Toni Morrison: Death as a Counternarrative

El Paso, Texas. Dayton, Ohio. Two cities now forever interconnected in time to horrific acts of violence originating in fear, perpetrated through hate, and executed with cold intent to signal, exalt, and glorify a frightening narrative of dominance and dehumanization. Every eyeful is a litany of blood, grief, and rage. I blink away headlines. Grocery shopping is now a death wish. Venturing out with friends at night, an act of genocide.

If I allow it, fear will swallow me. I have family in El Paso and Ohio. My parents, my brother’s family, my husband’s family, and so many of our friends live in California. Some live within a couple of hours of Gilroy. On my dad’s side of the family, we are Mexican. We are light-, medium-brown-, and dark-skinned. We are born here and are immigrants. We are walking targets for using our mother tongue, for wearing Frida shirts… hell, just for breathing. Spaces we frequent become traps. We might make a left instead of a right and catch a bullet in the temple. When the narrative is death, there is no discrimination. The AK-47 becomes adrenaline. Every ‘head up’ is a game piece. It’s better just to lie down, even if blanketed in your neighbor’s blood.

This fear is real and is being stoked. If we allow ourselves, we will fall victims to the pervasive language of fear that aims to further divide us, scare us into giving away our rights and sovereignty, and prevent us from confronting the miasma of toxicity that chokes our heart and leaves us hating ourselves, our lives, and those around us. We need, so desperately, to crack our minds and hearts open like an egg and wake up. We need to understand that our collective misery has been covertly constructed to keep us from healing ourselves and finding love for others.

These words have been incubating. I have been compelled to respond to what I consider to be a collective manifestation of mass dehumanization. For me, one main way the dehumanization is perpetuated is through our politician’s empty rhetoric. There are no genuine feelings of empathy when policy and practice continue to dictate that human life figures less than weapons’ profit margins. But gun control is not the focus here nor the intended story. Rather it is what Toni Morrison refers to as the “systematic looting of language” or when language is used to dehumanize and to disallow creativity and innovation for the purpose of limiting our capabilities to co-create knowledge and “encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.” She writes, “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence.” I further contend that oppressive language is not only violence but is a weapon skillfully used to annihilate our empathetic capabilities to feel for one another as human beings. When sharpened over time, it is like a scalpel that scrapes away or cuts out that which is determined to be ‘diseased.’ To harness language against a group of people for the purpose of claiming power over them is to deliberately strip them of their humanity. In doing so, they become objects. Objects are easily removed, displaced, or thrown away. And, if the soul is deeply clouded, no guilt is attached to this dispossession and removal.

In waking up to the news that Toni Morrison had died yesterday, my first thought was that she was deliberately providing some balance to the scales. It felt as if her death was a direct response to the mass shootings that were rooted in racial hatred.

Her death, to me, is a counternarrative against violence inflicted upon those who have been historically oppressed because of gender, color of skin, ability, religious-affiliation, and other markers of difference that contribute to the overarching prism of humanity. The timing of her passing feels like an exclamation point in reaction to the disingenuous platitudes of commiseration exercised in front of cameras and read off of teleprompters. Her death is a call for authentic discourse that recognizes that silence between open hearts speaks more loudly than hasty, fleshless words. Her counter urges resistance and the fight against “rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering.” Her death reminds us to stay steady through these violent times, to not yield to fear, and to love each other courageously – gripping hands together as we lead each other through the darkness.

With love,

Quotations by Toni Morrison were taken from her Nobel Lecture on December 7, 1993.

Reevaluating the journey

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. – Thomas Merton

This time last year I felt as if I had much of my life figured out. Of course, when I state this, I do not mean that every detail was accounted for or that I had reached a place or state of mind that allowed me to consciously unfold the journey before me. Rather, I saw and experienced certain signs that validated internal knowings. These signs pointed toward a direction that made sense, was logical, and that seemed aligned with a greater purpose that I had envisioned and had felt ‘right.’

You know where this is going, right?

Certain things did not pan out. And other things did. Those things that did not come to fruition, however, sent me on a spiral. Maybe not a downward spiral, but rather on a sideways one where I felt and still feel that I am living in a parallel universe or in some alternate reality. I did have some darker moments where I yelled a bit at the air around me and asked God what the point was of having me go through what I had experienced. And, I had some better moments where I took in all that I DO have and realized, very humbly, that I am surrounded by love, good people, and, overall, a fulfilling career.

