There's Finally A Black Woman Meditation Teacher On Headspace And It's Kind Of A Big Deal
Dora Kamau's presence in one of the most respected wellness spaces is a reminder of why representation has been key.
June 12, 2021 at 10:25 pm
After finally getting past the lost password hurdle with my Headspace app, I'd embarked on my less than quarterly practice of reacquainting myself with meditation. I went on to play one of the app's basic three-minute meditative practices and was pleasantly floored to hear a voice not too far off from my own.
Headspace's first Black woman meditation teacher, Dora Kamau, first tapped into meditative practices at 18 years old -- but only when they were attached to hip hop melodies. Her mom wouldn't have it any other way. Ordinary meditations and all of the chantings associated sounded a tad bit strange and she didn't want her daughter entertaining them.
Now, Kamua, a 28-year-old African-Canadian, creates meditations for a living and does them with one of the most widely-recognized wellness companies.
The Ontario native was recruited by Headspace -- which boasts over 70 million listeners across 190 countries -- last year and joined the team in November.
Kamau, who now lives in Vancouver, entered the wellness space out of necessity. And she's not shy about it. She has an entire section on one of her websites, dedicated to her "truths." In that, she divulges that indulging in toxic habits, including trauma bond-informed friendships, drinking and doing drugs, left her no choice but to reevaluate and prioritize her well-being.
"[It was] my own pain," Kamau said in conversation with Blavity of why she entered the wellness space. "Wanting more for myself. Wanting more for my health. Wanting to see people like me in the wellness space."
But the self-care expert didn't want to just heal herself. Kamau, who knew she always wanted to center women in her work, would go on to do just that, particularly with those struggling with overcoming addictions.
"I think we think about addiction to something that's so extreme, right? Especially when it comes to like alcohol use and substance use, but a lot of the times we don't really look at what has brought people to that place," she said. "And so in that, you know, me working through my own pain and my own trauma there's connections there, where I think that we think we're so far off from those people, but it's like, it just takes one choice, one decision, you know, one experience for you to be on the other side."
Prior to joining Headspace, Kamau worked as a psychiatric nurse and mindfulness facilitator. She's also the founder of Bliss Your Heart, an empowerment space specifically for women. For some, representation is just a liberal buzzword. But Kamau has always been especially cognizant of the significance of being able to see yourself reflected in various spaces. Having organized and led meditation events specifically catered to Black women, she knows firsthand what her presence has done at these particular venues.
"There would always be maybe one, two or three Black women in the beginning when I had started, who would just be so like taken back that there was a Black woman that was hosting the event," Kamua shared. "And sometimes, there'd be people in tears of like, I didn't really think I would be able to experience this in Vancouver."
Kamau had always been attune to the importance of representation and creating spaces which can service targeted marginalized groups. Amid the Black Lives Matter uprisings and growing cognizance around the aforementioned, she recalled a man who once criticized her for centering Black women in her events.
"Someone was like, this is racist. Like why, why are these spaces needed? You know, is shouldn't the goal be like unity," Kamau said. "And I was thinking about that last year, I hope this person now knows why these spaces are needed because this is why. I'm just happy that I stuck with the work that I was doing and trusting the work that I was doing, because it is very lonely when you're the only one that's seeing why these places are needed, you know?"
"It was just a very big confirmation of like, keep going and you're on the right path," she added of the increasingly widespread prioritization of representation.
Kamau's most recent Headspace course is centered on healing after a failed relationship. Outside of Headspace, she also offers several free guided meditations.
And while Kamau has been able to affirm that her journey thus far is the one she was destined for, her folks were none too certain.
"African parents are just so, like, 'doctor, lawyer, dentist.' That's it," she laughed. "And so when I had first told my mom and my dad, my dad was like, well, can you get a Ph.D. in meditation?"
While such a degree isn't around just yet for Kamau to boast about for her parents' sake, they've come to appreciate that their daughter is both living in her purpose and being compensated for it.
Meanwhile, Headspace users are just glad she exists in the wellness corner of their phones.
"Someone had wrote, 'Thank you so much for being on Headspace. I've been really struggling with my sexual orientation and just hearing your voice brings me a lot of ease. And I just want to thank you for your presence,'" she shared of one fan's message.
"Like everyday, there's someone that has reached out either through email or through Instagram or on Twitter or somewhere," Kamau said. "I never knew that I would have this big of an impact."