LIVING

SIMPLE NEW MOON RITUAL

02.05.19

The moon is such a powerful presence in our lives, pulling on the oceans tides and creating a rhythm of life for all of us. There was a time when we were deeply connected to these rhythms, but, over time, technology and our modern culture has separated us from those celestial vibes. Aligning yourself with the cycles of nature as a practice can be a transformative and tapping into the energy phases of the moon is a good place to start. 

A new moon is the perfect time for reflection and intention setting. She brings with her the opportunity to explore creativity as she is dark and “empty” – fertile ground for new seeds of intention.

If you are a beginner to practicing any sort of ritual don’t be put off. If you are all “WTF is a new moon?” then I got you too. Click here to read a primer and then come back. We’ll wait, I promise.

This ritual is simple, easy and most of all effective. 

On the day of a New Moon schedule 30-45 minutes to devote to this practice. I prefer to do my moon rituals at night to fully capture the moons energy. If the weather is nice, it’s preferable to be outside. 

Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. 

Gather a notebook, a small glass of water, a white candle and a pen. 

Take a moment to get clarity on why you are doing this. What are your intentions for the next 29 days? There are no wrong answers here – it could be to be more compassionate, or to lose 5 lbs. Whatever it is, make sure it’s about you. Open up to your hearts desire and feel it in your body. 

Once you are clear on your intention, write it down. Keep writing it until you feel energized, excited and maybe a bit scared after reading it. You’ll know when it’s right – you will feel it in your body. 

Make sure it includes:

      • Who or what you wish to release or is no longer welcome in your life
      • Who or what you would like to bring in or welcome into your life

Once you have set your intention, it’s important to clear yourself and your space by burning a clearing incense or herb. I prefer palo santo or white sage.  Make sure that the space has an open window or door.

Once you have lit your smudge stick (or loose plants/herbs) blow it out and invite the smoke to envelop your body starting at your feet and ending at your head. 

While you are clearing yourself you can recite the following smudging prayer which I adopted from Deepak Chopra:

May my hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.

May my feet be cleansed, that they might take me where I most need to be.

May my heart be cleansed, that I might hear its messages clearly.

May my throat be cleansed, that I might speak rightly when words are needed.

May my eyes be cleansed, that I might see the signs and wonders of the world.

May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these fragrant plants.

And may that same smoke carry my prayers, spiraling, to the heavens.

Smudge the rest of the space. Go to the open window or door and fan the stagnant energy out of the room. 

Take a seat facing North. Place the glass of water and the candle in front of you. Light the candle. If you work with crystals, now is a great time to incorporate them. 

Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Make you inhale the same length as your exhale. Connect to an image of white light.

Recite your intention. Notice how it feels in your body. Imagine how it will feel once whatever you put out into the world comes back to you. See it as already having happened and feel the outcome.

Continue to sit quietly, focusing on your intention and the feeling it will bring you. After a few minutes gently open your eyes.

Know that the simple act of gaining clarity around your intentions, creating space to honor them and them sending them out into the Universe is enough and detach from the outcome.

Keep your intention close by and look at it daily to remind yourself of what you are working towards. If things come up that don’t support that intention, acknowledge them, know they are teaching tools and stay focused. Aligning with your intention is the easiest way to attract what you want into your life and connecting that energy with the energy of the moon is a great magnifier. 

Take the time each month to honor the New Moon, taking note of your intentions and seeing how things progress. Soon it will become a habit and over time, iyou will notice a shift in your body as you become more connected to the cycles of nature.

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LIVING

new year, same me

01.22.19

I have never really understood the “New Year, New Me” mantra. I mean, just because we’re starting a new year does that suddenly mean that you aren’t who you are anymore?

Just because you have decided to go to bed earlier/drink more water/spend more time outdoors/stop staring at your screen before bed doesn’t make you a new person. It’s still you, just with different habits, different intentions and possibly a different jean size. 

Here’s the thing – I don’t want to be new. I want to be worn in a bit, be flexible and have a little patina if you will. Most things that are new aren’t that great anyway. Think about it – a new puppy (carpet stains, chewed heels) , a new relationship (overthinking, overanalyzing) new shoes… Anyone else worn a new pair of shoes to an event only to regret it later? My Mom told me to always break in a new pair of heels around the house before wearing them out but did I listen? Noooooooo….