During this last year, I have had to reevaluate my journey as a human being who has, since I can remember, felt an itching to know more, feel more, do more, have more… The MORE isn’t necessarily something tangible or material, rather it is an ache in the heart that pushes me to dream bigger and to imagine limitlessly. The reevaluation is coming to terms with how my life is at this moment is not what I had envisioned for myself and my family last year. But, in all honesty, it’s not too far off… just some of the details are different.

Coming to terms with life as it is means to reevaluate who I am now, not the person I hoped I would have been if things had gone a certain way. The NOW of who I am is a person who finds herself in a beautiful home with an amazing family. Right now I am sitting at my new, little desk surrounded by some of my favorite things … photos of my family, pictures drawn by my daughters, candles bought for me by my husband, and books that I treasure. I am breathing in fresh sage and listening to the sound of my daughters’ laughter downstairs.

Reevaluating myself in this present moment feels bittersweet in some ways. In accepting who I am NOW I am also, simultaneously, letting go of who I thought I would be a year ago. Though, in essence, I am holding onto and letting go of the same person, there is a self-awareness of loss and grief in realizing that the NOW is enough. Maybe the MORE isn’t needed as much or maybe I am growing out of needing the MORE for deep fulfillment. Maybe, who I am right now is exactly what I need. Nothing more.

Keep courageous. Live now. With love,

Lots of Soul Searching – An update

Hello everyone,

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written for EduSpirit. Collectively and individually there have been tremendous changes.

That said, I am in the process of reconceptualizing this platform to make it more accessible and resourceful. It has been a challenge finding time to write for EduSpirit since I have many writing deadlines for my academic position as a tenure-track faculty member. Most of my writing time has been dedicated to a different sort of writing. However, writing for EduSpirit opens up a different space for me through which I can explore other ways and knowings of what it means to integrate heart-centered work into my everyday teaching and scholarship. This work is invaluable to me and I would prefer to write about this type of work through reflective narrative on a daily basis.

I appreciate your continued support as I engage in some deep soul searching about what I feel is brewing on the horizon. The Universe is sending messages that I am digesting and making sense of. I believe that this platform is moving toward a more centered focus, but one that is multi-layered.

Thank you for your support as I figure out the next steps for EduSpirit’s evolvement.

With love,

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We Control the Narrative

Flow and Creativity

 

The month of September has been one of fluctuating energies. There have been peaks, valleys, and dips. Some have been dramatic. But all seem to be culminating. In other words, the energies I am experiencing have been moving toward this point for a long time now and, finally, I am able to understand their purpose and sense their meaning.

I know I am being vague and esoteric. If you know me, you understand that I receive information through clairsentience, the knowing comes through how I feel and by the messages I interpret through my body. Not many people have understood this about me and many have simply chalked it up to me being ‘a bit strange.’ But this gift has served me well. It has alerted me to cancer that doctors did not detect. It has guided me toward certain people who have proven to be extremely important mentors in my life. It has cautioned me to leave certain places before violent events have occurred. It has helped me to communicate directly with children in comas and individuals who are considered ‘non-verbal.’ There is an intelligence in emotion that most overlook because we have been conditioned to value the mind over the heart. For me, the mind may have knowledge, but the heart possesses wisdom. Relying on this wisdom connects me to Spirit and grounds me to my humanity simultaneously. I share this because it is through feeling that I now understand a certain circumstance in my life. It is wisdom that drives this understanding: we control the narrative.

Many times, we hear the words, “we control our lives, our destiny,” but rarely do I think that we take this seriously. Oftentimes, we fall prey to a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness where we create a narrative of being victims or victimized. Here, I must say, and not discount, the horrors of being a victim or victimized, particularly young children who are vulnerable and dependent upon others for care.  The majority of us have experienced some sort of major trauma and, these traumas, are often perpetrated by the adults in our lives. When I speak of controlling the narrative, within this context, I am describing the construction of victimhood as identity. This identity is one to which many cling. For, in victimhood, life is happening to us. Others are the enemy and, therefore, if we take on the identity of victim we are never to blame for our decisions or reactions. We are simply defending ourselves against others who are out to hurt us, get us. Then, it becomes natural to push away any critical self-reflection that may lead to the epiphany that we, indeed, have co-constructed these circumstances with others. We cannot place the mantle of victimhood upon us when we realize we have taken a conscious part in the creation of the reality we are living.

