Saturday, September 11, 2010

It IS All About You

The community in which I live is somewhat small. A person in the community told me that her little one was having difficulty registering for school. The little one has some learning disabilities and the guardian was advised that the child would need more than ten hours of tutoring per week, BEFORE she could register and start school.

Tutoring runs over $40 dollars per hour. Now, from the outset, this didn't sound "quite" right to me. Why? One reason is that the school is a public school and not a private school and I am very familiar with its program and curriculum.

I made some suggestions and the guardian kept focusing on the $40 dollars. I asked the guardian had she verified if this were correct or not? Had she looked at some of the free programs in the community?

All I got was,"I haven't been up to the school. This is ridiculous that they are trying to keep the child out of school. All I know is the [television] news is going to go up there and see about this."

In frustration, I looked at the person and said,"You need to do something. You need to be a bridge between this child and the school. If you do nothing and don't take any action, you have failed the child."

The person stopped and looked at me. Then she got angry. As the conversation CONTINUED to spiral down, I was at least able to gather that the person had locked her teeth into, "You have failed the child." When I tried to explain by saying, "You misunderstood"... The person turned quickly on her heels and said, " "NO! YOU don't understand. We have NOT failed this child," and walked away angrily.

Her anger had nothing to do with the child. I had struck a nerve, a sore spot. This woman felt hopeless, immobilized, trapped. I had unknowingly hit the nail on the head. This would be confirmed by someone else later. It wasn't even a hollow victory to learn that. When something is hollow, it infers that it is 'empty' or that there is emptiness. When I learned this, I did not feel 'nothingness'. It was painful for me because I felt as if I had failed this woman, this guardian.

To make a long story short, I made some calls to the school district MYSELF, talked to my contacts at the school board, got the principal's information and wrote up the process step by step as to what to do. I had telephone numbers and names. I gave the information to another guardian of the child and the child is happily in school. As I suspected, the tutoring information was not correct.

I pursued the issue because of the child. I still believe that it takes a community to raise a child. When one child is lost and falls through the cracks, I feel that the surrounding adults are partly to blame. Despite the warnings by my contact at the school board, "You know if you continue this you may get cursed out, right?" I prevailed and continued on and the child is in school and has what is needed.

Guess what? This is not about the child, after six (6) paragraphs, right! It is about the child's guardian. She had no idea how to navigate the formal processes to find out the "truth" and to get to what the child needed. All she knew how to do was bluster, be angry, be frustrated and continue with a "victim" type of mentality. SHE came to ME with this issue. I didn't come to her. I told her what I believed to be the truth, "If you take no action, you have failed the child." She got angry about what I said because she couldn't deal with the truth.

I failed HER, the guardian, because I forgot with whom I was speaking. This woman felt like she never caught a break in her life. She has struggled all her life in every area of her life. I had an inkling of this but was so focused and depserate to get the child what she needed, I gave her information straight with no chaser. It burned her throat and her belly. To this day, this woman still does not talk with me when I see her in the community.

I feel bad. Not because she doesn't like me or because she has a problem with me. The fact is, she has a problem with herself. She is angry and disappointed with herself. She is a perpetual victim and the only means of "action" she knows how to take is to strike out at people around her because she is overwhelmed and frustrated by the "system". All of us get overwhelmed at some point in our lives. This woman has very few coping skills to navigate through many formal processes because she believes herself to be powerless. Her problem isn't really with me. Her problem lies with and within herself.

A Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus started a micro-lending program in Bangladesh. He focused the lending practices on the poor. Specifically, he focused lending to Bangladeshi women. Why? His philosphy is as follows:
"They pay more attention, prepare their children to lead better lives, and are more consistent in their performance than men. When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children…When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole."

What's all this got to do with you? It is important that you realize that it is ALL ABOUT YOU! As a woman, the current or future anchor of your family, you MUST focus on yourself. You MUST ensure that you are as fortified internally as possible. You MUST provide what you need for yourself. You MUST ensure that you have what you need. Not only does money entering a household through you the woman, benefit the family as a whole, but so does the idea of providing self care to yourself, self-esteem, developing coping skills and feeling empowered. These and many more things enter or stay out of your home, through you, for the benefit or to the detritment of your family: Focus on yourself first.

