Friday, April 1, 2016

Black Women and Meditation

“Complete mastery over the roaming tendencies of the mind is Yoga.” Sutra 1:2

        Have you ever noticed just how many thoughts cross your mind every minute? You can hold 
conversation and still quietly continue to think about unrelated topics. When you become
bored your mind brings all your worries, random memories, and responsibilities to the forefront
of your attention. Our racing thoughts tend to become most obvious in silent spaceswhile
trying to fall asleep or even in savasana at the end of a yoga class. Whenever it is apparent, there are
moments we realize how erratic and active our minds are. Even when we genuinely want to
focus and find peace of mind it is very difficult to bring our thoughts to a halt. This becomes
increasingly stressing as a yogi when you realize, according to the yogic sage, Patanjali, yoga is
the control of these roaming thoughts.
     Despite popular culture, at its heart, yoga is not and has never been a physical practice.
When we begin to study the origins and true purpose and power yoga contains, we find that is a
mental practice that can be achieved through physical means to ultimately reconnect with our
most vibrant inner selves, the spirit. The postures (asana) have excellent benefits in and of
themselves, but it is access to the mind that is the objective.
     When we are able to manage these racing thoughts, we are able to find peace. Imagine a
time that you have become so intensely focused everything else around you became quiet. Time
stops, sound ceases, even your physical body becomes almost unnoticeable. Yoga is the ability to
enter this space consciously and in a healthy way. There are many things that can absorb our
attention, but they can be fleeting or even detrimental to our health if not something positive. So
how do we go about finding a lasting, healthy way to slow and quiet our thoughts and truly
practice Yoga? Meditation.

“Meditation on one single reality is the way to overcome these obstacles.” Sutra 1:32

     Western medicine is finally catching up to the wisdom of the East. Studies are proving
the life changing effects of a meditative practice. Many of the mental and physical benefits that
attract people to asana can also be found in meditation. Quieting the mind is a highly effective
method for reducing stress. Stress reduction can result in lower blood pressure, a stronger heart, a
more effective immune system, decreased anxiety and depression, an increased attention span,
and better working memory, perception and learning acquisition. All of this proven by science!
     Stress wreaks havoc on our physical and mental beings. There is almost no illness that
cannot be improved by lowering our stress reactions. Meditation is medicine. Brain waves are
altered, hormone levels are affected, muscle tissue is loosened. We are able to practice being more present and therefore more effective in each area of our lives.

“Caring for [your]self is not self-indulgence it is selfpreservation...”Andre Lorde

Importance for Black Women
     Like most people, Black women are faced with stress every day. Black women are
subjected to even more stressors on the basis of race, gender, and other aspects of our person
such as socioeconomic status or sexual and gender orientation. Whether indirectly or to our own
person, police brutality, incarceration, and antiBlack discrimination exists around us. 
Women continue to face social pressures on how to look and act, and this is amplified for trans and
gender variant folks. The Flint Water Crisis highlights how access to resources is still very
limited within some of our communities. But even still, we are the mothers, sisters, daughters,
friends, coworkers,business owners, spiritual leaders, student organizers, and more that are
doing it all. With everything life requires of us it is imperative that healthy coping mechanisms
are in place for selfceare. Quite simply, we cannot do the work we are here to do if we are tired,
distracted, sick, or at worst, no longer here.
     Life can appear overwhelming. Anxiety and depression are given ample opportunity to
control us if not handled appropriately. Our health is important. Teaching ourselves how to live
in a way that honors our body, mind, and spirit models self love to those around us. 
Meditation is a practice that acknowledges all aspects of our health. The mind is what 
interprets our world and it allows us to control our body, which houses our spirit. 
Therefore, establishing a connection with this bridge is essential so that we may be our greatest selves.
     Sometimes meditation is avoided because initially it forces us to sit within all of our
swirling voices. Silence can amplify the sounds we are trying to avoid most. This avoidance,
while allowing us to survive the day, ultimately is fatal to our health and can manifest in a
variety of physical symptoms such as tight shoulders, migraines, poor eating habits, and more.
Meditation takes courage; courage to sit in the silence, courage to persist through your noisy
mind, and courage to find peace within. It will be difficult for those dealing with depression,
anxiety, and other mental health issues to begin and maintain this practice. That is okay, and you
are encouraged to seek help from qualified practitioners who can guide you both through the
practice and difficult negative spaces. Imagine, however, the freedom that comes with the reconciliation of past hurts and negative self talk. You have already taken the first step.

“What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Henry David Thoreau

How to Meditate
     Meditation is easy to learn but is a challenge. Like with any difficult posture, it requires
determination and persistent practice. You are attempting to break a lifelong habit, so be gentle
with yourself. Your mind will not be absolutely still your first time, or maybe even the first
hundred times. That is okay, yoga is a journey. Incorporating meditation will be hard at first.
You’ll be shaky and may feel discouraged, but return to the mat and try again just as one must do
to achieve any pose such as Headstand (Sirsasana) or Crow Pose (Bakasana). Here’s how to get

            1. Set aside 5 minutes in your day to be alone. You want to close yourself off from
                distraction as much as possible.
            2. Sit in a comfortable seated position such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana). Finding a
                comfortable space can take some adjusting. Sitting on a pillow so that your hips
                are higher than your knees will help alleviate back pain. Utilizing a wall may also
                help, or sit upright in a chair. Scan your body for places of tension and modify
                accordingly to relax them.
           3. Connect with your breath. Focus on the sensations of your breathingthe
               temperature of your breath in (cool) and out (warm) of your nostrils, the air
               moving down the back of your throat, or your belly rising and falling. It may help
               to place your hands on your stomach to establish a concrete relationship. This can
               be the most difficult part to establish as this is where your mind must be trained to
               rest. Don’t try to “not think”. Try instead to follow your breathing. When your mind               
               begins to wander, use the breath to return you to focus.

      ● Count with your in and exhalation.
      ● Focus on a physical object to help guide attention.
      ● Journal your experience. Recording your journey will allow you to reflect on your
      ● Practice connecting to your breath throughout the day. Creating awareness will translate
         in your meditation.
      ● Connect to a spiritual practice. Pairing the breath with a prayer or mantra will add
         personal meaning and significance to your efforts.
      ● Find a qualified instructor to guide and help deepen your practice.
      ● Keep practicing!

     Your mind will wander because movement is comfortable. But when we are still we
create an internal place of peace and no longer have to resort to temporary external forces or
remain victim to the constant change in our environment. When the mind is silent all that is left
is clarity. The practice allows you to become your own foundation. It is powerful because it
reconnects you to yourself. The benefits are worth the effort. You’re worth it. Meditation is yoga, yoga is meditation, and all is a journey.

Written by Kala Lacy

IG @benditlikelacy


  1. Woow! Thank you so much for sharing this. I've never been serious on meditation..... Actually i have never done meditation before.
    With this post, I'm going to include it in my daily practice.
    Thank you so much !

    1. I am so glad this got you interested! Thanks for reading.

  2. Hey,thanks for sharing this wisdom. I must have been scared to even try meditariin...but i know i need it now. This was the perfect thing for me to start the better half on my practice.

    1. I'm so glad you are encouraged! You got this.