Right Speech

To be mutually one in heart is better than to be one in speech…

for often our words do not reflect what is in our hearts.

Our spiritual work is to balance our heart with our speech

so that both are beneficial to ourselves and others.*

 -Rumi

Lately, in my work as an educator, I have been thinking deeply about this concept of right speech. What does it mean to demonstrate right speech? What does it mean to be a person who consciously practices right speech? And, what implications does right speech have in my teaching and research as well as in everyday life?

I believe bell hooks (1994) would approach right speech with her explanation of Self-actualization. Self-actualization is the magical and spiritual moment when who we are, what we say, and what we do are in complete alignment. Here I capitalize the “S” in Self to denote my own belief that she is referring to our higher Self – our soul embodiment as compared to our individual ‘selves’ that are formed when we develop our persona during this lifetime. I also believe educator and scholar, Paulo Freire, would describe right speech as the commitment to “the way [we] act and think when [we] develop all of [our] capacities” (Freire & Betto, 1985, pp. 14 – 15) while working “to shorten more and more the distance between what [we] say and what [we] do” (Freire, 1997, p. 83). In essence, to me right speech is being consciously aware of the power and resonance of our words. It is a deliberate choosing of the most appropriate word to convey our heart’s messaging.

It is spoken at the right time

As educators, right speech is spoken at the right time as we weigh out if others are ready to hear our message. Speaking from our heart means taking a risk, particularly within a society that is hardwired to condemn vulnerability and emotion. Emotionality from a woman in academia can be problematic as we are, many times, perceived as being either hysterical or incompetent (Onwuachi-Willig, 2012). But when viewed through a lens of right speech, we are demonstrating courage and strength. We are removing filters and layers to speak truth. However, knowing not only the right time but also the right audience is key. Showing my true Self to others is a GIFT that should not be a precious pearl thrown to swine, meaning only that some people may be unwilling to open their hearts to your message. Discerning the right time and the right people is essential in maintaining my sense of integrity and dignity. Those who aren’t ready or willing to accept my heart’s messaging are not individuals with whom I want to share my heart with in a particular moment. Therefore, as an educator I need to be aware of when and with whom I can give my whole Self as I am teaching, learning, and engaging with others.

It is spoken in truth

Right speech has to reflect my own truth as a woman, educator, mother, wife, biracial Mexicana, and cancer thriver. In one space I cannot espouse to be one thing when in another I claim a different perspective or identity. Being in alignment means being true to who I am and speaking my words while standing firmly in my own truth.

It is spoken affectionately

Sometimes it is very challenging as an educator to speak to students with affection when what they say or write is in complete contrast to what I believe in. For example, when students take a firm anti-immigration stance, I – who am pro-immigration – find myself needing to breathe deeply and reflect, not only on what I am going to say, but the tone in which I am going to state my words. Reaching in deeply to find affection or compassion is, in many instances, a struggle. However, I am finding when I can demonstrate love and openness with another – even if I am actively disagreeing with their point of view – that the outcome is generally more constructive. In fact, because I am willing to actively listen to their perspective without trying to judge them, they are, oftentimes, left perplexed as they begin considering my perspective. The dissonance created in showing my students I can still care for them while disagreeing with them jars their own thinking and causes many of them to reconceptualize their own understandings.

It is spoken beneficially

Right speech means that I am thinking not only about the processes of communication and interaction with another, but also the overall outcome. As an educator, I need to think about the end game. In other words, what is the purpose of aligning my heart with my words? What is the purpose of sharing with my students or colleagues my true Self in a particular moment? If the answer to these questions is to provide a constructive and mutually beneficial outcome then, no matter how difficult the interaction, I am more willing to engage. Knowing that I have the highest good in mind is a critical indicator for whether or not I move forward with right speech. Though I want to always engage others with right speech, sometimes, if my heart is not fully convinced of the overall benefit to everyone, I retreat by pulling back and only giving as much as I feel is necessary.

It is spoken in a mind of loving-kindness

 To me, right speech “in a mind of loving-kindness” invokes Christ consciousness, which is a comprehensive knowing that who I am as a loving being is fully in alignment with my words and actions. This level of right speech is something to which I am constantly striving. Being in loving-kindness does not mean allowing others to take advantage of our willingness to be good. Rather, it means standing up for ourselves, setting strong boundaries, and stepping into a tough love that demonstrates our fierceness for humanity and our courageous fight against injustice, hatred, and dehumanization in all forms. Right speech in a mind of loving-kindness also goes beyond this fight and provides us with a window out of which to see how each one of us is interconnected. In loving-kindness, we rely on our hearts to discern the humanity within each person while choosing words that resonate to the highest level of love possible in that moment.

