The Beauty in the Bar

There I was, standing at the corner of the bar completely alone. The lights flashed on and off as the rotating colored bulbs turned my coral shirt into blue, purple, green and red every few seconds. The DJ, with his “man-bun” held high, bobbed his head to the latest mixes of pop music and electronic dubstep.

Drunk girls were falling around me, shaking their booties as they “got low”, and people were hanging all over each other as they met for the first time a few minutes before. The cocktail waitresses dressed in little crop tops and shorts that looked more like underwear as they walked around selling bottles and dancing on tables to their favorite songs. Perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect makeup, and perfect empty smiles.

I felt so out of place.

My younger sister has the unique ability to flock people to her. Men stand in line waiting to talk to her, offer to buy her drinks, dinner, and a list of many other things. While we were standing at the bar, there was no room to turn around let alone dance as the men huddled around her. As she left to go to the bathroom, the scent of burberry and Axe trailed after her.

So, there I was, alone in my maxi skirt and hippie tank, with my travel bracelets and hair wrap radiating out free spirit, stories, and depth. A depth that no drunk guy at a bar cares about. A beauty that is overlooked and invisible as I stood at the end of the crowded bar with no one within four feet of me in any direction. A feat almost impossible to achieve.

Throughout my life, I have been compared to my sister’s looks. Boyfriends have told me how hot she is, friends and classmates have wanted me to fix them up with her, and even strangers have come up to me asking how we look so different and how big and beautiful her eyes are. When I was younger, it devastated me. I was so self-conscious, I never wanted any guy I was interested in to see her, I worked harder at my grades and what I offered the world, so I too, would be noticed. When I was younger, I didn’t acknowledge both the inner and outer unique beauty that I offered the world and I beat myself down over and over again.

But that night was different. She received the cat calls, the whistles, and the free drinks. And that I watched how she owned it and her confidence was contagious.

Why did I ever let those gestures and those societal standards of beauty affect how beautiful I thought I was?

For a minute I began to question my beauty. I went into my mind and fed the stories from when I was little. But this time, I didn’t allow myself to stay there.

I looked and saw that this attention isn’t what I want. Of course the compliments feel good. But, I love myself and my body and knowing that I feel beautiful within myself, is enough. I won’t allow the compliments and surface level flirtation, or lack of, affect how I feel in my own unique, radiating beauty.

So, as I stood alone at the end of the bar, Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars came on and I danced. I danced alone in the 16 square foot space I managed to be given to express my happiness, my beauty, and my uniqueness. I twirled my maxi skirt, I smiled, and laughed in my aloneness because I felt beautiful and so different from every person in that room. I celebrated my growth from when I was younger to where I am now. And I stood there, closed my eyes, and felt that power rise within me.

After an extended bathroom break my sister walked up from behind me. She flashes a gorgeous full teeth smile as she strutted her stuff towards the bar. I looked at her and saw how beautiful she is. Her perfectly toned legs, her perfectly toned abs, and her great hair flowing down her back. She danced and moves in her own unique way and I looked at her in awe. She is so beautiful.

But so am I.

And this is what I learned standing alone at that bar

 

We each have our beauty that we offer the world. And that beauty is so deep and profound that no catcall or surface level compliment can even begin to touch on our magnificence. And while, in the past, I have gone into the envy and jealousy and began to tear my sister or another person down in my head to make myself feel better, I realized how hurtful that truly is. What does it do? It takes away from another person’s unique beauty. Just because someone else is recognized for their beauty and gifts, doesn’t give anyone the right to tear them down or make them feel small.

So, when someone else shows their beauty, celebrate it, acknowledge it, and compliment it. Not just the physical beauty, but the beauty of the soul. The only beauty that really matters. By celebrating their beauty, our own depth and profound magnificence isn’t just shown, it is magnified.

 

Dreads 2

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Success…What is it Anyway?

What is failure anyway? Not succeeding at something we try? What is success? Financial independence, career stability, a house, a family, and maybe if we are lucky, doing what we love?

For years now, I have defined success with financial freedom. I have compared myself to friends with high paying jobs who have chosen the conventional life. The dangerous part about comparing with others who have a completely different life, different dreams, and different goals, is we never allow ourselves to see OUR success.

I grew up in a society that puts value on money as a measurement of success. I am familiar with the contradiction that money isn’t everything. However, those have been empty words as society’s actions speak louder. We are shown through propaganda and media how to make money fast, how to be financially successful, how to avoid debt, and ultimately, told this all will bring happiness. We all know this isn’t true, yet we fall into the trap just the same. But, where is the passion, the love, the fulfillment? Where is that kind of success? How can we change those empty words of “money isn’t everything” into a practice of caring, sharing, and giving?

