Liberating Incarcerated Minds Continues in DeKalb County, GA!

Someone asked how the women’s class was today. Very nonchalantly I mouthed – It was good! No – it was “freakin” amazing. I have been teaching a Healthy Haiku Wellness Program for inmates as part of the Options for Living and Learning program offered by the Dekalb Sheriff’s Office. The majority of classes have been with women but I have had a couple of opportunities to teach males.

The course pulls together and uses the best of my training and experience as a health educator, researcher, author, speaker and global humanitarian. Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that uses 17 syllables to tell a big story with few words.* We actually write poetry sometimes, however we incorporate lots of exercises and role-play that pushes them off into the great expanse and challenges them to redefine their reality and their futures. Always reinforced is the fact that jail time is temporary. Most of them are not hardened criminals heading to prison, although a few may be. The majority of my students have committed petty crimes and are in jail pre-hearing or pre-sentencing because they lack the resources for bail.

One young woman looked up at me during a class. I honestly do not remember the particular topic. However she looked up at me and said she had been trying to figure out why she was in there [jail] because she had not done anything. She then said that she realized why she was there, because she was supposed to hear what I had to share. The next week she told me that she was going home as all charges were dropped. I was so happy learn that this bright, talented and very intelligent young lady was going back to the community with some new tools to orchestrate her life.

My closest friends and family know that my class at the jail is perhaps the highlight of my week as I get to share and be creative from a space of caring and non-judgment. Due to the high turn over rate in the county facility, for many of my students I may have only one or two shots to make a difference in a way of thinking and being that will carry them forward in a more powerful and positive way.

This week’s exercise after meditation and reading of inspirational cards, was an interviewing exercise that had the women paired up and interviewing each other about their passions, skills and abilities and opportunities for improvement in order to “Step into their Power.” A room full of inmates was transformed into conference suite with a Manager, a Professional Author and Speaker, A Comedienne, a Chef, a Hair Stylist, a Singer, a preschool educator and so much more. I challenged them to show us what they had. We heard some really funny unrehearsed comedy and one young lady sang a beautiful rendition of His Eye is on the Sparrow.  The preschool teacher told us that she didn’t mind  changing diapers and wiping runny noses and reiterated that teaching infants and toddlers was truly her passion!

On other occasions we had a guest, Brigitte Keane who presented Laughter Yoga, which had the women laughing, clapping, crying (the kind of laughing so hard it makes you cry – cry) and having incredible healthy breathing fun. People in the facility were trying to figure out what in the world was going on that day! One of my repeat students who has unfortunately moved on to prison, smiled for the first time. I told her that it was nice to see her smile and I realized that her solemn look was due to missing upper front teeth. In this environment, no one judged – it was way too much fun! We have also done vision boards with power words to define their lives and futures, sessions on self-forgiveness, radical forgiveness of others, and Ho’oponopono.

Ho’oponopono (ancient Hawaiian healing technique) which has each person take total responsibility for everyone and everything and uses a clearing technique that consists of 4 simple phrases said to ones-self: I love you; I’m sorry; Please forgive me; and Thank you! Since learning the Ho’opononpono (described in Joe Vitale’s book entitled Zero Limits, (2007) about the healing work of Dr. Hew Len of Hawaii in a mental health wing of a maximum security prison) the women have shared experiences where they used these phrases to resolve conflicts with family members during visits and with other inmates as well. Earlier classes covered topics such as nutrition, violence, smoking, drinking and drug use!

This work, and the breakthroughs that occur feel like nothing short of magic. It is hard to explain. The repeat students enter the room with hands in prayer position on their chests greeting me with “Namaste” (The Divine in Me greets the Divine in You!) Wonder where they learned that?!  I share everything that I know to be helpful in building them up and expanding their world beyond the confines of the temporary jail walls. The occasional tears that are shed usually reflect a release and love of self that had been buried – for serving time for their crimes and for being mad at themselves for making bad decisions and for getting caught up and arrested. Self -love is one of the common threads of each class as well as Stepping into Their Power (I formerly had a Blog Talk Radio show entitled Stepping into My Power).

Perhaps my reason for writing this is not so much to revel in the success of my work at the jail as it is to reinforce the importance of loving yourself everyday in order to make healthy and right choices in all of your affairs. Life as we know it gets very complicated and downright scary sometimes. If we move from a place of love for self and understanding for others – because we are truly reflections of each other, we will see better outcomes and more people standing in their truth and in their power.

I will end this segment with a poem written in class by one of my former students:

I’ve been searching for the Light

But there’s too much smoke in between.

