Shanti Meyers is the founder of The Sable Collective, an artist’s boutique designed for women of color to explore beauty, wellness, and celebrate. Shanti is someone I see holding space for others, facilitating joy for others, and bringing her love to others. And she is also 100% Shanti: An authentic woman who loves herself and considers her needs. I was excited to have the opportunity to learn more about her self-love practice because it radiates into the community as a freedom practice. Here are some words of her wisdom:
Ailbhe Pascal: What is your first memory of feeling loved by yourself?
Shanti Meyers: My first memory of feeling loved by myself was when I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I was just learning the subway system. I would take epic journeys alone by myself to Center City. The act of navigating the subways, while listening to music on my headphones and wandering around the city pretending not to be lost was dizzying. I loved the freedom and adventure of it. I loved myself for accomplishing that.
Ailbhe: Why is self-love important, to you? What do you feel when you are loving yourself?
Shanti: Self-love is the only way I can sustainably function as a mother, friend, daughter, sister, lover and human being. Without moments where I can reflect, readjust and replenish myself I become a shadow of myself. I am confused, easily irritated, sad, discouraged and desperate for affirmation from others. Loving myself feels like a secret whispered in a ear and the a palm on a baby’s back. It is intimate and comforting. I feel calmed, cool and collected when I am loving myself.
Ailbhe: When do you affirm yourself? When do you show up for yourself? –What’s your cue?
Shanti: Yoooo! If you only knew the crazy banter in my head! I am ALWAYS affirming myself because if I don’t I will destroy myself! I am always protecting myself from my damn self! So 24/7, 365, I am trying to maintain awareness in my thoughts. Whenever that voice creeps in with “Shanti. You aren’t good enough for this. You can’t do this” I have to come to my own aid and affirm “Shanti. You are right where you need to be. You can do this. Breath. Take your time. Be patient. Don’t stop trying.” It’s my life’s work.
Ailbhe: You wear the Mom hat, the Artist hat, and so many other hats (roles) in a given day. Who are you when you are loving yourself?
Shanti: When I am loving myself I am a trusting, joyful, silly, energetic, generous, spontaneous, laughing, cooking, eating, restful, sensual woman who may or may not be surrounded by other folks’ kids or sharing a meal with my mother or holding the hand of someone I trust and admire.
Ailbhe: You were born in Philly, right? Then your family moved around some–I remember you telling me the story of this physical journey as evidence for your hippie upbringing. How has it been for you staying in one place and also keeping that spirit?
Shanti: I was actually born in Hawaii and moved around until the age of 5. I have been stable in Philly for majority of my life. I haven’t really moved anywhere else. The evidence of my hippie upbringing is in my knowledge of communes, tempeh (before the hipsters claimed it) ashrams and the names of my siblings “Walker” and “Oakland.” The reason my spirit is always moving and “doing something” is because I am a Sag[itarius]. You can’t get that movement out of me even if you wanted to.
Ailbhe: How does being a parent inform your self-love practice?
Shanti: I want to show my child how to flex and bow to the weight of life without being brittle and broken. I want her to know how difficult life is, but how very beautiful and full it can if we allow ourselves the luxury to relax and participate in it. I want her to feel powerful in her decision making. She needs an example, I pray to be an example to her.
Ailbhe: When did you found the Sable Collective and why?
Shanti: The Sable Collective opened in November 2016. I opened it because women of color need more spaces where they are sincerely welcomed and valued. The boutique was curated for our joy, beauty and wellness.
Ailbhe: Tell me more about the workshops you run at the Sable Collective!
Shanti: The workshops vary from yoga, to workshops for single mothers, to financial literacy workshops, to jewelry making. If they are centered around strengthening our sense of joy, beauty and wellness, then I am happy to facilitate or offer the space to others. Our space is always open for those interested in hosting or gathering together women of color FYI.
Ailbhe: Who comprises the collective? What values or guiding principles bring you together?
Shanti: The boutique is curated with clothing, jewelry, housewares, art and books for women of color. Majority of our merchandise is made from other women of color and many are local artists in Philadelphia. We select our vendors on the principle of quality craftsmanship. If it is beautiful and unique, we want it!
Ailbhe: How do you think love shows up in the work you do? And inversely, how is art part of your loving practice?
Shanti: This has been a really interesting journey for me in the intersection of love and work because being a business owner is freakin’ hard and it is scary as fuck! But I think the love of it all keeps me from shrinking away and giving up. I feel like (in the most hopeful of sense) this is all that I have! I am putting everything I have into Sable and in return I am growing leaps and bounds as lover/giver. The more I move forward in my commitment to Sable the more I learn about myself, my capacities and my impact on others.