For one half of summer 2018, my daughter Sanaa wore her hair in blue and purple box braids. She's an artist; a lover of a fresh notebook with a penchant towards carrying all she cares aboutin her hands. She wears her heart on her sleeve, which she got from me. This summer, my daughter learned just how powerful her voice rings when she chose to speak her truth, which landed her square in the ire of my ex in-laws. "Don't raise her to be selfish likeyou," my ex-husband's mother left on my voicemail.
My child's feelings had been hurt and she made an executive decision to put her needs first, even if at the time they laid nameless. It's funny, deciding at any age to take ownership of your safety and healing is both revolutionary and offensive.
Since early 2017, life had run me ragged.
I was going through it, as sage smoke poured from my closed bedroom door more often. In search for some relief in between therapy sessions, I set an appointment to receive my first Reiki session from a friend I'd known since high school. She had recently received her Reiki II certification and was taking on new clients. Along with my appointment came an email detailing what I am to expect during my session. "You may have lucid dreams," she said just before I closed my eyes. I laid in bed, preparing myself to receive something I'd never experienced, and felt my body float above me.
I dreamt of 4s and foundations being uprooted and repaired. I woke up feeling the pull of a mission. More and more, I'm seeing black women going back to move forward. We are taking court with our ancestors asking to be given what generations before us deemed unbecoming: the tools to crack ourselves open and change our trajectories.
The bravery to look up as our feet hit the ground.
The spells to block, heal, break, manifest.
The power of Grandma's Hands.
To live and thrive in spiritual duality.
They tell you that good things come in 3s. That sequences of numbers should be paid extra attention to. That dreams aren't simply symbolic: they often show glimpses of the future. My great-grandmother visited during meditation to tell me I have a gift. I saw myself as a healer, acalling I ran from for years. Readers have told me to go heal.
But to heal, I had to accept the journey to continuously heal myself.
Writer Joi Donaldson and her daughter Sanaa
That's the moment I finally moved towards becoming a Reiki practitioner. Many of us are taught to break ourselves for love, to starve our wants and needs to make a belly full outside of us. It's as if our natural posture is that of bent over and grateful to be alive.
I learned that initially in church. As I stretched my spine through praise dance to show the lengths I would go to serve a God I couldn't question. A God who had to be a He. A God who never says sorry. For this, and many other reasons, I began to largely denounce segments of my Southern Baptist upbringing. I still give a hum and wave at a gospel classic. But many of the foundations for me have crumbled. The standards of exclusion, fear mongering and unquestioned agreeance left holes in my spirit. A connection to something bigger than this Prepackaged Dogma began to call out to me.
And for once in my life, I allowed myself to listen.
I received my Reiki I Certification after a day of intense spiraling. There was no break in between - I wanted it all at once. I left hungry but not for food; angry with no sole root as to why. My teacher told me anything goes during the 21-day incubation period and to allow what comes up the room it needs to surface. It was rough; learning how to channel through multiple mediums and listening in a completely new way. My already sensitive, empathic nature was now raw with friction. I didn't think I'd make it past the 21-day period, let alone up another level. Receiving my Reiki II Certification was as intense but surprisingly more fluid. By this time, my activation coursed through me with less fear, less resistance. My teacher said the guides had been waiting for me to get to this space. I was honored to finally be there.
To be completely honest, I was nervous introducing my belief system to my child.
For the last seven years, all she'd known was me heavily into church serving on multiple ministries. On Sundays now, I'd much rather go to the river. I'd rather run cool water over my crystals. I'd rather mix herbs for candle work and write down my latest pull. Sanaa has gotten used to sage smoke. When her friends come over and they predictably ask what's that smell in the air, "Oh. My mom's clearing her room."
I've taught her how to sweep her room for negative energy, how to pay attention to her dreams, and how to listen and move when something doesn't feel right. And at a moment in summer 2018, on the cusp of her first big trip without me, she felt the pangs of anxiety against her chest. "What if something terrible happens? What if I get hurt? I'm scared, mommy."
I looked over at my altar, my grandmother, great-grandmother, uncle and aunt stared back. My eyes then turned to my hands as I felt the energy surfacing. I still had my doubts.
What if she doesn't get it? I'm still working to get it.
What if she thinks I'm weird? A step past our usual views of weirdness.
What if she chooses not to believe? Sometimes my doubts ring louder than my prayers.In the midst of my doubts,
I stretched out my hands over her heart and crown chakras. I reminded her and myself to breathe. My palms felt warm and I peeked to see her reaction. She stood still. Stoic. Cautious. I again reminded us to breathe. I went where the energy directed: I blanketed her 3rd eye, her back, her crown, her hands, her belly, her heart. I prayed. I let out deep breaths and watched as my child relaxed into a new tradition. I asked her how does she feel. "A little better. Tired." As I expected.
I told her to look to the altar where her ancestors were. "Repeat after me: I am brave. I am safe. I am protected."
"I am brave. I am safe. I am protected."
Sanaa's braids are now ruby.
She's walking into fourth grade with a foundation of emotional intelligence that I think surprises even her. As we move to a new state, her notebook has become a cell phone; her drawings now photo collages. She breathes easier, allows herself to feel even when it's too much.
Introducing Reiki to my kid hasn't been a magical cure-all, it's been a wake-up call. I notice her calmness when it gives way to anxiety and I ask if she needs help. She's become aware of her triggers and more open to exploring her power instead of accepting she's selfish to have it.
We meditate when we can but more than anything, I no longer hide this side of me. Instead I bring her in to take parts in the rituals I call my own. And that is when the energy has room to flow.
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All images courtesy of Joi Donaldson