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Stress Awareness Month: How I Outsmart Stress with Mindfulness (DC Events on April 16, 21, 23 & 30)

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S-T-R-E-S-S. Stress impacts everyone. It happens when we experience pressure or a situation that exceeds our ability to cope. It’s also one of the main sources of wear-and-tear on our spirits, minds, bodies, and relationships.

In the United States where I live, the most common sources of stress include work, money, the current political climate, the future of the nation, violence, and crime. Guess which ones are the most common among adults? Here’s how the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America survey answered the question.

  • #1 – The Future of the Nation, 63% of adults (specific issues include health care – 43%, economy – 35%, trust in government – 32%, crime and hate crimes – 31%, terrorist attacks – 30%, high taxes – 28%, social security – 26%, and government controversies and scandals – 25%)
  • #2 – Money, 62% of adults
  • #3 – Work, 61% of adults
  • #4 – Current Political Climate, 57% of adults
  • #5 – Violence and Crime, 51% of adults

What are the most common sources of stress in your life?

How do you manage them?

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Over the past several years, my most common sources of stress have included money, relationships, work, health care, the political climate, and hate crimes. I have used mindfulness and mindful living, creativity, and technology practices including meditation, breathing exercises, deep listening, journaling, yoga, and unplugging from my digital devices to manage them.

In case you are wondering what mindfulness is, I thought I’d share my two-part definition. Mindfulness is our birthright. Each of us is born with the ABILITY TO BE AWARE  of what’s happening in our spirit, heart, mind, body, and surroundings.

Mindfulness is also a practice that we can CHOOSE to PAY ATTENTION to what’s happening in our spirit, heart, mind, body and surroundings ON PURPOSE in the PRESENT MOMENT and WITHOUT JUDGMENT.

I am using Stress Awareness Month and National Stress Awareness Day on April 16th to outsmart stress with more mindful moments in my life. If you are in the Washington, DC area on April 16th, join me at the #ThrivingMindfully Meetup Group event below. Sessions will also be held on April 23 and 30. Go here to join the free group.

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Not able to attend the event? Check out my #ThrivingMindfully Podcast on how to outsmart stress with mindfulness meditation. Listen here.

I am offering a Saturday morning meditation on April 21st from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park. Go here for more details.

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My blog, podcasts, and meetups are offered as a gift to the community. Donations are encouraged to show gratitude. Feel free to make your donation in-person at the #ThrivingMindfully Meetups. You can also support me via the PayPal app or website – paypal.me/anandaleeke or the Cash app – cash.me/$AnandaLeeke. Your generosity is deeply appreciated!

 

 

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Celebrate Spring & International Day of Happiness with Mindfulness & Mouth Yoga (Smiling)

Are you ready for Spring? Start it by celebrating International Day of Happiness on Tuesday, March 20, with a mindful practice of mouth yoga a/k/a smiling. Smiling is one of the best ways to create positive energy inside of yourself. When you smile mindfully, your positive energy can help open your heart to more gratitude. Also, your smile also has the power to brighten another’s person’s day!

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Check out my #ThrivingMindfully Podcast resources.

How are you planning to celebrate Spring and/or International Day of Happiness? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Enjoy Spring & International Day of Happiness!

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11 Ways to Use Mindfulness for Unplugging & Sleeping Well

 

One of the lessons I learned during National Day of Unplugging last weekend was about sleeping. I discovered a better way to enjoy sleeping by turning my smartphone off and allowing myself to wake up without the alarm on Saturday and Sunday. Read my opinion piece on unplugging that was published in the Afro-American Newspaper to learn more.

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On Sunday evening, I decided to use Sleep Awareness Week (March 11-17) to add several mindful sleep practices to my daily routine. Check out the practices I used below. Since today is the last day of Sleep Awareness Week, consider trying one or more of them.

