I’ve been meditating on all the joy that is in my life: the gratitude, the little things, the easily over looked things. I just finished reading The Biology of Belief for a Life Coaching certification course I’ve been working on. The author, Dr. Bruce Lipton, says that the cells move toward nutrients and away from toxins and love is a spiritual nutrient whereas fear and negativity is a toxin.
Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Knowing a fact or idea and acting on it are two different things especially if 95% of ourselves move and act out of habit. Knowing we have the power and ability to change a script is different than changing a script. Mediation has its peripheral benefits. So imagine we are all energy and the waves of thought and being are radiating outward in waves and entangling with other vibrations and frequencies and they change. They change just upon entanglement. The vibrations can bounce off each other and return to you - to your mediation field.
The thing about meditation is that it hones our ability to be sensitive. One thing we are not really taught is to be sensitive to the things we cannot see. In society we’ve replaced that with organized religion, so where where we are taught in school to work with physical matter, in school we are taught to believe in one thing we cannot see and to hyper focus on the single invisible object with a few others on the side … so, God and angels. And that is fine, but we can expand on that. Also, it can be seen as two contradictory ideas. This method and hyper focus distracts us from being sensitive to the frequencies around us give off because the whole planet is living. The plants, the animals, the other people, we all act as one symbiotic organism. Did I pull out a few skeptics when I used the word ‘symbiotic’?
It’s matter of belief. Now, I am going to have to write a giant essay on the book, which I can publish later, but for now I want to stay focused on joy and love. The two things that came to me when I was meditating is:
I’d like to tackle the second one first and I am going to get really selfish here for a minute, but that’s really the only way I know how to explain this. I have been really sick lately. I have a ton of congestion and body aches and my foot became swollen and my side hurt. I have been a mess, generally speaking, for about three weeks. This is very atypical. Naturally, I was thinking about my death. I want to believe everything will go on just fine without me and I am certain it would after some doing. If I died today, right now, I would leave behind two children that live with me, two dogs and an eighty-five year old mother that is immobile and has dementia. Sounds easy in one sentence, but I would worry about my children (are they able to take care of themselves fully and realize their dreams?), I would worry about the dogs (of course I chose very difficult breeds to take on even though they are complete snuggle bunnies to me and my family, one is a biter. Would he or they be welcome where they go? Would my children take them and take good care of them?) and lastly there’s mom.
I take care of mom because, frankly, I don’t really trust anyone else. That’s the wrong answer, isn’t it? I should say, I take care of mom because I love her. Well, every child knows the mother-child relationship can be tumultuous and mine is no different. Sometimes people reconcile their relationships. I don’t think we ever did and now I am obliged to care for her. I think it’s cultural. Obviously, I could place her somewhere. Last time I did that I was so very disgusted with the professional care I cannot bring myself to do it yet.
Bringing Dr. Lipton back into this story for a moment, it should be noted that it is not the professionals that fell down here, it is their education. This leads back to the idea that we are not taught to be intuitive. Some break boundaries, true, but most want to keep their jobs so they comply and ignore their inner feelings. If I haven’t said it before, I will say it now, they sent her home with thousands of dollars of prescriptions to be filled and she is on zero drugs right now. Yes, she broke her hip and yes, she needed surgery and yes some temporary drugs were great. Creating a cycle of dependency on the pharmaceuticals is not the correct objective, however.
How did mom end up in this place in the beginning? I could list a number of physical reasons. When she began to show signs of dementia she would forget she put sugar in her coffee and kept adding sugar and she would drink coffee all day long. She did not exercise.. at all. She didn’t ride a bike or run or swim or value long walks in the woods. She did not read, she barely had time for television. Not only did she not read, she didn’t value furthering her knowledge. She allowed herself to become less social as she aged. She enjoyed processed foods and instant coffee, but that would be the least of her bad habits. The worst being her fear of standing up and her burying of her feelings. Now I don’t want you to think she was completely horrible. I get my love of cooking and culture from her, she was a perfectionist when it came to sewing and I never would have been so good at math if we hadn’t of played all those math games when I was growing up.