You, my dear woman, are the anchor for the world, for your community, for your home. Get what you need for yourself to feel good about you. Because when you do, you will NATURALLY do that for others around you. The better off you are as a woman, the better off your family is as a whole.

Focus on learning to navigate the "system". Develop the coping skills you need in order to get what you need for you and your family. If you succumb to your anger, you will fall into 'victimhood', inaction and chase your tail in a circle, getting nowhere.

I hear so many women talk about how they don't have time for themselves and must focus on their partners and children. The irony of it all is that they do their spouses and children a disservice by NOT focusing on themselves.

You want to give all the best you got to your family and your community? Then start by giving your very best to yourself first. Beautify yourself bit by bit, and the world around will follow. You really can't afford to not know that it truly is, "All about you!"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Finding Perfection in the Present

It seems that we spend time in two of three places. We either are in the past relishing the days gone by, often referred to as the glory days, wanting to return to a bygone era and time. Or, we are focused on tomorrow. It might sound a little something like the following:

"When I lose some of this cellulite, I am going to be so happy."
"I wish I were still in college. That was so much fun."

"Can't wait until I graduate!"
"Why didn't I take math."

"My wedding is in six months. The honeymoon will be great."
"I should have left that fool alone years ago."



The place that we seem to want to spend the least amount of time is in the present.

When we do stop to think about and experience the present, our time there is not really well spent. If we are not relishing the past, we're regretting our actions, words or experiences of our pasts. All of which can color and tinge the flavor of today leaving a nasty, residual aftertaste on the palate of our current experiences.

A key part of finding perfection in the present is embracing gratitude and releasing entitlement. Gratitude is when you are thankful and appreciative of what you have and are experiencing. Entitlement is the expectation that just because you are you, you are supposed to have certain things and experiences.

I always talk about not having expectations of other people when it comes to your own happiness and your life. Entitlement is having expectations of the power of the Universe, the world around you, to provide you with certain experiences, opportunities or material things.

But wait, how do you have and reach goals and attain dreams and wants that are neither tainted by your expectations of other people or by feelings of entitlement - those feelings that communicate that you better get what you want?
So, how do you do this?

The balance or middle ground is genuine gratitude. By all means, ask for what you want. Ask for what you need. Set your goals and pursue your dreams. Remember, just because you request something, that doesn't mean you will get it. If that is how you feel, that you better get what you asked for, then you are feeling a sense of entitlement.

Entitlement and expectation both can set you up for disappointment. The disappointment you experience may be bitter and eventually you will be, too.

A while back, I had an opportunity to go back to Japan during a program of study. The price was very inexpensive and it was a chance to visit a part of Japan of which I had never visited. Since I joined the program late, there were two other people vying for a place. We had to participate in a kind of lottery. There was only one spot available.

Instead of crossing my fingers, legs and whatever else that twisted and souring my stomache with worrying until the decision was made, I was thankful and happy that I was even being considered. Sure, I wanted to go, otherwise I would not have placed my name in the hat for the opportunity. Gratitude helped me stay firmly planted in the present.

I didn't go to the past with, "I never win anything. Every time I try something like this I never get it." Nor did I go the entitlement route, "I never ask for anything, I better get this. I deserve this."

I didn't go to the future with, "If I don't get this, I am going to be so disappointed." Nor did I go the other route, "Something has got to happen to me. If I don't get this I am not going to try for anything else in the future ever again."

I stayed in the present. I figured if the opportunity were meant for me it would happen. When I got the call confirming that I would be going, the deliverer of the message seemed to be disappointed by what he perceived as my lack of enthusiasm, or a lack of 'gratitude' for the opportunity. I told the person I was very grateful for the opportunity.
I was at peace with whatever would be decided. I really wanted to go, don't get me wrong.

