Interview with Many Rivers, Dr. Lorri J. Santamaría, Ph.D.

Many Rivers_Photograph

Mini bio: 

Lorri J. Santamaría (Louisiana Creole Choctaw descent) is the Director & Principal Investigator for Healing the Soul –Curando el Alma – Na Sánaeé Inié and Director for Proyecto ACCESO at The Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP). Dr. Santamaría is a former Professor of Multilingual and Multicultural Education and Educational Leadership in the Schools of Education at California State University, San Marcos and The University of Auckland in New Zealand. With over 50 scholarly books and publications, her research interests are centered around critical aspects of social justice & equity, Indigeneity, Indigenous healing, and diversity as a resource. Her focus is on international culturally responsive/ sustainable educational leadership, Spiritual Activism and anti-racist research practices. She has recently given a TEDx Talk titled, “Co-Decolonization as Spiritual Activism: A Matter of Life and Breath.” In 2017 she was granted the Jeffrey V. Bennett Award for Outstanding International Research for the University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA). Selected publications include: Developing and Sustaining Mixtec Thought Leadership: Immigrant Indigenous Women’s Construction of Community Serving Research (with others in press, Transformations series by the University of Illinois Press); Culturally Responsive leadership in Higher Education (with A. Santamaría 2015, Routledge); and Applied Leadership in Education (with A. Santamaria 2012, Routledge).

Links and Resources:

INTERVIEW VIDEOS ARE FORTHCOMING. The 2017 interview with Lorri will be archived and accessible in the near future. Thank you.

Applied Critical Leadership_book

The intersection between education and spirituality – A beginning dialogue

What does it mean to be a spiritual warrior within an educational setting?

To me, it means demonstrating fierce compassion to uphold the personal and spiritual sovereignty of each child/student with whom we interact. Fierce compassion is the internal force of critically understanding who we are in relation to others and to the systems in which we reside. This means that from our hearts, we decide if the world around us reflects love. We decide through intention to contribute more to the energy of  love or give into fear. It is a stance where we actively choose love and ground ourselves by aligning our actions, words, and thoughts with the divine essence of unity that connects us all.

The intersection of education and spirituality is not a superficial venture or place where we connect trendy mindfulness practices with curricular or instructional activities. Practicing “mindfulness” as only an external, visible tool will not lead to significant spiritual transformation until that practice becomes meaningfully internalized to elicit the heart’s ancient wisdom. Instead, the intersection is a moment-to-moment lived practice of self-reflective examination of determining “teaching” practices that uplift and nurture the multidimensional strengths each student possesses and offers.

Underlying an authentic commitment to this intersection is a deep knowing that each of us is a spiritual being in a human body. It is also recognizing that human-made systems and institutions have distorted our sense of value by creating illusions of separation between us. For example, if we are courageous enough to really LIVE the truth that we are spiritual beings in human bodies, then we will vigilantly protect the beautiful divinity within each child without creating norms that sort and categorize those who do not “conform” because of ability, race, class, ethnicity, language, status, sex, or gender. Our strength as spiritual beings is derived from unity, not separation. And yet,we must take ownership of the ways in which we have, over centuries, constructed systems that benefit – on multiple levels – certain populations of people.

Spirituality is not “loving everyone the same.” Spirituality should never be a repackaged version of colorblindness or a illusionary practice of “treating everyone equally” when, systemically, there are those being grossly dispossessed for being “different” from a very carefully constructed, dominant “norm.” In school systems, we see this liberalist ideology play out when educators promote “inclusion” or “equity” but, in practice, students are othered, hurting, or excluded (through overt or “well-intended” microaggressive actions).

Education and Spirituality need to be interconnected.

To embrace both is to start with the premise that we are spiritual beings. We then begin asking ourselves the tough questions:

  • Do we love each child as if they were our own?
  • Are we saying that we treat everyone “equally” while ignoring systemic structures and practices that inherently privilege certain students over others?
  • Do we wholeheartedly, with compassion and understanding, believe that all children can and will succeed?
  • Are we willing to reconceptualize what school success means and recognize that our standards for “success” may be artificial and spiritually empty?
  • Do we carry biases from our own belief systems and backgrounds that position one type of person as “better than” another?
  • From where did these biases form?
  • What does it mean to be fiercely compassionate when working with children and their families?
  • Are we willing to evolve spiritually or are we comfortable with current systems even though practices within these systems are hurtful to certain children?
  • Where do we spiritually draw the line?
  • When do we simply say, “ENOUGH?” (enough of the separation, hurt, lies, deception, and manipulation!).

But it’s not enough to ask the questions. We need to deeply reflect on the answers that arise within our hearts. The heart does not lie. It provides a brutally honest truth that our head (our mind) attempts to consciously disrupt or stifle. Why? Because when we understand we are spiritual beings first, we then open the communication between our true essence and our hearts – which in many ways are one in the same. Our ego-consciousness can’t always take these “heart” truths for they, many times, are in direct opposition to the outer reality we have co-constructed. Therefore, to soften the blows that come with realizations like: “My words really hurt that child today” or “I treated that teacher unfairly by ignoring him in the hallway” our mind steps in and constructs false narratives that justify our actions: “That child was acting up, so she got what was coming to her” or “He is a jerk anyway, he doesn’t deserve my respect.”

We come back to the question – the golden rule – “Are we treating others the way we want to be treated (NO MATTER WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, HOW)?”

This is what it means to be a spiritual warrior – to be fully AWAKE in every moment and to examine our Self’s alignment with our divine essence. The intersection of Education and Spirituality begins with this dispositional understanding. But what manifests from this intersection is part of the journey we, together, will explore and co-create through our subsequent interactions.

Please, if moved, feel welcome to comment.

With much love y mucho cariño,