Have you felt you’ve lost touch with your culture and self-worth? Marla Teyolia shows us how those two things can often be intertwined.
Inside this episode, discover how to overcome cultural conditioning in order to find JOY in what you do, own your worth in a totally different way, and tap into a limitless source of power without sacrificing who you are at your core.
Marla Teyolia is a workplace strategist and holistic executive coach with over 20 years of leadership development and group facilitation experience. She is passionate about empowering individuals and teams to fully assess the ways they think, behave, and work, to make lasting impact in their personal and professional lives. Marla specializes in working with individuals who want to develop their executive presence while identifying and maintaining their authenticity and values. She is a seasoned leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, working diligently to support inclusive teams while facilitating understanding and healing across racial lines.
“This time, when I went through the experience, I rated myself totally different. I was really high on the power and privilege scale, and what I recognized is that nothing had changed, Columbia was still Columbia, and people were still who they were, but I had shifted. That was when I recognized that my liberation was an inside job, that my sense of power and worth were based in very specific traditional and cultural decolonial practices. That was when I recognized that this was about exercising a muscle and really committing to these practices that built me up. I was almost surprised that I was rating myself totally higher now and that was about me, and my sense of power, had I harnessed it again. People were going to be who they were going to be, and the system was going to be what the system was, but I felt powerful and I could navigate it in a very different way.”
“For me, it became so important to fuse our wellness and my culture; they were inextricably linked. When I would come home from school as this newly vegan person coming back home to my traditional Mexican home by the border, my mom was so generous in veganizing every Mexican dish for me. I really appreciated that because it was something that I hadn’t intentionally connected; that what was critical to my wellness was also my culture and practices that kept me connected to who I am, where I come from, the legacy that I am living out and to my ancestors. And that I come from a rich people. And if you would look at the case studies that we were studying at Columbia, that wasn’t the case. People who looked like me were stripped of that richness and made out to be case studies. So it was a huge juxtaposition.”
“I absolutely 150% want to upend the belief that Black Indigenous Women of Color need
more up-leveling in terms of our skills and our jobs. There is a narrative that if we just had more skills, if we were just more skillful in navigating XYZ environment, then that’s what would make us successful. I fundamentally disagree with that because the women that I work with are brilliant but they’re navigating some really toxic environments. So our work first starts by shoring them up, connecting them deeply to their values, who they are, what brings them the biggest joy, inviting them to engage in these practices to really build up and reconnect with their sources of power. Once they do that, then the system is a system; it’s going to do what it’s going to do. But they can then engage in a very different way. They become very strategic in a way that helps them meet their goals and really thrive.”
“I want to be really clear, I’m not talking about blaming anybody for the systems that we’re living in. But it is about recognizing that there are patterned ways and imprints that can be legacy burdens for us, ancestral burdens or cultural burdens that are just about what it means to walk on this earth at this moment in time that we’ve internalized.”
There was a mentor of mine, her name is Dr. Kimberly Richards and she is the Executive Director of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. She talked about how as people of color, the higher we move up the ranks in corporate or leadership positions, the more critical it becomes that we be deeply connected to our culture and our practices because those environments will eat you up and they expect you to conform to their culture. If you do not have practices that tether you to who you are and where you come from, you start to feel lost and there are deep ramifications for you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And I ultimately feel like the work that I’m doing is helping heal that connection; I’m just helping them heal that re-tethering. Because once they can do that work, the source of power is limitless.”
“I’m a really firm believer in breathwork. It could be as simple as sitting up every day for 5 minutes and setting a timer and just doing deep breathing. Our bodies are on constant alert living in this world right now, and deep breathing techniques will start to give your body a sense of safety, and when you have a sense of safety, possibility tends to open up for you. Creativity opens up; all research shows that when we are feeling under attack, our prefrontal cortex, where a lot of executive functioning lives and creativity lives, really shuts down and becomes impaired. So I think it’s really critical that when we are talking about the journey of self-worth, it’s about really loving up on your body, the physical containment that you are in. That is the perfect place to start.”
“I would highly recommend that folks try to clean up their diet in the best way they see fit, by removing those colonized and engineered foods and sweeteners and preservatives. That’s another way in which your body will feel under assault, yet we don’t really think of it that way.”
