Saying Yes to Myself

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I had been wanting to do something to challenge and nourish my craft in writing for quite some time. I was becoming aware of a yearn in me for expansion and a need for connection. My spirit was starting to feel a sense of entrapment. This particular feeling prompted me to think about Anaïs Nin’s quote,

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Through reflection and honesty, I gained cognizance that I myself had been getting in my own way. If I keep it real and take it a step further, I had been getting in my own way and was well aware of it. I just simply allowed it.

Why?
Because it kept me safe. The refusal of taking risks meant eliminating the possibility to fail. That felt good for a while but then it didn’t. Limiting myself and allowing fears and doubt to control me evolved to an acute sense of unnaturalness. So, I made a decision to take measures towards my expansion and growth.

How?
I didn’t have a definitive answer. I just knew I had to move and take steps.

To where?
Who knows? I just had to start trekking these steps in a forward direction.

I logged onto facebook and browsed through my notifications and took notice I had received an invite to the ‘Live Big Girl’ workshop by the beautiful, poet-sister Vanessa Chica from the ‘Live Big Girl’ play, which also features Karina G-Lopez and Rebeca Lois. The workshop was commencing on my birthday weekend and I figured what better way to treat myself than this time to write, learn and share. The only possible obstacle would be, getting the day off from work because I work every weekend. I’m glad to say, I got the day off quite effortlessly. I attended the workshop and was elated to give myself that time. It was my first writing workshop. From there, I started planting seeds, germinating with a vision board. In the midst of creating this vision board, I was reminded of the importance in finding my voice. Not only to find my voice but to be active in using it.

Vision Board

A few weeks later, I received an invite from Alicia Anabel Santos, the CEO and Founder of NYC Latina Writers Group, to the 4th Annual Sankofa Sisterhood Writer’s Retreat. I smiled hugely when I saw this invitation, knowing that it was the universe communicating with me. I viewed it as a response to what I had been meditating on. The universe was handing me a direct link to my next step. Now, it was a matter of saying ‘YES’ and showing up for myself. I had no idea what I’d be getting into, I just knew I had to go, even though I’d have my fears and doubts in tow.

The retreat was being held in the Catskills, upstate NY for Memorial Day weekend and I was afraid that would present a challenge with my job being that I was scheduled to work the weekend, including the Monday holiday. The retreat was months away. I figured I shouldn’t have too much of an issue getting approved for the time off. So, I filled out the ‘request off’ sheet and handed it in to my boss.

I was denied.

She said ‘no’ because I was already scheduled to work and that it was my responsibility to work it. She went on explaining that there wasn’t anyone to cover me. Typically, in a case like this, I’d accept the answer, be disappointed for awhile, and then move on with my life. But for some reason, this time was different. My spirit didn’t allow me to accept her ‘no’ so conveniently. At that point, my internal dialogue reminded me that I was responsible for my efforts. So, I asked myself had I put my best foot forward in making this happen for myself and if so, then perhaps at that point I’d let it go. That wasn’t the case though. So, I took some initiative and started personally going around the department asking other technologists if they’d be so gracious enough to cover my shifts at the hospital. I explained my situation in detail to them. Understandably, many declined. I received ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no’. They went on telling me they were going to a bbq, or one had to work at their other job and another was going to Lake George. As I was hearing these varying responses, there was a voice in me, whispering “you’re going to this retreat”

In the meanwhile, the non-refundable deposit’s due date had already passed and I had not submitted the monies. For a moment, I got a little nervous because in the physical realm, it appeared as if I wasn’t going to be able to attend. Then, there was another part of me that was refusing to accept that as truth. I cautioned myself to walk by faith and not by sight and consequently, I kept hearing that little voice, “you’re going to this retreat”.

I then began negotiating with a coworker (which is not like me), offering to work her holiday, if she’d work mine. To my surprise, she came back to me a couple of weeks later and accepted the offer. Then, I had another coworker agree to cover the Saturday and Sunday shift. Apparently, he needed the extra money.

Boom!

And just like that, I was relieved of my duties for that weekend. I was so proud of myself for not settling for that initial ‘no’. My spirit’s ‘YES’ superseded my boss’ and everyone else’s ‘no’. Hooray to me for being relentless about the situation! Hooray to me for believing in myself and honoring myself with the things I deserve!

Anaïs Nin’s words resonated,

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

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I had the honors of attending the retreat after all. My persistence paid off and my ‘YES’ felt so good. Alicia Anabel Santos even emphasized the gravity in saying ‘YES’ and showing up for ourselves. She’s a New York-born Dominican educator, writer and healer who cares enough to create a safe space for women of color to become empowered in writing their stories. She facilitated the ‘Strengthening the Writer’s Core’ workshop, in which she guided us through self-revelation and fortification through scenes, music and the 5 phases of movement. She also held a guided meditation every morning at 7:30am. We stretched, breathed and wrote. It was the perfect way to start the day.

