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4.14.2014

Quote of The Day: Our Greatest Fear

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?


You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

4.09.2014

Putting In The Work

People often ask me why I spend so much time alone. Is it intentional? Am I lonely? Am I really that much of an introvert? They wonder why I value introspection, quiet time, and self care so much.

When not in school, you can find me at concerts, dance classes, the spa, poetry slams, painting workshops, the beach or park, the outdoor flea market, the inspirational speech the local library. Sometimes happily with other people, but usually alone, and happily so.

I'm just doing me.

I spend time alone so I can understand the difference between loneliness and solitude.
I want to know what it feels like to enjoy my own company, and not to depend on the whims of others.
I rather be a lone bird, flying free.
I want to know how to stand on my own two feet and even on one foot, so that in case I lose one, I still don't have to depend on someone else to keep me standing.
In a world where most people remain complacent in their brokenness, I venture to be different.

As I begrudgingly approach 25 years of life, I am fully aware that much is about to be expected of me. Luckily my academic/professional life is looking pretty good. But, I also think about what is expected of me on a personal level. While I am not one to let social expectations dictate my life, I am aware that I am a product of my environment and thus am influenced by societal pressures. 
What do I speak of you ask? Settling down, marriage, and children! 
I refuse to venture into that future without doing some serious personal work.
A messed up self=messed up relationship=messed up children. No, thank you.

Sometimes the speed of my life growth astounds me. God, time, and circumstances have a way of continuously shaping us into the divine individuals we were born to become. The holy book even says " before I formed you in the womb, I knew you". It is all written and we are already en route to becoming the person that God already knows us to be. Despite the sometimes misery and sometimes awesomeness of life experiences, every day, minute, second, we are literally forming into ourself.

If there is anything I've learned in the past year is that day by day we grow, we live, we move closer to death. And no matter what you are going through today, it will be put into perspective by time. One of my favorite things to do is to look back on certain conversations, relationships, and even blog posts (when I'm feeling really daring), and to meditate on how much I've changed since that moment. It's the coolest thing and an affirmation that every experience has a lesson.

I've been thinking allot about the woman I've become...am becoming and I really like her...for the most part. Like, she's pretty dope.

There are things that I am no doubtedly continuing to work on. I want to have a better relationship with my body, become more emotionally available to the people around me, and face some past demons. I think those are my major goals as a young woman right now.   And I am proud that my goals aren't necessarily to settle down, get married, and have children, even though I'm starting to feel that pressure in a very real way. Those are my goals for 2014, all of which are small parts of my overarching goal which is to move closer to my true nature.


I recently read a story about a man who died. 
When he finally met his Creator, he was asked "Alex, during your lifetime, why weren't you more like Alex?"
I don't want that to happen.
I want to die as Naika, and hopefully live most of my life as her.

Like most people, I've imagined myself with closer relationships, a dashing Prince Charming by my side, and my own idea of a perfect life. But I also realized that it takes work to be able to have these things happen and to be In a place to fully accept happiness.

Many a time, I've imagined a dashing Prince Charming patching up my wounds, especially the newer ones, somehow magically transforming my deep seated grief and insecurities into a perfect romantic love.
That makes no sense.
Indeed, love heals and relationships help put things into perspective.
But my dad taught me better than to rely on a man, however charming and however princely, to patch me up.


To my future lover, I say,
"I patched myself up before I met you, so you wouldn't have to.
I told myself I was beautiful until I believed it so I wouldn't ruin us by not believing you when you said it.
I laid the ground for healing this great grief so I wouldn't place that burden on you.
I built solid relationships outside of our own to maintain my own sense of community.
I chased after my dreams and built myself into someone who could be proud of herself, so I wouldn't have to depend on your praise.
I laid foundations for this."

Essentially, what I'm saying is that positive change takes WORK. And to truly enjoy a life that "looks good", you need to FEEL good.
In order to accept the good things that come to you, you need to feel worthy.
In order to receive love from other people, you need to love yourself.
In order to give love to other people, you need to love yourself.
These things are literally impossible otherwise.


You've got to put in the work.

If you're broken, don't be afraid to piece yourself back together, even though you'll get cut along the way.