  1. Place your smartphone and digital devices in your living room, kitchen, or home office. Mute the sound on your phone ringer and notifications. If you can, turn the phone off. Use an alarm clock. Muting the sound on my phone and placing it in my living room really helped.
  2. Give yourself a few hours off from using social media, email or texting in the evenings. Set a curfew. Try 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. I tried a curfew of 11:15 p.m. to 8 a.m. on several days.
  3. Express gratitude for people and experiences. This practice opens my heart.
  4. Say a forgiveness prayer for yourself and others before you go to sleep at night. My forgiveness prayers help me release anger, disappointment, grudges, judgments, thoughts, and stories I have made up about myself and others. They help me clear my mind and cleanse my spirit and heart.
  5. Drink your favorite decaf tea before bed. I love to sprinkle turmeric in hot water or use Trader Joe’s turmeric and ginger tea.
  6. Use your favorite sheets and blankets on your bed. I love my purple sheets and cream blanket.
  7. If you are NOT allergic to scents, smudge yourself and your bedroom or home with a smudge stick to remove any negative energy. I use my smudge stick in the morning and evening.
  8. If you are NOT allergic to scents, burn your favorite incense or candle in your bedroom or home an hour or two before you sleep. You can also use a room freshener with essential oils to spray your bedroom or home. I like to use Mrs. Meyer’s lavender room freshener.
  9. Take an evening shower or bath to relax yourself. Showers are my favorites.
  10. Meditate for a 1, 5, 15, 20 or 30 minutes before going to sleep. Meditation with breathing exercises is a great mindfulness practice that can help you slow down and become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. It can also help you go within and connect to your higher self. I like to practice a short meditation while laying in child’s pose, one of my favorite yoga poses, before going to sleep. Listen to my #ThrivingMindfully Podcast Series for a guided mindfulness meditation. Here’s a guided compassion meditation to open your heart. Check out my Mindful Living podcast playlist for more resources.
  11. Try gentle yoga. Like I mentioned above, child’s pose helps me relax before sleep. Go to YouTube and try my teacher Faith Hunter’s gentle yoga session. Also, do a search for gentle yoga or restorative yoga for beginners on YouTube. Check out Yoga In Bed: 20 Asanas to Do in Pajamas by Edward Vilga, one of my favorite yoga books. Learn more about my journey as a gentle yoga teacher (includes my yoga, reiki, and meditation services) and my yoga-inspired novel, Love’s Troubadours (available on Amazon). My novel tells the story of Karma Francois, a 30-something yoga teacher who is on a self-discovery journey that allows her to heal, forgive, and reinvent her life with art, meditation, mindfulness, spirituality, therapy, yoga, travel, and the support of family and friends.

If you are unable to try these tips today, I encourage you to use Sleep Awareness Week as inspiration for getting more rest in your life in 2018. Try one or more of the tips and let me know what happens in the comment section.

Happy Unplugging and Sleeping!

Photo Credit: National Sleep Foundation

 

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International Women’s Day Poem: Our Womanist Spirit

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Happy International Women’s Day!

In honor of women and girls everywhere, I am sharing a poem, “Our Womanist Spirit” I wrote in 2002. It is included in my book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (available an e-book and paperback on Amazon).

Our Womanist Spirit by Ananda Leeke

Human skin decorates the universe in a rainbow of shades.

Red, Black, Brown, Beige, Yellow and White.

Diverse cultures beautify Mother Earth.

When women look in the mirror, we see each other as one in the same …
daughters of a loving Creator.

We are sisters … connected as one … sharing the same womanist spirit …
expressing it in many different ways.

We are a chosen people, a royal priestess-hood, a holy universe of individuals belonging to One Spirit and each other.

Beloved, we are unified.

You are me. I am you. We are each other.

What we think, say and do affects the whole.

We honor our oneness when we live at our highest level …

When we live our truth … LOVE.

Our spiritual, gender, ethnic, and cultural identities help us appreciate our connection to each other and the human family.

They bridge the gap of surface appearances, destroy false and misleading labels, overcome personal prejudices, and defy societal and institutional divisions of madness.

When we step outside of this bag of tricks, we realize that we breathe in the same air …

feel the same warmth from the sun …

bask in the same moon glow …

sing and dance to nature’s rhythm …

dream and manifest infinite feminine possibilities …

envision a better life …

make it possible by giving the gift of peace …

orchestrate new beginnings when resources are low …

pioneer and lead the path when directions are obscure …

cry tears of joy as we birth and raise the next

generation of magnificent children …

create the soul’s language in art, music and words …

heal hearts, bodies and minds …

elevate the planet’s consciousness with right thoughts and actions …

bless each other with abundance …

communicate authentically …

serve as light bearers …

love deeply …

forgive compassionately …

pray continuously and give thanks in our own special ways.

We, my sisters are threads of a great quilt masterpiece, woven especially by the Almighty and deposited for safekeeping in all women’s hearts.

Copyright © 2002 by Madelyn C. Leeke. All Rights Reserved.

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Don’t keep me a secret. Use the links below and share me with your network!

twambookLooking for a great book to read? Check out my creativity memoir, That Which Awakens Me. It includes woman-centered poetry and reflections.