When I won the opportunity, it did not rock my world either way. You see, gratitude kept my feet firm and my world steady. So whatever were to come to pass would be just like a gentle windkissed breeze upon my cheek, light with little or no impact upon my life.

Gratitude works double duty. It can keep us steady when we experience the inevitable sad, unfair, bitter and/or painful moments in life, as well.

Years ago I read a book by Norman Vincent Peale. He wrote on the topic of self help through the power of positive thinking. He said, "If something is truly meant for you, it won't pass you by." At the time I liked the quote and kept it stored in my heart and mind for safekeeping. Now when I think about this quote, it is my definition of gratitude.

What I mean by this is that if the desires, dreams, hopes and goals that you have are meant for you, they will not pass you by. They may not manifest in the way that you have envisaged, but that does not make the attainment of them less valuable or satisfying.

In the meantime, stop regretting what has come and gone, which is the past. You don't have to hold off living until you reach some undefined or even defined point later in your life, which is the future. Stand in the present, throw your head back, fling your arms wide open and splay and spread the fingers and thumbs on your hands far and apart. Welcome and embrace the present with outstretched arms. Create a space and place for it, every day.

Find perfection in the present. Envelope and immerse yourself in genuine gratitude. Be thankful for who you are, what you got, where you've been and where you are going. This will allow you to be steadfast on your path. It will help you to enjoy the life, the moment that is guaranteed by the breath you are taking right now, for all that it is and all that it has to offer.

Each day, string the pearls of your life moment by moment so that when you are done, whether it be over in a long period of time or it end abruptly and early, you will know that you have enjoyed your life at the moment you experienced it, in the perfection of the present.
Thus, no matter when you are done figuratively and literally, the world can behold the beautiful pearl pathway built and left behind by the moments of your life. That bejeweled pathway will not be a mere token of superficiality, but a guidepost for the world so it too can find perfection in the present, through your life and apply it to the life it currently owns.

In gratitude, beautify yourselves bit by bit today. Enjoy your life right now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Power of Appreciating and Praising Yourself

My mother always says,

"It's a poor duck that doesn't praise its own pond."

When she would say that, I would look at her as if she had absolutely lost her mind, especially when I was a teenager. I'd be pouring out the woes of my teenage angst and she'd cutover and start talking about a duck. It exasperated me to no end. The fact of the matter is, I was usually putting myself down when she would say this to me. I may not have changed my feelings about myself right then and there, but I closed my mouth. It has definitely stayed with me.

There is great wisdom in the guise of these seemingly simple words. Today, I love this saying and I think it is so cute. What this saying means is that if you don't appreciate what you have, more profoundly, who you are, then it's a sad situation. You are poor in spirit and you are poor in possessions. I could go on. I think you get the meaning: appreciate who you are.

When you internalize the idea of appreciating who you are and what you have and live it, that creates great power in your life. How?

Well, let's see. Too often, women are conditioned to nuture those around them and use left over time for themselves-if you have any. What we are not conditioned to do is to nurture ourselves. We celebrate and admire women who extend themselves beyond their precious reserves, who continue to give and give and give until they themselves have nothing left. On the surface, that person appears selfless and giving.

If you dig deeper, my opinion is that the person is selfish. You see, when you over extend yourself to care for others and you neglect your own needs ALL the time, you compromise your physical health, your physical beauty and your inner balance.

We all have to do that some time. If you do it all the time, my suggestion is stop, take a step back and look around you. You may be heading down a path of no return. Ask yourself why? If you are giving all of YOU away, is that because you feel that you have less value?

If you are giving all of you away, is that because you want to hold someone in debt to you, so that he or she will stay with you, or do the same for you- someday in return? Don't count on it. That's giving something to get something. Is that what you are doing?

Sometimes, you need to take time out for yourself. You need those two hours to do your hair. Maybe your hair can look fine with 15 minutes, but perhaps your Spirit enjoys the indulgence, the attention and the 'me' time you give yourself during those precious two hours.

There is a saying that I often hear about or have read. Many times, a male is the one referencing it or quoting it. "I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to slide into the end of my life with a battered beat up body indicating that I lived my life to the fullest [for me]."

