Into 2022 & Plant Medicine

Hoya Lisa my plant medicine

Three months ago was the last time that I wrote on this blog!

Between regular life, work, continuing to settle in my new place, the holidays and then getting COVID, I didn’t prioritize my writing. Which is wrong, because I always start feeling off when I don’t write. I’ve had this nagging feeling for a while that I should write something here. Anything, no matter how short.

Recently, a friend and my mom both separately mentioned to me that I should start writing again. So I’m here. Getting back to my practice. Like I do when I return to yoga or meditation when I’ve been away for awhile. Which had been the case for a few weeks when I stopped those as well.

I like to think that I’m good at taking care of myself. But we all slip up every once in a while. Things get overwhelming and we lose track of time and don’t center our wellness. When we don’t center our wellness, we get sick.

In 2020, I didn’t gather with anyone during the holidays. It was awful. So it was wonderful to spend time with loved ones this past Thanksgiving. It was a small gathering. We were all vaccinated and things felt mostly safe.

A COVID CHRISTMAS

In December, when I heard that Omicron was quickly spreading everywhere, I knew that gathering for Christmas was going to be a risk. My mom, brother and I spent three days together over Christmas.

My brother had sniffles by the time he went home. Pre-COVID, we would have thought nothing of it. Luckily he gets tested regularly and soon tested positive. Most of his housemate were sick as well.

My mom and I started to have similar symptoms. I tested positive soon after, but we were never able to get my mom tested. Thankfully we’re all fully vaccinated and boosted, so our symptoms never got worse than that of a bad cold. We assumed my mom had COVID as well, so we all isolated for ten days. The new five day CDC guidance seems questionable at best.

Anyway, now I don’t even know what to think. I took extreme measures not to get COVID. My activities have been extremely limited. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant in almost two years. I never stopped wearing a mask indoors when out in public. I’m barely out in public and work from home.

Even though my case was very mild, we don’t know the long-term effects of COVID. Until the past few years, I had never known that there were long-term effects from getting chickenpox until I learned about shingles. This summer I also got the two doses of the shingles vaccine. 2021 was about getting all the vaccinations! Got the flu shot too!

Although I might have a somewhat heightened immunity to COVID right now, I know that it won’t last. Especially with all the variants popping up. I don’t want to get it again. I’ve heard of people getting it two and three times! So I’m still being very careful. But I do want to find a way to be out in the world a bit more, because I’m missing out on a lot and it’s getting to me.

PLANT MEDICINE

Taking care of my plants, learning about plants and even talking about plants makes me happy. It’s bringing that peaceful feeling from being out in nature to the indoors. From being more immersed in the wellness community, I’ve learned the new (to me) way that many refer to things that help you feel better as medicine. If there’s a certain song that you play that makes you feel better, that song might be your medicine.

It makes sense when you think about the definition of medicine – a treatment for or prevention of disease. Usually we think of it as a pharmaceutical made by a company to fight disease. But what is disease? Dis-ease. When we are not feeling at ease – feeling unwell. Many things can make us feel at ease and they don’t have to be pharmaceuticals.

I’ve realized that plants are a medicine for me and plant therapy is good for my soul. The plant pictured above is called Hoya Australis Lisa. Yes, I have a namesake plant! She is the latest addition to my plant family and a Christmas gift to me from my mom. I usually get plant cuttings from friends and family, so I don’t buy many plants.

I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a plant online, but this was a plant that I really wanted. I’m not going to many stores nowadays and the stores that I do visit, I haven’t seen one. I don’t know anyone with this plant, so I couldn’t get a cutting. I ordered her from Horti and the delivery was very fast, so I was happy with the experience and finding this plant medicine. This is my first Hoya, so I’m looking forward to learning more about this plant as I move into 2022.

Free Yoga On The Library Lawn

yoga on the libary lawn

Over the years, I’ve read about many free yoga classes at public libraries in Massachusetts and in other states as well. This morning, I was finally able to attend a free yoga class right here in Quincy, outside on the lawn at Thomas Crane Public Library. This class was the first in a series of community classes taking place each Wednesday morning in September on the library lawn.

It’s hard taking pictures and enjoy the relaxing vibe, but I managed to snap a few.

There was a nice breeze — and lots of bees. Four or five bees hovered over blades of grass in front of me. A few ants made their way onto my mat too, but no stings or bites!

I was beneath a large tree, so there was some shade and bright sun streaming through the branches. There was a mostly clear blue sky with a few wispy clouds floating by. Even though the class was in the morning, it was warm and a tiny bit humid. Perfect weather and a reminder that summer is still here.

There was a good turnout and new arrivals kept showing up through most of the class. We were mostly an older crowd, but there was young woman who arrived towards the end with the cutest little girl. They both got on their mats and dove right into their practice.

From conversation I heard, a few people said this was their first yoga class. Our teacher, Rhiannon Skolnick of Humble Roots Yoga, was enthusiastic and has a gentle soothing way about her.

