Monthly Archives: June 2011

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.

Why you should listen to her:

In Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun has helped inspire new, cross-generational communication about the Biafran war. In this and in her other works, she seeks to instill dignity into the finest details of each character, whether poor, middle class or rich, exposing along the way the deep scars of colonialism in the African landscape.

Adichie’s newest book, The Thing Around Your Neck, is a brilliant collection of stories about Nigerians struggling to cope with a corrupted context in their home country, and about the Nigerian immigrant experience.

Adichie builds on the literary tradition of Igbo literary giant Chinua Achebe—and when she found out that Achebe liked Half of a Yellow Sun, she says she cried for a whole day. What he said about her rings true: “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.”

“When she turned 10 and read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, about the clash between Igbo tradition and the British colonial way of life, everything changed: ‘I realized that people who looked like me could live in books.’ She has been writing about Africa ever since.”

Washington Post

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India and Deepok: Words and Thoughts

Two of my favorite people, they have a lot of wisdom to share.  India Arie’s music is honest, humble, and universal.  Deepok Chopra’s message is as well.  Listening to India’s music, and reading Deepok’s lessons will help even the most desperate person begin the search for peace.  And while their words and thoughts aren’t the first, the last, or the only, they both understand how interconnected humans are with their words, thoughts, feelings, and actions, and they are both living out their purposes in this incarnation.

Enjoy!

Words- India.Arie

Dark future ahead of me/That’s what they say/I’d be starving if I ate all the lies they fed/Cause I’ve been redeemed from your anguish and pain/A miracle child I’m floating on a cloud/Cause the words that come from your mouth/You’re the first to hear/Speak words of beauty and you will be there/No matter what anybody says/What matters the most is what you think of yourself

 

So you act/so you feel/so you are

 

I love him in every way/that a woman can love a man/from personal to universal/but most of all its unconditional

 

I’ve been tryin’ to get down/to the Heart of the Matter/Because the flesh will get weak/And the ashes will scatter/So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if you don’t love me anymore

 

I believe that/Love is synonymous /With heaven/Such a sensual bliss/The way you touch me/Makes this life so good /A reward at the/End of the long road

 

I wanna go to a place where I am nothing and everything/That exists between here and nowhere/I wanna go to a place where time has no consequences oh yeah/The sky opens to my prayers

 

Thoughts- Deepok Chopra

People expend a lot of subtle energy in pushing down thoughts they don’t want to face. Denial and repression seem appealing as short-term solutions. What you don’t think about may go away. But there’s a sticky quality to bad thoughts – which are any thoughts that make you feel guilty, ashamed, humiliated, or distressed.  And denial only makes the pain worse over time.  Delay also makes it harder to release old, stuck energies when you finally decide that they must be confronted.
If you choose to push bad thoughts out of sight, that’s your decision.  The danger comes when you begin to believe that certain thoughts are forbidden as if by a law of outside force.  When that happens, the power of no has convinced you that your mind is your enemy.  Many people, including trained psychotherapists, are threatened by the “shadow”, a name give to the forbidden zone of the mind where dangerous urges lurk.  Under the spell of no, you fear your shadow and believe that you should never go near it.

From the soul’s perspective, the mind has no boundaries. If you feel that it is forbidden to look at your rage, fear, jealousy, desperation, and feelings of vengeance, you are resorting to a false sense of self. Specifically, you are dividing yourself into good and bad impulses. The paradox is that your good side can never ultimately win, because the bad side will constantly fight to be released. An inner struggle ensues. You wind up living in a state of underground warfare. Instead of trying to be good all the time, try to win your freedom. When the mind is free, thoughts come and go spontaneously. Whether good or bad, you don’t hold on to them. As long as the mind is allowed to flow, no thought is dangerous, and therefore nothing is forbidden.

  • See the difference between having a “bad” thought and acting on it.
  • Don’t identify with your thoughts. They aren’t you; they are passing events in the mind.
  • Resist the urge to demonize. Judgment makes illicit impulses stick around.
  • Learn the value of acceptance.
  • Don’t condemn others for their thoughts.
  • Don’t set up a false ideal of yourself. See clearly that every kind of thought, mood, and sensation exists in your makeup.
  • Celebrate the diversity of your mind. A mind that is free to think any way it wants should be appreciated, not suppressed.
  • If you were taught that God will hate you for sinful thoughts, try to detach yourself from this perspective. Holding a judgmental God responsible for your own self-judgment is a delusion.
  • Don’t fixate on being right all the time. Being right is just a disguise for making other people wrong. In the shadows, you secretly fear that something is wrong with you, which is why you fight so hard to appear infallible–you think it makes you good.
  • When you are tempted to control your mind, stand back and realize that task is impossible to begin with. Even the most disciplined mind has a way of breaking out of its chains.

