I’m sure I’m not the only person who was obsessed with guided journals as a kid, right? As a neurotic middle schooler with big feelings (and no knowledge of therapy yet), writing and reflecting on my lunchtime drama and the fact that no boy asked me to slow dance during “The Climb” was more than a hobby, it was an outlet. Perhaps, without even noticing, I was developing a passion for mindfulness, as well as a drive to better understand myself and my emotions. Even now, as a grown (debatable) adult, I still find myself completing guided journals and workbooks — albeit more mature than my middle school years. So, with the release of Grammy-nominated musician and artist Valerie June’s mindfulness workbook, consider my outlet officially recharged.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name Valerie June, let me introduce you to your new fascination. As mentioned before, June is a Grammy-nominated musician who has been praised by the likes of legendary artists like Bob Dylan. Her music is an innovative blend of Appalachian folk, soul, and R&B that’s not only pleasing to the ears, but wrought with lyricism.
But Valerie June is more than a musician. The artist is also a published author, first releasing her debut poetry book, Maps For The Modern World, before publishing a children’s book inspired by her song “Somebody to Love,” aptly titled Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June’s Sweet Little Baby Banjolele. June, and her work, have been praised for their inspiring storytelling ability, no matter the age group.
Now, in 2023, June has released yet another book — but this time, it’s up to you to tell the story. Her mindfulness workbook, Light Beams: A Workbook for Being Your Badass Self ($20), is a one-of-a-kind interactive journal that builds on themes of mindfulness, harmony, healing, and balance within yourself and the planet. Middle school me would’ve loved this one.
With the recent release of Light Beams, I had the ability to chat with June about the inspiration behind the book, as well as her journey navigating the wellness space.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve already published a children’s book. What made you want to create a guided journal for your most recent written project?
I’ve kept a journal for decades. My journals are filled with poems, songs, petals from flowers, clippings from plants, drawings, calculations of how to make ends meet, appointment times, memories, coffee stains, wishes, dreams, hopes, goals, and ideas — you name it! As I have studied wellness and mindfulness practices for manifesting your dreams and desires, I’ve always believed those practices like the law of attraction work.
It is the collective that creates the structures of society. There is a magic to mindset. All day, things are fighting for a moment in our mind space. What happens if we collectively shift our minds to beauty and harmony for all living beings? What happens when we are still and silent enough to listen to the ancient wisdom of trees? Trees work with such unity with everything around them. I have to believe that is how we sweeten the world. It’s a practice. It can be work to create a beautiful way of living with people or systems we don’t necessarily agree with. That is why I thought it could be cool to create a work-book with a few exercises that keep our hearts open, tuned, and ready to do the necessary tasks it takes to shift our energy in the darkest moments.
Music has always been a part of your life, but has mindfulness also been a constant? How did you get started on your mental health journey?
I was raised in the country surrounded by trees, frogs, snakes, wild cats, spiders, and bugs. As a teenager, I would go outside at night and talk to the moon. I had many experiences where the Moon would give me guidance in exactly the perfect moment. Green trees and nature were the leading teachers and guides that awakened me to mindfulness. Growing up in the church, I learned many mindfulness practices and ways to navigate tough times. It was also the beginning of my musical journey and the start of my interest in mindfulness. When I became a teenager, I started to study philosophies, myths, and beliefs of people from all over the world. I was led to explore the work of great writers, artists, and musicians. There’s a section at the back of my book, Light Beams, that lists a few of the most inspiring creators who led me to find my path of mindfulness.
How did you come up with some of the prompts and lessons in the book?
All of the prompts and exercises came to me at times when I needed them the most. I’ve been practicing alchemy and healing magical ways of living for over 25 years. These are some of the personal tools the guides of nature and beyond have gifted me. I just felt brave enough to finally share them with readers. Everyone has guides. They can be a pet, a plant, a person, the sun, the moon, or anything. We all have practices. Life is a practice! I’m just sharing some of my faves.
The wellness space is one that has, unfortunately, been whitewashed over time. How has your experience been, as a Black woman, navigating the industry?
Wow! What a great question! In my observation of the wellness space, I find that the whitewashing might just be a way to healing and connection. People who come into the wellness space are open to healing methods and practices. My exploration is to see how to expand that curiosity beyond the individual to collective and community awareness: The understanding that all is one, we are one. Ways of living and thinking that marginalize others ultimately deteriorate the wellness of those more privileged. What makes a person a badass?
To me, a badass is someone who does all of that and connects it all back to sharing light with others. Especially those who don’t look or believe like you do. There has never been a better time to be Black, a woman, and full of light ready to jedi beam it out for all to bask and radiate in! If not now, then when? Now is the time to transcend!
What tips do you have for college students who want to be their “most badass self” during these formative years?
I have only questions: Why are you studying what you’re studying? How can it uplift others? How will it open hearts? Does it allow you to shine fearlessly? If you have a dream of something that probably won’t pay the bills, is it still worth doing? Can you find ways to fulfill both your passion and your priorities?