Opening the door to Ignite

By Elle Forest 

After finding a spot to park on the small road high up in the Oakland hills, I approached the front door with the address in my hand. I recall knocking and some unknown face opening the door. On the floor to my left was a large pile of shoes, so I took the cue and removed mine also. A group of women were already gathering around a computer screen and I felt utterly out of place. It was too late to leave, so I sat in a chair, as everyone but me seemed to know what to do. I glanced at the women around me and knew I did not belong here. My mind took its typical inventory: who was prettier, who was thinner, who was happier, who was strange, and who was smarter? These women all seemed different than me, and they seemed comfortable in this place. I was not.

Then the live broadcast began and I still didn’t feel any different. A woman came on the screen and talked about this group and what we were intending to do together as a circle of women. I did not know her, but I knew she was HeatherAsh Amara. She used terms like sisterhood, sacred space and intent, words I was familiar with, but only in the academic sense. As I listened to her speak and took a few notes, I realized that what she was saying resonated with me. Somehow, she seemed to already know that I had stepped into a place outside my comfort zone, that I had already compared myself to all the women in the room and that I didn’t feel I should be there.

That first day at the home on the hill in Oakland, I met women whose names I didn’t remember for a while. I met women who weren’t like me at all; I met women who were younger, prettier, freer, and women who frightened me by their differences. I was quiet most of the day as I cautiously observed and attempted to participate within my own comfort zone. I still felt out of place and knew everyone else knew that I didn’t belong there. I kept waiting for the moment when someone would realize I didn’t belong and they would ask me to leave—but that never happened.

So, the next time our group was scheduled to meet, I showed up again. It was still difficult, but not quite as difficult as the first time. In between classes, I would do the assignments and push myself. I began to gain steam and push myself more. I began to immerse myself in the work deeply and quickly. I still didn’t feel like I was one of these women, but I did feel like I belonged here. I was here for me, not for them—or at least that was what I thought.

Each new month brought a new topic, a new lesson, and a new way of stretching myself. Each month, I met the challenge head on. I wasn’t going to do this half way; I was all in. The months went by and before I knew it, I knew the interior lives of these women more than I knew the lives of my own friends. I knew their deepest struggles; their pains, their joys and I began to realize that these strange women were all struggling with the same things I myself struggled with.

I don’t really know who I was before I embarked on the journey of Ignite, I’ve changed too much to really recall with accuracy who I was then. I do know, that after Ignite, I never stopped. I continued to learn, study and grow. Those women that sat around that computer on that first day I walked in have been in my life for almost ten years now. Many of them flow in and out as people do, but something still always binds us together. Some of them have become trusted and deep friends who can be available to me at a moment’s notice. Since each of them is equipped with the same tools of sisterhood, each of them can step into the spot of confidant, loving support, witness, or simply friend as easily as the next. We are not separate, we are pieces of the same whole, and by learning how to truly be in sisterhood, even today we are still able to hold each other in any circumstance that one of us might encounter.

Is your Spirituality Intersectional?


by: Toshia Shaw
Originally posted here 

This past weekend I spent some lovely time in Sedona, Arizona…well Cornville, Arizona to be exact. I had the pleasure of leading a workshop during a spiritually infused, women’s retreat. I arrived early, and when the other women arrived I quickly realized I was the only woman of color (WOC) among them. Usually this would make a person feel uncomfortable; but I’m used to being the only WOC in my professional circles. However, when it comes to spirituality I have to ask is it intersectional?

I hear a lot about intersectionality these days; especially when it comes to feminism. Which is what I’m all about. Being a WOC on the front lines of fighting violence against women and girls I’ve learned what it’s like to not have your rights be intersectional. But I digress, that’s another post for another day.

I’m a Reiki Master, and Intuitive Energy Healer. The spirituality circle in Las Vegas, Nevada where I live isn’t that big and the people that are in it really don’t look like me. Let’s take for instance the Hay House writer’s convention that I attended a month ago in my hometown; the amount of people of color who attended could be counted on one hand. I prepped myself beforehand by scouring their website in hopes to find one face that resembled mine, but I came up short. I have always been different growing up. My first best friend was white in elementary school, so color didn’t really bother me. However, when my family moved to Memphis, Tennessee all of that changed. I learned pretty early about separatism and staying with my “own kind.” So I went with the flow all throughout middle and high school. Once I became a young adult and entered into the military I made friends with the girls that I had things in common with regardless of their color. The few times I returned home on military leave with these friends we damn near got ran out of town. We would go out at night and there was nonstop hate from both races, black and white. I learned to hide dating non black men in the South. When I moved briefly to Atlanta, Georgia and dated outside of my race I got accused of being a traitor to black men, and questioned by my peers. Even worst, when I moved back to Memphis, Tennessee and performed spoken word poetry on the circuit, my non black friends would show up and I caught the brunt of it. Again, I had to accept that there would be people who didn’t approve of my race-mixing so I did the one thing that made since, I stopped giving a f—.

Fast forward to adulthood and my decision to honor my spirit by embracing spirituality and letting go of religion. I am once again the “token” black girl amongst the scene. When I attend a reiki circle, or meditation class I still look for a face that resembles mine, and I usually come up short. Let’s go back to the Hay House writer’s convention, where are the POC authors who were published? When I ask people their thoughts on this they meet me with, “Well, There aren’t many POC who are into that sort of thing.” What? That couldn’t be further from the truth! My social media is filled with spiritual people who are into “that sort of thing.” But where is the representation? As a hopeful Hay House author do I even have a chance? Will my color stop me before my first paragraph is finished? At the writer’s convention many people had a standoffish disposition and downright outwardly racist behavior. Really? I thought it was a writers conference for spiritually minded people? Umm, that isn’t very spiritual now is it? New Age spirituality just like religion has a racist divide. It amazes me that the people who are writing books, manuals, and how-to’s about being at peace, do no harm, and unconditional love are not referring to my spirit, only that of someone who looks like theirs.

