It’s been a difficult year. As we’ve navigated our way through global pandemic, we’ve built up layers of trauma from illness, loss of life, loss of livelihood, separation from loved ones, democracy hanging on by a thread, an overdue racial reckoning...it's been a lot. We seek out all sorts of ways to cope with trauma, some healthier than others. Maliya Smith, a licensed professional counselor, spiritual healer, and Kemetic yoga instructor is hoping to bring healing practices into people’s lives through Melanin Lighthouse.
Smith, originally from the Chicago suburbs, graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. After graduating, she worked as a student engagement advocate at Urbana Middle school and then at Child and Family Counseling in Champaign. Throughout this time, she was learning about and practicing meditation, and she began to see how spiritual practices might be useful in helping people heal and deal with trauma, particularly people of color.
“I was like ‘Whoa. This is something that we should be learning in kindergarten and first grade.' Then, you know, I kind of took it to another level: looking at it from a racialized perspective, looking at post traumatic slave syndrome, looking at how it affected us — the things that we went through, in our trauma, through slavery, and how it's playing out in our everyday lives today, in every aspect of life.”
She realized that her unconscious motivation to go into the mental health field was rooted in her own trauma, and sought to move away from a clinical setting and develop a spiritual practice based on her training as a Kemetic yoga instructor and her interest in meditation and other healing techniques. Smith wants to help people deal with trauma holistically: “The body, the mind, the soul, the spirit...everything is cohesively working together.” That laid the foundation for Melanin Lighthouse.
Says Smith, “Melanin Lighthouse is meant to empower the community to know that they are their own healers.” On her website, she states: “My purpose is to help you liberate yourself from unresolved trauma that is unconsciously cultivating maladaptive self-sabotaging patterns in your life through alternative forms of healing.”
One of the core practices Smith utilizes at Melanin Lighthouse is Kemetic yoga, which originated in Egypt. She was trained by Kemetic yoga master and trainer Yirser Ra Hotep, in Chicago. “We really, really focus on the breathing. We focus on spinal alignment because the spine alignment is where the chakras are. Each chakra, the seven of them are aligned to your spinal column...that's your walk from earth all the way up to heaven. The purpose of it is to really breathe through each pose. This really helps with anxiety. It helps you to be able to regulate your emotions and life on a daily basis. Being able to breathe through each movement allows you to be able to take a step back and say, ‘Okay, this is what's going on. This is how you respond. This is where I'm at. Breathe.”
Beginning this week, Smith is launching a Sister Circle (Women of Color) Group “for marginalized groups to connect with one another to promote self-awareness, expression, and compassion.”
Smith says, “I think being a double minority, you're a lot of times underrepresented. It's not a good feeling. I want to help to build a community of healing for black women, because I've been hearing a lot of women saying 'I wish I had somebody to connect with.' So I want to create something like this in the community to connect women of color and to help us heal through our multi-generational trauma that's been playing out and family dynamics and society." As we come out of a year of separation from others, Smith sees the need to break out of the isolation that has been cultivated and connect with others; another purpose of the group.
The Sister Circle will run for eight weeks at the Independent Media Center. You can find out more here.
She mentions in the description of the group, “this is not a therapy group. This group does not treat nor claim to treat mental health conditions.” That is something to keep in mind for all of these services. It’s important to find the self care and healing practices that work for you, but mental illness should be treated in a clinical setting.
If you'd like to get an idea of what Smith has to share, check out her vlog. She also recommends signing up for her newsletter to be notified about future yoga sessions and groups. You can also follow Melanin Lighthouse on Instagram and Facebook.