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Faith during Covid- 19

March 19, 2020

What have you had to remember over the last 7-10 days?
What is it you know that you know even right now?

Last night previous cohorts of my Held mentor group for yoga teachers and wellness workers gathered (online) to be in community, breathe and ground, reflect, and pray.

Despite us not being in a physical space together, the essence of Spirit and our Honorable Ancestors were deep and “thick” in “the room”.

We talked about remembering how to garden, cook nourishing meals at home, create art/music/poetry/dance, cultivate rituals that keep us close to God.

We remembered that underneath all chaos there is The Constant. When we pause, yield, and surrender, we notice it.

We remembered the wisdom, sayings, and songs of our mothers and grandmothers: “Lord don’t move my mountain, give me the strength to climb…”

We remembered that we are one anothers’ safe place and refuge.

I asked the group to journal about what they know that they know right now:
Many of us agreed that we know we will be forever changed and transformed by this.
We will be more real. More honest. More courageous. More compassionate.

We know that we are learning to be ourselves.

We ended our gathering with silent and spoken prayers:
Dear God, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. We do know we are held.

And so it is.

Saturday a student asked me how I was feeling about all that is going on.
I Inhaled and the word that I exhaled and spoke was brave.

Brave, not because I have things stored, coffers, a stash, or any one/institution/system to come to my rescue.

Brave, not as if there is not a single fear rattling me awake each night because there is. Like, what world have I brought my beloved son into?

Brave, not because somehow I know Sacred Chill {West} will still be standing after all of this. I don’t know that.

Brave because of what I have already lived through:
Food, clothes, and housing insecurity
Lack of access to equitable and safe education
Limited means of transportation
Rationing of everyday “essentials”: soap, toilet paper, tooth paste, hot water
Unreliable consistency in utilities

I could go on.This was part of my childhood reality despite my mama working two jobs and me working as early as 14 years old.

I come from a forgotten place.

In this historical moment, I have been looking back at that place in wonder and remembering.

I have been looking back through the pages of my memory in order to Gather courage.

That place that raised me demanded I learn to be brave, even when scared. If not, I would have been a prisoner of fear from my first breath.

And so perhaps it’s time for us all to look back.
And see where you have made it through in spite of fear, uncertainty, and hardship.
Look back and remember the bottom of the valleys that you’ve risen from.
Look back and honor the beasts you’ve fought. Perhaps you have the scars to remind you.
You are still here. And will be.

Look back and then look here.

Look here and see what resources you really truly need to see you through.

Decide to look and see a way through.

Image: Where I am from: Gainesville, Georgia

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.― Arundhati Roy

Listen. We are descending into quiet. Being thrown into it, really. I hear a sound so striking in its silence that it has displaced us all. It has put us in our place.


We can no longer out run this without collectively slowing down. We can not profit from this without the bottom meticulously falling out. We can not package, sell, or otherwise capitalize on this without paying with our very own lives.

We can no longer be American in the way that we have learned to be:
Consumed with work
Away from our families while saying… family matters.

We can not out run this. The only way to beat this is to stop, now. And still. Some of us may lose.

There can be no screaming match here. If we keep yelling over everything and everybody we will miss it.

So stop. Really really stop. Go read. write. rest. take care. paint. cry. dance. love. sit in the rain. grieve. reconnect to the source of your strength. cook at home. call your elders. Pray. be transformed.

Please stop spinning. Please stop scrambling to be productive in the way that mattered yesterday.
Honor the lessons of yesterday and let everything else about that recent yet distant past fall away.

Something is happening NOW that demands that we are present for it.

If we keep going like nothing is happening. We will miss it.

It- being the world that is coming.

I’ve seen glimpses of it in my dreams.
Beloveds, it gets worse. My God, it does.
We get better. My God, we get better.

And then… hallelujah. glory.

It gets better as we get better.
It gets so much better.

Another world is possible.
We are descending into quiet.


self love.

December 12, 2019

We can tuck and hide so much to make ourselves “more lovable” until we confine the parts of us that need the most light, the most real love, the most nourishment to a dark corner of our being. ⁠

This year, I’ve been a devoted student of self love. Studying self love and coming into intimate relationship with myself brought me right up to the place that I’ve learned to ignore and resent within me.⁠

I started this self love journey and thought it would be writing poems, candlelit baths, and going on day dates with myself.⁠

Some of that happened.⁠

I wrote far less “love” poems, yet have journals full of untangled lies where I allowed myself to be completely truthful with myself.⁠

I laid down in many yoga nidra nests and waited on the Goddess of Grace to break my heart open so that I could see what’s been hiding in there. ⁠

I had to come into full contact with that place within that is marred, dark, and so incredibly flawed that I’ve been terrified to touch or look at it in order to love my whole self.⁠

A tangible and tactile way I practiced self love this season is abhyanga (Ayurveda self massage with warm oil) before my yoga nidra or meditation practice.⁠

One day while breathing, massaging, And repeating “I can. I will. I must love and nourish myself deeply” A little voice of wisdom says “self love is this.”⁠

My hand is literally at my underbelly, the place that has morphed into discolored, loose, scarred skin since giving birth. The place that already had so many war markings before that.⁠

This? I silently ask. “Not this, no one loves this.”⁠

Voice of wisdom. “Yes, this. Absolutely this. This is your way to self love.”⁠

Self love is seeing fully, with tenderness and compassion, that part of ourselves that we have learned to believe is most unworthy of being seen, unlovable or flawed.⁠

It is accepting, touching, feeling, tending to, singing to, gazing completely at the place that others have turned their eyes away from.⁠

It is wanting what has been unwanted within us.⁠

It is holding our underbelly, or wherever that place is that we’ve experienced “no one loves this.”⁠

It is loving that part of ourselves.⁠

The path.

December 9, 2019

As a teacher and mentor I know that I can’t responsibly lead anyone further/deeper than I’ve gone. In order to stay within integrity and alignment, I have to be honest when I’ve walked with a student or mentee as far as I can go with them.⁠

As a student I have come to many dark edges and had Teachers who reminded me where I hid my light as they walked with me beyond that part of the way.⁠

I’ve also come to wild and strange places. Just as I was about to enter the darkest part I’ve received the message “that path ahead is for you to go without me.”⁠

“Without me” doesn’t mean no presence. ⁠

Some people/ teachers know they can’t go with us. Those teachers hold vigil. The stay at base camp and tend to the fire we’ll need when we make it home. They pray for us on our journeys and they release us to our destinies. ⁠

Sometimes the teacher is a singular person. Sometimes the teacher is our mama or papa. Sometimes the teacher is our partner or even our child. Sometimes the teacher is a whole community holding space for us, even as they let us go to become who we were born to be.⁠

The map for our most sacred expedition is often only revealed when we are brave enough to step into the unknown, be guided by the light in our heart, the rhythm of our own feet, and the compass of our breath.⁠

At the darkest turn, we may think we are alone. Remember.⁠

Remember someone’s tending the fire and trusting you’ll make it through. ⁠

Broken. Undone. Shifted. Transformed. Yet through.⁠

It is dark in some patches of the journey. Keep going.⁠

You are healing.⁠
You will return.⁠

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.

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