Bella Mahaya Carter is the author of Secrets of My Sex. Her poems, essays, articles, and short fiction have appeared in The Sun, mindbodygreen, Lilith, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. Her work has been anthologized in The Magic of Memoir: Inspiration for the Writing Journey; Grandmothers’ Necklace; and Writing Our Way Out of the Dark: An Anthology of Literary Acts of Bravery. Carter, who studied dance at The Juilliard School, practices creative movement and writing as vehicles for personal transformation and spiritual connection. She is a writing teacher, developmental editor, and empowerment coach, with a lifelong passion for creativity, health, and healing. She is a featured columnist on SheWrites.com. Her new book is Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy.
What do I do best?
What I do best is teach and coach. I have a natural-born, abiding understanding of this terrain where I get to be a midwife of stories, a releaser of shame, a growth guru, a dissolver of obstacles, and a patron saint of possibility. I love helping people get out of their own way so that what wants to be expressed through them is free to emerge. This could be through writing, movement, or a coaching conversation. I see people, and I love them, which makes it wonderful to listen—for words, but also for what’s behind words. I’m passionate about having discussions in which students and clients become freer, more expansive, and expressive. This empowering, moment-to-moment, co-creative process sparks joy and manifests miracles.
What makes me the best version of myself?
My discipline. Not in the sense of working hard—although I do that—but in terms of the root meaning of the word “disciple.” A disciple is a devoted student. I see myself, first and foremost, as a dedicated acolyte. I believe I am on this earth to learn, and I love sharing my discoveries, especially when they have the potential to alleviate suffering and promote health and happiness. I’m fascinated by what’s possible for every human being, for our evolution, understanding, and growth. I relish creativity, consciousness, health, and healing, and marvel at the magical, mystical relationship between body, mind, and spirit.
What are my aspirations?
I aspire to live more from love and less from fear, to remember that I am not my body or my thoughts, but rather an infinite, spiritual being having a human experience. As such, my “curriculum” is to know and remember who I am as I learn to live with equanimity and grace. I seek long stretches of time away from technology, insecure, negative thinking, and low levels of consciousness. I recall what’s not important: fame, fortune, proving my worth, and remember what is important: love, family, being of service, humility, and health. I trust that as I remain clear about these priorities and intentions, my internal alignment will continue to manifest a congruent outside world experience in which I’m free to do what I love—write, teach, coach, and speak—on a larger scale so that the messages that move through me reach greater numbers of people yearning for happier, healthier, more creative lives.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success was being awarded a teaching residency at Scripps College. I created and implemented Body, Mind, Spirit: Transformational Creative Practices for Living Your Best Life, a banquet of creative writing and movement, guided meditations, and other activities designed to enhance self-awareness, heighten creativity, and inspire personal empowerment and growth. The program was a synthesis of my lifelong passion for dance, literature, psychology, and spirituality, and grew out of forty years of dedicated creative practice. My residency included classes, workshops, readings, a talk about how to embrace a life that doesn’t go as planned, and a panel discussion on creativity, consciousness, health, and healing. These activities were well attended by students from all the Claremont colleges, faculty, staff, and community residents.
My Most Challenging Moment?
My most challenging moments surfaced while navigating a full-blown anxiety disorder, without any medication, following my mother’s death, and serving as executor of her estate, in the midst of a family feud and legal battle. I reached the point where I was afraid to leave my house. I write about this in my memoir. It was the basis for some of my most poignant lessons and spiritual growth.
My mantra is: “Slow down. Stop fighting. Let go. Trust life.” But I also like to remind myself of the following:
• What you love is your path.
• Life is a contact sport. Stay in the game, and remember you’re okay when it hurts.
• Saying “yes” to your creativity is like the need to bathe—it has to be done on a regular basis.
• Total self-acceptance is a radical but liberating act. Go for it!
My Favorite People/ Role Models?
Personal role models include my mother and grandmother, for their fortitude and creativity; my husband for his kindness and generosity; my daughter for her courage, deep beauty, and determination. And all of them, for their love. Professional role models are poets, Hafiz and Rumi, for their exquisite articulation of their/our union with the divine; Shakespeare for writing tragedies and comedies in verse; Isabelle Allende for her magical, lucid prose, which inspired me to start writing my own family stories; Oprah Winfrey, whose TV show captivated me in the 1980s and whose SuperSoul Conversations uplift and inform me while taking my afternoon walks.
My Favorite Places?
I love spas and retreat centers, especially Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs, California, which I visit annually. I also have a special place in my heart for The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, which my husband and I discovered on our honeymoon over thirty years ago. I also love camping and hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, which I consider to be a sacred site. Contrary to popular belief, the desert is teeming with life. Another favorite destination is the Amalfi Coast in Italy, for its majesty, beauty, and great memories it holds for me. Less glamorous but no less loved “places” include my hammock and my Relax-the-Back recliner chair, where I enjoy reading, napping, and Netflix.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
For my body: my yoga mat, blocks, and bolster; heat packs/hot water bottle; above-mentioned hammock and recliner.
For my mind: my books, journals, and Kindle.
For working and connecting: my computer and iPhone
For getting around: my car
For my spirit: my altars, which contain sacred objects, especially amethyst crystals, known as the “Stone of the Spirit.” Purple is the color of the crown chakra, our doorway to the divine. Amethysts are believed to calm, protect, and cleans the spirit. I also love my Kuan Yin, Buddha, Virgin Mary, and St. Francis of Assisi statues.
For remembrance and pleasure: the jewelry I’ve inherited from my mother and grandmother.
For fun: my clothes, which I enjoy scavenging at Goodwill, but also sometimes purchase from a chain store or fancy boutique. The odds are greater I’ll buy from the latter if the item is on sale. Although I love to dress, I don’t like spending a lot on clothes. Bargain-basement shopping is in my blood.
My Current Passion?
My current passion is learning about the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought, as described by Scottish philosopher, author, and lecturer Sydney Banks. These profound insights into the nature of thought and how our human experience is created—from the inside out—is changing the practice of psychology and psychiatry worldwide. It has transformed countless lives, including my own.