*  *  *  *  *

I was in my kitchen cutting up sweet potatoes as I was dancing and singing to India Arie in my apartment alone. The sun was setting and I had decided to force myself to take a break from work to enjoy myself. The problem was I didn’t want to stop working because of how much I love what I am doing. I get to sit in my bed with the sliding glass door open and the sun shining through. I get to hear the ocean waves and the life below my apartment. I get to write, organize, and plan my workshops and speeches. I love it so much that most nights I can’t sleep because of the excitement. But still, I wake up with such adrenaline that I am ready to take on the world. So, really, stopping to eat is the only thing I may enjoy more than working:)

As I was reflecting on my life and where I am, I started thinking about a vision I wrote last year. I wrote I would live in a two bedroom apartment with my partner, I could walk to a market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, I would around the corner to a coffeeshop (where I am writing now), I would be inspiring, motivating, and working with women, I would be speaking and writing, I would be able to see mountains from where I live, and I would be within driving distance of a body of water. Guess, what… that is 100% true. Every single part of it. The only part missing is the salary. Sadly, I made maybe 1/10th of what I wrote. (Lucky for me, I chose a country with a great exchange rate to the dollar.)

However, I have been so focused on monetary success that I had blinded myself from seeing my REAL success. The incredible thing is I have been denying myself any sort of happiness or celebration over the past few years because of my focus on what I didn’t have. I have beaten myself up over how little I have in my bank account, how I have used all my savings in order to follow a dream, and how I haven’t even begun started paying my student loans off as my friends are buying houses and getting married. But, for the first time in years, I can see how successful I am.

After having this revelation, I have decided to let go of my previous definition of success to adopt my new one. Success is loving what I am doing, being able to cook my meals and watch the sunset, making time for myself every single day to do something for me, and making time for the people I love. Success is making goals and accomplishing them and inspiring others to do the same. It is intending to do something and making sure it happens…and also knowing when to let go. Success is being within integrity of myself and my life. Success, to me, is the life that I am living. And, finally, I am ready to let myself be free and to revel in my new found definition.

Me in the sunset

Sitting on the beach in Huanchaco feeling grateful.

 

Malayeka Charity Empowerment Fund

What good deed have you done today?

Each day I challenge myself to do one nice things for someone else. It may be a random act of kindness or for someone you love. Whatever you do, at the end of the day, you made the world a little kinder. You filled the world with a little more love.

Not everyone wants to give up their life to volunteer. I know I am an exception. However, no matter where you are or what you do, you have the ability to make your impact, as well.

My partner, Coco, and I have founded a community center in Cerrito de la Virgen. Our mission is to empower women and children through self-love and education. I know you can’t be here with me, but in this video you get to see what we are doing. This is our center. This is my life. This is my love and passion. I can’t wait for you to see it:)

We are fundraising to raise money for a water tank. Why? No one is this community has running water. They wait on the corner each Tuesday with buckets to fill them with enough water to last them until the next truck comes. This could be a week, two weeks, or more. We work with over 100 people at the center. We have bathrooms and a shower right now that are not functioning because of our lack of water. Not only that, but more importantly, we will be able to provide filtered water to EVERY person that comes to this center plus their families. I cannot even begin to express the importance of this step.

After we raise enough money for the tank, we will then beautify the landscape. We are doing this to improve the learning environment the women and children are in. But, not just that. We are showing them that people from all over the world believe in them, believe they are worth their time and money, and to show they deserve something inspiring and beautiful. For their entire lives, they have been told how poor they are, how they won’t amount to anything, and they existence isn’t acknowledged by the government. So, together, let’s how they they are worth it and their lives matter. Because for the first time, they are being offered a chance and hope for a better future.

Check out the video and link below:

http://gofundme.com/empowermentfund

Check it out, pass it on, and if we are lucky, maybe we will be part of your one good deed for the day:) I may be biased, but I think it should be shouted from the mountain tops!:)

Myth: Failure Sucks.

candle

 

When we start out on projects or attempt something we have never tried before, we always believe the myth of failure. We fall into the trap that failure will kill us, we won’t go on, and it will be the end of our dream. Throughout life we hold back on taking chances because the chance of failure is a hit to our ego. What will people think if we fail?