Hello and welcome back to another episode of the School of Self-Worth. I am sitting down this week with MARLA TEYOLIA, a workplace strategist and holistic executive coach with over 20 years of leadership development experience. In this fascinating conversation, Marla talks about the moment she left California and the Mexican indigenous culture she had grown up in and faced a white dominant space and how that experience jump started her own healing journey. If you’re a high-achieving leader wondering how to overcome cultural conditioning, and step into your own authenticity and power, this conversation is for you.
Hello everyone! I am so excited to welcome Marla to the school of self-worth. She is a workplace strategist and holistic executive coach with over 20 years of leadership development and group facilitation experience, and I am so excited to connect with you, Marla. We had a connection briefly before and we were actually introduced by a mutual friend, and in that conversation, just that brief one, it was so rich around your experience and development of self-worth, so first I want to say welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
And already in the short time that I’ve known you, I feel like I’ve had such a rich window into that journey for women around self-worth and I’m really curious to hear yours, and for you to share where that journey began for you, or the awareness of that journey for you around developing your own self-worth.
You know, I was thinking about this question and a few images came to mind. The first was being in grad school. Like many of us who are successful, we’re running businesses and doing the dancing. We tend to be overachievers and operate productively, so there’s a lot of self-worth that comes with that. It isn’t until we’re knocked on our bed a bit or feeling some punches that we realize there’s something here that we need to tend to.
For me, it initially showed up in 1996 when I was at grad school at Columbia. It was the first time that I really felt the impacts of White Supremacist culture on my mind, body, and spirit. I could feel anxiety, and it had nothing to do with what I was doing or how productive I was, or how well I was doing in classes. That was the easy part. It really had to do with how I felt that I was being ‘othered’ in my program.
Case studies about immigrant families or brown folks were very reflective of my own personal family experience, of being in a predominantly white woman’s space and how I was marginalized in that space, and the micro and macroaggressions that came through that space. Being in that day in and day out and living in New York for the first time. I am from California, I’m a border girl. The only one born on this side of the border.
There’s something about being on this land that was very familiar. If you’ve ever been to California, you know that Mexican and indigenous culture is like the tapestry woven as a foundation of this land. Being in New York was very different. It was a city where people were packed, there was a lot of energy, and there were markers. I just didn’t have access to the same kind of music or food.
Well, there are so many pieces in there that are really beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story so openly with us. What you’re speaking to is that sometimes we think self-worth is solely on the individual, but really, there are so many cultural pieces to it. You’re not even speaking from the family side, which is where I feel like a lot of women struggle. But for you, your experience was truly around culture and, like you said, white supremacist culture and its impact on you.
I’m curious, once you started to go down that pathway and journey because I feel like sometimes that journey can be very overwhelming. It’s not like you can escape that culture if you live in the United States; there’s no way out of that. So I’m curious, in that journey as you started to unpack and really connect much more with yourself and your culture in a deeper way, how did it allow you to navigate those spaces? What did it do for you in those spaces? That’s what I’m curious about.
Yeah, that’s an excellent question. So when I first started, I met with this elder who gave me a few to-dos right away. She said, “I really think it’s critical that you meditate now.” For context, I was born and raised in a very traditional Mexican Catholic family. I did not necessarily practice Catholicism, but I went to Catholic school for high school.
I didn’t even know what meditation was. This was the mid-90s, a very different cultural landscape. In a lot of Asian cultures, meditation was something that was imbued within the culture and in some of the religious aspects, depending on where you land. For me, it was like, “What am I doing? Is it just sitting silently? Is it breathing? What is it?” So she asked me to meditate daily and build up an ancestor altar.
That felt familiar because as a Mexican woman, Day of the Dead is something that feels more accessible to me. You make altars for your ancestors and also being raised Catholic, there are altars. That’s a thing. So that one felt accessible to me.
Those were the main two asks: “I need for you to do this every day.” Then she gave me some visualization elements that involved really seeing myself protected in white light and walking into spaces with a posse of people with me, my ancestors and my guides. So I did that. It became my spiritual armor if you will. I would not leave the house to even go to the bodega down the corner without meditating every morning. So it required a level of discipline where, at that time, I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn and was going to Columbia. It was like an hour commute and about an hour plus to Central Harlem where I was doing my internship. So I would wake up really early to be able to do all of these rituals just to get on the train.
On the train during rush hour, you’re packed like sardines. Before this time, I felt like my energy was already zapped by the time I went to my destination, because you’re surrounded by people. So I ended up just really committed to those two practices.
