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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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.

Part 2 of 4 – Community Activism with Youth

Linda Maxwell and José Quintanar

In part 2, Linda and José elaborate upon the four pillars of appreciative inquiry and operationalize them. My paraphrased interpretation includes:

*Our lives are precious – love for self is essential.
*We must recognize the impermanence of life – value every moment.
*Every thought, word, and deed has a consequence – plant positively.
*(Re)discovering our humanity by connecting with others’ suffering – take compassionate action.

They also discuss the following components as being essential to engaging youth:
*The power of relationships
*No judgment
*Reciprocity
*Letting go of ego

Thank you for your continued enthusiasm in learning about their important work. Parts 3 and 4 will be combined in one blog and added to the interview page.

Thank you! Much love,

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Peace, love, and understanding: The real deal in action (Part 1 of 4)

December 3, 2017

Yesterday I had the enormous honor to engage in a second conversation with long-time community activists, Linda Maxwell and José Quintanar. We spoke for over an hour about ways in which to embody and enact lovingness, peaceful action, and compassionate understanding with youth in educational settings.

What I love about these discussions are Linda’s and José’s commitment and passion for living authentically; that is, being conscious of being in alignment with who they are, what they say, and what they do. I am also appreciative of their long-term dedication to social justice and discovering meaning in every interaction they have with historically minoritized and marginalized youth.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to Linda and José’s lived experiences. 

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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/

 

 

 

Interview with Dr. Megan Farnsworth


In this interview, Dr. Megan Farnsworth explores authenticity in public spaces. What does it mean to be a teacher educator when you want to bring in your authentic self to your students, to the classroom, and to your teaching? How do we balance sharing who we are with what we are comfortable revealing?

Megan discusses her journey of (re)writing her own story in order to explore “wounds and vulnerability.” She describes the process of releasing emotions tied to grief that no longer serve her higher purpose.

Megan ends this conversation by providing us with specific tools to assist us in slowing down and remaining in the present moment. She demonstrates a breathing technique that she learned recently on her trip to Bali and Indonesia that has helped her bring awareness to the NOW.


BIOGRAPHY

Megan Farnsworth is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Southern Oregon University. She earned her PhD at the University of Arizona (2010) in Multicultural Special Education, and has taught in K-12 schools in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Hawai’i for 11 years, and Post-secondary institutions for nine years. Dr. Farnsworth possesses a strong commitment to teach, serve, and collaborate with Culturally Diverse families and students who experience Exceptionalities, and is currently exploring ways grief affects teaching and learning. Megan has recently begun using story in her teaching, which is a universal tool to build connection and trust. One premise that manifests through story is, Trusting in the connection between that which is seen and unseen transforms fear into love. As a holistic educator, Megan utilizes the tools of narrative and breath to explore the human condition. 

Reflections on Manchester

Today I find myself decentered and deeply shaken by the wanton violence that ripped through the Ariana Grande concert venue in Manchester, England. I am overcome by a sickening rawness in my gut when I consider each beautiful life that was taken and each living soul that will bear the burden of this destructive moment for years to come.

Flashbacks of the Orlando nightclub massacre and other senseless, brutal shootings zoom into mind like a swarm of wasps, each memory a penetrating sting. They cannot be shooed away. Running faster to escape won’t make the pain stop. As a mother, I am hurting for all the families whose babies will no longer come home, crawl into bed, and snuggle into their blankets. I want to go back in time and place an impenetrable golden bubble of protection around everyone who was there last night. I want to convert bullets to flower petals, bombs to fireworks. I want to shake the young man out of his blind hatred and remind him that our God, by whatever name we choose to call Her/Him/Them, makes us all in Her image. By killing another we are actually killing ourselves.

Why have we not learned this yet?

Why do we continue to NOT see the interconnectedness of our souls? Why do we not awaken to the God-created reality that we are not separate? Why do we remain so stubbornly set in our own constructed reality of separateness? Why do we continue believing that “different” appearance, language, religion, beliefs, traditions, values, and cultures are divisions? When will we wake up to the truth and realize we live in an illusion where people are not equal and where God is many paths all competing for power and sovereignty?

