winter solstice blessings

Happy Winter Solstice + Full Moon Eve, Dear Ones!

For me, it is a time to rest, reflect and
enjoy a balance of solitude and authentic connection.

In whatever ways you observe,
participate in, reframe or abstain from the festivities of this season,
may you honor that which has heart and deepest meaning for you.

3jewels.merryhappyeverything1!

hanukkah rededication

For the holy week, we lit candles each night to rededicate ourselves to practicing values that help us feel cared for and supported as a family.


My kiddo chose:

LOVE on the 1st night.
KINDNESS on the 2nd night.
LISTENING on the 3rd night.
GENEROSITY on the 5th night.

I picked:
PATIENCE on the 4th night.
LAUGHTER on the 6th night.
CURIOSITY on the 7th night.
TEAMWORK on the 8th night.

 


Creating a spiritual legacy: How We Hanukkah‘d in 2017.


Image Descriptions:

📷 #1 — In the background, an 8-year old fair-complexioned Black boy sits at a table, playing with an action figure in darkened room. In the center of the table are 9 burning tealight candles arranged to represent a hanukiah. In the foreground is a small piece of paper, entitled “Hanukkah Rededication,” with a list of family values in a child’s handwriting — 1) Love. 2) Kindness. 3) Listening. 4) Patience. 5) Generosity. 6) Laughter.

📷 #2 — Overhead view of 9 unlit tealight candles in the middle of a dark grey table (1 blue glass circular candleholder in the center on top of a colorful ceramic tile and 4 clear glass circular candleholders on each side of it)and an 8×11 piece of sketch paper with all 8 family values re-written in different colors including 7) Curiosity and 8) Teamwork.

📷 #3 — The same “Hanukkah 2018 Rededication” list posted on a refrigerator.

how we hanukkah

Blessed is light in the world;
Blessed is the light in humanity; Blessed is the light of Hanukkah.
— Humanistic Hanukkah Blessing

yesterday, stirred by instinct, i decided that we’d create our own hanukiah. (lemme take a sacred pause here to emphasize how Spirit truly moves through us because i had not even checked the calendar to see when Hanukkah fell this month!) only now as i write am i connecting this intuitively-inspired action to heart-seeds nourished by Sangha’s reflection on what we have inherited, the quality of how we give + receive, and what we transmit.

🕯 what have i inherited? the soul-deep call to explore the spiritual legacy of my jewish ancestors dora, gottlieb + mary roth.

🕯 how do i give + receive? by trusting curiosity + call to move beyond ideologies + orthodoxies about how to celebrate/worship. by telling new stories + making new practices + memories.

🕯 what do i transmit + pass on? imagination, creativity + openness to be expansive with how we live out the yearnings of our spiritual hearts, which are compelled toward what feels nourishing.

so on tuesday night, we took turns re-reading Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa + inviting the bell. i recited a prayer before K lit the first candles. then the kiddos ate brownies to sweeten the day.



first light of hanukkah:

the light of reason that teaches us the difference between right and wrong.
(*)
— Marilyn Rowens, Secular Humanistic Judaism


d4m.howwehannukah1a.jpg

(*) dualistic language that I always expand to “skillful” and “unskillful” to acknowledge the range of context and conditions as well as the process of learning, stretching, deepening, revising, evolving as we grow through, test out and experience actions that create suffering/harm and those that cultivate freedom/healing from suffering/harm.

d4m.howwehannukah1b.jpg


#BodhicittaBookshelf

📚 Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez

📚 Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa

📚 Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson

📚 Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg



the second light of hanukkah
the light of self-esteem that inspires us to believe in ourselves.

my little ray of light just might have been most geeked about learning how to use a lighter. these mudras were all him, y’all!

here i paused + cradled my heart for the devastating loss of young lives to suicide triggered by bullying. as much as i want to try to understand the unimaginable, i can hardly read beyond these headlines.

that these babies are suffering so deeply that voices of cruelty drown out voices of love is unacceptable. we must protect these babies — those who have been taught to harm + those who are the targets of harm — at all costs.


the third light of hanukkah:
the light of courage that gives us the strength to stand up for our beliefs. 

[king k + his “flamethrower,” lighting the 3rd candle last night!]

afterward, we talked about what courage looks like + read about courageous activist + Nobel Peace winner, Malala Yousafzai.

courage also looks like untethering ourselves from what no longer serves us — thoughts, values, beliefs, behaviors, practices, rituals, — particularly, if they are “inherited” or “borrowed” + not resonant with who we are or aspire to be.

