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Dear Yoga Studio Owners:

I share this letter with awareness that many of you/us are head + heart deep in some serious challenges to keep our studios alive. I share this with reverence for what it means to risk it all for your dream, your studio, your community. I also share this as a former teacher trainer, current mentor, and owner who has witnessed Oneness be defined in a way that dismisses entire populations of people. I share this as a portal of reflection.

At Sacred Chill West, we have trained 33 Yoga and Meditation teachers. 31 of those individuals identify as BIPOC {Black Indigenous People of Color}

Less than a handful of those individuals teach at yoga studios other than Sacred Chill.

I mentor yoga teachers from all over the country. I have mentored 31 individuals in the last two years. 30 of those individuals identify as BIPOC.

Two of the Black teachers I mentored who finally “landed” a gig at a yoga studio were asked to audition at least THREE times. At my studio we have an intentional hiring process. It’s detailed. No one has auditioned three times. No one.

There are so many well trained yoga teachers in Atlanta and many studios hire from their own teacher training. I understand that. I do the same thing most of the time. Not all of the time.

Yet it has never ceased to amaze me that studios with 10-30 teachers on roster, in a city as Black and diverse as Atlanta will have ZERO or one/two Black teachers on staff.

If you think the solution is simply scholarships to your training, retreat, program. You need anti-racism education. You need inner work.
If you think the solution is simply hiring more Black/Brown teachers. Again, start with your inner work.
If you think the solution is a few days of diversity and inclusion training. See above.
If you think the solution is a day Black out of social media screens or one weekly newsletter. See above.
If you think the solution is a donation based class and that’s the extent of it. See above.
If you are planning to email me to pick my brain about what the solution is… again see above and then consider hiring Shane Roberts of Red Clay Yoga, Kelley Palmer, or Michelle Johnson to specifically consult you on that work. They have spent decades studying and doing it. I haven’t.

To be clear, all of the above may be useful.

To be clearer, there’s a bigger problem.

Ask yourself the question why are there so few Black teachers and students in your community?
I know you may have thought it before, even turned it over in your mind and heart, yet thought the answer was beyond you. Or about “them” not you.

What would happen if you asked yourself the question “do Black teachers and students feel welcome in my yoga space?” Why or why not? Does the way I train and orient teachers, managers, and staff support an authentic and welcoming environment? Do I embody welcomeness? What if you allowed yourself to answer the questions humbly and honestly?

Without a devoted commitment to facing the structures within yourself that have allowed you to do and say nothing or very little until now, you can’t bravely or sincerely face others.

To shift the outward “looking” dynamics in your yoga or wellness business, you have to look within. You have to listen. You have to unlearn. You have to relearn. There is no other way.

This moment is urgent AND It won’t be a quick fix. Strive for steady versus only speed.

My teacher Dr. Gail Parker says “you can be right or you can be in a relationship.”

You have to decide that what you think or thought was right is less important than coming into relationship with what is true about who you have been.

You have to risk who you have been in order to become who you can be. Someone who can more skillfully navigate and hold both light and dark. Someone you can powerfully lead.

From that truth, your knowing of the vastness of Oneness will grow and so will our community.

Love,

Octavia Raheem

When you call.

May 11, 2020

I know this is true. When we call, God comes.

Come by here, my lord, come by here. Come by yuh, my lord, Come by yuh. Kumbaya, Kumbaya.

During my 60-ish hour labor with my son, I consulted all of my logical, rational, book-ish knowledge. I clung to the plan I made even though my first encounter with a real contraction devoured that plan and spit it in my face. I tensed against every wave for hours and thought that if I could just “get it together” and control my body, I could control my labor.

Come by here, my lord, come by here. Come by yuh, Come by yuh. Kumbaya, Kumbaya.

In the literal 56th hour. Exhausted. Weary and after looking for an escape, only to realize that the only way out is through. In that 56th hour I turned to my doula. I turned to my husband. I turned to my nurse and midwife. I said I need Jesus to come by here. I need Oshun. I need Yemaya. I need every elevated Ancestoral Mama I have. I need all of them to come by here.

My doula began to sing. Come by here, come by here. Come by yuh, Come by yuh, Kumbaya, Kumbaya. She added names and mamas as she sang. I called and they came.

