Culture & Conversation Human Rights

‘Crystal Bliss’ and Radical Self-Care When Stress Is Literally Making Us Sick

Janna Zinzi

Some days crystals are my armor, some days they are my solace, and sometimes they remind me that I come from kings and queens.

Since the election, I’ve been interested in the ways women of color are taking care of ourselves and each other in Trump’s United States. Racism and sexism have always been front and center in our lives in this country (hello health disparities), but this year has felt especially oppressive and unrelenting, and people need solace. More healers of color are emerging and connecting via social media. Folks who previously were skeptical of alternative healing modalities outside of Western medicine or Christian beliefs are integrating metaphysical elements into their self-care practices because, frankly, shit is real.

Crystal healing is now on trend and receiving a lot of attention. Like many ancient healing methods, it’s becoming commercialized and commodified. I’m encouraged, however, to see many women of color like author Devi Brown reclaiming this knowledge and empowering others to squad up and and step into healing roles.

Even before 45 began occupying the White House, stress was creating a health crisis amongst women, particularly for women of color. And as we’ve learned from researchers and journalists, it’s a key determinant for all sorts of negative health outcomes, especially when coupled with institutional discrimination, including maternal and infant health.

As I move through my 30s, I’m meeting more and more women who have had some sort of stress-induced health crisis that forced them to make significant lifestyle changes. Many of us are smart, high-achieving, and driven women living in or near big cities and going after our dreams—or just trying to survive. Very often, I hear women speak about how the payoff of the grind and hustle isn’t worth it. Our bodies have a way of slowing us down when we don’t listen.

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Devi Brown, author of Crystal Bliss: Attract Love, Feed Your Spirit, Manifest Your Dreams.

For much of our lives, we are taught to believe “doing” will bring us meaning and external validation. Devi Brown, author of Crystal Bliss: Attract Love. Feed Your Spirit. Manifest Your Dreams, a guide to using crystals for meditation and healing, explained to me on a recent phone interview, “Wearing stress was a badge of honor” for her. “I became a stress addict ignoring all the things I needed to be a whole individual,” she added.

Brown had a successful (and busy) career as a hip-hop journalist until she came down with shingles at age 26, a painful skin condition that usually affects elderly people. When her doctor told her it was 100 percent stress-induced, she asked herself why she was living so frantically and began to examine more of herself. I had a similar experience in my early 30s. While I was doing the most, my body suddenly broke out with eczema all over and I couldn’t eat anything. I had to make some deep lifestyle changes and figure out what within me was calling to be healed.

Some version of this story is increasingly common among many women of color in our 20s and 30s. It takes illness to get us to slow down, reassess, and seek out new ways to fortify ourselves.

For Brown, her encounter with shingles led her down a path to get certified at Deepak Chopra’s School in Primordial Sound Meditation. It “re-sparked” the love of crystals she had as a kid, so she began to integrate them into this practice. Through her new book, she helps newbies and crystal OGs dig into the uses of crystal healing like choosing crystals, setting intentions, making essences (concoctions infused with crystals and herbs), and more.

I have been playing with crystal energy for many moons and considered myself an expert on some level, but I learned a lot from the book. Before I knew anything about Brown’s story I was attracted to this book to deepen my practice and to speak more confidently about my connections to crystals. It’s neither my duty nor my desire to convince skeptics, but it gave me some scientific and cultural context along with additional ideas of how to work with their energy.

So many of us right now are being called to reclaim our ancestral knowledge and connection to the earth as another way to dismantle white supremacy and patriarchy. Some days crystals are my armor, some days they are my solace, and sometimes they remind me that I come from kings and queens. According to Crystal Bliss, Cleopatra used lapis lazuli, known to activate the third eye, the chakra between your eyebrows and center of our intuition, in her eyeshadow. (Fenty Beauty, where ya at with this?!)

One of the book’s goals is to make sure crystal healing is accessible to people of color to help our communities and families. “It’s paramount we have more of our voices in this space of wellness, it really needs to be accessed and platforms given to people of color to spread this within our communities,” Brown said. “A core belief of mine is that the only way to create generational change is to heal ourselves individually because trauma can be passed down. We have never had a chance to. Finally now there’s acceptance of mental illness or trauma. It’s huge for our communities and how we can improve our lives and then change the quality of life for our generations. If we are walking about broken and not whole, it’s hard for anything else to do well. We’ll always be building on shaky ground until we get to that core.”

One of the other barriers to different healing modalities is cost. Many of the recommended self-care ideas are centered around an idea of luxury, and “new-age” healing methods are becoming a hot commodity. I wholeheartedly support healers of color (especially women) getting paid well for their work, but I also want folks to know there are accessible ways for everyone to test out some form of healing practice, crystals especially, if you’re skeptical. Crystals are available at various price points, costing only a few bucks a piece depending on rarity and size. For beginners, Crystal Bliss notes the best five starter crystals and also helps explain how to start incorporating them into their own personal meditation or prayer. Brown notes that her practice is God-based, but people can use crystals as an addition or supplement to any spiritual practice or belief.

Some people might think it’s dumb to put all this expectation into some rocks. But while crystals are abundant, they are not ordinary. Some crystals are used in microchips or by watchmakers to keep time because of the precision of their frequency. Crystals used for meditation and healing typically were formed in the Earth’s surface millions of years ago and can vibrate at a higher frequency than other stones or rocks. Whether you actually feel it or not, crystals vibrate at their own frequencies; each has its own energetic properties and atomic makeup.

I learned in Brown’s book about the universal law of resonance, or in physics what is known as the law of entrainment. It means that when two objects that have different vibration rates (such as people and crystals) are close to each other, the one with the lower frequency gets drawn to the higher rate of the other object. She uses this to explain why people are innately drawn to certain crystals, often the ones that offer the healing properties they need.

With everything happening in the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about this mix of spirit, science, and history. They are so often pitted against each other and I’m looking for some common ground as it relates to my healing practice. So I asked Brown how she navigates naysayers and critics of crystals. She explained, “A freeing moment for me on my journey was understanding life in evolutionary terms. I went to the [American] Museum of Natural History in New York and it hit me through this illustration of time I saw. If the Earth is billions of years old and humanity is thousands of years old, the exhibit said that on an evolutionary timeline humans have only been here for seconds. It was a humbling moment of letting go of all the things I thought I knew. Science and medicine have been around only 200 years; that’s a millisecond.”

“Ninety-six percent of the seeable universe is unknown, and that’s the universe we can see, so imagine that vastness of what we can’t see. Maybe our brains aren’t ready.”

Brown and her book reminded me that “proof,” as it relates to healing and well-being, is personal. Our experiences often dictate our most powerful beliefs, and especially when it comes to our bodies and health, we know what’s “real” for us and makes us feel well. Honoring our truths is one of the most radical acts we can take in these challenging times. It’s our duty, responsibility, and gift to ourselves.  

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