Happy #CreativityThursday: Honoring Dr. Maya Angelou, A Creative Shero

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Happy #CreativityThursday!

Today I woke up hungry for the words and wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou. So I reached for a book of her poems that kept me company during the second semester of my freshman year at Morgan State University in 1983. Her spirit guided me to her poem, “Thank You, Lord.”

Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) - RIP Dr. Angelou.
Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) – RIP Dr. Angelou.

Her words reminded me to say a thank you prayer for waking up another day and being inspired and influenced by her creative spirit. Her poetry and memoirs gave me permission to write and publish my own books.

How did Dr. Angelou inspire you?

Happy #CreativityThursday: Listen to National Poetry Month Podcast with Twitter Poem

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Happy #CreativityThursday!

Happy National Poetry Month!

What does poetry mean to you?

Who are your favorite poets?

Click on the link to listen to my podcast to hear my definition of poetry and a poem about Twitter. Enjoy!
http://soundcloud.com/ananda-leeke/listen-to-ananda-leekes-5

Happy Creativity Thursday – Read Some of My Favorite Writing Wisdom Quotes & Writing Life Poem

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Today, I want to share some of my favorite writing wisdom quotes from writers I adore.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Joan Didion, European American author

“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” Toni Morrison, African American author

“Writing becomes a way to embrace the mysterious, to walk with spirits, and an entry to the realm of the sacred.” bell hooks, African American author, poet, professor, and cultural critic

Photo Credit - Leigh Mosley, www.leighmosley.com
Photo Credit – Leigh Mosley, http://www.leighmosley.com

Here’s a poem about my writing life.

My Writing Life from That Which Awakens Me

#1

I’m a writer who writes even when she is asleep.

Right now I’m a writer who is in the midst of a long creative stretch.

One that involves birthing a book every two years.

My journey is both passion and paradox all at the same time.

At times it can consume me and keep me living on my own planet with enough rice milk, granola, ginger tea, honey, strawberries, bananas, apples, and split pea soup to last a lifetime.

This path has called me.

And I can’t begin to explain to folks what that exactly means because I am living it.

So I hope they can just get the meaning by watching me be me.

#2

I write because language chosen from deep within me liberates my hidden thoughts and gives life to my dreams.

I write because it is one of the best ways I know how to access freedom.

I am talking about the kind of freedom that brings all aspects of my existence into one room so that I can appreciate the fullness of my complex beauty.

The words that express my thoughts and describe my dreams make their way into phrases.

Some find homes in sentences that question and answer.

Others join the gospel choir in my mind and participate in call and response.

A few dangle as sharp, shooting fragments with meaning.

And then there are those that cast their net wide and paint wildly sensational murals on the canvas of my life.

They all embody the voice of my soul.

Happy Creativity Thursday – Read Poem About Being Poetry Virgin

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Here’s a lovely poem that shares the moment I lost my poetry virginity in the 1990s! Enjoy!

mewriterWhen I Lost My Virginity as a Poet from That Which Awakens Me

Before Busboys and Poets arrived on the scene, spoken word poets congregated at Soul Brothers Pizza on the corner of 14th and U in the early 1990s.

Two Morehouse brothas opened it up and kept it going for a few years.

Soul Brothers Pizza is where I lost my virginity as a poet.

It happened one night when my friend Kwame was hosting an event.

He had just helped me publish my first chapbook of poetry.

WPFW 89.3 radio host Grace Cavalieri had recently interviewed me on her show, “The Poet and the Poem.”

Despite these accomplishments, I was nervous.

I had never read my work in a public venue before.

As soon as Kwame introduced me, I could feel my hands trembling.

By the time I reached the makeshift stage, my mind was playing tricks on me.

My five senses soaked up the scene.

The second hand smoke made my eyes itch.

Conversations at nearby tables overwhelmed me.

I stood looking into the small crowd and wondered if they would even listen to anything I had to say.

Just when I thought I was going to sit down, words tumbled out of my mouth.

They were rushed.

Some folks stared at me for a nanosecond before returning back to their conversations.

The volume of table banter increased.

Kwame asked the audience to quiet down.

A few moments of silence emerged.

I closed my eyes.

That’s when I offered a few lines of my poetry.

After I uttered the last word, I opened my eyes and stared into a sea of blank faces.

I wondered if they understood my poem’s meaning.

Maybe it was too deep

Or maybe they just wanted to keep talking and eating.

