Life is about Balance.

Something powerful happened to me today.

As I was stretching in my yoga class, the skin on my chest felt like it was on fire. I had to stop stretching and look at my skin to make sure I wasn’t having some kind of reaction, to what I don’t know.

My instructor saw me looking uncomfortable and more than a little scared and asked what the matter was. I told her that the skin on my chest felt like it was on fire. It was so powerful, I was sweating and on fire all at the same time. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. She said that it was energy. This heat burning my skin was pent-up energy trying to get out. Energy huh?! How about that.

So of course I had to Google this magical happening. God bless Google.

According to my Google results, energy is a pulsation that moves in waves through-out our bodies. Yoga poses help to ease tension and clear blockages, allowing your energy to be released and flow freely.

In Yoga there is no separation between the mind and the body. What happens in the mind happens in the body and ultimately affects your spirit. So if something is bothering you emotionally or something is on your mind it will manifest in the body. My insomnia comes to mind here. When you work your body during a yoga class, the more you stretch and breathe the more likely you are to encounter your pent-up emotional issues and their release can be powerful.

During Yoga, I focus so much on getting my breathing right and holding my poses that I don’t think too much about the energy being released. It’s simply amazing to me that this happened to me at this time though. You see, I recently had a conversation, that required I be absolutely honest about what I was feeling and while this made me vulnerable, I felt empowered. After that conversation, I felt so free.

I did not realize until my yoga class that I had experienced a breakthrough. Through my stretch, I was able to release the energy of that conversation and what it represented through my chest. Which in itself is poignant because that’s where it was focused. My heart. That conversation required I speak from my heart. That heat I was feeling was the last of those unresolved issues with the fear of expressing what was in my heart being released from my body.

I will admit I was more than a little scared at first, because I did not know what was happening inside my body. But now that I do and I know what that conversation meant for me, I am amazed at the connectedness of it all. I love my yoga. I have always known it was good for my body and my breathing, now I know it is good for my mental and emotional health as well.

I almost said, “But you’re not homeless!” as I held unto the food with both hands staring with some consternation at the well dressed guy standing in front of me.

He earnestly said, “You’re giving out food right? Well I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten all day.” Immediately I handed over the meal and was instantly apologetic.

In my mind, the homeless and hungry had to be dirty, in torn clothing, most probably crazy. Not this clean man, in clean clothes and of apparently sound mind. You see, I was doing a personal thanksgiving for all the blessings I have been receiving by distributing 30 meals I prepared, to the homeless in the city where I worked.

While we were driving around Woodford Square, which is a park in the down town area, looking for parking, I said to my brother-in-law, I don’t think these people are homeless, we’ll have to look elsewhere. I spied one guy who fit my mental description of a homeless person and he was the one I was homing in on when I was swamped by MOST of the people sitting in the square.

It was then, looking with new eyes, I saw the bags of what appeared to be belongings on top of the various tables they were sitting at. I looked a little closer at the faces and they were gaunt, up close, their clothes though clean were not in the best condition. They were all grateful for the meal.

I, on the other hand felt two things.

I was happy that I was able to distribute all the meals and I was ashamed that I thought I knew what poverty/homelessness looked like. Yes, it might look dirty and unkempt, smelly and crazy. But it can also appear clean, well-dressed, well-mannered and educated. This thanksgiving has taught me so much about myself. I underestimated the amount of work involved because I was happy thinking about the result and I wanted to OWN the result all by myself, completely ignoring the process and the hard work it would take to get there. What was supposed to be a lunchtime meal, turned into dinner, since I was only able to distribute by 4:00 p.m. I suppose it was the perfect time and I shouldn’t worry too much it, but had I accepted the help offered in getting the meal together, I might have been able to stick to my goal of a lunchtime meal. There was a part of me that wanted all the credit for this. I can see that now.