2014 is my year of work. And if the work still isn't done by 2014, then cheers to that.  Let's do another year of work.  And if the work isn't done by then. Then another and another and another.
And I'm not saying that amazingly good things won't naturally evolve as I evolve. But my priority right now is to be a complete, whole, healthy, emotionally stable, confident, driven, and good human being.
Ambitious, yes. Impossible, no.

As I write this short post, I am sitting on the beach watching a beautiful Seattle sunset, content in my solitude.
I rather be alone right now anyway.
I'm just doing me and exploring me.

Cheers to that.

Stay engaged,
N

4.06.2014

A Haitian Treasure: Charcoal (Chabon) for Natural Teeth-Whitening

I know I'm not the only Haitian-American kid who used/uses charcoal for teeth-whitneing. What can I say? It's the Haitian in me. As a kid, whenever my teeth would get a bit trop jaune (too yellow), my mom would chase after me saying, "Here, here! Use the charcoal! Get the chabon!This is how we do it in Haiti". And I'd get really excited. Of course when I was really young, I thought it was kind of weird, and wondered if the other kids brushed their teeth with this magical black rock brought from a special land, far far away....Haiti. But, then I'd snap out of it, dazzled by this cool cultural tradition that made me unique, and I'd get excited all over again. I vividly remember the splashes of black displayed in the bathroom sink after the cleanings, as well as my crazy looking black teeth before rinsing the chabon out. I always got a kick out of that. I still do....
Image from Google
Similarly to l'huile mascreti (Haitian castor oil), there's always some Haitian charcoal lying around a typical Haitian household. I guess because there's always someone going to Haiti and bringing us back these goodies. Luckily whenever I go back home to NY or have my mom visit me in Seattle, she replenishes my chabon stash.

My newest and biggest piece of Haitian charcoal :)
Decades later, cleaning my teeth with Haitian charcoal (chabon) is still a time-honored tradition that I partake in when my teeth are looking just a tad trop jaune. I look forward to passing this Haitian tradition to my kids, if I have any. For now, I'll settle with sharing this tradition with all of you!

Let's talk about some of the awesome benefits!

So what is charcoal?
It is nothing but burned wood or other plant material! Simple as that. What we really use is activated charcoal (activated carbon...hence the word, chabon), which is just regular charcoal that has been exposed to air and steam at elevated temperatures, which not only purifies it, but increases its surface area, makes it better at absorbing compounds, and enhances its overall properties!

Fun fact: Haitians have been using charcoal forever for teeth cleaning, but many other cultures have traditionally ingested charcoal for an antedote against food poisoning which is super cool! In fact, many hospitals all over the word currently keep some charcoal on hand to treat people in the emergency room who are suffering from food poisoning.

Umm, so how exactly does charcoal whiten teeth?
Charcoal is really good at absorbing materials because of its purification process, as mentioned above. The porous surface of the charcoal attracts materials into its pores. Luckily, once we rinse our mouths, the charcoal leaves with all of the toxins and other materials it absorbed (i.e, food particles, tannins, microbes, etc.)

How to use chabon to whiten your teeth?
Some of us Haitians brush with charcoal FIRST and then with toothpaste. Some with toothpaste FIRST then with charcoal. And some just brush all together with the charcoal on TOP of the toothpaste. Try all these methods! Figure out what works best for you.
  1. Crush a small piece of charcoal into a finer consistency, like that of sand. This will make it stick to your toothbrush easier.
  2. Tap your toothbrush on the fine pieces of charcoal
  3. Brush brush brush for a good 30 seconds- 1 minute
  4. Rinse as usual
  5. Clean your mouth and sink really well! Chabon is really good at sticking to things, making it difficult to remove so this step is super important.
  6. Admire your shiny white teeth!

Do you use chabon for teeth whitening? If so, please share your experiences!

Please note: The cultural anthropologist and socially engaged person within me can't help but mention that because charcoal is the product of burned wood and plants, that has implications on green life and agriculture. Makes sense right? And in a place like Haiti, where deforestation is such a big issue, I think it's really important to think about where our charcoal is coming from and supporting re-forestation efforts in Haiti, as well as considering alternatives to the standard charcoal production methods (of which there are many, thank goodness). Lastly, the future healthcare provider in me can't help but put in a plug for extra protection for charcoal-handlers, since a tremendous amount of smoke and volatile compounds are released during the charcoal making process.  It is my sincere hope that charcoal-handles have access to the necessary safety equipment for their health. That is a public/individual health concern!


