3 Reasons to Wake Up Together!

    —
June 24, 2014

From our dear friend Nikki at glad.is regarding our annual Wake Up Festival

I HOPE WE WAKE UP NEXT YEAR – 3 REASONS WHY WE SHOULD

At this time last week, I was sitting in my chair in Estes Park Colorado, at The Wake Up Festival, listening to Jeff Foster, day three of my journey there. At least I think I was sitting in my chair – I may have been floating in the air, or laying on the floor dying into Who I am.

It was an incredible experience and I’m about to give an unabashedly impassioned retrospective of this festival. Not because I’m paid to do so by any means, but because, as I sat there in my chair, I wished that I could give every one of my friends and family the gift of attending this festival.

First though, it’s not a “festival,” like say Wanderlust or Coachella. It’s five days of something in between what Sunday School or church should have been and the courses you wish they would have taught in University. It’s extremely well run, featuring the best of the best of modern day spiritual teachers, Ivy League professors and heads of Clergy, shaman and mystics and few sound healers too.

I’m a Virgo and very prone to my sign’s traits of being able to point out how anything could be done better, and I don’t think a festival or gathering of this kind could be done better.  It’s deep – there’s none of the superficial sales-y stuff I somehow find myself in at “spiritual” events in my hometown of Los Angeles.  It’s the real deal. It’s delivers raw truth in the teachings, the kind that you wouldn’t expect to experience at something with the name ‘festival’ in the title.  This is a place to go and absorb.

I don’t know if there were fifty people there, five hundred or five thousand. But when Jack Kornfield got up on stage, there was just he and I. He found a crack in my heart that I didn’t even know was there, and filled it with an intangible wisdom and courage that stuck, right in the place where the book I read last week was already forgotten.

I almost didn’t make it. My husband had a huge new business meeting, I couldn’t find anyone to cover for me to watch our two young kids. One of my daughters was in a play I had to miss. This website was having technical issues – how could I justify letting all those things go to cover the Wake Up Fest?  The list of things goes on, but I’m so grateful I made it. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be such a unique personal experience. I was going as a member of the media, but I came home a filled soul.

Here’s 3 Reasons why you should consider attending next year:

1- Many of us just don’t prioritize physically attending events like this, and instead practice alone or in a cyber space.  (And in fact many people don’t even have access to this type of open-minded spiritual gatherings where they live.)   We used to gather to hear uplifting messages in the weekly Sunday meetings of the traditional churches we grew up in, but now many people have a hole where the experience of spiritual community used to reside. So if you are a modern seeker, you must seek a physical community.

2 – To hear these great masters, teachers & authors deliver their message, to practice with them in person is priceless. It’s like the difference between looking a photo of the ocean or being there. (bonus: they’re all accessible at the event – bring your books to get signed.)

3- It’s a great tragedy that our educational system provides no curricula for life.  There is plenty of college worthy content in this space – scientific studies on happiness, libraries of philosophical theories and of course loads of unifying spiritual beliefs that should teach us about being human, about dealing with life’s ups and downs.  This four days of life class.

It’s for those reasons; finding community and the deepening of wisdom, that I hope you’ll either attend the Wake Up Festival, or find something similar that provides this experience.

Personally, I wish I could attend something like this every week or every month. I can’t, but I do hope you’ll meet me there next year – I’ll definitely send you a reminder! (Make sure you’re signed up for our email list.)

Here’s a run down, the nuggets if you will, of what I took away from the speakers I personally heard. (There were many more – I missed Adyashanti and others – and each of these speakers provided so much wisdom, it would be impossible to get it all down but there’s a lot of great messages from these masters below!) Enjoy, and if you were there, please add or share your experience below.

Also, since you’ll have to wait a year for the next Wake Up Festival, we’ve put together a page of our favorite books by these teachers on page 1 in our Amazon store.

Wake Up Festival Highlights:

Tara Brach-

Tara gave us a two hour lesson on the nature of fear. It was powerful. Epic even. She reminded us that it’s not about getting rid of fear. We need it, we are conditioned to have it. But our frontal cortex allows us to be mindful toward it, and to find freedom to relate to it. We have the equipment we need to wake up out of the trance of fear. She explained that the whole of the spiritual path is to meet your edge and allow it. Then she invited us to have tea with our fears.

Mark Nepo –

Author Mark Nepo enlightened us on the importance of story, how we each have our individual stories, but that we are also part of each other’s stories. He told the story of how his grandmother made him feel special, and gave him the confidence to go forward with his story.  (Which, is similar to my experience — the name of this website is not only a nod to joy (gladness) but also to my grandmother Gladis.)

