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… job of shutting that down, shutting down the voice within, and shutting down how we listen to ourselves, and how we learn ourselves, and who we are. From the beginning, the creator has blessed us with something unique.
– Akanke Rasheed
Darla LeDoux: Hello, and welcome to Retreat and Grow Rich, the podcast. This is Darla LeDoux. I am your host of this fabulous time with spectacular retreat leaders from all around the world sharing their insights and what it’s been like for them to walk their transformational path. Today I’m here with Akanke Rasheed. Hi Akanke.
Akanke Rasheed: Hi Darla, and thanks for having me.
Darla LeDoux: Thank you so much for being here! I’m super excited for this conversation. I know everyone’s going to love to meet you.
Akanke Rasheed: Thank you.
Darla LeDoux: Guys, who you are joining for this fabulous conversation today, Akanke is a Muslim woman who loves spirituality, life, sincere conversations, personal transformation, relationships, and creative expression. While she is a woman of many passions, her greatest passions are spirituality and personal growth. Akanke’s self-directed conscious personal transformation started in 1989 when she risked her stable life and quit her corporate job after attending a weekend retreat, of course, and enrolling in a six month long deep dive immersion about self awareness with the hope of becoming a better version of herself. That experience was truly transformative and led to deep change as well as many twists and turns. That experience demonstrated how retreats can lead to a metamorphic change in a person’s life, and inspired her to want to become a retreat leader and offer transformative experiences to people of color. Welcome, Akanke!
Akanke Rasheed: Thank you so much, Darla.
Darla LeDoux: I am so excited because you are a transformation junkie, [laughing] and I know so many of our listeners relate to that. I love that introduction. Can you just take people into what was your world like when you went to your first retreat and then made that leap to leave your job?
Akanke Rasheed: Sure. I’d say I was leading a very normal working class life. I was in my early 20s at the time, and just started climbing the corporate ladder. I was working for a computer software company in 1989, so you know that was a big thing. They’re really big now, but to be amongst a leading software company at the time was really great for me. I found myself climbing the corporate ladder. I started out as a clerk in the accounting department and ended up being a technical support rep in that company, which meant that I had the opportunity to travel and help people who bought our software. It was just really good for somebody my age. I was excited about that. Then I met someone at church who invited me, it was a guy, who invited me on a date, and the date was to go to this evening seminar. It was an introductory seminar.
Darla LeDoux: That’s quite a date.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah, it was quite amazing. The evening seminar was about leading a life you love, and I had never been exposed to seminars like that before. It was quite different. The atmosphere was very new agey, and it was just my first time being exposed to that. Those kinds of events didn’t happen in my community, the African-American community, where I lived and the circles and spaces that I frequented didn’t have that kind of experience. That evening was really all about understanding that I could create a life, a different life, and that thoughts are things. That’s when I first learned all about self development. It just kind of turned me on to the whole idea that, okay, you can direct your life in a direction that is calling you, so what is calling you? Asking those kinds of questions.
Darla LeDoux: It’s so amazing because we have so much in common in that experience. I was in my early 20s when I first learned thoughts are things, like you said, or this idea that the filters I have and the thoughts that I have are shaping my life. I was mind blown, and I thought why is anybody talking about anything other than this?
Akanke Rasheed: Yes! Exactly. I was happy and I was mad at the same time because I’m like, “Great, but dammit, why didn’t I find out about this before now, and why aren’t we being taught this in school?” I realized it was a unique privilege to experience because I know that nobody else that I had known or been around or grown up with had done that before. I ultimately decided I wanted to take this back to the African-American community and become a retreat leader, and a workshop leader, and a transformational leader and all of that.
Darla LeDoux: Yes. What happened for me was, I was like, okay, I’m in my early 20s. Who the hell is going to listen to me?
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly.
Darla LeDoux: What was that like for you?