One thing that I witnessed was that once you start following the breadcrumbs that are laid in front of you, you see more breadcrumbs. Then it became, “Oh my gosh, I saw a sign for a yoga class. I’m going to try that yoga class out.” I had taken yoga in college but fell asleep almost every session, exhausted. It wasn’t something that stuck.
But then I was like, “Oh okay, I’m doing meditation so much, let me go there.” Then from that point on it was like, “I’m really feeling like I need to cleanse my body. I’m going to become vegan.” One day at dinner with friends, I was like, “I’m being vegan right now.” And they were, “right now?” And I was like, “Yes right now, this chicken tastes gross. I’m being vegan.”
So there became this path of detoxifying and decolonizing and cleansing from the inside out. I would say I started these practices somewhere around October or November of my first semester of grad school, and the following spring semester I was asked to be a trainer for Columbia’s incoming orientation for new students on diversity. And I remember that as a new student, I had participated in this diversity training. There were some activities around placing yourself on this power and privilege scale or opting in and out, based on circles in terms of how you identified.
I remember very distinctly feeling really annoyed that some people didn’t even know what being a colonized person was like. They didn’t even understand what that was, right? But also finding that I was rating myself really low on these power and privilege scales except for a few identities. And when I was asked to be a trainer, part of the training was to go through that experience again. And this time, when I went through the experience, I rated myself totally different. I was really high on the power and privilege scale, and what I recognized is that nothing had changed, Columbia was still Columbia, and people were still who they were, but I had shifted. That was when I recognized that my liberation was an inside job, that my sense of power and worth were based in very specific traditional and cultural decolonial practices. That was when I recognized that this was about exercising a muscle and really committing to these practices that built me up. I was almost surprised that I was rating myself totally higher now and that was about me, and my sense of power, had I harnessed it again. People were going to be who they were going to be, and the system was going to be what the system was, but I felt powerful and I could navigate it in a very different way.
Well, what you’re saying is so powerful because it’s really about taking back the practices of who you are. You’re not saying this specifically, but I can relate to this from the practices of being Chinese-American. There are some things that I do and I’m like, “Well, this is what I need. It works for me and this is what I’m going to do regardless of what you need or don’t need.” When I state it more powerfully, like my cultural preferences or food preferences, which is a big one for me, or whatever that might be, holidays or connection, I state it clearly instead of being like, “Oh, that’s not acceptable” or “That’s not white dominant culture.”
Being in my own power of that, I relate to that. And I feel like what you’re saying is so powerful because it really is from the inside. As much as it can feel like let’s try to change everything outside, and I see that so much with people – let’s change everybody else. It’s like well, what’s happening within yourself? It’s like decolonizing yourself, as you said, so that you can actually own your worth in a totally different way.
I feel like you’re resourced to go do that change-making work, right? At that point, I felt resourced and could step up more powerfully for the things I believed in. I could call folks, systems, and organizations to task. I can’t do that if I’m totally depleted and not feeling resourced, or if I’m exhausted and my mental health isn’t at its strongest, because it’s exhausting.
Absolutely, what you’re saying is so important. I think this is true for anyone, right? You have to be resourced. You have to take care of yourself, watch out for yourself, be mindful of your boundaries and your mental health before you can actually change the world. I feel like a lot of people deplete themselves in that way. They’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go do everything.’ It’s like, well actually no, it’s important to start with you before you can look at everybody else and everything else.
I think that we can go to the other extreme of that, where all of a sudden, we think it’s just about self-care. At that time, I remember something I found really fascinating. I was often one of either the only woman of color or maybe one of two in any space, right? Whether it was a yoga class or if I went to the health food store, depending on where we were. We’d go there for a vegan restaurant, right? And my husband was vegan as well. So I remember so distinctly people being like, ‘Oh my god girl, that’s such white shit to do,’ excuse my cursing. But that’s just like a white thing to do, right? Like you’re trying to be more white. And it was just like wow, we had really identified practices of wellness as white and connected to whiteness.
And I think that if the barometer or parameter, probably not the right word, but if the ask for a person of color who is deeply connected to their culture is to let go of their culture in order to be well, we’re going to choose culture. For me, it became so important to fuse our wellness and my culture; they were inextricably linked. When I would come home from school as this newly vegan person coming back home to my traditional Mexican home by the border, my mom was so generous in veganizing every Mexican dish for me. So if there were enchiladas, she would put lentils and spinach in them or she would make tofu mole, or just things that she was trying to make sure that I felt connected and that I wasn’t going without. And I really appreciated that because it was something that I hadn’t intentionally connected; that what was critical to my wellness was also my culture and practices that kept me connected to who I am, where I come from, the legacy that I am living out and to my ancestors. And that I come from a rich people.