 

But, in reality, the most important question is what will we think of ourselves when we fail? How will we choose to live with it?

 

I will share something with you, this is a secret, so let us keep it between us. Because, just like I said before, what would happen if people found out I failed at something 😉

 

I set up a webinar series to teach self-love to women and men. To give them the tools to start or continue their journey of learning how to love themselves. Last week, I had my first webinar series and I was so nervous. I was almost shaking and my nerves were at an all time high.I had never been this nervous for a workshop. I guess maybe because I had never done anything on the internet before and I was putting myself out into the world to be judged and criticized.

 

As the night came, I had only two people join the webinar, one of which being my mom. But, the show went on. About 37 minutes into my presentation, the internet cut out and wouldn’t reconnect. I was devastated and humiliated. Thank god, the audience was so small. After allowing myself to feel disappointed for a few days, I was back at it again planning and preparing.

 

Last night, I decided to try again. I was ready. I was prepared. I wasn’t nervous. I felt like I could take on the world. I got on 30 minutes early to set up and practiced over and over again. It was one minute before the webinar began and I closed my eyes and took a deep breathe reciting everything I was about to say. As the clock struck Eight,  I opened my eyes…

 

Number of viewers: 1, my mom. Thank god for my #1 cheerleader. I pictured everyone who had signed up speeding down the neighborhood street, throwing up the door, fumbling with their keys, throwing down their bags, and impatiently waiting for the modem to kick on and their slow computers to start as they were panicking they were late to begin their journey of self-love. But, I only felt patience and understanding as I waited for other attendees to join the webinar.

 

Thirty minutes later, still, no one. It was a party…my mom and I. Was I disappointed? Of course, a little bit. Was I sad? You bet ya, a tad. Was I ready to throw myself a pity party? HECK NO.

 

What I realized in that moment was, I had a few choices. I could feel sorry for myself, feel bad for all the effort I put into this, and take no one showing up personally OR I could use this as a chance to perfect my message. I could use this as an opportunity to grow, to learn, to evolve. What did I learn? I need to learn marketing. I need to better appeal to my audience. I need to find a way that will work. Because it will. It just isn’t supposed to right now.

 

Because here is the thing about “failure”: We can let ourselves believe it is a failure. We can let ourselves get slowed down by the challenge and obstacle or, we can let it catapult is forward. We can let it empower us and excite us more.

 

As I sat there talking to my mom for almost an hour, she was her wonderful self showing me support and optimism. And as we hung up, I told her, “Hey Mom, you know what will be great someday? When the day comes where I am on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday or Ellen and I will say, ‘I remember my first webinar series, the only person that came was my mom and now, I am selling out stadiums.’”

The Possibilities and Sleepless Nights

You know those sleepless nights you like awake as your mind races through what could be? The endless possibilities your life has in store and the dreams that are waiting to come true?
You lie there as excitement, nervousness,  fear, and doubt do the tango through your thoughts and your mind jumps from one scenario to the next. How? What if? What could be?
Everything is stronger at night, whether it be hope, possibility, doubt, or fear. Your eyes are tired, but your heart is full as you think of the excitement life has brought you. And you have more excitement for what is in store.

I always dreamed of the innovators, geniuses, and world changers over the centuries receiving their brilliant thoughts and projects during their sleepless nights contemplating possibility. Their hair a mess with bedhead, in pajamas, putting their pen to paper, at their most raw and vulnerable point of the day. I guess there is a romance in the silence of night as others dream and knowing you are awake making your dream come true. I always prayed that my life be used in a similar way, however intricate or grand it is supposed to be.
I want to sleep. The waves are soothing as I hear them crash outside of my window. My bed is comfortable, but as the sheets are tangled and my mattress is exposed, it look more like a warzone rather than a peaceful spot to rest. But tonight, thinking of the potential I have and the projects I am working on keeps me laying here with my eyes open. I ask for divine guidance and inspiration to write and work. And, of course, they come in the middle of the night. The clichés and stories have always warned me of that, but I always thought they were exactly that, clichés and stories. Add that to the list of things I always thought, “would never happen to me,” but have and continue to. I decide to surrender to the adrenaline and flow of excitement as the ideas flow through me as effortlessly as water pouring from a faucet. I live for these moments. When these moments happen, I try to be open, willing, and grateful. Because these ideas are more important than the hours of sleep I miss out on. I believe the power of these hours spark revolutions, movements, and world changing transformations.
So, here is to the brave souls, the movers and shakers, the inspiring and hard working entrepreneurs and their sleepless nights. Let the possibility of greatness always keep you going. May your passion and enthusiasm lead your success. And throughout it all, may you fall deeply in love with yourself and believe in the power of your dreams and possibilities. Because there is only one of you, the uniqueness of your dream, and only your once-in-a-lifetime-way of offering it to the world.