But you see, that was the old me. Even just saying old me sounds better, more like a favorite cashmere sweater that despite its hole on the sleeve and pilling that you scrape away each year, keeps you warm and feels great. But this year, I’m wearing it with a different pair of jeans – hell maybe even a skirt. Not new, just different. 

The new me says “Eliminate gluten! Pasta is overrated!” 

The old me says “Really, Myka? Rice pasta is NOT the same” 

The new me says “Going to bed at 9:00 is the key to success” The old me knows that unless Harris is fast asleep by 7:30, there is no way I can be in bed by 9. 

So I wind up with a mix of both, no gluten at home but when I’m out I will eat as I please. Sometimes I make it to bed at 9, sometimes I’m up until midnight. Not New Myka, but different. You see, the Old Me balances out the New Me. Because Old Me knows things that New Me might forget. Old Me knows that nothing is new, they are merely a conglomeration of existing things brought together and looked at in a new way.

Taking the old parts of me that I love, saying goodbye to others and trying on some new parts for size. If they fit – great, they stay, but if I have to slide them off under the table during dinner? Then the old ones need to stay. Because a New Year isn’t about a New You, it’s about new intentions, new habits and new perspectives. All because the Old You recognized that sometimes, something new is necessary. 

This year my theme for myself is Simplicity. I do my intention setting on my birthday, so at this point I’m 6 months in. I have integrated it into every part of my life through ritual, reflection and intention. Taking things down to their most basic element and enjoying the simple practice of less is more. I remind myself of this theme on my yoga mat in the mornings, when parenting, while eating and preparing food, building a business with Kadi and gearing up for a move to the West coast. 

6 months in I’m feeling extremely peaceful, grounded and acutely aware that the things that truly matter are usually the simplest ones. Just like that perfectly worn in cashmere sweater. 

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LIVING

Golden Hour

01.14.19

It’s been no secret that I’m loving warm tones in hair color lately. Honey, gold, whatever your description, I just can’t get enough. As I’ve stated before on the blog, our hair is a color wheel, with all the naturally occurring colors of the rainbow waiting to be revealed. The one thing that most of us have in common, no matter whether our starting point is darkest brown or blonde, is warmth. Warm tones are universally flattering, yet we spend a lot of time in the salon fighting against them. To me, it’s maddening. Even more frustrating, with Instagram, (and the filter that some employ to hide the hair’s natural warmth, clients often arrive to the salon requesting ashy, almost gray shades of blonde, devoid of any remaining warmth.

Some, afraid to disappoint, will spend hours stripping and toning the hair, instead of standing firm and explaining to the client that the toner used will, a) eventually wash out, and b) the process is doing irreparable damage that no amount of bonder will reverse. In the end, I blame social media really. Added hair pieces that give the illusion of almost silver/super ashy strands, put other colorists at a severe disadvantage when clients arrive with those inspiration photos in tow.

Meanwhile, they are all missing out on a “golden opportunity”. One of the best parts of embracing the warmth, is the natural grow out process. When hair is stripped or lifted to an unnatural color, or a color that your hair doesn’t want to naturally do, the upkeep is constant. Toners fade, and to maintain continuity, trips every four weeks to the salon are required. On the other hand, embracing the warmth allows a much softer grow out, as natural tones still remain in the hair, and don’t appear jarring as ones roots begin to grow in. My clients who choose warmer tones can easily stretch the time between appointments to double, or even triple, the amount of time.

Now, to play devils advocate, there is definitely a slippery slope when gold can veer into some scary territory. Think orange and/or brassy. While I never try to lift highlights too light when my aim is gold, because I know that hair naturally oxidizes no matter the precaution taken, I try to go just a bit lighter than my target (about half a shade) and then whatever target gloss or toner I use is then more of an enhancer, than a fix. This also helps to prevent the brassiness from occurring since I’ve made it to a point to go slightly lighter and break through it.

Another factor that has significantly changed the way I approach all my highlighting and balayage, is the discovery of a new product called “ColorKick” by Virtue Labs. I was given it late last year to try, and I have to say I was blown away at the difference in my clients’ color, especially my golden blondes. What is ColorKick exactly? Made with Alpha Keratin 60ku, a proprietary ingredient that is a part of all VirtueLabs products, it is the first-ever hair filler made from 100% pure, human keratin. What looks like delicate flakes of gold is mixed right into color or bleach, and it essentially replaces the cuticle of the hair. Think of a rocky, bumpy road being paved smooth. As a filler (NOT a bonder), it helps to replace lost keratin through the coloring process. Basically, it’s not a band-aid, it’s really doing permanent reparative work. You guys, basically it’s next level.

