My name is: Ssanyu Birigwa.
I’m known as: An indigenous bone healer shaman, M.S., in narrative medicine, creator of Pause3 Mindset & Empowerment Method.
I stay physically healthy with:
I crave the ocean. My first stop when traveling to my family home in Uganda is Mombasa, which is on the coast of Kenya. The Indian Ocean is my healing balm. I can’t live without nilotica shea butter from Uganda. I particularly love pampering myself with products from Captain Blankenship. Their plant-based hair products are heavenly. Their mermaid hair oil and sea salt spray are my favorite. I love practicing yoga with my sisStars Bee Bosnak and Payal Parekh. I switch it up with a super fun cardio workout with my dear friend Dino Malvone, founder of SaltDrop.
I keep my emotions balanced with:
Water. Baths, the ocean and drinking it! I add hibiscus flowers that are grown on the family farm in Uganda. Hibiscus is packed with antioxidants, supports healthy blood pressure maintenance, healthy cholesterol levels, kidney and liver health and is a great mood balancer. With the current uprisings, the what seems to be the never-ending list of murders of Black women and men, compounded with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our emotions are heightened and our sympathoadrenal system is overloaded. We need daily practices to stay strong and healthy both bodily and spiritually.
I cleanse myself and home with incense rocks from the Rock-Hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia. This is a family tradition. Spritzing peppermint or lavender on my pillows before I go to bed is delightful. I write a lot. A fun exercise and habit to develop is having a gratitude journal. This is also a daily ritual of mine. Getting into the habit of writing statements of gratitude helps decrease anxiety and grief and declutters the mind, which increases more positive emotions. Remember, the vibration of gratitude attracts more positive things into your life. One thing I do often throughout my day is pray and sit at my altar. This is a practice in faith and calling in the guidance and help of my ancestors and spirit guides. The practice roots me into Ensi Lusi (mother earth) and connects me to the Divine Spirit, attuning and building a strong ancestral connection.
I’m intellectually stimulated by:
I am constantly searching for new books and creative works to share with my students both in my Pause3 1:1 and group mentoring programs and as an adjunct professor in the Master of Science in Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University. I always feel rooted and lit after listening to Lyla F. Saad’s Good Ancestor podcast. If you haven’t listened in, you must!
Currently, I am reading Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women and Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.
With the current uprisings in the United States and the vital need for more anti-racist curriculum in our education system and workplace, I’ve been holding space for open and inclusive dialogue for racial healing. Working in the field of restorative justice, I am rereading works by Imani Perry, Yaa Gyasi, Robin Diangelo, Ibram X. Kendi, Danez Smith, Toni Morrison and Bell Hooks. There are many great works to dive into; these are just a few. They are important works to read, talk about with family, friends and colleagues. I am grateful for having a phenomenal tribe of sisStar’s. Millana Snow, founder of Wellness Official and Christina Weber founder of Deepen offer experiences in community to heal and generate more meaningful connections.
I’m excited to join my sisStar Erika Santoro for the Cyclic Intelligence Moon Group. The majority of my time is spent teaching, guiding and holding space for others. This is a space I look forward to deepening my connection with my feminine power, in community and a gift of radical self-love that I am giving to myself.
I was recently transformed by:
The shamanic breathwork and channeling I recently did to connect with my ancestors in a process I call “spiritual surgery.” I connected with my ancestral bone healing medicine; a particular family member came to me and guided me to this place of profound acceptance and letting go. My intention was to release old trauma and increase positive vibrations of the planet, to clear and heal timelines.
In the last six months, the ritual that has become so important for me is:
Rituals I practice every morning before I get out of bed are saying the Lord’s Prayer and repeating affirmations. These are rituals I have had since childhood. I have a mother who grounded and gifted me and my sisters with powerful spiritual practices. Making statements of gratitude is also another one. I list in my mind many things I am grateful for. Oftentimes, I am affirming my gratitude for the opportunities, embodied feelings and connections that have not yet been made. I self-attune myself through energy healing practices and set my intention for the day. Now, I am ready to sit at my altar, meditate and use my gourd to connect to ancestral energy, wisdom and knowledge.
Here’s how you can do it too:
Each morning before you get up to begin your day, set your intention. Not only say the words of this intention to yourself, but truly begin to feel what it would feel like to be the intention. Take your hand and place it on your heart, repeat the intention to yourself three times and feel the energy of this intention penetrate your heart. It's ok if you don’t feel anything. Use your imagination and visualize the intention landing directly inside your heart. Pray. We don’t use this word enough. Prayer and affirmations activates the heart space and are rituals in enacting a relationship with the Divine, with nature, with humanity and the good in ourselves. This is one of many ways to also connect with ancestral energy.
Buy a small journal to keep by your bedside and start writing down what you are grateful for each morning. This is a form of mindful meditation. Afterwards, take a few moments to pause, breathe normally and observe the breath. Observe how the breath flows in and out of your body. As you inhale, the belly expands; as you exhale, the belly contracts. Be the watcher of this breath for 10 minutes. If you can sit in practice for 20 minutes or more, it's even better.
It helps me live my process because: I let go and let love.
Affirmation: “You are your creation. You trust and approve of yourself.”
Take a moment to learn more about Ssanyu Birigwa’s journey here.