Meet Maryam Ajayi, Healer, Activist and Founder and CEO of Dive in Well. As a practitioner of Breathwork, Reiki, and Akashic Records, and as an advocate for inclusion and equity in wellness, her experiences as a Black woman and her journey through wellness have pushed her to seek out and create space for Black Indegenous People of Color (BIPOC) to heal.
Tell us about your journey to starting Dive in Well. What inspired you to commit to this work?
To be honest I did not initially aspire to work in the wellness industry. I had a less than fruitful career in a traditional corporate environment during which I was suffering from chronic pain, crushing anxiety, PTSD, and bouts of depression. At the time I didn't understand that while making a career in white-dominated spaces, steeped in racist corporate culture, I was also carrying around ancestral and inherited trauma. My body and mental health were at a breaking point when I found what we call “the wellness industry”. Although I was finding much-needed relief in wellness practice, I had also started to experience a lot of harm in these (once again) white-dominated spaces.
I saw and experienced this marginalization for my entire career. Finding this same culture in an industry that was supposed to help people feel whole wasn’t just disappointing; it felt hypocritical and enraging. It was especially infuriating realizing that most of the tools being packaged by the wellness industry belonged to and originated in traditions of BIPOC. Not only that, but because of the endemic marriage of white heteropatriarchy, colonization and capitalism, the communities who needed these modalities, who birthed these sacred traditions could not access them. I had had enough.
I’d written an article about white supremacy in wellness that garnered some traction, but ultimately knew that words were not enough. I wanted to take action in whatever way I could. That’s when I founded the Diversity in Wellness dinner series, gathering leaders in the wellness industry for intimate salon dinners to discuss the changes that needed to be made for wellness spaces to become inclusive and safe for everyone.
In 2019, Diversity in Wellness brought together over 100 thought leaders and influencers through these salon dinners across NYC and LA and by the end of the year I knew that we were more than just a dinner series, we were a movement. We rebranded as Dive in Well at the start of 2020, and relaunched in February with the intention to grow our community and resources.
Why is inclusivity in the wellness industry an important issue right now?
Inclusivity in wellness has always been an important issue. Statistics have even shown that there is no wellness industry without inclusivity. It’s just that now people are sorta, kinda listening.
2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have really shown us the gross inequities people from marginalized communities face with our healthcare system here in the US (that’s why we saw the wellness industry skyrocket, amongst other things). It would be a major misstep to repeat mistakes of the past and leave people in marginalized communities behind.
I believe that the future of wellness can implement more inventive business models, can honor native traditions whole heartedly, can marry profitability while also serving the community.
I also believe that building a community that is comfortable having difficult conversations about systemic racism in wellness spaces, accompanied by the powerful nervous-system soothing tools that wellness practices offer us, is the bedrock of the radical change we so desperately need in this industry.
What is Dive in Well doing to make the wellness industry more accessible and equitable?
At Dive in Well we are centering the BIPOC experience. In doing so we get a glimpse into what the future of the wellness industry could be: one that is diverse, inclusive, and accessible. We’ve created digital and in-person (on hold for now) experiences that foster open dialogue, encouraging leaders to ask meaningful questions and create connections that effect change through concrete plans of action. We distill those insights into workbooks and workshops that empower individuals who believe in soul-centered wellness and justice for marginalized communities. We also extend these ideas into our work with corporations through brand partnerships, program curation and consulting.
What have been some of the most transformative moments in your life?
Every time I have chosen faith over fear.
How would you describe yourself as a woman? As a leader?
Open, honest, unique, heart-centered, brave, resilient, passionate and intelligent.
What are some tips you can share for carving out and maintaining a wellbeing practice?
As Oprah says, “if you don’t have 5 minutes, you don’t have a life.” Start by taking 5 minutes in the morning or evening to meditate, day dream, sit in silence, journal, or anything you feel called helps you reclaim your energy. You can then simply schedule 5 minutes of reclamation throughout you day to help you stay balanced and grounded.
Do you have any daily affirmations?
No matter what, there is always something to be grateful for.
Describe your perfect day.
Napping for at least 75 to 80% of the day in lush blankets, only getting up to eat delicious food.
In this time of uncertainty, what do you know to be true?
Love conquers all.
What does “wellbeing” mean to you?
Wellbeing to me is wholeness. It’s coming back to ourselves minute by minute, one lifetime to the next.