This February marks the 46th official nationwide celebration of Black History Month in the U.S. This is a great time to check out educational programs in your area, whether at schools, libraries, museums, or other places. You can also bring an appreciation of Black histories into your mindfulness practice.
The official theme for Black History Month this year is Black Health and Wellness. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”
This theme points to just how expansive the meanings of wellness and of mindfulness really are within the vibrant variety of human cultures. The ways that one community cultivates awareness, compassion, and healing of self and others will often be unfamiliar to a different community—yet we can recognize, learn about, and respect one another’s traditions of well-being.
Many Black mindfulness teachers share about their communities’ legacies of care and healing, including Jenée Johnson: “My practice around mindfulness is a practice of reclamation—an African principle called sankofa, reclaiming what was left behind or what was lost. Mindfulness gives us the chance to rewrite that narrative,” says Johnson. “Mindfulness is a banner that gathers up different practices from a variety of cultures. It’s not just for one culture. The human breath belongs to the human being. Black people have been practicing mindfulness forever. Think about the Montgomery bus boycott and how people walked for nearly a year, gathering each night at churches to sing and pray, so they could walk the next day. That’s mindfulness. …We know that deep relaxation is important for healing, but how do we replenish ourselves?”
To support you as you celebrate, learn, rest, and expand your perspective this month, explore these well-being practices from Black mindfulness teachers.
6 Mindfulness Practices for Black History Month
- Touch in with interconnectedness with Ghylian Bell. Ghylian Bell, founder of the Urban Yoga Foundation, guides us in a 20-minute practice for exploring how we are all connected: “Feel the body breathing. Remember who you are, what you stand for, and what’s beneath the surface of your being: the interconnected self.”
- Cultivate moments of quiet in a busy day with Ashanti Branch. Founder and executive director of Ever Forward Club Ashanti Branch describes his mindfulness practice: “It’s not about sitting in any special position, it’s not about wearing any special clothes, it’s about carving out a moment of peace and quiet in the midst of all the chaos of my life. Sometimes with my eyes open on the bus, on the train, in traffic, and I just take a breath.”
- Tune in to your body’s intelligence with Michelle Maldonado. “There’s wisdom in the body that we can benefit greatly from if we cultivate our awareness to notice it and access it,” says Michelle Maldonado (founder of Lucensia and coauthor of A Bridge to Better). She invites us to tune into the wisdom of the body in this guided meditation to create a “body map” of where you feel emotions arising in the body allows us to navigate the world more skillfully.
- Work with difficult emotions with Rhonda Magee. This gentle practice from law professor and author Rhonda Magee can support you in remaining grounded as you open up to information that might cause you pain. “Gently call to mind your desire and the will you have inside yourself for peace that begins with you. For well-being that begins right here, right now, in your own body and being and spirit, for justice that begins here.”
- Reclaim your joy with Sebene Selassie. “Mindfulness helps us remember the truth of our belonging by allowing us to experience the ease and joy of truly belonging at any moment,” writes Sebene Selassie, mindfulness coach and author of You Belong: A Call for Connection. She shares a guided meditation to connect to our body and our breath, allowing us to build our capacity to be present with what is with kindness and care.
- Welcome deep rest with Jenée Johnson. Jenée Johnson, founder of the Right Within Experience, leads us in a guided meditation to encourage deep relaxation at any point during the day. “At some point during the day, the body will signal us that it is time to rest…to take the journey from sound to silence, to be at ease.”