There are some people who seem to have the power to heal through words, and Latham Thomas, author of Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowning the Queen Within and founder of Mama Glow, an inspirational website for savvy moms, happens to be one of them.
Thomas was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul 100 — a collection of wellness leaders who Oprah believes are “elevating humanity” — and has an organic passion for motivating women and girls through wellness practices that inspire optimal living. A woman of many talents, she’s a hands-on mother, yogini, and doula who’s helped deliver babies for such celebrities as Nicole Tuck and her husband, DJ Khaled.
Thomas credits much of her success to her prioritization of self-care, saying she makes it one of those aspects of life that are simply nonnegotiable. Yahoo Lifestyle was able to catch up with the wellness warrior, where she elaborated on her personal journey to wellness and her recommendations for mindfulness in 2018.
Yahoo Lifestyle: Can you tell me how your wellness journey began and what wellness means to you?
Thomas: I started studying with a master herbalist in California, and being from Cali, I was exposed to a lot of plants. We grew a lot of things right outside the house, so I was really exposed to life cycles and developed this affinity for plant systems and botany. Also, while I was studying with the herbalist, I learned about how to prepare all kinds of medicine that we use to keep us well as we move through the seasons. That was kind of the entry point. It wasn’t really wellness to me, but it was navigating life with the tools of plants really helping to keep us healthy — it was seeing this symbiotic relationship and really benefiting from it.
The other piece was witnessing my mother, my aunt, and my great-aunt being pregnant at the same time. I was 4 years old and really astonished with the process as well as the magic of the body. My mom explained anatomy and how babies were born, and from there I was fascinated. This enlightenment actually showed up later in life after I had my son. I wanted to protect this sacred process for women. From 12 years old and onward, I was able to use everything that I’d learned my entire life up until the birth of my son and apply it to pregnancy.
It’s always been a journey of discovering, refining, and paying attention to what my body really needs, and responding to that. For me, it’s always been about self-experimentation, and really seeing that I feel good about what I’m doing.
At what point did you realize you could turn your passion for wellness into a full-on profession?
It’s always been a profession. When I came out of college, I was already working in natural sciences and doing what I already knew how to do, so I’ve always been an entrepreneur ever since I got out of school, and then this iteration of my work and the business model began seven years ago. I never had this, like, “aha” moment and thought, “I can do this and make money.” I was helping people. People have been asking me since I was a kid what they should use for certain things. Being exposed to ancestral wisdom and ancient knowledge was passed down through keepers from various traditions. I’ve been privy to a lot of information that people don’t have; like I know every plant that grows in my neighborhood, I know every weed that’s growing. I can identify plants because I’ve been doing that since I was 7; so for me, I didn’t see it like a passion being put into practice — it was more like, this is a case of my life.
I love seeing that there is a new wave of open minds that includes practices that we’ve always taken as part of our tool-kit approach toward healing a lot of chronic illness or any sort of ailments. I also like seeing that this new generation is more interested in figuring out how they can use information, how they can use practitioners, products, and services that are out there to help reclaim their health.
You do so many amazing things: You’re a mother, you’re a yogi, you’re a writer. How do you balance all of these things you’ve manifested so far in your life?
Well, I don’t believe in balance. But what I do feel is this: When we think about our life, really what’s happening is you’re on course to one thing and then something gets thrown into the mix, and then you have to turn your attention to that place. It’s like you have balls in the air and you juggle them. Some fall and some stay in the air, and that’s cool. I really try to put all of my energy into things that I really want to see grow, and I also believe in giving myself space — not rushing or sticking to timelines. I don’t really adhere to deadlines. Instead I’ll say, “OK, here’s a general time frame that I’d like to aim to complete something,” but then I’ll check in with myself and see how I’m feeling at different junctions to see if that even makes sense.
I’m really kind of soft in that way with myself so that I don’t feel overworked or overcommitted, and also, the biggest piece of it for me is it’s like my self-care practice is really what fuels me and helps me to keep going. So anything that I commit to, I can still be happy and smiling that I’m doing it because I’m taking time for myself, and part of taking time for myself is also setting boundaries around what it is I will do and won’t do. It’s all part of a larger commitment to making sure that you can really be your best when you show up to things.
Speaking of self-care, personally, what do you think has been your biggest lesson within self-care?