Mark reminded us that you can’t step into the same river twice – a story also evolves based on our perception, and our personal growth…over time some stories become more important than others.  The story we’re in takes time to tell itself.  Have patience and courage to let the story evolve. We do see our stories differently as time goes by. Write them down.

Sandra Ingerman-

Sandra was the only Shaman and one of the few mystics on the speakers roster. She gave a great introduction to Shamanism, reminding people that it’s the oldest spiritual practice known to man – it dates back over 100,000 years and it was practiced all over the world, by every culture.  Everyone in the world has ancestors who practiced it. There are culture specific ceremonies, but shamanism is not specific to certain culture.

Sandra explained Shamanism and how to work with spirits; spirits can help you ride the waves of life and connect us to source. It’s a path of direct revelation. The key to learning about it is to practice it, she said. It’s about the experience.

David Whyte-

Oh my, David Whyte. He was the keynote speaker on Friday evening. I’ve read his poetry, but have to be honest; I don’t ever find myself buying books of poetry. But when David Whyte stood on stage and spoke, for 90 minutes, reciting his own poetry, and also quoting the famous and not so famous philosophers and sages, without ever once looking at any notes, never once interrupting the melody of his poetry with an “ummm” or a “like,”  I simply melted.

When David spoke, I could clearly imagine a time, long ago, where women fell in love with and swooned over poets and writers and intellectuals instead of rockstars and soccer players and reality stars. As it should be.

One of the many things he told us is that what we’re most afraid of is our own unhappiness. Because “if you were to claim it, everything in your world would require downsizing – all the parts of you that told you it was not possible would need new jobs.”

If you ever have the chance to hear him, please don’t miss it.

Dr. Kelly McGonigal-

This PhD, Stanford professor and yogini took us through slideshows of the brain that should have put you to sleep, but each slide and study that she explained was SO fascinating – this is the class that should be a requirement for any diploma.

She took us through the functions of the prefrontal cortex, the Insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and after showing us how the different parts of the brain work together, and how they signal other parts of the body, she explained how to connect with our highest self and stop identifying with the suffering. I mean seriously, how do we NOT learn this stuff in school?

Jeff Foster-

This guy must be creating lots of spiritual crushes everywhere he goes. He’s like a younger surfer version of Eckhart Tolle, but with a British accent.  He delivers his words with a really unique style, lush with intent, humor and compassion. His talks were like an orchestra of sensations for the ears, brain and heart to process together, to take in his direct and uncompromising message, which comes broken up with his funny laugh, and the too long pauses… which you later realize a real gift, to allow you the time to inhale and exhale….and allow his words go straight to your heart and feel their truth.

Jeff inspired a separate, full article of quotes. But my favorite piece of advice from Jeff’s keynote: “Perhaps all our suffering is pointing to the same place. Perhaps even this is God. Perhaps even this is grace. Even if it’s not the grace you read about in the books. You’re not really interested in a second hand life – in living someone else’s life. You want to taste it, taste life right now because you want to be alive.   Taste the moment, the pain, don’t try to escape.”

Seane Corn-

The gorgeous Yogi entertained the crowd with her humor and her passion to move people to make difference. She pointed out that many people – no, most people in the world – live in perpetuated oppression, never allowed to challenge what religious authority tells them. Put to death for it even. But not us. We can question, evolve, transform, seek the truth. What a blessing. And why us? Were we just born at a lucky latitude or longitude or are we living out some karmic progression? I don’t know the answer, but we DO get to do this, be in this free-thinking, truth-seeking community of discovery. What a gift.

My favorite quote from her, paraphrased – “It’s why we must go deep, get raw, celebrate the opportunity to grow and transform. We do it not to be right, but because we make the world better. We make the world better not by being right, but by being love. By understanding the wholeness of our being. By expressing love and knowing truth. And we will make peace inevitable.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro-

Rabbi Rami, delivered a fantastic, humorous talk on why he loves religion, and why it’s also really scary.

He points out that all religions stumble around the same ideas. Even though they divide us, every religion has the same perinnial philosophy or idea: The throught that you are not who you think you are. The extent to which you identify with who you think you are, is the extent to which you live with alienation, fear, suffering violence.  The extent to which you live in the larger sense is the ability to live in more joy, peace and have an ability to make the world better.

He explained how religion is a human construct. How it is brilliant when it taps into something beautiful like “love your neighbor as you love yourself’ – and then the tragic irony of a religion that says ‘love your neighbor, but kill or hate all those people over there.”   God is not like that. People are like that.  Religions do that to get people to commit to their ideas. Religions are brands with taglines and slogans. (Death sells.) Question yours. Always.

