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Welcome to my digital world! Looking for my professional bio and photos? Click here. Scroll down to read my short bio.

Wanna know more about my mindfulness journey and chameleon career? Read my story and watch the videos below.

Watch the #ThrivingMindfully Video Series and be inspired.

Join my growing community of #ThrivingMindfully Podcast listeners.

Expand your mindfulness practice with my support as a member of A Mindful Cup of Tea Facebook Group.

To see what I am up to from week to week, follow @anandaleeke on Instagram and Twitter.

Contact me {ananda@anandaleeke.com} to discuss how we can work together.

Short Bio

Ananda Leeke is passionate about teaching people and organizations how to practice mindful living, creativity, and technology. Ananda discovered mindfulness when her career as a young lawyer and investment banker did not produce the level of success she expected. Mindfulness helped her overcome panic attacks, release her career expectations, develop self-care practices, and pursue her calling as an author, artist, digital strategist, speaker, and yoga teacher. Today, she travels the world helping people and organizations outsmart stress so they can live and work fully, express their creativity, and use technology efficiently and wisely.

She speaks at conferences and events sponsored by AT&T, Automattic, BlogHer, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Executive Women International, Howard University, Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media, Nonprofit Technology Network, Sisterhued, Spelman College, and Web of Change. Her yoga-inspired novel Love’s Troubadours, creativity memoir That Which Awakens Me, and tech memoir Digital Sisterhood are available on Amazon. Currently, she is writing Lighthouse: A Memoir of Thriving Mindfully.

She is a proud alumna of Georgetown University Law Center, Howard University School of Law, Morgan State University, and Elizabeth Seton High School. She is also a member of Unity of Washington, D.C. and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. She lives in Washington, D.C. Visit anandaleeke.com to learn more.

The Story of Moi (The Short Version)

My Girlhood Collage by Ananda Leeke (2008)
My Girlhood Collage by Ananda Leeke (2008)

Michigan born. Maryland raised. Elizabeth Seton and Morgan State educated. Howard and Georgetown Law trained. I am the only daughter of Theresa and John Leeke, two groovy people who raised me and my three brothers Mike, Mark, and Matt to be FREE in how we live and express ourselves in a house painted rose and white on Manson Place in Landover during the late 1960s and 1970s. Our house was filled with an abundance of love, creativity, conversation, laughter, music, a dog named Clarence, books, and magazines including my favorites: National Geographic, Right On, Ebony, Essence, Jet, Black Enterprise, Ms., Mademoiselle, and Glamour.

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My bedroom was painted hot pink and lavender. It was my sanctuary, the place where I felt most at home. The place where I dreamed in the dark about being an artist/writer/radio host/lawyer, colored on paper and the walls, drew pictures with magic markers, read and wrote poetry in lower case letters like poet ntozake shange, practiced dance moves I borrowed from Soul Train and American Bandstand, and listened to the sounds of Motown the Supremes, Temptations, and Jackson Five made popular.

How I Became An Artist & Writer

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My mother Theresa is the most creative person I know. She used her studies and experience as a musician and early childhood teacher to teach my brothers and I that CREATIVITY IS IMAGINATION. Mommy encouraged us to use our imagination to create art, poetry, greeting cards, science projects, toys, and spaces we could play in. Also, she taught us how to make our own Play Dough from scratch. We used it to sculpt our version of animals, trees, flowers, cars, buildings, and people. On rainy days, she told us to use our imagination to create fun times. My brother Mike, a comic book graphic artist, was often the leader. One rainy day, he drew guitars on cardboard boxes so we could imitate the Jackson Five with our neighbor Stan. We cut the guitars out and used magic markers to decorate them.

During our winter, spring, and summer breaks from school, my mother made sure we visited the Smithsonian to learn about art, culture, history, and music in the U.S. and the world. Our museum visits inspired me to take an art appreciation class during my freshmen year at Elizabeth Seton High School. That class opened the door to my love affair with French impressionism, Frida Kahlo, and the Japanese Edo period.

My high school years were fertile ground for my poetry writing. Most of it was inspired by the work of Dr. Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, and ntozake shange. Most of it happened while I was sitting in my room listening to the music of Billie Holiday and the music I heard on the Quiet Storm, a daily evening program on WHUR 96.3 Radio. My poetry is where I found my voice as a teenager. It helped me see myself for myself.