I’ve been searching for the Light

It seems so far fetched maybe too extreme.

I’m searching for the Light

Which seems beyond my fingertips.

Still searching for the Light

I still can’t seem to see.

Searching for the Light

Which has always been within Me!

 

Peace, Love and Blessings Y’all!

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Dr. Imani

Updates and Coming Events: I have an incredible deal for new Wellness Coaching Clients which includes Six Months of Free Coaching. Yes, you read that correctly! Send me an email for details to: imanimaat@gmail.com.

Change Your Water…Change Your Life!  Learn how  Join us on September 9th and 10th at the Lou Walker Senior Center 2538 Panola Road, Lithonia, GA  30058. Free Health and Wellness Presentation Friday 7-9 (Don’t Miss it!)

*Learn more about the Award-winning Health Haiku Poetry series of workshops and publications.

Liberating Incarcerated Minds with Healthy Haiku

When I first approached the County Jail system it was a good will gesture to offer to conduct one Healthy Haiku workshop for women in lock up. As a result of our first meeting they quickly learned the value of my workshops and officials offered me the opportunity to participate in a new program for inmates by conducting two workshops a week for 8 weeks at a time.  Upon learning  approximately 83% of the women in lock up at this facility were there pre-hearing and pre-sentencing because they did not have the money to make bail, I was even more motivated to share these empowering workshops with the women.  Hence the poverty connection to who sits in jail and who does not.  Most, but not all are young and African American. They have children and families. They have dreams and ambitions – many of which have been subdued and subjugated to another space and time “maybe in my next life.” My mission – and I do choose to accept it – is to wake up those dreams – re-ignite their passions and goals and reasons for being! Encouraging them to be the best that they can be! No easy task for this population. Haiku – an ancient 17th Century Japanese form of poetry that uses 17 syllables to tell a huge story with few words – becomes the gateway for giving them everything I’ve got for building self-esteem, self-love, trust, radical forgiveness, creativity and the return of their voices. Healthy Haiku workshops, originally created for children – I soon learned that parents in general, and women in particular needed to learn this information as they are the primary nurturers – builders or destroyers of self-esteem and the ones that shop for the household (more often than not!)

I waited until after the second set of workshops before sharing on this Blog.  My waiting pales in comparison with the waiting of these women. Most are very young – waiting: waiting in jail for their hearings,  waiting to be united with their children, husbands, other family and friends. Some are awaiting sentencing.   My goal is to help to build them up – mind, body and spirit – to help them to find their voices through discussions and poetry writing about health and wellness. Imagine women who can’t wait to start taking wheat-grass juice and alkaline water on a regular basis!  Just eating healthy food on a daily basis is something to look forward to upon their release.  I  remind them that this “station” in life is temporary and that better life, better days filled by better mindsets, self-esteem and passion for making their lives better – is in their future!

During the workshops we do individual and group exercises, brainstorming and writing. Each participant presents her original poetry to the group, once encouraged to stand straight, speak up, articulate and clearly enunciate.  Communication skills are key to  their effectiveness in negotiating a system that has very low expectations of them based on past interactions. Fueling their new skills and attitudes are Dr. Marianne Williamson’s “Our Deepest Fear (is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure!”) and other positive words and works.

I write this blog because they asked and because it becomes a link between them and the outside world. It is a way to share their words and their hearts. I feel breakthroughs!  Some tears -which I remind them is part of the releasing and healing process – and lots of laughter.  I celebrate their little steps.  When they recite their poetry with the group, I introduce them as ” the Fabulous (and their name). I want for this Blog to be about them – not about me. Their poetry speaks volumes of who they are and of their potential!

I’m in Love with Self

No…I’m not conceited,

Just not going to be Defeated!

 

Now Eye love myself

Before that was a hard task

Where did my love go?

 

If you love your kids

Tell them as much as you can

Let them know you care!

 

Don’t neglect yourself.

Fall in love with who you are.

Fall in love with you!

 

Flying high above the sky

Looking over my life that I’ve deprived

Flopping wings seeking my dreams!

 

Us against the world, My baby

I’ll never abandon you.I’ll always love you

God is within us, Never against us!

 

Happiness you are…

My breath, my life, my shinning star

My dream com true…You~

 

A Grandfather’s Love (my Title) next 3 poems by some person

I loved you when you were here

I missed you now that you’re gone

I wish you could be near to guide me!

 

I have a son that

Needs me more than ever

He’s a ton but I am a proud mother!

I wish he could have met you

So tiny and fragile~

I know you would have loved him too.