The Manchester bombing, an event that will undoubtedly be considered one of the worst acts of terrorism on British soil, is a reminder of our responsibility as human beings to resist existing systems and “leaders” who perpetuate any legislation or policy that creates division, inequality, and inequity among us. We are surrounded and inundated by polarizing agendas that aim to categorize us – all of us – through binaries: good/bad, rich/poor, educated/ignorant, progressive/backward, competent/incompetent, and an infinite number more. We are constantly judged by socially-constructed (not God-constructed) standards by which we are expected to live. When we don’t “live up” to these, we are “failures” not “successes.” Over time, these perceptions of “failure,” based in falsehoods of what has been deemed “normal,” “just,” or “right,”  eat away at our psyches. We lose our sense of Self (our God-Self) and give into the illusion that we are separate from others.

It is ironic that the young man who killed in the name of his God most likely was thinking he was closest to God in that fateful moment. But, consciously choosing to kill is the furthest expression from love. It’s the ultimate act of separating self (ego, human self) from God.

I cannot help to wonder if this young man felt like an outsider – within his country, city, school, neighborhood, community, and even family. I do not know his backstory, nor can I assume any of his motivations – other than the religious ones that have been presented. Even these, however, I must question, for how a person’s intentions and lived experiences are portrayed in the media are, many times, highly suspect. In these “wonderings,” I contemplate whether a single act of kindness or acceptance may have changed the trajectory of this young man’s life. I wonder if, as human beings, we are kind, loving, compassionate, understanding, and gentle enough to reach out to others, especially others we have deemed “different.” I wonder, as a collective, if we can demonstrate genuine care and action even if it means stepping out of our own knowings to understand another’s. I wonder if this young man’s anger and hatred could have been redirected in healthier ways if we, as human beings, had taken better stock of his pain.

As an educator, I am reflecting on this young man and about the ways in which we, as human beings, create – by our actions and inactions – situations in which people are made to feel “less than,” voiceless, and marginalized. In schools we focus our school day on meeting standards and achieving measurable outcomes. We concentrate much less time orienting our students’ minds and hearts toward loving compassion, honoring of one another’s knowings, active listening, mindful respect and interaction, and appreciating the unique qualities inherent in every person. We do not teach our students to resist systems and practices that view difference as deficit. We rarely ask students to critically examine the schools in which they spend the majority of their day. And we seldom consider how we, as educators, can become active changemakers committed to social justice and equitable practices to transform systems.

There are no answers or narratives that exist that can lessen the pain caused by the bombing. For me, this is a wake-up call to be better and resist more. To “be better” is to act in accordance with my heart, to show greater love and compassion to others, and to actively create spaces where people can recognize and honor each other. To “resist more” is to sharpen my awareness and become more critically conscious of the societal inequities that exist around me. Resistance is also action. Therefore, resisting more also means to speak up and take action when injustice is present.

But right now as I think of Saffie Rose Roussos, the eight-year-old girl who died last night and who is the same age as my daughter, Goya, I wonder if being better and resisting more is enough. I think these are only first steps on a very long path. But maybe as more of us step onto this path we will slowly realize the illusion of separation dissolving. And perhaps, one day, we can honor our differences while simultaneously recognize our interconnections.

With much love and heartache,

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

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Mini bio: 

Dr. Lorri Johnson Santamaria has her doctoral degree in Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology from the University of Arizona. She is a seasoned and accomplished academic in the fields of multicultural/multilingual education, social justice and equity in education, and educational leadership. She has worked as a university professor in Cal State San Marcos in Southern California and currently still works as a Professor of Educational Leadership in New Zealand. She has authored and edited several books in educational leadership and developed the theoretical framework, Applied Critical Leadership.

In the past year, Lorri’s life has taken an interesting and dynamic turn. Part of this story today is to capture Lorri’s unique, challenging, and rewarding journey with cancer.

We start today’s conversation, asking Lorri to share how her recent journey has shaped her views of spirituality, wholeness, and heart-centered approaches to healing. Then we ask her to extend the conversation to how what she has learned from her personal journey can be applied to transforming education and educational spaces. 

Links and Resources:

Many Rivers II Wellness  – This is a link to Lorri’s business website.

Newsletter 1: MRIIW Newsletter Spring2017

Academic Profile including publications.

Applied Critical Leadership_book