How does this translate to better hair color? Well, hair that’s been colored has usually lost a bit of its natural shine as a result of the chemical treatment. With ColorKick, because the cuticle is now way smoother, the shine and reflection of the color is dialed way up. Before, I used to proceed with maximum caution (that will never really change), but my mind really became convinced and more at ease after I had a major color correction from brown to blonde that had to be done in one day, and my client’s hair actually felt healthier and looked shinier AFTER we were done. It can also be mixed into hair masks and processes with heat for an ultimate shine treatment.

What a pleasant surprise to discover a product that truly enhances an already favorite shade of mine. The only downside is that it is a bit pricey. I’m currently exploring ways that I can incorporate this product into more, if not most of my color treatments. Once the mathematics of it all are done (I am at the end of the day an independent contractor running a business!) I’ll pass on to clients how this can be added onto their color services. Stay tuned, and stay golden!

All hair color pictured – Kadi Lee

(Note: this post is NOT sponsored in any way, and all opinions expressed are just that, an opinion;))

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LIVING

THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

11.29.18

Back in Summer of 2015 with a baby on the way and an upcoming home renovation, I started getting rid of everything unnecessary in my life. With a changing body and a changing home, I felt the need to create space for what was next and in my typical fashion that started with my surroundings.

Let me preface this by saying I am not a person who has a lot of things. I have moved 12 times since I was 18 with 1/3 of those moves being back and forth to Europe. I have learned to travel lightly. However, even with my editing, I still felt as though I had more than I needed, and I didn’t want anything that I didn’t use. In retrospect, it was a natural part of my spiritual journey.

Relieving myself of things in order to create space for additional clarity, grounding and focus. In addition, as an environmentalist, I feel like the acquisition of things is a temporary fix, and at the end of the day just more stuff to add to the ever expanding piles of trash that pollute the planet. The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste. That’s insane to me and seems extraordinarily short sighted.

It’s why I shop vintage, don’t use paper towels or cleaning wipes in my home, hate the waste created by take out, always carry my own water bottle and used cloth diapers, but that’s another post.

Beyond the obvious reasons to live lightly there was a more practical reason. We were living in a loft with a baby where the only room with a door was the bathroom. A friend told me about Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I quickly got to work following her method of touching each and every object to see if it brought me joy. I really tuned in; quickly discarding the things that didn’t spark a reaction and soon was left with about 50% of my wardrobe. As a spirit seeker and general vibey person, her energetic approach to organizing really resonated with me and I followed her directions to a T.

When we moved into our house (that was supposed to be an Airbnb)  we were all prepped to move to LA so put the bulk of our belongings into storage. One year later (after an unexpected hiccup in our plan), we have learned to live without all that is in storage leaving me to wonder why we needed it in the first place.

3 years after applying her methods, I continue to live with less and surround myself only with things that bring me joy. This practice has opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t care about clothes as much as I thought and prefer to spend my money on vintage furniture, beauty and wellness treatments, books, herbalism classes, travel and food. The Universe continues to support my plan. When my car was stolen I had my wedding china in the back because it wasn’t bringing me joy and I wanted to sell it. Wasn’t quite the way I thought it would happen, but the china is gone (maybe they used it for Thanksgiving!), the car is back and I got a check so I guess I’m on the right path. I got what I asked for, just in a different package.

As we roll into the Holidays, I am being super mindful of the sprit of the season and  focusing on activities and experiences that bring me joy. As the mother of a toddler who is just starting understand Christmas, it’s important to me that I create and share rituals with him. I want him to know that this time of year is to be savored and entered into with ease and gratitude; not stress, expectation and overwhelm. We can choose. It’s time to slow down, spend time with loved ones, help others in need and build energy for the next season. Fortunately it’s a pretty easy call in my family as we stopped giving each other presents years ago and instead go on a big family vacation for a week in January.

Best. Present. Ever.

This month we will officially welcome Winter which for me is always a time of introspection and quiet. Short days and long nights are natures signals to us to rest, but most of us spend the Holidays running around like a crazy; trying to get all the shopping/decorating/cooking/traveling/partying done.