I even gave him your middle name, Michael!

 

Whom am I? – Some say I am just a Lady

Some say  I’m a daughter.

And others say I’m a Child of God.

But I tell you I’m all of the above!

Beautiful Black Woman!

 

Why try to hurt me?

That disrespectful tongue of yours.

You would know, or would you?

 

What’s a second chance?

If you’re leaving with no plan?

Time to prove to the man

That we’re worth a second chance!

 

Many  positive comments from the participants:

This class was very pleasant. It made me step out of the negative…if only for a moment!

I always enjoy this class. It lets me realize how much joy is in me!

Love this class!

Lots more to share……next time!  Namaste! The Divine in me Greets the Divine in You! (My greetings as they leave the class!)

(Please check out my most recent book: Healthy Haiku 3: How to Fight Childhood Obesity One Poem at a Time!   a resource for the entire family…On Amazon.)

Howling at the Sirens: Reducing the Noise and Increasing Happiness During the Holidays

What a strange title for a Blog about how to reduce the incidence of heart attacks during the holidays.  Prior to having Rottweilers as pets, as a health scientist formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I researched and often contributed to the body of knowledge concerning high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, heart attacks and how to prevent all of the above. A lot of people go on line for updates about health and wellness including how to prevent heart attacks. A popular resource, WebMD recently posted that ”

“We certainly know that there are certain risk factors for coronary artery disease. There’s obviously smoking, hypertension, dyslipidemia [high cholesterol], diabetes, lack of exercise, and age,” says Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD, a researcher at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Since having our dogs we have noticed a strange occurrence.  They, like the coyotes in the woods adjacent to our home in Stone Mountain, GA – howl when they hear sirens.  Well at first (12 years ago) it would happen once in a while – perhaps several times a week.  Now it happens about 12 times a day and that concerns me. Other than the loud noise of our three dogs and sometimes their cousins in the woods howling and disturbing my peace, it now, for me signals emergencies in my neighborhood – many of them possibly heart attacks due to poor diets and lifestyles of residents in my area. I see what people are buying in the local stores and I am all too familiar with the local health stats. So the scientist in me is curious about the correlation between dogs and coyotes howling with an increase in heart health risk factors in my community. They are actually howling as I type……

With the coming holiday season – Thanksgiving through New Years- there is a noticeable increase in the “noise” from our dogs.  Over consumption of processed foods rich in fats, sugars, salts and devoid of nutrients – in addition to alcohol consumption place people at risk for increases in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and heart attacks during the holidays. People also tend to reduce physical activity while sitting around and sharing quality time with friends and family.

Here are some quick and fun tips that families can do to stay healthy over the holidays (and always!):

  • Fresh fruit and veggie challenge: have a contest (everyone can put $5  -or more in a bowl) each time someone eats a fresh fruit, vegetable including fresh juice – they get a point. Some one must be designated to keep the spread sheet or everyone gets their own. At the end of the the holidays (or designated time period) the one with the most points receives the funds!
  • Family walks: Every evening after dinner, the family can take a nice walk through the community or somewhere safe and with proper lighting. Family can be comprised of family units, neighbors, relatives etc to ensure safety and numbers.
  • Learn new recipes that ensure nutrient rich food intake and reduced calories. Can also be structured as a contest. Be creative!
  • Drink at least 8 glasses Alkaline or clean purified water daily. Make sure everyone in family has their own glass or BPA-free plastic bottle (glass is better though). Encourage water consumption throughout the day. Keep refilling throughout the day!
  • Jumping jacks begin!  If you are physically able, do group jumping jacks, jump-rope or bike-riding.  Make family exercise a routine this holiday season and continue it as a tradition every day!
  • Limit animal products and fats which have been proven to increase the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Turn off the television.  In some homes it runs non-stop. If it is not on it forces you to get creative about how you spend your time. Being active burns calories. Just do something instead of sitting for hours!
  • Get a copy of Healthy Haiku 3: How to Fight Childhood Obesity One Poem at a Time for lots of additional health tips good for the entire family.

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Dr. Imani Ma’at is a Health Scientist (formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 22 year) Author, Speaker, Radio Talk Show Host, Wellness Coach, and Creator of the Health Haiku Workshops Series.

Click here for more information and booking options.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe any sickness or disease. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or other health care practitioner before starting any new health regiment or routine.

New Ebook Fuses Haiku and Public Health to Address Childhood Obesity!

