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Soft and strong

November 19, 2019

In the past three-ish years I have experienced many new beginnings and starts:

Becoming a mama

Opening a yoga studio

Buying a new home

Co-Designing and writing a Yoga Teacher Training

Leading a first Yoga Teacher Training

Launched Starshine & Clay Yoga Retreats for Women of Color

Led six sold out yoga retreats

Launched Held Mentor Program

Cultivated a continuing education program at SCW

I have experienced endings and losses:

The death of my father

The loss of my brother and friend Richard

Walking with a loved one through an aggressive cancer

A business breakup and leadership restructuring at Sacred Chill

Selling my first home

Rookie business mistakes that costs thousands that I didn’t have at the time

And there’s more.

I know that I am the one that experienced all of these beginnings and endings, and yet- in the mothering and creating, I hadn’t fully registered the ALLness of it.

In my mind I was like… whew… yeah. It’s been a lot. It’s real life and adulting though? Right?

And then a friend said to me “Octavia—it hasn’t been one ending or one new beginning in a short amount of time— it’s been SEVERAL. You have the physical rest thing down. You rest your body. And now, what about your heart and emotions?”

My inner response- “ What about my heart and emotions? Girl, we good.”

I literally come from a woman, my mama, who could be in the darkest moments of her life and still be walking, working, creating, singing, praising God, and making a way for all of us.

And she’d often do ALL of that without mumbling a word to anyone about any of it.

I Inherited that capacity to keep on keepin’ on. To not skip a beat, even when the music takes a drastic turn.

What did that capacity cost my mama in her own humanity? And what does it cost me?

Yet and still, could I exist in my wholeness right now, if she’d been broken under the lash of poverty, patriarchy, and racism? Would I exist right now, without that inheritance?

I don’t know that anyone ever asked my mama, “What about your heart and emotions?”

To the warrior woman I come from. To the priestess within her that refused to die. To the survivor, I kneel at a new altar. 

At this altar, it is her strength that allows me the reckoning with my own softness. Now.

It is the memory of her daily grand rise up and grit that affords me the possibility of laying down and listening to amazing grace slowly, now.

I kneel in front of a new altar in honor of my heart, emotions, and my mamas and her mamas.

In that place I lay down, and I don’t sleep. I awaken. I  lay there and listen to the river of all time running through me. I listen to tears. Ancient mourning songs. I pray. I feel.  I open to another possibility. One that allows me and her to be hurricane strong and soft like june rain at the same time.

I can be soft and strong at the same time.

Mama, you can too.

Mothering my way.

October 20, 2019

I love being a mama. Being a mama woke me all the way the EFF up to my power as a woman in so many surprising ways.⁠

I didn’t expect this awakening. I didn’t expect this level of fierceness and empowerment to be born within me as I crossed the threshold into motherhood 3.5 years ago. I didn’t expect it because I’ve seen both women and motherhood dismissed and devalued. ⁠

For me, my inner work and mothering are deeply intertwined.⁠
Doing my inner work supports me in being my most honest, compassionate, and free self with my son. ⁠
It allows me to release patterns, conditioning, learned ways of being that I don’t want to perpetuate. It allows me to honor that within my personal and our collective lineage I want to bring forward and continue.⁠

I also know this:⁠
My son is learning so much about what to expect from women. ⁠
What equity looks like or doesn’t. ⁠
What harmonious partnership looks like or doesn’t. The creative capacity of women. What self respect in a woman looks like. What self love can look like— he’s learning so much about women from me and how I move through our home and community as one. ⁠

I am not trying to be perfect. I don’t know what that is anyway. ⁠

Context matters, and my context is that I am partnered with my son’s father.⁠

I am deliberate. My husband and I are both deliberate in what we model to our son. In who cooks. In who cleans. In who tends to him. In whose work is prioritized and when. We both know how powerful our model is— even in this wild and often misguided/misogynistic world.⁠

We ain’t tryna to raise a man who thinks that women have a place and he gets to define or coerce her into it. ⁠

This is intimate work and also requires potent awareness of how our daily actions affirm or disrupt the status quo + narrative about what being a woman, mothering/parenting – is supposed to look like.⁠

If I am always the sacrifice, what will my son think equitable accountability and responsibility look like in partnership? or even beyond that?⁠

How will he trust he can become his fullest self and the range of his humanity, if I am not boldly living into my own wholeness and activating mine?⁠

Beloved,

If you do not love yourself, flaws and all, it doesn’t matter who else says they love you. You will not believe them. You will pull them into your irreverence for yourself. They will see how you treat you.  They will take notes.

