Welcome to Vibe Check, Unbothered’s wellness column aimed at revolutionizing how Black folx think about self-care.
“Self-care” is not always synonymous with Black existence. For example, in addition to navigating trauma resulting from racism, classism, sexism, anti-trans violence and more, Black women are expected — through socialization — to be caretakers, to be strong, and often to our detriment. Queer folx and the particular needs of the LGBTQ+ community are often excluded from conversations about wellness. Additionally, the wellness industry sells us the idea that wellness can be bought, and through that, it prices out the communities that need access to healing resources the most.
Vibe Check explores how Black folx are reclaiming their time, reconnecting with their power, and practicing self-care in their day-to-day lives.
As a queer Black farmer, multi-disciplinary culinary artist and storyteller, I think a lot about how our health — physical, planetary and community — is directly tied to our familiarity with the outdoors. It’s why I get excited about sharing resources that demystify new experiences in nature and help others imagine themselves in spaces beyond their own self-limiting beliefs.
Have you ever been told “we don't do that” when it comes to seeking out experiences in nature or exploring alternative modes of healing like psychedelics? Have you ever craved a deeper, more meaningful connection to your body and community? Chances are, if you exist in a Black body on planet earth, you’ve answered yes to at least one of these questions. And if you are LGBTQIA+ or disabled, the likelihood that you are nature deprived is even more likely. The “nature gap,” defined by the Center for American Progress as a phenomenon where “people of color, families with children, and low-income communities are most likely to be deprived of the benefits that nature provides,'' has been brought more clearly into focus against the backdrop of global crises (e.g. environmental, public health) and increased media coverage of violence against BIPOC. Now, more than ever, we understand that access to nature is a human right which greatly impacts the trajectory of our lived experiences.
I can speak to the benefits of spending time outside from personal experience. Nature helped me practice gratitude, notice connections and observe small wonders in everyday life. At the age of six I began helping my Nana tend to her garden in Boston, where we nurtured the plants she grew as a child back in Georgia. Vegetables like collard greens, okra, corn and tomatoes were more than food we could share with our family; they were a bridge across time and space, strengthening the link between our ancestors and us, as descendants of generational land stewards.
It wasn’t until I experienced severe emotional crises in my early twenties, stemming from being outed as a queer person on my college campus and feeling burnt-out from a lifetime of over achievement, that I began to reach back for the tools I inherited from my Nana. And despite desperately needing to heal from compound traumas, I felt guilty for being overwhelmed, holding myself to a standard that many Black women do — plagued by the myth of Black excellence.
Yet moving through these challenges encouraged me to navigate life’s big moments with curiosity, patience and appreciation for my process. These lessons were learned in nature, which had always supported me by providing space to explore my mind, body and spirit connection. So I began running consistently and exploring body healing techniques like yoga to show up for myself in small ways. But when I encountered a woman who'd recently gone to Peru after losing her job and sense of identity, I felt compelled by her enthusiasm to expand beyond my comfort zone and find a deeper understanding of my life’s work. And in 2016, I traveled to the Peruvian amazon to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony, where my guide Selva and her grandmother Amelia Panduro, a multi-generational Shaman and member of the Shipibo tribe, led a small group of us (including another Black woman, CJ Ananada) on a plant-based psychedelic journey. In this sacred space, I intensely examined myself and finally began to let go of the patterns that no longer served me – wholly affirmed by the profound wisdom of femmes and of mother nature.
Returning stateside with a child-like wonder about the healing power of plants, I became intent on equipping myself with a variety of self-regulation tools, including mindfulness. And over the span of five years, I’ve slowly but surely found and built a community with other BIPOC who want to live sustainably — in harmony with themselves, the earth and each other. One example I’m most proud of is Mei Mei Mindful, the digital space and toolkit I created during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic for Mei Mei Boston restaurant workers to access critical emotional regulation tools.
More recently, I put these mindful tools to use while taking part in a transformative 8-week psilocybin microdosing journey with coach Sabrina Pilet-Jones; an urban farmer, florist, educator and creative, whose myriad of services celebrate the connection between growing plants and growing the spirit within.
I gained a structured framework for intention and goal setting from my microdosing journey, as we spent the first two weeks of the journey building a list of desired outcomes and understanding of the possible effects of the medicine on my body, specifically. It’s critical to assess whether you're physically able to receive the medicine’s benefits before starting because every body is different. With Sabrina’s guidance, I was able to both form new habits with daily rituals and reframe my relationship to my body by shifting my awareness, perception and focus.
Psilocybin aided this process by allowing me to access joy, creativity and alignment between my choices and intentions.
Some of the resources that helped me explore the mind, body, spirit connection during the microdosing journey were:
- Video journaling verbal praise for accomplishments, big or small to activate radical self-love.
- Taking nature walks alone and with friends to listen, observe and practice gratitude.
If you are interested in learning more about Ayahuasca, CJ Ananda offers coaching and meditation virtually and will be leading a Shamanic cleanse in Tarapoto, Peru this summer with the help of Selva and Amelia. You can find more information about it here. If you are interested in starting your own relationship with food sovereignty and growing where you are, these resources from Soul Fire Farm are extremely informative.
The restorative powers of nature and plant medicine helped me reimagine my relationships in community with myself, others and the earth. They’ve helped me find comfort in knowing that I am a part of something bigger than my individual circumstance and that I can turn to my spiritual ancestors for guidance along the journey; choosing to activate awe and joy daily as the foundations for fulfillment.