We had the good fortune of connecting with Sensei Raven Ekundayo, CLC and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sensei Raven, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Balance is actually my favorite word, it’s how I live my life. It’s a continuing journey of evolving my balance. My brand is all about Wellness and Mental Health, so I’ve had to learn how to dump the energy that I may receive from my clients and practice consistent self care in order to refuel my love tank. When I was younger I did a lot of giving away my energy and allowing others to fill me with their pain and hurt. As I’ve lived and worked more and more in my field, I’ve been able to grasp a far better understanding of what it means to show up for self, while still assisting in the healing of others. I’m not perfect, so I still have moments where my balance shifts; however, I remind myself of the importance in coming back to the middle through meditation, reading, yoga, exercise, long walks and a few other things. We all have to come up with a list of things that bring us peace and tap into our joy when we’re feeling low. These things will show up for us when we need them. THAT is a huge part of my brand. THAT is at the core of my balance.Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
At 41 I feel as though my story is a long one. From being an actor and aspiring director, to an editor of a international magazine, to a yoga and meditation instructor, to life coach and mental health professional, I’ve lived quite a life and I’m still young. I think what sets me a part is my transparency. I love honesty and the freedom of just being who you are with no apologies. However, what makes me different is most people who say that end up being mean a**holes, lol. I believe you can be unapologetic in your kindness and your peace. I think what sets me a part is that I love making people feel good literally every single day. My spirit is fed when I can help and heal others. I’m most proud of my constant evolution. If balance is my favorite word, evolution is a close second. I started off my creative journey as an actor who wanted to become a famous director. On the other side of this still evolving journey, I now work fully in Mental Health and Wellness, I’ve enjoyed the journey and loved every minute of it thus far, the blessings AND the lessons. I welcome the next chapter of my evolution with open arms. Getting to where I am today has been far from easy. Take my ordination for eXample. I’m an ordained Buddhist Sensei. When I was ordained I began wearing prayer beads around my neck. Those who I thought loved and cared about me (friends) made fun of my ordination and my prayer beads. It hurt and to this day I’m not quite sure why they did it. I’ve fought to be taken seriously in my wellness journey. As a journalist I received a great deal of respect. Before I became a professional in mental health, people sought my advice all the time. However, once it became a solid part of my brand and my career, that changed. So no, it hasn’t been easy; but giving up isn’t in my DNA. So I’ve learned to focus on those who desire my help, who seek my assistance in their healing. I don’t focus on the pain that others who sought/and seek to put on me, I rise above that. I would like for the world to know that my story isn’t that different from many people in this world, especially young Black queer boys. So I’d like to take a moment to speak directly to them (if you’re reading this as a part of a young Black youth, I implore you to read this to them). YOU are special, you are worthy of all the joy and laughter that’s inside you. You will be challenged every single day…and you will rise. You will fall down many many many times, but you will rise better, stronger, wiser every single time. You’re not a mistake, you’re not of sin, you’re a beautiful blessing to this world and your have a voice it needs to hear. Speak loud and allow your truth to heal someone else, the way I pray my words have healed you. This is what I want the world to know about my brand.If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well because of this pandemic it cuts back on many of the places we could go; however, my favorite place in the city is outdoors. Now it’s not directly in the city, but the top of Stone Mountain is where I take anyone who visits. I teach yoga at the top of it on Sundays and that mountain has brought me great peace. Knowing the pain many men have brought to others around that mountain, makes me proud of teach on it, giving that earth the love, respect and leave it deserves. Pre and post pandemic I would take them to Einstein’s in Midtown, as well as Sundial (amazing brunch), Copeland’s in Smyrna, Sage Woodfire Tavern (Amaaaazing food), Seasons 52, Piedmont Park (of course) and Roswell Mill Waterfall. There’s more but that’s a great start. Oh wait, check out The Center for Civil Rights and Fernbank, those are my two favorite museums in ATL.The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shoutout my mother. I’m blessed to have a mother that gave me room to be my full self growing up. Nothing was off limits when it came to what I could talk to her about. I was never strange to her and she championed everything about me being an artist. When I wanted to be a director, she purchased my first video camera for me. When I became the youngest person to conduct the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, she was in the front row cheering me on. When I told my mother that I was queer, she and my dad (who’s also amazing) pulled me close and told me they loved me. My story isn’t like many others, and it’s a big part of why this shoutout is for her. I know what it’s like for many queer/trans/non-binary youth; the journey through not be accepted and treated as if you’re less than just because you’re living in the fullness of who you are. It’s unacceptable and sad how many of us are treated. I don’t take for granted that that wasn’t my story, and I’m forever grateful that my mother has been in my corner from day one. I also want to shoutout Don Miguel Ruiz for writing The Four Agreements. That book changed my life and I attempt to read it at least once a year. He provides some truly amazing tools that EVERYONE can use in day to day life. It has helped me tremendously in seeing myself and getting out of my own way. Lastly I want to shoutout my maternal grandmother who’s no longer with us. She was light and love in human form. I am peace in all storms because of her. She was the greatest human being this world has ever known and it thankful for her love and teaching me what it’s like to lead with love and kindness.
Linkedin: Raven Ekundayo
Blair Devereaux Michelle Antoinette