Jamaica, Queens-based meditation instructor Kelley Green didn’t always have the positive mindset that she has now. “In the beginning, I got to be honest, I had a negative stereotype towards meditation,” Green admitted to ESSENCE. For years, her friend recommended meditation and yoga to her due to her extensive background in dance. “It just seemed too slow and I didn’t know anybody else really that was doing, especially in the black community and so much like other people at the time I stereotyped it.”
It wasn’t until the Hey, Lovely Podcast host got a speeding ticket and went to traffic court in Staten Island when she realized that there is strength and stability in a sense of calm, cool, and collectiveness. As she pled her case, the judge continued to fine her, put points onto her license, and give her a wrongfully distributed parking ticket. Following her friend Jasmine’s suggestion about meditation and yoga, Green found herself at a YMCA in Brooklyn and opening her heart and her mind to a life-changing experience.
“Taking that mindfulness time was transformational. There were only three of us in the class. I thought to myself, ‘Even though I wasn’t speeding in that situation, maybe I’m speeding in life. Maybe I’m zooming past things and I’m not really taking the time to be present’,” she told ESSENCE. Soon after, Green invested in a 200-hour Vinyasa yoga meditation certification and has been making it her mission to practice mindfulness in everyday life.
Ahead, Kelley Green talks with ESSENCE Girls United about destigmatizing meditation, how to begin meditation practices when you don’t know where to start, and the benefits of meditation. Check it out below!
Why do you think it’s important for young Black teen girls to start meditation and mindfulness now?
It’s helpful now because it really equips you with ways to connect to yourself, helping you to focus on the present, which then helps relieve things like stress and anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. We get so caught up in our thoughts and in yoga, it’s called Chateuviti – like “the monkey mind,” or like “chaos of the mind” where you have all your thoughts swirling around and it’s hard for you to focus. It’s hard for you to be creative of course and it’s going to accelerate your heart rate.
You’re going to feel fear, overwhelm and all these negative emotions that really don’t serve you in the moment. When you learn these tools, techniques, and practices at a younger age, you’re better equipped to experience what could potentially be the stresses of life. You have the ability to maintain your sense of calm and peace that way you don’t get overwhelmed by it. The earlier, the better. It should be part of a gym like once a week. Kids should at least be doing some sort of meditation or mindfulness exercise to get them connected to their thoughts.
What are some of the biggest stereotypes placed on meditation, and how do you demystify them?
First of all, it’s unfamiliar to a lot of people. When things are unknown – oftentimes negative emotions like fear and concern – they levitate to the top of the person’s mind. You think you just sit there, say,” ohm”, you think you’re chanting to perhaps a god? Those negatives thoughts, whether it is true or not, come up and until you get that understanding of what’s behind the practice and learning, that’s what helps a lot of ignorance disappear. Learning more about the practice and being open to experiencing it yourself. Someone could have told me what the experience would be like, but it’s not the same as me experiencing it myself.
Even if I watch somebody do it, I may not have understood the practice or felt the effects. I felt the effects mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and you can’t just tell somebody that. Sometimes you have to let them experience it. That’s how you release the stigma – you keep introducing it to people, especially people who look like them. If I saw more Black women talking about meditation or yoga, maybe I would’ve done it too, but I didn’t see that. I just saw a bunch of white people and when I went to the yoga studios. The majority of the women, I would be the only Black girl in the class.
It’s a lot of white people in that field and nothing wrong with that, but I want more Black people to be comfortable in exploring that type of practice as well. We don’t even really talk about practices. We talk about exercise and eating right, but there’s a practice in this that can really benefit you in the ways that I described spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally.
What would you say are the basics of meditation for those who may not know where to start or how to do it?
I like to lift the other thoughts that people have about it has to be 20 minutes or an hour of your time. You actually can knock out a five-minute meditation and feel a difference. I always recommend if you need meditation, do a guided meditation that way you have someone’s voice helping you to stay guided throughout the practice. When I was getting my certification, I was like,” I can’t meditate for nothing. My thoughts are all over the place. I can’t shut them up. What am I doing wrong?” I was getting frustrated, which is the complete opposite feeling you should be getting when meditating. I had to learn that it only has to be five minutes.
Guided meditation helps me not stay focused on my thoughts and in doing so, I get a better experience. You could keep it short, keep it guided, and ideally focused on something that you’re feeling like. Maybe you need to be more focused, more creative. Maybe you want to meditate on love self-love or love for a partner. Maybe you want to meditate on money. Maybe you want to meditate on stress and anxiety. Make sure you get comfortable. A lot of people force themselves into positions that maybe they’re not flexible enough for and it’s okay. You don’t have to sit cross-legged and you can actually lay down to some meditations.
You could sit up in bed with your feet straight. Find what’s comfortable for you. Lastly, I would say make it a practice and find a way to incorporate it into a routine that way it doesn’t really feel like a chore. Starting maybe in the mornings that way you can just continue to get familiar with it or doing it at night before bed. You can find these meditations on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Headspace, Calm, Liberate – there’s a ton.
How do youmanage your digital wellness and keep yourself level-headed through meditation?
I’m glad digital wellness is becoming an increased topic of discussion because we have our phones or our computers literally within reach most of the time. We have to be really mindful of the information we’re digesting online. A good thing about maintaining digital wellness is some things we can avoid by muting on Twitter. You can mute certain words or people you don’t want to see. If you don’t want to be too heavy on the block button or unfollow them, mute them. You can mute their stories or feed on Instagram.
I encourage people to, stay informed of course, but don’t overwhelm or overload rather yourself with information that you know is going to bring you down that you know is going to make you feel helpless, afraid, or angry. To stay in those negative vibrations for too long, it’s only going to bring in more of that feeling, more experiences that are going to be aligned with that same vibration that you’re at. If you want to feel lighter and happier, you need to surround yourself with things or people, or experiences that are going to be aligned with that type of frequency. You can’t become your higher self if you stay in a pool of negativity.
How would you break down the very basic understanding of meditation for those who may not know what it is?
It’s the exercise that you use to calm your mind and your body – simple as that. You could do it with a guided meditation. You can do it sitting cross-legged, saying “ohm” and focusing on a mantra. There are things such as moving meditations, mindfulness meditation, and there are varieties. At the core of it, it’s to help you calm and to refocus on a higher frequency or feeling. It’s really simple and I think if more people spoke about it as, “It’s just going to calm me down. It’s going to refocus you on what serves you instead of what doesn’t,” more people I feel would enjoy the practice.