This weekend’s Women’s Retreat was a multi-generational gathering of nearly 50 women of diverse backgrounds and from all different walks of life. The retreat was mindfully and lovingly guided by five women who are leaders in their own fields. We kicked off the retreat with a moving spoken word opening by TaNisha Fordham who brought nine teen-aged students to the retreat. Jillian Faulks-Majuta lead a Kemetic Yoga session that physically grounded guests in the power of self-care. The day continued with passionate workshops about caring for mind, body and spirit.
Kamilah Crawley, who organized and emceed the event, offered sessions about the intersection of mindfulness and women’s self-care and lead discussion groups on the complex and nuanced notions of the modern Superwoman. Michelle Beadle Holder explored mindful eating and the frequent everyday choices we make about how we nourish our bodies and helped us become more mindful of the environments where we break our bread and buy our food. Her presentation was followed by a nutritious and soulful lunch provided by Arelis Hernandez and Rabbit Hole Farm.
Aleah Gathings presented on the power of words and affirmations and guided retreatants in a symbolic ceremony to release unconstructive thought patterns. Mandara Parashakti Akiwumi facilitated a process to help participants “Stop the Story”, release narratives that hold us back and re-narrate our current truth. We ended the retreat by writing self-care letters to our future selves — to be mailed and opened just when we most need the reminder.
Throughout the day retreatants were encouraged to hold a non-judgmental space for everyone’s opinions and experiences and to self-reflect through conversation and journaling. Participants readily shared their own resources and several lists were compiled with books, websites, and places of interest for people to visit to continue the deep work that was initiated at this retreat.
AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS NEW YEAR we want to take a moment of your time to let you know how much your support means to us. Without the support of our NCMC Friends — whether participating virtually in social media or physically at the programs — we couldn’t have provided the transformative programs that we’ve brought to the community.
This past year we are especially grateful to our longtime VENUE PARTNERS — Index Art Center, Rabbit Hole Farm, and Military Park Partnership. A new venue this year has been the Ironbound Community Corporation and it has been such a pleasure to work with them as well.
We also want to thank the COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATIONS who invited us in 2018 to present at their programs or held cooperative programs with us, including Greater Newark Tennis & Education, Hikeolution, I’m So Yoga Newark, Louise A. Spencer Community School, Newark Museum, Newark Yoga Movement, NJPAC, Rutgers Law School, Sis & Bro Foundation, Source of Knowledge Book Store, and The Spirit Centered Life. We enjoyed and very much appreciated the teamwork with these community partners.
We can’t say enough too about our WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS who have consistently been patient and provided diligent assistance for us over the past year. We can’t name you all here, but you know who you are!
Wishing you all the very best in 2019!
Your friends at NCMC,
Kazi, Marcie, Cornelia, Andrea, Ihsaan, Kamilah, Javier, and Jennifer
NCMC wishes you a day of abundance or simplicity — and thanksgiving — for clear water, good food, and Mother Earth to sit on!
WITH ONE MIND
Greetings to the Natural World!
The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water. Now our minds are one.
The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks. Now our minds are one.
(Excerpted from a Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address)
The Three Sisters of Corn, Beans, and Squash
For many Indigenous People in the Americas, the triad of corn, beans, and squash is called the Three Sisters. Traditionally grown together, this crop trio are all interdependent on one another. Beans grow up the corn stalks and add the nutrients (nitrogen) to the soil that the others need to grow. Squash is planted in between them to keep the weeds out. These three staples remain the heart of most Indigenous diets and are often eaten in companion with each other.
The act of saying grace over a meal and of blessing the dinner table are sacred rituals practiced for millennia across the globe.
From Ghana to Burma and all the way to the Netherlands, human beings incorporate the daily act of eating into their personal and collective spiritual lives.
The blessing of the meal is a time for giving thanks.
Prayers may be directed to a supreme being, to ancestors, the earth or whatever spiritual agency is believed to be of assistance in securing sustenance. Sometimes family members, employees and employers are thanked for the part they play in sustaining an individual or household.
Still a concern for many to this day is the healthiness of a meal they’re about to eat. Invasion of the body by food-born pathogens is a threat that challenges human beings daily. Therefore, some cultures may include request that the meal be allowed to provide strength and vitality — or at least be rendered free of harm.
Not to be overlooked is the impact upon the psyche of that moment of silence when one’s head is bowed and gaze lowered in recognition of our mutual dependence upon all we consider powerful, holy and beneficent.
The few seconds taken to reconnect to the part of us that remains in constant connection with the Unseen Real opens a “spiritual moment.” And in that moment, we invoke the soul elixir that releases the strengthening, healing, beautifying properties of the meal.