*A very special thank you goes out to Lynn Santamaría, my mom, who provided the Rumi quote and the “Right Speech” figure.

With love,

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References

Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of the heart. New York: Continuum.

Freire, P., & Betto, F. (1985). Essa escola chamada vida. São Paulo: Atica.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York,    NY:     Routledge.

Onwuachi-Willig, A. (2012). Silence of the lambs. In G. Gutiérrez y Muhs, Y. Flores            Niemann,  C. G. González, and A. P. Harris (Eds.). Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of      Race and Class for Women in Academia (pp. 142 – 151). Boulder, CO: University    Press    of Colorado.

 

Inner Balance with Love at the Center

Time is speeding up. Have you been feeling it? Sensing it?

I feel like we are in a deep learning period where lessons are coming in at bullet speed.

It’s hard to describe in words what I am understanding. I see and feel through images what Spirit presents to me.

I can describe it this way:

When I write for EduSpirit I write from my heart drawing on intuition, the flow of consciousness. It is a different sort of writing, completely detached from linear progression and unencumbered by morphosyntactic structures or analytical examinations. It is akin to what I believe surfers must feel as their primal senses hone in on “the fetch” – the area over which the wind is blowing – to determine how fast they need to paddle toward an oncoming swell. It’s the inner knowing of balance, the way we catch ourselves from falling when we slip on black ice. Or the way Joan Miró knew when to add a bold red line to give the other objects in the painting significance and weight.

So back to my questions … have you been feeling it? Sensing it?

But, what is IT?

IT is amorphous, elusive. Like a mosaic, the closer you get to the picture the more fractured and nonsensical the image. Only by taking a step back and detaching ourselves from the expectation of what we believe the image is or should be, do we begin to derive clarity of how all the smaller pieces fit together into the larger whole. Then, and only then, can we perceive the visual narrative.

IT plays with time and space. How are we already in April 2018? I remember New Year’s Eve clearly. I was creating vision boards with my family. And yet, the events that have occurred both personally and collectively since January 1st have been profound, unprecedented, and life-changing.

The lessons during this time feel exponentially more intense and challenging. Maybe because they are coming in fast, furious, unrelenting and without pause. It feels that just as soon as I make a breakthrough by recognizing and understanding the gifts in one lesson, another is right around the corner. I’ve barely caught my breath and Spirit is handing me another challenge.

Yet, one of my spiritual teachers constantly reminds me to reconceptualize “lesson” and “challenge.” What if, instead, I understand the situation as Spirit inviting me (again and again) to view the person or circumstance with love? What if I am being invited to LOVE and be LOVE in every moment? And when I do not feel love and, instead, feel angry, challenged, upset, saddened, or even ecstatic, I can learn to recognize that these emotions – not originating in love – are indicators of a part of me that is asking to be healed.

The lessons are coming in hard and fast. Again, we are being invited to consciously recognize the parts of ourselves that are being triggered by others and that reflect back to us what is begging to be healed. When we understand that we are divinely created – we are love and love is perfection – we begin to focus on the beauty within ourselves and in each person. What we, in our third-dimensional mindset and physicality, perceive as flaws, suddenly become areas where deep lessons reside. We no longer view these ‘flaws’ as deficits, but rather, as doorways to the authentic Self. It’s “through the cracks that the light gets in,” and if we intentionally focus on our inner sacredness with a humanizing and compassionate orientation, then we begin to be less judgmental and much more forgiving. This forgiveness, however, must first originate from within. Though cliché, there is a deep truth in forgiving ourselves – including what we perceive as fractured parts or flaws – before we can deeply and authentically forgive others. We must first cut our own cords that keep us attached to self-hate and admonishment before we tackle the challenge of releasing and severing unfulfilling or unloving attachments to others.

During this weekend when many are celebrating Easter, I am taking time to pause. I am consciously taking time to light candles, focus on my breath, and slow each moment down – at least for a little while. It feels so important to me to recognize the sacredness within myself, the part of me that forgives easily, laughs heartily, and smiles without effort. I go about the week rushing around trying to cram the work of three people into one working day, and I forget my own power. I forget that I, just as all of you, are forces of love. Sometimes we need to be reminded that every choice we make – however small or seemingly insignificant – is an intentional act that has the potential to bring joy and love to others and to ourselves.

May each of you have blessed and sacred moments this weekend,

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Featured image is by Joan Miró, Triptych Bleu I, II, III (1961).