This might have been my first yoga class since the pandemic started. Possibly the second, but the first this summer. Because I’m vaccinated now and there was a lot of space to spread out on the library lawn, I felt comfortable not wearing a mask. Hopefully the weather will cooperate next week for another wonderful class.

Free Yoga Boston (October 2020 – May 2021)

home yoga practice

For now, virtual classes are still the norm, so it’s still a good time to continue working on a home yoga practice and include meditation.

So let’s light some candles and roll out our mats. Classes listed are free or donation based. Please donate if you can! Also, since people can take online classes from anywhere, the times listed here are Eastern Time.

Make sure to check the Free Yoga Boston Facebook Group in addition to the Free Yoga Boston Facebook page. The group is private, but you can request to join. Members share information and there are additional classes and events listed.

Some classes here are found on Eventbrite and Meetup, so you can look for classes there as well. As always, this list is a work in progress and will be updated. From what I can tell, the classes listed below are ongoing for the time being.

Classes for Boston Community Yoga (BCY) are included and may vary somewhat week to week. DM them on Instagram to sign up and look at their weekly schedule.

If you know of other classes that are missing or have corrections, let me know!

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MONDAY

BCY – Monday Motivational Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
5:30pm – 6:30pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

Dan Rodman Meditation and Spirituality (Ongoing) Virtual
6:30pm – 7:30pm

Online Zoom Yoga (Ongoing) Virtual
8pm – 9:15pm

Meditation Group (Ongoing) Virtual
9pm – 9:30pm

TUESDAY

BCY – All Levels Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
6pm – 7pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

BCY – Beginner Vinyasa Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
7pm – 8pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

 

WEDNESDAY

BCY – Morning Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
7am – 8am (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

Yoga for Busy Legal Professionals (Ongoing) Virtual
2pm – 2:20pm

BCY – Vinyasa Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
6pm – 7pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

Laughter Yoga on Zoom (Ongoing) Virtual
7:30pm – 8:10pm

Zoom Yoga, Wednesday Release! (Ongoing) Virtual
8pm – 9:15pm

THURSDAY

Chair Yoga with Ivor (Weekly through 4/29/21) Virtual
11am – 12pm

Older Adults’ Chair Yoga (4/22/21, 6/24/21) Virtual
2pm – 3pm

BCY – Vinyasa Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
5:30pm – 6:30pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

FRIDAY

Yogi Dimps Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
12pm – 12:30pm (DM for IG Live classes)

BCY – Friday Morning Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
6:30am – 7:30am (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

Friday Unwind: Gentle Yoga (Ongoing) Virtual
4pm – 5pm

SATURDAY

BCY – Power Vinyasa (Ongoing) Virtual
8am – 9am (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

Self Care Saturday All Levels Yoga (Ongoing) Virtual
9am – 10am

Online Guided Meditation (Ongoing) Virtual
9:45pm – 11pm

BCY – Weekend Warrior Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
11am – 12pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

SUNDAY

Online Guided Meditation (Ongoing) Virtual
9:45am – 11am

Afro Flow Yoga (Ongoing) Virtual
1:30pm – 2:30pm

Yoga and Mindfulness (Ongoing) Virtual
2pm – 3pm

BCY – Yoga for the Sunday Scaries (Ongoing) Virtual
6:30pm – 7:30pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

BCY – Restorative Flow (Ongoing) Virtual
7:30pm – 8:30pm (Time may vary. Check weekly schedule and DM to sign up.)

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Indoor Garden: Growing Celery

celery growing in small jar of water

My relationship with celery varies over time. When I’m going through a soup making phase, I tend to buy more. Then I usually never make enough soup and some (or most!) of it goes to waste.

After that, I stop buying celery. Then a year later, I read a random article about the million health benefits of celery and wonder why I never have it in the house. So I buy some, cut up some sticks and remember how I hate that it’s so stringy. I plan to use it in some tuna or something and two months later I have to throw it all away, because it’s gone bad. This is the celery story of my life.

In other words, I need to keep just a small amount of celery at home and not much more. Over the past few months, during quarantine, I’ve been eating more celery — chopping it up and putting it into green salads. It’s so strange how when I eat it plain or even with something on it, it tastes bland and the stringy nature of it annoys me. But eating it as part of a salad adds a lot of flavor and a wonderful crunch. I love it!

During this time, I saw a blog post on making kitchen scrap gardens and how easily I could grow celery indoors in a small jar. So about five days ago, I cut the stalks off and put the root in some water. Look at all the growth in the picture above! In two weeks or so, I will probably have a small harvest. Yay!

Most likely the harvest update won’t be on this blog. So follow me on Instagram, where I document my plant parent adventures, and see how my garden continues to grow.

*Updated 8/13/2020* I harvested and it was delicious!