And if you would look at the case studies that we were studying at Columbia, that wasn’t the case. People who looked like me were stripped of that richness and made out to be case studies. So it was a huge juxtaposition.
That’s huge. I love what you’re saying because I came out of the yoga world and yoga culture as well, which also often felt very white to me. Because it was like, if I liked smoothies, I was like, ‘Why? I like all these things too because they make me feel good.’ The meditation practices and all these other things. I love what you’re saying about how your culture also makes you feel well. Because I had to go through a phase where I was like, ‘Well actually, eating rice and stir-frying, my body feels really good eating that way. I’m just going to keep eating that way because it really works for me.’ It’s what I grew up with and it really works. And it’s not sort of what you would call, in that world, ‘clean eating,’ but it just really works better for me.
And so I love how you’re talking about how we get to have all those pieces in our wellness, and especially for women of color and people of color, that your culture is your wellness. And that is such a powerful statement. I’m curious for you then, how did the beginning of your journey bring you to where you are now, in terms of where you see self-worth? Because you do so much work with women and with companies and cultures around bringing in power, really I would say reclaiming power for people. So could you share a little bit more about what you do now?
Yes, absolutely. It’s funny because I graduated from grad school in ’98 and left the field really quickly. I think maybe within six months I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this was not what I wanted to do,’ because I was working much more in the social service sector, nonprofit industrial complex. And I was like, ‘Oh, this felt very much like it was perpetuating certain behaviors or ways of being that enabled folks to stay in the same places because there was an investment for the system to keep them there.’ I left that really quickly and became really committed to following my joy in terms of the kind of work that I did.
I continued with my practices of meditation, yoga, being vegan, and I started to do work in more arts and culture. And I would say in the early 2000s, I ended up doing training for coaching. I was working with an organization at the time that wanted me to be a trainer. I went in and did their coaching and training program. It was all around women’s empowerment and leadership. So I continued to go down this route of what was going to bring me joy and I ended up starting this whole other company that was really about my husband, who was an artist at the time. He’s still an artist but we were touring a lot, and so I was managing him and doing lots of arts and culture and community engagement modalities and practices too, while touring.
But I kept a lot of my women’s leadership work; I still continued to do it, so at that point, I was just a consultant in multiple different avenues. And I don’t know that I felt like I knew who I wanted to be or what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just knew that I wanted to follow my joy in the things that felt really important to me, where I felt there was impact. And that happened to be with arts, culture, and women’s leadership. So that evolved and I continued to do this work as a consultant, but I was still really committed to my own development. I studied with the Curandera, Elena Avila, who was the author of ‘Woman Who Glows in the Dark.’ I was her apprentice for four years. I continued to develop who I was and follow my own personal interests. Twenty-plus years later, now I would say probably eight years ago, I was like, ‘Oh, my whole life journey makes sense.’ Because what I do is, I work with pretty senior leaders globally, Black Indigenous Women of Color. I help them to heal, to lead, and to rise. And I do that in a way that is incredibly holistic.
So typically, women come to me because they’re leaders and they’re actually experiencing some of the toxicity that I had experienced, right? And they’re trying to navigate this landscape and figure out who they’re going to be and how they move forward in a way that feels aligned with their values and who they are and the work that they’re trying to impact. When they come to me, they think we’re going to talk strategy initially. But for me, that’s just another level of doing. I actually really pause the work to be like, ‘Okay, we have to focus on your being first.’ And I lead them through a process that gets them to do this reclaiming work. And once you do that, then I feel the strategy is really easy.
And I absolutely 150% want to upend the belief that Black Indigenous Women of Color need more up-leveling in terms of our skills and our jobs. I’m not saying that sometimes there isn’t tweaking that we have to do, but there is a narrative that if we just had more skills, if we were just more skillful in navigating XYZ environment, then that’s what would make us successful. I fundamentally disagree with that because the women that I work with are brilliant, but they’re navigating some really toxic environments. So our work first starts by shoring them up, connecting them deeply to their values, who they are, what brings them the biggest joy, inviting them to engage in these practices to really build up and reconnect with their sources of power.