I had this mental picture of what a homeless person should look like, and you should know as well, that even though I use the word homeless, in my mind that translates to poor person. I am guilty of stereotyping. Thing is, I only realized what my true thoughts were, in that moment when that guy walked up to me.

This got me thinking about what poverty truly looks like.

Yes, if you called to mind what you thought a poor person looks like right now, that would be correct in most cases. But poverty is also, the “well-dressed” person sitting in a square, with other well-dressed people, who all had nothing to eat for the day.

There is a thought that poverty is for the lazy. I know I had a vision of what a homeless person looks like. So it would be correct to think that there are people who also suppose, that people are poor because they want to be. Poverty is complicated. I am not disputing the fact that there are some truly lazy “hard-back” men and women who refuse to work and are willing to live off of the sweat of others. Yes there are those who beg, because they can. But not everybody is out to scam the system. There are people with full-time jobs who still cannot achieve the most basic standard of living. Imagine for those with part-time employment.

I see the desolation of it everyday, because the homeless/poor frequent the downtown area where I work. But what about the poor with homes? And that for me is the alarming part. This is poverty that is hidden. My life would have been very different if my mother didn’t rise above the many challenges she faced as a single parent. This is why I was shocked at myself for having stereotyped the homeless. I should have known better.

Can poverty, a problem as complex as it is, ever be solved? How can we help? Solutions are possible. But we must first have a government serious about reducing poverty and homelessness; throwing money at a problem is not always a cure, sometimes it’s just a band-aid. The rest of us must care enough to act together to achieve a better community.

Cassava Dumpling & Salt Fish Buljol

Cassava Dumpling & Salt Fish Buljol

I celebrated my birthday on Monday and I decided this year that instead of waiting to receive gifts, I will give them instead. I got the idea for my “Thanksgiving” from a new friend Nalini, who celebrated her graduation and other personal milestones by feeding the homeless in her community and in our main city of Port of Spain. It was something I was thinking about for a while and found the inspiration to actually do it while listening to her story.

This is a time of change for me, it’s a new year of life, I just completed the 29-Gift journey and I wanted to end it in a meaningful way and Tuesday 7th will be two years since my mother died. I wanted to find a way to commemorate my mother’s death by doing something for others, which was how she spent most of her life. This was the perfect way to give thanks for life and for love.

The hardest thing was deciding what the meal would be. I finally settled on Salt Fish Buljol and Cassava Dumplings . Everything I know about food my mother taught me. I chose Cassava Dumplings, because I love, love, LOVE cassava and in dumpling form…it’s an extra special treat. Making the dumplings would mean that I’d have to knead flour and that would mean me connecting with the meal in personal way. And since one of the first things my mother taught me was how to knead flour, it just felt like I was on the right track. Cassava Dumplings pair well with Salt Fish Buljol, so that was the menu.

This thanksgiving was very personal to me and since it seemed pretty simple at the time, I declined all offers for help. I wanted to do this for me and for my mother. Boy, did I underestimate the work this venture entailed. Making Buljol for lunch for 4 people is one thing, making it for 30 people….Whoa! With Buljol, most of the work is prep: chopping and dicing up vegetables. My prep time took more than an hour. Then came the tedious task of grating the cassava, the whole time I was doing this I keep saying out loud all the things I was thankful for. And saying out loud what I was thankful for, kept me focused and mindful throughout the preparation of this meal for 30 people.

I am thankful for the mother I had. For the values she instilled in me, for the sacrifices she made and for the love she gave to me. She was my first love.

I am thankful for my sister and brother. They are my mirrors and my only link to the real journey of how I got to where I am today.

For my brother-in-law, he drove me around today and helped me distribute the meals to the homeless persons. Thanks just doesn’t seem like enough.

For my old friends who keep me grounded and for my new friends who bring so much value, light and love into my life.

