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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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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Doing vs. Being of Service

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What does it mean to serve, to be of service to others? What does it mean to choose the role of the servant? How does the concept of ‘service’ translate to who we are and how we decide to ‘be’ in this world?

I remember in my junior year in high school I was considering running for an Associated Student Body (ASB) position. I knew I didn’t want to be President and I wasn’t interested in Treasurer either. Vice President and Secretary appealed to me and both were positions I thought I would do well in. My high school, an all-girls Catholic school, also had another position available. This position was ASB Service. Of all the positions, I wanted this one the least, not because I thought I couldn’t handle the responsibilities and not because I wasn’t well qualified (I had consciously been involved in service in different ways throughout my high school career). It was because I didn’t want to be known and seen as “the Service person.” What made matters worse for me was that almost every teacher and dozens of my peers told me I should run for Service, that I would be “so good at it.” Deep down, I knew they were right. I knew that I could help organize and lead retreats, plan specific service-related events on campus and within the community, and, overall, provide strong leadership and mentoring for other students, particularly freshmen and sophomores.

Even though I knew I would be excellent in this position based on feedback I had received over freshmen, sophomore, and junior years from teachers and peers about my service work, I resisted submitting my name for nomination. I actually filled out the nomination sheet for Secretary and was going to announce my decision when I heard that one of my good friends had already submitted her name for Secretary. In fact, many of my friends submitted their names for all the positions except for ASB Service. I found out that they were saving the spot for me (!). Their action was both infuriating and thoughtful. Knowing that my friends and fellow peers deliberately did not submit their names for Service because they thought I was a shoe-in, made me feel a responsibility to not let them down. I submitted my name for nomination and was voted in easily.

In retrospect, at age 17, I believe I was coming to terms with the humility of service. What made me so uncomfortable choosing to run for ASB Service was a deep sense that I wasn’t doing enough. True service to me, even as an adolescent and young adult, meant that I needed to do much more. My experiences felt too easy. For example, going to a pre-school and working with young children one-on-one or in small groups as part of my service hours didn’t feel like service. Even though I enjoyed being and playing with small children, this experience was just another assignment I needed to complete. Whether I was in the classroom or not, I felt like my presence didn’t make a huge difference on the children’s overall growth and learning. I was just another high school student or volunteer dropping in, getting her ‘service’ criteria satisfied, and driving away with all the necessary signatures to demonstrate my ‘involvement.’

Service as a mindset and philosophy meant something to me. Maybe it was being exposed to catechism that included in-depth case studies of specific saints and martyrs. If I wasn’t feeling fully connected to the acts of ‘goodness’ or ‘kindness’ I was enacting or if I wasn’t feeling some degree of sacrifice, then, in my young adult mind, I wasn’t doing my part. Not doing my part was exasperated by being known as “the Service person” on campus. Though my peers and teachers valued my service-related work, especially my shared written personal narratives about spirituality I wrote as part of my service leadership during retreats, I felt like an imposter. I realized that doing service was a far cry from being of service.

Being of service, I understood to a limited degree, at age 17, was a way of life, a choice to live every moment acknowledging Self but making decisions to be of service to others. Doing service, in contrast, could be measured quantifiably through external acts that others deemed ‘good’ or ‘kind.’ Even at 17, I cringed at the notion that people held a stick up to me and measured me as the ‘good kind of service.’ They didn’t know what I was feeling inside. They didn’t have a clue if I was ‘being’ rather than just doing obligatory service. All they could see – as they checked the boxes or signed the papers – were all the external, seemingly meaningful ‘acts’ in which I was involved. The more hours the better. The more ‘impact’ – as measured by how many people I served lunch to – fantastic!

Fast-forward decades later, and I find myself thinking of ‘service’ as an Assistant Professor who is creating courses that are community-engaged. I am actually structuring one course as a critical service-learning course. Critical, in this case, means centering social justice at the core of pedagogy and its enactment or praxis (Mitchell, 2007; 2008; 2014). Service-learning refers to the structure through which a higher education course intentionally centers ‘service’ as “mutually identified and organized service activities that benefit the community and [assist students in] gain[ing] further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility” (Bringle & Clayton, 2012, p. 105).

What strikes me in this reflection, is how similar I feel to how I did as a 17-year-old, when I ask myself and my critically-minded colleagues if we are actually BEING OF service to the communities we collaborate and work with through our community-engaged work or if we (my colleagues, our students, and I) are only DOING service. In higher education courses, where does merely doing service end and being of service begin? And in semester-long courses that are based on extrinsic motivators (grades, recognition), is it even possible to go beyond only doing service?

