I have been at battle with my ego and reconciliation with my shadow for this last bit of time. Something has felt like it’s been missing. I’ve been retracing my steps to see how I got here-to this dark place where I feel like not doing any of this, any of these things I know.
Quarantine fucked me up a couple of times.
Entering 2020 with the greatest faith and clarity--everything I thought I was going to do (like really committing to growing Ecstatic Dance QTBIPoC in the San Francisco Bay Area--that was gonna be my thing) and then we all know… we had to stay inside, no more social gatherings.
I got weird with covid. I couldn’t look at the images, I didn’t want to hear about the news and I got an obsessive compulsive disorder about antibacterial and bleach. It wasn’t until I came back to Colorado and got a taste of my family and lifelong friends that I realized how contained I had got and how many unnecessary limitations I put on myself.
There were things that kept me solid and purposeful this year. Amazing people in my life. The Art Gym. My training with SomaSource, having monthly teachings, caucus groups, seasonal dances and mentorship online saved my soul a few times over and helped remind me of what’s important.
Most recently, we danced on December 12… a shadow dance.
I’ve been doing this work for so long that I entered the space without expectation, I certainly didn’t expect to come to a full blown confrontation with my shadow. That dance sent me into a spell. For days, I filled up journal pages, asking myself so many questions--writing with black and red ink, filling in other parts with purple and orange (color therapy is real).
The messages I received from that dance were:
I went searching in my past--studying all my photos, selfies, posts from the past few years. I wondered what happened to the bright eyed, smiling, bold, brave and energetic being? Where did this joyous part of myself go?
I’ll tell you what I found… In the last couple of years, I gave myself over to people and causes that didn’t actually serve my highest self. Also… fucking COVID. Somewhere along the way I got it all wrong and misled. An ego trip.
As I took inventory of this year, I couldn’t help but feel like I failed. I got super disheartened producing virtual workshops, because attendance was low. It felt like rejection, it hit all my trauma points of abandonment, not being wanted, accepted or acknowledged.
I did have some incredible partnerships and projects this year, that were super fulfilling--testing the waters for the Movement Collective I seek to begin--The ER aka The Embodied Revolution, going live with my comrades on Instagram for #VoteNoMatterWhat, choreographing The Wiz for East Performing Arts Camp, co-creating Elevate the Energy was ah-fucking-mazing, and getting to direct 12 Angry Them, supported by a whole team was super supportive and taught me once again how much better life can be when you ask for and receive help.
It’s crazy though, I felt like I couldn’t share a lot of these projects because I couldn’t make sense of the difference between myself and SOL VIDA. I don’t know if I have or if I ever will, but I can see that I AM SOL VIDA and my heart and soul are bursting to share all of the parts of me.
At the end of November, I embarked upon a lifestyle cleanse with a couple of dear friends. We decided to go Full Moon to New Moon to see if we were able to change some habits. We gave ourselves a lot of grace for imperfection. My energy had been so low, feeling super lethargic, lazy and just ill because I wasn’t honoring my body.
This is when I stumbled upon and remembered there is an entire Ayurvedic path to eating for your life type-- I made a quick study of my dosha and realized where I was going all wrong. Since then, I have really reshaped my food habits--eating three times a day, cutting out snacks, meat, dairy, sugar and gluten for the most part. Warm foods and warm beverages for me. I thought it was gonna be hella fucking hard, but its been really soothing. And I have a new favorite recipe.
I guess that’s the ultimate gift of 2020- to live in a new way and to slow the fuck down.
I’ve been in a self-imposed ritual for these past weeks working to unearth my whole self, to get clearer about my identity, purpose, desire, boundaries, and to repair my self esteem. I’ve spent weeks not living my purpose ("taking a break")--not doing anything, ruminating, clearing, dancing, excavating and writing.
Then came last Friday, an Embodied Divination workshop with Amara T. Smith--someone I’ve wanted to experience much more of since I met them at a Rosangela Silvestre workshop at University of Berkeley in 2019.
