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COMING FULL CIRCLE

Listening to my mother’s voice on the phone last week as she gave me instructions on how to make Cassava leaves (a staple West-African dish) stirred a feeling of being complete within. Recently, I’ve had more moments of feeling whole and this was notably one of those moments. It was the first time I had ever asked her how to cook an African dish with the intension of actually making it myself.  I leaned deeply into her Liberian accented voice with a huge smile and sharply tuned in as she struggled to give step-by-step directions. Although she has been cooking the dish for as long as I can remember, all of her cooking has been done by taste, without time and certainly with out any measurements. “So wait, how long do I keep the cassava in?” I asked trying to pull out a finite time or system. “Just watch and taste, when the cassava leaves dry out, put the palm oil in and then it’s done soon after, ” she explained. “But how long does it take to dry out” I persisted but gave up and accepted I would gradually learn the song of the process just as she did.  I could feel the proud and excitement in her voice and I was proud of myself as well. When I began to cook the dish it felt unreal. There I was in Berlin cooking a West-African dish for the first time 30 years later! I’m happy to report that, with some additional help from my family on Facebook, the dish was a success!

The question arises within, why haven’t I ever taken an interest in learning to cook Liberian Food? This is the food I grew up eating and the food from the country where I was born.  It was my ancestor’s food.  I’ve cooked a long list of traditional foods before.  I’ve cooked American, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, West Indian, Vegan, Italian, Spanish, Central European, Mexican and the list goes on. But it wasn’t until now that I have prepared Liberian food. So why haven’t I cooked Liberian food? Although there isn’t just one answer, after much thought a few conclusions came up and I’ll share one. Survival Mode.

I realized that for the most part of my life I’ve been on a perpetual cycle of survival mode. Which leaves very little room for authenticity.  My parents named me Kweighbaye to put a name to the struggle they were going through. Kweighbaye means a hard year in Gio, my father’s tongue. The year I was born was hard for them. There was personal adversity and then there was the civil war that was on its way. A year after I was born, they had to drop everything and leave their country behind. So, from birth I embodied the energy of struggle and survival and that is the mode I’ve been on for as long as I can remember. As a survivor I learned quickly how to mold myself into where I was, whether it was trying to act tough in East Orange and Newark, or pretending like my life was like everyone else in a super fancy boarding school and college.  Depending on whom I was with and what I felt needed to be done and said to be accepted, that’s what I did and said. So if that meant denying who I was inside than that little character that developed inside to protect me made the choice to do so. 

As I said, survival doesn’t leave room for authenticity and it doesn’t leave room for the feeling of wholeness. When I broke out of survival mode I started the journey back to the center and in doing so I’ve been connecting more with myself and all the pieces of me that were created throughout the years. I know I have a long way to come full-circle, especially since I’ve gone very far away from the center. This type of journey takes time. But, these moments when I get the recipe from my mom show me that I’m on my way. I’m not really sure what happens when one come’s full-circle, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Because moments of feeling just a little more complete are amazing and it is what keeps me going.

Hopefully you too can figure out the route that makes you feel complete and takes you back to yourself. And feel free to share it below!! 

With love,

Kweighbaye

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Brandenbergurger Tor. Berlin, Germany

Brandenbergurger Tor. Berlin, Germany

I loved 2013! It was a game-changing year for me and it seems that way for a lot of people I've asked. My brother and his wife had a beautiful son. A good friend got married and had a baby and another college friend/sister from another mother got a great job opportunity after being in a current job that was unfulfilling. My two besties in L.A. stepped into a whole new level of career success. I let go of a lot of habits and ideas and opened up to ones that proved to be healthier. I invested a lot of time in my relationship with my self.  Learned how to set boundaries and how to be of service to people and the planet. My mom finally got a car and is learning how to drive. The Bushwick Film Festival, an organization that I’ve dedicated myself to for the last 7 years, grew wings. Last but not least, I turned 30! Thankfully, the list of great things and accomplishments goes on and this time around it far outweighs the list of failures and disappointments. Now I see that was always the case.