Without going into detail for the purpose of being considerate and respectful of others whom I deeply care for I will say that I have been an observer and participant in a long-term tug-of-war between certain individuals. Through my own biased lens of being who I am in relation to the individuals to whom I am referring, I have watched as one person has acted from an identity of victimhood. Years ago, I was perplexed by this person’s actions (I will use “they” as a pronoun here to refer to a specific individual for anonymity purposes). They made decisions out of fear and spite that were fueled by such hatred that I felt nauseous to be in their presence. The feeling in my body after any interaction with this person was an immediate repulsion that would vibrate in my solar plexus. I knew, on many levels, that this person was not only suffering, but was living in such fear that any attempt at love would be one of distortion. In other words, this person’s love – when given – would be fractured and conditional. It would be given only to gain something in return – power, bondage, or possession.

Because of specific circumstances, this is a person that has had to be in my life continuously. This is not a person who I would ever choose to communicate or interact with on any level. However, because this person is tied to other people whom I love, I have made many efforts to coexist (though at a distance) in order to maintain specific, important relationships.

I have learned a great deal about myself through this person. Perhaps this is why they are in my life. I have witnessed this person carefully construct a narrative of victimhood that extends to and has influenced a specific person who is dear to me. This narrative involves an US versus THEM mentality where there can be only one “winner.” To win infers that another must lose. However simplistic this may sound in binary terms, the implications reach far and wide. For the person who I love it means they must choose who is the winner and who is the loser. Through a paradigm of victimhood, there is no other option. For to see the situation in gray tones, rather than in black and white, would mean to be reflective and see the ways each person has contributed to a challenging and difficult reality.

The purpose in this writing is not to call anyone out or to be reactive. Rather, I am taking a moment to reflect upon all those who are impacted by the current choices being made. I am trying to take a bird’s eye view as a mother, a wife, a friend, and a spiritual seeker. I can see how a narrative weaved for years has taken hold of a dear soul and has placed them in an un-winnable situation. This person’s current choices, undoubtedly, will have ramifications far into the future that they cannot conceive of or understand. Yet, in this situation that has brewed for so many years, it is clear to me that certain energies are no longer sustainable. The energy of victimhood and all its manifestations are not supportable for me or for my nuclear family.

I have had to learn the difficult lesson of cutting cords and letting go energetically, even though a part of me is always hopeful and wants to say, “Let’s try one more time.”

But it is time to let go and allow individuals to come to their own conclusions. For years I have invested love, energy, time, and resources into a relationship that has never been mutually beneficial or reciprocated. I have felt deep sadness, for I know that much of this person’s inability to give of themselves is because of another person’s direct influence and constructed narrative. Yet, my body, my spirit, and heart tell me that the best thing I can do is send love – unconditional love – and to set this person free. It’s probably the best gift I can give at this moment knowing full well that if this person freely comes back to me, I will love them with open arms.

Always with love,

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Setting the Tone for the New School Year

Beginning the new school year with a positive, proactive attitude and approach is key to setting the right tone for you and your family and sustaining it over the academic year.

Being a teacher educator who is married to a school teacher and has two girls in elementary school has taught me the importance of deliberate intention, visualization, meditation, organization, communication, and follow-up.

I have learned these conscious, mindful actions the hard way and over time. In fact, I have resisted many of these ‘steps’ because I have a propensity to challenge routine, particularly if it feels forced. That said, I have noticed over the years that my children respond very positively to consistent messaging, clear vision of home- and school-centered goals, an organized home, and predictable scheduling. By no means do my husband and I approach these actions without keeping in mind that play, relaxation, and fun are equally, if not more, important. My girls crave long stretches of interrupted play where they can draw, engage in imaginative role play, create projects, read for pleasure, and explore our backyard’s trees, plants, and insects.

So, being the teacher that I am, I am happy to share the ways we, as a family, attempt to structure and maintain a harmonious tone in our home at the beginning of and throughout the school year.

Intention is the conscious practice of calibrating and setting the tone we need, as a family, to sustain a relatively peaceful balance. For us, this balance requires a mindful approach to understanding each individual’s desires, hopes, and needs while considering how each individual fits together and contributes to our family’s collective realities and dreams. For example, both my daughters are involved in extracurricular activities that involve a financial and time-intensive commitment necessary for them to continue progressing. To set the intention to support these activities, my husband and I needed to have several conversations to organize practical and feasible ways to realize my daughters’ desires.