The best of them will simply walk away and remember how beautiful, smart, and fierce they thought you could be. The worst of them will break your heart and teach you new ways to do the same. You accept the love you believe that you deserve.

Can I tell you, sweetheart, you deserve so much devotion, compassion, fierce deep love. Someone who will not leave you even when the night is long and the valley is deep. That someone is you. You deserve yourself.

Your life is worth fighting for.  I am glad you decided to keep on. I am glad you remembered to pray. I am glad that somehow, some way in your darkest moment,  grace showed up. I am so glad that grace whispered, “you can release the pain from your body without ending it.” I bow deeply to the part of you/me that choose the light of yoga from that abysmal place we crouched in. Thank you for deciding that if you could just make it to one class, then the next, then the next, you could keep living. 

Babygirl, please pay your bills on time. That includes student loans.

Your words are your weapon. They are also sacred balm. Be deliberate in how you use them.

In the words of 3000, “Don’t pull your thangs out, unless you plan to bang.”

You were so brave to move across the country to live and teach Middle School Language Arts in Phoenix, Arizona. To stay, even when you were lonely, scared, and just wanted to go back home or go do work that wasn’t as soul shifting and demanding as teaching. Thank you for being open to learning as much as you thought you were there to teach. For allowing the children of South Phoenix in particular, to expand your heart in all directions.  They were the first ti fully affrim to you that to teach is to learn.

In the words of  Rayya Elias. “The truth has legs; it always stands. When everything else in the room has blown up or dissolved away, the only thing left standing will always be the truth. Since that’s where you’re gonna end up anyway, you might as well just start there.” 

You don’t have to play nice. You only have to be real

Be courageous enough to hold your father’s hands, look him in the eye, and say “these hands broke my heart and somehow I still love you more than I ought to. We can’t begin again. We can’t even wash these hands clean. We can be honest, now. Can we?” Be wise enough to express the love through the pain with him. You don’t have as much time as you think.

Thank you for loving yourself enough, to know when transformative love arrived. Thank you for allowing Jemar to love and merge destinies with you. 

You will learn what it means to deeply love someone you never held, yet who deeply touched you. You will learn how to bury a bodiless being. There will only be two people at the memorial. You and him. You will grieve what people treat invisible. You will recover from that miscarriage. It will take you a while. You won’t forget it though.  

Forgive yourself, first.

So much Love,

O

Lineage & Legacy

October 11, 2019

we can love our families of origin and also name the ways that we’ve been hurt within them. ( Whew…That line was not easy for me to write .)⁠

My mama. Black. Woman. My daddy Black. Man. Both had so much pressure and stress. So much unsolved trauma and pain- personal, familial and systemic.⁠

I now deeply understand that in raising me- they did the best that they could do, from moment to moment.⁠

And that from moment to moment, it varied greatly.⁠

I also understand that some times their best was muted and messy. tangled up with fear, shame, rage, and too much pain.⁠

My awareness of all of their struggles (and more than I can type here) makes me extremely protective of my parents. That need to hold them safe in my heart, memory, and any re-tellings of my own life- even at my own expense makes the inner work I am currently engaging in: the digging in- ⁠
the excavating-the seeking to understand the roots of the roots of the root of so much of my “stuff”—That work is challenged by my protecting of them within me.⁠


where I come from, we don’t air our dirty laundry. We scrub up real nice before anything is revealed.⁠
Where I come from we are misunderstood and misrepresented so often that we are careful not to add to it by talking too loud or too long about our dysfunction, pain, hurt- no matter where the infliction comes from.⁠


I understand it and perhaps you do as well.⁠

and… I can’t honor that code anymore. At least, not within myself. I can no longer leave things un-examined within me in order to “protect” someone else.⁠


I won’t be standing on a soap box talking about what my folks did or didn’t do. I don’t need the public to “consume” that. me or us.⁠


I do have to look and feel- for myself -the impact and experience of “their best” even when it was mangled and a misstep.⁠