 


Why Is Humility So Underrated?

Insight often arises from simultaneously holding two seemingly contradictory notions — and then allowing a deeper understanding to develop. Take, for example, David R. Hawkins’ idea that, “A universal characteristic of genius is humility.” Generally we don’t equate genius with being humble. If anything, we expect the opposite, and are pleasantly surprised when we find a counterexample. But this presumption is actually relatively modern. The writer Elizabeth Gilbert talksabout how ancient Romans believed that a genius was actually an invisible, divine entity who would assist a person in a creative work. In effect, this view positions a person as an instrument of their work, as opposed to the supreme creator of it; built-in to this perspective was a way of fostering humility within the gift of extraordinary capability.

In today’s increasingly connected world, humility becomes relevant not only for us as individuals, but also for groups. A recent study at Carnegie Mellon University showed that collective intelligence had little to do with the IQs of individuals in that group. So even if you bring together the smartest people, there is no guarantee of better team performance; in fact, it’s been shown that team outcomes have much more to do with how skillfully people collaborate. Individual motivations for actively engaging in a group effort lie at the heart of effective collaboration. Such motivation is rooted in how much value we ascribe outside of ourselves. A key aspect of this is humility: it motivates a right-sized assessment of our own abilities and an awareness of our limitations. A self-view that recognizes its limitations is vital in order for real synergy to occur. This is what allows us to be receptive to other people’s contributions, knowing that they often augment our own. In a group, the more that people are rooted in a mindset of humility, the greater the potential synergy.

It works in the other direction as well: the more we experience synergy, the more we recognize our interdependence, and the more likely we are to reinforce a sense of self-value that is real. An inflated self-valuation is clearly problematic, but so is a faltering sense of self-worth; both extremes feed into an insecurity that becomes more vested in proving value rather than simply adding it.

A conscious humility, one in which we accurately know our boundaries, makes us explicitly aware of what we do have to offer. This appreciation of our abilities is important, and yet, there’s a significant distinction between strengthening a known and limited self — and growing beyond it. As columnist David Brooks recently articulated in his encouraging survey of recent psychological research on humility, “Self-affirmation is about being proud and powerful and in control. Self-transcendence is about being engaged in activities in which the self is melded into a task or a relationship.” Viewed in this light, the problem isn’t in having a sense of self, but rather in being identified with its limitations, and therefore being unable to go beyond them. When we have a static and inflexible identity, what we experience becomes filtered and severely reduced. A repeated affirmation of this limited self is ego — and its fuel is habituated thought. We are what we think.

To soften the boundaries of identity, we must first become aware of our thoughts, and then recognize how certain thought patterns color our perception. It’s a flavor of what psychologists call inattentional blindness. In the classic Invisible Gorilla experiment, study participants are asked to watch a group of people pass a ball around. As they watch the video, a man in a gorilla suit walks across the screen, and yet half of the people don’t notice it. There is a similar but subtler inattentional blindness at the level of our thoughts, and this is where deepening in awareness is crucial. It allows us to tune in to the totality of our dynamic present experience. We then have more conscious choices in what we engage with and a greater freedom to choose our own responses — internal and external.

While thoughts may be hard to tune in to in a vacuum, in reality, the mind and body are inextricably connected. What we actually sense on the body-level tends to be much more tangible. Sensations within the body tug us firmly back into the moment and serve as a proxy for mindfulness. When someone says something that we perceive as a threat to our ego, we can actually sensitize ourselves to the physical sensations associated with that emotion. Anxiety often translates to a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, and with anger we feel red-hot. It all happens in a split second. But if we are mindful of our thoughts and sensations, we then have a lever to stop the flow of previously subconscious reactivity, and we actually discover space.

Perhaps that’s what humility really comes down to — space around our perception of the world, as well as our own selves. Space to hold conflicting information, take in other people’s views and, to borrow Bruce Lee’s words, take the shape of the container we find ourselves in. Humility gives us permission to withhold conclusion and realize that what we are is always still emerging. And this is good.