Akanke Rasheed: It was scary, it was scary. I did try some things. Ultimately at that free seminar, they offered a weekend retreat, or a weekend workshop. I attended that, and at that event they offered a long term program which I would call their ‘high level program’, which was six months long in Washington Depot, Connecticut, which compelled me, I would say, within three months. It was like three months out, so I had within that three months to decide, “Do you want to go do that? What would it take for you to go do that? What would the possibilities be for you once you took that program?” Ultimately I did quit my job, I eloped with the guy that introduced me to it, and got married in New York, because Washington Depot, Connecticut is where the retreat hub was, if you will. We would go to New York because it was within an hour, I think, away. Long story short, I decided that I wanted to become a retreat leader because it was so transformative for me. We did the six month program. That program shined the light on who we were being in the world and our inhibitions and our fears and our thinking and the blinders we had on. Some of it was painful. Some of it was confrontational, but it was always loving, coming from the space of love.
Then I had trust issues because we were the only Blacks. I’m thinking, “They don’t really know us and maybe there’s some racism going on here,” because it seemed like we were always on the spotlight in terms of the group dynamics. There were issues around us paying for the program, because it was expensive back then. I think it was maybe $17,000 in 1989 per person, or something like that. I used my 401K money to contribute to that and my husband was a real estate developer, and he was waiting on money, so we were kind of paying as we go, paying in chunks. There were conversations around money, so I’m just saying that there were some sensitivities in some of those conversations because some of the buttons about racism got pushed and we spoke about that and we talked about that. It was quite a transformative, confrontational, but healing and loving experience, and it completely changed me.
After that program I stayed in New York. It was a six month program. After six months I stayed in New York for a little while, and I say I because I ended up separating from my husband. The program was so powerful that it allowed me, allowed us, to see that we weren’t right for each other, so we separated.
Darla LeDoux: I was thinking if every couple went through something like that at the beginning, I wonder what that would be like in the world?
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. I ended up coming back to Atlanta after a year with a commitment to doing some of this work in my community. I started all of that to say that when I got back to Atlanta … I learned how to meditate during that program. I learned meditation, I learned rebirthing. In addition to being in New York and Washington Depot, we would meet twice a week. We would study a book called ‘A Course in Miracles’. Then we would travel together. We went to Greece and Spain. We would do seminars in New York and different places and they would invite different authors and retreat leaders, or transformational leaders, to talk with us. Maybe every week or every other week we would have a guest.
When I came back to Atlanta, when I was meditating, part of the message that I got was teach the children who they really are. I still am trying to understand what that message was. It was so strong, and I think it’s coming, but one of the things that I thought literally was that I was supposed to go teach children, and that was a disaster.
I didn’t have any teacher’s training or anything, but what I tried to do is I went to my high school that I graduated from. I went back there and told them that I would like to help the children learn to be conscious, to have self awareness. I didn’t have a curriculum or anything.
Darla LeDoux: This was in 1989, 1990?
Akanke Rasheed: 1990. I was just sharing what I learned. What I learned is that I had to heal my relationship with my mother and my father. I had to write letters to them. This is what I did in the program. You can’t just go in a high school in the urban community and start having conversations like this without…
Darla LeDoux: Wouldn’t it be great if you could?
Akanke Rasheed: It would be great! Yeah! I was naïve to think that it would be fine, but it just wasn’t smooth. It wasn’t comfortable, and I didn’t have classroom management skills. That’s a big thing. If you’re going to teach, you’ve got to understand how to manage the classroom. Long story short, I did that for maybe two or three weeks. Then I had another experience teaching in a classroom and that didn’t work, so…
Darla LeDoux: I actually taught ninth grade, so that’s what I did after my awakening. I thought, “I can’t keep going to this corporate job that isn’t meaningful to me anymore. The veil is lifted.” I met someone who introduced me to someone who was an engineer who was teaching. I ended up interviewing and getting this job teaching high school math. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just sneak transformation in on the side.” And I did. I was in a really progressive school so I was able to do that in certain ways, but it was definitely a baptism by fire because teenagers, especially, they see right through any bullshit.
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly.
Darla LeDoux: Whatever my, “I’m in charge here,” stuff that I had in corporate did not fly with them.