Cracking the Shell

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It wasn’t until the last few days that I felt deeply in my bones that something had shifted for me. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was at first. It was like driving from Tucson to California in the middle of the night and reaching Quartzite at the break of dawn to catch a luminous edge, a glowing orange, peering slightly above the horizon. The feeling at the sight of the first emergence of light over the dusty mountains on a lonely highway was sheer awe. Driving for hours with the road visible only by headlights and the dim sheen of a crescent moon and desert stars, the immensity of deep relief gazing upon the new morning stunned. A rush of energy pulsed through my nerve-endings.  Inky skies no longer blended with black landscapes. A sudden awareness of detail, of sharp contrast, brought clarity to the road. The sun’s fiery threads weaving through the mountains illuminated the path to my final destination.

This week I saw the break of dawn in my own life. I was unaware until the light flooded in that I had been submerged in the dark depths of my own shell, a protective layer of subconscious that kept me suspended in stasis. I wasn’t fully living. Before the Diagnosis, before the Cancer, there was fear. I had married, divorced, and married again. The fear was palpable. Did marriage guarantee monogamy, fealty, unconditional love? My experience said no. My expectations of love set me up for failure, for I had bought into the myth that another person could complete my life, set me free, liberate my soul, and fulfill my longings. I believed in soulmates and twin flames. I believed in complete synergy with another human being who would complement and unify all my parts.

I sought so furiously, desperately, for this union outside of myself. I believed that happiness and true love meant finding that perfectly amazing human being to whom I was fated to be and live with throughout this physical existence and beyond. Everything hinged on me finding this person. So, I searched and searched.

What has taken most of this life to learn is that the person I have been looking for so feverishly is my own Self. This search is the luminous edge. It is the cracked shell. But now it has broken open, the cracks are wide.  No prayer of re-assemblage.

The Hopi have said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” In the most profound manner, I have begun to embody this belief. Like an egg, my shell has been cracked again and again until, finally, the Truth of who I am in relation to this life has spilled out. It has been messy, unpleasant. There is no containment. I am who I am. We are who we are. And the internal knowingness that only we can fulfill our intrepidly wild and gorgeous dreams is one of the most powerful truths I have ever encountered. It’s like driving in the dark without headlights and reaching the cliff’s edge. My inner guidance knowing to slam on the breaks as I wait for the Sun’s first rays.

With much love,

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Disclaimer: For those who may be tempted to read into this reflection, please know that all is well at home – with/in and with/out. There is a sense of peace and deep love where before there was sometimes doubt, within and without.

Arms

By Cristina Santamaría Graff

Dedicated to those whose lives were taken in a moment of anguish, confusion, and rage at Parkland High School on February 14, 2018.

In honor of surviving students who have armed themselves with fierce love to speak out against gun legislation that has set the stage for immense violence against humanity.

With love,

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Arms

My arms,

outstretched,

she runs into my embrace.

Trembling, her fists pound my back,

more like raindrops than hail, they are

expressions rather than deliverers of pain.

 

My arms,

They bring comfort to her unsettled heart,

POUND, Pound, pound…

“Shhhhhhh, quiet now. The gunfire is over.”

Her arms,

they shield her face,

hands cover her ears.

“I can hear the screaming,” she mouths.

 

My arms,

they carry notebooks and pens,

extra paper for José, a calculator for Bella.

Dry erase marker etchings line my forearms and fingertips,

once again forgetting to cap the tops.

 

My arms,

They dole out high-fives,

handshakes at the classroom door, Kleenex, wipes, stickers, fist bumps, and hugs.

My arms,

always moving,

to show, to demonstrate, to examine, to analyze, to assess, to teach.

 

Your arms,

full of fire and misplaced rage.

You project your despair on the innocent,

You know no other way.

Your arms aim and shoot,

the more the better – this is your plan.

 

Their arms,

in the air, on the floor, under the desks,

begging, pleading.

They are just arms, another target to shoot at.

 

Your arms,

AR-15s – powerful, mighty, righteous.

They become God.

You are the messenger, the deliverer of pain.

 

Your arms,

now hang nonchalantly at your side.

They buy you a drink at Subway.

 

Our arms.

Our truth.

What arms do we bear?

What arms us?

What do we choose to be armed with?

Are we bearers of fear?

Do we arm ourselves with love?

Can we bear our own truths, our own fears?

Can we bear the reality we are creating?

 

Our arms,

our minds, our hearts, our consciousness.

We have the right to bear TRUTH,

to confront the lies,

to stand up for each other,

to live and choose LOVE.

 

Our arms,

They can write new beginnings.