I was super reluctant to go, didn’t even turn on my zoom camera which is pretty crazy for me (cuz I’m a Leo, lol), and because most of the time, I really am willing to be super present and seen. Anyway, I got over myself when we had to go into breakout rooms and put in small groups. I turned my camera on with my divination group--you see Amara did a reading for groups based on personal objects in correlation to the Orixas --that got me, that's what I needed to get my mind blown and to wake the fuck up again! Her reading for our group felt so right on--it was the permission I needed.
Messages from the workshop included:
OMG! The permission to write was huge for me. Hence this big ass blog.
And the teaching… wow… earlier in the fall I also received spiritual guidance to create more of a video platform. Burnt out on virtual workshop production--I’ve been enlivened to think about creating more videos that are actually useful and hopefully inspirational.
People seem really surprised when they hear that I am afraid, anxious and scared to be myself.
This reconciliation and reclamation of myself has a lot to deal with being all of me. I get really overwhelmed by how much I want to offer to the world. I get lost in the multiplicity of all of my identities, my projects, my names. It makes me stop stone cold and want to not do anything.
As I looked back on the rebirth of SOL VIDA from 2018, it was clear that it wasn’t just about dance. The original intentions had a lot to deal with alternative lifestyle, healing, wellness and manifestation.
This dark period has felt like no dark period ever before and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to come out. Coming back to myself has felt really, really difficult this time. Feeling pulled in many directions, hearing too many ideas and not having clarity put me at a standstill.
I’ve had to return back to basics. My personal development journey began with affirmations. The Artist's Way, setting intentions. I’ve had a strong morning ritual practice for a long time, but adding an evening one has been helpful too. Limiting my social media consumption, limiting my Netflix consumption and taking a break from cannabis.
Lots of habits changing. Awakening more and more and more.
The night of the great conjunction, I was willing to sit out another ritual/ceremony until I started reading about it and realizing how potent this portal is. I got out my shekere, sat at my ancestral altar, began to hum and sing. The ancestors gave me very clear messages. Since then, I feel different, more accepting of myself, and more willing to be all that I am even if it’s not who I thought I was or who you think I am.
While I may not be able to tell you exactly what is to come, I know that my guiding force is to RETURN TO EARTH and STAY IN THE LIGHT. I’m going to trust myself more. My original ideas are pure. So are yours.
Don’t be afraid of your darkness--it’s actually where the light comes from.
Soundtrack for my shadow work.
P.S. Trust me--there were a million amazing things (no matter how cray it was) that happened this year and I am incredibly grateful for my whole life and experience on this wild and wondrous planet. Gratitude is my first go-to when I feel far out.
Much Love forever and a day 💜
Please ask questions, comment, like, share and take care.
April Axé Charmaine (she/they)
(ah-shay / I feel the spirit/ it is so)
Creating a safe(r) space is an art form.
It is an intentional practice.
Below is a short culmination of some of my go-to methods for creating a sense of belonging, acceptance and liberation in educational and transformative spaces--particularly keen to dance, expressive arts, embodiment and arts integration settings.
It's been studied, written about and I have learned from some of the greatest masters. The person who I accredit much of my current work to helping me know and how to do this, is my esteemed mentor and global leader, Dr. Melissa Michaels.
Her book Youth on Fire: Birthing a Generation of Embodied Global Leaders is a tribute to the system which I seek to implement in all of my programming. It is a must read for anyone working to also break systems of oppression and facilitate transformative embodied experiences and events for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
I've created many of my own systems which have been refined over time. From running a dance studio, to getting theatre kids to dance and be comfortable in their bodies, working with youth whose first language is not English, and getting a lot of hesitant, afraid, reluctant young and older people to find freedom of expression through their body is a huge part of my life's work.