Imagination: The fountain of Youth for the Soul


Illusion and imagination, are they fiction or tall tales? Is it something that is a false reality which keeps us hopeful and wanting more? What role do they play in life and is it an important one?

Imagination feeds the soul, but the youthful habits we create are soon forgotten and cast away. We outgrow them and assume limiting thoughts and pessimistic views. Imagination feeds creativity and creativity feeds imagination. Creativity then sparks the flame of the soul where our true essence resides. Our true essence is ignited by imagination and creativity, but then why does society hold us back from this creative expression? Imagine a society where creativity is not only appreciated, but encouraged.

The kids kick around a deflated rubber ball for hours in the hot sun. The loud “smack” sound vibrates back and forth between the walls as the air is slowly being seeped out between the bonds of rubber.  The children’s smiles are wide and their hearts are open. This ball, a simple piece of what seems to be brokenness, allows them to live in their essence and spread joy to the world around them. They kick the ball with all their force past the boy standing in an imaginary goal. With imagination, their tattered clothes turn into brand new jerseys that shine in the sunlight and their bare feet become covered in leather boots. Their skin, shimmering with sweat and dirt, becomes clean and soft as their imaginations transform their world into a stadium filled with fans cheering their name. A reality very far from the one they currently exist in.

As the ball hits the wall, it stops dead in its tracks as it falls to the dirty concrete ground. It just lies there, lifeless, waiting to be given the breath of life by the joy of the children’s kick and laughter. The children do not see it as deflated, defeated, old, or not good enough. The children see the potential in this brokenness. They fill the cracks with their optimism and pure innocence and in an instant this deflated ball becomes a world of possibility. Their imprisoned life transforms into unlimited potential.

For a moment, poverty disappears and lack is changed to abundance. With the simple tool of imagination, anything can be created and any possibility can manifest. With imagination, inequality does not exist, but rather a hope for a better world for everyone who walks the planet.

This power is not to be underestimated. The power of imagination has the potential to transform the world as it has done in these children’s lives. Because of imagination, they have hope, they have dreams, they have joy. They soon forget their unmistakable reality and live in a hopeful state of mind. This may be the only state of mind that will allow them to be able to transform their dreams into their truth and end the cycle of poverty.

Too soon we dismiss imagination and creativity as childish ways and false hope. We encourage kids to grow up fast and replace their imagination with piano lessons, soccer games, and math homework. We undervalue the importance of imaginary friends and fairy tale worlds. Although we may not see it, does not mean it does not exist. How do dreams come true if imaginary worlds were not real at one time?

My girls

Jump

Life, a strange place we are always trying to define and find our way through. We are always confronted with choices. A choice of following the norm or a creating your own path. The choice of doing what is “right” or to rebel. The choice of speaking the truth or hiding behind lies. The choice of being authentic or people pleasing. The choice of love or fear. The choice of standing in limbo or taking life by the horns. The beautiful part is, it is our choice.

It has been three and a half years since I have graduate college and looking back, these have been the most challenging years I have had to face. When we go through college, everyone prepares you to get a job, get married, and to start a family. But, no one prepares you to actually be on your own, to lift yourself up when you have fallen on your face, and to actually figure your sh*t out (pardon my french). For the first time in my life I was actually free. And while I have always held freedom as one of my most important values, until recently, I did not know what it meant.

Our whole lives we are told we are free to do what we want, to believe what we choose, and to become who we desire to become. However, we always have people telling us who to be, how to be, and what to believe. We have our parents telling us what is right and wrong, our teachers telling us what to learn, and the system telling us who to become. The rebels, goths, ones who are different, are cast to the side and labeled “weird, bad, ugly, or potentially dangerous.” The ones who conform, stay in line, do what people like and want them to do are labeled as “good kids, suck ups, people-pleasers, going places in life.”  But, when does what we want or believe actually come into the picture?

I have been the suck up and people pleaser. I have been the rebel and nonconformist. I have been told to “go and find a real job” or “you don’t understand the real world” and “I wish I could live my life like you.” I am here to tell you, I think I do understand the real world.