That's not the exact quote but I hope it sounds familiar. I mention it because although these men talk about being beat up and tired, they DEFINITELY are not advocating getting this way by taking care of and giving their all to SOMEBODY else.

Do you know that if you exhaust all of your reserves and have nothing left for you that you open yourself up to illness? How ironic would that be to be the 'selfless' caretaker of all those around you and end up somebody else's burden in the future? Instead of being able to enjoy the time you have finally cut out and allotted for yourself, you'll be needing someone to reach out and carry you along- not by choice but because your own body just can't do it for you anymore.

Today, take time out for yourself. It's a simple, free way to appreciate yourself. Ensure that when you give care and support to others that you know WHY you do it. If it is for return, to give in order to get, at least be honest with yourself about it. Work on it and learn to give self-lessly, with no expected return.

Self deprecation, putting yourself down, is not admirable or selfless. Accept that you are fabulous. That's harder to do, to keep it in balance, without going to the other side, which is conceit. Praise the good things about yourself, appreciate who you are, what you have and where you are at. That doesn't mean you don't continue to strive for future goals of who you want to be and what you want to have. If somebody has an issue with you expressing and appreciating who you are, it just might be that he or she has a problem with him or herself. Don't let that stop you.

Pamper yourself by giving yourself the attention you need. It's a daily thing, not a yearly activity. Feed your body good food, ask for what you need. When you are supercharged and ready to go, the power in your arm that you use to lift others doubles in strength. You can do more for others without resentment, without misgivings or without anger. You know why? Because you will already have what you need. That's because you have given it to yourself. Now, if that's not power, I don't know what it is.

Not only do you want to be that duck that praises its own pond, you want to be that duck that turns into a beautiful swan. A beautiful swan is an ugly duckling because it wasn't aware of who it really was. Appreciation has the power to take you from ugly to beautiful in the blink of an eye. Utilize the power that you have been endowed with and beautify yourselves bit by bit.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Are You a Mule or a Slave in this Day and Age?

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, "The black woman is the mule of the world." I am here to tell you that you neither have to be black nor female to accept the role of beast of burden or pack mule, in this world. Did you notice I used the word, 'accept'? No one can make you a mule until you accept and take on those characteristics yourself.

What about a slave? The average African American person born in this country, with a history of several generations born here, usually has some aspect of a slave legacy in their ancestral line. Breaking that down to basics, I am saying that if you are black in America and can trace your heritage back 5-6 generations in America, you will find that somebody in your family was most likely a slave at one time.

Did you know that you can be a mule and a slave today, right now, during YOUR lifetime? If you are a slave, it is very likely that it is a path that YOU have chosen for yourself.

What do I mean? If you work just to pay the bills, you are a slave. If you have a job that you hate and you are miserable on your job, you are a slave. If you are in a relationship and you are pretending to be someone you are not, for the sake of 'maintaining' the relationship, you are a slave.

If you lie to yourself to make it through the day, you are a slave. Lying to yourself takes on many forms such as promiscuity, alcoholism and drug addiction just to name a few. People use sex, alcohol and drugs as smoke and mirrors to give themselves the illusion that everything is alright, when it is not. These things are distractions and keep you from dealing with what's really going on inside of you.

You don't need shackles on your feet to be enslaved. Don't just be another brick in the wall or a cog in the wheel of the whirring, de-humanized machine because that's what you are supposed to do. Wake up! Seek out who you are and follow your passion.

You don't have to dump your significant other, quit your job, or drop your pants and turn and show your behind to your boss to free yourself. Everyday reaffirm what you believe your purpose to be. Everyday, try to do one action or activity to get yourself closer to freedom.

All jobs are not bad. Carrying somebody's burden every once and while is expected and can bring you joy. But looking in the mirror and seeing a grey donkey with a pack or an unkempt person burdened by shackles, is not what you were meant to do or be.

Being introspective for the purpose of knowing who you are, understanding your purpose and pursuing your passion are not easy tasks to undertake. They take time to pursue. Many times they take a life time. You always run the risk that you may go down the wrong path and not know it until you reach your final destination.

