Jamia Wilson is a feminist media activist, organizer and storyteller. Born Baptist, turned Christian mystic with an open heart and mind to all forms of spiritual truth, Jamia is a member of the young leaders council at Women of Spirit and Faith.
A few weeks ago, Laura, the mighty editrix of The Divine Feminine blog and my Women of Spirit of Faith sister asked me to reflect on these words: When we act as the Divine Feminine…we respect everyone no matter who they are.
My instinctive response to Laura’s query was to think about my belief in the sacred nature of self-respect. I truly believe that it is impossible for us to both give and relate at our highest level of consciousness without self-respect. Only when we honor ourselves and treat our health, spirit, and well-being with the holiest of reverence and support, can we extend our best gifts and service to others.
My appreciation for the Divine Feminine is centered on honoring a divine magic that has been rendered invisible in a world where women’s spiritual authority is sometimes misrepresented and often unrecognized in dogma and religious practice. Before we can fully respect and understand it beyond ourselves, we must embrace our own grace. When I refer to self, I’m not addressing our “ego” but instead, I am referring to the truest essence of who we are—our soul.
Almost a year ago on New Year’s Day, I stared endlessly at the Walt Whitman quote at the end of my tea bag: “Re-examine all that you’ve been told, dismiss that which insults your soul.”
Walt Whitman’s words stuck to me like oil and I still haven’t been able to shake them. Despite the fact that I had seen the quote before, when I was in high school, its message stunned me in the face of my current realities and challenges. I realized that I was walking around carrying the burden of feeling like my soul wasn’t breathing. I realized that my soul wanted recognition and respect that it wasn’t getting because I wasn’t prioritizing its needs and giving it the time and space to rest, explore, and expand.
For the past year, I’ve spent my time exploring my internal world and asking my soul how it defines freedom and success—two virtues I let other people define for me for too long. My soul yearned for the respect I’d been giving authority figures, degrees, recognition, and external expectations — because I feared what would happen if I listened too deeply to my soul’s voice in our striving, “prove your worth” culture.
For the first time in my life, I’ve begun evaluating everything in my life based on a simple question—Does this ____________,relationship, task, work, or experience nourish or deplete my soul?
One simple tea bag led me to the question that has liberated my consciousness and my body in ways I still don’t have the words to express. Walt Whitman’s words inspired me to take a leap towards honoring myself, my desires, and my thoughts without apology. Suddenly, R-E-S-P-E-C-T had new meaning for me, beyond Aretha Franklin and “the golden rule”.
Ever since I adopted a practice of respecting myself by revolutionizing my life with a new outlook on self-care, it has opened my heart and allowed me to be more present, more engaged, more dynamic, and closer to that freedom our souls spend most of our lifetimes searching for. Now that I am conscious of the sacred importance of respecting my soul and its needs and yearnings, I am able to give love and respect with increased sincerity.
I realized that I grew up trying to be “a good girl” who often felt validated or diminished by other people’s projections and perspectives more than I’d like to admit. When I began to learn to let go of the impositions of other people’s ideas about who I “should” be and listen to both the whispers and roars within my spirit, I was greeted by the part of myself I like the most—the person who respects herself enough to say no when necessary, to receive without apology, and to stand strong in my aloneness and alienation when others don’t understand my truth. As a result of this revelation, I’m able to respect, honor, and protect the souls of others I meet on my path with renewed compassion and empathy.
The universe sent me a message through a tea bag on January 1, 2012 that sent me on a journey that has included both tears and triumph. Most of all it has allowed me to be unapologetic about the truth within me, the divine light and dark shadows that I possess, and the fact that we are all mirrors of each other as souls united by a humble yearning to be free.