Now back to this spiritual retreat that I attended. We went to a sweat lodge being held by an indigenous man who is held in high regard in Sedona, AZ. He is warm and inviting, as it is being held at his home. The participants seem to be taken aback that I’m there. One man in particular wanted to know who I was and where I came from. Undoubtedly, feeling as if their sacred spiritual ritual had been encroached upon. I find it comical that these hippy people are fawning at the host, and another indigenous man’s feet who is an elder held in high regard. The white people are singing the words to this Indian song louder than the Indians themselves, saying the salutations and of course keeping a close eye on me. They were curious, “Will she be able to stick this out?” Well, I stayed for one round of sweating before caving to cooler air, and the chance to move my legs without other sticky sweaty bodies being on them. I watched them watching me. What is it with white people that when they become uncomfortable around POC the first thing they reach for is an off color (see what I did there?) joke? I always handle the jokes with ease since I try to live a life based from spirit and not ego. I don’t allow their being uncomfortable to become about me, because its not. So their joke is left flat with me staring into their cold eyes with a knowing. My knowingness meets their ego. Which has to do less about my skin color and more about their lack of spiritual discipline.

What makes white people feel comfortable following the Dali Lama around, or sign up for the next Deepak Chopra meditation event with Oprah? These are people of color. How is it okay for them to convert to Sikhism, a monotheistic religion founded in Punjab in the 15th century by Guru Nanak, but look up side the head of a black Sikh? Why is it okay for spirituality and non-traditional religion to be intersectional when it involves them but not black people? Non POC should be comfortable sharing a crystal, meditating on the same mat, and facing downward dog in the yoga studio.

Just where does this superiority come from in spirituality? Do I even care? Not really. To be blatantly honest, this past weekend was beautiful. The participants were amazing, and after my workshop on forgiving our past we all formed some new friendships. This is because while there is a such thing as white privilege, many women regardless of color suffer in some of the same ways. We all recognized this by day two.

So if you are “spiritual,” I suggest that you check your ego. Especially, since it has no place in spirituality. Not if you are truly about that life. Because, my spirit can’t wait around to see if white folks are going to accept it. I really don’t care about the color of Archangel Michael, and I darned sure don’t give a rat’s ass if they believe in the validity of my mediumship.

When it comes to spirituality I’m going in with no expectations, or ego. When I am met with others ego it will get checked. I am in my 40’s and I really don’t have time to waste with other people’s problems when it comes to race. If you are a black person and you are spiritual do not hold back, don’t allow other people’s closed mindedness to stop you from attending events that will enrich your spirit. If you are white, is your spirituality intersectional? Are you checking your ego when it comes to race? Are you loving unconditionally regardless of color? What’s your disposition like? Is your vibration the same with POC as it is with your own race? Just some questions to consider.

Love & Light,
Toshia Shaw


January 1st, 2018

There is a sacred bond between women; a sisterhood more powerful than we’d ever dream.
When we connect with each other in a real way, the divinity within us sparks to life, making magic—and just the right amount of trouble.

I dedicate this piece to every woman who has helped me on my journey. There are so many of you. Each one of you shines so brightly, so magnificently. As I cry salty tears of thankfulness onto this page, I hope these words can express all the pearls of gratitude that rest softly in my heart.
Friendship really can heal.

Dear soul sister,

I would not be standing here if it weren’t for you.

I did not always feel okay. I was anxious. I was sad. I hated myself. I was so lost. All my luscious dreams and hopes, my vibrant goals and wild wishes—they did not seem remotely possible, until recently.

But you always believed in me.
Thank you.

Thank you for seeing the beauty in my eyes when I felt invisible and under-appreciated, swallowed up by the world’s pain, unable to bear the thought of looking at myself.

Thank you for never telling me to shut up or dull myself down—but encouraging me to speak louder and shine brighter and love harder.

Thank you for showing me that all emotions are f*cking beautiful.

Thank you for sitting next to me and listening gently, when grief and fear and loneliness took their toll on my weary soul.

Thank you for seeing my power, when I did not know I had any.

Thank you for teaching me that tears aren’t little drops of weakness, but a courageous healing elixir.

Thank you for all those roaring belly laughs and yummy cups of blueberry green tea.

But most of all,
Thank you for believing in me.
I believe in you, too. With my whole heart.
Soul sister, I would not be standing here if it weren’t for you.

Saying thank you will never feel even close to enough, so I’m lighting a candle, right now, to honor you:
Your beauty, your strength, your wild heart, your power, your wisdom, your voice, your pain.
I see you.
I celebrate you.
I believe in you.
I can’t wait to see all the joy you spread into the world, with those colorful wings of yours.
I am so grateful to know you.

Soul sister, let’s go make some epic magic.
Let’s paint the world with our delicious dreams.
Let’s seek truth,
With joyous tears in our eyes.
Windswept smiles on our faces.
And tender bravery in our souls.

I will always be grateful, soul sister,
You helped me
Find the way
Back to myself.

Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Caroline Beaton 

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