Our third book in the Healthy Haiku Series entitled:

Haiku for Healthy Children & Teens (Vol. 1): Healthy Eating to Prevent Obesity. A Resource for Mentors, Teachers and Parents

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is dedicated to children and teens. Childhood obesity has been the subject of a major health campaign (Let’s Move!)  by First Lady Michelle Obama. It has been a powerful and effective campaign in so many ways – for so many communities.  However, even though it has gained a lot of visibility and support as a public health issue, obesity among children and teens is approaching epidemic proportions.

Once again blending art and public health, this book is packed with scientifically sound information, poems and activities that can be used by families, teachers and mentors.

Haiku for Healthy Children and Teens provides information and strategies for Mentors, teachers, parents and others concerned about the health of young people; and  offers the spark to turn on the “health light”  or power source prompt” in youth who are brilliant by design – from birth. The Haiku and other poetry are meant to serve as platforms for discussion, dialogue and creativity leading ultimately to informed choices that reduce risks associated with unhealthy and uninformed dietary choices.

If there are young people in your life that are important to you, you definitely want to share this book/workbook with them!  Included are lots of activities and places to create your own poetry about food choices and nutrition!

Coming Soon! Expected Release Date: March 1st! Please take our poll and let us know if you would like updates on this book, related programs and services as well as other books in the Healthy Haiku series! Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Dr. Imani Ma’at

“Reinventing Wellness”

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Help us to Bring Healthy Haiku Workshops to Youth Across the U.S.

Help us to Bring Healthy Haiku Workshops to Youth Across hte U.S.

Greetings Friends. GoFundMe funds will be used to bring this amazing workshop to schools, summer camps, mentoring organizations etc. all over the U.S. We are asking our friends and family members to donate just $5 and to share this with all of your contacts to support this campaign. We appreciate you so much and want the best for our children and teens across the U.S. All levels of support selected below will earn points for organizations to earn a free workshop. Thank you for your donation and support.

Building Self-Esteem in Teens

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Every dream followed

By Action takes me closer

To Finding my Way!

(Have the courage to implement your ideas!)

Peer Pressure is as

Powerful as I allow

In my Life’s choices!

(I have the power to say no!)

Find out more about our books, workshops, trainings and speaking engagements.

Also take advantage of our huge 50% off sale of Healthy Haiku Training Manual and Poetry Books!

Look for Healthy Haiku on http://www.amazon.com

Healthy Haiku Blog Talk Radio – Hosts Open Mike Tues 30th 6:30-7:30pm E.S.T. with Special Guest: Ms. Oni Lasana

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We are so excited to announce an Open Mike for Poets, Rappers, Spoken Word Artist who would like to share their work.  The great and talented Ms. Oni Lasana has agreed to open the show for us – sharing her words of wisdom and excerpts from her poetry.  After that – the Mike is Open!  Here are the stipulations (I know you can’t box in an artist!). But, here they are anyway.  You must:

Be ages: 18-30 something;

Speak about something related to health and/or empowerment of young people;

No profanity or you will be muted;

Encourage all of your friends and family members to listen in to the show (Please!):

Let us know that you would like to participate and if you have any questions by contacting us at: About Me

Call in number: 646-915-9853 6:20-6:27 for mike check. It will be first come, first heard so if you call in late you might not be aired. Calls will be accepted from the US and Canada only unless you use Skype – which will make it open to everyone (Show currently airs in English only)

Check out the Healthy Haiku Blog Talk Radio site to listen to previous shows and check out our format.

We will feature as many artists as possible!

This is a great opportunity to promote yourself and your craft.  We are planning to host a Spoken Word Conference about a year from now and we are pre-screening for the best young talent around!

Our motto: “Empowering Youth…Changing the World!”

Text healthyhaiku to 22828 for more information about our programs, services,

books, speaking engagements, Affiliate Program etc.

Healthy Haiku books on 50% discount on Amazon.com

Due to Overwhelming Demand ~ Huge Spring Sale of Healthy Haiku Training Manual and Poetry Book

 50% OFF SALE!!!    SPRING SALE OF First 2 Books of the Award-Winning Healthy Haiku Series through May 15th: Easy Purchase on Amazon.com – Don’t Miss out on these wonderful resources for families, school, churches, mentoring programs summer camps and more! Limited Supplies available!

(1) Healthy Haiku Poetry: Using Creative Expression to Transform Youth ($10 normally $20)

Healthy Haiku Poetry Book

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~ AND~

(2) Promoting Healthy Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors Among Youth Using Haiku and Creative Expression ($20 normally $40)

Healthy Haiku Training Manual for Mentors

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Our Motto: “Empowering Youth…..Changing the World!”