Now I’m not saying slowing down is easy, we all have busy lives, but pay attention to what is happening around you. I was feeding into the stress and overwhelm of life a few weeks ago when one of my properties sprung a leak, my refrigerator stopped working and a chair that I sourced for a patio redesign project arrived damaged all in the same week. Instead of just ticking things off my list as  planned, I was ground to a screeching halt having to shift my focus to mundane, but necessary tasks, forcing me to slow down. Which in turn is exactly what I needed because sometimes I need to be reminded. Life is a long game and I, for one, have zero interest in being burned out. I want to enjoy each moment, knowing that that’s all we were really have.

This year I invite you to focus more on being rather than doing. On giving. On saying no when you when you need to. Or want to. Take time off. Rest. The Holiday season will be so much more enjoyable and so will you!

M.

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LIVING

Representation Matters

11.09.18

The 2018 midterm elections are finally over (sort of), and I don’t know about all of you, but I really, REALLY needed to take a moment to recover. The current climate of this country has taken a massive toll on my both my physical and mental health, and I woke up post election feeling extremely sad – hello ANOTHER mass shooting?! Yet, I also finally feel a little hopeful. Among other major firsts, for the first time in history, over 100 women were elected to the US House of Representatives. Out of these 100, there were Muslim women, and Native American women, and Black women, and gay women, and young women! You see, out of the many negative things that have surfaced with this administration, one thing in particular keeps nagging at me- the overwhelming backlash against immigrants, minorities and women in our country. Depending on the day, it seems one disenfranchised group or another is being attacked. And it has completely defeated my soul and my spirit. Some days it feels downright criminal to just exist in my black, immigrant, female skin. One look at the powers that be made it clear- people of color, especially women, needed more representation in order to make a change. For me, I feel the dire importance of this not only personally, but professionally as well.

As most of you know by now, I am a black woman who decided to take my appreciation for color and love of painting, and turn it into a profession as a hair colorist. For some reason this still throws some people off. Though my clients are comprised of women (and a few men) of every race and color, it still somehow surprises people that someone who looks like me decided to take this career path. Looking back, I suppose I can see why- there were no other examples.

When I was first hired as a shampoo assistant after beauty school almost 2 decades ago at Frederic Fekkai in New York City, there were less than half a dozen black employees out of hundreds of people. Two of us were shampoo assistants, one a styling assistant, and two were in management. None were actually elevated at the time to the position of stylist or colorist. While getting my license at the Aveda Institute in Soho, I determined that if I were to actually try and make a career out of hair, that my focus was to be in color. I was a strong stylist and I could do a mean blow dry (still can BTW), but I was a terrible hair cutter. I would literally hide in the bathroom whenever haircuts came in on the days we took client models, and wait until someone walked in requesting hair color or highlights. Though it was required that we be competent in both, when describing it to my teacher I would compare it to forcing a painter to be a sculpture. I simply didn’t easily have access to that skill of being able to see a clients face and determine what shape would best suit them. But I can immediately and innately take one look at their hair, see a canvas, and know what picture I wanted to paint. Combined with the fact that chemistry had always been one of my strongest and favorite subjects to study, I was immediately a hair color nut. I had found my gift. I was meant to be a colorist.

My teachers saw this passion, and encouraged it. Even all those years ago, barely in my 20s, I knew that I had a special connection to haircolor. It came effortlessly, and it gave me so much joy. So when career day came and a representative from Fekkai came to our school to recruit assistants, even though we were told it was a lofty goal being it was the best salon in NYC, I knew that I had to try and expand on my love of color and attempt to get hired there. And what really sealed the deal? The recruiter mentioned that colorists made way more money than stylists. He basically had me at hello. Saddled with debt and student loans from undergrad at Spelman and beauty school, my mind was made up. I would do anything in my power to become a successful colorist at the top salon in the country at the time. Because at Spelman, we were taught that our rightful place in the world was wherever we wanted to be. So, you know, aim low. LOL.

I got hired, was totally pumped, and thinking I was well on my way. Imagine my horror when on my first day, I was promptly handed a horrific nylon (read:plastic) navy-blue vest/apron thing that signaled to all the posh upper Eastside clients that I was the lowest person on the totem pole- a shampoo assistant. And the pay? About $3.36/hour, plus tips and commission on product sales. To this day I still don’t know how that shit was legal. Talk about a rude awakening! For months I was taught the specific shampoo technique that Fekkai wanted us to use on clients. And I was told the only way to get a shot at the next level of assisting was to sell products and meet goals that for me were next to impossible. Any of my clients will attest that the last thing I would be described as is a product pusher. So it was with mortification that I realized the only way to get to be a color assistant was to sell sell sell. You also had to wait until there was actually an opening in the color department to be an assistant there, and that only happened if one of the assistants got promoted to colorist. The assistant program was rigorous and they made it clear – a promotion was never guaranteed.

