, one reaction I got was “So, you’re basically white” hahaha.
YES, I’m mostly white but have you ever followed a powder bun recipe (local pastry in Belize) and forgot the salt or the baking powder? The result was not the same. These tiny bits of ingredients completely change the outcome.
Native American and West African are like the tiny bits of ingredients that make me whole and complete. I’ve done meditations where I saw people who looked like they were a part of tribes. They were African and Mayan.
I wish my mom were alive today – I’d tell her how much I love that her genes defined how my hair is and that I finally grew to love my hair absolutely. I’d tell her that my son’s hair is a tangible reminder of her – not as thick or coarse but very similar. Certainly, I’d encourage her to stop using relaxers so she, my niece and I could all rock our natural locks in complete confidence. Lastly, I’d tell her that it’s not true that “white people can’t dance” because I swear I got my rhythm from my dad. Well, perhaps it’s unfair to credit him with all my dance moves. That 12.2% must count for something other than my hair.
23AndMe brought some clarity and inspired me to lean in love for my natural hair. The curls, fro and frizz bring random strangers to ask me, “What are you?”. I’m many things and Afrobeat(s) is a glorious part of my natural rhythm.
Nwa Baby by Flavour
By the way, I finally did find the first Afrobeat(s) I fell in love with. The name of the song is Nwa Baby by Flavour who hails from Nigeria. It is, to date, one of my favorite songs, period.
Not only do my hips sway, but my heart sings and my body feels light and full of shakti every single time I hear it.
Knowing your ancestry is vital. Maya Angelou once said she walked into rooms filled with people knowing that all her ancestors preceded her. There’s a sense of power in your veins when you walk with that kind of knowing. “Drums of My Father by E Roy Cayetano is an ode to his ancestors. I’d love this poem just for the title alone. It reminded me of why I love certain types of drumming in music – drums of my father. Now that I know my DNA, it makes perfect sense why I feel connected to his poem – drums of my father, indeed.
Here are a few more songs out of West Africa for your listening pleasure.
May your body find the beat of my ancestors and may it wrap you in love always.