For me, the answer lies in the internal shifts that occur within each individual. As a whole,  most likely, the majority of my students – when engaging with community members – may only be doing service, regardless of what they write in their journal reflections or say in their final project presentations. Doing service means getting the good grade and being able to say that they ‘know about real issues.’ Being of service, for the few who truly get it, means that their experience and interaction with community members deeply shifts their understandings of who they are in relation to others with whom they are speaking, communicating, and interacting. Being of service means that the external ‘doing’ of service has translated to a knowing. This knowing is the realization that service is not an action divorced from the heart. Service, in its purest form, is being in, coming from, and sharing the heart for the purpose of caring for, listening to, and being there for another without conditions.

Service is akin to Rachel Naomi Remen’s (2000) discussion on ‘charity’ or “ways of giving to others” (p. 86). She tells the story of an Orthodox rabbi who provided her with clarity around these ‘ways’ through different levels of understanding unconditional giving:

  • At the eighth and most basic level of giving to others, a man begrudgingly buys a coat for a shivering man who has asked him for help, gives it to him in the presence of witnesses, and waits to be thanked.
  • At the seventh level, a man does this same thing without waiting to be asked for help.
  • At the sixth level, a man does this same thing openheartedly without waiting to be asked for help.
  • At the fifth level, a man openheartedly gives a coat that he has bought to another but does so in private.
  • At the fourth level, a man openheartedly and privately gives his own coat to another, rather than a coat that he has bought.
  • At the third level, a man openheartedly gives his own coat to another who does not know who has given him this gift. But the man himself knows the person who is indebted to him.
  • At the second level, he openheartedly gives his own coat to another and has no idea who has received it. But the man who receives it knows to whom he is indebted.
  • And finally, on the first and purest level of giving to others, a man openheartedly gives his own coat away without knowing who will receive it, and he who receives it does not know who has given it to him. Then giving becomes a natural expression of the goodness in us, and we give as simply as flowers breathe out their perfume (pp. 86 – 87).

In the final iteration of ‘ways of giving to another’ we become servants of humanity. We recognize the divinity each of us carries within, in spite of outward appearance or perceived difference.

As educators, I am interested in how we can use these understandings of service to inform our being-ness as we interact with our students, community members, and other stakeholders. To what degree are we willing to be of service and in what areas do we find ourselves only doing service either ‘begrudgingly’ or for the sake of being acknowledged or recognized? Where do we begin, in our own work, to help our students shift from merely doing service to becoming servants to society, to humanity?

These are questions I hope we all ponder seriously as we (re)imagine and (re)conceptualize a world in which we are committed to serving humanity – our children, our communities, and our planet.

With much love,

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References

Bringle, R. G., & Clayton, P. H. (2012). Civic education through service-learning: What, how, and why? In L. McIlrath, A. Lyons, & R. Munck (Eds.), Higher education and civic engagement: Comparative perspectives (pp. 101 – 124). New York: Palgrave.

Mitchell, T. D. (2007). Critical Service-Learning as social justice education: A case study of the citizen scholars program. Equity & Excellence in Education, 40(2), 101 – 112.

Mitchell, T. D. (2008). Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 50 – 65.

Mitchell, T. D. (2014). How service-learning enacts social justice sensemaking. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis, 2(2), Article 6, 1 – 26.

Remen, R. N. (2000). My Grandfather’s Blessings. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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.

 

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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Interview with Linda Maxwell & José Quintanar, Founders of “We Care for Youth”

December 2, 2017

This is a continuation of a discussion with community activists, Linda Maxwell and Jose Quintanar. This was a lengthy, rich conversation in which Linda and Jose talk about their life’s work through 4 foundational pillars of thought generated through their understandings of “appreciative inquiry.” These 4 pillars are:

*Understanding life as precious
*Appreciating impermanence
*Recognizing every thought, deed, and action has a consequence – either positive or negative
*Having the ability to look outside of ourselves to see and experience the suffering of others. This last pillar requires great empathy in which we decide to DO something about others’ suffering. We bow to the humbling process of recognizing ourselves in others and enact lovingness – a Freirean attribute of humanizing pedagogy.

September 6, 2017 – An introduction to “We Care for Youth”

It is my honor to engage in dialogue with Linda and José about issues and challenges related to youth. I am particularly excited to present their work through a series of video-blog conversations because, in these discussions, they unpack for us what it is to actively listen to youth and act upon the creativity and ideas youth have to offer. Their message is particularly impactful during these divisive times in which historically minoritized youth and their families are positioned as “criminal,” “illegal,” and “un-American.”

Linda and José are founders of the non-profit, youth-oriented, organization “We Care for Youth.” In many ways their activism is a product of a long-term commitment of ensuring the integrity and respect for youth of all backgrounds, particular youth struggling with trauma and violence. Linda and José share tools of authentic engagement that emerged as they listened to the needs of youth who were experiencing difficult and painful periods in their lives.

This conversation is an introduction to who they are and their work. It is also a lived narrative exploring their individual connection to spirituality as they delve deep into youth’s experiences of grief, hope, understanding, and love.

Please take a moment to visit their website: We Care for Youth

You can reach them directly at: WeCare4Uth@aol.com

We thank you for taking the time to engage deeply in their shared story. This is Part I of our continuing conversation.