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly, exactly. Moving forward and growing myself, I was still going through my own transformation. In fact that was the beginning of my transformation, just coming back from a six month program. That’s when all the stuff starts happening. Because the intensity of the program, you can’t see all your growth there. The growth happens after you leave, really.
Darla LeDoux: When does it ever end?
Akanke Rasheed: It doesn’t. I’m thankful for that. Like you said, I’m a junkie for it. I do think there’s a line where we have to learn how to just be and let the transformation happen without us approaching it from a point there’s something wrong with us, in the sense that I need to grow some more, this need to be something other than what you are, instead of embracing the beauty of who you are. There’s nothing wrong with us now. Because it’s insatiable. I don’t want to have an insatiable desire to grow. I want to just appreciate…
Darla LeDoux: Embrace where you are in the moment.
Akanke Rasheed: Embrace where I am. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: I’m going back to that statement, teach the children who they really are. You said really embrace the beauty of who we are. Would you say that’s the core of your mission?
Akanke Rasheed: I would say it is. I think I can be most impactful with younger people. This is just kind of an evolving awareness that I’m having, because recently I’ve been working at retreats with adults, and that has its beauty and its value as well, but I think younger people are more influential, or you can influence them more. They’re more malleable. You can mold them.
Darla LeDoux: I remember my first training, one of my early trainings was with Landmark Education, and they had a program for kids. They would say, “Oh my God, the kids get it in one day. What takes you adults weeks, they get it.”
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly. Exactly! I’m leaning towards that. I just really want to make a difference. I really want to give the gift of conscious awareness and transformation through self awareness to people. I think I do that in many ways, and I’ve done radio programs and television. I was a television producer and host. I did conscious programming. I just think I just really want to help facilitate deep transformation.
Darla LeDoux: Can we talk a little bit about, you mentioned in the program that you were in that you and your partner were the only people of color in the room.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: A lot of times that is the case in transformational spaces that I’m in, is that there’s just a few. Thankfully a lot of leaders are trying to speak more to inclusiveness and be more conscious of it, but it’s a slow movement. Your retreat was specifically for Muslim women of color.
Akanke Rasheed: Yes, yes.
Darla LeDoux: I would love to hear just a little bit about that choice and that experience to create a different kind of space.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. Well, we have a very unique experience as women of color and as Muslims. There is a merging of those two experiences that impacts who we are. For example, African-American people have inherited, if you will, the effects of our experience of slavery and Jim Crow and racism that’s not a person-on-person racism, necessarily, but systemic. There are some very profound ways that that impacts our daily living, really, whether we’re conscious of it or not. It impacts how we show up in the world. There’s internalized oppression, if you will, where we suffer from not loving ourselves enough. We’ve internalized the hatred that we get from outside, from within the structures, that we get messages and we internalize that. We inherit that from our parents. Not all people of color, of course, but just collectively that’s an issue.
As Muslims, and as Black Muslims, as a Muslim woman of color, I remember when I was … because I was raised Christian, and after I did the six month program, one of the profound changes that I had was a spiritual one, and I wanted to know God more. I was Christian and I got more into my Christianity. Then I had questions and Christianity didn’t answer those questions for me. Ultimately I was led to become a Muslim. Before I decided, yes, I’m going to embrace this, I first wanted to make sure I didn’t have to become an Arab in order to do this. Is this an Arab religion, because I didn’t know much about it before. I did know that Mohammed, peace be upon him, was from Arabia, but that’s another story. He was not the Arabs that we see today, so I’ll just say that. Anyway, the whole idea was that I had just become African centered. One of the outcomes of my growth from the six month program is that I’d become very African centered. I have cut my hair, I stopped perming my hair because I realized I was hating myself in terms of how my hair was, kinky, nappy, very tightly curled hair, and that I had permed. I was 20-something years old and I had permed it since I was probably a young teenager.
