“A Sanctuary is essential”
– Elizabeth Nunez
“All my life I had to fight”
-The Color Purple
Peace \ (noun)- Freedom from violence or turmoil
Celebrating the different facets of myself is something I have struggled with since childhood. To exist as a queer black woman is to disrupt the violent nature of white supremacy. In addition, the complexities of being from two richly colored cultural backgrounds was not understood by many of my African American peers. Hegemony is a thief that seeks to box in and crush the beauty of cultural variety. Throughout elementary to high school, I was seen as too African for the African Americans and too American for the Ghanaians. Through learning my ancestral history, journeying to Ghana and visiting other parts of the world where people of the African Diaspora reside, I am learning to break the shackles society has placed upon me so I can live more freely and creatively. But alas, there is still work to be done.
Policing myself for other people’s comfort is something I’m ashamed to say I do to this day. In Ghana, I dressed more conservatively because I didn’t like the way people (mostly men) would stare at me if I wore ‘revealing’ clothes. When people would offend me, I had to tuck the Philadelphia away because I did not want to disrupt the culture of casual and unchecked shadiness. Transitioning back to the United States was another mountain to climb. I had changed, and so had my environment. My majority black neighborhood was now mostly white. A week after I returned, my partner and I called it quits. At the end of the first month, I realized the amount of baggage I was carrying—and how heavy it was. It was time to let some things go.
Tuning out the external noise so I can develop and work towards building better futures for generations in the offing is an ongoing process. Through practicing meditation, I am learning how to hear my internal voice, go with my gut, and communicate with my ancestors and higher powers more clearly.
Because our trip to Jamaica centered around cleansing and rebirth, we bathed in both salt and fresh water throughout the trip. My salt water experience occurred at Burwood Beach in Trelawny. (Check out my trip to Burwood Beach here). This time, we visited Dunn’s River Park in Ocho Rios (eight rivers in Spanish), a parish in St. Anne’s, Jamaica to bathe in the fresh water and meditate . I was excited to come here because it was close to the place of Bob Marley’s birth. His music has always been a source of liberation for me and other black people around the world.
I loved the Tranquility Garden because of the soothing ambiance. It was filled with lush, green plant life and graceful streams. I value being around trees and foliage because it helps me to breathe better and my brain to function more efficiently. We walked through the gates into the garden and peeked over the wooden bridge to witness water dancing along a stream underneath us. It flowed downward gracefully.
The sound of rushing waves formed a soothing rhythm in my ears. We walked off the wooden bridge and headed to another stream nearby. I peered into the clear blue body, waving my hands back and forth inside the water like they were fins. Being in this brought back a soothing sensation in me that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I closed my eyes and sat on a rock next to the stream. With the musical thrust of every wave, I felt my body relax more and more deeply.
We then sat down on the earth and did 15 minutes of meditation.
In the Yoruba tradition, iṣaro, or meditation, is a practice that is used to communicate with higher powers and in turn fall in line with your destiny. I remember this often when I am about to meditate and set that as my intention. When at home, I usually shower and sage before I meditate. Before, during and after meditating, I love to listen to silence, soft jazz or the sound of running water.
Through this experience in the Tranquility Garden, I found peace in closing doors that no longer led to liberation. It reiterated the importance of creating sacred spaces for the body and mind to rest, reflect, and let things go.
Here is the meditation regimen I did in the Tranquility Garden. It’s one I most regularly use because it is simple and can be done almost anywhere. If I need a moment to calm on the job, in my room, or even on the train, it comes in handy.
Sit or stand with your shoulders squared.
Place your hands on your stomach.
Breathe in deeply and slowly, allowing your stomach to expand as it fills with air. Take the deepest breath you can, inhaling as much air as your stomach can.
Breathe out deeply and slowly, letting the air release from your stomach. Your hands should feel your stomach shrinking as the air leaves.
Repeat four times.
Be conscious of your breathing; clear your mind of everything except the sound of your breath. All of the movement happening during this exercise should be in your stomach- out as it fills with air, in as the air leaves.
I have learned that rest stops are integral parts of survival. Actively creating safe spaces to recharge, rest and release are some of the ways that I am healing and allow more room for new journeys of learning.
**Photos by SunKissed Nation.