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Yoseli Castillo co-facilitated this retreat. She is a Dominican poet-activist-teacher who is funny and full of life. She’s passionate about her work and of the lives she inspires. She facilitated the ‘Closing Reflection on Movement’ workshop and prompted reflection and presence. She also served as the emcee for the Sankofa Open Mic, in which I will never forget. One of her missions was to keep it culturally enhanced, as she accomplished with her plantain microphone. It was such a fun night!

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Alicia and Yoseli co-created this space for writers, women of color to partake in the prioritization of our self, our mind, heart and pen. They created a space intentionally set for sisterhood and humanness. They created a structure of support. They created a space free of judgment. They created a space to nurture the spirit and the temple. All of this amounts to a space of healing, which is the ultimate bestowal.

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The retreat’s keynote was New York-born Honduran Boricua, Vanessa Mártir, educator-writer, who was published in the recent NY Times Bestseller ‘Not That Bad’, edited by Roxanne Gay. She facilitated the ‘Writing and the Body’ workshop, in which she holds a mirror prompting us to look within, to peel the layers, as painful or uncomfortable as may be and then write. She also guided us to connect and release to the earth, which was very homey for me. I felt lighter after it.

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The last workshop facilitator was Bronx-born Puerto Rican poet, performance artist, activist, teacher, Reiki practitioner, Mariposa Fernandez. She facilitated the ‘Feeling & Healing’ and Performance workshops. Both were extremely beneficial. She provided tools and tips on performance, which I’m so grateful for and performed Reiki Medicine on us, which brought a nice balance to the environment and the work we were doing.

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The physical body was prioritized by having the amazing Afro-Dominicana, Chef and owner of Woke Foods, Ysanet Batista, to feed every temple there with healthy and conscious meals. She prepares sustainable foods that keep close to ancestral eating, with high consumption of plant based meals. She’s an educator, organizer and farmer-in-training who nurtures with love ingrained in her hands.

 

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Since the retreat, I am a changed woman. There has been a shift in my heart, my soul and my womb. I have gained new tools, a rejuvenated spirit, new sister-friends and a different outlook on this work. I am super grateful for the encouragement and inspiration. This weekend will forever be treasured.

If you’re a woman who writes, looking for inspiration and connection or just a space that reminds you ‘you’re not alone’, consider attending the next Sankofa Sisterhood Writer’s Retreat. I promise you, you won’t leave the same.

Sakofa

The lesson here: never give up on yourself. You deserve the best of you and whatever it takes to get there.

© 2018 Liza Morales

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Marina Abramović and my attraction to her

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The first time I was exposed to Marina Abramović’s work was while perusing social media. I bumped into a video clip of ‘The Artist is Present’ at MoMA in New York City. She sparked my interest immediately. I thought “Who is she?”, “What is she creating?”, “How do you spell her name? I’mma google her.”

Since then, I’ve been researching her and her work and I’ve been totally drawn. So drawn that the moment I recognized my fascination in her, I had to pause and ask myself why. I wondered ‘what is it about her that moves me?’. It didn’t take long to realize, I was magnetized to her authenticity. I was captivated by her fearlessness. I observed some of her work and became aware of how she actually uses herself, her physical body, as the main component in her art. She is the art. How magnificent is that? Not only does she use her body in her work, she uses it so brazenly. Ultimately, she becomes a vessel to reveal the authentic selves of the audience.

Back in 1974, she performed a six hour piece titled ‘Rhythm 0’ at Studio Morra in Naples, which entailed her standing still for six hours, inviting the public to do whatever they wanted to her with the 72 objects she left on a table in the room. The objects included a rose, feather, honey, perfume, wine, a scalpel, nails, a metal bar, and even a loaded gun. She claimed to take full responsibility, reassuring the audience that they were safe in choosing to do whatever their hearts desired. The purpose of this project was to demonstrate a sincere revelation of the people and what they’re capable of doing when given this sort of privilege. She was so committed to this piece of art, that she refrained from any resistance. Mentally, she was prepared for anything, including rape or murder.

At first, the audience were taking turns dabbing with the various objects from the table and being quite gentle. Then, after a couple of hours, the people began to remove her clothes, cut her with the scalpel, stab her with rose thorns, kiss on her, suck her blood, fondle her, and one person even took the loaded gun and placed her finger on the trigger while pointing it towards her. She still did not resist but other people did. A fight broke out among the audience members. At the end of this piece, she finally began to move and walk towards the audience and the people ran away. They were so lost in seeing her as an object that they were not prepared to face her as a human being.
Later on, she went on to say, “What I learned was that if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” 

 

Marina Abramović has been into pushing past perceived limitations for herself and her participants since the early 70s. Through performance she challenges herself physically, emotionally and mentally. She keeps herself vulnerable and releases all power to the audience.

