Growing Up, my mother kept an ancestral altar in our home. A huge portion of my life revolved around meditations, prayers, and offerings before our altar. As African and American, Black people who have been in this land for countless generations, our altar allowed me to feel seen and relevant in history. The stories about our family handed down from my grandmothers melted together before our altar. I viewed our altar as a space to affirm the oneness of tangible and intangible states of being. Our altar was confirmation of ancient love between people of different cultures amidst times of great peace and turmoil alike.
By the time I became pregnant, I considered my own body to be a living ancestral altar. This means that for me, my choices, what I think, say, and do all subtly consider and intend to honor my most healthy, wise, strong, dignified and benevolent ancestors. As I welcomed my baby into my life, I also began to open myself up to influences which would change my habits and support my baby living a holistically healthy life. I allowed myself to accept that my time with newborn baby is not only a chance to bond with a unique family member but also a chance to honor my ancestors.
I honor my baby by responding to her cries with patient listening, I affirm her that she is communicating well with me and that I am glad to serve her needs. I’ve worn her close to my body in cloth wraps and now soft structured carriers; breastfeeding her according to her desire around the clock. I eat a plant based diet full of fresh organic vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and herbs. I take many long walks with her allowing her to feel the sun; talking to her about the things we see and hear, and sensations we feel like blowing wind or touching a plant. These are just a few ways that I have mindfully bridged healthy practices my ancestors enjoyed, with the bustling modern city life of South Central Los Angeles.
Every single choice that I listed above poses a challenge to me at one point or another. Sometimes I get nervous about how my child will act in the future. Sometimes I crave junk food, and the thought of preparing my healthy version from scratch at home disheartens my yearning to enjoy the convenience available to me in the present. In my weak moments, I take deep breaths, and I remind myself that remaining both consistent and flexible are the muscles I am strengthening to allow me to be the strong mother I always will be. I remind myself to feel joy because my healthy choices are not simply healing and energizing me, but are supporting my child in lifelong good health. I say a prayer to my ancestors in gratitude for allowing me to be open and disciplined enough to practice the habits that I do; to be an instrument of change, making a full circle back around to the truth.