Once they do that, then the system is a system; it’s going to do what it’s going to do. But they can then engage in a very different way. They become very strategic in a way that helps them meet their goals and really thrive. I feel like this journey has made sense 30 years later, but it came with me just following my joy and being really deeply committed to my own development and my own learning and my own healing.
It’s funny you say that because I was working with some clients today and we were all talking about how often we just want the results. We want the answer. We want to know the end. And I said, ‘Well, it’s actually the journey.’ And sometimes even myself too, you’re like, ‘Am I still on the journey?’ And then you’re like, ‘Where is it going?’ But then once you see where all the dots connect, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that made complete sense.’ So I love that for you. It took a while for you to see how all those pieces were coming together and what you’re saying in terms of what you teach, because I agree too. I feel like so many women are like, ‘Well, you already have so much power within you, and you don’t need more skills to navigate the world you’re in. You already successfully got to that place. You understand how to navigate it, right?” It’s more about what’s within that we want to work on, so you can rise in a way that feels really authentic and genuine to you, rather than what other people think or want from you.
So I’m curious for you then, where would you say, and this is the question I’m always curious about with women who have really stepped into and claimed their own power, where they still feel like they get to the edge of it and it kind of gets a little shakier? Like the place where you have to stretch right now currently for yourself?
You know, when you read the bio, it’s like, ‘Oh yes, all that is true.’ However, what is not intentionally put on the bio is that I do a lot of healing work. And I hold my coaching work as sacred and it is healing work and it is my medicine work because I bring the experience of studying with the Curandera, mindfulness and meditation, yoga practices, and ancestral practices for twenty-plus years. That has been part of the journey that has really reminded me of the necessity to decolonize and work within ourselves. As somebody who is indigenous to this land and comes from a colonized people, part of what colonization did was it stripped us of our medicine and stripped us of these practices that reminded us of our sacredness and connection to the ecosystem of life.
What I feel like I’ve actually grown into, which is part of why I’m so successful at what I do, but it’s not something I’ve actually been out with, is that I don’t bill myself as someone who really works in a medicine woman way. So when we have one-on-one engagements with clients, like when I do these VIP days or people fly in to work with me, or I’ll do these deep dive engagements with groups, this one woman that I worked with was actually a friend and came to one of my sessions really early on when I was centering my work very specifically with women of color. We were doing this deep work, very much leadership development but also very much healing work. She turns to me and says, ‘I had no idea how badass you were in how you did it.’ And what she really was saying is, ‘I didn’t realize that we were going to go to these deep spiritual healing places.’
So for me, it’s really been about coming out as somebody who is really doing medicine work within this corporate environment to support leaders. And not just in the corporate environment, but a lot of women do come to me who are at senior levels worldwide to say, ‘I’m struggling here, and the traditional models of coaching aren’t working for me. What’s missing?’ And a lot of it is their own spiritual development. I feel like I’m finally really owning that I live and operate in the intersection of personal, professional, and spiritual development.
I love that because I feel like that is so true for so many. Because it’s like it says, ‘Executive Coach, Leadership Growth,’ but really there’s a deeper level of work. For you to say that you’re doing it, it’s not that you’re not doing it, but to actually say that to people.
Yes, absolutely. And I think that when I have one-on-one meetings or chemistry meetings with potential clients, I always share that I call myself a holistic executive coach, because nothing is off the table; you get to be a whole person in this space. But also, I’m really interested in going to the deeper level. So if you’re looking for somebody who’s just going to tell you what to do or give you more strategies for doing, I’m not the person. But if you’re interested in really peeling back the layers to get to some core strengths, some core issues, some core wounds, and you want to work on healing those because ultimately that shows up in life, right? It shows up in how we lead, it shows up in how we love, it shows up in how we live. If you’re willing to go to those deep places and I will bring in lots of modalities that may be nontraditional, then we can work together. But you have to be willing for that ride. And sometimes people are so in their heads that they think it’s just a strategy piece and we will go there, but that’s not where we’re going to start.
Well, it brings up something because I feel similarly about the kind of work that I do. Like, I don’t say that I’m a spiritual teacher, but really many of my clients say that to me as well. And if you feel like for so many people they reach for the strategy because they don’t even realize how much they need that, is your experience actually that that’s what’s missing for so many people? And this is like a really big cultural question too, right? Because I feel like in our culture, so much of what I felt during yoga was that people were really lost. They didn’t have spiritual guidance that felt healthy and clean, and felt like it was directing them into true source places. And I’m just curious what you think of that because that came to mind as you were speaking.
