Posts In: truth tellin'

Gratitude Practice

August 12, 2018

We’ve all heard of gratitude practices.Making a list or recounting who and what we are grateful for.

This is a part of my practice. Recently while engaging in this practice I was moved to ugly cry status when someone I was sure had done me all the way wrong emerged in my heart as part of my gratitude list. And then another, and then another, and another. Next it shifted from people to trials, tribulations, valleys that I’d crawled through.

Something opened within me during this gratitude practice. I am not sure what. I didn’t rush to close it up. I have been sitting in this opening for a few days now: Gratitude for the hard people and the lessons the taught, the stuff in the road, and the things that I could once only perceive as obstacles.

Gratitude for complicated truths that only their presence could reveal. Gratitude for the resilience ignited within me. Gratitude for the strength and courage tapped into.

Gratitude for the “calling out” and the “calling up” that showed me where I was not listening to my inner calling. Gratitude for the grace that allowed me to see that shade, mess, doubt are teachers too. Gratitude for my ability to feel,  breathe, and live my way through enough to see that the boulder I thought was in the way was actually showing me where to turn. The person I thought was taking so much from me gifted me immeasurable access to a way forward that would cost me much less. The Love lost was the way I would find deeper love for myself. The bolted door was always a trap distracting me from the space that is opening… now.

You can’t force the gratitude to come.You can sit with it often and hold space for life to crack you open,and show you just how many of your rocks are diamond.

Going to Harvard?

August 7, 2018

I was accepted into Harvard. I didn’t go. That was ten years ago.

I’d taught public school. I’d completed a fellowship as Dean of Faculty with a national educational organization. I’d transformed High School programing as college prep director for an Atlanta nonprofit.

Graduate studies at an Ivy League in educational leadership was clearly the next step in my pursuit of excellence and “making it”…. right?

When I received that “acceptance” I was both exhilarated and terrified.

When I looked at the page, all I saw was “Congratulations “what do you really want Octavia? Who’s life do you want to live?

I’d finally come to the fork in the road that Robert Frost had told me I’d find.

I stood there. I looked back wards. I saw our trailer home, long rides on yellow buses, my mama’s continuing education program that she’d facilitate for me and my sister every summer, and so much else. I saw the challenges and struggles I’d silently endured as a first generation college student during my undergraduate experience. I thought about the education denied to my Ancestors and felt profoundly guilty that this wasn’t an obvious yes to me.

Yet, what is freedom, if not the right to choose, honestly.

I looked ahead and saw my life if I accepted.

It looked Empty. Fragmented. Distorted. I was shocked. What did that mean?

Was it fear? Was it self-sabotage? Was I so devoted to my story that I couldn’t accept this narrative change? I mean, wasn’t this “acceptance” what I wanted when I applied? I sat with so much for the weeks leading up to decision deadline.

The truth came for me. I didn’t ever actually want to apply, be in the program, and get that degree or the job(s) that would come after.

I wanted the approval I thought it would get me. The perception. The status. The “in” it would grant me- even if I couldn’t define that “in” because I had always been “out.” The entire application process had been to appease a faceless crowd that I’d gotten caught up and lost in.

I shared my inner battle with a few people. Some said “ummmm… who says no to chance like that? “ One person told me I was “throwing away my best option to come up.”

My first teacher, my mama came through with the wisdom, “Ask for the courage to listen to your heart, not the expectations. Not even mine. Ask God to show you the yes after the no.  No matter what you choose.”

At my core, I’ve always been an unassuming, nonconforming, creative, questioning, quietly rebellious. Risk- taker.

I deeply appreciate that for some, saying yes would have been the honest and courageous thing to do.


For me, saying yes would have further committed me to living a life that looked incredible, got me the part, and checked so many boxes; except, it wasn’t my own.

A decade has gone by and I’ve looked back at that fork in the road a few times.

My “No” in that moment revealed:

Saying yes to our own life will ask us to defy many expectations. It may not always make sense.

There are many paths to freedom. Sometimes the thing that promises to make us free is nothing more than shiny chains. Only when we walk some distance, can we see that what’s glittering could never be the gold that we already are.

My Ancestors are proud of my courage and actually were the elements of the fork in the road.

The greatest opportunity for each of us is the one that aligns us to our soul’s work.

“Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26

Reflecting back over the past few years of my life, I clearly see my two hands do work, align, gather, and reach. I clearly see my two feet grounded, walk, run, and when I’ve fallen down, my two knees bend, kneel, crawl — onward.

I am one with two hands, feet, knees. 10,000 always roll with me.

Looking back I also see the imprint of 20,000 hands working within mine. 20,000 feet running inside my shoes. 20,000 bending with me. God and Ancestors are my 10,000. My 20,000 hands, feet, knees.

And they ain’t never failed me.
They school me tho. When I want something and am not willing to engage the process or put forth deep honest effort, God and nem have called me out and said to me “beloved, my child, you take two steps, I’ll step with you. You lift two hands, I’ll reach you.”

My faith requires me to both trust and engage process. Requires me to plan, prepare, pray, and participate- not one over the other.

