Q & A with 2011 Lois Lang Alumna-in-Residence Bella Mahaya Carter

By Ashli Duncan ‘11Op-Ed Editor

Bella Mahaya Carter (’83) is an artist, life coach, poet and author. While at Scripps she majored in dance and literature and now returns to Scripps to help students find their own creative practice for  “living your best life.” Carter will be on campus Feb. 26 through March 4 to host a number of workshops around the theme “Body Mind, Sprit: Transformational Creative practices for living your best life.”

Ashli Duncan: What does the theme “Body, Mind, Spirit: Transformational Creative Practices for Living Your Best Life” stand for?

Bella Mahaya Carter: Creative movement, journaling and guided meditations.

AD: Voice has recently been looking at issues of stress on the Scripps campus. Will any of your workshops address this issue?

BMC: Yes, all the workshops address this specifically. In the Art of Self-Nurturing workshop, students will design their own self-nurturing plan by asking questions such as “What do I need to nurture myself?” We live in a society with an out of world focus. Society tells use what to do. We need to ask ourselves, “What do I want to do?” to connect to our power.

AD: Were students pushing themselves to the point of passing out when you were at Scripps?

BMC: To a lesser extent. Now technology has made it worse, it has driven us to accomplish more. But we haven’t developed the tools to navigate it. We have gotten to a point where we are doing, doing, doing because we are convinced we’re not enough. But we are enough. If only we could understand that.

AD: What drove you to write “Secrets of my Sex?”

BMC: My dark point, which was my midlife crisis. I hadn’t achieved what I thought I would after 20 years of writing.  After 9/11 I thought, “What could I have to say that could matter?” I stopped writing and started to get sick because I stopped doing what sustained me. I started a yoga practice and began eating raw vegan. I started to get better, but something was still missing.

AD: What is the significance of your poetry?

BMC: The poems are about telling some kind of truth. They were very sexual because in my generation, good girls didn’t speak about such things. It became a way to find my voice. But now that I have found my voice and live in my power, I am no longer trying to please people.

AD: Can you talk about being a life coach?

BMC: I love trying to find “what does this person need to fly?”

I had to go though this myself, I had my own challenges. I wanted to dance for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, but a back injury changed that. I left Julliard and transferred to Scripps. I thought I was a nobody. From this I learned that the best you can do is say yes to yourself. Saying yes is like bathing, it needs to be done on a regular basis. Say yes to your dreams. We become fearful, but what you love is your path. This is something I didn’t know in college

The mistake we make is thinking that our identity is related to what we do. Who we are is much larger that what we do. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “What am I trying to prove and why do I have to prove anything at all?” It’s not so much the issue but how your respond to the issue.

There is no such thing has not being good enough. Many people believe they are unworthy of happiness and living their dream. We have more strength than we think we have.

Let me share a reoccurring dream I have. My house is bigger than I think it is and there’s a dance studio, a library as big as Denison, a cathedral, antique furniture and a treasure chest with jewels. In my dream I say, “Wow I didn’t know I had all of these.” The house is a metaphor for me. All of these treasures are in myself. I haven’t excavated them yet. It’s limitless.

AD: Anything else you want the Scripps community to know about you or the workshops?

BMC: Come with an open heart and mind.