#BodhicittaBookshelf
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaële Frier


the fourth light of hanukkah:
the light of freedom that reminds us to take responsibility for ourselves.

as we reflected on freedom, i was instantly transported back to Salus Center’s Whose Streets? workshop last saturday + heard the echoes of Dr. Koach Baruch Frazier declaring, “we have a duty to know that we are free!”

so what makes us feel free?

for my 7-year old: not having homework! 🤸🏾

for me, i told him, one of the many things that affirms my sense of freedom is being my own boss so that i can cultivate a skillful livelihood that enables me to stay aligned in Spirit while supporting others in being whole + free.

we read about Ida B. Wells who was born into slavery, emancipated as a young child, then became a celebrated journalist, crusader against lynching + a voice for justice.

#BodhicittaBookshelf
Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist by Philip Dray


the fifth light of hanukkah:
the light of love that enables us to care for those in need.


we celebrated love…the binding energy that defuses t(w)een-angsty squabbles + sustains sugar-fueled cousins + siblings through gramma’s holiday slumber party!


the sixth light of hanukkah:
the light of loyalty that helps us keep our promises to those who depend on us. 

[jedi vibes on this 6th night of reflection under the new moon (rosh chodesh). 🌑]

on this night we contemplated models of loyalty, dependability + trustworthiness, which include superheroes, trollhunters + dragonriders…and, in real life, parents who always got ya back!


the seventh light of hanukkah:
the light of generosity that encourages us give even when we do not receive.


we talked about the many ways we can practice generosity — like giving your cousin most of your goldfish. being patient, kind + helpful. spending time with those you care about. listening well. having a big heart. 💖


the eighth light of hanukkah:
the light of hope that leads us to a vision of a better world. 



k has thoroughly enjoyed his official role as “keeper of the flame” + surprised me by suggesting we add the buddha statue + goddess card to create this tableau.

(i’m sure his eye for #miseenscene has been influenced in some small way by all the episodes of #fixerupper he watches with his dad!)

on this very last night we celebrated hope + its connection to each of the seven virtues that came before.

hope can energize our capacity to embody + experience generosity, loyalty, love, freedom, courage, self-esteem, reason/wisdom. and each of these qualities can strengthen our hope.

The Eight Lights of Hannukah by Marilyn Rowens, Secular Humanistic Judaism

zen mom life | dirt + dharma

skate. bike. dig. 

small but sure hands, inviting the bell. mismatched socks tiptoe-ing around beetle skeletons through the labyrinth. 

pausing for hugs. bowing to friends. 

finding his own rhythm in breath + stride. sitting, knee-to-knee beside me, cradling a jagged cluster of citrine.

more sunday gems: #zeninlansing

 

 

 

touching the earth | a reflection on zenju earthlyn manuel’s “Way Seeking Mind of Martin Luther King Jr.”

reflection

As a Zen practitioner in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, my study of his teachings and personal history provided a surprising lesson about the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This gleaming insight into their relationship renewed my appreciation and broadened my understanding of King’s legacy as it elucidated the global impact of his compassionate mission.

Several years ago, inspired by the “inter-being” between these two leaders as well as my own dharma as a Black American woman on this path of practice, I led my root sangha in the Touching the Earth prostrations to honor King and Thay as spiritual teachers.

Since then, my Monday evening Yin+Yang Yoga class has fallen on this national holiday. Each asana that brings our hearts closer to the earth (like these two favorites: Child’s Pose + Anahatasana) becomes a prostration, in which we fully embody the mindfulness practice of remembrance and reconciliation. We remember our origins and connections: to ancestors, by blood and spirit; to this Earth that sustains us and upon which our complex and interwoven histories have been built. We may began to penetrate the deep suffering emanating from our painful histories, which continue to manifest in new forms and to impact our experiences and abilities to relate to one another because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability and a whole slew of “differences” that seem to separate us. Breath by compassion-filled breath, we may began to reconcile these histories as we acknowledge, cradle, and heal our own suffering. We give it back to this wondrous Earth to absorb and transform it, as from the mud blooms a lotus.

In every class, I invite the practitioners to cultivate compassionate understanding of their bodies, minds and hearts through the alignment of breath and posture. Generating such mindfulness and loving awareness for ourselves teaches us how to skillfully extend compassion and loving-kindness to others.

When we abide in mindfulness, our senses become clear and fully attuned to the spectrum of beauty and suffering in the world. We acknowledge our own contribution to that stream–how our actions increase beauty or increase suffering. We make amends when we cause suffering and begin anew, watering seeds of compassion. Each heart-driven act–embodied on the mat, the cushion, among our beloveds and within our communities–commemorates the King’s legacy.

On this path, as teacher and practitioner, I know I am a continuation of Dr. King.

mudra 2.bw

[Originally posted 31 January 2013; Updated 20 January 2014]

Related:

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel |The Way-Seeking Mind of Martin Luther Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. | King’s Nobel Peace Prize Nomination Letter for Thich Nhat Hanh
Rev. Dr. Andrew C. Kennedy | Martin Luther King Jr. + Thich Nhat Hanh

[Broken links updated 16 January 2017]

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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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…

View original post 35 more words

musings + meditation: on the first day of a new year

It was 17° F on New Year’s Day, and my practice still beckoned me to honor my commitment to get sorted, settled and centered–body, heart, and mind–through my walking/running meditation.