Being a Muslim, we internalize also an Arabism, if you will. To be Muslim, you’ve got to do it how the Arabs do it. Maybe dress like the Arabs do, or know Arabic, and speak Arabic fluently, which is a challenge for a lot of people. How does that impact our Islam? Islam is a very beautiful faith. The Qur’an is very profound. Are there ways in which we are not fully expressing ourselves as Muslim women, and Muslim women of color, because of internalized oppression and internalized Arabism, if you will? Rarely is it conscious. We usually aren’t conscious of it, but I became aware of it, and so I wanted to create a space where we dealt with those two things so that we could unearth whatever is holding up back from those internalized ideas and become more fully expressed and successful and happy and fulfilled and live with greater peace and abundance in our lives so that we are not reacting to something that we’ve internalized that’s not true.
Darla LeDoux: I love that. What I’m hearing is that the program helped you love yourself more and then that started showing up externally in how you carry yourself and how you express yourself and just that level of comfort with who you are. What I really love is that you were able to find that even within this container where you were the only Black woman in the room.
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly, exactly.
Darla LeDoux: What did you have to do to be able to take in what was important for you and deal with your own internal experience of being “other” while getting the gold for yourself?
Akanke Rasheed: Well, we didn’t walk into the program with an awareness of racial differences. We just embraced everybody, but we thought that some of the things that came up might have been coming up from a space of race and racism or what have you. We came in with an all-ness, with a love for everyone that was there. We didn’t have any chip on our shoulders or anything like that. We were excited to be in the space, so we didn’t have any blocks to that, if you will. When we had to be confronted, or we confronted others, about some of the dynamics we were feeling, it just got processed in a way that it needed to be processed, and ultimately we focused on the heart-centered energy of the space in general and trusted that and got the growth and had the breakthroughs that we needed to have. It wasn’t a big issue, but it just came up at certain times in conversations and debriefings when you’re put on the spot and you’re being processed about what you’re thinking and what’s happening.
Darla LeDoux: You’re being processed.
Akanke Rasheed: Yes. Yes.
Darla LeDoux: It sounds so clinical.
Akanke Rasheed: Your point is really a good one in terms of I got this gift from people outside my community. That also made me somewhat self conscious when I was taking it to my community. I wish it hadn’t been that way because imagine where I could be if I didn’t have these…
Darla LeDoux: Yeah, say more about that.
Akanke Rasheed: Well, just… Wow, I feel very vulnerable saying this, but that when you’re for your people, pro-Black, pro your people, and then you tell them that you learned this from some White people, basically, do you lose your street cred? Really, what happens? The race thing is a double-edged sword, really. Anyway, I just became self-conscious about sharing this and am I being too… I feel very vulnerable saying this. It’s like I had never seen transformational workshops and retreats like that in the community, and I was bringing it from the experience I had outside of our community. Then how did that feel to people? But I knew that we needed it. What I didn’t understand is that I could create it in a way that was unique for us, and that I didn’t have to hang on to where I got it from and all of that. I had some limitations that I needed to break through myself in order to get to a place of comfort, and it’s taken me these many years to do it.
Darla LeDoux: That makes perfect sense to me. When I started learning transformation, I tried to bring it home to my family in many different ways, and they looked at me like I was insane. I grew up in a really small town with not a lot of access to a lot of things. I can’t imagine having that on top of it. For them it was a whole different culture. I was losing my mind and in a cult and all of that. Then having the race on top of it, right? I can imagine that could feel pretty scary and vulnerable to bring forward.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. I’m just thinking now about things that I became self-conscious about, like meditation and rebirthing, which is a breathing technique that I learned at that time. Those things are just foreign to the community that I knew. Everybody’s doing it now, but back then in 1989, everybody wasn’t doing it and I was afraid to be a pioneer on some level. I still had my own growth in front of me to get comfortable with the gifts that I had been given and how to use them, how to share them.
Darla LeDoux: What was it like to kind of come full circle and host a retreat of women, and you had lived in Grenada for a while so you brought them there.
Akanke Rasheed: Yes. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: What was that like for you?
