First Things First

A journey doesn’t begin with the first step – it is first invited by spirit.

Hi, I’m Myrtle, a healing arts practitioner, artist, writer and educator. Currently I am working on The Truth Over Beauty Project. This project aims to connect women’s bodies to their lived experiences through visual arts and story telling. Look out for more on this project in the upcoming weeks.

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Dreaming in Real Time

Have you ever drooled over something so much that you could barely wait till you got it? Like the time I saw this very striking jacket with 3 quarter length sleeves, with a skirt that flowed out like a tutu at the waist, and was held together by a lavish belt. I know- irresistible. I literally couldn’t wait until it was delivered to my house. Everyday I would check my emails to see if any delivery notifications appeared on my inbox.

Well it did arrive and as I ran my fingers down the quilted fabric of this extravagant purchase I felt such excitement. I tried it on and twirled around in front of my mirror, watching the sides of the skirt flare open and ripple all around me. I couldn’t wait to wear it out – maybe my birthday dinner – who knows. Well it has been 2 years to be exact and I still haven’t worn it. It still stands on a hanger in my closet poking out from all the other dream outfits. The dream outfits will never cut it. The problem is the more we devour is the more we are devoured. The system we live in was intentionally created to keep us consuming without being satisfied. Realizing this I embarked on a journey to figure out how to live outside of this misaligned value system.

Dreaming at What Cost?

Since Covid came through and swept us up into a state of stillness, reflection and a bit of life assessment, I have come to realize that I had been sold a big, big, big lie. Not just one about fashion either – about everything. As a child of an immigrant single mother from the Caribbean I was expected to fulfil the dream dreamt by my mother and her parents. To go abroad, settle, and acquire all the things that show that we were worth the stamps on the visas, the seats on the plane, the desks in the schools, and the jobs that were so “graciously” handed to us. We wouldn’t waste this opportunity – this chance at happiness, and success – at dreaming in real time. One problem remained – the dreams stole our ability to experience living. Yet, we still continued with them. We devoured them even though we choked on them from time to time.

The truth is the dreams we were sold came at the cost of community, service, self-care, leisure and renewal. We had no time for rest, to linger long enough on a thought to invite a spark, to sit long enough with a pause to welcome the creative spirit that usually accompanies it. The dreams also told us the lives that we left behind were somehow substandard, backward, and lacked value. Moving at a slower pace meant we didn’t value work. Taking a break meant we were not valuable. The hard to swallow dreams raged on.

Back to Covid and how it made all of us sit, wander, and contemplate the value, the meaning, the necessity of living. Of living – for the living. I started looking closely at what I took joy in. I was ushered back to community. To people. To my mother who from 17 – 65 spent her life working for others – for their happiness, for the fulfillment of their dreams. All the while she endured oppression, racism, and stress induced illnesses. During the summer of Covid we spent many mornings out in the garden harvesting and planting – noticing all the small changes in nature with each sprout, with each offering. There I started experiencing dreaming in real time. I was also brought back to my children who forced me to accept that their value was not embedded in being a product of the education system, my parenting, or society’s offerings. They are evolving beings on their own journey. With their own right to explore their role in community. To my neighbours and friends who show me that pulling up a chair in the driveway, dropping by to say hello, witnessing voices on the phone are what sweet dreams are truly made of.

Community: The Center of the Universe

In The Courage to Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi explains that the community is the center of the universe and it is our service to community that brings fulfillment and happiness. Not the acquisition of wealth or approval from others – but service without need of praise or ego stroking. This is the heart center of the universe. So simple. So accessible. Considering all of this – why are we still chasing the capitalist dream? Why do our actions continue to stoke the flames of a system that cares little for the every in everybody? Why do our actions continually place product over people, and profit over impact? All those who have sold us the lie – the capitalist lie of accumulation and domination, are not happier, more fulfilled, or at peace. So why do we keep believing them? What is the root of this cognitive dissonance?

Three Questions for Creating A New Dream

Before Covid being busy was a sign of success. You gained a sense of worth and value from how in demand your time was from your employer. Now we have been gifted time. Time is the real killer of a capitalist regime. Capitalism tells us that too much time means we will grow weak, stupid, lazy – that our brains will shrivel. But for the first time many people had time to reflect on the tasteless mouthfuls they were consuming. Some of us took the time without guilt to really ask some questions. According to Deepak Chopra, yogis live by 3 questions: Who am I? What do I want? and How do I serve? I started writing these questions down at the top of my daily to do list. Everything that went on that list had to answer one of those questions. It was in the answers I found a way to address the cognitive dissonance that plagued my life. It was also the path to dreaming a new dream that aligned with my values.