There’s a special stillness in winter that I deeply appreciate. Fewer people venture out when the temperature dips below 30 °F, and only the bravest dare to “play” if the sun’s not offering some illusion of warmth. Slate grey sky. Stark white snow. A solid path along a river flowing beneath a thickening sheet of ice. Scraggly winter-stripped branches and a frizzled ridge of vegetation mark the border between shoreline and water.

I feel enveloped and penetrated by this rare moment of quietude. The sensation of refuge arises to warm my muscles–fueling each step or sprint.

I am reminded of the “witching hours” when I’m awakened by the moon. Fully alert and energized, I sit or lie down to meditate, abiding in breath, or write out my contemplations in my journal. Reprieve in a house that is typically buzzing with the energy of my 3-year old daredevil and the electricity of appliances and electronics in constant service. A murmur and sweet sigh from my son. I pause, instinctually ready to respond to his call. I relax once more. A startling chainsaw-like snore from my mate. I pause again, listening to the pattern. If it continues, I move to another room.

These sacred spaces–a park in winter, a house in slumber–magnify the wonder and magic of my mindfulness practice.

remembrance + reconciliation: prayers for thanksgiving

Today, may we appreciate this food
and remember those who are hungry.
May we appreciate our family and friends
and remember those who are alone.
May we appreciate our health
and remember those who are sick.
May we appreciate the freedoms we have
and remember those who suffer injustice and tyranny.1

I spent Wednesday morning in our tiny kitchen blanching, boiling, carmelizing, chiffonading, chopping, cubing, dicing, sautéing, seasoning, smelling, stirring, and tasting.

As I breathed in the swirl of pungent and sweet aromas from the herbs, vegetables and meat, I breathed out loving awareness and prayers of gratitude for the gift of being able to prepare and share a Thanksgiving meal with my family. My mate and I openly acknowledged that our blessings outweighed any minor irritations that come with hosting a holiday gathering: our good health, solid relationships, comfortable home, and modest but sufficient financial resources.

I quietly returned to the prep work, thinking of those among my circle of friends and family who were ill/injured or had recently died and those who were caring for a dying relative or a coping with the loss of a loved one. In fact, within a short stretch of days leading up to Thanksgiving I counted a death, a discovery of a debilitating condition, several surgeries, and two terminal cancer diagnoses. Knowing how close and inevitable these life events are, I shook my head and breathed a prayer that all be nourished and sustained during times of difficulty.

But suffering is not easy to shake. So the complexities surrounding this day of “celebration” continued to emerge:

the sanitized and commercialized myths of this holiday’s origins;

the brutalities inflicted upon Native peoples at the hands of explorers whose own quests for freedom stripped away theirs;

the continued suffering of Native peoples by the oppressive systems that arose from the corrupt values of those nation builders;

the  legacy of this nation still so divided by racial, social, and economic injustices that repeatedly threaten our very rights as humans to freely be who we are, choose whom we love as well as how we care for ourselves and our families;

the suffering within families who may—just for this single day—cast aside hurts and differences to endure each other’s presence over a special dinner but will be unable to truly heal and reconcile;

the suffering of those who will not spend this day in a safe space, full of love and laughter.

Recalling my own family’s internal struggles, I have frequently questioned why anyone would go through the rigmarole and pretense for a few hours of family time, if the days before and after would be fraught with conflict.

How can any single (and so-called holy) day, burdened with such history and memory, also restore our hope and inspire reconciliation? 

It may be a beginning. But wholehearted and diligent effort is what sustains. As dharma practitioners, we learn and take refuge in numerous mindfulness practices to nourish compassionate understanding for our deep and boundless connections to all beings and to heal our past and present wounds.

Around cultural events such as Thanksgiving or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my root sangha has practiced Touching the Earth wherein we recite the six contemplations and, following each one, bow deeply to the earth in full prostration. It is an act of remembrance and homage for blood ancestors; spiritual ancestors; the land, Native Americans, and those who work to reverse the violence and injustices that have harmed us all; and those whom we love. As well, it supports us to reconcile, in our hearts and spirits, the suffering caused by people who have hurt us; and, lastly, to make peace with the religion of our origins, from which we have become estranged or disconnected.2

Honoring and acknowledging our gifts and blessings, may the love, understanding and laughter we share with friends and family nourish and sustain us in times of suffering and celebration. May our memories be purified and our hearts restored–full, strong, open and clear–turning toward reconciliation.