Matthew Fox-

Matthew Fox lead a non-denominational “Cosmic Mass” service on Saturday night, the closest that this festival got to being a festival the way I think of the word. I hadn’t heard of Matthew, and feel that I need to introduce him to explain this event:  Matthew Fox is an internationally acclaimed spiritual theologian, an Episcopal priest, and an activist who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years. He holds a doctorate, summa cum laude, in the History and Theology of Spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris. As a spiritual theologian, he has written 30 books that have been translated into 48 languages and have received numerous awards.

With the Rabi, Sandra Ingerman Shaman, and Tami Simon joining him on stage, Matthew kicked off a mass that I at first I couldn’t quite fit in with the rest of my Wake Up experience, but days later I understand that of course everything there has purpose and meaning ,and his presence was a part of dismantling my own ideas of what a church service looks like.  He’s certainly a radical, but our times call for radical leaders.

He reminded us that for most of human history, dance has been an important part of spiritual ritual. (And we danced, with Shiva Rea and Djs) We were reminded that the Pope did not invent mass. That we need to stop challenging the priests and pastors to keep us awake in the pew, but to become our own priests.  He told us not to abandon religion and ritual just because the modern church abandoned us, but reminded us that we must gather in new ways to meet our modern needs. He pointed out that the West remains so out of touch with its own mystical tradition that many Westerners seeking mysticism still feel they have to go East to find it. But we can create the practice and find the wisdom our soul seeks and knows is true, he said. And so we did.

Anne Lamott-

Anne is probably the person you’ll most want to have dinner with when this festival is over. She is as hilarious and loudly individual as you’d expect and then some.  Feminist, mother, writer, comedienne, philosopher and intellectual, she’s like the crazy aunt that enters a room and casts a spell of wonder on every adult and at the same time makes every child there feel that there’s no one so special as them. You see your own specialness, your wildness in Anne Lamott.

Anne on Life:  Life is like driving in the dark at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little ways, but that’s all you need to make the whole journey.

Anne on Writing: “You write and write and it’s great but then you have to cut 75 pages. So you go back and kill your little darlings that were so perfect and so well said, but they were not human, they were arrogant and weighty. So you cut them and thank them for getting you to the human stuff. Those days writing those words were not wasted.  It’s just like meditation. I sit, it goes badly. The bell rings, and it’s ok because I get a piece of me back. And I still get full credit.”

Jack Kornfield-

Who better to close five days of being in spirit, getting to know your soul, and connecting to the higher source, than the author of After The Ecstasy, the Laundry”?

Words truly can not describe how amazing his closing keynote was.  I probably would have messed up the whole experience once I got home, if he hadn’t been there to take us home to the message. He led us through a couple of beautiful meditations, a poignant closing ritual, and mostly talked to us about this path, reminding us that everyone has triumphs and losses on it. “Last year foolish monk, this year no change,” he said.

He surprised most of us in the audience when he told us his wife asked for a divorce last year, after almost thirty years of marriage. He reminded us that “we all get lost, that we forget, in our small sense of self, and then we remember, that we are not that limited person. Your loving awareness, your spirit, can not be taken.” No matter what our circumstances when we get home.

“Who do you think you are?” he asked, “Who is born into that body with patches of fury hair, with a hole to put in plants and dead animals…how did you get in there?  You come here and get joy and sorrow, pain and happiness. It’s the curriculum. It teaches the heart how to love.  It’s messy.”

The secret of all of this, (“this” being both life, and being on this path) is to act well, without attachment to your emotions or what happens in your life. It’s about not depending on your hopes for the results of things. That’s the key.

His parting advice:  ”Find the people who love the inner life. You need community.”

So, the over-riding message, take away from the Wake Up Festival, as I experienced it?  Wake Up. Wake up to being present and fully alive. Wake up with this community of seekers of truth, to the acceptance of Suffering, and it’s trusty side-kick Fear, as part of the human experience. Don’t shame them away, or shut them away; invite them to tea instead.

review of wake up festivalWere you there? Do you recommend it to others? Please add, and tell others about your experience below!

Author Info for Sounds True Coming Soon

Also By Author

Six Summer Reads You Won’t Want to Miss!

After the stillness of winter and the slow waking of spring, summer is a time for getting up, getting out, and getting our hands on what inspires us the most. Here are some recent Sounds True releases for tapping into a life well lived.

1. The Biophilia Effect – Clemens G. Arvay 

Summer Super Sale - The Biophilia Effect

This is a book that celebrates our interconnection with nature and shows how to deeply engage the natural world wherever you live to dramatically improve your health. Clemens G. Arvay presents fascinating research, practical tools and activities,

inspiring stories, and more in this accessible guide to the remarkable benefits of being in nature.

Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/the-biophilia-effect.html

 

 

 

 

2. The Healing Code of Nature – Clemens G. Arvay

The Healing Code of Nature - Clemens G. Arvay

Human beings are inseparable from the natural world, coevolving with all of life. In order to thrive, we need to nourish this bond. In his latest book, biologist Clemens G. Arvay illuminates the miraculous ways that the human body interprets the living “code” of plants, animals, and our larger natural habitat for healing and sustenance.

Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/the-healing-code-of-nature.html

 

 

 

 

 

3. Book of Beasties – Sarah Seidelman

Summer Super Sale - Book of Beasties

From an ancient perspective, everything—including all natural things, like rocks, flowers, trees, insects, birds, and mammals

—is alive and infused with conscious energy or spirit,” writes Sarah Seidelmann. If you’re one of the many people looking to reconnect with the creativity, wisdom, and vital energy of the natural world, here is a fantastic guide for tapping into the power of animal totems, or “beasties.”

Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/book-of-beasties.html

 

 

 

4. No Recipe – Edward Espe Brown

Summer Super Sale - No RecipeMaking your love manifest, transforming your spirit, good heart, and able hands into food is a great undertaking,” writes renowned chef and Zen priest Edward Espe Brown, “one that will nourish you in the doing, in the offering, and in the eating.” With No Recipe: Cooking as Spiritual Practice, Brown beautifully blends expert cooking advice with thoughtful reflections on meaning, joy, and life itself.

Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/no-recipe.html

 

 

 

 

5. Yoga Friends – Mariam Gates & Rolf Gates 

Summer Super Sale - Yoga FriendsFrom the creators of Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga comes a beautifully illustrated city adventure that introduces children to the delights and benefits of partner yoga.

Perfect for teaming up with a friend, sibling, parent, or caregiver, each easy practice shows how cooperation helps us to imagine, move, and have fun in a whole new way.

Includes a back-page guide for parents and caregivers, showing how to do each pose and how to connect them into an easy-to-follow flow.

Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/yoga-friends.html

 

6. Happier Now – Nataly Kogan

Summer Super Sale - Happier Now

What if you could be happier, right now, without radically changing your life? As nationally recognized happiness expert Nataly Kogan teaches, happiness is not a nice feeling or a frivolous extra. It’s a critical, non-negotiable ingredient for living a fulfilling, meaningful, and healthy life—and it’s a skill that we can all learn and improve through practice. In Happier Now, Nataly shares an illuminating, inspiring, and science-based guide to help you build your happier skills and live with more joy, starting now.

Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/happier-now.html

 

 

 

 

 

Have other books you’ve read by the poolside or under a shade tree ended up changing the way you see the world? Tell us about those summer reads that ended up being more than you expected!

 

Singing Bowl Meditation Sounds True Spotify Playlist

Sounds True is on Spotify!

Need some tunes for rest and relaxation? Check out our Singing Bowl Meditation Playlist! A variety of artists who make a soothing mix of infinite rhythms using Tibetan singing bowls. Perfect throughout a meditative practice.

 

November New Releases and Giveaway

NOVEMBER NEW RELEASES

 

 

The Integrity Advantage by Kelly Kosow

Are you ready to open up to new levels of self-trust and self-love, to get where you want to go?

You vowed to speak up at work, and then sat silent in the meeting yet again.

You told yourself “this time the diet is going to stick,” only to watch the scale inching up.

You felt that something just wasn’t right about someone that—until you learned the hard way that your instincts were right.

“Every time you bite your tongue,” teaches Kelley Kosow, “you swallow your integrity.”

Before Kelley Kosow was a renowned life coach and CEO, she constantly second-guessed herself, let her “to-do” lists and others steer her dreams and passions, and played it “small and safe.”

Inspired by the groundbreaking principles of her renowned mentor Debbie Ford, who hand-picked Kelley to be her successor, The Integrity Advantage is Kelley’s step-by-step guide for facing the fear, shame, and false beliefs that cause us to lose our way.

Through life-changing insights, true stories, and proven strategies, this book will show you how to live on your own terms—according to you—from the inside out.

 

Daring to Rest by Karen Brody

As modern women, we’re taught that we can do it all, have it all, and be it all. While this freedom is beautiful, it’s also exhausting. Being a “worn-out woman” is now so common that we think feeling tired all the time is normal. According to Karen Brody, feeling this exhausted is not normal—and it’s holding us back. In Daring to Rest, Brody comes to the rescue with a 40-day program to help you reclaim rest and access your most powerful, authentic self through yoga nidra, a meditative practice that guides you into one of the deepest states of relaxation imaginable.