Becoming a master facilitator has taken a good three decades with a lot of learning curves along the way. I've created spaces for all ages and levels of movers. From women's empowerment experiences, to ecstatic dances, flash mobs, retreats, conferences, and festivals in different communities and parts of the world- I take pride in being able to create an energy where people feel totally free, protected, accepted and able to shine in their truest forms.
It is also imperative to me that my spaces are devoted to inclusion and representation. As a bridge builder and light bringer, it is a gift to the Universe to be intentional in how we create the spaces we seek to inspire, inform and educate within.
After decades of trial and error, routines and rituals, light and shadow work--I've discovered many majestic ways from myriads of teachers to help people be more at ease within themselves and within a space.
I'd love to share my top 11 ways to create safer spaces to help people reconnect to their authentic selves and build community. May these methods be of use or serve as reminders for your sacred spaces of learning and transformation.
1. State the intention(s) of your space. This is for you and the community and/or classroom culture that you are building. Ask yourself what you want to see, feel from this? What kind of outcomes are you desiring? State intentions for the people who are participating. Explicitly accept people and let them know that they are welcome as they are. People go through so much. Give them a chance to be what they need to be in their own way.
2. Acknowledge people. See people. People who enter creative and expressive arts spaces tend to carry vulnerability as it is--it takes a lot of courage to say yes, to show up, or sometimes even being forced to do something. A simple hello, warm smile, or ask for a hug can go so far with someone feeling safety and acceptance.
3. Accessibility. Acquaint people with the space. Be explicit in asking what will help them feel more comfortable. Let them know there are gender neutral bathrooms, where water sources are, where they can put their belongings, etc. etc.
4. Create a vibe. Really imagine and feel what you want people to experience when they enter your space--whether its a classroom, conference room retreat space, or dance studio. Use all of your senses to create the energetic flow you want people to feel. Think about the five senses.
5. Circles, Circles, Circles. Create a container for your space. Always begin in a circle where everyone in the room can see and be seen. It also helps to end in circles with some kind of individual expression/reflection/offering.
6. Allow space for people to share parts of their identity. Whether it is the name they like to be called, pronouns, likes, dislikes, culture--depending on what you are leading, think about what is important to be shared, what knowledge about each other will make it more helpful for everyone to feel welcome, seen, heard and appreciated. It really helps people to know whose in the room and something about them--whether this is shared through words or improvised expression--Name + __________ does miracles for comfort levels.
7. Lead by example. Be goofy. Be willing to take risks. Push your own limits of expression and communication by doing things that allow people to see that its okay to make mistakes and be imperfect.
8. Bonding Activities. It's a huge part that never gets old--incorporate icebreakers and community building activities into the mix of anything you're going to do with a new group of people.
9. Smaller group pairings. If your class or workshop allows time, get people paired up or in smaller groups--give them a prompt that allows connection.
10. Group risk-taking. Bring everybody together to do something improvised through a shared prompt. E.g. sculptures, sound ball, mirroring, etc.
11. Be intentional about inclusion. Always ask yourself whose in the room, whose not and why or why not? What kind of space do you want to create and is it inclusive to people of all backgrounds, genders, and cultures? What language are you using or not using? How do people know that they are entering a safe space that includes them? At this point in the 21st century, holding space in the U.S. requires facilitators to go above and beyond to create explicit safe spaces--this includes language around gender and racial classifications. If you are not sure, please ask how to do this. Language is a fluid form, is ever changing and we are all living and learning--its okay to make mistakes.
If you've made it this far. I just want to say that you are awesome. I hope you get the chance to create spaces that offer people a safe space to express themselves. Whether or not you are in the arts, these concepts can be applied to your organization or business.
Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions in the comments below.
May these tools to aid you in your process.
Axé (ah-shay / I feel the spirit / It is so)
she l hers l they l them
Founder/Leader of Sol Vida Worldwide
Sol Vida Worldwide is shifting normalcy from systemic oppression to radical freedom leading transformative dance and wellness experiences online and across the globe. Tune in to tune in.
It appears I am an initiate of the mid-life awakening.