What is the real world anyway? Is it the nice cars, nice houses, “perfect” families, married by 24, kids by 30, and a real job when you get out of college that pays you enough money for you to continue to buy things you can’t afford? Is it keeping up with the Jones’s, getting a retirement fund, buying a house (or two), and donating your offering to the church each Sunday?

What I have realized, is that since the beginning, we have been brainwashed into thinking this type of  lifestyle is for everyone in the U.S. These type of stigmas have us handcuffed and take away our choices rather empower us to choose the life we want to live. We forget that we are free to learn, to create, to dream, to imagine. But, once we graduate, we realize that we do now have a choice. Many graduates, like myself, fall straight on our faces. We stop dead in our tracks and look around us as we stand alone, saying, “Hello? Is anyone there? What am I supposed to do now?” We wait for the answer that never comes. And this doesn’t just happen to graduates, many people spend the rest of their lives waiting for that answer. Many people just stand there and keep busy as they wait for the answer to come. For some, it does. For some, they are still waiting, For others, they choose.

This past April, I was faced with a choice. Do I continue the life that made me feel alive, fulfilled, and joyful? Or do I listen to those nay-sayers, realists, and fear who try and take away my dream?

I had a choice; stay in Peru or fly home. I chose to stay. I chose to stay because for the first time in my life, I did something for me. In July, I went home to make more money to return. And now, here I am back in Peru less than six months later. It hasn’t been easy, the road has been rocky, but I have found strength in myself. And no matter, what, that strength will make it all worth it.

Normal life has a different definition for everyone. And the sad part is, normal usually means settling, boring, and unfulfilled. However, everything is a choice. If there is something you don’t like in your life, you always have the choice to change it. As you get older and settle down, things become more complicated and complex, but nothing is impossible. Throw away the word “can’t.” If you CHOOSE not to do something, it is because you choose that.

In each moment, we have the freedom to determine our life. Some of us choose to give up this freedom because it is scary. And it truly is. But, when we are scared, we are alive, we are vulnerable, and we can prove our power and our strength. We are all empowered to create the life we have always wanted and the life we dream. We all have the freedom. So, choose, jump, and enjoy:)SAM_2808

 

I sit in the soft sand with the sun beating down on my back. I feel each ray radiate into my skin as I feel it becoming red. The sky is almost cloudless and allows the true blue of the ocean shine to all those who look to her. The waves are powerful, forming perfect tubes as they crash into one another and then onto shore.  My body longs to be among them, to be twisted, turned, and crashed upon. My mind longs to feel the silence beneath the roaring surface.

As I watch the ocean, I realize life is just like the waves, but not in the normal cliché of ups and downs. The ocean is powerful, the ocean is in control, and no matter how hard we try to tame it, to own it, to conquer it, we are shown time and time again we have no control. Just like life. We go through life making plans, goals, dates, and we schedule each moment as if they were ours to own. As if these moments are ours to dictate and as if we decide the outcome of each instance.

As I watch the waves, I see them piling on top of one another as the white foam intermingles with the trash and debris. This debris being reminisces for metaphors of broken dreams, broken plans, and lost hopes.

A month ago, I was so certain of my plans, goals, hopes, and desires and my sight was set on a vision created in my mind. I placed blinders on either side of my eyes to keep myself from getting distracted. My heart was set and my mind was made. And then I met the ocean.

I feel myself among the waves. I am thrown into a current whipping my body back and forth, my hair was being knotted, tangled, pulled, and twisted. My arms are waving in all directions and my head and feet are over top of one another. And here I am in the chaos, in the frantic struggle to find my way to the surface as I am forced into the silence I longed for; without control, without knowing, and in complete surrender of this massive power.

I am still there beneath the waves. My body limp as I have given up the struggle to reach the surface. I am being tossed in every which way, but as I surrender, the ocean brings me up to breathe. As I am brought to the surface,  I replenish myself and my faith. I replenish my faith in the waves, the current, the struggle, and the ocean. And just as I think I am lost in this chaos forever I feel my feet touch the sand and the sand feels soft between my toes. I plant my legs strong beneath me as I stand to see the shore.

I look around me and there is my debris floating in the water; my broken dreams, goals, and old hopes. As I look up to the sky, my eyes begin to focus and I soon realize that this debris around me is of my former self. The controlling me who never gave up and surrendered over to my higher power . My mind is filled with new goals, new dreams, and new hopes. However, they are much lighter, more pure, and less selfish. Through the chaos, I was given my calm. Through this brokenness, I found my purity.

And in this moment, She Began.182