I 120% agree. You know, sometimes, or I would say a lot of times, when we’re in the work with women and we’re peeling back the layers, it’s like they’re almost surprised at, ‘Oh, we had to go to this? I thought we were focusing on A but we’re focusing on Z. Oh my god, I had no idea.’ And then once you focus on Z, A is so much easier because it tends to be just a manifestation of some kind of core wound or core ‘ouch’ that is driving your behavior and how you’re showing up or driving limitation for you. And that’s not to say, I want to be really clear, I’m not talking about blaming anybody for the systems that we’re living in. But it is about recognizing that there are patterned ways and imprints that can be legacy burdens for us, ancestral burdens or cultural burdens that are just about what it means to walk on this earth at this moment in time that we’ve internalized.
When we get to that deep place, I feel like that is the most liberation work that they can do. And it often is for them, because there’s a way in which we’ve been conditioned to operate in spaces where we have to put on masks or fit into certain boxes, or are told that where we come from and parts of our struggles and our stories are not to be brought forth in this space.
There was a mentor of mine, her name is Dr. Kimberly Richards and she is the Executive Director of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. I met her maybe ten years ago when she was part of an Undoing Racism workshop. And she talked about how as people of color, the higher we move up the ranks in corporate or leadership positions, the more critical it becomes that we be deeply connected to our culture and our practices because those environments will eat you up and they expect you to conform to their culture.
If you do not have practices that tether you to who you are and where you come from, you start to feel lost and there are deep ramifications for you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And I ultimately feel like the work that I’m doing is helping heal that connection; I’m just helping them heal that re-tethering. Because once they can do that work, the source of power is limitless.
Well, everything you’re saying is so resonant for me and I love that that is what you do. It’s remarkable. And I feel like especially for women of color, it can be easy to forget because you get so wrapped up in everything else that’s happening or what you’re trying to conform to, rather than remembering that everything you need to know already exists, and it really needs more reinforcement than anything to make sure that it’s anchoring you, as you’re doing everything out in the world that we’re in.
It’s a reclaiming, right? Because so many of us have been detribalized or there’s such a drive for assimilation. As somebody whose family is from Mexico, being an immigrant in this country even though we’re indigenous to this land, there was really a push to be more American and not too American. Because we still need to connect with our culture, but yet that you can succeed and that it’s just about hard work and it really is a meritocracy. And when you come to find out that that’s not always really the case, that we don’t live just in a meritocracy and there are real systems in place, it can feel like a bucket of cold water.
This is especially if you’ve been indoctrinated in that, just out of love, our families do that fully out of love because they want us to succeed and have the world as our oyster, and then all of a sudden you’re in systems where you’re like, ‘Oh wow, this is actually… I’m not really welcome here even though I’m supposed to be welcome here. Oh, I’m really being othered.’ And there’s real impact that it has on us and depending on what our journey up until that point has been like, it can be incredibly destabilizing.
I love that you speak to it because that is always the first step: to recognize it and then say, ‘Okay, what can I do to help myself get into that anchoring and stabilizing?’ Which leads me to ask you, what would you recommend for someone starting this journey? What would be the first step, an easy practice or something simple that they could begin today for themselves to really get back into their center?
I’m a really firm believer in breathwork. It could be as simple as sitting up every day for 5 minutes and setting a timer and just doing deep breathing. Our bodies are on constant alert living in this world right now, and deep breathing techniques will start to give your body a sense of safety, and when you have a sense of safety, possibility tends to open up for you. Creativity opens up; all research shows that when we are feeling under attack, our prefrontal cortex, where a lot of executive functioning lives and creativity lives, really shuts down and becomes impaired. So I think it’s really critical that when we are talking about the journey of self-worth, it’s about really loving up on your body, the physical containment that you are in. That is the perfect place to start.
I would highly recommend that folks try to clean up their diet in the best way they see fit, by removing those colonized and engineered foods and sweeteners and preservatives. That’s another way in which your body will feel under assault, yet we don’t really think of it that way. But as somebody who recently came out of a health issue from the vaccine, which caused havoc in my body, I’ve had to really clean up my diet. I had a pretty good diet before this, but my body started to respond to anything that it identified as a stressor.