Original Post


Sunshine and Happiness

Before you  read the following graphs, consider this:

What is Happiness?

hap•pi•ness \’ha-pē-nis\

1. State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

[happy about]: having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with

[happy with]: satisfied with the quality or standard of

 

 

(click image to see larger)

 

 


Mind Control

The mind is a powerful tool.  Many (if not most) people live their entire lives never truly realizing its full potential.  Ponder for a moment, the mind has the ability to think, dream, predict, forget, and even manifest.  When people talk about the subconscious, what they are really referring to is the part of the mind that has been “flashy thingyed” by society– the part we were programmed not to recognize.  Men in Black does a great job of depicting this phenomenon (click on above link for details)!  But, by design, we are able to overcome this setback if we are willing to put in the work.  It takes time, although the reward of awareness far outweighs the challenge it takes to get there.

 

Consider this scenario for a moment:

You awake from a long, unscheduled nap, and you know you have to make it to the dining hall to eat lunch before it closes.  You rush around, but the entire time you are doubting your ability to get there in time to eat, check your e-mail, and return before your campers come back from their afternoon activities.  You keep telling yourself not to forget your meal ticket before you leave your room, so you make sure you take it out  of your wallet (which you are not bringing with you). You are also unsure of what to wear because you know the forecast is calling for mild weather, but you are almost certain it will be warm outside.  You grab your laptop bag, and head out the door.  As you are locking the door, you double-check your laptop bag and realize you don’t have your meal ticket! You left it on the dresser next to your wallet.  You run in, pick up the ticket and stick it in your pocket.  You briefly think to yourself, “what if it fell out of my pocket on my way to the dining hall?  That would suck!”  This thought makes you laugh because you think it’s highly unlikely.  You get outside and a few things pop into your mind: you aren’t dressed appropriately because you threw on a long sleeve shirt even though you expected it to be warm, you want to walk fast so you have time to eat and check e-mail but rushing will cause you to sweat, and you better not drop the meal ticket.  You finally get to the dining hall and as you reach into your back pocket, panic starts to sink in.  Where the heck is the meal ticket?!

 

Now honestly ask yourself what you would do or think in this situation?  For me, this was one of the many events that actually happened to me today!  But there is a lesson in this, and that’s that our minds have the power to manifest.  I had been thinking about all these negative scenarios, and I doubted my own ability to make things happen peacefully.  Furthermore, I didn’t actually listen to myself long enough to change somethings around, like put the meal ticket in a safe place (i.e. in my bag), or put on a cooler shirt.  But the difference between myself and the average person is, the whole time I was aware that these negative events would happen.

The first issue is that I was rushing.  What I have learned through experiences in my life is that rushing is futile.  You are exactly where you are supposed to be at any given time.  Rushing expends unnecessary energy, makes you do things sloppily, and may even cause you to arrive at your destination before your favor, blessing, or fortune!

The second issue is doubt.  When you doubt yourself, you actually welcome negativity or opposition.  The best thing to do is to trust your instincts.  If it doesn’t feel right, leave it be. But if you feel like you will forget something, you most certainly will so do yourself a favor and write it down, or act immediately.  Had I just changed my shirt or put the meal ticket in a safer place, I could have avoided the confusion all together.

The last issue is this:  Think, speak, and act positively.  Giving yourself room for negative thoughts creates negative outcomes.  It’s true it can be difficult to be positive all the time, but if you have a negative thought, finish it, and then replace it with something positive.  This may require you to actually tell yourself enough.  And then forgive yourself, and move on from it.  When we harp on our issues is when they consume us and over-extend their welcome.

 

Because I am aware the power that my mind has, I was able to pause for a moment, think clearly, laugh at myself for my own carelessness, and retrace my steps (not far at all), back to my meal ticket which was lying neatly on the ground awaiting my return.  It was as if the ticket, the Universe, and myself all shared a moment that no one else noticed.  Had I not known the power of my mind, I may not have retraced my steps successfully finding the ticket, and I would have been angry at how careless I was and allowed it to takeover my mood, the whole time sweating unnecessary buckets, and still hungry.

This is a super simple scenario (and true could have been avoided altogether, but I’m happy to share), but I guarantee it can be applied to all of life’s situation.  We are often the culprit for confusion, not because we are unfortunate people, or deserve chaos in our lives, but because we fail to recognize that we do have a say in how we react, and how we welcome the flow of energy into our lives.  It is unwise to assume that you have no control over what happens to you.  And while the Universe has the last say, we can use our minds to give a gentle push in the direction we hope to go.

 

My mom always taught us as kids, think good things, good things happen.  Think bad things, bad things happen.


Bizness!

I’m trying to find meaning.  Literally, I researched the meaning of this song.  But mostly, I just find it mesmerizing for no known reason other than it makes me lose myself for a moment!  Enjoy!