It’s time to lie down and begin the journey to waking up

 

 

 

 

Breathe and Be by Anna Emilia Laitinen and Kate Coombs

Teaching mindfulness helps kids learn to stay calm, regulate their emotions, and appreciate the world around them. With Breathe and Be, author Kate Coombs and illustrator Anna Emilia Laitinen team up to present a book of poetry and art for young readers to make mindfulness easy, natural, and beautiful. Here is a book sure to delight parents and kids alike, blending lovingly illustrated nature imagery with elegant verse about living with awareness and inner peace.

 

 

 

 

Leopard Warrior by John Lockley

A Teaching Memoir That Crosses the Barriers Between Worlds

A shaman is one who has learned to move between two worlds: our physical reality and the realm of spirits. For John Lockley, shamanic training also meant learning to cross the immense divide of race and culture in South Africa.

As a medic drafted into the South African military in 1990, John Lockley had a powerful dream. “Even though I am a white man of Irish and English descent, I knew in my bones that I had received my calling to become a sangoma, a traditional South African shaman,” John writes. “I felt blessed by the ancient spirit of Africa, and I knew that I had started on a journey filled with magic and danger.” His path took him from the hills of South Korea, where he trained as a student under Zen Master Su Bong, to the rural African landscape of the Eastern Cape and the world of the sangoma mystic healers, where he found his teacher in the medicine woman called MaMngwev

 

 

Things That Join the Sea and the Sky by Mark Nepo

A Reader for Navigating the Depths of Our Lives

The Universe holds us and tosses us about, only to hold us again. With Things That Join the Sea and the Sky, Mark Nepo brings us a compelling treasury of short prose reflections to turn to when struggling to keep our heads above water, and to breathe into all of our sorrows and joys.

Inspired by his own journal writing across 15 years, this book shares with us some of Mark’s most personal work. Many passages arise from accounts of his own life events—moments of “sinking and being lifted”—and the insights they yielded. Through these passages, we’re encouraged to navigate our own currents of sea and sky, and to discover something fundamental yet elusive: How, simply, to be here.

To be enjoyed in many ways—individually, by topic, or as an unfolding sequence—Things That Join the Sea and the Sky presents 145 contemplations gathered into 17 themes, each intended to illuminate specific situations.

 

 

                NOVEMBER GIVEAWAY

 

WIN OUR NEW RELEASE BUNDLE:The Integrity Advantage, Daring to Rest, Breathe and Be, Leopard Warrior, and Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

TO ENTER: Simply reply in the comments with why you’d like to win!

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Transform your relationship with your kitchen—and yo...

Hello gorgeous community of amazing human beings,

For the last 15 years, I have been cooking up this question: 

What does it look like to nourish YOU? 

 

Let’s drop everything we might think this is 
and everything you didn’t get done today 

and bring our collective shoulders down from the sky. 

Let’s take a minute here. We are just getting started, yet I feel we need to slow down. Will you take a deep breath with me? Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for breathing. There is nothing to do here. 

You can bring your awareness to your breath with an inhale through your nose. Open your mouth slightly and exhale with a HAAAAAAAAA sound. It feels so good to drop everything and breathe. Me too. To let go, even a little, is a real lovefest for the heart and mind = heart mind. 

It feels so good, can we do one more? 
You can close your eyes this time if you want to—

I will be right here. 

We are just getting here, together.

Now let me ask you again: 
What does it look like to nourish YOU?

What if I told you that your kitchen is a place of stories, mothers, grandmothers, imprints, and emotional weather patterns that shaped how you live now? It is also a place to deeply nourish yourself and cook up the life you have been longing to live. 

Your kitchen (yes your kitchen!) is a fierce, unconditionally loving mother holding what is ripe and ready to become inside of YOU. Who would have thought that you can heal your life in your kitchen? I did! And now you can.  

I am excited to share my new book: The Kitchen Healer: The Journey to Becoming You.

It invites you to bring your entire body into the kitchen, put your shame into the fire, offer your grief to the soup—allowing all you have been hungry for to begin to feed YOU. As you turn on the fire, you will come home to yourself. You will make the room you need, to hear and see and feel the stories you have been carrying.  

 

You will begin, again and again, to become YOU. 
Welcome home. 

In loving service to your courage, your kitchen healer,
x x x x jules

Jules Blaine Davis, the Kitchen Healer, is a TED speaker and one of Goop’s leading experts on women’s healing. She has led transformational gatherings, retreats, and a private practice for over fifteen years. She has facilitated deeply nourishing experiences at OWN and on retreat with Oprah Winfrey, among many other miracles. Jules is a pioneer in her field, inviting women to awaken and rewrite the stories they have been carrying for far too long in their day-to-day lives. She is cooking up a movement to inspire and support women to discover who they are becoming.

This Is Your Time to Be Healthy, Fit, and Fine

Sex, health, happiness, and wealth . . . you know you want it all. And there’s no better time than now for having it all and “gettin’ it good!

