Zaid Gayle was raised in a deeply religious family that was influential in the Black Panther Party. This Belly story illustrates how Zaid came to terms with spirituality through his own lived experience.
Zaid is the co-founder and executive director of Peace4Kids, a nonprofit that provides a safe space for youth in foster care to build meaningful relationships with each other and adults.
- Zaid is an L.A. native with a deep spiritual grounding
- At the age of 27, Zaid’s relationship with his wife and his non-profit take a nose dive
- A fertility doctor told Zaid it was his ‘fault’ they couldn’t have a baby
- A vegan, Zaid didn’t want to take fertility drugs which have proved to cause multiple pregnancies, etc.
- In this spiritual crisis, a member of Zaid’s board of directors invites him to take ‘earth medicines’ in Joshua Tree
- The experience/trip opens new understandings about both his relationships and the future of his non-profit
- Zaid pivots to the new relationship and she gets pregnant quickly
- Through these difficult times, Zaid realizes the beauty in the fragility of life and shifts his life to focus less on control and more being present
“And I woke up one day and she told me she was no longer interested in us being married. And it was hard for me to understand that from the perspective of what I've been taught in my spiritual training and my spiritual life.
“You grow up in this spiritual world and my interpretation of that was you suppressed all those emotional energies that don't represent joy and happiness and prosperity and abundance and all those things that we think we want to have an experience of in our life. We don't talk a lot about the shadow side and the depths and the darkness.
“The things that I've been taught to use weren't working and I didn't know how to ask for help. And so that spiral just got deeper and deeper and deeper. And I went in to this this solid well of depression where I was literally crying every day in and and unable to sleep.
“But in this situation, my son was like, that's the mother. If you want to bring me onto the planet, you need to connect with her.
“I say, look, I know it's going to sound crazy, but you're supposed to be the mother of my child. And she said, no, no, I'm down. And a month later, she was pregnant.
“When we think about what was happening to Peace4Kids at that time -- I had to walk into a board meeting and tell them that I had failed. And I was used to always winning and figuring it out on my own.
“And so, you know, in my life, I have all this this sadness and I'm failing in every aspect of who I believe I am as a human being. Right. This community leader who's leading an organization that serves youth in foster care. These people who are my staff were depending on me to do my job well so that they could feed their families. And I'm telling them all that I failed and feeling highly responsible because I've had to tell the same thing to my wife that I failed and I'm unable to create the family that we were committed to having.
“And this idea of me standing as this big figure, this looming figure in all of these areas of my life, and then looking at myself in the mirror and saying, you suck. None of these things that you think you are is who you are. And part of it for me was then to reflect like, how did I get to this identity of self? And that question became something that was really present for me. And that was the question that broke me down, you know? That was the question that made me have so many sleepless nights because I felt like I'd been lying to myself my whole life.
“And now I started a whole new chapter with someone else before the divorce papers are even signed.
“There's a lot of aspects to who we are and that your darkness, these places that we're afraid to go to can have a lot of light and have a lot of energy and transformation in them. And the more time we spend trying to defeat that shadow side without embracing it, the more fragile we become.
“You know, so there are all these things that I had to just kind of begin to adjust to the the messiness and the fragility of life and things that I could not control. And that actually became the thing that I held on to. Right. I was able to pick up that piece. And initially it was control. And then it was about recognizing the fragility of life and how magical that is. Right. That, you know, for all of us, anything can happen to us at any given moment that shifts the journey in a second. And if you can be present in mindful about that, then you stop worrying about what could happen and start enjoying what is happening.
“There are certain things that you can have a strategy and a plan for, but stay open to the fragility of the moment, because that's where the magic is.
“I had to recognize I wasn't serving these young people; these young people were serving me. And in that spiritual practice, connecting with another human being where they are is really what spirituality is about. It's about the oneness of the human condition and that suffering is a part of that.
“And so breaking yourselves from that identity is what I believe is important, and that's a very fragile state of being, to wake up every day and say, how can I be different? How can I embrace a different side of me that is not based on the expectations of others, but based on my spiritual identity about what's important to me in this moment.