Folks should take control of their diet, because it’s actually very much within our control. It requires some preparation but it’s very much within our control to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to cut down on packaged foods but perhaps have some fruit instead.’ Because those are chemicals our bodies experience as stressors, and if we’re already having external stressors, don’t add more internal stressors.
Right? Awesome! That is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. It’s like simple ways that we all can actually use to start to support ourselves.
Absolutely. And then I think that when you start taking away even just some of the food stressors, like for example, I know this weekend I had a whole bunch of dark chocolate. And on Monday, I didn’t have any chocolate and I started to have a headache. I was like, ‘Oh wow, my body had become really attuned to like, give me the sugar, give me the…’ So there’s a way in which you might actually not feel good for the first week or so, when you start taking some of this stuff out. But then you realize, ‘Oh my god, it was really stressing my body out.’ And it’s been fascinating, because I had dealt with this heart issue that I could see, depending on my foods, how my heart rate would rise because my body had to work harder to really be processing this out.
Yeah, that’s so helpful. Well, I love hearing that because there are so many different ways we can do things. And then you could do something really simple for yourself like breath deeply, and maybe cut out some of the sugar that you’re eating, or whatever processed foods you’re doing, and see what your experience is like after that. Amazing, right?
Well, Marla, are you ready for your rapid-fire questions? Okay, I promise they’ll be easy and nice. What was the last thing that you watched on TV, if you’re a TV watcher?
I am a TV watcher. Okay, what was the last thing I watched? ‘Beef’ from Netflix. It’s so good. I binge-watched it all weekend. It was so good.
I heard that it’s great. I haven’t watched it yet. I love Ali Wong. Amazing, I love that. Okay, what is on your nightstand?”
Oh, there are a few different things actually. If I took a picture of my nightstand, you’d be like, ‘Oh my god, really? There are like twenty books.’ There are books on the spot that I start and then don’t finish. So right now I’m reading one on the Toltec secrets of dreaming. Dreams are actually a big portal of information for me, and I have very freakishly prophetic dreams. And it’s a lot. So to know that there’s a tradition in Mexican culture that sees dreams as a portal for understanding our world, was fascinating to me. That’s the one I’m reading right now.
Very cool. I know, I also have a huge stack next to my bed at all times. Okay, what is the last time you tried something new and what was it?
When was the last time I tried something new? What was it? That’s a great question. I would say that this feels like new but not new: When I got sick, I knew I had to detoxify my body and I ended up, literally just from a dream, waking up and being like, ‘Oh, I have to do Panchakarma,’ which is this Ayurvedic detoxification system. I had no idea what Panchakarma really was, to be perfectly honest. I just knew that it was a detoxification system and I had a dream that I was supposed to do it. I found this practitioner out here at the spa in Santa Monica, and it has been game-changing in terms of the practices of just living, that have supported my body. And I am loving it.
It’s very much upending the belief that to be healthy, you have to have salads and smoothies and all of what you know in California is very much part of the wellness culture. It’s really about cooked foods and practices to calm the nervous system that include herbs and oils and even times of day of how you’re walking through the world. It has been game-changing and super joyful, and super luxurious to be like, ‘Oh, I have to oil up my body with warm oil before I get in the shower in the morning.’ And it’s incredible; it’s so lovely and divine and just awesome.
That sounds amazing. Okay, final question. What are your top 3 most used emojis on your phone?
Alright, let me see, I’m sure there’s like a heart in there somewhere. I’m going to literally pull out my phone right now and see what comes up. It’s a hundred percent prayer hands, a woman dancing and then laughing is like the fourth.
I always feel like it’s so fun to see how people use emojis when communicating with other people, and I use the laughing one all the time too. Great, well Marla, what a joy to have you on and sharing your experience and your wisdom. Where can people find out more?
My website is Culture Shift Agency. That is the website for the company I am, but that’s going to be much more of my healing work and the retreats for women of color.
Well, if you’re a woman of color leader, really looking for support, I couldn’t recommend Marla more. She’s been just such a fountain of wisdom. So check her out! And I’m just so grateful you’re here helping support people in their growth and self-worth in the School of Self-Worth. Thank you so much for being with us.
Thank you so much. Can I actually add one more thing? Pause and Press Play Retreat.com. is a retreat that I run with my partner Kris McCurry. It’s a retreat that we do for BIPOC women in Mexico, that’s happening this June, for a week.
Beautiful. Check that out as well and we’ll link everything in the show notes. Marla, thank you so much for being here.