It was the most sacred roll call of my life and I felt the presence of everything Holy as each entered.

Only after I had surrendered my plans, will, ego, ideas of how it ought to be and called out to The Divine did my baby turn and drop down. The rest of the journey was ecstatic and glorious.

I could have called at any time, yet for me it took hours (equivalent to months in labor:) to let go and accept- this. This is how it is.

Right now, we are all in a long labor and at the 56th hour. A time of immense destruction and creation. Birth.

May you have the strength to surrender and call.

Dear God. Come by here, come by here. Stop by our hearts.
Come by yuh, Come by yuh. Enter our minds.
Kumbaya, Kumbaya. Visit this place and stay a while.

We need to see you. We need to hear a word from you.

Come by here.

who you gon’ listen to- now?

What voice is the most reliable.
Who is there to trust?
Every other report is conflicting.

People are fighting-
on the internet
in the streets
in their houses
in the hospitals /fighting for their lives.

many are fighting for a return to a world that no longer exists. A world that is a close and distant memory.

People are dying.
we see the numbers on the internet
Those numbers have names.
First and last names. Those numbers mean something.
Those numbers mean everything to someone.

Businesses are closing-
temporarily and forever.
Businesses are re-opening.
We see the names on the internet
Behind those names are people
who had dreams. People with families.
People who put their last in a place
that come May or June first, may no longer exist
whether they re-open soon or not.

People are getting sick. People are healing.
From viruses and a multitude of pain they didn’t have time to name until now.
And others are filling up all of the time to avoid feeling anything other than the tapping beneath their fingers as they work and work and work.

She won’t stay inside. He won’t leave the house.
She is frozen in fear. He has moved over his edge.

But “Who’s report will you believe?”

Who’s voice is the loudest in your ear. Is it your voice or someone else’s? Is it your Divine or something else?

Lean into the practices, rituals, and prayers that keep you close to your intuition. To pure wisdom and the spirit of discernment.

Believe the report that arrives when you tune in.
Believe the report that arrives when you tune in.

Lift every voice.

April 17, 2020

Yesterday, while scrolling through my timeline I came across a story that made my heart hurt. Someone shared that they were receiving reports of an apartment complex where Black elders and children had began to eat garbage. This report came from the South. From the USA. Year 2020.

They shared that most of the people in the complex who had no car so any solutions for how to get them food would need to include going directly to the apartments.

I couldn’t just scroll by. I read four comments down. By the 5th comment a nonprofit leader had been tagged. By the 6th comment that leader had tagged 3 more women. By the 7th comment we were sending funds for the purchase of food and essentials. A store run, a plan to protect each person who volunteered to deliver, and a way organize, package and safely distribute food to everyone in the complex was in action by the 8th comment. Several comments down there was a picture of the newly forged delivery team masked/gloved up and praying before they began distribution. The thread ended with a plan to continue the food service until further notice.

I am inspired by how women all over our nation,
how Black women and folx with limited resources are quietly showing up, organizing, responding, and feeding communities while “officials” continue to fumble and throw the people crumbs.

This. is. not. new. though.

As the weeks go one, the depth of another longstanding disease is being exposed yet again. It’s ugly and oozing. Systemic racism seems to be one of the few things this novel virus can’t keep in the house.

But-Can we keep our eyes open this time?
And see the truths being revealed that may threaten our world view even more than this moment already has?
The disproportionate loss of lives in communities of color right now aren’t merely “lifestyle” choices, but have at least 400 year old bloody roots, no matter what Jerome says.

The streets are quiet. Can you hear the screams emerging from the margins, some dying to be centered? There is a lot to reckon with right now. A lot.

Today, I lift my voice to say it plain. Racism is deadly.

Naming this is part of the collective healing and medicine needed right now too.

