who we are | contemplating gender identity + expression

who we are,

how we embody + express

all of our identities —

namely, gender + culture —

and how we respect + support the wholeness of others in embodying + expressing their multitudes is an ongoing contemplation in our home.

Last month, we discovered Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and discussed the gender spectrum and the many ways to be a “boy”/”girl”/”kid”…PERSON!
While my little person was still nesting in the womb, I held a blessing ceremony and invited all who were present to speak love, life and possibility over my child. my own prayer was for my soon-to-be human-baby-person to have a compassionate soul.

Parenting with a heart for justice, liberation and healing compels me to ensure that this compassionate soul cultivates a “liberating lexicon” rooted in the skillful understanding that we have the power to name ourselves and we will continue to resist the oppressive forces that tell us otherwise.

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

📷 #2: kiddo’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “boy.”

i am a boy.

i like building, drawing, games. 

📷 #3: mommy’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “girl.”

i am a girl.

i like reading. 

📷 #4: two of the places we descend from…opening up the conversation around how we express culture and ethnicity. specifically, how does a brownskinned, black-identified, multi-cultured, multi-ethnic, multi-racial child express/embody their “white” part? (#howsway)  my child’s answer was all levels of woke: he basically named a certain dangerous political character and his behaviors, indicating my son’s awareness of how toxic “white pride” is expressed. 

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reflections in the 7th year of #motherhood

i was initiated into “mothering” by practicing (with much fumbling + failing) on the many littles in my family who arrived before i became a parent 7 years ago.

then, on my son’s 1st birthday, it suddenly dawned on me that the celebration was not singularly for him, as culture and industry have dictated. it was a day for us to honor the blessing of our journey as parents, our vision for ourselves and our child(ren), and the circle of loved ones who support us in the process.

the day my son took his first breath holds most meaning for me and is what i officially recognize as mother’s/mothering day. it is when i became the mother that was seeded and nourished in the wombs of countless generations. through teresa, gene, sylvia, mary, dora and all the mothers before them, i bloomed into being. and it is this very specific moment in april 2010, that cord of memory, and those bodies that i wish to connect more deeply to — our collective labouring and birthing day.

and less and less to what feels fabricated and complicated by the realities of internalized grief and trauma, interpersonal strife, unjust institutional policies/practices that create inequities, disparities and barriers for children and caregivers/parents, and distorted gender-biased ideologies about motherhood that upholds a narrow vision of who can lay claim to the experience of mothering.

so i arrived at this day with mixed feelings for many deep-seeded/emerging/evolving reasons.

nonetheless, as always, i continue to celebrate:

mothers + all others who love, advocate for, educate, empower, inspire, nurture, and protect children. 

while also reflecting on the ways that consumer culture + commercial industry dictates who, what, when + how we celebrate. 

especially when, under the influence of profit + politics, these same commercially-driven institutions fail to advocate for (or struggle to protect) the health, education + well-being of children, caregivers, and parents.

this illustration by mari andrew is the most authentic expression of my it’s-complex-and-complicated “reframing” of Mother’s Day/Mothering Day.

a boy + his dog hat

We cleaned out closets today to donate clothes and shoes that the kiddo has outgrown. But he ain’t lettin’ go of this hat his nana gave him back in 2011!

Even though he hasn’t worn it in years, his dad nearly became his mortal by suggesting it go in the donation pile. He’s totally his mama’s child in this way — some things are too precious to give away! 

See how serious K was: he napped* in it. I took it off so he wouldn’t sweat and, sure enough, when he woke up he came bounding downstairs with it right back in place.

(*this ultra-rare event was a gift of quiet for me.)

dream tales

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Overhearing these two adorables wake up and tell each other what they dreamt about was the sweetest way to begin this final day of the year!

Until recently, my son couldn’t recall the details of his dreams beyond knowing if they had evoked scary feelings. So, being the archiving-curating-storyholding mama that I am, I was geeked when he launched into the wild Minecraft-esque adventure he dreamt back in October. He indulged my request to draw a story of it, which he called “The Disappearance of MJ.”