Legal Career Journey

My love affair with creativity was interrupted in my junior year by a passionate new lover called Practical Law, a class I desperately wanted to take, but could not because it was offered to seniors only. When I expressed my interest in the class, the teacher encouraged me to submit a request to take it and prepare an argument to persuade her. Guess what? I did it and took the class in my junior year. It was life changing. At 16, I began the journey of becoming a lawyer.

My decision to pursue a legal career at 16 gave me a clear goal. Everything I did for the remainder of high school and during college was geared towards my legal career. My Morgan State University advisor, Dr. Sandye Jean McIntyre helped me develop a four-year plan and achievement strategy that included my French major, Spanish minor, G.P.A., extracurricular activities, internships, honors, and awards. With the support of my parents, family, friends, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, mentors, Dr. McIntrye, and other professors, I was accepted into my first choice, Howard University School of Law.

Law school did not come easy for me. I struggled during my first year. That’s when I learned how to isolate myself and only focus on my legal studies and internships. This strategy helped me get the work done and obtain great work experience. However, it hurt my ability to be fully present in my life and relationships. It opened the door to many unhealthy practices that included far too many days without adequate sleep, junk food, and self-medicating anxiety and fear with liquor. My life was out of balance and I didn’t know it.

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I wish I could say things got better after I graduated from law school and began working as a law clerk for Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Duncan at the U.S. Commodities and Futures Commission, but they didn’t. Bar exam failures flooded my life. Depression set in. Instead of dealing with it, I pushed through. I went deeper into my isolation and focused on passing the bar exam.

One afternoon while I was chatting with Judge Duncan, he asked me what I planned to do once my clerkship ended. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to answer the question because I didn’t want to work as a commodities and securities regulation attorney in the Federal Government. Recognizing my hesitation, he encouraged me to speak freely. I expressed my thoughts and fears. He welcomed them with an offer to brainstorm about my career plan. We talked about how much I loved to research and write. He suggested I consider teaching and earning a Master of Laws at Georgetown University Law Center. My face lit up with a smile. The next day I called Georgetown to request an application. A week later, we prepared and mailed it. When I showed him my acceptance letter, he hugged me and told me I could use my afternoons to complete my homework during the first semester. What a blessing!

My Georgetown experience was one of the most academically fulfilling experiences I ever had. I fell head over heels in love with investment banking. My advisor and  classmates were amazing. They worked in mid-level to senior positions in banks, government agencies, and law firms. Their advice on how I should pursue my newfound passion for investment banking was invaluable.

Healing Begins

By the time I graduated from Georgetown, I was clear about my career. It was investment banking all the way. The problem was I couldn’t find a job to save my life. That’s when the depression I had been dodging reared its ugly head. It flatlined me and drop kicked me into what I now know was a dark night of the soul. All my stuff I had refused to face came up. It was beyond overwhelming. I no longer found comfort in the Catholic Church I was raised in. My soul was lost.

Thankfully my parents stepped in and provided a lifeline that stabilized me emotionally and financially. Their support gave me space to heal and discover who I was becoming. Within an 18-month period, I reached out to my Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority sisters Kamaria Richmond and Karla Ray Thompson who exposed me to vegetarianism, self-care books and tools, African and Native American spiritual practices, and creative communities. Together, we explored our creativity as writers, Buddhist meditation and other alternative healing practices.

Creative Entrepreneurship

My healing journey transformed my emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It opened the door to a new life as a vegetarian, meditator, and creative entrepreneur.  It helped me find my voice as a writer and launch Sunsum Communications, a company that published my first collection of poetry, My Soul Speaks.

While pursuing my entrepreneurial efforts, I realized I needed to supplement my income with full-time employment that included health insurance and retirement benefits. So I accepted an offer to serve as the Debt Manager in the DC Office of the Treasurer. Working in municipal finance was stressful. My spiritual practices and writing calmed me most days. After one particular grueling municipal bond deal, I began using coathangers to create wire sculptures to release the stress.

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My mentor Barbara Arnwine, former Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, saw one of my sculptures peeking out of my bag during one of my visits to her office. She asked me to explain what it was. Using my imagination, I told her it was a “Divine Diva” that celebrated the power women have to transform their lives. Without hesitation, Barbara ordered 200 sculptures for the first African American Women and the Law Conference. Her order launched my career as a mixed media artist.