It’s an act of deeper love for self, my parents, and family. It’s a deeper devotion to examine and name our collective darkness . I know that all of those ways were learned, internalized, and passed on. ⁠

Which means they can be unlearned, released, and stopped.⁠


As I heal, I transform my lineage and legacy.⁠

Ase.⁠

Discernment

October 7, 2019

My skill set and capacity gained in previous careers informs how I co-lead my yoga studio, @sacredchillwest. The learning curve is steep in some places. I also work with knowledgeable accountants, a mindful business coach, and another studio consultant who has owned six studios. I say this to say that I invest on the yoga and business side of doing my work- continually.
I am learning how to sustain and grow a yoga studio. I don’t mentor people in that area.

I have 13 years of experience teaching yoga in many capacities: part time, full time, in my own studio, as a respected trainer, a retreat leader, festival presenter, and in a plethora of other spaces. I know the layers of what it means to teach yoga and carve out your own unique offerings as a teacher. I understand what it means to start with the resources you have. I do mentor yoga teachers along that path- the contours of that journey are set in my bones.

If someone is saying they can give you advice on how to open a yoga studio + run one, ask some basic questions:
Do they have a website for their studio/ a place that you can gleam more about their work and the impact of it?
How long have they been in business?

Some follow up questions: Who is their teacher, mentor and/or coach? I believe every Teacher needs a Teacher. Every Mentor needs a Mentor. Every Coach needs a Coach.
Do they have verifiable and working social handles for their business?
Who are their students and what do their students have to say about their experience?

Yoga teachers. Let us be discerning in who we invite into our visions, goals, and dreams. Ask questions of people who are posting the most and being the loudest on some of the support groups and entrepreneurial online spaces that we participate in. Research who folk are and their work- dig deeper.
In our hunger to reach more people, share work we love, and create in a way that is sustainable + honors the effort we put into training and being a student/teacher of yoga- let us not grasp for the microwave & a quick way to satisfy our deepest desires.

Or as my Memaaw would say, “don’t fall for no wooden nickels.” The short cut is the longest way in this work, ya’ll.

Shift and rise.

September 16, 2019

Running a yoga studio is some of the most challenging work you can possibly do while raising a family. Layer in navigating personal oppression and marginalization while walking out one’s purpose to create space for others who are oppressed and marginalized to have space to heal. The challenge becomes exponential.

What folk see from the outside looking in… transformative trainings, revolutionary retreats, the expanding power of chill… All of that is not 10% of the story.

The sheer grit. The fortitude. The willingness to commit deeply and profoundly despite the risk of failure at most every step and turn. The summoning of inner power to dismiss hesitation again and again.

It takes trust that what you are creating is bigger than your doubts, risk of failure, or ego.
Trust that what you are creating is bigger than right now.

It takes deep love to hold so many people through their joy, their cracking open, their surrender, their truth AND their entitlement, their untruth, their resistance, complaints, and limited capacity or unwillingness to see what it really costs (energetically, financially, and beyond) to do the specific work that running a small business/ studio requires.

More days than not, I meet the challenge with reverence, clarity, brave hope, and quiet joy.

Just like everybody else, I am human. I have days where I feel like I need to have a word with Ganesha/Jesus and nem- about the obstacles being too many, and not the way.

Sacred Chill West will officially be three in October. This year has felt like both the longest valley and steepest climb. I’ve found myself in a broken down chariot, on the edge of many unfamiliar and dark roads. Wondering how something so purposeful could be so challenging. How a vision I hold so clearly, can be so misunderstood.

Then miracles come.

Dara, a studio owner I’ve never met “randomly” reaching out to say “I see you. I see the work that you are doing. Whatever this moment is offering you ‘put the situation in the hands of Infinite Love and Wisdom’”

Danielle, (a student, teacher, and business owner) I met while leading a Starshine & Clay Retreat emails “out of the blue” to say:“Thank you for honoring what has been divinely gifted to you on so many levels. Being in a lineage of Baptist preachers, along with having a heart for ministry and service myself, I also know that so much goes on that people do not see, know or understand. From first hand experience, I know that there is much that you, your family, your close loved ones/friends go through in living as you live and doing this work. Be encouraged because you are touching so many lives. Your legacy is unfolding.”

And then I hear a whisper of wind call out to me.

I know who and what is unwavering and real.

A shift begins. I rise again.

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