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Women’s History Month: Celebrating My Womanline

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Women’s History Month gives me a chance to celebrate the women in my family that have inspired me. I call them my womanline. They include my mother, Theresa Gartin Leeke; grandmothers, Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin and Frederica Stanley Roberts Leeke; and great grandmothers, Iona Bolden Johnson King and Florida Jones Leeke. Who are the women in your family that inspire you?

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In the first chapter of my tech memoir, Digital Sisterhood, I write about what my womanline’s digital footprint would look like if they had access to the Internet and social media. Listen to an excerpt (from 2013). Read the full chapter here. My book is available on Amazon (e-book, paperback, and hardback).

Listen to Digital Sisterhood excerpts read by yours truly (from 2013)!

Here are two more audio recordings (from 2013) about the book.

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#BlackHistoryMonth Celebration of HBCUs & Black Sororities and Fraternities in My Novel Love’s Troubadours

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Have you seen the documentary film, “Tell Them We Are Rising” that explores how historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have shaped American history, culture, and national identity? It was created by filmmaker Stanley Nelson and covers almost 170 years of history. You can watch it online on the PBS website until March 22.

“Tell Them We Are Rising” reminded me why I chose to attend Morgan State University and Howard University School of Law. As a proud HBCU alumna, I made sure the characters in my Lorraine Hansberry-inspired novel Love’s Troubadours are HBCU alumni. Love’s Troubadours main character Karma Francois is a graduate of Morgan State University just like me. Her twin sister Violet is a graduate of my alma mater, Howard University School of Law. Her mother is an alumna of Xavier University. Her cousins attended Spelman College and Morehouse College.

The documentary film also discussed the importance of Black sororities and fraternities. In my family, we have members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. I celebrate these organizations and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in Love’s Troubadours.

Spoiler Alert: My main character Karma pledged the Beta Tau Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority at Morgan State University like yours truly. Her mother is also a Sigma (like my mom, great-grandmother, and great-aunt). Her cousins are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (like my great aunt) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Her best friend is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (like my grandfather, great-uncle, and cousin). Her uncle is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Her aunt is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

 

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#BlackHistoryMonth Treat: How Playwright Lorraine Hansberry Inspired My Novel, Love’s Troubadours

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My debut novel, Love’s Troubadours was inspired by a speech given by activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry in February 1964. She spoke to a Harlem-based group of aspiring young, gifted, and African American writers about the power to love in America. In her remarks, Hansberry stated,

“O, the things that we have learned in this unkind house that we have to tell the world about! Despair? Did someone say despair was a question in the world? Well then, listen to the sons of those who have known little else. If you wish to know the resiliency of this thing you would so quickly resign to mythhood, this thing called the human spirit … Life? Ask those who have tasted of it in pieces rationed out by enemies. Love? Ah, ask the troubadours who have come from those who have loved when all reason pointed to the uselessness and foolhardiness of love. Perhaps we shall be the teachers when it is done. Out of the depths of pain we have thought to be our sole heritage in this world-O, we know about love!”

She referred to African Americans as troubadours, the descendents of people who used the power of love to live through and overcome despair and insurmountable odds. She went on to urge the audience to seek wisdom from African Americans because of their capacity to love.

I first read about Hansberry’s speech in Salvation by bell hooks in 2001. Salvation discusses how African Americans have used the power of love to transform their lives and communities. hooks’ writings caused me to question how I could use my gifts as an artist and writer to promote love as a healing tool in the lives of individuals and communities in America. I answered that question by writing Love’s Troubadours, a novel that tells the story of Karma Francois, a 30-something museum curator and yoga teacher who loses her job, discovers family secrets after a loved one dies, and begins a healing journey as she relocates from New York City to Washington, DC. Learn more about her in the video below.

Karma learns many life lessons as she comes face-to-face with the choices she has made in her life and relationships. Watch the video below and learn about some of them.

Throughout her journey, she uses journaling, meditation, mindfulness, poetry, spirituality, therapy, and yoga to heal and love herself. Hansberry’s wisdom on mindful living inspired the way I wrote about Karma’s healing journey:

 “I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and–I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.”

Watch the video below and learn how Karma’s healing journey transformed her idea of love in her life.

After reading Hansberry’s book, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, I made a conscious decision to use my novel’s characters to celebrate the beauty and diversity of people of African descent. Watch the video below and learn about the diverse characters.

 

Listen to a chapter excerpt from Love’s Troubadours that illustrates the diversity of African Americans when Karma walks into Mocha Hut, a coffee and tea café in her U Street neighborhood, and eavesdrops on a conversation.