ZaliwaZawadi Zaobration

Via #Note2Self @ZeroByZawadi pinterest board

I am actually really starting to like Mondays! I guess it’s because I am experiencing so much newness this season of my life and each week gives me an opportunity to start anew.  So despite sleeping through my alarm after a late night, when I was supposed to be starting my #5DayFast with my sister lioness @Lafrohemien at 6am this morning, I’m still very hopeful that this week is going to be one of incredible breakthroughs.  Even the fact that I am fasting is a huge breakthrough in and of itself.  Definitely qualifies for a #JumaTatuMilestone.

So, what’s with all the hash tags? It’s funny how these things creep into our lives. Just last night my girl @MissKenyaUSA cracked up when she heard me saying “Hash Fail” to @JWKimathi (of the #AfroFunky “Jamhuri Wear” line) when he told me he wasn’t at the #AncestralSoul show with @AncestralBoddhi at East Africa’s biggest monthly music festival Blankets and Wine.  Let’s just say, that if you were in Nairobi and weren’t there, that was an #EpicFail.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I danced that much, and now I totally understand why Bodhi calls his music Ancestral Soul. After that experience, I am proud to say I’m a fully converted member of the #AncestralSoulMovement.  I would also like to give a mega shout out to Edith Weutonga, the first performer yesterday. I don’t even know where to begin! This woman moved me! This sister warrior who is currently carrying love in her womb, hails from Zimbabwe.  I had never heard her music, and although I was trying to take a much-needed nap when she got on stage, as I listened to her beautiful sounds, my spirit was tempted to get up and dance, but I’m learning every day to listen to my body, so instead I fell into a deep blissful sleep.  When I woke up halfway through her performance and realized nobody was dancing, I was stunned! Just then she called out all the women to join her as she was dedicating the next song to us. She didn’t need to say it twice.  Before I knew it, I was totally in Edith’s zone, and by the time she was performing her last two songs, I was in an AfroZenMusic zone and was just inspired to start doing yoga, right there, in front of everyone, to her music. I didn’t care, because I was responding to my body, keeping it real, and I was “Feelin’ It” like the #BaussLady @MuthoniDQ herself – the brainchild & proprietor of the Blankets & Wine event.

Back to the hash tags.  If you are a twitter geek like me, then you’ll understand where I’m coming from. And if not, I’ve been meaning to write a really comprehensive “How to make twitter work for you” type blog post for a while.  For real, once you understand how the tool can work for you, the possibilities are limitless.  I’ve met some of the most amazing people on twitter & nothing beats actually meeting them in person, especially when it’s totally unplanned.  Just this past week I had two epic tweetups – @EveEnsler on Friday, and Africa’s top publicist and siSTAR @Ophiona on Saturday and Sunday.  The Eve Ensler story requires a full blog post on its own. I’m really looking forward to connecting with this amazing woman’s energy and figuring out how I can make a valuable contribution to her #1BillionRising campaign.  Yes, another Hashtag! 🙂 This is why I love them! Just watch this cool music video by Paul Nowell@JazzTrombonist about the history of the Hashtag and you’ll get it.

So since I’m always using Hashtags – sometimes more successfully than others, this month, which is my birthday month, I decided I would create one and commit to using it every day, but in a very intentional way.  See, for some reason, for the past 10 or so years, I’ve been dreading, instead of look forward to my birthday every year.  I can count the number of birthdays that I actually had an amazing day. So this year, instead of focusing on just one day, I’ve decided I’m going to approach the entire month with a positive attitude and take it into my own hands.  After all, I am the one that is responsible for my happiness so this month I am choosing happiness, peace, inspiration, love, patience, wisdom and grace.  I’m choosing this not just for me, but also for you, for Kenya, and for the world.  If you are reading this, I honestly hope that together we can manifest the birth of many precious gifts in our lives this September 2012.  For those who don’t know, Zawadi my name, means gift in Kiswahili.  My maternal grandfather blessed me with this name because I was born on his birthday, and was also his first grandchild.  And would you believe that I can’t remember ever actually being with him on our birthday? I have to do something about that. In fact, I am declaring today that on September 23rd 2013, I will go and spend my birthday with my papa in Gem village.