With love,

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Please check out the interview from May 29, 2018, too!

https://eduspirit.org/2018/07/03/continuing-the-conversation-with-linda-jose-about-community-engagement/

 

 

 

Our Own Constructed Reckoning

Charlottesville 4

There are many things occurring right now in the world and I am trying to catch my breath.

Last week I wrote and wrote trying to make sense of all that is happening, but my reflections were all over the place and I didn’t feel comfortable posting anything. I just needed to vent and figure out where I stood in light of events in Charlottesville and Barcelona (where I was vacationing one month ago!).

My thoughts have landed on the connection between “being a good person” while, at the same time, perpetuating racism – albeit consciously or unconsciously. Being bi-racial and phenotypically White, I pass for many ethnicities and nationalities. I recognize I have privilege in maneuvering in many circles.

It is this privilege I have been contemplating deeply this week especially in light of White Supremacy groups we just witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Coming from a Mexican, Irish, and Italian background (a trifecta of Catholicism), I have also been thinking about how we, as Christians, Catholics or other Christ-centered denominational people, have distanced ourselves from White Supremacy. We, “good Christians,” could never be equated with those other violent people who take to the streets with their neo-Nazi slogans and vile pronouncements against Jews and other groups. We are not racist. We are good people.

Yet, how many of us (White people) choose “good schools” and “safe neighborhoods” where little to no people of color (e.g., Blacks, Latinos, Muslims…) can be seen?

How many of us go throughout our day only seeing and interacting with people who look like us?

How many of us choose spaces and places where we know implicitly or explicitly that we will be around people like us?

If we answer “yes” to these questions, then we are complicit in contributing to a system set up to privilege Whiteness.

Even within my own family I bore witness to White members of my family making derogatory remarks about my Mexican family. Most of these comments were in jest or said in “good fun.” But their impact was not lost on me, even at a young age. These jokes carried the implicit message that Mexicans were less than, inferior. These family members would be offended at being called out for their racist remarks and would deny being racist. Yet, it is important to understand that Whiteness and White Supremacy is systemically embedded within our institutions, traditions, and “American” values. I am not saying that most White people – like some of my family members – go around being overtly racist, but I am saying that many of us do not realize when we are engaging in and perpetuating “covert” racist behaviors.

Here is a helpful visual to understand what some of these behaviors are:

Overt and Covert White Supremacy Chart

(Image is not mine, but at the moment I cannot find the citation)

Further, it is problematic to say that we are not racist because we are “good Christians.” The two are not mutually exclusive. As Dr. Robin DiAngelo (see video below), states, “we don’t live in the spiritual realm, we live in the physical realm … and this insistence that we are all one doesn’t allow us to engage” with the social reality that we live in a racialized society in which the White race is seen as superior. In other words, even though at a deeply spiritual level WE ALL ARE ONE, we do not live in a physical reality in which every person is treated as such.

We have to remember that our American history was built upon slavery, colonization, and violence in spite of our reverence for “freedom and equality” as espoused in the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution. Even if “all men are created equal” there was an implicit understanding of who these men were and who they were not. Fast-forward to 2017, it is obvious that these men were not meant to be women (particularly women of color), Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, indigenous “Americans,” Jews, LGBTQIA, people with dis/abilities and many other peoples.

Further, even though these other groups have contributed to our society and have made certain gains, their successes are still predicated on whether or not they have “made it” in White society, particularly a male-centric White society.

Attempting to live on a spiritual path, for me, does not mean being blind to the inequities all around me. It does not mean to be passive and silent. It does not mean to retreat into my room or my inner self and escape from physical reality. It means shedding everything. It is a full deconstruction and disassemblage of all that I know and all that I think I am.  It makes me ask if we, as a population, can exist without our systems and socially constructed reality. It forces me to reckon with who I am, at a soul level, rather than the persona I know as “Cristina” and to come clean with my own privilege and navigation of it.

Being on a spiritual path also means I need to be awake and courageous. It means I should LOVE in radical and outrageous ways. It means I must extend myself in ways I never have before … to seek and reach out to MORE rather than less people. It means to get out of my comfort zone and speak up and out for justice and equity … in our schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

***

The main message is this: We can be good people and still perpetuate racism.

I no longer want to be part of a system in which hate and separation can exist.

Now is the time for me (and US) to get our hands dirty and do the work to change systems that no longer reflect who we are. We must strive to create a world in which we can become the divine, unified spark that is LOVE… unconditional, authentic, and deeply connected to our universal, gorgeous humanity.

Below I share an important video by Dr. DiAngelo. I implore you to watch it as you contemplate and reflect upon your understandings and positioning in relation to Whiteness and White Supremacy. We are reckoning with a reality of our own making. May we find the strength to be honest with ourselves and others in how we play our parts.

I appreciate your open heart and active listening. This message is challenging and uncomfortable, but it is time to reckon with our individual and collective constructions.

Always, with love,

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