Happy Yoga Monday – Read Yoga-Inspired Poem About Present Moment Acceptance

Happy Yoga Monday!

For me, yoga begins and ends with the breath. When I breathe in and out consciously, I come into the present moment. That’s the place where everything is happening. It’s the now space I strive to be in 24/7/365. Today, I want to share a poem I wrote about breathing and being in the present moment. Enjoy!

yogame3

Present Moment Acceptance from That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery

All I can be is here right now.
Present. Standing still in mountain pose. Grounding myself in Mother Earth.
Knowing that all the stuff that clamors for my attention is just stuff.
That’s it … just stuff that can be paused for a moment with a deep breath.
So I breathe freely and release through my mouth.

HAH
HAH
HAH
HAH
HAH
HAH
HAH

My deep breathing slows down.
I return to normal breath.
The air comes in and out of my nose.
My shoulders relax.
My neck settles into a softness it has not always known.
My chest area feels more open.
My core supports me with additional strength, giving way to a lengthened spine.
I remember the mantra and say it quietly.

All I can be is here right now.

It rearranges itself.
I follow its lead and repeat it in its new order.

Right here now is where I am.

Right here now is where I am.
Right here now is where I am.

Where I am is holding all my stuff that continues to clamor for my attention despite my long deep breaths.
The mantra reappears.

All I can be is here right now.

It establishes a call and response.
I call.


Happy Yoga Monday – Read A Yoga-Inspired Poem About Writing and Yoga

Happy Yoga Monday!

My yoga practice has helped me focus my creative energy and anchored me during my writing process for several books over the past 16 years.  I have even wrote poetry about the connection between two of my favorite practices. See my poem below.

yogame2

Yoga and Writing from That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery 

#1

When I practice yoga, my ego disappears.
I merge into the Infinite.
We become one.
One Love.
One Creation.
One Vessel.
Messages pass through me.
They become stories, essays, poems, truisms, quotes, prayers, affirmations, letters, e-mail messages, blog posts, and journal entries.

#2

I inhale and raise my hands above my head, pressing the palms of my hands together.
My gaze is focused on my thumbs.
My head is balanced on my shoulders.
My shoulders are rolled back.
My heart shines forth.
My spine is long and strong.
My belly is soft but tucked in.
My arms hang gracefully with splayed fingers.
My legs support my core as my feet ground themselves to Mother Earth.
In this space, I breathe in and out five times.
On my next inhalation, I come into a forward fold.
The blood rushes down from my head.
I get a buzz.
It feels like nirvana.
I take a deep breath and raise myself up one vertebrae at a time.
As I exhale, my arms find comfort by my side.
I stand in place for several moments, feeling the benefits of my short practice.
The next moment encourages me to inhale and bring my hands into prayer against my heart.
I close my practice chanting seven Oms.
Om in my spirit.
Om in my heart.
Om in my breath.
Om in my mind.
Om in my body.
Om in my thoughts.
Om in my writing.

mewriter

I have also taken yoga and writing workshops taught by my yoga teachers, Yael Flusberg and Kimberly Wilson. Their workshops offered me a chance to explore how different yoga poses and breathing exercises can stretch and energize my body, open my heart to new ideas, quiet my mind and clear emotional space so I can hear my inner wisdom, and focus my energy to meet deadlines for writing projects. They also gave me an opportunity to complete writing exercises after doing yoga poses and to share my reflections with a supportive community of fellow yoga students and writers.

Do you use yoga to support your creative work? How has it helped?

Have you ever taken a yoga and writing workshop? What did you learn?

gailsher

If you are looking for yoga and writing resources, check out the list below.

Happy Yoga Monday – Yoga Wisdom Quotes & Yoga-Inspired Poem About Yoga & Meditation

Happy Yoga Monday!

Here’s some yoga wisdom from some of my favorite yoginis and a yoga-inspired poem from my OM soul and heart! Enjoy!