Akanke Rasheed: It was exciting and I was anxious at the same time. It’s sort of like your baby, you have this vision, and now you’re holding it in your hand and it’s about to happen, and it was exciting. It was a big step. It was like a destination retreat. I had always envisioned a very intimate retreat, but I could never, in the process of learning how to do retreats, I could never find or get clear on how to create that intimacy, because I really saw a room where we were sitting on the floor.
Long story short, because I was in Grenada, I had the retreat there and invited women there. It was great because Grenada’s a beautiful destination, and the women who came from the U.S. really loved it. It was enjoyable and it was challenging at the same time because I was trying on retreat leading for the first time. I was in a space of growth and transition myself. I had been widowed a year before that and just a lot of things going on, and I was still trying to push forward, which kind of ties into what we’re studying now about human design. What I learned from this, make sure the timing is right. Don’t go too fast and don’t wait too long, but listen to yourself with patience so that you’re guided to what’s right for you. One of the things that I learned from that is that when you are clear and right, you show up in a different way, because I was so anxious when I did my first retreat, so I had things show up for me that tested me. I had somebody in my retreat who was big diversion from the focus of the retreat, so I had to manage that. She was a disrupter, if you will.
I also had at my first retreat somebody who was very, very helpful and wanting to help a lot, and I allowed her to help. There were times when I felt like she was the retreat leader. We did a tour of the island and she was familiar with the island, so she offered to organize the tour. While we were on the tour, she was guiding everybody and I was asking her, “Okay, so what are we going to do next?”, instead of me saying what we’re going to do next. I handed that over, so I learned from that.
I learned a lot about my intuition as well. I’m doing some training now on cultivating my- I’m very intuitive but I had not conditioned myself to be clear about honoring it and hearing it. A lot of things happened at the retreat, learning to listen to myself, learning how to hold space for conflict in a retreat.
Darla LeDoux: You got like, baptism by fire. [laughing]
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah, exactly. [laughing] Exactly. Overall it was great. I think from a leader perspective, I definitely learned a lot and there are things that I will do differently the next time. From the attendees’ perspective, I think they enjoyed it. I got good feedback from it. There was, on the first night, the disrupter. I had to confront the disruptor in front of everybody because it was a retreat for women of color and she didn’t seem like she was a woman of color. Right up front there was an issue with what is a woman of color? That became the question. What is a woman of color? She identified as a…
Darla LeDoux: That’s a pretty deep conversation.
Akanke Rasheed: Absolutely, and it was at the welcome dinner, so imagine the welcome dinner being centered around me saying, “Well I don’t really think you’re really a woman of color.” It was just amazing.
Darla LeDoux: What are your takeaways from that? I’m thinking of that woman who said, “I’m Black on the inside”? The one that was the leader of the NAACP?
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: How do you determine that, right? That was an emotional controversy.
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly! Exactly, because she at one point said that you have to accept people how they identify, like I can’t tell her she’s not a woman of color if that’s how she identifies. But experientially she did not have the experience of a woman of color because she could pass for Pakistani or Indian. I thought she was Pakistani, that’s what I thought she was. I had the opportunity, because I lived in Saudi for a while, so I’ve been around a lot of people of different cultures, and Pakistani is one of them. Because the retreat focus was centered around the experience of being Black. When you look Black, I’m saying you get a certain treatment, people can pass for White and they don’t get treated the same way as a person who is definitely Black. There’s a definite experience. Basically her parents were African, but African of Pakistani descent, so she even considered herself an African because she was raised there, but she was not. I had to get clear on what I meant by a woman of color. I had to look at changing the language to say African-American-Muslim women, because that’s a particular experience that I want to hold space for. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hold space for other Muslim women and other women of color, I think there’s a need for that, but I’m not sure I’m the one to facilitate that necessarily, because I don’t have that experience.