The Case for High Expectations

Children are mostly likely to live up to what you believe of them. -Lady Bird Johnson

 

My first year teaching; learning from the experts!


O meu Brasil, eu voltarei

It’s been two years, almost to date, since my last trip to Brasil.  In Bahia state sits a city with so much culture, so much passion, so much life.   That city is called Salvador.  It’s no coincidence that Salvador means savior in Portuguese, as I and so many others have found ourselves there.  I was awakened at a time in my life when I least expected to be asleep.  The first time I visited was in 2007, as an undergraduate student.  I had so many ideas, questions, and concerns when I left, and I knew it wouldn’t be too much longer before I returned.  In 2009 I had my second chance, and I took FULL advantage.  I met people that have truly changed my life, did things that I would both brag about and keep secret, touched a few lives, but was transformed by those who touched me, learned what “dancing” truly meant, ate like a queen of the Jungle, and connected with my roots.  And I’m not even Brasilian by nationality!  But when it was time to come back to the states, I was Brasilian, by experience.

This entry is not to recapture my trip to Bahia, but rather, to connect the events that have occurred thereafter, which only proves to me that Brasil is calling my name…

Teaching- In Salvador I was a volunteer English Teacher for a non-profit.  Because I had taught Kindergarten prior to my arrival, I thought I would be in a perfect place to reach my new students on the most basic level possible.  I was wrong.  My teaching style, and everything I was trained to do was challenged.  I didn’t get it right, but even more profound, when I returned to the states, I didn’t believe in what I had been taught, and that belief continued to crumble (and is still crumbling!) to the point where now, I no longer “teach”, I facilitate in a new environment, where my role is to unschool and allow students the freedom to develop their own path.  I am anxious to revisit the Brasilian classroom with this newfound understanding!

Friends- I made some lifelong friend in Brasil, and miss them dearly.  But even here in the states, I’m meeting the most unlikely people, like the governor of Bahia, and his wife!  I was in line at the beauty counter in an Indianapolis Walgreens when I met the first lady Fátima Mendonça!

Diet/Exercise- Since leaving Brasil, the way I eat has been altered.  Fresh fruit is a staple for me, but particularly, the tropical fruit I ate in Brasil.  The way I cook is also different, and I can tell my palette has matured for things I wouldn’t have eaten pre-departure.

These days I also find myself more active, and have incorporated different styles of dancing into my routine.  But what fascinates me the most is how quickly I pick out all-things-Brasil when I work out, go out dancing, or listen to music.  The connections that I make today seem profound, like everything leads back to that enchanted place.

Love- I see love differently today.  In Brasil, people are flowing with love.  Before I really understood Brasilians, I must admit that I believed what everyone else was saying:  Brasilians are hyper-sexualized, sensual, too free with themselves, etc.  But what I understand today is that the people who made those generalizations were not in touch with true love.  I believe you can’t put a cap on true love, and that when you feel it, you can’t help but share it with as many people as you can.  So all the touching, the closeness, the openness that we see many Brasilians demonstrate, actually comes from this awareness.  I can only hope to be as comfortable with sharing my love with more people.  What are we afraid of?

What I also realize today, is that this awareness and affinity that I have separates me from some, but brings me closer to others.  It seems like the people I meet today are either inspired by my story, or also have a story to tell!

My goal is to return within a year, which is a little past my previous goal, but because I know the Universe conspires, I know the timing will be right.  I want to return to uncover some truths that I believe awaiting me.  I want to share this place with my loverboy as well, in hopes that we will be transformed together…


Google, Yahoo & Facebook Are Hiding Things From You

Google, Yahoo & Facebook Are Hiding Things From You.

Original Post by Dimitri Snowden


Growing up Green, Part 1 of 3: green360

So as you may have already noticed, I am steadfast supporter of Dimitri Snowden, a great friend and mentor.  Dimitri is an amazing entrepreneur, and a gem in the field of public education.  He is a rare find indeed, with the ability to not only build a school from the ground up, but to service it technologically, build curricula and teach them to the students!  One thing is for certain, he also has a thing or two to teach the adults about a well-rounded education!  The next few posts that I create in the category of education will be dedicated to him, and all he has done for the Paramount School of Excellence.  These entries will capture the true essence of Green and Sustainable education through photographs!  Keep in mind when you are viewing the photos, that these are all ideas that he saw in his mind and was able to bring to life.  The students of PSoE, who live in the inner-city of Indianapolis are able to experience, learn, and grow as responsible citizens, and are equipped to help sustain future communities and generations to come!


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