For Common, Self-Care Is the New Black

Meditation time! Find a comfy spot to stretch out, close your eyes, and breathe deeply, in and out. Good. Now imagine a beam of energy. Ride that beam out of your body, up into the air, and toward the stars. Peaceful, right? And are you hearing that celestial music yet? What type of music is it? Is it . . . rap?

Perhaps it is not. And perhaps that is why Lonnie Rashid Lynn, the rapper, actor, writer, and activist known as Common, based his new album, “Let Love,” on concepts of healing, therapy, and meditation. As he explains on the first track, “Taking care of self is the new black.”

The other day, Common was making his way to a wellness sanctuary in Nolita called Reset, which specializes in astrological readings, sound baths, and mindfulness workshops for burned-out professionals. He was scheduled for a meditation session. Liz Tran, the center’s thirty-four-year-old founder, was making preparations. She burned a stick of wood called palo santo and waved it around. “I’m just going to clear the air a bit,” she said.

Common arrived in a light-blue sweatsuit, with color-blocked pants, and basketball sneakers, which he removed. He is forty-seven, and he smiles often and speaks gently. He pulled a matching stick of wood from his pocket. “I’ve got my own palo santo!” he said.

Common said that he began his wellness journey seventeen years ago, after a rough breakup with his girlfriend, Erykah Badu. The goal of “Let Love,” he says, is to change the culture of repression and self-neglect in neighborhoods like the South Side of Chicago, where he grew up. “I’d had conversations with people from different generations, the elders. They feel, like, ‘Yo, we don’t talk about that. We don’t do therapy. We got God,’ ” he said. “I’m, like, ‘God works through the therapists, too!’ ”

He threw back a shot of mustard-colored liquid. “This is a little thing called Vitality,” he said. It’s part of his juice regimen, and it contains lemon, ginger, honey, yuzu, and echinacea. He excused himself to use the bathroom.

On his return, he said, “I form my own way of meditating. People think I’m using the bathroom all the time. But sometimes I go in there to get my space, to just center myself.”

And just now?

“I honestly just had to use it,” he said. “I’ve been drinking all this water, man.”

At Reset, football-size crystals glowed in recessed showcases, and a bookshelf was organized by subject: Rocks, Relationships, The Path Back. In May, Common published a memoir, his second, called “Let Love Have the Last Word,” which touches on childhood molestation, therapy, and Marianne Williamson. He said, “Man, if we could get more people in politics to approach things like she does, the human race would be better.”

“I love your memoir,” Tran told him. It was on the shelf next to Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind,” and a few shelves away from “The Human Aura.” “Lots of young men could use it.”

“Honestly, I was just writing it to tell my story, but also to give people the chance to open up to themselves,” Common said. “When I first became vegetarian, people at home were upset. That was almost offending them. My mother now is eating pretty close to vegetarian. She’s started journalling.”

“No way!” Tran said.

“I’ve had couples come up to me and the wife will say, ‘Tell him what you’re doing.’ And the husband will be, like, ‘Yo, hey, man, I read the book, I’m starting therapy next week.’ ”

Tran swung open a heavy door to the meditation chamber. Common had turned down the offer of a sound bath. (“You leave in a real floaty state,” he said; he’d heard that it could impair verbalization.) The room was bright white, with benches and blue mats arranged around an eight-hundred-pound smoky-quartz crystal from Madagascar. “Darker crystals absorb negative energy,” Tran said.

Common lay on a mat, arms across his chest. “Deep breath,” Tran instructed. “When you breathe in, you’re breathing in energy and love, and when you breathe out you fill the world with more love.” Chimes tinkled. Tran went easy on the aural effects—less sound bath than sound spritz.

Time passed. Colors were envisioned. A mantra was whispered: “May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be loved.” Then Tran counted up to five, and Common found the path back to the room.

“I can feel the energy radiating off of you,” Tran said. “Like, whoa.”

“Thank you,” Common said. “That was necessary.”

Tran asked, “What was your color?”

“My color was blue.”

“Blue is the throat chakra,” she said. “It’s expressing yourself, having a voice.”

Hugs were dispensed. Then everyone descended to the street and went back out into a world that was—with its Amazon fires, its Caribbean storms, and its near-constant mass shootings—neither happy nor peaceful nor loved. ♦

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