 

Remembering Dolores O’Riordan

In the early 1990s, when the Cranberries were at the height of their career, I remember enjoying their music but keeping them at a distance. It seemed like every alternative music station was playing “Zombie,” “Dreams,” or “Linger.” Though I appreciated the complexity of the lyrics and was riveted by Dolores’ voice – which sounded like it was resonating in an echo chamber – I was oversaturated by their fame. They were ubiquitous and, like any celebrity band, reproductions and copycats of their sound and image were inescapable. I didn’t want my early and mid-twenty experiences defined by memories of their music. For example, I didn’t want to associate my experiences walking through the streets of Mexico City with “Ode to My Family” churning over in my head. I wanted the playlist of my formative adult years to reflect the pain and desires of falling in tormentous love and looking for an exhilarating external freedom (which only much later on, would I realize could only exist within). I wanted something audible that was raw and full of power. Sound Garden, P. J. Harvey, Sonic Youth, and Nirvana provided backbone to all the mixed tapes and CDs I created to accompany me on road trips and international adventures or during indulgent brooding sessions. There was no room for the Cranberries during this period in my life though, in some ways, they were always there following me through magazine covers and background music in restaurants and bars.

Then in 2012, I watched The Cranberries on Tiny Desk Concerts. It was sometime in March or April just a few weeks after I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember I was alone. It was late at night in the living room. My husband had gone to bed and the girls, including my 10-month-old baby, had finally fallen asleep. The house was quiet, but warm. It was early spring in Washington state and, though there was a deep chill in the air outside, inside, my husband had prepared a beautiful, crackling fire in our wood-burning fireplace. It smelled of sweet hickory.

I couldn’t sleep. I was preparing myself emotionally and psychologically for the upcoming mastectomy. I sat on the couch with one of my cats on my lap and began scrolling through Apple TV. I had started watching Tiny Desk a couple of weeks earlier and had caught a set by Foster the People. I wasn’t terribly acquainted with their music, except for “Pumped Up Kicks,” and immediately appreciated their acoustic, stripped down performance. It hooked me. I wanted more.

I scrolled through the Tiny Desk menu and saw, “The Cranberries” listed. My heart gave a little jump. I thought, “Wow! They’re still together? I’ve got to see this.” I pushed the play button on the Apple remote, and there she was – Dolores O’Riordon. I was immediately struck by her short black hair against her pale white skin and minimal makeup. She, too, was stripped down. She felt raw to me, but far from vulnerable. There was an inner ease and strength in her voice and movement. She started the set with Linger and, at one point, when she sang, “I swore. I swore I would be true and honey so did you. So why were you holding her hand?,” I felt her question measured, direct, and full of context. On the word “why,” she arched her body forward and squinted her eyes as if posturing to an old lover who had deceived. That gesture said, “How dare you mess with me! I will not stand for this! I am worth so much more!”

My heart filled watching her, feeling her emotions ebb and flow. At certain moments she was standing her ground and speaking from her heart and, at other times, aloof and distant. At one moment, it seemed like her mind had drifted and had landed on a deep, dark memory. Her stare was thousands of miles away. Then, suddenly, she came back as if jolted into the present, smiled at her “lads,” and poured air and life into each forthcoming word.

Tears flowed down my face as I watched her performance. I found myself standing in the center of my living room arms outstretched, in the same manner as Dolores’, singing with her. I poured and channeled all my anger and fear into each song and was completely surprised by the fact I knew almost every word. How in the world had I learned these songs? A part of me must have always been paying attention. A part of me must have known during the 1990s how important these songs would be to me one day, how cathartic it would be to sing with Dolores in my living room as I sang out the fear of death.

Something about who Dolores was now, in 2012, became really important to the healing that occurred that night. I saw my own pain, sorrow, and happiness reflected in her eyes. There was a deep understanding that I knew we shared. It was the indescribable bittersweet experience of feeling loss and hope simultaneously. She embodied both and, that night, I was completely receptive to the underlying message her soul was expressing.

Dolores, in Spanish, means “pains” or “sorrows.” It is not lost on me that in the Tiny Desk performance she is wearing a beautiful, heart necklace which, I believe, is a representation of a Milagros pendant. A Milagros, which translates directly to “miracles,” is a religious folk charm that is traditionally used for healing purposes and as votive offerings of hope. I find it profound, in the retelling of her Tiny Desk performance, that what I experienced as the most transformative aspect of that 4-song concert was the juxtaposition of the pain and hope I felt from her through that set. Now, after her untimely death at age 46 – the same age I am now – I am struck by how she weaved, pain and hope, so viscerally, effortlessly.

This is my Ode to you, Dolores. Thank you for always being there for me, in the foreground and at a distance.

Much love,

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Vision Boards to Manifest Dreams in 2018

This video is a step-by-step guide to creating your own vision boards to manifest happiness, joy, abundance, and peace.

In this video I share my own vision board and talk about the process my family and I went through to create our individual boards.

I hope this video will assist you in manifesting your own dreams in 2018!

With much love,

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