2019 has been one of the most provocative years of my life--provoking in testing my ability to handle all the elements chosen and unseen. It's been a time of releasing so many layers, adding new ones on, living nomadically, surrendering to Bay Area home base on a super shaky ground and barely, I tell you miraculously meeting my Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
There is a calendar that lives in my household and each month there is a new activation--days ago when it turned into November, the invoker read, "Process your shame."
Fuck. My immediate response. Yep, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
First things first.
Second things--admit what you've been holding on to that has limited your ability to show up for all things totally abundant and good.
Work in progress.
Name it. Stop hiding. Tell the story.
You see, when you go through a hard time, it's so easy to want to constrict it, hide it, pretend that it doesn't exist.
Fact of the matter is, I have lived a great part of my life in denial, we can also call it blind faith. I am ever optimistic, positive energy activator, and I truly do believe and know you can make things happen--and as miraculous as it is--it can feel fully stressful too.
And at what sacrifice?
This year in the process of what I will call my mid-life awakening/ initiation--I performed and produced a one-woman show, traveled to Guatemala with a one-way ticket, experienced beauty in love, bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to lead at Ecstatic Dance LA, and proceeded to ground down solo style on California soil--answering the call to return to Oakland and San Francisco--I lived in friends homes for weeks at a time until I found resources and a space I was to claim as mine.
I've been gifted with ambition, vision, and this psychic intuition that tells me to do things even when I don't know the reasons why--just like what I'm writing now. I know there is a point and I am discovering how to share it in this vulnerable state.
My head being shaved feels raw.
I do feel exposed. Like really exposed.
There is no mane of shame to hide beneath anymore.
In my efforts to show up, write messages, scroll Facebook and craigslist at ungodly hours because of a call to action and the innate need to survive--I have ended up working with the Bay Area's most profound players and changemakers.
I became a stage manager for Eye Zen Presents, Out of Site: SoMa production in San Francisco, California. I never played that role in my life and I chose it because I needed to make money and it also sounded extraordinary to work with a queer theatre company doing site-specific work.
It was the hardest "job" I think I may have ever had--in a really long time--I had to dig into parts of my brain that I do not put to practice a lot. It certainly showed me something about myself and that I was capable of something more and by god-- I can organize time, schedules and people.
It was also during this process that I had a lot of doubt and shame around this role--this wasn't what I was accustomed to being--I'm used to running the show and creating all the things behind it.
It was a humble bow moment that I later realized was only my small-minded projection that led to me to think I was playing less than. It showed me that there is a place for me to carve out here.
This work strengthened my mind and my body.
I got to work with some of the greatest players in the industry and they got to know me as I did them. So much love, respect, trust and camaraderie was built.
One of the things I'm most proud of during the era of this year is learning to ask for more. I worked dance studio hours into my contract, not knowing exactly what I'd do with them at the time--but had a feeling about it.
I kept having this idea that I'd get an opportunity to do something more experimental. Sure enough, the SOL VIDA™ conscious dance laboratory that we call Fab Lab was born and out of one of the healthiest collaborations I've experienced this year.
I have experienced the beautiful and abundant synchronicities of working with the holy-what-in-the names like Ecstatic Dance Oakland, Soul Motion, Girl Project, Grown Women's Dance Collective, Destiny Arts, and Eye Zen Presents in less than six months of my landing.
There has been a general consensus that this is where I'm supposed to be.
A friend noted that this year seems like my big year of collaboration. And you got that right.
We put SOL VIDA™ on the map in a big way. It's been so cool to figure out what this energy and movement is all about. It's also taken tremendous energy to figure out what to do next.
I've asked so many questions, spoke so many prayers, vision walks, journals full, minutes of chanting, prayers to the waters, hugs of the trees. I wake up everyday in practice.
My life has truly become what feels like one walking personal ritual.
Figuring it out every freaking god-loving day.
I am devoted to love and light.
I am devoted to walking my birthright.
