Yoga + Creativity + Internet Geek = Ananda Leeke. Leeke is a lawyer turned “Jill of many trades”: innerpreneur, author, artist, coach, and yoga teacher. Her mission is “Empowering U2BU through creativity coaching, Reiki, self-care, social media, volunteerism, and yoga.”
She penned That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery and her debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One. She is currently writing Sisterhood the Blog: Soundbytes from the 21st Century Women’s Online Revolution (2011) and Love’s Troubadours – Symon: Book Two (2011).
Leeke works as an artist-in-residence for Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts, the DC Social Media Examiner for Examiner.com, social media for creative professionals, and online yoga teacher and host for MomTV. In 2009, she spoke about the way authors use social media to build their audience and market their books at the Capital BookFest. She moderated the "Women in Social Media: Creating Your Digital Footprint" panel at the Blogalicious DC Meet Up and taught yoga for social media users during DC Digital Capital Week and Blogging While Brown; and gave a talk on "Who's living inside of me?" at Ignite DC #4 in 2010.
You can learn more about Ananda at her blog site and her official website.
In the poetic memoir That Which Awakens Me, Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke shares her journey of self-discovery from a law school graduate to a creative woman who learned to open the door to authentic living.
When Leeke graduated from law school in 1989, she was a twenty-something with a life plan focused on becoming a successful attorney. Using her multiple bar exam failures and two bouts of unemployment as a catalyst for self-discovery and lifestyle reinvention, Leeke followed her own unique path during the past twenty years and made changes in the way she feels, thinks, lives, works, and manages her finances. Through poetic reflection and personal stories, she shares the lessons that taught her to trust her intuition, expand her spiritual practices, heal emotional wounds, tap into her creativity, discover her passions, open her eyes to hidden opportunities, volunteer and serve her local community, travel the world, and heed her calling as a writer, artist, creativity coach, yoga teacher, Reiki Master practitioner, radio host, blogger, social media strategist, and innerpreneur.
That Which Awakens Me provides insight for anyone seeking guidance on how to both handle and benefit from the ups and downs of their own life journey.
Karma Francois is a thirtysomething, California-born BoHo BAP (Bohemian Black American Princess) with Louisiana roots and urban debutante flair. But her life has suddenly taken a drastic turn. Her relationships and the museum curator career that she struggled to form in New York City have crumbled, leaving no viable options to rebuild.
Relocating to Washington, DC, Karma struggles with denial, depression, and debt. A lack of full-time employment opportunities forces her to craft a gypsy existence as a Jill of Many Trades: yoga teacher, art consultant, and freelance curator. Unable and unwilling to appreciate these jobs as gifts, she wallows in a pool of lost identity—and doesn’t see a way to keep from drowning. When she looks in the mirror, Karma sees a woman whose choices have dishonored her true character. Now, for the first time in her life, Karma must learn to see herself for who she really is. Love’s Troubadours reveals how our everyday decisions affect our future and explores the healing power of love.
Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf and Nappy Edges, and Maya Angelou’s Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie were the first books I purchased as a teen poet in 1978. I used my hard-earned paper route money from delivering the Washington Post to buy these inspiring books. Shange's and Angelou's words helped me explain myself to myself as one of the few Black girls at St. Elizabeth Seton High School, a predominately white, all-girls Catholic school in Prince George’s County, Maryland. They also inspired me to tell my stories through writing my own poetry and sparked my interest in reading other Black women writers that I learned about while reading Essence.
I think I always knew that there had to be some feminine aspects of God. Reading the words of the Lady in Red in Shange’s for colored girls gave me permission to really believe that God was made up of both feminine and masculine energy. I still come back to the Lady in Red’s words: “I found god in myself and I loved her/I loved her fiercely.” Shange’s poetry in Nappy Edges used both English and Spanish words. Her work taught me how language and location connect Black folks to Brown Spanish-speaking folks. She also reiterated what I learned the first time I traveled to Puerto Rico with my family in 1978: There are Brown Spanish-speaking people who look just like me. We all come from the same place – Africa.
As a writer, poet, and artist, I believe I am called to be a vessel of authentic expression that comes straight from my soul and heart. I think Ntozake Shange and Maya Angelou tell stories and write poetry in an authentic voice that reflects the inner workings of their souls and multi-layered emotions that can be seen as threads woven into the center of their hearts. Their work gave me a creative blueprint on how to develop a connection with the reader. They also gave me the recipe for making that happen: complete surrender to the creative process.
From Chapter One of Love's Troubadours
Copyright 2007 by Madelyn C. Leeke. All rights reserved.
Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. An ocean of tears followed. The clock registered three thirty-six a.m. My psyche was attacked by the same nightmare that has repeated itself for the past several months: my life in living color. This time I was left with a question. Who am I? After the tear storm stopped, I tried to hide under my covers to avoid answering it, but it repeated itself until I turned on the light and reached for the handmade journal that my therapist Francis convinced me to purchase.
I wrote the question in big black letters across the pages of my journal:
Who am I?
My birth certificate says that I’m Belle Violette Francois, the daughter of Eugene Jerome Francois and Hyacinth Belle Baptiste Francois. I was born a few minutes after my twin sister, Violet Belle Francois on December 15, 1967. My family and friends say I’m Karma, a nickname my father gave me as a child. When I look in the mirror, I see that I’m a woman with long reddish-brown locs who sees the world through cocoa eyes. My skin is the color of burnt sugar. The French call it caramel, a contrasting force of salt and sugar. But who am I really? If I knew I guess I wouldn’t feel like a victim of identity theft. Not the typical kind where someone takes your identity for financial gain. I’m talking about a new and improved kind where life robs you of your hard-earned professional identity and leaves you with nothing more than a pile of ashes and never ending suffering.
Do I sound bitter? You bet your sweet ass I am. My life was supposed to be a certain way. I did everything I was supposed to do. And just when I was about to cash in on all of my hard work, I lost everything. I feel like an IDP, an internally displaced person who has been forced to leave her cosmopolitan life in New York City as a result of a human-made disaster called termination of employment. I’ve been deprived of my livelihood, network of friends, and access to personal services such as my yoga classes at Ta Yoga House; shiatsu massages at Artista Salon; manicures and pedicures at Perfect Polish; appointments with my loctician at Khamit Kinks; chocolate martinis on Fridays at Soul Cafe; Salsa dancing at S.O.B’s; and shopping sprees at Carol’s Daughter, Ann Taylor Loft, Eileen Fisher, and Moshood.I miss my life. I miss it dearly like a child longs for her mother or a lover mourns the loss of a lover. I do indeed miss my life. I miss who I used to be.