It’s funny how my brain works. I’ve just realized that three paragraphs later, I still haven’t actually written about my hash tags for this month. When I had the idea to do this, I immediately did what I always do – consult a few other people and get their inputs. So I sent out a tweet to a few of my tweoples and asked them if they could help me create an appropriate, but fun and inspiring hash tag for September.  I came up with #Zeptember (I’m not always creative J), and my boy @itsBuddhaBlaze suggested #Zaobration because he just recently learnt through #TrueAfricanOriginal @Lafrohemien that the nickname my friends from my St. Mary’s School days use is Zao. I liked the sound of #Zaobration, but then @DenisNzioka came up with what I like to call a moment of #HashtagBrilliance.  Denis, who I hadn’t even tagged, but obviously saw the conversation, had something to valuable offer, and jumped in (as is great twitter practice), came up with (wait for it) … #ZaliwaZawadi! BOOM! Now, if you are a Kiswahili-speaker, this requires absolutely no explanation. But, if you are not, “Kuzaliwa” is the Kiswahili verb for “to be born”.  So now you see how this is just sheer brilliance!  Makes me smile just writing it J.  Thank you Dennis!  So, once again friends, every time you see me tweet using this hash tag, it is because I am either writing about a new gift that has been born in my own life, sharing gifts that are being born in others’ lives, or wishing others the manifestation of the same.  I am really hoping to be a blessing to others this month.  I know I often fail to do so, and I have definitely had my fair share of experiences and behavior that I am not proud of, but I like to believe that:

Via @ZeroByZawadi #Note2Self board on #Pinterest

As part of my #ZaliwaZawadi #Zaobration in #Zeptember (I just had to! J), I’m also doing Rosetta Thurman’s #31DayReset program, which I tried to do in August, but didn’t actually get past Day 4 because I didn’t make the time to do it.  This month, I am really committed to resetting my life and I can’t think of a better person to do it with.  Rosetta runs the Happy Black Woman blog and community, has an online blogging school (Last live run starts September 10th), and is just incredible in so many ways.  She’s another person that I met on twitter and then had a truly epic tweetup with in Oahu, Hawaii with Hawaiian PR Diva @Melissa808 in December 2011.  If I even started to tell that story now, it would take up three pages.  But I’m sure they will both feature in future blog posts because they are an integral part of the ZeroByZawadi journey – they were there during the first month of my baby’s existence!

Last, but not least, I am writing down my birthday wish list.  I really believe in the power of declaration. Some of these wishes are more like goals I want to set for myself this month.  Others are hints – if you are reading this and want to buy me a gift, please don’t hesitate J. And others are wishes for you and others (see, it’s not ALWAYS #AllAboutMe J).  So here’s my list of 23 wishes this Zeptember, starting with my #GeekGirl & #FemTech (Feminist Technology), needs of course:

  1. New blackberry bold
  2. I-phone
  3. Canon Digital Camera
  4. I-pad
  5. Projector
  6. An epic photograph for my twitter avi – to be updated Sep 23rd & changed next year same time. (My current avi is my favorite photograph taken my @Lafrohemien of @TrAfOri – check out her True African Original blog)
  7. A hotttt #Afrofunky dress for my birthday  – in ZeroByZawadi colors – turquoise, orange & white.
  8. Enough turquoise, orange & white clothes & accessories to last the entire month – if you see me in the same clothes a lot this month, just understand because right now I probably have enough to last a week max!
  9. A weekend trip to Naivasha with the good peeps in my life
  10. New financial breakthroughs with ZeroByZawadi
  11. Healing from a broken heart
  12. Figure out how to make hyacinth paper notebooks
  13. Open my ZeroByZawadi Etsy store
  14. Help at least 1 person every day (friends & strangers)
  15. Start a weekly #ReciprocalWebDay
  16. An #Afrofunky jacket by Uhuru Clothing in ZeroByZawadi colors
  17. #Afrofunky shoes in ZeroByZawadi colors
  18. A clear plan & finances to realize my #StaceyannInKe dream
  19. A clear plan & finances to realize my #MayaAzucenaInKe dream
  20. Successfully launch ZeroByZawadi newspaper bag project
  21. Seeing my papa some time in September & sharing a birthday cake & candle with him
  22. Having at least 23 reasons to be incredibly grateful on September 23rd.
  23. The birth of at least one amazing gift for everyone that reads this blog post this September

So that’s me. What about you? What’s your September wish list? Please share and let’s manifest lots of blessings in our lives this month. 

