Solwazi • Mindfulness Practitioner and Teacher
I met Solwazi at a monthly meditation group for people of color. He was the guest speaker for the night, and I, an eager-to-learn student. Solwazi leads mindfulness classes and retreats in the Denver metropolitan area. He has been teaching meditation for more than two decades and has trained in Thailand, Burma, India, and South Africa.
Solwazi, a true Denverite, was born and raised in the Mile High City and is grateful for the way that he grew up. His neighborhood, City Park West, was predominantly black, he even attended a mostly black high school. He shared that although the black population was small, the community was very close, which made a lasting impression on him.
During our conversation, he talked about the city’s ever-changing landscape. He shared that while he recognizes the homes, the trees, and other landmarks in the neighborhood he once called home, he now feels like a stranger in a foreign land with no connection to his community.
When I asked him to describe Denver in one word, he replied, “Spacious.” Keep reading to learn more about Solwazi.
Tell me about yourself.
When you remove the titles and the labels, I am one who is here to serve and support healing, not just in the black community but for all beings. I have suffered a lot in my life, from ancient traumas that aren’t even mine, transgenerational, epigenetic. I’ve suffered from the traumas of white supremacy and all manner of things. I feel that my mission in life has been to heal myself and share that healing with others. I serve by helping people find their way through healing.
Who are you?
I am a human being in a male-identified, heterosexual body. I am an African American individual who is a seeker and who is trying to awaken. I am someone who brings interest and curiosity to every experience in my life, and that’s been a really important shift because interest and curiosity take over judgment and criticism and doubts. When I bring enthusiasm and curiosity to my moment-to-moment experience, I feel enlivened, bigger, and more whole. These are some of the things or pieces that make up the whole of who I am.
What does it mean to be Solwazi?
It means not to doubt and to honor this person who is interested and curious, this person who is in this male, black body who is trying to learn how to love. Being me means learning how to go beyond the doing of love and be love, that is how I am in the world. This wasn’t taught to me. Many of us weren’t taught to love. I was raised to know how to care. The idea of loving not only ourselves or others in terms of letting go of the judgment and accepting people for who they are, these are the components of love. I’m all about learning and being love, and feeling the power of that.
Tell me about being love.
Being love is first the acknowledgment and need to practice love. Being love is the practice of filling myself up with the energy of love, and not in a way that is naive or ignorant bliss, but choosing to fill every fiber of my being with the energy of love. In doing so, I am more kind and compassionate with myself and less judgmental. I am increasingly that way with others in the world, caring and compassionate.
For many men, unfortunately, love can have the connotation for being soft and that can be a treat to your survival. I teach a group in prison, and I introduced the idea of love and compassion. At first, there was a lot of resistance, understandably so, but when fully and better understood, it’s not soft, it’s powerful. I think for men, especially black men, it’s where we need to go. The people I grew up with aren’t doing well. There’s a weathering effect that comes with being black. Being black in this world wears you down. We need to know the power of love and compassion.
What does it mean to you to be black in Denver?
To be me here has meant, at times, to be lonely, isolated, not understood, and not feeling like I have a community. It has also meant that Denver allows for a certain amount of freedom to be who you are, unlike some other places where you are locked into particular identities. To be black in Denver means a lot of things, and I have felt all of them very profoundly.
What is the power of being oneself?
It is a powerful thing; it is our superpower. However, it takes a lot of effort and determination and work to get there. Particularly, growing up in a society that has pathologized every aspect of who I am, especially this black identity. Being who you are in this society is not easy. I have internalized ways that being black is wrong or to be the “scary big black guy” that’s a threat to everyone, so that’s been a part of my healing journey.
I’m healing all the ways I’ve internalized that it’s not okay to be me. At this tender age of 62, I am finally learning the superpower of being myself, and with that comes a sense of peace and real freedom. Not having to deal with approval-seeking behavior, all these types of things that keep one small or contracted and keep one from truly thriving. Truly being myself puts me in a position to thrive.
How does one get to this place?
There are many different steps, but not one recipe. I think it’s seeing clearly how things are. It’s facing these difficulties. It’s practicing self-love.
What do you love most about living in Denver?
My family is still here, so that’s important. I also love the outdoors and hiking. The quiet is beautiful, and the sense of being connected with something greater than myself helps to put things into context and perspective.
How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?
Growing up, there was a sense of community, and it is embedded within me. That sense of community allows for security and safety.
We are so fortunate to have someone like Solwazi in Denver. If you’d like to learn more about him and his practice, contact him here. He’s a great resource.