The intention we set as a family was a co-constructed endeavor that involved some challenging discussions around what we could and could not support either financially or logistically. For instance, one of my daughters wanted to play soccer on top of already participating in martial arts, attending gymnastics one night per week, and continuing with her weekend violin lessons. While financially we were able to support her in all these activities, schedule-wise it would have been a major hardship. Had she played soccer, we would have needed to hire a caregiver to transport our daughter to and from practices and games that were often scheduled last-minute by the school district. My husband’s daily teaching schedule and my evening university courses conflicted with the district’s projected practices and games. Though our daughter was disappointed that she would not be able to play for her second-grade school team, through deliberate discussions – where we explained to her all the variables involved – she began to understand some of the complexities.

The intention to set the right tone for our family meant negotiating and tweaking our schedule until all of us came to a mutual agreement. As parents, this right tone meant actively listening to our two girls, hearing them out, and considering their opinions. Because my husband and I had discussed our non-negotiables (e.g., we did not want to hire a person to transport our girls from activity to activity), we could listen to our daughters and hold our ground while being fair and compassionate. Once everyone felt that they had contributed to conversations around our home and school schedules, we were able to reach a space where our overall intention toward extracurricular activities was positive and forward moving.

Once an intention is set (and feels good), I have discovered that imagining the actions that follow the intention are critical to assisting me with planning, organizing, and working out any kinks. Since I am a very visual person, it makes sense to use visualization as a practical tool for these imaginings. For others who are auditory processors, talking through your intentions may prove very beneficial. For tactile learners, having a tangible planner in front of you as you are thinking through your intentions can help you transfer conceptualizations to concrete actions by imagining (and seeing) each day of the week in calendar form. For kinesthetic individuals, taking a nice walk and moving your body while imagining the way your intention will manifest into reality can be extremely helpful.

In my own experience, visualizing not only the action, but also the feeling behind the action is equally important. Manifesting a smooth transition into the busy school year means seeing each family member feeling joyous as they engage in home-, work- or school-related activities. If, for example, I see – in my mind’s eye – my daughters excited to go to their evening gymnastics practice and having a fantastic time while they are there adds to the energy and momentum of this reality being achieved. This practice of visualizing the event and associating it with a positive emotion is a process of our ability as human beings (with untapped spiritual potential) to co-construct realities we want to experience.

Meditation within the context of setting the tone for the new school year, for me, is a practice that underlies all the actions described in creating positive processes and outcomes. It is a state of being we can reach when we find congruence between our mind, heart, spirit, and body. This alignment within triggers a harmonious resonance through which calmness and a deep sense of well-being is experienced. Meditation does not need to come after visualization, nor, in actuality, is there any required order among any of the ‘steps’ described. For me, however, meditation is a way for me to solidify a knowingness that what I have intended, visualized, and felt is not only probable, but fully possible because I know and believe the reality I have co-constructed to be real and true.

Once this knowingness settles into my very core, then I can be very deliberate with organizing my actions without feeling anxious, frustrated, or overwhelmed. However, when I begin organizing without setting the intention and following through with visualization and meditation, I generally go into a panic. For instance, if I haven’t centered myself and I approach scheduling a monthly calendar of all our individual family member’s activities, I usually feel an anxious and uncomfortable energy arise from my navel. This shooting energy gets stuck in my throat. I then forget to breathe. I feel light-headed, and my pulse skyrockets. This is when arguments between my husband and I are inevitable. He may ask me a simple question such as, “Can you pick up the girls on Thursday afternoon?” And I, feeling completely ungrounded, unsettled, will reply with anger, short outbursts, and curt responses. I may even blame him for how I am feeling because, in these moments, when the energy is rushing so fast in my body, I may not be able to process that my state of being has been compromised by my lack of centeredness.

When I wrote earlier that I sometimes resist organization, I believe it is because I have frequently used organization as a tool to control inner or outer chaos. Instead of approaching organization as a mindful and conscious practice of sorting and prioritizing what is important to me and to my family members I have viewed it and used it as a last-ditch effort at cleaning up what I don’t want to look at. My resistance stems from a constructed belief that somehow organization is the antithesis to freedom. If I am disciplined and organized that, somehow, I will lose or stifle my inner creativity and spirit. So, instead of adopting organization as a spiritual practice of proactively attending to the important things in my life, I have done everything in my power to resist structuring my schedule and organizing my activities and those of my family members.