But the converse is even worse, in my opinion. To follow the current just because you choose not to swim against it because you fear it too hard or that you might fail, always leaves one with the bitter, aftertaste of regret.

No matter which road you choose to take, make sure that it is a conscious choice on YOUR part. Don't travel down the path because you think it is wrought with less resistance and thus, easier. Because in the end, you will face obstacles, trials and tribulations and be forced to undertake battles in order to continue on your path, no matter which path you undertake.

I think it is far better to exert this effort to pursue purposes and passions of which one is cognizant and aware and desiring to have come to fruition. At the end of the day, or the end of your days, life will judge you just like the law. If you commit a crime or make a poor choice, it is not acceptable to say, "I didn't know." You have to deal with it, no matter what. Sometimes, because of one action or decision, your life can be irrevocably changed. Why not let it be changed for the best!

Thus, gear up so that you do know. Know who you are, be accountable for you and your dreams. Don't be a mule or a slave because you didn't know. If you are going to be those things, choose them knowingly and accept your path. I hope you choose to unburden yourself by throwing off the packs and the shackles at once.

Mules and slaves build structures. Masters orquestrate the creation of wonders of the world. Be a master of your fate and yourself. You don't have to be a mule or a slave in this day and age. To free yourself is not an entitlement. It is a risk that you must undertake and address on a daily basis. The rewards can be quite satisfying.

Before you step out and onto the pathway of independence and freedom, please check your packs and shackles at the door. Packs are to be placed to your left, shackles are to be piled neatly to your right, just before you exit. See you on the path, everybody!

Until you are free, your beauty will never be your own. Beautify bit by bit.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want, But If You Try Real Hard You Get What You Need

The title of this post is a slight variation of a line from a Rolling Stones' song. I spend quite a bit of time with my family in Mexico. This year, my mother came from the South to spend a week with me. My mother is very Spiritual and religious. So naturally, she wanted to go to the Basilica and see the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Let me give you some background information.

Mary, the mother of Jesus appeared to Juan Diego, an Indian or Mexican peasant, asking him to have a church built where she appeared to him. Juan was told to bring a sign. Mary told him to collect some red roses, in the middle of winter from a dry, barren hilltop. He used his cape, woven from plant fibers, to gather the roses. He brought the roses to the ruling church authorities. These people were European, wealthy, well-educated and of course had a disdain for this mestizo peasant who did not even speak Spanish.

Juan was granted an audience with some of the high ranking church officials. He, or someone, unfurled his cape to show the officials the beautiful, red roses. Upon the cape that had been unfurled, was an image, left from the roses. That image is that of the Virgen Mary that is enshrined today in the Basilica in Mexico City.

Now here are the parts that are even more fascinating. The cloth in which the image has been imprinted is made from untreated, natural fibers. It generally has a five year life span. It can last at the most 30 years, then it literally disintegrates. The cloth or cape on which the image appears is now 500 plus years old and still around.
The 'paint' of the image is not inside the cloth, melded to the fibers of the cape. It 'floats' on top of the image. They have not been able to find this process in nature or in man-made processes.
Now here's the real kicker! In the mid 20th century, some one discovered, in the eye of the image, another image. In the Virgen's eye, is an image of a man kneeling and two other persons. Scholars have determined that the people in her eye are the same people that were present when the cape was unfurled.
The images in her eye match the paintings of the those people who were supposedly present in the room when the cape was unfurled, the roses fell to the floor and the image of the Virgen Mary appeared. We all know how priests and high ranking people commission their portraits, right? Well portraits of these historical people match the image in her eye. The image in her eye was created at the moment the cape was unfurled. So, she was 'looking at' these folks in the room as her image came to life.

I had been meditating and thinking about 2010. I want to add value and help others. I want to live a life where I helped to make it easier and better for someone else, for my being here. So I was in this state of mind when we took my mom to the Basilica. My mother wanted to get a blessing and have some other experiences the site offers.