Who am I? I am a being with worth just as I am. No degrees, awards, recognition, accomplishments, failures, breakdowns, or heartbreaks can add to or diminish my worth and value.

What do I want? Time to wander, wonder, create, connect and learn.

How do I serve? Inviting others into spaces that help them recognize their worth, explore their connection to community, and experience moments of joy.

So take some time today to explore these three questions and see if your dreams are aligned with who you are, what you seek, and how you serve and start dreaming in real time.

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(Sun)Rise as Ritual

I rise early so I can find the quiet in the day before it is filled with demands and constraints. In the morning my body feels open and expansive. It feels light and ethereal. It feels full and at the same time hallow. Nothing has been written on my mind – except for dreams. My movements haven’t committed to a path. Watching the Sun rise is a sip of soothing tea, savouring the mystery in the magic, and the return to ritual.

We have research that clearly shows the value of the early rise. In Ayurvedic practices I’ve heard that waking with or before the sun is essential because of the “… loving (sattvic) qualities in nature that bring peace of mind and freshness to the senses”. (Vasant Lad) The golden hour, the waking of the Earth, the calling of a people to awaken to the newness in themselves, the reminder to give birth to something new within and around you – there is magic to the rise. When our eyes open we are literally burning off the layers of yesterday and igniting the new.

Lately, my early rise allows the day to unfold rather than rush towards me. As a mother who is an artist and holds a regular 9-5 job, those early mornings are usually the only time in the day that I have enough energy to harness my creative energy. No one has disrupted the thoughts laid down by sleep and rest. My voice has not been heard nor raised. I get the opportunity to flow into expression that is truly mine, unfiltered, and uncontaminated by others expectations and thoughts.

More importantly, the sunrise signals the beginning of my daily rituals that are rooted in practices anchored in my core values. What I do in the 2 hours after waking is a direct reflection of my values. It is a run through of how I will approach uncertainty, challenges, and self-care.

My Sunrise Ritual:

  1. Wake without an alarm
  2. Read for 1 hour
  3. Dry Brushing & Cold Shower
  4. Meditation
  5. 45 – 60 minute walk
  6. Movement Practice (Yoga/Pilates)
  7. Breakfast

It took me awhile to establish this practice. Truth be told it evolved organically once I became very clear about my values around rest, spiritual and physical nourishment, and mobility.

The next time you awaken to the rise of the day spend some time reflecting on your values. More importantly ask yourself to examine how your values translate to practices that become rituals.

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Dance: Unfolding in Ancestral Vibrations

Performing my dance at The Madame Wob Dwiyet competition in 2017

Fourteen year old me would cringe at my current dancing posts on instagram stories – Forty-Seven year old me finds incredible joy in my ability to live in my body and celebrate the vibrations of my soul and my ancestors.

As a Black girl in the 90’s people were always surprised that I couldn’t sing or dance. Despite resenting the attempts at forcing me into this narrow stereotype, I will fully admit that dancing escaped me. Every move on the dance floor felt awkward and I struggled to feel at home in the places and the music I found myself in. Until recently I didn’t realize that my inability to create movement and shape with my body with ease had more to do with my inability to fully unfold in my right to express myself.

Those of you who have followed my Instagram account know that I’m currently exploring the ways we uncover truths that are sometimes buried in our bodies. Stress and trauma are buried in our body when we haven’t found ways create space for them to move. Truths are also found nestled in the body awaiting freedom. When truths are buried expression is also inhibited.

It wasn’t until I started learning and performing the traditional, Wob Dwiyet dance that I realized that music and movement could collaborate in my body. This dance tradition is explored in the Kweyol music of my childhood. This music brought my father back to life. I remembered watching him dance in our dancehall lined with bamboo and covered by the Moon and the blanket of stars in the Caribbean night sky. His long body would sway with the sea breeze and the moon would dance on his skin. In my dance practices I often closed my eyes and saw his joy and knowing. I pulled it into my feet and explored it in my arms. I allowed my body to transmute the memory and found dance. Every time I listen to Zouk and perform my Wob Dwiyet dance I am unfolding into ancestral vibrations. These vibrations are always present now and provide a pathway for expression.

Dance has become less about executing movements and more about expressing truths, feelings, and sensations – much like my other movement practices. Fourteen year old me would cringe at my current dancing posts on instagram stories – Forty-Seven year old me finds incredible joy in my ability to live in my body and celebrate the vibrations of my soul and my ancestors.