This morning, I could hear the kids rolling awake in their beds — sleepy voices brightening as they recalled dreamscapes filled with flowers big enough to sleep in, LEGO-built dinos and robots, and various characters and people from daylight activities superimposed onto a Jurassic World dimension.

More than being tickled by and capturing a cute moment, I hope to preserve and nurture the connection between these cousins — that they will continue to share their dreams whether seeded in heart, built by hand, or envisioned in slumber.

mindfulness in a crisis

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Exploded and firefighters are two words you don’t want to hear from an unfamiliar caller, informing you that your mother needs you to come over to the house immediately.

Already in the car, heading in the opposite direction, with my husband thankfully behind the wheel. My first response was not to panic but to pause and assess. In reflection, I recognize: This is my brain on mindfulness.

And let me say right now that mindfulness is not a quick fix tool that I acquired after some 6-8 week stress reduction workshop. It is the result of 10-plus years as a dharma practitioner with feet grounded firmly on the Zen path and a lifetime of exploring contemplative spiritual and wellness practices that have helped recalibrate my fiery temperament “to be more able more often” to generate skillful responses.

I’ll be straight up: it doesn’t “work” all the time in all situations! There are certain conditions that are more likely to trigger my unskillfulness than others — lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, information overload, my enduring pet peeve with folks’ poor communication skills, a sudden pile-on of simultaneous requests for assistance or multiple “crises” (’cause, ya know, family) and, not for mere emphasis and effect but because it is my reality and truly can the training grounds for spiritual resilience, all manner of family habits/patterns/cycles.

It takes time, over a span of time and situations, to cultivate mindfulness as a spiritual faculty. With practice this faculty serves as a power, which becomes activated in a moment of crisis, where our innate flight-fight-freeze instinct is bypassed and instead calm and clarity prevail. So instead of having my husband immediately bust a U-turn, I took a fortifying breath and quietly cancelled the appointment I was heading to; notified other family members of the news — explaining that I didn’t have all the details but would provide an update soon; prayed that no one was harmed; and concentrated on seeing clearly and calmly a broad range of possibility.

En route I learned that my mother and grandmother were indeed safe, which made the drive from the opposite end of town less stressful. Still with only minimal information, I was mentally prepared to pull up to a busy scene with the driveway blocked by a firetruck, a crew assessing damage, and my mother and grandmother in a dither.

Much to my relief, there was no outward evidence of any hazard. Life, limb, and living quarters were in tact. There had, in fact, been an “explosion” and “smoke” in the form of a pipe to the water heater bursting, a release of some vapor/exhaust cloud through the smokestack, and a legitimate concern about the gas line being connected. But, thank God, all was well…albeit flooded. No elevated heart rate, nervous sweat, or belly-twisting fear to recover from. A sigh of relief and deep gratitude that nothing worse had happened. I later joked, Do y’all know how it sounds to hear “exploded” and “firefighters” in the same sentence?! There’s a certain picture that comes to mind

I won’t speculate further about worst-case scenarios. What’s more important was being reminded that, whether in the midst of uncertainty, tension, and crisis or in their aftermath, I can trust the fruits of my practice will continue to bloom — equipping, nourishing, sustaining, and restoring me.

woman horizontal | the sound of him

all that motherhood inspires…

3 Jewels Yoga™

he wakes whistling, thrilled by the zipping wind
he conjures and reshapes into sharps and flats

snaps a crisp unpatterned rhythm
with supple-skinned thumb and middle finger
(wiped dry between refrains)
flickering his wrist for triumphant emphasis

3jewels.allmannerofsound

mutters a play-by-play commentary
to an imagined audience of rapt gamers
punctuated with shrieks, chides, wails and groans

jigs an exuberant popiscle-sugared dance
wagging his pineapple-cherry coated tongue
shuffling feet,
flexing knees,
scuttling erratically to a giggle-inflected beat
oh! mustn’t leave out the slapping bum finale and encore

drills up and down 14 stairs,
thunderous heel-stomping laps
and cushioned drop-and-rolls,
parkouring over and around the furniture
a streak of joy unleashed

bumps and bangs precede whimpers and squealed tears
beckoning empathetic triage,
strokes of comfort and mild caution to remember,
in all this play, that his body is growing and does not yet know
the new dimensions marking where it ends and external…