Leaping Into Investment Banking

Shortly after the African American Women and the Law Conference, I met Austin Fitts, the founder of the Hamilton Securities Group, a woman-owned investment bank and financial software firm that represented the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and launched a data servicing startup in DC public housing. I loved the way Austin and her team married their social justice commitment to investment banking. When I left DC Government a few months later, she offered me a position as a transaction manager for a $7 billion FHA mortgage deal.

While I was at Hamilton, she empowered me to release my investment banking career and create a new one in digital communications and intellectual property law management. With her encouragement and guidance, I learned how to negotiate a salary that reflected my worth and rise to a leadership position that allowed me to represent the firm at the U.N. Conference on Habitat in Istanbul, Turkey. My Hamilton days were exciting and exhausting all at the same time. Little did I know they were contributing to high levels of stress and anxiety.

Therapy Does In Fact Work!

My Hamilton experience abruptly ended a year and a half after it began. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the firm and froze its assets. Sadly, it closed its doors. On the flip side of this sad news, I became a business consultant. Six months in, I was overwhelmed again by anxiety, stress, and mounting financial obligations. Things got ugly! So I turned to therapy and worked with a phenomenal therapist for a few years.

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Therapy helped me ground myself from the inside out. It gave me back to myself and allowed me to choose a career path in nonprofit management that offered work-life balance, something I didn’t know I needed. It also gave me the courage to nurture my craft as an artist and writer while working with Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, study yoga and reiki, and deepen my spirituality in a Buddhist sangha of color and at Unity of Washington, DC Church and All Souls Unitarian Church. In short, it paved the way for how I live today. To learn more about my journey, I invite you to read my memoirs, That Which Awakens Me and Digital Sisterhood. 

Discovering Mindfulness

I discovered mindfulness when my career as a young lawyer and investment banker did not produce the level of success I expected. Mindfulness helped me overcome panic attacks, release my career expectations, develop self-care practices, and pursue my calling as an author, artist, digital storyteller and strategist, speaker, and yoga teacher.

Mindfulness is “the practice of taking a deep breath and coming into the present moment. The present moment is where you can access awareness, balance, and calm. Mindfulness is the gateway to who we truly are.”

How I Help People & Organizations with Mindfulness

As CEO of Ananda Leeke Consulting, I travel the world helping people and organizations outsmart stress and thrive+work mindfully. Through the practice of mindful living, creativity, and technology, I teach them how to:

  • calm their mind
  • become aware of their emotions and behavior
  • create flexibility in their bodies
  • practice self-care
  • focus their concentration
  • tap into and listen to their intuition
  • express their creativity fully
  • accomplish their goals with action planning and accountability
  • overcome distraction and increase productivity through project and time management
  • use social media and technology efficiently and wisely

The Engaged Mindfulness Institute accepted me into the 2017-2018 Mindfulness Facilitator Training and Certification Program. The year-long program will deepen my mindfulness practice and work with women, girls, law students, social justice activists, and creative, legal, and tech professionals.

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I speak at conferences and events sponsored by AT&T, Automattic, BlogHer, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Executive Women International, Howard University, Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media, Nonprofit Technology Network, Sisterhued, Spelman College, and Web of Change.

Go to Amazon to order my yoga-inspired novel Love’s Troubadours, creativity and mindfulness memoir That Which Awakens Me, and tech and mindfulness memoir Digital Sisterhood. Currently, I am writing my third memoir Lighthouse: A Memoir of Thriving Mindfully (watch video to learn more about it).

 

Photo Credits

Leigh Mosley and Dave McCulloch

 

 

7 comments

  1. Hi Ananda,
    You may be interested in my blog. Sisterhood Across Continents. I am now following you so hopefully we can connect further on this wonderful thing called Sisterhood.
    Asanempoka

  2. I’ve been following you on IG since I discovered you via a Prevention challenge. And today…hello, forgive me I’m a little slow. I see you have a fabulous blog. I got curious because some of your posts you seem to be speaking at/for wordpress. I would so love to come hear you speak on blogging if you are ever in Southern California. Now I’m following you. It’s about time.

    1. Wow! I’m so glad you connected with me via Instagram and now my blog. I love Prevention Magazine! Thank you for taking the time to visit my site and read my blog. I am totally open to speaking in Southern California.

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