It's kinda crazy. "It" being that, while this year is showing out in a billion different ways, on many levels, I feel more peaceful than I ever have. One day, maybe I'll get into how I know a big part of that came from removing some people, places, things, and ideas (boundaries; boundaries are good, y'all) that were no longer serving me—and, more importantly, where I am headed. Yet, my inner peace goes even beyond that.
For about 12 years now, I've been on the tip of collecting things. Each year, it's something that symbolizes where I'm at and "what I'm on" at the moment. This past year, it was puzzle pieces. They symbolize that I am a puzzle piece that "fits" some places and doesn't fit others. My job isn't to try and force my "piece" into any picture (because that could damage the piece and pic, simultaneously) but to welcome where I fit and be at peace with where I don't. And you know what? Living like this has brought about inner tranquility that is unshakeable, no matter how chaotic things seem to be right through here. Or ever.
Just know that whatever is trying to shake you to your core, there is a way to maintain peace in the midst of it. Here are some suggestions that have worked for me.
Create Your Own “Bubble”
When I took my required birthing class (which was Hypnobabies) in order to become a doula, one of my favorite techniques, that I tend to recommend, even to women who aren't pregnant, is what is known as the "bubble of peace". Anyone who's been pregnant before knows that people tend to have an abundance of opinions, perspectives and information about what they think a new mother should and shouldn't do, both during her pregnancy and after she gives birth. By creating a bubble of peace, she is able to tune out anyone and anything that is triggering her or stressing her out.
At the end of the day, it's basically about meditating and centering in on thoughts that make you feel calm and peaceful. And I promise you that if you make it a priority to cultivate your own, it can help you to tune out life's background noise so that you can focus on what your mind, body and spirit are telling you that you need, at any given time—even if what they need is for you to simply chill out and do absolutely nothing.
Take News (and Phone) Breaks
Something that I've learned about myself throughout the years is that I have a really high threshold for information. What I mean by that is, it takes me a while—months even—to get to a point where I'm like, "OK, I've had enough" (although 2020 has definitely been testing me in this way!). But boy, when I first saw the footage of George Floyd being murdered by those cops, I broke. I cried. I had to shut the news cycle down for a minute. I had had enough.
You can read articles like TIME's "You Asked: Is It Bad for You to Read the News Constantly?" to know that there is no way around the fact that constantly taking in the news (or info, period), whether it's online or off, will not only elevate your stress levels but it can cause you to fall into the rut of constantly seeing things from a "glass half empty perspective". Same thing goes for always talking on the phone, especially if it's with family members or friends who consistently err on the side of negativity. That's why it's so important to take intentional breaks from the news and your phone. Turn off your notifications. Put your phone on silent. Then read a book. Watch a movie. Listen to music. Take a nap. Do something that will totally get your mind off of all that's going on in the world. Chile, Daily Mail, Black Twitter and your cynical auntie ain't going nowhere. They'll all be right where you left them—whenever you decide to come back.
Be on Your Own Time Schedule
Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. So yeah, whenever seniors in my life try and act like it's only this generation that is wilin' out, I remind them of what the Good Book says. The difference now is thanks—or maybe no thanks—to things like the internet and camera phones, we're constantly in the loop of what's going on…pretty much all over the globe. And since things seem to be always moving at such a rapid pace, it can tempt us to speed up when it comes to how our own lives are flowing. Please don't fall for that trap. Rushing can cause you to make unnecessary mistakes. Rushing can bring about feelings of anxiety. Rushing can stop you from truly connecting with others. Rushing can prevent you from getting the clarity that you need. Rushing can hinder you from living in the moment.
While I'm sharing Scripture, Matthew 6:34(NKJV) states, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Those are words of wisdom from Christ himself. What he was basically saying is, all you've really and truly got is right here and now. Slow down. Take it in. Do what is relevant in order to bring out the best in this present moment.
Should you plan ahead? Sure. All responsible people do. Yet should you worry about what you can't control in the future or even be in a rush to get there? Nope. Not if you desire true inner peace, you shouldn't, anyway.
Find a “Vent” Partner
There is a particular person in my life who is basically my vent partner. I'm not sure how we got to the point and place of being that for one another, but the "position" requires being on-call—whenever. When she's about the spaz TF out, she calls me. When I need to ramble, cuss or sometimes even scream, she's there. The cool thing about having this type of individual in your life is there are a safe place (because they don't share your vents nor "judge" you for them) to get out your initial frustrations so that you can calm down and do, whatever it is that you're about to do (or not do), from a less emotional and more logical and practical space.
Sometimes, the reason why we feel so unsettled when it comes to what's going on around us is it seems like we're not being heard or validated when it comes to how we feel about things. A vent partner fills this void so that we know we're supported, which makes us feel more capable to endure…whatever it is that needs to be.