Brain studies have demonstrated how we create pathways in the mind ("Cells that fire together, wire together”), how we can rebuild the mind, how we can intentionally forget traumatic incidents and how our minds struggle with fear. When I was growing up, my father was pretty abusive. One day he threw a heavy glass and oak coffee table that easily weighs forty pounds across the room at my mom. I saw her get drugged down the stairs while trying to hold on to the handrail not to mention his constant demeaning.
Anyone who knew my mom would tell you she is the nicest person in the world. There is no way she deserved this type of treatment from anyone, but he was just a mean angry guy with a whole set of his own problems he wasn’t dealing with. Bottom line is, mom had a lot to want to forget and unfortunately I don’t think the traumatic incidents in her life started when she got married. During her divorce she had sort of a mental break down. What I would later come to see as her “weakness” became something I found difficult to forgive as I often got caught in the cross hairs. To add insult to injury I then had to watch this dude just walk away scot-free. In trying to move on it made sense for her to block unwanted memories while carrying the veneer of a happy go lucky single mom. Little did she know that in actively suppressing her memories, she was also deadening neural pathways in her mind. Once a pathway dies, new ones can be constructed, but the dead pathway will never reopen.
Understanding this has not really made it easier for me to forgive or like this person I did not choose as my parent. There is a lesson in it, however. The lesson is Doing difficult things out of obligation without love will ultimately hurt you. The action involved for me now is to find the love, to find the joy in service, to feel the compassion and empathy and sympathy and to intentionally set forth what is otherwise known as ‘good vibes’ every time I enter the room.
Today when I was bringing her breakfast and helping her in her wheelchair and putting on the television she was smiling. She always says thank you for the meals and the aid I bring to her. Sometimes she’s fussy because she doesn’t know what Im doing, but then she realizes and corrects herself. Sometimes I have to hear the same corrections every day. For example, when I put on the water she says, “Oh the water is cold! Why did you put on cold water?!” She’ll say it kind of in a mean way. Then the water warms up and she says, “ OH, now it’s warm. Okay this is good. Thank you.” Every day she forgets the water is cold when you first put it on and every day I have to hear that. Sometimes I get frustrated at how grabby she is or how I’m trying to help and she resists or questions me. I have to let go of any of that, however, because those things will only hurt what is inside of me and I know she will see after a few minutes and everything will be okay.
I see now that it is not only my job to care for someone, but it is my job to find the love and joy in it and I do believe, if we can change our minds, we can change the world.
To be continued….
by M. LeBlanc
One of the most surprising discoveries you will make when you first venture down the path of working in a creative field like dance, illustration, or design, is that at some point you are likely to be a self-employed artist. Putting aside the glamor of standing on the mountaintop and shouting to the word “I am an artist!” you’ll see that the reality is that you are also your own business. That’s what I discovered when I first became a working photographer. I was face-to-face with the invoices, taxes, paperwork, and responsibilities of running a functioning commercial operation. And man, I was not prepared for any of it.
Luckily I was smart enough to educate myself. I took sales training classes and worked with business coaches. I surrounded myself with people who were smarter than me when it came to accounting, insurance, and legal forms. Having these details taken care of by competent people, and removing those headaches from my daily routine, helps me better focus on my photography. My wife Catherine and I now run a very successful commercial photography and graphic design business called Ross Creative Works.
Over these past 20 years, I have managed to absorb a few nuggets of knowledge. In honor of the countless people who helped me along the way, I now try to assist others who are now starting on the same trip. That’s why I believe so much in organizations like Self Employment In The Arts. It’s designed to help people succeed in any of the creative fields. People going into theatre are faced with some of the same challenges as those who pursue illustration.
The 17th annual SEA Conference is coming up Feb 24th & 25th at the Hilton in Lisle, Illinois. Catherine and I will be there, along with 50 other working professionals, helping artist, students, and entrepreneurs understand the benefits of self-employment. Panels and workshops will cover areas like networking, dealing with clients, pricing, and dozens of other topics. Plus there will be opportunities for portfolio reviews and one-on-one mentoring.