I want to be the living, breathing, highest version of myself.
This shit is hard. Being her. Consistently.
My challenges and mistakes have aged me. They have built me up. They have clarified my purpose. They have helped me set boundaries. To say yes and to say no with equal satisfaction.
Lots of spiraling and spinning that I process in nature and on the dance floor.
As humans, we often think and say--when only this or this gets better, then I'll be better with myself.
I've challenged myself to ask: What decision will I make if I'm not centered on scarcity, lack or comparison?
Comparison is a bitch.
Periodt. (Side note: I love language and mixing up Ebonics, Spanish and all the things)
How will you really show up?
Which brings me to final shame sharing for now. I have shame about how I've handled money in my business. My methods haven't felt good, they often came from a place of feeling "thirsty" and based on survival. Oooh, it's so hard to admit and I thank you for saying yes to supporting this work anyway--we all know it's going to be okay boo.
This is a supreme area for growth that I've dedicated much of this last cycle to learning from others and finding a way to thrive in a colonial capitalistic society whose system I despise--how can I value myself, create the spaces and sustain the movement?
When I evaluate my choices and projections--I'm amazed I've had any level of success.
Here's the thing though--success is what you choose.
By god, I know that this is a year of success on so many levels--it just amazes me what happens after I teach--the affirmations are frequently immediate and remind me just how important this work is.
Part of this initiation is about setting priorities.
I've had to ask the questions about where is the energy flowing, what do I want my life to look like and feel like. How much can I commit to one thing? What is that one thing? Is there really just one thing?
The one thing that feels clear and has come through the messengers and chanting it has become very apparent to me that to gain my solid grounding, to be of the highest service of my self and the upliftment of humanity doing my work is in offering consistent opportunities to experience Unwind + Grind and Fab Labs.
I feel the most all of me when I get to teach from the depths of my heart SOL VIDA™ style.
And writing... so much more writing. This is scaring the shit out of me writing this and I'm doing it anyway. Highest self me is ready to revolutionize the world through these experiences in connection and expression.
This mid-life breakdown-to-tha-breakthrough initiation of truly stepping into the Golden Circle, being Queen Warrior Axé has been no joke. I am here. I want to be all the best of me. I accept the shit that has been living in me and I release the shame of the not knowing how I'm ever going to pull it all off.
I pray that this rawness symbolized by my bald head allows me to continue to remove these veils of fear and shame.
There is no hiding behind a bald head.
I am ready to stop fighting me.
I am being required to show up all the way.
To be successful in all the ways.
It's really quite miraculous--these hardships that turn into your most profound learnings.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Now that you've heard some of the story, I'd like to offer you some tidbits of personal ritual that you can practice for yourself, save you some of the time and the pain. There are ways to remember who you are and focus on what really actually matters--living your greatest truest high self and giving yourself outlets to get all the gunk out and be closer to a higher expression of your authentic self.
I hope some of these tools help you go there, consistently!
💜5 RADICAL SELF-LOVE RITUALS FOR THE EMBODIED REVOLUTION💜
Extra Love--> PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!! Ask for what you need and listen. No matter your spirituality or religion.
All right folx.
Leave a comment if ya hear me, feel me, feel this, want this, know this, whatever it is.
I am because of you. You are because of me. We are because of we.
Blessings dear babes, blessings of the highest to you and all that's in your heart.
Axé Out (drops mic in vulnerability and goes into the forest and hugs eucalyptus trees)
April (Axé) Charmaine (ah-shay / i feel the spirit / it is so) is the founder, director and leader of SOL VIDA™, revolutionizing the world through dance, connection and authentic expression. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, she is a holistic dance and performing arts educator, writer, producer, speaker and consultant who is now a Bay Area, queer, black, mixed-race artist, unschooling mama, empty nester activating her dreams and activating #TheEmbodiedRevolution in Northern California, USA.
April (Axé) Charmaine, CEO/Founder, Sol Vida Worldwide