One of the things that came out of that was that I became very empathetic towards her challenge, because she felt rejected, and she says she gets rejected by both sides. She gets rejected by Blacks, she gets rejected by other ethnicities as well, so there’s a need for a retreat for her and people who identify like that. I learned a lot from that and it made me understand more what their challenges were. I was just trying to preserve the sacredness of the conversations that I wanted to have. I also learned that I could still have the conversation even if someone was there who was not what I would consider a woman of color, because that following week or within two weeks, I went to another event that was specifically for Black Muslims. It was called the Black Muslim Psychology Conference. It was amazing and there were lots of people who were not Black. They were there to learn and to support and to advance the cause of the psychology of Black Muslims, understanding that there is a need for that. That reinforced some things for me as well.
Darla LeDoux: I so appreciate your transparency, and what I really love in this conversation is your willingness to speak in specificity, to really help bring an experience to life for people, rather than the generalizations where we can kind of want to put something in a bucket and have our nice little bow on it. What I’m hearing is, in terms of advice for retreat leaders, is really know the audience that you want to bring and also know the conversation that you want to have. There’s also a piece of letting go of control. I’ll just speak for myself as a leader of like, okay, maybe however this looks isn’t how I thought it was going to look …
Akanke Rasheed: But it’s the way it’s supposed to look. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: This is not remotely the same, so I’m not trying to make it the same, to be clear, but when we have something that’s for an established business owner, someone may come that’s not that, but in their mind they are because they identify.
Akanke Rasheed: I’m interested in that. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: It can sometimes be hard to control unless we’re having a lot of screening up front.
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly, exactly.
Darla LeDoux: If I were to take a lesson from that, it’s like, own the conversation that you’re committed to having, and trust. If it’s not the conversation for someone, that’s also okay.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely one thing that I learned, and I wrote this down. Confidence and self awareness, just be committed to your conversation. It requires a level of confidence and certainty about what your intentions are, and nothing can throw you off your center about that. When things show up like what happened in my retreat, you just state what the intentions are and roll with it and give people an opportunity if that’s the conversation that they’re there to have. Get the buy in, basically. Get the buy in from the beginning, during the rules of engagement, and to be very clear about your destination, the destination you want to take your participants on and get the buy in on that. Of course that happens up front with the marketing as well, how you language your marketing, your promotions.
Darla LeDoux: The more you do it, the more you’ll know the language and the more you’ll be able to hold the space.
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly. I’m excited about doing it more, and I’m committed to that. My retreat was in July, and I just really am committed to staying on it and planning the next one and doing mini-retreats. I’ve done a mini-retreat at my home since that one, and that went well. I’m committed to transformation, so I’m sticking with it.
Darla LeDoux: Akanke, I’m curious. What was amazing about having a group of primarily African-American-Muslim women together? How was that for you?
Akanke Rasheed: It was great. We have a love for our faith and a desire to maximize the beauty of it, not just ritualistically but spiritually, because every faith had this ritualistic element and then the deeper, spiritual elements. I think faith really is about spirituality and not about how exact you are in the ritualistic things that you do. It was great to be there to focus on the spiritual aspects of what it means to be human, and to be Muslim, and to be African-American. It was great. The challenge was doing a retreat on a beautiful island and balancing the time that you spend doing the deep dive, personal development work, with seeing the beautiful island. I ended up running out of time in terms of time spent doing the transformational work, and the transformational work ended up showing up in other ways, like the challenge with the tour. We learned things as we did everything that we did. I learned to balance my content and to be careful about destination retreats. Do them longer. Instead of a three day retreat, do a five day retreat. That’s one thing.
Darla LeDoux: We also encourage people to stay longer.
Akanke Rasheed: Stay afterwards. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: It makes me think of our mutual friend, Davia, who had the cruise, and everybody’s doing all the cruise activities and then coming to the workshop. That’s challenging, but she got people there. They came and showed up and learned.
Akanke Rasheed: That’s beautiful. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux: Another question that I’m just really curious about, so this might just be for me, but I think it would be also educational for others in the transformational space. What was it about that six-month program and what you discovered that had you become more spiritual, and what was it that you learned that had Islam resonate for you so deeply?