The majority of people that are there are considered pilgrims. Pilgrims are defined here as people who undertake a long journey for a religious or spiritual purpose. They come from all over Mexico. They come from the very small towns on the outskirts of Mexico City, many of them are very poor, infirmed, sick, uneducated and some don't speak Spanish.

We decided to go to a part of the Basilica compound that we had not been to before. There is a movie documentation and I found a seat and watched it. I laid down my belongings right next to me in the dark room. After the documentary completed, the lights came up and I collected my belongings and left the museum.

Outside, about 10 minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten my little coin purse. My 'little' coin purse contained about 100 dollars in Mexican pesos. I could not go back into the museum without paying and I didn't have any money left anyway.

Guess what I did? It wasn't noble or life affirming at all. I got ANGRY! I was pissed off because I had lost MY money. Then my husband said to me,"That 100 dollars was a lot of money to lose, but you can make that back so easily. Just let it go."

Then I remembered my request that I wanted to give and to help others. The odds are that whoever found my coin purse was NOT someone that was well off. I had no identifying information in the coin purse, so it wasn't like they would be stealing if they kept it. Indirectly, my request had been fulfilled. It definitely wasn't what I thought I wanted. It was what I knew I needed - to help others.

This was definitely a case of not getting what I wanted, but getting what I personally needed. Sometimes, we want to define how situations should work out, when they should work out and exactly what they should look like. That is not necessarily for us to do. Be open and accepting of how situations and events may transpire.

You can pick the car, and be the vehicle, but you may not be able to decide upon the road to take or the destination. That's okay, because you may end up in a place that you yourself could never have imagined or planned. After all, we are merely and only human, right?

By the way, between those of us with me at the Basilica, we came up with more than enough money to ensure that my mom got the trinkets and things she wanted. I was even able to purchase two books!

Who knows, someone may have been praying for a miracle. That hundred dollars that I lost and they found may have been the answer to their prayers. All I wanted was to help somebody. Instead, I may have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of a miracle. Amazing.

Beautify the World in Which You Inhabit, Bit by Bit, Day by Day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don't Waste Your Breath, Even If It's Only 21 Grams

There is a saying in English that references a person's passing. It is called, "Giving Up the Ghost." This saying is all over the world. Another idea that is all over the world is that when someone dies, after death, individuals consistently weigh 21 grams less than when they were alive.

As babies, we breathe deep from our diaphrams. As adults the breath seems to rise a bit higher and moves and seems to originate from our chest. When people are ill and begin to leave and release their lives, the breath moves to the throat. When the breath moves to the throat during this time, some people refer to this sound as a death rattle. Then, the breath moves to the mouth. It then ceases to travel or move.

When a person dies, the most common thing we say is that the person is no longer breathing. Others are more specific. They say that the breath has not stopped, it has just left and gone. Continuing on this same path, the breath for many, is the essence of what gives us life. Could it be this breath, that stops or maybe that leaves, is that which accounts for this 21 gram loss?

Our lives are precious. Our energy is precious. But without breath, both would cease to exist. How often have you heard it said, or even you yourself said, "Don't waste your breath!" I would like to say the same to you as well, but in a gentle whisper, free of all admonishment.

Don't waste your breath. Cherish it. Cultivate it. Retain it as long as it is with you and as long as you are gifted with it.

Never underestimate its power to console a frightened child. The power of the pace of your breath to signal to your lover the pleasure that you feel, without having to express a single word. Although your breath might only weigh a mere 21 grams, that has no bearing upon the significance or mighty role it plays in our every day life: From end to end, from cradle to grave.

So, don't waste your breath to speak negativity, unkind words or gossip. Don't waste your breath, the heaving of your chest to rail against a personal attack others may raise against you. Save your precious breath. Use the oxygen to repair and build up the world, starting with the inside of your body, through the intake of oxygen, then extend this healing out to others, for the purpose of uplifting them as well.

Save your precious breath. Afterall, oxygen is a key ingredient for radiant beauty. Use your breath, that mere 21 grams, to greatly enhance the world in which you dwell and walk, and beautify yourself and the world bit by bit.