Without social networking, motorized vehicles, or modern-day technology, many of our ancestors went for what they wanted and got it. One trailblazing “I’ve got this” woman I revere is Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler. As the Civil War raged in 1864, 33-year-old Rebecca Lee became the first Black female physician in the US. She graduated from what is now Boston University School of Medicine. In 1865, with her husband, Arthur Crumpler, she courageously journeyed to Richmond, Virginia, to provide medical care to recently freed slaves that the White doctors would not touch.

Her life in Virginia wasn’t easy. While there, many pharmacists refused to honor her prescriptions, some hospitals denied her admitting privileges, and some—reportedly, even physician colleagues—wisecracked that the “MD” after her name stood not for medical doctor, but for “mule driver.” But Dr. Crumpler persevered!

She remained in Virginia for almost four years then returned to Boston in 1869, established her medical practice, and wrote a book about women’s and children’s health. She blazed a trail upon which many have and do tread.

Hers is just one story of a brave, determined, capable Black woman. Over the centuries, there have been more in numbers untold! In the 1900s, especially during the Civil Rights Movement, Black women were instrumental in the reckoning of a nation. While their husbands got the most notoriety, matriarchs such as Coretta Scott King, Juanita Abernathy, and Lillian Lewis stood along- side their men and played pivotal roles in moving the nation forward to live up to its creed.

And as the first decade of 2000 ended and a new one began, Black women became increasingly on the move, onward and upward, and are now doctors, accountants, judges, pilots, investment managers, nurses, and elected officials as well as wives, mothers, and caregiving daughters. Undoubtedly, many of today’s Black women are carving out lives about which our great-great- grandmothers may have only dared to dream.

Black women’s voices are no longer muted or silenced; instead, they are heard around the world, with sophisticated, strong, and successful style. In 2020, America elected its first Black female vice president, Kamala Harris, at whose 2021 inauguration the words of the first Youth Poet Laureate of the US, Amanda Gorman, rang forth for the world to hear. But there’s more!

In February 2021, Georgia Tech engineering major Breanna Ivey interned at NASA and helped put their rover, Perseverance, on Mars! And as the COVID-19 pandemic stole lives around the globe, vaccine researcher Kizzmekia Corbett, who has a PhD in microbiology and immunology that she earned at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, worked with the National Institutes of Health and was instrumental in bringing safe, effective vaccines to the world.

Indeed, Black Girl Magic is in full force! When we look around, seemingly there’s hardly any- thing Black women can’t do—and do well—in any field, including medicine, the military, politics, education, technology, business, sports, aeronautics, and the arts. What we put our minds to, we can achieve! With an “I’ve got this” approach and determination, it is ours to be had.

But life is not a bed of roses for all Black women. Too often (and still) negative images barrage our psyches, loved ones in our community lose their lives in gun violence, and our health often needs dramatic improvement. Black women still carry the highest incidence of, and the poorest prognosis for, medical conditions that affect practically every organ system in the body. We are more obese and have a shorter life expectancy than other women in the female demographic, and we carry the highest mortality rate for many killer diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, and more.

Despite those findings, the plight of Black women’s health is rarely, if ever, specifically addressed at length in general women’s health books. For that reason I have stepped outside of my medical office, outside of the sacred space of the surgical suite, even outside of my city and state to offer women in America and abroad Black Women’s Wellness: Your “I’ve Got This!” Guide to Health, Sex, and Phenomenal Living. May it be the one-stop source you can reference on your personal quest to achieve total wellness, health, and happiness in every important aspect of your life. I offer this book as a Black female who grew up poor in a single-parent household. I never knew any of my grandparents, had an absentee father (who I later found when I was 49), a mother with some “issues,” no siblings, and many naysayers in my midst. But to achieve my goals to become a physician and a surgeon, I studied to show myself approved. It wasn’t easy, but I got it done.

Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of women of various ethnicities suffer with chronic diseases, some of which can be avoided, or at least, better controlled. I also know the remarkable and re- warding joy of practicing medicine and performing surgery to remove disease, help women with their infertility, or free them from cancer.

As a physician, my question to you is, Are you taking time to take care of your health? In fact, when did you last really think about—and take time for—your health in a comprehensive, serious, deliberate manner?

Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book reminds us that “each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” Kornfield also tells us, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” Whatever your schedule, lifestyle, religious preference, or personal obligation to others, the reality is you won’t be able to do anybody any good if you’re in poor or failing health. As said in the 2021 movie Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, “Take one seed of what you give others and plant it in yourself.”

The words and images within these pages present information that is applicable to the specific medical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs of Black women. However, non- Black women can glean valuable information about their health and standing in this book as well because I also provide comparative data for Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women, as well as some data about our male counterparts. But special attention is given to Black women because the fact is, Black women’s health concerns and challenges are different from those of other women.