And in honour of this #Zeptember, play this video, sing out loud & dance!


And in case you don’t know all the lyrics (like me), I hope you enjoy singing along to this:


Yoga In Prisons In Kenya [Part 1]

Nairobi Children’s Remand Centre in Lower Kabete, Nairobi, Kenya

Every Wednesday afternoon, a team from the Holistic Community Kenya (HCK), led by Fazilah Bazari, one of my yoga teachers in Nairobi, facilitates a yoga session with the kids at the Nairobi Children’s Remand Home.  I’ve been meaning to go to one of these sessions for a while because I was intrigued by the whole idea, and had read about the difference yoga in prisons is making in other parts of the world, including India.  So I finally made the time and joined Dalia, Sheila and Sammy last Wednesday and I have to say it was the best use of my time that day.  Part of me was anxious about going to the children’s remand center because I’ve never been inside a prison, and also because the idea of incarceration of children just makes me ill.  I imagine the center is very different on other days, but on that afternoon as soon as we walked in, my spirit was at ease.  The big boys, aged 14-18 were already in position and had started their class under the leadership of Karanja*, one of the kids at the center. Fazilah really wasn’t kidding when she said that the yoga class was the highlight of their week and that the kids often started without them because they didn’t want to waste any time waiting for the teachers.  In terms of a sustainability model, this is already a really good indication that at least some of these kids might just maintain a personal yoga practice even after leaving the center.

Reverse Triangle pose – demonstrated by one of the older boys at the Nairobi Children’s Remand Home Yoga Session with HCK.

On the way to the center, I asked Sheila to tell me more about the program – how they started, what challenges they had faced, and what results they were observing.  To my surprise she told me that the director of the center was the one that had contacted HCK asking them if they would facilitate yoga classes for the kids.  I had actually just assumed that it was the other way around – that HCK had expressed an interest in teaching and then been invited to do so.  Just goes to show that demand-based initiatives are always more successful than projects that are started because some do-gooder from outside a community thinks that they can “come save the people”.

HCK has been successfully conducting these weekly yoga classes for the past 2 years and while there has been great progress, especially with the children who have been at the center for months, they have definitely had some challenges.  When they first started teaching yoga, many of the children were hesitant to do it because they had preconceived notions about the practice. These included anything from believing that yoga was a form of devil-worship, to thinking that it went against their religion because they thought it was a Hindu practice.  To help them ease into the practice Sheila says they explained to them that yoga was not religious and that by doing the various postures and breathing exercises, it would help them relax, strengthen their bodies and minds, and also open up new and unexpected things for them.  They also assured them that if they felt uncomfortable at any point with the practice, that they should feel free to say so.  Finally, they challenged them to take on an attitude towards life that allowed them to try on new things, experience it, and then decide for themselves if it worked for them, instead of simply listening to other people’s views.  This was therefore the beginning of many life’s lessons that the HCK teachers have been sharing with the children through the yoga practice, stories that they share & group discussions that happen at the end of each class.

The children are divided into three groups – the big boys aged 14-18; the small boys aged 8-13; and all the girls together (8-17 yrs old).  It was so moving to see these children sit quietly in lotus position as they meditated at the beginning of the class, and then moved into their sun salutations, which led to a series of other asanas (postures).  I wished I could split myself into 3 people so that I could document the entire process of each group, but I had to just keep going from group to group and taking pictures without causing too much distraction.  You can see all the pictures on the ZeroByZawadi facebook page. Note that all the faces of the children have been blurred so as to protect their identities.

I really wanted to participate in the class myself, but I guess I’ll have to go back to do that. And who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll get to the point where I’m comfortable enough to teach a class myself :-).