Yoga Wisdom from Some of My Favorite Yoginis:

“I did not come to yoga to stretch. I came to live.” Maya Breuer, African American yoga teacher and entrepreneur“

“Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.” Nischala Joy Devi, American yoga teacher and author

“Yoga serves as my catalyst, my core, that place I turn to when my world is spinning.”  Kimberly Wilson, American yoga teacher, author, activist, entrepreneur, and designer

Ananda at the London Buddhist Meditation Centre, 2007
Ananda at the London Buddhist Meditation Centre, 2007

My Yoga Poem:

yoga and meditation in the morning (from That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery)

morning comes.

with it a host of thoughts begging for attention.

i take a deep breath and release them into open space.

they magically file themselves away in my cerebral
portfolio.

how sweet they are to make room for my meditation and yoga practice.

i wink and wave a quick goodbye.

they wink back and remind me they never ever say goodbye.

i return the wink with a grateful smile for having been granted a reprieve from
their chatter.

one thought escapes and attaches itself to my conscience.

she dances meringue style through my meditation.

i try to detach.

she dances harder.

i relax and allow her some space.

she quiets down.

i breathe in and out allowing my breath to travel out of my mouth.

she hears me breathing a series of audible “hahs” and joins me.

we merge and marry ourselves in the moment.

me and my thoughts exit stage left into a slow style salsa step.

our beat is harmony.

together we float into the morning silence making way for yoga to begin.

Happy Yoga Monday! 7/8

Photo Credit: PoetryofYoga.com
Photo Credit: PoetryofYoga.com

Happy Yoga Monday!

This morning, I started my day with a juicy yoga practice, a cup of lemon ginger tea, a bowl of oat bran, and The Poetry of Yoga, an anthology of contemporary yoga-inspired poetry by writers from 19 countries. My yoga teacher Yael Flusberg gave me a copy of The Poetry of Yoga as a summer solstice gift. It was edited and organized by HawaH, an amazing D.C.-based yoga teacher, author, spoken word poet, musician, educator, community organizer, and co-founder of One Common Unity, I discovered while attending a spoken word poetry event at Mocha Hut on U Street in 2005.

The Poetry of Yoga is my OM breakfast treat this month. It is filled with beautiful yoga reflections written by some of my favorite yoga teachers including Yael, HawaH, Faith Hunter, and Helina Metaferia. It also features by writers who have touched my soul such as Margaux Delotte-Bennett, Binahkaye Joy, Beandrea July, and Larry Yang. Today, I fell in love with the yoga-inspired words of Ali Rahn as I read her poem, “Faith.”

Faith by Ali Rahn

Totally

from which

my breath

originates

does my

trust

remain

Rahn’s words floated from my soul to my heart and reminded me each time I take a deep breath and allow myself to stay in the present moment, I am in a state of grace where faith lives. Now that’s a great yoga state of being to carry with me all week!

What yoga-inspired writing have you read this year?

How does the writing make you feel?

Photo Credit: PoetryofYoga.com
Photo Credit: PoetryofYoga.com

If you are looking for yoga-inspired summer reading, be sure to check out The Yoga of Poetry, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Enjoy your day!

OM #YogaMonday OM!

Photo Credit: "OM" drawing by Ananda Leeke
Photo Credit: “OM” drawing by Ananda Leeke
 

PS: If you would like to read about my yoga journey, check out my memoir That Which Awakens Me on Amazon.com. It is available on Kindle

My debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One features a main character who works as a yoga teacher in Washington, D.C. Click here to visit the Love’s Troubadours’ Pinterest board which contains some great information about the novel. You can purchase it on Amazon.com.

Happy Internet Geek Tuesday! 4/9

Photo Credit: January O'Neil
Photo Credit: January O’Neil

Happy Internet Geek Tuesday!

When I started blogging about my poetry, January Gill O’Neil a/k/a The Poet Mom was one of the first people I met online. Her Poet Mom blog inspired me to take risks with my poems. She made blogging about poetry COOL.

Watch a video of her reading her poem, “What Mommy Wants.”

Check out her debut poetry collection, Underlife.

Follow her on Twitter @januaryoneil.

Do you have a favorite poetry blogger?

 

Happy Creativity Thursday 4/4

Photo Credit; Derrick Weston Brown
Photo Credit; Derrick Weston Brown

Happy Creativity Thursday and National Poetry Month!

Today, I am celebrating the poetry of Derrick Weston Brown, an educator and a “people’s poet.”  He is also the author of Wisdom Teeth. Derrick is a dear friend and an extraordinarily gifted wordsmith.

Wisdom Teeth by Derrick Weston Brown
Wisdom Teeth by Derrick Weston Brown

His poetry gets underneath my skin and travels to the depths of my soul. When I hear him read his work, I am stopped in my tracks. Click here to watch his Wisdom Teeth trailer. Be sure to check his book out on Amazon.com. Go on and buy a copy! His poetry will expand your mind! Enjoy!

Who are your favorite poets?