In these pages you will find staggering statistics and a less-than-desirable legacy of Black women’s health. But you will also find tools, medical information, and encouragement that can liberate you and Black women everywhere from a similar fate. With knowledge comes power.

Look at all the wonderful things Black women have done and continue to do when they employ their mind and determination in force. Hold on to that because improving one’s physical health is doable—you can do it!— and changing the trajectory of Black women’s health is also doable. It can be done, and it must be done because changing the health of Black women can change the health of the Black fam- ily and that of all future generations. As you review and compare the health statistics across racial lines presented herein, remember one thing: the goal isn’t to be like White or Asian women; the goal is to be healthier Black women. Black Women’s Wellness provides a head-to-toe medical reference, with information that will carry you for years to come. Some of you might read this book cover to cover, as a whole. Others might read chapters that address your, or a loved one’s, current medical concern, circumstance, or curiosity. Or as you flip through the pages, you might see a pie chart or graph that grabs your attention or gives you pause.

In chapter 1, I begin with my “Societal Stress and Black Women’s Health” flowchart that ties together the psychosocial challenges and micro- aggressions that we face as Black women and how those psychosocial stressors can affect our physi- cal well-being.

In part 1, I present timely information about heart disease, diabetes, maternal mortality, cancers, and HIV/AIDS . . . the top five conditions that are robbing Black women of life and longevity.

In part 2, I hone in on our womanly feminine form and function. As with all creation, the hu- man body is a thing of beauty with wonders it performs! No one would be alive today without a woman’s body, for it is through women that all life is formed and born.

Medical conditions can affect all of us—whether we are tall or short; “thick” or thin; heterosexual or homosexual; light-skinned, “olive-complected,” or the color of rich, dark chocolate. You’ll read about your reproductive anatomy and physiol- ogy and the diseases that can affect your female organs, such as fibroid tumors and endometriosis, but also other medical conditions that cause mid- life “female” problems such as a dropped bladder, urinary incontinence, and pelvic pain. You’ll read about vision problems, arthritic conditions, sickle cell disease, multiple sclerosis, and more. And if you are menopausal and utterly confused about hormone replacement therapy, this part can give you guidance.

No book on wellness is fully complete with- out addressing sex. Can I get an amen? Given my personal experience and professional expertise, I wrote the sex, sensuality, and relationships section with a heterosexual approach. But regardless of your sexual preference or identity, in part 3, you’ll read about the health benefits of having sex (with whoever rocks your boat). There’s also sage infor- mation about sexually transmitted diseases and how to identify any residual sexual hang-ups you may have so you can fully enjoy and benefit from the experience that love-making was meant to be.

Maybe your love life has gone from a sizzle to a fizzle, you have trouble achieving orgasm, or you experience pain with intercourse. Or perhaps you’re wondering if male enhancement medica- tions work in women or how you can possibly en- joy sex in a day of rampant sexually transmitted diseases and men “on the down-low.” Fret not; you’ve come to the right place! I give you tips on how to boost your sex life and get or keep the passion going with your sweetie. I also offer you advice on how to address these intimate issues (including sexual dysfunction) with your doctor.

And last, in part 4, I round out the call for total wellness with information on relationships, love, beauty, mental health, mindfulness, and financial well-being. I also provide a checklist for you to take stock of your health to identify the specific areas that require your medical attention.

To find happiness in a world of frequent, near-daily rejection, it is important to have inner strength, self-assurance, emotional balance, and reliable friends and family. Part 4 will give you useful tips to achieve inner peace, to keep your brain active and alert, and to avoid toxic people. It will advise you on how to capitalize on your best traits and, if needed, minimize those traits you find less desirable or that impede your personal or professional goals.

Proper diet and physical activity for increasing the secretion of endorphins—the “feel good” body chemicals—will be addressed, and tips for hair and skin care will be presented. Lastly, unique medical “pearls of wisdom” will help you improve your interpersonal relationships. Along the way, I will share a few anecdotes of my life’s journey; perhaps they will encourage you to keep moving forward when you feel you just can’t take another step.

I am excited for you and me. Despite the doom and gloom of the past, it is possible for Black women to achieve medical parity and live the best, healthiest life possible in the 21st century. We need not give up hope, for there have been and will continue to be victories and successes in the lives of women whose skin has been bountifully kissed by the sun. As never before, the 21st century presents a new day and an exciting time in health-care technology, research education, and improved medical outcomes, and no woman—whether Asian, Hispanic, Native American, White, or Black—should be left behind. Not anymore. This can yet be our time to shine, as many of us are living well past the statistical projections of life and death . . . and doing so in healthy, fine, fun, and sexy style!