I am thankful for love. For knowing love, for truly feeling love and no longer being cynical about that “BIG Love”. I am thankful that because I love, I am no longer afraid to speak my truth and what’s in my heart. Saying “I love you” makes you vulnerable yes, but it also empowers you. Not because the story didn’t end the way you want it to, doesn’t make the love any less real.

I am so thankful for my journey, sometimes we lose sight of the abundance we have and I am very guilty of this. It is a constant struggle to focus on the things I do have, rather than what’s missing. I am thankful that I was able to prepare and share a simple meal with 30 people today who may not have had one or know where their next meal is coming from.

I had so many doubts about doing this today. When I woke up I was consumed by fear and doubt about having enough money, or what if a homeless person harmed me or what if they didn’t like the food or wasted it. I almost let those gremlins convince me that I wasnt enough. Thankfully, these last 29 days, have brought me closer to the authentic me I want to be. The me who truly lives in love and continues to choose love every single day. It’s not easy. I have those gremlins in my head that feed on my fears but with each act of kindness, each step forward feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I prove them wrong.

Today’s affirmation:

Today, I come to the end of this journey, help me make today’s gift count!

Has it been 29 days already? When I first started this journey, 29 days seemed like a long time, but here I am on Day 29 and I’m surprised at how fast the time went. I really wanted today’s gift to be something grand, something WOW to truly end this journey in style. The universe had other plans.

Today’s gift was simple. A friend of mine needed a listening ear and some advice. That was it. I will end this journey with some reminders on just how simple life can really be.

Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing. — Oscar Wilde

Why complicate life?
Missing somebody?…Call
Wanna meet up?…Invite
Wanna be understood?…Explain
Have questions?…Ask
Don’t like something?…Say it
Like something?…State it
Want something?…Ask for it
Love someone?…Tell it
People aren’t mind readers and we won’t live forever.
– Anon

Breaking those chains with LOVE

Today’s Affirmation

Today I give as freely as I can.

Today’s affirmation wasnt very creative because today my country celebrates Emancipation Day.

Just a brief history on Emancipation: The Emancipation Bill was presented in Parliament by Thomas Buxton in 1833 and the Act came into effect on August 1, 1834. On August 1, 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery. The Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago was founded 20 years and they have been commemorating Emancipation withe public lectures, trade shows, concerts and presentations.

Some 20 years later what is the relevance of our ESC? They are still begging the government for money to the tune of $7 million, so what is their relevance if they cannot be self-sufficient or garner more corporate support or support from the general public? Which begs the question, what does Emancipation mean for the average Trinidadian?

Emancipation Day for me, is usually a time of reflection coming so close after my birthday. I’m usually still in introspection mode so I’m always mindful of the areas in my life where I’m not truly free. Financial freedom remains somewhat elusive, as is the freedom to do the work that makes me truly happy and the freedom to express my true self without fear of who that Vernette is.

Today was no different. Five more months left in the year and I’m re-evaluating where I am and what needs to be done to get me there. Now is as good a time as any to start on some goals, just in time too, as one goal is close to being achieved. Today marks the penultimate day of my 29-Gift journey.

This has been an exercise in freeing my mind and thoughts on what giving truly entails. The most satisfying of my gifts were the intangible ones, the gifts that required I give of myself and my time rather than something material. Today’s gift, was patronizing an Emancipation Breakfast put on by a group of ladies raising funds for the Cyril Ross Nursery. I will admit, the only reason I took the ticket initially, which was given to me before I started my 29-Day journey, was because the Nursery is important in maintaining the health of the thirty-five children in their care ensuring that they get the best attention and Antiretroviral medication, which they must take.

Freedom means something totally different to these children. Looking at this breakfast fundraiser 29 days later, through different eyes, I decided to give a small donation along with the cost of the ticket. For me, this is not about the money but what this money means in the context of the best care for these children. That’s the intangible stuff I’m talking about. I will never know how far my donation will go towards helping the Nursery make the lives of these children just a little bit easier and that for me cannot be measured.