The Creative Wellness Project: Kisha Porcher
Graduate school is demanding. It requires a tremendous degree of disciple to manage all the reading, research, writing, networking, and conferences etc. Many black students at the graduate level find themselves isolated from friends and family. In a setting in which there’s little to no support, pursuing an advanced degree can be an alienating experience. Over time it can take its toll on your emotional and mental health.
However, graduate school can also be a place of tremendous intellectual and emotional growth. You are given an opportunity to focus on a field you are passionate about. You build strong networks with others who just get it. You find scholars who are as passionate as you are about your area of research. It’s exciting and with the right balance it offers you the opportunity to develop skill sets that can be transferred into various areas of your life. I stumbled upon Kisha’s instagram and was curious about her views on school and life balance. Here are her thoughts on creative wellness and the tools she uses to encourage wellbeing while enrolled in a graduate program.
1. Tell us about your background and what inspired you to start writing/ or practicing yoga?
My name is Kisha Porcher, formerly, Kisha Woods before I married this past August to the man God sent to me. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am the third of seven children. I grew up without both of my parents in my home. God spared my siblings and me when we were in foster care and my grandmother took custody of us. I left Cincinnati at the age of 17, to attend Spelman College, where I double majored in English and Secondary Education. I was awarded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship for Aspiring Teachers of Color. It provided financial support for me to enroll in a Masters level program. I then attended Teachers College Columbia University. As a graduate student, I studied Curriculum and Instruction, with a pedagogical focus in English Education. After completing my studies at Teachers College, I began to teach 12th grade English in Prince George's County public schools. After three years of teaching, I began my doctoral degree at George Mason University, where my major is Teaching and Teacher Education. I am currently writing my dissertation which focuses on urban teacher preparation and evaluation.
God has granted me many opportunities to experience his abundance in my career, but I had to take the time to deal with my past. Once I got engaged, I was determined to get to the root of anything that would keep me from moving forward or experiencing the abundance of life. As I started my doctoral program, continued my work as an educator and coordinator of a mentor program, I became overwhelmed. After a conversation with some of my close friends, they indicated that I needed to engage in a morning practice. Something that would provide the opportunity for me to pour into myself each day. They suggested journaling, yoga, and devotional reading. I began immediately, each morning by journaling letters to God about my inner most feelings, engaging in yoga aired on television each morning, and reading the Bible.
2. What do your writing/yoga events aim to do?
My writing and yoga aim to pour into myself first to fill my cup, so that I may pour into others. I have discovered my gift of teaching yoga, in which I share selflessly with others. However, I realize that in order for me to give selflessly, I have to make a conscious decision to pour into myself daily.
3. What has been your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been growing up without both of my parents and dissension that exists within my family. There are so many generational curses that exist within my family, that I am working towards daily to break: graduating from high school, college, graduate school, teen pregnancy, jail sentences, dysfunctional relationships, physical and mental abuse, and a host of other things. My morning practice keeps grounded and pressing toward the mark. That the work that I am doing and the road that I am traveling some times alone, will not be in vain because I am building a new legacy for my future children.
4. What book would you recommend everyone should read?
There are many books that I would recommend for others to read, but the one that comes to mind, is Buck by M.K. Asante. As a Black woman who grew up in a low socioeconomic neighborhood, I was blessed with the opportunity to experience other things through my love for education. However, there are so many people who are stuck in the cycle of poverty and stereotyped as people who don't want better for their lives. This book is a vivid example of how our society is structured to keep people of color in poverty. I saw family and childhood friends in every aspect of this book.
5. Who’s your favorite yogi and why?
My favorite writer is Toni Morrison. I was introduced to the complexity and beauty of her work as a student at Spelman College. My favorite quote is, "We continue to tell the stories of our mothers, until they become our own." Although, I grew up without my mother, and our relationship is a struggle today, I realize that there are so many great aspects of who she is, that I have too. My favorite yogi is Chelsea. She is my Spelman sister. I love the work that she is doing to bring yoga to the Spelman community and teen girls. She has also incorporated writing in the yoga practice with teens, which closely relates to the work I wish to do with people of color who don't have access to yoga.
6. Do you have a creative wellness practice? Something creative that you do to encourage yourself to take better care of yourself?
As described above, I have a morning practice! I get up early each day, and read devotionals. I also share those devotionals with my friends as a method of encouragement. After reading my devotions, I write letters to God. Sometimes the letters are related to my devotion, or my inner most thoughts about what is going in my head at the moment. I then practice yoga. I sometimes engage in asanas that I have taught as a yoga sculpt instructor, or I use videos on Demand to guide my practice each day. Every Sunday, I also engage in Wellness days. I take the time to take care of my body. I use mud masks, sugar scrub, peppermint soap to cleanse my body. I light candles and burn oils to set the tone for the following week.