In the last trimester of pregnancy I unexpectedly lost a work contract I depended on. ⁠


Strange things began to happen physically and I ended up being monitored for potential prenatal heart complications. Near the very end I was told my amniotic fluid may get low and to be prepared for induction. I felt like I was crawling up a steep mountain those last few weeks. I wouldn’t trade anything for my journey right now. And⁠
my heart is with those of you traversing any of this through a pandemic.⁠

Within my challenges I had an excellent team of midwives, a doula, and birth educator who listened to and cared for me. Ultimately my delivery was empowering and life changing in 108 positive ways. I hope the same thing for those of you birthing during this time. May your process bring healing to you, your lineage, and legacy.⁠

We stayed in the house for the first few months of my son’s life. I’m a “country” mama and rarely took my baby out or “showed” him when he was still wet, new, and pink. I taught yoga or worked at night and spent my day holding my son so close it felt like we were breathing each other.⁠
My breath is with those breathing into new life through the thick air of right now.⁠

Then the anxiety started. Postpartum. During those days I could hear a cough/ sneeze miles away and see clouds of germs descending from 6,000 feet above. Yes, the way my anxiety worked, this was the complete truth in my mind and I battled with it. Even with therapy, it was still a fight. My warrior spirit is with those who are clawing through the messy parts of postpartum that go unspoken, buried in shame, and unacknowledged. I honor that you are fighting all of this during a global war. You deserve for us all to be your army.⁠

Expectant and new mothers, four years ago I was you.⁠
and today I am thinking of you.⁠

I offer you this prayer:⁠

May The Mother of all protect and guide you safely through labor and birth.⁠
May those born this season of this year come in peace and health.⁠
May The Mother of Grace carry you and your baby into a brighter day.⁠

May The Mother of Grace hold us all.⁠

Rest to rise.

March 31, 2020

It all hit me Sunday Morning.

The true depth and scope of what our world is going through.

Meryl and I temporarily closed our studio, Sacred Chill {West} two weeks ago now and I have been operating in entrepreneurial mama survival beast mode this whole time. In some ways, working is a distraction from truly realizing just where we collectively are. I’ve been laser focused on what I can do to ensure my son continues to thrive, learn, and grow and sustain Sacred Chill {West}, a beloved community that was born only a few months after my son.

Every single day, I dance/crawl/stumble/stomp through hope, faith, compassion, exhaustion, misery, defeat, gratitude, moments of joy, and even a sense of empowerment.

I know I’m not alone on this daily tour through every emotion imaginable…the entire world is feeling this.

But Sunday morning I woke up in physical pain that was only alleviated by letting the tears fall. Every urgent ‘business’ and mama detail fell to the background and I started crying and couldn’t stop.

My husband asked, what’s the matter?

I said “It feels like my life’s work, every thing I have sacrificed and worked so damn hard to build the last 14 years went up in smoke over night.”

Through sobs I mumbled, I thought I could “outrun or work my way out of this reality and feeling. I miss my studio. I miss my teachers. I miss my students. I miss my Thursday in person meetings with Meryl and mapping out future plans. I miss training yoga teachers. I miss leading retreats. I miss the immersions that may not happen…

I know the world is rapidly shifting and so much is changing. Lives are being lost… and it still feels so human and important to name the losses that are small in comparison.

My husband sat there. He did nothing. He said nothing. He just sat with me as I sat with myself, my tears, and a profound moment of softness unfolded.

Later that day I practiced empowered wisdom yoga nidra and an image of a sleeping phoenix emerged.

We know the phoenix rises from ashes. What about when the phoenix is tired?

Y’all, we can’t muscle and push through this. Not this. Not now.

We need to release and rest before we rise. In fact, we need to release and rest in order to be able to rise in our power the way that this unprecedented moment demands.

We need to feel in order to heal. We need to cry to cleanse. We need space to fall apart and come together- over and over again.

We need to call in and on what sustains and strengthens us in order to open enough, to be soft enough to receive nourishment in this moment when so many feel completely depleted.

We can’t “get over” this moment. Getting over is a bypass and we can’t skirt around any of this.

We must get through. And we need clear, steady, energy to do that.

We need restored energy to do that.

We need connection to what is sacred in order to do that.

We need deep breaths, pauses, and chill to do that.

We can not outrun or work our way out of this reality and our feelings. It’s not optional, it’s imperative that we slow down, right now.

In this moment, our lives and livelihoods depend on our capacity to rest and restore.

Restore a sense of connection in a world where distancing is what keeps us safe.

Restore a relationship to our own center in a world teetering on the edge.

Restore awareness of an inner rhythm at a time when the space between 8am-12pm feels like a month, yet every week is a jumbled blur.

When we rest, we restore.

Today and tomorrow depends on our ability to rest… in order to expand our collective capacity to rise.

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