For me, it’s about this idea of slowing down so that I can really speed things up around me. When you slow down, you can actually accelerate. Part of a slow and intentional practice is self-care, and my biggest lesson has been to slow down so that things can speed up around me, slow down so that things can happen in my practice of reflection, in my practice of being super-intentional, and I’m not missing any step. Also, knowing that I take care of myself in the most profound way allows me to really take care of others. I can really show up in ways that I need to. It’s not just about getting a pedicure and your hair done; it’s really about you pouring into yourself because everyone will take from your cup. I know for a fact that if I didn’t take time to really retreat, I would not be able to do what I do.
What’s the first piece of advice you give women when they experience nervousness anytime they are about to go into labor?
Well, the first thing I like to share is that we women have been doing this for thousands of years, and we are uniquely positioned to do this. It is in your bones, and it is actually in every single cell of your body. That kind of wisdom kicks in when you move into labor, even if you feel like you’re ill-equipped or like you know everything. There is something ancestral that kicks in and helps you move through the process. I also try to put them at ease and let them know that you’re joining a league of women who have done this before you. You’re crossing the threshold and basically joining a club; you’re moving through a passage.
The other piece of advice is that you’re not going to be the person to mess up something that’s been happening for millennia. Like, people always say, “Oh, I don’t think I can,” and I’m like, “What do you mean? You’re self-absorbed if you think you’re the one who’s going to mess it up.” It’s not designed that way — you can’t mess it up. We have this type of template embedded in us just like how a flower does. A seed isn’t coated with everything it needs to become the flower or to become the tree or whatever it’s going to become, but everything is already encoded. A woman’s body is the same way.
Why is wellness and self-care specifically important for women of color?
If you specifically focus on black women, you’re going to see health disparities that can project where we’re headed. I believe the disproportionate amount of these chronic illnesses and diseases that hit black women is due to the lack of support and outlets to process a lot of the existential stress and weight that we carry with us. It is imposed by culture, society, our family structures, the pressure we have financially, and more. On top of that, we have responsibilities in our community to be the person that everybody depends and hangs on – and for us, we don’t get the moment to break down. You never hear anyone speak of a “weak black woman,” you only hear “strong black woman,” right? That’s because since we came into this country, we have been holding families together, nursing other people’s children, and just doing things that had to be done, and we’ve never really had the proper outlet to help process all of that stuff.
There’s generational trauma, generational stress, and existential neuroses that carry through generations until someone says: The buck stops here. I’m going to change the legacy. I’m going to practice self-care like my life depends on it, because it does, and that’s why I think it’s very important for people of color, because we have to get through the times that we lived. We have to have tools to get through the times that we live in.
We are all incredibly busy; what are some ways women can incorporate self-care practices? Where does one start?
What I think is really important is pacing and consistency. You have to figure out what can consistently be done to make you feel amazing and light, and how you can get back to that feeling. One thing that I really recommend to practice is moon mapping, which is something you can also do through another practice, called conscious calendaring. It’s really looking at the phases of the moon, and using that energy to help you get done what needs to get done in a monthly cycle. It’s sort of like how we think about the seasons. The moon’s kind of like that. There are certain times of the month, and certain times throughout the cycle, where we should be focusing our energy outward, inward, on completion, and new beginnings. So it depends where you are in the cycle and how you want to be focusing your energy. That’s where you should begin.
You inspire so many people, but we all want to know, what inspires you?
I’m inspired by the women who have made tireless efforts on our behalf. I am inspired by the leaders, but I’m also inspired by the women who never get credit, like the grannies — just like my own grandmother, who recently passed away in September. She just had so much energy.
I’m also inspired by women who give birth. I’m inspired by women who cross that threshold and come out on the other side with something they didn’t have before.
Last but not least, I’m inspired by the next generation of leaders. They are watching every step that we make and noting every mistake while course-correcting as they go. We have to support their growth and the trajectory of the young people in this country so that they can do the work they’re meant to do, and help them so they can bypass a lot of the hurdles that we had to go through. So I think that’s part of the next thing for me: I want to empower the next generation of leaders. I‘m inspired by them because they are the future. Those are going to be the people who are leading and looking after us as we grow older. So that’s what also inspires me, our future.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Why is ‘self-care’ suddenly so trendy?
- In this moving video, 6 wellness experts speak out on the importance of gratitude
- How to Own Your Black Girl Glow With Advice From Glow Maven Latham Thomas