Pre-Script: For the full Magatte experience :) click here so that you can enjoy the same song I am listening to as I write, overlooking the beautiful Hill Country in Austin, TX.
Yesterday morning, I received a text from a dear friend of mine, Clemantine. This is what it said:
"Hello! I had an incredible experience last night. I came home and took a shower and used the body scrub. I realized what you probably already know: taking care of the body is super intimate, it's even more intimate or the opposite of your body has been rejected and abused. So this is where your products come in, it's not about the products per se, it's about teaching people and allowing them to take care of their forgotten body. I think I can express my thoughts better on the phone. When you get a chance, call me or I will try you. I hope all is well, lots of love."
As I replied to her, her text gave me goosebumps all over. Read on, as I tell you why.
In this Journal, and anywhere in my life, I can handle nothing more than raw authenticity. Those who know me well find me ultra private. That is until the Universe calls me to share with the rest of the world :)
So here is a confession. When I first started Tiossan, I was so excited for what I was about to bring to the world. I was so excited to share with other women very useful parts of my culture and upbringing. But very quickly, I got super disappointed in the industry. The Beauty industry that is. First, I never understood why it had to be reduced to that, "Beauty", as if Beauty/Aesthetics was the end game. How misguided. Talking about missing the point.
"What am I talking about," you may ask yourself? I am talking about something so obvious most of us don't even see it anymore. I am talking about the fact women in the US spend 90% of their time, money and energy on their face (mainly make-up) and hair, while completely neglecting the rest of the Skin on their Bodies. Where I come from, it is the opposite. We in fact have a very simple daily ritual for the Body to accomplish daily Health for the Skin of the Body. And from that Healthy Skin comes a beautiful Skin. Where I come from, it is not about Beauty, but Health and Well-being first and foremost.
As mentioned in my last blog post, in my native Senegal, there is a ritual that all babies go through. After the baby is a week old, for the next month-month and a half, the baby is massaged every day. A grandmother (or any other experienced woman in the village if this is the first child for the mom, as I was) gives a full-Body massage using mainly raw organic shea butter, before "hosing" the baby down with lukewarm water, allowing for a very good sleep :)
See below for additional detail on this particular baby massage. And as one grows up, one keeps that tight habit of spending a few minutes every day making those gestures, with a set of ingredients in the form of a ritual.
Growing up, and like most Senegalese women, I kept practicing this ritual. In my culture, we know that incorporating this ritual is a matter of Health and Well-being. It is about connecting Health with Skin. The truth is, authentic Beauty comes from the inside. Everything comes from the core. You are only as beautiful as you feel. So dedication to taking care of your Body leads to Loving and appreciating yourself, which leads to Inner Beauty, which can never be surpassed by external Beauty.
I've been trained to work from my core, to take it from the deepest, most beautiful part of our-selves, our hearts, and use that self-Love to build on more self-Love, layer by layer, all the way to the outer part of the Body, onto the Skin of our Body.
In this philosophy of life, one starts from a positive place. Instead what I see around me is totally freaked out women. All the time. Freaked out because society convinced them they are not enough and trains them to look outside of themselves for inspiration and ways to Love themselves. They start from an empty place. And their tools of choice are the insanely photo-shopped pictures of this or that celebrity. Relying on unachievable "models" to accomplish self-Love for one self.
Please pause for a moment. And appreciate, just for a moment, appreciate the absurdity of it all. Now, also realize that this is the world we live in. Then can you understand the propensity for self-destruction most people have. I know young women in their late teens who are alcoholics, drug addicts and practice cutting themselves. I see this in all classes. These are the same women who spend their lives on Instagram, send out semi-naked pictures of themselves, name it.
I feel like, actually I know, that everyone is looking for Love. Known or unkown to them, the Love they are seeking is Love for themselves first and foremost. Afterall, how can you truly Love others when you don't Love yourself first. The Body is the link between us and ourselves, and us and others - the link between our inner-world and our outer-world. It is our most direct access to ourselves and to others. As such, it deserves our utmost respect. That does not merely mean adorning it with beautiful, fashionable clothes, or covering it with makeup. What I am talking about here is the Body in its rawest form. That raw Body is our most direct link to our feelings for ourselves, our most sustainable and potent way to practice self-Love.
But most people forget precisely that, the fact that the most physical, experiential conduit to love for one self is through the Body. This Body which hosts all that we are, our soul, spirit and heart. Consider that!
Pampering = frou-frou
The ritual of caring for the Body = creating a connection with it
When you respect your Skin, you dedicate time to it. That is what a ritual is. That is what the indigenous people knew. They knew the mind's power to affect the Body is tremendous. Women who observe and practice these traditional methods radiate with a different type of Health and Beauty.
So there was a time when I wanted to quit. And to say "to Hell!" with anyone who could not understand this, this most basic yet primordial Teaching of the Elders.
But then M and my spiritual Sufi guide in Senegal would talk to me, calling to my nobler feelings. They both encouraged me not to give up. They reminded me that unfortunately that which matters always takes great effort and patience. They told me that if I believed this Teaching to be True, well I had no choice but to spread it. So I went, drawing compassion into the depths of my heart for my fellow women. Then, slowly, I got back on the saddle. And from the moment I accepted my mission to be one of Loving education, things started to happen.
In the course of "educating" our customers and seeing their "big round eyes" type of responses, I myself became surprised to the extent of which a lot of women are flat out uninformed as to why, how and with what to care for the Body on their Skin. I see women in their 30s who have never exfoliated a day in their lives, women who put lotion only on their hands or legs (and that only when the weather is extra cold), women who think a cheap bottle of Body wash is just fine and for them the ingredients will wash away anyways.... It has been amazing to see that knowledge which I took for granted, a lot of people are simply clueless about. There is a hole in the industry. So I have been training women on all types of knowledge and things to do to properly care for their Bodies, anywhere from the universal function and composition of Skin to why and how to pat dry their Skin after showering, the need to rub the lotion a little in their hands so the temperature matches for better absorption, etc. And now, I get all types of questions from women, some even asking me about the best way to apply lotion to their breasts (especially those with big ones), and others about how to polish their bums...
Clemantine's note gave me goosebumps not only because she was expressing so well the purpose of what I am trying to bring to modern day women, but also because she said something that made me pause and realize the reach of what we are trying to do. She said something along the lines that as an African woman, she had forgotten. It is as if more than any other woman, she should have known better. If a first generation young woman from Rwanda came to lose her ways and teaching from the Elders, then you can only imagine what has happened to a woman living in NYC, who has never been taught firsthand by the Elders and lives in crowded, polluted western cities.
It makes me happy that I am finally preserving and sharing the wealth of knowledge from Elders. Sure, I still get disheartened from time to time especially when I go to stores where 99% of the shelves is about this collagen-boosting eye cream, or that wrinkle reducing serum, and only a super tiny area for the "Body care" products, with a huge emphasis of "luxury" moment.
But then notes like Clemantine's arrive. And it is all good again. Each return to the way of Elders takes some time. After all, Whole Foods Markets was a tiny obscure store, before it changed the way Americans now eat. So to the mission of reconnecting Americans to their Bodies and accomplishing self-Love, I will stay faithful and work tirelessly with Love and Compassion, until every woman has found a way back to Loving herself, on her own unique terms.
May all beings be happy.