Though I have had moments of clarity throughout my life about organization and have attempted to have a healthy relationship with it, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized the importance of providing my daughters with predictability that could only come from organization. As a single person or even as a wife I could get away with a more reactive approach to organizing my life. In other words, I could wait until the last minute or until I had reached a desperate place before I would begin to deliberately put things in order. As a mother, however, I came to the difficult and honest realization that my negative reactions to setting up specific structures in my ‘world,’ many times, affected my young daughters detrimentally. I did not want them to get caught in my self-inflicted hurricanes, so I began to surrender. I surrendered to the understanding that organization – as a mindful practice – could provide important structures so that my children felt a predictability and trustworthiness that their world was safe and secure.

In practice, organization is now a deliberate process that is aligned with our individual and family goals. Setting the intention for how we want to feel as we create structures to ensure we can achieve our desires and needs has informed how we interact and communicate with one another. Communication has been a critical ‘step’ in understanding how each of us feels as we listen to and discuss with one another what each of us needs to meet our desires, hopes, and needs. Communication is essential in co-constructing a feasible structure that has been vetted by each family member (to varying degrees). For example, in our household, to be able to organize each of our varied school- and work-related activities, we have created a family calendar displayed on a white board near the refrigerator (which is color coded by person and shows each individual’s activity throughout the month) and a weekly menu (which is displayed on a small blackboard in the kitchen). We have divided up chores and household responsibilities (which are written down on lists) and organized specific home-, work-, and school-related events (via Google calendars).

Because we are attempting to make activities transparent in a variety of ways, it becomes important to check-in with one another and to see if the structures we have in place to organize these events are working.

Recently, my husband and I realized that much of our miscommunication about my work-related scheduled events on the calendar was occurring because my Outlook work schedule was not synching with my Google Calendar. A couple of times when I got home from work late because I was at a ‘scheduled’ work event, I detected a slight frustration in his voice. I would say, “It was on the calendar.” And he would retort, “No it wasn’t.” And I would respond, “Yes, it was. I scheduled it.” The tête-à-tête was ad nauseam. Finally, however, when the synching problem was resolved, we were able to get back into a groove that was aligned with our original intention. We were able to meet our needs, which included work needs, and felt good about knowing that we were following an agreed upon structure.

Finally, in this process of setting the tone for the new school year, my family and I have found that following-up with one another assists us in following through with the intentions and goals we have created. Following-up, for me, is interconnected with communication and is the action of speaking with one another to ensure the we each feel aligned with what we have agreed upon as a family. If, in a ‘follow-up,’ we discover that a family member is no longer in sync with or happy about the direction we are moving as a collective, then it is imperative to communicate honestly with one another and to listen with compassion about issues that are being revealed. Some of these issues may unearth not only the individual family member’s challenges, but signal to the rest of the family that a new conceptualization, structure, or intention is necessary. Following-up assists in following through. Following through is a related action and is characterized by what each of us does to continue sustaining a positive and proactive tone. Following through means to be continually proactive in our approach to communication and other ‘steps,’ such as meditation, that will facilitate healthy processes and outcomes related to home, work, and school.

When we are deliberate about actions (intention, visualization, meditation, organization, communication, and follow-up) that contribute to individual and family goals, we begin to sense an amazing power within that is freeing and expansive. We come to realize our co-creative abilities in setting intentions that have a high probability of being realized. As we become conscious co-creators, we can set the tone for how we want to live our lives.

We can see the seeds we have sown and teach our children the ways that they, through intention and action, can experience joy in all the activities in which they are engaged.

As we begin another school year, let’s make a conscious effort to set a positive and proactive tone for how we deliberately experience our life.

Setting the tone for joy,

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The Conflicted American

I love that I was born in the United States and that I have had the privilege of being able to choose my friends, my career, whether or not I want to practice any sort of religion, and how I want to live my life. I recognize that had I been born in Syria, in Nicaragua, in North Korea, or even Serbia, I would not have had the freedoms I have both cherished and taken for granted as an American citizen. But I have struggled with what it means to be American for a very long time. For me, the amazing part about being American has been being able to be adventurous and expansive. It has been a journey of coming into my own knowing that as a biracial female I can do anything, reach for anything, and become who I have always wanted to be. I have had the privilege to do so, just by being born into a country where the pursuit of happiness is embedded in our Declaration of Independence.