Do What Makes You Happy
Happiness. Remember that? When I was recently reading an article on how some researchers define what it truly means to be a happy individual, I liked that it said, "It's not about smiling all the time nor does it stem from money or health, but a self-belief you are on the road you want to be on." The beauty in that resolve is, no matter what is happening around you, in many ways, you have the power to choose what path you want to be on; not just long-term but in the now. So, what would make you happy, right at this very second? Some Ben & Jerry's ice cream (shout out to them and their consistent support of the Black Lives Matter movement)? A glass of wine? Catching up with an old friend? Some hanging-off-of-the-chandelier sex with your partner? Playing with your kids. Doing an arts and crafts project? Writing? Singing? Podcasting? What?
Making the conscious decision to be like, "You know what? No matter what y'all are doing, I'm going to take out a moment and do what makes me happy", is not about being selfish or even insensitive. As the article that I referenced said, it's about putting yourself on a particular path. And anything that makes you feel happy can help to make you feel content…which can help to make you feel more centered and secure…which can definitely help to make you feel more peaceful.
Remember You’re Here “For Such a Time As This”
If you read the story of Esther in the Bible, there is a line from something that her cousin, Mordecai said that goes like this—"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14—NKJV) It was his way of reminding Esther that, even though saving her people was going to be quite a daunting task, the fact that she existed in a time when Jews needed deliverance was not a happenstance thing. In this present time, the same goes for me and the same goes for you. While I'm sure you've had multiple, "What in the world is going on?!" moments, probably at least a dozen times this week alone, it's not a "random" thing that you exist. There is something about your gifts, talents, personality, perspective and mere existence that is oh so very necessary—right here and right now. Knowing that you—as Whoopi Goldberg once said in an episode of A Different World—"are a voice in this world", who can make an impact like no one who came before you or will come after you can, should bring a peace like nothing else.
Because if you didn't serve a purpose, you wouldn't be here; you'd be unnecessary. You are here, though. And that's something to feel really good, resolved and totally at peace about. Here's praying that you do.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Shutterstock
- SZA On Life Lessons, Meditation, & Quantifying Your Worth Before ... ›
- Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign - xoNecole ... ›
- Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
Squeeze Your Way To Ecstasy: How This Masturbation Technique Can Make You Orgasm
What if I told you that you can achieve an orgasm by simply squeezing your thighs together? Believe it or not, this technique has been known to lead to some seriously orgasmic experiences and is gaining popularity among people who want to explore new ways of reaching orgasm. There's a word for this, it’s called syntribation. The act of squeezing or rubbing the thighs together to create friction and pressure until climax.
First, let's talk about the anatomy behind this technique. The pelvic nerves responsible for arousal and orgasm pass through the thighs, so squeezing them can stimulate these nerves and send a rush of pleasure to your genitals. Additionally, the muscles in your thighs tense up during orgasm, so squeezing them can replicate that sensation and potentially lead to the real deal.
How To Do Syntribation
Start by crossing your legs and squeezing your thighs. Keep going until you feel a pleasurable pressure on your clit/glans area. Another method is by putting your hands in the middle of your inner thighs. Then cross your legs and squeeze your thighs as tight as you can. Note that your hands are not doing anything - they are just sandwiched between your thighs. Using this method will provide more pressure and squeezing sensation.
You can also practice syntribation with sex toys as long as they’re not chunky vibes and dildos. Simply place the sex toy in the middle of your thighs, and let it vibrate as you syntribate.
Is Syntribation Safe?
While syntribation masturbation is a relatively new masturbation technique, it does not pose any major risks to your physical health. The one potential risk is possibly skin irritation from friction, but that can be avoided by wearing long pants or using a cushion between your legs.
The Benefits of Syntribation
As with any masturbation technique, this one will have some health benefits, including a boosted immune system, reduced stress, glowing skin, stronger vaginal walls, and so on. Syntribation masturbation can offer a new way to explore your sexuality and achieve sexual pleasure. It can be a great alternative for people who prefer not to use their hands or fingers during masturbation.
In addition to enhancing feelings of pleasure and relaxation, syntribation may even appeal to voyeurs and exhibitionists who are intrigued by the idea of public play.
Is Syntribation Effective?
The effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person. Some people may find it more pleasurable than traditional methods of masturbation, while others may not enjoy it at all. It ultimately comes down to individual preferences and experiences. However, if you are looking to try something new and explore different ways to achieve orgasm, syntribation masturbation can be worth giving a try.
Although syntribation masturbation may sound unusual, it is gaining popularity as a way to explore new methods of achieving sexual pleasure. It’s hands-free and has no major risks. Even though the effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person, depending on individual preferences and experiences, ultimately, I think it’s worth giving it a try.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Bob Thomas/Getty Images