Stress is a part of every human life, but as a Black man in America, it’s a sizable part of my identity. From the moment I was born, I was unknowingly thrust into a world that fetishizes, misconstrues, and fears Black men like me. And lately, as an adult, any step I’ve taken to relax is undone by another headline of injustice or video of racial violence against my community. And that’s in addition to all the other life-related crap I have to deal with as a gay millennial — it’s a recipe for an absurd amount of shoulder tension. Like everyone else downloading mindfulness apps, I could use some tech-assisted inner peace.
My experiences with meditation have been so-so, at best. Admittedly, the world’s brutalities have made a cynical man out of me. The optimist in me, however, crops up through my art and my writing, when I try to look toward the light in those quiet moments. I’ve tried meditation before, but all that seems to happen after a few minutes of looking into my inner being or holding a yoga pose is what I want for dinner later. While anticipating food is its own kind of inner peace, it’s not kind I’m looking for when I meditate.
And, as someone with anxiety, I should be able to benefit from meditation, right? It’s not only my own doubt that gets in the way of mindfulness, either: It’s the image of meditation as luxury and solitude — something for rich white folk. And that’s ironic since the meditation we know comes from East Asian traditions. How is a Black man like me supposed to relax when all I can think of when I om is Gwenyth Paltrow?
Luckily, my community came through for me. While scrolling thought Twitter, a woman I deeply respect suggested Liberate, an app “a subscription-based meditation app that includes practices and talks designed for the BIPOC community.” That might not sound like much, but for a fault-finding gentleman such as myself, I was surprised at how different an experience with meditation I had.
A disclaimer: This isn’t sponsored content or even my attempt at promoting this app — it’s just that there aren’t many out there like it, ones that include Black and brown guides in leadership positions. The sessions range from five minutes to a little over half an hour each, and the session types range from anxiety, restfulness, and love — more common meditations in wellness apps like Headspace and Calm — to the subjects of ancestry, microaggressions, pride, and masculinity. Hey, if you’re going to meditate on something, make it count.
I’ve tried sessions at both ends of the spectrum: a popular calming exercise on the app called ‘The Full Body Breath” with Sean Felt Oakes, a Liberate teacher who is studied in several Buddhist lineages — and, not for nothing, one of the most calming voices I’ve heard in months.
On the other side of the spectrum of racial mediation, a session I did one morning called “Contemplating and Celebrating…