Black Wellness Matters

The casual way George Floyd was murdered adds to the horror of it. The rawness of it. It was pure bloodlust. The police officer extinguished Floyd’s last breath in a way that seemed so mundane to him. As if he were wringing out a sponge after doing dishes. That’s the coldness of a serial killer. That’s the end result of systemic racism — going back to when Black people were enslaved in this country.

We were considered property, not human beings, so the owners could do whatever they wanted to a Black person’s body with no consequences. Think about all the permutations of what that meant over generations. Our bodies were not our own.

Seeing the video of Floyd’s murder on repeat is such a painful blow to our collective and individual spirits. For Black people especially, it’s been a tough few weeks. It’s been a tough year. It’s been a tough few hundred years.

I’ve felt hurt. Angry. Sad. And have been meditating more than ever, as a way to stop thinking about the current reality for a bit and gather myself.

Recently, I heard the word remember broken down —  “re” and “member.” Meaning to put oneself together again. I found meditation through taking yoga classes and find both perfect ways to center myself and gather strength. To remember myself.

Yoga is such a powerful tool for wellness. The term wellness gets thrown around a lot and seems to have different meanings to some. The World Health Organization glossary defines it as follows.

Wellness is the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realisation of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfilment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings.

Wellness moves beyond physical health to become more holistic and include every aspect of being human. In order to achieve wellness, especially as Black people, we also must heal the wounds of racism. Not just current racism, but intergenerational racism that traumatized our ancestors.

Our ancestors found ways to cope within a racist society and passed down those coping mechanisms to their children. Their children did the same and the cycle repeats. Those of us on journeys of healing are becoming more conscious of the ways that racism has caused us harm.

Meditation allows us to go deep and start reckoning with how to move forward and deal with things differently. Like most Black people, I have dealt with racism in the past and obviously continue dealing with it now.

At the end of last year, I reached a tipping point. I only have so much time and energy and dealing with racism is exhausting. It wears you down. As a Black woman, dealing with sexism on top of it is even more exhausting. In the past, I have let a lot of things go. One particular incident in the past, I regret not having addressed head on.

During law school, I had a co-op at a law firm here in Boston. I loved the work I was doing — ironically enough, researching property and land use. My supervisors were happy with my work too and wanted me to interview for an associate position. I had never intended to take the traditional law firm route, but I was interested.

Very soon after hearing this news, one of the white male attorneys at the firm, not anyone that I had worked with directly, made an off-hand comment to me about how affirmative action hires aren’t qualified. I would have only been the second Black woman attorney at the firm.

I was so shocked – like a deer in headlights. I don’t remember if I said anything back to him. I ended up not working at the firm, which no longer exists, but I didn’t tell any of my supervisors about what happened. Nor did I mention it to anyone in the school administration until much later.

Another incident happened on a different co-op that I also never mentioned to anyone. I was treated to a nice lunch celebrating the end of my co-op. I was the only woman and the only Black person in our small group. One of the men was talking about working in Africa, then casually mentioned all the sex he had while there. They all laughed. I was so uncomfortable. I don’t know that any of them noticed or cared about how the statement might have impacted me. These incidents were back in the mid-90s, but I still remember how I felt.

Late last summer, I was at a small public lecture. During the talk, I was rather dramatically singled out for being the only Black person there. I couldn’t believe it. I was like a deer in headlights — again. I didn’t say anything to anyone while I was there, but kept thinking about it. I only told a few people afterwards and was still upset.

A few months later, I was working on a new project and there was an incident where training for new employees went awry with a racist statement during the presentation. I wasn’t there, but learned of it after an email went out apologizing to everyone for the incident and strongly denouncing it. It was addressed right away and the way things played out, it made me wonder if I should say something about what happened to me at the lecture. Maybe I needed to give them a chance to do better.

I decided to say something. Maybe the organization would make some changes and nothing like this would happen to anyone else. At the very least, I wouldn’t have the ongoing regret that I didn’t say anything.

On a Friday night, I sent a very detailed email to the organization and heard back by early the next  morning. They apologized profusely and I later spoke with leadership about my experience. Training was going to be implemented along with other changes in their organization.

These experiences I’m sharing here are just the tiniest amounts of racism that I’ve dealt with in my life. I’ve been spit on and called the N word. If I reacted to everything all the time, it would take up too much of my life. That’s the same for most Black people. We just want to live our lives like anyone else. We want to rest like Breonna Taylor. We want to go jogging like Ahmaud Arbery. We just want to live and enjoy wellness.

Hopefully, sharing my experiences here might help someone see things from a new perspective. Even if it’s only one person, that’s enough. Black lives matter and I’ve been sharing mine by blogging since 2006. Being a blogger has coincided with finding yoga and meditation. I’ve learned to focus on my breath and how it’s something I can always depend on.

Back in 2009, I first learned about free yoga classes being offered in Boston and wanted to make sure others knew about these wonderful resources. So I founded Free Yoga Boston, where I share information about free yoga classes and more. It’s all a continuing journey for me toward wellness. And Black wellness matters.