One of the things I really hate to see is talented people working in unsatisfying jobs simply because they don’t have the skills and support to turn their passions into a career. Get educated, get a mentor or two, and don’t miss any opportunities to network at events like Self Employment in the Arts.
About the Author: Jeffrey Ross is an award-winning commercial photographer traveling the world extensively for various projects and assignments. His images can be found in magazines, advertisements, books, and personal collections. Jeffrey regularly blogs about his travels and adventures, and loves to share his stories with others. He often speaks to college students and others just starting to work in the creative arts fields, helping them make their passion a reality.
When I was in my late teens and into my 20's, I was plagued with anxiety and panic attacks. The anxiety was not what many people think of when they imagine anxiety; it didn't seem to have a focus, and would come on often without reason, or so it seemed. It would come on during otherwise peaceful moments at home, or spending time with close friends. The anxiety would hijack my brain, making me totally unable to function. I couldn't drive. I couldn't communicate what was wrong. And this was just one side of it. Around the age of 21, full blown panic attacks started to become a weekly or several times per week occurrence. I would lock myself in bathroom stalls to try to slow my breathing. My brain would convince me that I was suffocating, or having a heart attack. Sometimes I would lie on my bedroom floor, curled in the fetal position, hyperventilating for what felt like hours. I felt hopeless, totally out of control, and possessed.
But I want to tell you what I discovered.
While consciously, it seemed like all of these events had no trigger, subconsciously, much more was going on. As a people-pleaser my whole life, I'd always thought it was more important to be agreeable and pleasant than to cause a scene or speak up. So I never really learned to say no. I never really developed my own voice. But slowly, first out of sheer exhaustion, and then almost as if through experimentation, I began saying no. "No, thank you, I don't really feel up for going to that event." "No, I actually really don't feel comfortable doing what you're asking me to do. I don't think it's right." "No, I'm actually not really that into you." Etc.. And slowly, something I didn't expect started to happen: the panic attacks subsided. The anxiety lessened. And the more I said "no" to things that didn't feel right to me, the better I got. Now, I'm not suggesting to coop yourself up inside and say no to everything. But by saying no to some things, I opened up the space to say yes to better things. "Yes" to more personal time. "Yes" to life enriching things. "Yes" to passions and interests and developing a mind-body connection through things like yoga and biking and physical activity. It is through my learning to speak up for myself, that I learned to defeat anxiety. While it might not be the same for everyone, I hope that maybe someone out there gives this a try and that it helps.
Speak your truth.
About the Author: Arista is a biologist, lay herbalist, urban gardener and rock climber with a passion for all things adventure. She enjoys getting her hands dirty, immersing herself in other cultures and perspectives, and getting in sync with Mother Nature."
Today I was lucky enough to interview friend and yogi, Mary Ann Lopez who has been teaching through a program called Teach for America. Mary Ann earned an MA in Print Journalism from University of Colorado in Boulder and received her Bachelors in Political Science/ International Relations from Northern Illinois University. She has worked for Patch news, The Sun-Times New Group, YourHub.com, The Durango Herald and The Montrose Daily Press. Originally from Calumet City, she now lives in Charlotte with her rescue dog, Sadie and adopted cat, Bubba the Zen Master.
"People who get into this program have a really hard time when they start out," says Lopez. "What they teach in the training is to focus on relationship building over standard pedagogy. If you can’t connect with some of these kids, you aren’t going to influence them to care about their own education. A lot of these students have had no breakfast, or have been through the system, or have no parents to account for them or one parent, or are transient, or already have an ankle bracelet… you might find a 16 year old freshman or someone who’s parent was killed in a gang fight."
Teach for America has been around for about twenty six years. The idea is that one day all kids will have the education they deserve. It places teachers in high need regions, is a program of Americorps and is highly selective. There is a two year minimum commitment, an induction and training - since not all recruits come from a teaching background. They are recruiting teachers, people in career change and people getting out of the military. They have a strong emphasis placing minorities.