In 2010, when she performed ‘The Artist is Present’, she performed presence, living in the moment and exhibiting the power of a gaze. She sat still everyday, eight hours a day for three months, gazing into the eyes of hundreds and hundreds of strangers. She sat there motionless, without eating, drinking or using the restroom. After hours of sitting, her body was in pain but she refused to walk through that mental door, knowing that the pain would distract her intent. Instead, she ignored the pain, overcame its presence and eventually with time, entered another realm that surpassed the physical. By this, she proved the power of the mind. The object here was to stretch the length of performance to the point of altering the perception of time and cultivating a deeper engagement for whatever period of time the audience member chose to participate. The eyes became a window to the soul. She became a mirror, a reflection. Some people cried, some smiled, some just stared back and others closed their eyes, as if they could not bear what they were seeing.

This performance drew over a thousand people. This goes to show, humans are always seeking. Whether it was curiosity that brought them there or simply the desire to connect, people need each other. The audience and participants are the key ingredients in making her art successful. Without the people, her art would be incomplete.

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I can recall engaging in a similar act while on a spiritual retreat out in Costa Rica. In the simple engagement of an eye gaze, there’s so much to absorb. I engaged in this exercise  for a period of time with complete strangers and was able to see pain, love, trauma, contentment, peace, fears and so on, without ever meeting them before or knowing anything about their past. Not only do you see, you can also sense. You can feel their energy, their aura whether light or dark. It’s pretty amazing. This does require stillness though, which many people are unable to do or more so are uncomfortable doing (especially New Yorkers). This is one of the many boundaries she surpasses.

Her art and the fearlessness that lives in it is so inspiring to me. I am full of fear and she reminds me of our limitlessness, though we are human and mortal. Her courage and bravery is so loud and beautiful. I pray to have at least an ounce of it, so that I can pour it into my writing or any creative measure I engage in. I am so moved by her, I made it my business to see her when The New York Times announced they were having a Times Talks featuring her and Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova at the Florence Gould Hall, NYC on May 14, 2018. After reading and watching her work through the internet, I yearned to see Marina in person. I needed to see her in the flesh, share space with her, feel her energy, observe her mannerisms and perhaps even catch eye contact, in which I did not because I was too far in the back. Still and all, I am grateful to have seen her. I absorbed whatever she had to offer. Nadya even shared how Marina has been teaching her the importance in emptying oneself when creating one’s art. I totally get it. We’re so full of conditioning, ideals and criticism that we forget to create from our most authentic self, our most vulnerable self. Marina expressed how important it is to give ALL of yourself; beyond 100%, more so 120% and how everything should be done delving in the realm of love.

Now, it’s super clear to me why her work is so magnetizing.

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Much of Growth

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Why am I so sensitive?
Why do I feel so much?
much like sharp empathies
much like those who easily cry
cry like a thunderstorm, or
cry subtly, like misty rain
rain can cleanse you
rain falls in seasons
seasons prompt adaptation
seasons encompass change
change is always the constant
change can be scary sometimes
sometimes we fear the unknown
sometimes we flow like water
water covers most of the earth
water gives us life
life vessels our purpose
life is different for everyone
everyone walks their own path
everyone wants to be loved
loved wholly and fully
loved like they deserve to be
be true to yourself
be considerate of others
others may not be mindful
others will learn through your actions
actions translate a language
actions share more than you tell
tell the stories of ancestors
tell all of the truths
truths make liars uncomfortable
truths peel off the masks
masks hide transgressions
masks fool people
people like social media
people paint pictures
pictures with filters
pictures of their perception
perception is a crucial lens
perception becomes one’s reality
reality of life
reality of time
time is an illusion
time is our forever
forever lives the spirit
forever allows space for growth
growth of self
growth makes us better
better
self.

©2018 Liza Morales

The Magic of Fingertips

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the human touch, a freeing sensation
skin, conduit
vibrations channel through pores, intercourse
bliss, full of it
there’s something grand in the phenomenon
a lofty feel
authentic and bare, a raw creation
the layers peel
swapping energies for exchange of light
we’re face to face
it’s like the world wraps us in its bosom
a warm embrace
with the stroke of each finger, there’s healing
our touch is medicinal, sound feeling.
© 2018 Liza Morales
#NaPoWriMo
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Ten Years

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the hands of time
have spun out of control
rotating swiftly
fast-forward button
3,650 days
and still, this void
left dangling in the world
detached from her breast
augmentation severed
her scent is faded
her voice now a whisper
but the spirit is strong
I feel her often
especially in the kitchen
she’s the gut of sofrito
resonating in the air
her hand on mine
as I stir boiling rice
just enough water
to make the grains fluffy
she’s the perfect amount
of hispanic seasonings
a culmination
of abuela’s teachings
now I repeat the cycle
let her live through me
my children still taste her
oh, how they miss her
how could we not
the Queen of our family
the giver of love
the unconditional kind
sometimes,
I wish she were still here
my flesh is selfish
wanting her physical presence
but then spirit reminds me
I live her endlessness
I rest well tonight.
© 2018 Liza Morales