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Sometimes, You Have to Encourage Yourself
Greetings lovely one,
Last month I was all “I ain’t setting no goals this year!” Well, my coach wasn’t having it. She saw what I was really trying to say in my refusal to “get back to normal,” as if the pandemic didn’t ask folx to wake up to the many flaws of the “this is the way we always did things” rehashing of excuses not to move forward on real systemic change. She met me where I was and we found a happy place to move me out of feeling stuck in the middle of it.
I’ve worked with all kinds of coaches since I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2011 actually … even before that, and for good reason. Accountability, yes, but really the steady hand of encouragement I need to grasp when I’m feeling so very tired, or when I feel like my hard work isn’t yielding the results I want to see. Sometimes I’m not exactly sure what it is I want to see anymore, because the desires that burn in my heart have not yet existed and I become unsure if I’m headed in the right direction.
“There is a journey you must take. It is a journey without destination. There is no map. Your soul will lead you. And you can take nothing with you.” - Meister Eckhart
This is probably why I love sci-fi, and find that Afrofuturism helps me imagine what feels like the impossible in the moment. But sometimes, I just reflect on lessons I’ve learned from my past.
When I trained in Kendo, my very first day at the dojo I just about collapsed onto the floor, so out of shape that the warm-up exercises were a full workout for me. I remember being so out of breath that as I bent over — staring at the floor, wondering if I was going to land face first on it — my senpai saw me and said something like, “Lyn … the air’s not down there.”
I took that statement with double meaning: one, being bowed over the way I was actually restricted my breathing muscles, so I became more breathless; and two, as an encouragement to keep my head up.
After the first class, my senpai (who had thoughtfully checked on me periodically) asked me what I thought. I swore I was going to say it was cruel and unusual punishment and that Sensei could keep my shinai, ’cause I was not coming back. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes and smirked at him before giving him a piece of my mind, to which he then replied: “Did you have fun?” Well, that shocked me for a moment, but I sheepishly replied, yeah.
And I went back and kept going … even naming my sword Mugen after the character in “Samurai Champloo.”
I eventually realized something important was happening: I was able to witness serious practitioners who also had a lot of fun with their art. I got to be around the energy of people who were dedicated and passionate about their art, even when it didn’t pay the bills (which doesn’t fit into the capitalist narrative of making everything you’re interested in a business). It was so refreshing that a dormant seed would wake up inside of me, ready to germinate.
Kendo got me out of my head and into my long-neglected body. I had a history of not drinking enough water … so much so I had kidney stones (not fun at all — drink water, y’all), but doing martial arts left me no choice but to stay hydrated. I am an introverted homebody, so going to weekly lessons forced me to go out and socialize. Most importantly, because my body had a place to release tension, I was able to clear enough emotional and spiritual baggage to heed my call to ministry and apply to seminary. There, at seminary, I would begin searching for a framework to help bring together my passion for mental health and my growing interest in spiritual formation and creativity for process not product.
I never became a great swordsman; in fact I struggled almost every class. But right along with that struggle there was always someone encouraging me and, over time, I learned to also become a cheerleader for myself.
The path (whatever your path may be leaning toward … love, justice, liberation, etc.) is not as straightforward as our younger selves likely would have thought. My path in particular has often looked like a swampland where lotus flowers grow. I get out of breath at times and have to catch myself when I bend over, looking down, wondering how the heck I got stuck in the muck of things … and begin to question if I ever saw that Light that beckoned me to the journey in the first place.
But the body remembers.
It remembers what it felt like to have fun even when the work was hard. The body remembers what passion felt like when there was openness and curiosity about the process. The body remembers when it showed up to that first day of new adventure because you loved yourself enough to pursue how you wanted to live your “why” and your values. The body remembers resting in the waters of our mother’s womb — how she nurtures, feeds us, revitalizes, prepares us for the journey of our lives, gives us room for growth…
“Remember? Remember that the whole planet was ocean. Everywhere you’ve been, that desert valley was the bottom of the deep where something sentient used to swim and every grain of sand and mineral and currently growing tree is breathing the [Spirit] of ocean, the infinite face of the deep.” - Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Maybe you haven’t encountered your version of a senpai who asks you the right question at the right time, or coach who meets you where you’re at and helps you integrate what really matters to you with daily rituals. Maybe you have to call forth your version of Gramma Tala (“Moana”) and tap into deeply stored memories of ancestors who walked the unknown path before you but also, as Diana Ross said: “You know, you do need mentors, but in the end, you really just need to believe in yourself.”
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
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March: “Testimonies to Mercy” is a seven-part traveling series based on the lecture Better Than Good: Seven Testimonies for Quaker Caregiving, by Quaker practical theologian and public minister Windy Cooler. The series invites participants to reconnect and rebuild their lives together through education, the time to be tender, emotional separateness and openness, equality, truth, lament, and hospitality. I’ll be presenting on Lament on March 10 and 11, 2023. Learn more and register here.
Available now: I’m a contributing writer to the latest edition of “Illuminate” — the only Bible study curriculum written by Friends (Quakers). Faith groups and communities all over the U.S. and some in other countries will be using this study guide in March, April, and May. So can you! You can purchase a print or digital copy of Illuminate here.
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Community Member Kudos
What's your #OneGoodThing today? That is a question Friend and fellow Love Agent Emily Guy Birken has asked everyday since 2018. And every day, rain or shine, she’s posted something to remind us to look for that moment of joy. Read all about Emily’s project: https://www.emilyguybirken.com/ogt and grab some cool merch https://www.youronegoodthing.com/shop
Tales from the blog keepers
I found this article while cleaning the archives, but I think it’s a great intro to “How Afrofuturism Has Evolved and Continues to Celebrates Black Excellence”
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I haven’t really watched “Star Trek: Picard” … I skimmed over the episodes for my sci-fi and theology class (one of my favorite classes) and meant to get back to it but never did. So, when I read that Mica Burton/Ensign Alandra La Forge was on screen with real-life and onscreen father, LeVar Burton/Commodore Geordi La Forge, I’ve been thinking maybe I might give this a go … Any Trekkies here? What do you think of the show?