This is one side of freedom. One aspect of my experience.

I just watched Django Unchained the other night. This is the other side of freedom. It is the illusion of freedom.  It is the illusion of the American Dream. There is no dream when we wake up and realize that we are living off the backs of others. There is no dream when we recognize our complicity in a system that is predicated on a rich/poor binary. We cannot have rich, successful people if we don’t have poor people to compare our successes to. Living the American Dream, we must realize, has never been that EVERYONE gets to live the American Dream. Only certain people can live this dream and deep down in the darkest regions of our soul… WE KNOW THIS. We say that being American means freedom for all. But look around. Is this really the truth?

Or is being American and “making America great again” really this: Only certain people are true Americans. Everyone else, who fall outside this dominant norm are “infidels,” “criminals,” “lazy,” “good-for-nothing” individuals who do not appreciate American values and must be dealt with because they are DIFFERENT, non-conforming, or outside-of-the box thinkers or believers.

I am weeping inside as I write this. My heart is so heavy. I am American. But even writing, “I am American” brings such conflict to my soul. I am an American who believes in PEOPLE. I am an American who believes in every person’s freedom and liberation from oppression. I am an American who is fiercely protective of my individual rights, particularly my right to free speech. And I am an American who is deeply struggling with being American as I see my government strip Black, Brown,  and people of Difference of every right and liberty afforded to them – at least in the way “rights” and “liberty” have been conceptualized in our Constitution.

To me, being American means giving more and being generous of heart and spirit. It is not taking away and narrowing the parameters for who can receive freedom.

I was sickened when I watched Django Unchained because it reminded me of WHO WE ARE as Americans. We are both the beautiful and the underbelly of evil. We carry both in our ancestral DNA. This time of reckoning with our past and seeing how it is playing out in the HERE and NOW is important. It is more palpable and real than it has ever been, at least in my lifetime.

It is time to fully recognize that we cannot be a United States, until we accept our conflicted relationship with freedom and “American” values. We cannot love our country and hate certain countrymen and women. It is not possible. We must tell our stories, come together to listen, cry out our pain, be heard and accepted, and, finally, begin to heal. There is no other way. We cannot heal our traumatic past without acknowledging its existence.

This is what it means to be human. And, for me, this is what it could mean to be American: An American who deeply acknowledges our contradictions and who has the courage to stand up and embrace the sovereignty within EVERY human being… This is true power; the strength within to not fear; the power to LOVE every human being beyond the differences we have created that position others as wrong, less than, inferior, bad, or God-less.

On this Independence Day, I speak my truth as an American. I am American and I am so much more. But, as an American I pray my heart will be heard and that we can begin to recognize the hypocrisy:  American freedom is a constructed ideal that has only been granted to a chosen few.

Please remember this declaration below and begin to imagine that these statements include all human beings regardless of gender, nationality, race, class, ability, or religious affiliation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Always with love,

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Continuing the Conversation with Linda & José about Community Engagement

As we continue toward the horizon trying to discover our Self with every step forward, we begin to realize how interconnected we are to one another. My continuing conversations with Linda Maxwell and José Quintanar represent this path forward. We are learning from one another how to make sense of a world in which there exists much hatred, violence, chaos, and confusion.

In this discussion, Linda and José talk about community-engaged work through a humanizing lens. I am learning much from them including what it means to live a life of service and to be in the moment as we interact with other people. I am learning that each person with whom I interact is someone to learn from, even if the experience seems and feels negative. There is ALWAYS something to learn. Sometimes the knowledge that we gain is from contrast – experiencing that which we DO NOT want. We understand better who we are when we come across others who embody traits that do not resonate with who we are or want to be.

Linda and José teach us from the ground up. This means that they are interested in PEOPLE not the politics, ideals, or belief systems that may surround a person within a specific context. The ground up is actively listening to a person to understand how to reach that individual’s heart. That is where authentic communication begins. That is where love for one self and for the other reigns.

We live on the edge of spiraling into LOVE for one another or falling into our deepest darkest fears of separation. This fear is a frightening place of victimhood, oppression, and distain for our brothers and sisters. Linda and José constantly remind us to center ourselves and to seek LOVE, even if love seems the most improbable solution or outcome.

Peace, strength, and courage, everyone.

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