The best part of the experience for me was at the end of the girls class when Sheila asked them all to lay on their backs for final relaxation and then proceeded to lead a Journey Process for children in Kiswahili.  All the girls looked so incredibly peaceful, and even though I was filming it, what I really wanted to do was just lay beside them and allow myself to travel into whatever imaginary world Sheila was helping them create with her silky and gentle voice.  By the end of the journey, at least a handful of girls were fast asleep.  As if this wasn’t enough, Sheila asked them all to sit in a circle and share what they had learnt from the class, from the story she told them, and what they were taking forward with them.  She also asked them to cross their arms, hold each others’ hands, and talk about what this symbolized.  Unity, equality, community, togetherness, love and peace are just some of the words that they shared.

The girls’ circle at the end of the yoga session with HCK at the Nairobi Children’s Remand Home

Yoga Circle with Girls at the Nairobi Children’s Remand Home

Last, but not least, I got to interview one of the girls, who I’ll call Atieno, because Atieno is my middle name, and I really connected with her.  Atieno is a 16 year old, extra-intelligent young girl who was arrested just over two weeks ago.  She ran away from home 2 years ago and has been living with friends and lovers since.  Atieno was scheduled to go to court last Friday August 17th, 2012. I have yet to hear what the verdict of her case was, so I prefer to share her story once I know. I don’t want to risk negatively affecting her case in any way, so stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post. Part 3 will feature insights from HCK & the staff of the Children’s Remand Centre on what difference they think the program is making and what plans they have for the future.

What about you? Do you have any other examples of how yoga is being used in prisons in other parts of the world? What about other holistic practices like meditation, Tai Chi, etc?  What difference has yoga made in your life, if you practice it? If not, what other contemplative practices do you do to maintain your Mind, Body, Spirit balance? Please share.

Finally, as usual, I like to leave my readers with a little “Zawadi” (gift).  Here’s some #AfroZenMusic by Kenya’s Ayub Ogada:

Mbona Juma Tatu Milestone?

Mbona #JumaTatuMilestone?

I have been meaning to start writing again, but I just wasn’t sure how, why, what or when I would write.  God knows the past few months have been quite a challenge for me, and those who are nearest and dearest to me, know exactly why.  I actually thought my first blog, after this period, if I was ever to blog again, would be a sort of “Coming out” story, but that’s a story for another day.  The inspiration behind this post today is a conversation I started on twitter last Monday, called #JumaTatuMilestone.  (For non-Kiswahili-speaking folks, Mbona means “Why?” and Juma Tatu means “Monday”.)

So why #JumaTatuMilestone?

Isn’t it obvious – most of us have suffered from the Monday-blues many a time in our lives.  So I figured if we could just take a minute every Monday to share a milestone in our lives, however small or big, it would make a significant difference, not just to us, but to others who might be inspired by our sharing.  When I say however BIG or SMALL, I really do mean it.  There have been days in the past few months when even just getting out of bed was a BIG MILESTONE for me, and on days when I was able to accomplish more than that, I still wasn’t able to appreciate all the blessings in my life.  Somewhere along the way, I started writing a gratitude list. So each day, no matter what, before I go to sleep, I write a list of everything that I am thankful and grateful for.  This is just one of the things that has helped me shift my thinking, embrace life, and start sharing my light again.

So when you ask, “Mbona #JumaTatuMilestone?” my answer is this:

 I hope that each Monday, wherever you are, no matter what is going on, that you have at least ONE THING to celebrate, and that as a community we can celebrate it with you.

You never know, it might just be the one thing that gets you or another person through the week.

And wouldn’t it be great if we could get #JumaTatuMilestone trending every Monday, so that we all have thousands of reasons to smile each week? Goddess knows there’s enough crap on the internet and nothing but bad news in our daily newspapers.

With that, I leave you with Daddy Owen’s song “Mbona”, which is a true inspiration! I first heard it when he and Denno performed it live at Mavuno Church, here in Nairobi, Kenya, but it wasn’t until today that I watched the video.

Love and Light!