Sheila Prakash, an amazing teacher is one of the people that helped me see it this way. I received an email from her yesterday with questions to help me bring the New Year in thoughtfully. Two questions on the list was to list my accomplishments and successes but to also list my failures and disappointments.  When thinking about my failures, a few things immediately came up of course. I missed a friend’s wedding, missed my nieces graduation, didn’t get an opportunity that I wanted and still allowed my actions to be guided by many old insecurities, financial insecurity being at the top of the list. But what Sheila also included in that question is to notice more of the 'why' and use that to understand myself more rather than criticize myself. That certainly shifted my idea of what failures and disappointments mean.

So as I said, I loved 2013. I laid many great foundations and planted a lot of seeds, met so many interesting people, had great experiences, and  got to be excited for other's accomplishments as well. As I watched the fireworks at midnight at the Branderburger Tor gate in Berlin (Did I mention getting to live in another country for 2.5 months!) with a fun bunch of people I could only imagine, with a huge grin, what 2014 would be like.

I wish for you the same thing. That you can see that more often than not the accomplishments (no matter how small they are) and successes always out weight the failures. And those failures are really just a gateway to the truth of things. I leave you with the questions and amazingly beautiful poem Sheila shared with me below. Happy New Year!!!!!

THOUGHTFUL NEW YEAR QUESTIONS

AMAZING POEM TO SET THE TONE FOR THE NEW YEAR

 

 

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Breaking out of a bad food cycle was difficult. By bad food cycle I don't necessarily mean bad food I mean the same rotation of foods week after week, year after year.   It was hard to try to order something new off the menu when I was super hungry and didn’t want to regret getting something I didn’t like. Also, it was intimidating and embarrassing not knowing what all those foods are on the aisles upon aisles of shelves in the supermarket or the names of a lot of root veggies and cheeses at the farmers markets. Especially when I hadn’t had the slightest idea of how they tasted.  But when I realized that there there are so many foods that the earth provides for us to eat, I began to notice I only chose to eat the same types of foods since I began choosing for myself.

Each week I would eat rice, rotate three or four different Liberian Dishes (Cassava Leaf, Palava Sauce, Jollof Rice, fufu), The basic apples, bananas and oranges, pastas, meet chips, etc. You get the point. My every day go to foods.  Even if I went out for dinner, say at a Thai or Indian restaurant. I would always order the pad Thai or get the massaman curry. At Chinese restaurants I almost always ordered the broccoli and garlic sauce. Italian would be some sort of alfredo and caesar salad. American I would order burger and fries. For breakfast the basic eggs, pancakes, bacon bread...etc. Did I mention that it wasn't until college that I had ever heard or tasted Pesto or sushi??!!?

Day after day, year after year the same foods. Then as I began to think about diversity and how diverse nature is, I came to see that I was missing out on a whole world of foods. Goji berries, Coconuts, Raw Cacao, all types of beans, wheat, exotic fruits! I mean really there is a world of food out there that not only tastes incredible but have amazing healing powers. Just have a glimpse at the different types of roots and super foods there are!

As I said, breaking out of cycles are tough but if I truly wanted the benefit of expanding my world on all levels so I had to be fearless.  I should add that for me being fearless no longer meant having to go out shopping one day and put everything that I didn’t recognize in the cart (I did it all went bad!) or sacrifice a good meal for an unknown option if I’m starving (was very unhappy about that one!).  What worked was I started to pick up just one thing that I’ve never picked up while doing my weekly shopping or choosing a day that I would go out and be brave and order something else on the menu. But first making sure I wasn’t starving. Before making the small step I would make an agreement with myself that not liking the dish didn’t matter. The real goal was finding out more diverse foods that I did like and integrating it into my life and in turn making my world a lot richer. That’s what I did. Since then I’ve made some really interesting and surprisingly tasty dishes, learned about foods that help with healthy hair and good nights sleep and have become very comfortable trying something new on the menu. Even if I’m hungry ;). #breakingcylces!