______________

1I first encountered this blessing, “May We Appreciate & Remember,” in Angeles Arrien’s book Living in Gratitude. It is also featured among this collection of blessings from other traditions: http://www.ctyankee.org/fs/page/001728/gracesfrommanytraditions.pdf
2 See also Thich Nhat Hanh’s Teachings on Love.

Be Kind To Yourself Week 2013: May the Ending be Your New Beginning

Wow! I’m so moved by all who “joined” this movement, invited others, shared their experiences, took a moment to consider how they perceive/speak to/treat themselves, and wholeheartedly committed acts of self-kindness!

The official event week may be over but let your practice continue:

  • Speak skillfully and gently to yourself! Suspend the inner critic. We can acknowledge mistakes or areas we wish to improve without judging or demeaning ourselves.
  • Honor your inner wisdom and be generous with giving yourself all that you need to support your well-being. Do not abandon yourself! Develop healthy boundaries and conserve your resources (emotional, physical, creative, etc.) so that you do not become depleted or resentful.
  • Acknowledge and honor your strengths, talents and contributions. Do not get caught up in the self-defeating cycles of comparison. We all have something to contribute to our relationships and communities. Though our circumstances may not allow us to share/contribute in equal measure as another, we can commit to the practice of giving wholeheartedly (without doubt, bitterness, frustration, etc.). Remember still that equal is not identical! Be free to share in a way that is authentic to you.
  • “Keep company with the wise.” Spend time with people who diligently nourish this grace, loving-kindness and compassion for themselves and others.

Bowing deeply with gratitude for the mindfulness that was nourished this week and to Carolyn W. of our meditation community (Lansing Area Mindfulness Community) for launching this inter-faith initiative.Image

magic + mindfulness: finding a hidden message, following a thread + shining light on “A Year of Being Here”

On a scrap of paper that had loosened itself from one of my many overstuffed journals, I re-discovered a treasured but unattributed book excerpt I had copied and tucked away years ago. The message was so “on time” for me, as my meditation group has been contemplating mindfulness of emotions and how we may cultivate skillful understanding and practice around difficult feelings and experiences. I shared it with my sangha on Sunday and today finally ran a search with one of the sentences (it wasn’t a line from the excerpt I had read to sangha but one I guessed might yield the most relevant results) in hopes of finding the source.

I glimpsed a title that evoked a dawning familiarity–The Emptiness of Our Hands: A Lent Lived on the Streets by Phyllis Cole-Dai and James Murray (and, yes, this was indeed the source!)–and then followed that thread to the author’s website where my eyes alighted on the link A Year of Being Here.

A gem! This blog/project hosts a collection of mindfulness poetry. Wonder of wonders, today’s poem is yet another thread woven seamlessly into the fabric of our study of emotions. Here are a few lines from Jane Hirshfield: “A Room” (click the link to read the full poem):

A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear…
Whatever disquiet we sense in a room we have brought there.

breathing beauty into the world: a mindfulness practice for children (who are learning to see with eyes of compassion)

Each day I rise, waking to a world of possibilities.

I breathe and smile, happy and ready to learn, grow and share.

I see the sky, sun, clouds above me.

I see the earth, plants, water below me.

I feel the air around me.

I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

I choose to see beauty in myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my teachers, my community, and all living creatures.

I choose to speak words from my heart that are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.

I choose to act from my heart in ways that are helpful, healthy, inspiring, and kind.

Even when I do not feel or act my best (whether I am sad, scared, confused or angry), I remember to place my hands on my heart and breathe.

I smile, knowing I can begin anew.
I can ask for help and comfort from those I trust and love.

Each night, I rest, thankful for all that I learned and shared.

I see the sky, moon, stars above me.

I see the beauty all around me. I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

[originally written Fall 2012]

This writing has multiple sources of inspiration:
  • My experiences as an aunt, mother, and substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program;
  • My experiences as a practitioner and teacher of yoga and meditation, which is rooted in my practice of Zen Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh;
  • My dear friend TaNesha Barnes, who asked me some time last year to create an affirmation for Beyond The Surface, the critical thinking and social justice academy she literally built in her own backyard!  A 21st-century embodiment of Wonder Woman, TaNesha is a mother, entrepreneur (t. barnes beauty), educator and social justice advocate with a clear heart-driven mission to empower students to become “global thinkers for equitable living.” When she recently posted the draft version of this piece (typed one late-night and stored as a memo on my BlackBerry) on Facebook, I was not only honored that she announced it would be recited daily in her upcoming program, Breathing Beauty Rites of Passages for Black Girls, but also compelled to add some long-awaited finishing touches! I am so deeply grateful to have lived, learned and grown up with TaNesha over the last 19 years and, on this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (#MOW50), am excited to continue collaborating with her on programs that merge spirituality and wellness with social justice.