Requires committed effort and that has looked like working two {almost} full times jobs to prepare to leave them both and do what I felt called to, teaching classes, times, places, and a frequency that challenged me (this was finite tho and a route to now), laboring long and over days and nights (to bring my son earthside), paying myself less than $500 a month the first 14 months of owning a studio (to set us up for sustainability, growth, and any sort of chance in this unequally stacked “market”) – the list goes on.


For all of that, for every ounce of sweat, tears, and blood I have put in, I’ve tasted God’s nectar poured into me at least 10,000 fold. And I know. I know a single drop is not wasted.

Mamas, I’m sorry

September 6, 2016

I owe some mamas an apology.
To that one mama:
who returned my text every three months
who called all the time cause she needed to hear real words
who suddenly couldn’t make a lunch date, ever
who brought her kids everywhere
who took her kid nowhere
who left her fancy gig to stay at home
who started a business the year her daughter was born
who left my yoga class before the final mmm of OM every other time
who bought the 10 class card and only used like 1.5 of the sessions
who only talked about baby body functions, nap schedules, and milk production every time I saw her
who didn’t want to mention “kid” or “baby” when she was away from hers
who didn’t want anyone to hold her baby
who wanted everyone to hold her baby
who had on the same pants every time I saw her
who stayed with her because she was afraid to face it alone.
who had a 2nd one coming… 3 months after her first was born
who left him as soon as she could walk straight, after her 2nd was born
who had all the successes, yet said she her life had no purpose until she held her baby in her arms.

Mama hood is a rare open field and wilderness all the same: Uncontrollable, exposed, and exposing.
It is at once a shared and sacred journey. At the same time a lone and mundane one.
The walk is a weighted one. We carry generations on our hips and often times, the future on our backs. While holding close, the present: tiny and growing hands.
The weight is constantly being added to. When you’ve shifted enough to have a handle on it, it changes. Just when your skin toughens from trooping, uncovered through flat plains, the terrain changes.
It gets wild and muddy again. your skin starts to peel, maybe it sheds, now you hella exposed, again.
and see, before I set a foot on this path, I thought I knew something about how your way was going and why it looked a lil cray from my pretty sitting place.

Sounds silly.
But It’s true.

I didn’t have a pedicured toe on the ground you’d been stomping through, yet I thought I knew something of your walk.

I’m finally crawling along now, and big enough to say.
Mama(s) I’m sorry.

Warrior’s welcome

May 20, 2016

A while back I read something regarding postpartum women in another culture from a by gone time.

The article noted that for weeks after giving birth, the mother was mothered and her primary role was to connect to and nurture her baby. The women of the village tended to her so that her and baby could begin and thrive (not simply survive) through the 4th trimester or time immediately following giving birth.

Once that time ended, the new mama and her baby would go back to the village. When they re-entered society they were given a warrior’s welcome.

This struck me: a warrior’s welcome.

I think a warrior’s welcome acknowledges that even in the most peaceful pregnancies and birthing times there is a fight.

Every woman slays her own inner and outer beasts, dips into her own valley, climbs her own rugged or smooth mountain, faces her own Goliath with the dual sling shot of both her strength and surrender in order to bring forth new life.

Her body expands and is broken open so that the circle of humanity and her linage is not broken. In labor she pours her heart over an altar lined with trillions of raw threads- spools of hope, anticipation, defeat, and triumph.
The welcome acknowledges that she is a new being, not simply the same one, returning.

Here and now- we usually simply return. We return to expectations about how we ought to look, keep company, keep house, keep it together, sleep, work, dress, feed, love —it goes on and on.

And so, many many of us forget that indeed we are immeasurably powerful, even as we enter the most vulnerable, humbling, and softening times of our lives.

Besides let’s be real, who can peel her whole self back, reach through walls and generations of muscle, bone, and blood to retrieve another’s body, bringing life earth side?

Who but a warrior can do all that and live to tell about it?

Giving birth

April 7, 2016

He’s here! Me and Jemar’s son, Oyetunde Nasir Raheem arrived Saturday April 2, 2016 at 5:37am.

Our birthing time/labor was yoga in the most profound sense. Lots of yin and yang. Lots of fire and water. Sound and silence. Some CHILL. Plenty FIERCE.

Clearly every birth experience is different. For me, the newness that is my son’s life, that is my life, that is NOW, would not emerge until I went all the way IN.

I had to go IN to doors, crawl through barred windows, and scrape against deep caverned walls within my body, mind, heart, and soul to bring NOW about.

I had to go IN
dark crevices (contract /down)
expansive light (open/up)

For me to get to NOW and rest in it, I had to go through.

Going in, I came out with a tangible being, my son, Oye.

AND with this truth sewn into the red clay fabric of my cells:
No matter what task is before you. No matter what course – murky or luminous- must be traversed. no matter what valley must be staggered under. no matter what mountaintop stares you down. no matter the power of the wind battering against your face. the messy kiss of sun against your head. Or the howl of trees bending against your back. No matter if you are barefoot or well heeled on your path,

Own it. Walk it. It belongs to you. You belong to it.
No matter how dusky the morning or bright the night, no matter how strange the landscape becomes as you travel
You cannot just quit. You cannot just leave.

The only exit is to fully enter the passageway of NOW, be with one small contraction/expansion- one wild, feeble, loud, or silent step at a time.


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