Stay engaged,
N


--
The "Haitian Treasures" series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which I call "Haitian Treasures" because they are true gems.   Naïka in Balance is the premiere source for information on the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.
Learn about other Haitian Treasures explored on this blog here!


*Medical Disclaimer: Though Naïka of Naïka in Balance is in pursuit of a medical degree, she is NOT a licensed health practitioner. 
Naïka believes individuals have the power to make informed health decisions on their own. If you feel that it is necessary to consult your healthcare provider before using any of the remedies mentioned, please do so. Knowledge is power and your health is your wealth.

3.24.2014

Naika's Playlist: Music I'm Loving Right Now

Finals are over! Praise God! Time to vibe out, work on cool projects, create, and share some "new" music.
Here are some tracks that have been dominating my iTunes!

1. DJ Gardy Girault's "Wake Me Up" Remix....as well as everything else he's ever produced.
Seriously. I attended his set during a Ram concert in Haiti in late December, and it was the highlight of my trip.  Seriously. And I've kind of fallen in love with all of his music since. I don't know what to say. There's just something about his musical aesthetic that I vibe with. It feels right. Maybe it's the fact that he inserts a bit of Haitian soul into everything he mixes; whether it's a well-known Haitian song with electronic beats mixed in or an American song remixed with Haitian musical elements, he breathes Haiti into all of his work, and that is always the right way to go in my book.
Anyway, Wake Me Up is without a doubt my favorite of his tracks. I play this song everywhere and for everyone; road trips, parties, study breaks. And everyone is like "Who is that?", and I'm like "Let me tell you!". It was the soundtrack of my winter. Check it out. It really is magical.




2. Staying on the Haitian wavelength, I have recently discovered "Simbi" by famous/awesome/amazing group Ram. Sure this song came out in 1992, when I was a mere 3 years old. But, I'm sure if I were to be of age at the time AND in Haiti, this song would be my everything.  If I were to be a cartoon and have my own animated series, this would, no doubt, be my intro song, just because. It's super chill and has good vibes.

 Hmm, maybe I should make an all Haitian future playlist next time....

3. "Elevators", by Outkast= everything. Apart from having a deep beat and sick flow, I think the lyrics are super interesting. It's a good story. My favorite verse:
"And he kept asking me, what kind of car you drive. I know you paid
I know y'all got buku of hoes from all them songs that y'all done made.

And I replied that I had been goin through the same thing that he had
True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me
To the end of the week
I live by the beat like you live check to check
If you don't move yo feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck"

Do you feel that? Like.....we're all dealing with shit and we're all hella connected. It's just so real.
Take a listen.

4. Beck's new album, Morning Phase, is all I need when I'm in one of my ethereal moods. Ya know? Just those deep, super emotional, vibey, relaxed moments when you're one with the universe. The whole album is brilliant. My favorite song is probably "Blue Moon". Close 2nd is " Cycle + Morning". Solid tracks that represent that album quite well.

5. So I love Jhené Aiko and I love her EP "Sail Out" as a collective. Like, it's really solid when played in whole. 
But, I think the song that is able to stand out on it's own really nicely is "Stay Ready/What a Life", which features Kendrick Lamar.
Now, I can write a love sonnet to good old Kendrick. I think he is absolutely brilliant. When he comes in at 1:25, my head bops when the beat drops.
Something about this song reminds me of Kendrick's "Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst", another extended track, or rather two tracks that somehow connect effortlessly into one masterpiece of a track. 
He and Jhené team up to make a great track. It sounds good. It feels good. It's a smart track.

Bonus!
"Energy", by Iman Omari. This is hands down my favorite track on Solange's latest musical effort "Saint Heron", a compilation of music by her amazing self, and other artists. I can also write a love sonnet to Solange. She is probably one of my 10 favorite people on the planet. And I just want to give her a high five for including this track. The saxophone insertions are to die for.
It feels so good. Super vibey. If you couldn't tell, I'm all about those vibes...#setthemood
Oh, and the music video. Perfect!


Enjoy!
Stay Engaged,
N