Between all the hurdles, the heavy feeling of defeat before I even began, and NEVER seeing anyone who looked like me elevated and promoted to the position I one day dreamed to attain, some days that mountain seemed impossible to climb. Even though I forged some of my most fulfilling friendships during that time with all the other assistants (many of us are still in touch today!) and have beautiful and hilarious memories, my frustration was endless, and they were many days I went home in tears. It was actually on one of those tear-filled, feeling sorry for myself walks home that I ran into Myka on Madison Avenue, and reconnected as friends. My eyes were literally so blurry from crying that I didn’t see her and I walked right into her! To this day it is still one of the best examples of your worst day turning into your biggest gift;)

Fast forward almost 20 years, with a ton of hard work, 2 incredible mentors- the color director of Fekkai Constance Hartnett and then Serge Normant, taking a chance and putting their faith and trust in me, many friends in the industry trusting my talent and willing to share and grow their businesses with me, and fighting for myself every step of the way, I can say not only did I finally get that first promotion, but now have a career that fills me with endless pride. There are SO many crazy things that happened along the way, and one day I will write and blog about them all, but for now I will say that it was never easy. In fact, some days it was downright maddening. I got huge pushback from the higher ups at Fekkai, who I’m certain just couldn’t picture someone like me as a lucrative member of the color department. One in particular spent so much time scowling and looking down at me while clutching her clipboard that I always felt if I made one wrong move I would be tossed out on the street. (Sidebar- to this day I think about that clipboard and wonder what the hell was on it.;)).

I fought like hell to be taken seriously, and was extra hard on myself if every single client I did was not a perfect outcome. I just knew that once I got the opportunity, there was no room for error or anything less than excellence. I also got constant surprised and/or skeptical looks from some clients who were put on my schedule who were not expecting their blonde specialist to be a black woman. In one particular incident, I was sent on an emergency job to match the hair color for a body double that needed to stand in for a client that was shooting a commercial. After driving in extreme heat and traffic to the body double’s apartment in the Valley, I stood at her door with all my supplies while she questioned rudely “YOU’RE her colorist?!” After I stood in shock and finally responded with a simple, “sure am”, she reluctantly let me into her apartment so I could begin what ended up being one of the most horrific nights of my career. She questioned every move I made. “What are you mixing? What are you doing now? Are you sure that’s right??” 5 hours later I sat slumped in my car unable to drive home completely mentally and physically exhausted from it all. (I’m also still traumatized at the level of filth that was in her place. Her 7 cats basically made her studio apartment their bathroom and I’m pretty sure I gagged the entire 5 hours I was there.) Thank goodness THAT no longer happens. Because of Instagram, there’s no longer that mystery and everyone knows who they’re about to meet.I also had some assistants along the way that I know had to get used to working for a black woman. It was a power dynamic that just wasn’t seen in many high end salons, or the world at large for that matter.

With all of that being my personal experience, it definitely threw me off guard when a few days ago, my current assistant of over 3 years Ashley, who is an amazing Latina woman of Guatemalan heritage, also from a family of immigrants, expressed how grateful she was for her job and to have someone take a chance on her. It was the first time in almost 20 years that I realized that I had reached a true full circle moment. It was also the first time one of my assistants acknowledged and recognized that by working for me, it was possible for someone like her to make it too.

I share all of these personal memories to say, representation matters. We all need to acknowledge that this country consists of many people of beautiful, varying cultures. And we all need to see ourselves reflected, whether in a job in a senior position, or on the TV or movie screen. We need to feel like we are part of the story too, and that we all matter. That it’s not such a far-fetched idea to want to exist, and succeed, in places where there is literally no sign of us or examples of us. Newly elected US Representative Ayanna Presley said it best Tuesday night after becoming Massachusetts’ 1st Black Woman elected to Congress. She stated, “In order to be a 2nd, there has to be a first.” Here’s to all those working together to pave the way for many more 2nds.

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