Total wellness and phenomenal living are aspirations many Black women enjoy and others seek to attain. It can be done; the journey begins with just one step. Black Women’s Wellness may prove to be the long-needed source that can encourage, educate, comfort, and celebrate you, me, and Black women everywhere. With the information in this book, the evergreen list of resources I’ve provided at the end, and an “I’ve got this!” determination, your 21st-century journey to total wellness, physical health, and phenomenal living can begin right now. Let’s get started!

Melody T. McCloud, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist-surgeon, media consultant, public speaker, and author. She lectures nationwide on women’s health, sex, and social issues and has served on an advisory council of the CDC. Affiliated with Emory University Hospital Midtown, Dr. McCloud was honored as one of the 25 most influential doctors in Atlanta and named Physician of the Year by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. She has appeared on CNN, ABC, NBC, Court TV, and in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, Parade, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and more.

Authenticity is a Unique Superpower That We All Have

People often think that “personal branding” is a dirty word. That it revolves around ego and vanity and self-promotion. After building and running my personal branding agency, SimplyBe. and reflecting on our unique approach to this space, I realized that there was something much deeper to this work.

Each of us is here for a specific reason. Each of us has a light that we need to shine. And most people don’t know how to technically, practically tell their own story. Most of all, they don’t feel they have the permission, the confidence, the support, to take the leap. My book, Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself, is that permission slip—for you to get out of your own way, to dive deep and take the journey within. Although often perceived as a practice in exterior image, personal brand is really about how you see yourself, how you know yourself, how you come to cherish yourself. That is the journey that awaits you in Be.

There are a lot of people who don’t want to be on social media or don’t want to be “famous” and therefore feel like the work of personal branding isn’t for them. But frankly, it doesn’t matter if you use social media every day or if you never touch it for the rest of your life—you have a personal brand.

Your personal brand is your value. It’s your worth. It’s the impression you leave behind in any room or crowd. It’s how you make people feel. It’s how you interface with people wherever you go—the way you treat your barista, the way you talk to your children’s teachers, the way you communicate with your team at work, how you create relationships in our community. It’s your legacy. All of these daily interactions are opportunities to hone and master your brand on your terms. That is personal branding.

My background is in marketing and branding. I’ve cut my teeth in the world of social media working with Fortune 500 brands over the last 15+ years. That said, in this book you will find frameworks and easy DIY tools to build your brand from the ground up and to take it online and leverage it to build your business, your career, your reputation, your followership. You’ll learn how to craft a message and a strategy, build PR awareness, create original content, identify your competitive landscape, and much more. It is a very tactical book in that sense. But my biggest inspiration and passion is bringing more humanity to business. Be. is a personal empowerment book at its core. Simply put, Be. is a study in the power of authenticity. 

Authenticity is a unique superpower that we all have. It’s a practice in you simply being you, inclusive of all of your shadows, sh*t, failures, weaknesses, AND all of your successes, triumphs, talents, and unique gifts. That’s what Be. will really challenge you to own—your fully unapologetic YOU.

My book is far more than what meets the eye. I hope you pick it up and learn that you, indeed, have a brand and that this simply means that you have something worthy and meaningful to share with the world. Personal branding, at its core, is an act of service. It is about what we are here to give versus what we are here to get. And when we architect a personal brand from that place, we come alive.

The world needs your light.

The world needs you to shine.

Every one of us has not just the privilege but the responsibility to step forward and simply be.

Don’t let us down.

With love and light,

Jessica Zweig
Bestselling author of Be.
Founder & CEO, SimplyBe.

 

Jessica Zweig is the CEO and founder of the SimplyBe. agency, a personal branding company that helps millions of people worldwide. She's been named a “personal branding expert” by Forbes, a Top Digital Marketer to Watch by Inc., one of 2020’s Most Notable Entrepreneurs by Crain’s Chicago Business, and the 2018 and 2019 recipient of the international Stevie® Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. She's been featured on FOX, ABC, NBC, Thrive Global, Business Insider, and more as an expert on how an authentic personal brand is the key to a more successful career. For more, visit jessicazweig.com.

Jessica Zweig is the CEO and founder of the SimplyBe. agency, a personal branding company that helps millions of people worldwide. She’s been named a “personal branding expert” by Forbes, a Top Digital Marketer to Watch by Inc., one of 2020’s Most Notable Entrepreneurs by Crain’s Chicago Business, and the 2018 and 2019 recipient of the international Stevie® Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. She’s been featured on FOX, ABC, NBC, Thrive Global, Business Insider, and more as an expert on how an authentic personal brand is the key to a more successful career. For more, visit jessicazweig.com.

Author photo © Lindsey Smith

 

 

 

 

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