We can use the tradition of saying grace as a “conscious opportunity” to create more of those spiritual moments in our day. We don’t have to limit our spiritual practice to being locked away in a specially outfitted room with dimmed lighting, lots of plump pillows and scented candles.
Let’s bring our practice into our “common spaces” — with their sounds and scents of life at its core. First we take back the kitchen, then the toilet, then the garden.
It all adds up.
Ib’nallah S. Kazi is the Spiritual Director of Newark Center for Meditative Culture and a Spiritual Health & Wellness Coach at The Spirit Centered Life.
The beginning of a new year has become the traditional time to evaluate our lives. So let’s do it! And let’s use a brick as our multi-purpose metaphor.
As a starting point, we’ll take this well-known quote by actor Will Smith: “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.” There’s a lot of wisdom in these words, but let’s examine brick laying more closely as it applies to our meditative and spiritual perspectives.
First of all, who are we?
When we reflect on who or what we are, we might imagine that we are a person carrying 5 piles of bricks on our shoulders. These bricks might represent the five aggregates in buddhist psychology — form, feeling, perception, fabrication, and consciousness. We hold tight to these constantly changing piles of bricks trying to keep these activities from changing.
We can let these aggregates/bricks weigh us down. So why not instead of carrying piles of bricks on our shoulders, we take them off and lay them along the ground and simply observe and adjust them.
Why am I where I am today?
Let’s go back to the brick wall. Some of us may need to dismantle our wall and start a radical new wall. Others might just have one brick to start with. Others of us may have already built a beautiful brick wall, basking in our glory, only to see ourselves like Humpty Dumpty, falling, out of our carelessness or mistakes. Or, we might be building around others who are effecting us with their rubble, their taller walls, or poorly made walls. Then it’s vital to practice non-judgement and patience as we build our own.
Or, we may have fallen from no apparent reason at all to us! That’s just how it appears sometimes. Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put together again when he fell off his brick wall. However, we can find that there always is a way to start over — again and again and again — but under different conditions and possibly with different aims in building our new “biggest, baddest, greatest wall”.
Then what direction should we take?
Now that we’ve laid our aggregate bricks on the ground, we can use these bricks rather than have them use us, to construct a beautiful pathway. For example, we might see the pathway we construct as the buddhist eightfold path: upright view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. When we apply our concentration and mindfulness through the practice of meditation, it can have good effect on the other bricks on the path.
Is this a perfect “yellow brick road”? Not quite, there will be bumps and road blocks along the way, but the sense of well-being and inner happiness that continue to develop will be worth the practice of these meditative life skills. Once you have a committed practice you can broaden your road and even jump on and off the pavement to move skillfully through many modes of life situations.
How can we merge spirituality with success?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to go first or be the best, provided that our intention is to help pave the way for others along the way! We can help make others’ paths more easy — we can give them a little mortar or offer a brick.
There’s a quote attributed to the Sufi sage Rumi: “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” But then, why do some of us not get what we work hard for and want? We can’t all be great hip-hop artists or brain surgeons, but our passion for music might manifest in a different way in our work or at home. Our ability to be deft with our hands and make quick decisions might not manifest as becoming a surgeon, but instead as a wonderful conscientious activist homemaker.
So what about inner happiness?
Let’s start building with the brick of breath. Breath is form. We take one breath at a time, aware of the moment, aware also of our body, which is also form — with perhaps a little smile on our face — and be happy, that’s all. Be happy with ourselves as we are. Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Perhaps we can each become a BRICK HOUSE of Inner Happiness! Happy new year! Peace.
Most of us here in the States will have some sort of Thanksgiving celebration or special meal tomorrow, but then again, many will not. Many of us love the day, but many dread it. There are so many reasons for both these extremes — loving families, dysfunctional families, lack of family, delicious food, tryptophan stasis, politics, displaced guests, misplaced historical truths — the list goes on.
One solution to keeping peace, inner or expressed, on this holiday is to bring an empty bowl to the table. What we mean here is to try to bring an empty mind that’s freed from assumptions, bias, preconceptions, and judgement. It’s a mind that can flex at the table and create harmony through, well, a sort of appropriation. Meaning, that we might put ourselves in others’ shoes, feeling compassion for what we might see as ignorance on political matters, stinginess in portions, or obnoxious personalities. Instead, we might see the stress in their faces!
How might we do this? By being in mindfulness as much as we can with an empty mind and a determinedly pleasant attitude. It doesn’t hurt either to consciously appreciate an actual empty bowl placed in front of us, to reflect on the great grace that we have daily to be able to feed ourselves and others.
Image: Yuan Period Jun Bowl; Wikimedia Common; Public Domain