Based in Chicago, Lauren Ash is a wellness leader, yoga and meditation teacher, speaker, writer, and founder of Black Girl In Om, a holistic lifestyle platform focused on wellness for women of color. Her work— honest, real, and grounded in community — was born out of a response to not seeing herself reflected in most of her surroundings, and a desire to support and cultivate safe spaces for women of color. Today, Black Girl in Om is curating necessary conversations about self-care, mental health, and deep connection; a place to check in, heal, and learn.
Here, a conversation with Lauren on turning inward, living without fear, and starting with stillness.
I grew up with my nose in books, my pen to paper, and my feet floating above the ground through dance, performance, and song. I was naturally enthusiastic about reading and writing; both practices were intentionally nurtured and fueled by my family. My grandmother put me in figure skating when I was five or six which I dedicated myself to for years. My mother channeled my early voice into music, which I am still dedicated to even today. Because of all of these creative outlets, my confidence was strong early on and I believed in my abilities to grow, was comfortable being seen, and understood that things that I would focus on would grow. I grew up in Bloomington and Woodbury, Minnesota. The Twin Cities and Midwestern culture shaped me. I spent my childhood in the sun and the snow, breathing in fresh air, and swimming in clean water. I saw the world through a beautiful, perhaps naïve, lens and although my family, like most black families, had to experience and confront its share of pain and trauma, I didn’t quite see nor examine those harsher elements until my early adulthood. And as a young black girl amidst predominantly white settings for my entire childhood and young adulthood, I didn’t really “see” race or racism until college when a series of brutal reality checks awakened me to the very real implications of both.
I am a distinct combination of the four most significant people who have shaped me: my mother, father, maternal grandmother, and younger sister. My mother is the most compassionate and selfless person I have known. She allows everyone who meets her to feel at home and cared for. She nourished my creative gifts from birth and never stifled my voice as a child. She allowed me room to breathe and to be. My father is deeply intellectual, a natural salesman, and intensely curious. In my life he represents my conviction for the necessity of healing as an individual to healing within a collective—that pain and trauma unresolved and held within the spirit and body will manifest itself within as well as outwards. Because of my realization of this in my relationship with him, I’ve learned the urgency around cultivating self-love, particularly forgiveness, release, and self-acceptance. As a child, one of the greatest gifts I received message from him was that I could do anything and that I was the best at whatever I did. A gift I received from both of my parents: my belief in the existence of god and putting my faith in god. I cherish these messages to this day. My maternal grandmother passed last October and after her death the enormous influence she has had on my life and continues to have on my life was punctuated even more. She called me her mirror, her image. I truly am. My life’s work, path, and personal development and spiritual challenges and awakenings parallel hers. I inherited her creative gifts, resiliency, high aspirations, and elegance. And my sister—seven years younger than me, but an old soul, she carries the weight of the world on her spirit. Our relationship has been a work-in-progress and I admire her deep capacity for care, convictions about justice and equity in the world, and creative talents. She’s one of the most inspiring people I know.
Three: change, abundance, and shining my light without, or despite, fear. These are what my recent journal entries have all centered on and these are the recurring messages I receive everywhere I look.
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
—Octavia E. Butler
"Nothing that is for you can be taken from you." — My best friend Chelsea Mikael Frazier tells me this all of the time.
What brings you alive? When do you feel the most awake to this feeling?
When I am guiding a meditation or leading a yoga session among a collective of black women, or when I am speaking to a collective of people with hearts wide open about my story and exchanging why and how and living from one’s values and intentions provides a powerful context for one’s most empowered life. Doing these things, I feel alive, awake, and rooted in my purpose. At the heart of these experiences is what I believe matters: vulnerability, self-compassion, soul awareness, connection, and turning inward.
Stillness and breath. Most of us run through each of our days with a wild energy focused on doing. Through stillness, we can observe what’s under the surface. Through breath, we can connect with our own personal energetic source and remind ourselves that right now, in this moment, we are alive. And from that aliveness, remember that so much is possible. What I love about both stillness and breath is that both are accessible to us at any time. During the middle of even a heated argument, we can take a break and get to the root of our anger through stillness and breath. In the age of commodified self-care, these two practices are among the most radical and life changing … and often the most difficult for most of us to commit to. I encourage starting each day with silence and deep, rhythmic breaths for five minutes to start alongside setting a clear intention for how you would like to show up throughout your day. Build from there.
What conversations do you not see happening now surrounding wellness / health? What do we need to wake up to?
Many. One that has been on my mind lately is environmental degradation, how many seemingly “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” practices actually inflict harm on the earth. And (related yet separate) is how many indigenous practices that have been co-opted into the capitalist wellness world are rapidly erasing those practices and the people who have been practicing them for ages. Globalization or colonization? Accessibility and cultural exchange or appropriation? As a black, U.S.-born woman practicing traditions that have some of their roots in India, some in various countries in Africa, and some from indigenous tribes in North America, I know I can be more intentional in minimizing harm and erasure as well as raise consciousness and engage in more intentional conversations about all of this through my platform.
- To do one thing how you would do all things: with excellence or not at all.
- To actively cultivate an abundance mentality.
- To only share your troubles or challenges with those who are in a position to give you sound wisdom.
What does spaciousness mean to you?
The ability to breathe and create and dream as deeply as I like and be myself...fully.
In what ways has your life surprised you?
That everything is available to be. I need only ask and show up in alignment with my intentions and values. I know this and yet I consistently find myself in awe of this truth.