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On “Revolutionary Mothering” | The Laura Flanders Show

In this, my 6th year of motherhood, I am celebrating my power to radically design a life for my child that does not conform to anyone else’s standards or conventions. I am crafting a life that resists the call to pass on legacies of unexamined dysfunction and empty rituals embedded in played-out cultural traditions shaped and sullied by the whims of industry, technology, politics and religion. Shrugged off and unquestioned… because, well, it’s always been done that way.

Long before I imagined myself a parent, I stood in line at a roti shop on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn and chewed on the island wisdom I overheard from an elder:

Yuh doh raise chil’run. Yuh raise cattle and corn. Yuh teach chil’run an lead ’em…

I recall nothing else about that moment — what sparked his statement, who he was speaking to (if anyone at all…because in my experience with my West Indian fam, elders have no problem schoolin whomever’s in earshot), or if anyone had a response. I just know that it utterly surprised me when I would have easily expected the more archaic “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child” mindset from a man of his generation!

He planted a beautiful seed that summer day in 2002; an heirloom aspiration that germinated for years until it sprouted and blossomed with the birth of nieces, nephews and my own son.

Honor their humanity. Give them the freedom to experience childhood in all its soft, fluffy, bright, silly, sweet and tender possibilities. Grant them vocal range — to be powerful, convicted, loud, quiet, bashful, brazen, kind, incomprehensible.

Gift them the capacity to see clearly, to call you out on your mistakes, to remind you to apologize, to offer you grace and forgiveness.

Resist the urge to fight, win, or dominate. Be stretched by the challenges they’ll throw down. Be touched by their magic to transform you. Grow up alongside them. Teach with compassion as you learn, unlearn, relearn. Learn as you teach, allowing love and respect to prevail.

That long-ago memory was conjured up by this powerful piece from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, which speaks my heart and truth:

“Mamas who unlearned domination by refusing to dominate their children.

Extended family and friends. Community care givers. Radical childcare collectives.

All of us, breaking cycles of abuse, by deciding what we want to replicate from the past, and what we urgently need to transform.

We are “M-othering”, mothering ourselves.”

March Mindfulness 2015

As parents, partners and caregivers, we often feel stretched and compressed to balance our multiple responsibilities. So I am sharing my 3rd annual “call-to-action” that I launch each spring through my teaching practice, 3 Jewels Yoga.

#MarchMindfulness is a time to renew our commitment to cultivating skillfulness in thought, word + deed.

#PAUSE to #BREATHE.

#TUNEIN to your body (sensations) + mind (thoughts, perceptions, moods, emotions) + heart (intentions + aspirations).

#NOTICE without judgement what is present.

#TEND to yourself with #COMPASSIONATE actions — be it meaningful movement, words of affirmation, or spending time in the company of a #goodspiritualfriend!

♡ 3jewelsyoga.com

3 Jewels Yoga™

Today I kick off my annual ‪#‎MarchMindfulness‬ campaign to promote the practice of bringing skillful + compassionate awareness to how we engage, are impacted by, and then respond to the world around us.

The Satipatthana Sutta (Discourse on The Four Establishments of Mindfulness) is a foundational text and, ultimately, guiding practice in Buddhism. It is the inspiration and heart of my ‪#‎BodyAwarenessBootcamp‬ series, which ended this afternoon, and truly the ground in which my teaching practice is rooted.

How do we fully establish ourselves in mindfulness? We are diligent in developing a clear comprehension of the realities of our body and mind. It begins with the thread of the breath:

Breathing in,
be aware that [you] are breathing in.
Breathing out,
be aware that [you] are breathing out.

Breathing in,
be aware of [your] whole body.
Breathing out,
be aware of [your] whole body.

Throughout each day this…

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