I'm still in the early stages of experimenting so if you have any food suggestions or tasty recipes please share below!

many thanks, 

Kweighbaye

 

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There I am after a super tasty Sunday brunch at Veselka on the east side with a great bunch of people. There was a time when Sunday Funday wasn't actually fun but more like a nightmare that I didn't realize I was in. For me, Sunday was the day I paid gravely for being a weekend warrior (party, party, party), spent a huge block of the day dressing up to go to city brunches full of empty conversations that I am guilty of being fully engaged in (who hooked up with who, what this person did, can you believe this happened...) all the while dreading that come Monday I would have to  go back to a job that was unfulfilling. So yeah. That was Sunday Funday and like I said in hindsight they don't really seem like much fun.  Don't get me wrong. I still love my Sunday brunches but they are a little different these days and Sunday has reclaimed it's place as the most exciting day of my week!  Monday to Friday is filled with healthy exercise routine, at least a conversation or two with a friend or family member each day, and very fulfilling work at The Bushwick Film Festival.  Saturday is usually resting, yoga, extended meditation and then simply relaxing alone or with very close friends or family. Then Sunday arrives and I am well rested, proud of the work I've accomplished over the week, the time I've put into relationships, and all ready to go out on an exciting adventure whether it be a hike, something artsy fartsy, or a visit to somewhere I've never been before (inside or outside of the city). Most Sunday's I'm up early enough as 6am usually in time for a meditation practice some where in the city or at home. And I wind down with reflection and preparation for the exciting week to come!  

I often think about the times when I was merely surviving the week and saying phrases like "so happy for it to be over" or "damn it! It's only Monday" or "Thank goodness is Friday" or "humpday." But I no longer wish any days away or to fly by because I see how precious time is and how it will eventually run out. So I really work hard to value each moment not wishing for a second before or a second after.  

So on this particular Sunday I was reminded that it is about thriving not surviving!  Surviving is brutal and takes away a lot of energy. Trust me. So now, I'm all about the thriving ;).  

So. How do you usually spend your favorite day of the week? I'd love to hear about it! you can comment below ;)

xxx

Kweighbaye

 

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July has always quite naturally been my absolute favorite month. Until I started dreading turning 30 around age 25. Then it turned into a stressful month. What am I going to change? Will anyone have time to spend with me on my birthday? What have I accomplished since last year? I still haven't written that book that I promised myself I would write when I was 18! Will I ever find true love, get married, buy a house and have a picture perfect family? The list of things "to do" and "to accomplish" just kept growing and hardly anything was getting crossed off. But this year something quite different happened. GRATITUDE.

When I was going through a rough time a friend of mine told me that she had joined a gratitude group and that each day they would write down all the things they were grateful for. This friend was very optimistic, peaceful, loving, was extremely healthy (beautiful skin!) and always seemed like a glowing light followed her everywhere she went.  On top of having an increasingly successful career, she was always doing things for others and took the time to listen and spend time with loved ones. She even had the time to to take care of herself!  So taking head to her advice and seeing how this person had many things that I desperately wanted (peace, the freedom to do what she loved, and deep compassion for others and herself), I followed in her foot steps. I went out brought a gratitude journal and included writing a morning gratitude list in my morning spiritual practice which also includes meditation,  energy stretches (and prayer!).  I limit myself to just one page each morning otherwise I would be stuck pressuring myself to write absolutely everything that I was grateful for and then get stressed out about the whole ordeal. I also found setting boundaries can help creativity and in turn helps get things done. So. One small journal page each morning filled with a list of things that I am so grateful for made the world of difference. Soon I started seeing how absolutely lucky I am to have the smallest things (the opportunity to have a new day that I've never lived before full of possibilities, the ability to breath, to sleep in a warm bed, to have a hot shower, to have this computer to write on, and I know it sounds corny but even to hear the birds singing each morning outside of my window).  I never noticed there were birds out of my window until I began the gratitude list and was first fighting to find something to write and then I heard the birds!  All in all, each day I always wish I had another few pages to write what I am grateful for and each day I become more and more grateful to simply have a cup of really aromatic tea and these warm socks from Turkey my friend Casey bought back for me. 

By the time my birthday month arrived I was really like a child that was on love overload. I spent time looking at all the great things that happened up to then and the people and experiences and realized that things were getting crossed off the list, that my dreams were slowly being realized and that I actually will write that book that I promised myself when I was 18! My relationships with people, myself and the planet have gotten so much deeper and I am very grateful for the month of July. My Birthday month! You can see a few photos from July to the right. 

You are more then welcome to share a few things (or more!) that you are grateful for below. 

with love & gratitude,

Kweighbaye

 

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