"The goal of Teach for America is to get people immersed in ‘the work’ so that when they leave they continue to push toward everyone having access to an equitable education and social responsibility. Some people leave AmeriCorps and Teach for America and become lawyers, doctors or go into school leadership as a civilian and it is the hope they bring this principle with them. Since DeVos has been in her office, the administration has already taken down the website for students with disabilities. It was actually in the news. Generally speaking, there is a very low opinion of her and no one really feels she’s qualified," Lopez stated. "We can’t and shouldn't perpetuate the view that these are 'bad' kids. All the kids in the program get meals and, honestly, you might not know by looking at any of them what kind of life they’ve had or what their struggles have been."
"We want to inspire these kids to want to learn and to be lifelong learners. I do believe in Teach for America and its value," she says, "especially here in Charlotte where the black versus white suspensions are so unbalanced. Have you ever heard of the prison pipeline or The New Jim Crow? If some of these kids go to juvy, they are so much more likely to go to jail and right now we’re building more prisons than schools. So many of these kids - both boys and girls - have been through the system and we need to tell them, ‘It’s okay! You can move on from that! You have the ability to move past it, but it might not be easy.’ "
She says that still, sometimes the kids make bad choices, but retains the belief that they aren’t ‘bad’ kids. She gets questions like, ‘Are you going to leave in the middle of the semester?’ because these students been abandoned so many times. One girl, she says, is so bright, yet she is just full of self doubt. Mary Ann described the job life to be chaotic and the training as 'bootcamp for teachers' because 'if you can’t handle the training, you wont be able to handle the job.'
"It’s tough and the kids are even rougher this year than last. There is a very high teacher drop rate," she said. "You have to realize that sometimes it is the adult in their life or their community or even their role model who teaches them to not be trusting and also how to steal or hustle. One bunch where trying to sell girl scout cookies. I witness a family pull up to a dollar store display that was out on the sidewalk, open the car door and told their little boy to run out and steal the stuff and jump back in the car. He must have been 7 years old."
"Some of the kids don’t trust me because they think I’m white. Im Mexican and Italian. One girl just flat out called me a racist until she began to know my story and give me a little bit of trust. All of us come with an implicit bias. This is one of the things we learn and talk about deeply in training. Only the people who are in possession of power can be racist so this whole concept of ‘reverse racism’ some of the conservatives have been propagating is just BS. You can be prejudice , but not racist."
Teach for America and AmeriCorps are now under attack by the new administration as well as programs such as Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.
Edited and updated 2/18/17 in light of recent news.
by Michelle LeBlanc
My new friend has a saying, "Respond, don't react," she says. It took me a while to really understand that. Then I look at the news and I see all these people throwing garbage cans through windows with bandit masks on. People are ANGRY.
But this isn't the first time. People got angry when ObamaCare came out - even if they didn't know it was the same as the ACA. People got angry when they heard rumors about a sex ring I guess Hillary and Bill were running in a convenient store ... fortunately that turned out to be just a rumor. Unfortunately people believed it. People got angry at the Planned Parenthood and abandoned their good Christian upbringing to bomb it, assault other people and threaten the lives of the doctors.
How does this happen? And what takes that person from anger to acting out in violence? Would they do that even if they were in, say, a good mood or not at a protest?
Maybe... however... just maybe.... And this is a bold claim: The politicians don't care AND one might say, they do it on purpose!
Anger researcher and author of the Psychology Today blog All the Rage, Ryan Martin, PhD, says in his article Anger is a Swing State, "Although fear and anger are both used in political campaigns, this study shows that anger better motivated participants to click on and read political ads. In this experiment, Ryan exposed Internet users to a randomly assigned political advertisement during the course of routine web browsing. They either received a neutral text, a text evoking anxiety, or a text evoking anger.
The results confirm the idea that politicians have a strong incentive to use emotionally charged communication. It was found the anger-inducing advertisement more than doubled the click rate of the political advertisement. From a financial perspective, a campaign should use anger in their ads to increase the impact of those ads."
Soooooo, who's controlling who here? Who has the bigger brain? We do America.. Yes, we do! Let's remember to take some time and vet all this wild and crazy news flying around and remember who we are on our best days every day.