Kweyol Queen. Available here.

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My Voice is Necessary: Sustaining my Artistic Vibrational Frequency .

“Creativity flows in and through me. My voice is necessary.” Eastern Body, Western Mind

As a child my worst fear was having to introduce myself when meeting someone for the first time. My name always hung on my tongue and wrapped itself all the way down my throat. That suffocation of words, of ideas, of expression continued into adulthood. Most would never know the inner work of a person who suffers with stuttering. How a spoken word artist, a presenter, an educator, and a facilitator can struggle to speak is sometimes a mystery to many. More importantly, it is only until recently I truly understood the impact of not being able to say my own name as child on my life as an artist.

As I’m deepening my understanding of the energy centres in our body I see that the inability to give sound to my name is wrapped up in my lack of belief that my voice was and is necessary. As an artist this manifests itself in the struggle to see my work as having a place in the collective discourse and to be true to pursuing and sharing my craft whether it is well received or not. The strokes of the brush, the clicking of the keys that create ribbons of images in text, the sound of my voice lifting and pushing against air and tongue – all declarations of my belief in the necessity of my voice. The necessity of creating and sustaining my own vibrational frequency.

Trusting that my body and soul was created with a path that is truly mine to explore for its own sake is my attempt at seeing that my voice is necessary. Necessary for my survival and for my thriving – but also necessary for the collective good. Our desire to express ourselves through art is really an attempt to connect to the rest of humanity. Expression is about speaking our truths that ultimately creates a connection to all other truth bearers.

My voice has found freedom in my courage to express what occupies my experiences and my longing to connect with others on a level that creates intimacy. Through my art I draw others into an intimate embrace where they are offered the freedom to also unfold into their own expression. In time I have not only learned to say my name with each breath, but I have learned to say it over and over again with colour, with shape, with lines while watching the vibrations move through and beyond me. Ultimately prompting me to take up space and sound.

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On Second Thought: The audacity to create.

https://afroquillarts.patternbyetsy.com

What gives you the right to call yourself an artist? What gives you the courage to put it out there and claim that space? I have always known that I was an artist. After all when most parents were putting puzzle pieces or blocks in the hands of their toddlers my father was putting brushes or pencils in mine. My identity always involved the notion that I was made to create.

Well that was true until recently when I was turned down for not one but several artists grants. I didn’t realize it then but I was secretly harbouring the idea that if I received these grants then I could truly call myself an artist. The news that I didn’t qualify and the grantees were “moving on to other applicants” made me question my purpose and will to create.

Then fast forward a few weeks to an interview I had with Niazamar founder Tanya Turnton. You might know Tanya as a adornment and beauty advocate or a talented hair stylist and make up line owner. She is definitely a beautiful force of creativity and beauty. Throughout this interview we talked about creating, beauty, using colours to exemplify what we feel, and most importantly what it means to be an artist.

During this conversation I shared what I have always known – I was born to create. The very act of my being born was the proof that creation ran through every vein in my body. Not only in mine – but in everyone on this planet. The fact that I wandered a bit from that truth was only a reminder that I was forgetting that I was born to take up space as a creative force. That creative space loves the accolades and the admiration but is not sustained by it. That creative space is sustained by my ability to develop a sense of exploration and discovery as an artist.

How do I nurture that belief that I was born to take up space as a creative? Here are three things I do regularly to feed that part of my soul:

  1. Meditate Regularly: Mediation has the ability to ground us in the here and now. Through meditation I am reminded that my true value lies in simply being here. I don’t have anything to prove to justify my need to be here as an artist or a human being. Each time my feet touch ground or I take a seat on my meditation cushion I am reminded that the Earth supports me in taking up space. Instead of crashing into the centre of the Earth I am supported on ground.
  2. Explore: As artistic beings we have the ability to go deep. To discover newness in the old. We have the ability to look at a tree and see death, birth, constant change, and stability. Everything around us is an opportunity to discover newness.
  3. Create with Audacity: Approach projects with radical courage. If you feel a thought creeping through that reminds you that this event, this style, this display is for someone more this and that – courageously pursue it anyway. Create despite fear and insecurities. Create in the face of criticism. Create with audacity.

Finding the audacity to create is embedded in the belief that I was born to do this – and so were you. Now don’t give it a second thought, you have everything you need to take up this space as a creative. I would love to hear what you have had the audacity to birth.

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