**originally posted on my previous blog/site on April 29, 2014**
I have been sitting on a post for weeks. I wrote three different drafts, each time getting writers block and each time deleting it. I finally asked myself, what is my end goal with this post, with hopes of being able to sit down with more clarity and focus? And the answer was simple: Love is the real guru. Guru means remover of darkness. Love is the real remover of darkness. I did not want to write something that delved too deep into what I am personally experiencing nor did I want to ignore the challenges us communities of color face in the exploration of what I wanted to discuss. So here goes draft number four……
Communities of color could use more examples of solid, healthy love (one could argue it’s an epidemic in the U.S. as a whole or the whole world thanks to globalization but for the purposes of this post I shall focus on just my experiences within my community but feel free to apply this broadly if you so choose). We could use more examples, starting with what it means to genuinely love ourselves. It has taken me a solid 32 years to understand this concept and I am learning new aspects of it every single day.
First I had to peel off the layer of guilt of putting myself first. THIS is a thick layer for us women of color, as a Dominican/Boriqua, I came out the womb being told that I must take care of everyone else in the family first. Next, I had to peel off the layer that told me that any act of self-love that did not involve spending hours on a Saturday in the salon getting my hair done or my nails done was a frivolous form of self-love. Yes I know how oxymoronic that sounds but even in our acts of self-love they were supposed to be for others. I had to then peal away the years and years of trauma done to my body by its constant sexualization and policing by my brothers, my sisters and the world at large. Moving past the body politics then comes the work of understanding our value when it is not connected to how we look. Working through these layers requires practicing so much self-love and a rewiring of our thought and behavioral patterns that sometimes we need to step away from everything and retreat into ourselves.
How self-indulgent that sounds! Yes, I know and I do not see anything wrong with this. Again, we are fed this story that this is selfish to put our emotional, mental and physical well being first; but taking the time to do the work of loving myself is the biggest gift I have to offer anyone. We live in a society that tells us to be indulgent but never self-indulgent. We are fed this idea that Things give us value, that Things fix us, that Things make everything better. But all it really does is create more clutter in which we need to filter through in order to see our true selves. How many of us look in the mirror and look at ourselves? No, I don’t mean look at how we physically look. I mean how often do we look into our eyes with the same kind of love and softness we look into the eyes of a lover, a child, a parent? So often we close off our hearts in exactly the moments we need them to stay open, which makes looking at ourselves sometimes difficult and sometimes painful. We search for the easy fixes to all the messages we receive that kind of destroy the essence of our true Selves.
So where does one begin? While everyone’s journey is different, I do think there are some things that should/must be done. Spend some time in front of the mirror, naked, and listen to how you talk to yourself. Make sure you are offering yourself tender loving kindness. Tell yourself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the hair you were born with, there is nothing wrong with the color of your skin, no matter what shade it is. It doesn’t matter what kind of accent you have or where you were born, our ancestors live through us regardless. All my life, I was never Puerto Rican enough for my Boriqua family and never Dominican enough for my Quisqueya family. My hair was considered a pajon because it is curly and I hated having it combed. I was always told how lucky I was that I never had to worry about what I ate because I was such a flaca- not knowing that deep inside I struggled with not having the “infamous Latina curves”.
Find an outlet, be it dancing, singing, boxing, walking, whatever works for you. Get a journal and start writing to yourself. Become best friends with yourself. Find a few moments alone and be present with yourself, even if the only moments alone you have are in the shower-relish every single second of it! Do yoga (you knew I had to throw that in there right? LOL) MEDITATE!
And when the road gets hard, offer more LOVE into the road. Trust me, the road will get hard, because life is hard. I am not sure why we hold on to this belief that life is meant to be a smooth ride. In those moments where the wave seems just too high to ride, drop the story and just feel. I have been doing a lot of this lately. Our storage house for love, our hearts, is such a vulnerable space and one we want to protect so vigilantly. However, we must remember to let the light shine in, always. I have a lot of energy running through me with the events that have occurred in my life recently and when the wave comes that just seems to big to ride, I offer myself kindness by not talking bad to myself, by literally saying to myself “ok Minerva, drop the story, just feel”. Sometimes, I will even place my hand on my heart because this is where I feel it. I may chant, offer myself an affirmation “this too shall pass Minerva”, or just sit in silence and cry. And that is all ok. I am offering myself my genuine love. By doing this with myself, I am able to remember that the person who may have hurt me is not beneath me, nor am I better than them. They too are on their own journey, whatever it may look like for them and I am no one to judge.
See when we begin to have this genuine love with ourselves we are able to see the divinity within and around us. Something our ancestors knew all too well, that is why they lived in accordance with mama earth. Earlier when I said that the biggest gift I could offer anyone was the love I have for myself, this what I meant. You begin to shine from within, when you keep yourself open in the midst of what may feel like your annihilation, your light is still on. And that shit is contagious! Trust me.
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche says: The experience of a sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if someone hits you, you will hit them back. But we aren’t talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.
My sisters, drop the stories, unpack the manifestations of colonialism, get naked, love thyself. Be free in a world that continually tries to tell us that we have no wings. Swaha- throw that shit in the fire and dance! And as the Lorde says: if I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.
paz & namaste