Akanke Rasheed: Okay. Wow. From that program-
Darla LeDoux: Because I’ve become more spiritual through my work. When I used to be much more practical.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. Yeah. I think inevitably we come from God and to God we’re returning, so no matter what the illusions are of this world, truly everything is spiritual. I think when you begin to shine the light on who you are as a human being, you realize that there is a deeper innate knowing of a higher power. Then if you have a particular faith, you start to ask questions and you start to evolve yourself spiritually connecting to a divine source. For me, I became so in love with life, and I knew life was a gift. I just got excited about life, and I knew that I didn’t create my life. I had no choice in how I was created. I’m saying the miracle of life is from God.
So, self-awareness and the process of self-actualization is about actualizing ourselves spiritually because one day we will return to God, and we are here to cultivate ourselves spiritually, which manifests in different ways in the kind of work we do. As Muslims, everything we do is through a spiritual lens. Who we marry, how we eat, how we sleep, lots of things. Ultimately I was led to Islam because I was asking questions and God knew where to lead me to find the answers, basically. I had no idea I would become Muslim, and I had very, very, very little knowledge. I don’t think I knew anything about Islam before I actually picked up a book or went to the masjid.
It’s interesting how I found out about it. That’s another story, but essentially I was training to be a television producer. In order to get my certificate to be a producer, I had to volunteer on a show. I had to find a show that was in production, and I ended up choosing a show that was an Islamic show. I was the camera person and I was working the camera and they were talking about Islam. At the end of the show I asked questions. I had to go back twice to get my certification, so ultimately I was invited to the masjid and got a Qur’an and read the Qur’an. Reading the Qur’an is what sealed the deal for me. It was quite profound. All those questions I had were answered with such clarity. The Qur’an is just crystal clear. It’s very direct. It touched me. It was an intellectual process mostly though.
Darla LeDoux: Wow. That’s amazing!
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. It was quite…
Darla LeDoux: How beautiful how spirit works. What are the chances that you picked that show?
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly.
Darla LeDoux: Or that show picked you?
Akanke Rasheed: Exactly. Exactly.
Darla LeDoux: In my upbringing in Christianity, definitely there wasn’t that idea that everything is through a spiritual lens. It was more like show up on Sunday so everybody sees you and knows you went to church.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. The spiritual aspect has been left out in so many ways. For me church was about going to be in the Girl Scouts, and going to be in pageants. It was a social, recreational kind of thing. I never saw my parents go to church at all, but they would send me to activities there.
Darla LeDoux: Yeah. Me too.
Akanke Rasheed: Ultimately God knows what we need and he calls us forth to get it.
Darla LeDoux: Amazing. Akanke, what would you like to leave people with?
Akanke Rasheed: Wow. I would like to leave people with the idea that transformation is what we’re here for, growth, self actualization, what I call the journey of ascension. It’s really our purpose here in life, and the creator has put a unique inclination in all of us, but the world has done a good job of shutting that down, shutting down the voice within and shutting down how we listen to ourselves and how we learn ourselves and who we are. From the beginning, the creator has blessed us with something unique, a unique blueprint. Our job is to transform over time, and actualize ourselves in a way that God is pleased with. Part of what we do is to serve, no matter what you do. Retreats and transformational work is all about getting to know who we are and who God wants us to be. Do the transformational work! It’s beautiful. It’s the most beautiful thing, getting to know who we are and becoming all that we can be, and embracing where we are in the moment, so the growth is out of self love, not self hate. It’s out of loving ourselves more that we want to grow and we want to continue to level up in a way that’s embracing who we are now and knowing that we’re not done yet.
Darla LeDoux: So important. Thank you. I love that! Everybody, you can learn more about Akanke and her mission and what she’s got going on over at the URL ascension.love. I know you’re going to want to learn more about her thoughts, opinions, and straight talk, which I know you’ll be able to find over there. Thank you, Akanke, so much for being here and sharing your brilliance.
Akanke Rasheed: My pleasure. Thank you.
Darla LeDoux: And for staying on the path.
Akanke Rasheed: Yeah. Thank you so much and thanks for your support. I love you, thank you!
Darla LeDoux: Love you.
Akanke Rasheed: Bye!
Darla LeDoux: Bye!
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