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30 Sep

Improve your self-esteem with spirituality and prayer

By Kay Christy

Self-esteem is subjective.  We each determine for ourselves our self-worth.  This is the good news and the bad news.  Since this is a personal judgment based on our own assessment, we can change it at any time. Because it is our own assessment, we also create a groove of thought that is both positive and negative, which is similar to how a vinyl record plays with a needle in the groove.


This personal groove of thought is where I found myself wanting relief and change.  I desperately wanted to create something that would lay a new pathway in my brain and change the record that played endlessly in the back of my head because of addiction. I was constantly saying to myself that I was not good enough, too large and not right.  At my core, I was not loveable and I felt trapped by my negativity. These negative thoughts played over and over on repeat like how I used to play the Moody Blues song, “Nights in White Satin” on my 1970s record player.


There are many writers and inspirational speakers who talk about creative visualization. How using affirmations and positive thinking are intended to improve self-esteem, self-worth and self-perception.  I researched, read and practiced.  I referenced the writings of Louise Hay, Norman Vincent Peale, Wayne Dyer, Shakti Gawain and Marianne Williamson. These authors taught me a new song to sing and a new record to play.  They allowed me to focuses on statements that would improve my self-confidence. I thought of ideas such as how the power and potential of self-esteem could be gleaned from positive thinking.


I understood the concepts quickly, but had trouble incorporating them into my daily life.  In the years of my early recovery, I used the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron as a writing guide.  In the journaling process of morning pages, I would write messages to myself.  Simple sentences like – everything is just right.  God has my worries taken care of.  The universe loves you.  Today I am in recovery.  Next, I started writing these phrases on small cards and putting them in places where I would see them throughout my day.  They were taped to mirrors, on the refrigerator, the dashboard of my car and inside my wallet. Everywhere I looked, I was helpfully reminded of new ways to train my brain.  I used this same technique when I learned automatic writing to soothe my troublesome thoughts.


Within the rooms of the 12-step world of recovery, I felt understood. I learned that prayer could heal emotional and physical afflictions as well as self-loathing.  I learned that I could feel love and compassion for myself and others. I learned the power of surrender and what it feels like to completely release fear in my daily life. This was extremely beneficial for my self-esteem.


My journal writing progressed to a daily spiritual practice and I began to experiment with automatic writing where I used my non-dominant hand and let my inner voices of spirit direct my words.

In the beginning, I didn’t know what to call the written pieces.  They were journal entries, yet a bit like poems.  They were affirmations, yet something different.  Calling them prayers seemed right.  I used them in the way I had used the serenity prayer when I first discovering a life without alcohol and drugs.  I realized my mother used verses from the Bible to comfort herself.  My father used the affirmations of Norman Vincent Peale as his thought director. It was all fitting together for me. This helped me to keep writing and I felt happier and stronger.


When I pray, my thoughts shift to positivity and calm, which greatly enhances my day. My life becomes easier.  At some point, I stopped attempting to figure things out myself and surrendered to the truth of it.  I now feel better about myself as well as the world that surrounds me.  I can see possibilities that used to elude me.  I now feel more hopeful everyday and have inspiration to share with others.  For me, that is enough.  I am complete.  I am whole. I am love.


As I was writing this guest article for the Coffey Talk blog, I asked my internal guidance system to offer a prayer to go with the tagline:  Ancient Wisdom.  Modern Style.  Here is what I wrote for the Coffey Talk readers…


Ancient Wisdom


The elders gather to chant our names

there is drumming and food

laughter and fire.


We are held

and blessed

and washed clean in this highest space


Know this today in your modern world

They gather for us


The ancestor’s guide

The angels sing our praise

The spirits stand guard


We are whole


and free

Know this today and each day forward.


About the Author

Kay Christy is  the author of “Gifts from Guidance” and a life coach who has been in recovery for more than 30 years. She received a bachelor’s degree in business from The Evergreen State College and a master’s degree in behavioral science from City University of Seattle. She resides in Olympia, Wash.

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30 Sep

Six Ways My Pup Helps Me to Live Mindfully

BY Shannon Kopp

  1. She wakes me up early

Bella and I share a pillow at night, her head in front of my mine, the small curve of her back pressed against my chest, her soft ear brushing against my chin. She’s a cream-colored, Poodle/Terrier mix who looks part dog, part teddy bear. Bella sleeps in my arms and wakes up in them, too — and sometimes, her urge to play at six a.m. is as intense as my urge for morning coffee.

Quite suddenly, she wakes up, stands on my head, and then jumps off the bed. She pounces on a squeaker toy or a lonely sock, charging from one side of the room to the other until I finally get out of bed. I never appreciate her enthusiasm at the time, but later, I’m thankful for it.

If you want to meditate in the morning, it’s good to be awake.


  1. She teaches me the art of simplicity

I have so many books on meditation I hardly know what to do with myself. My inbox is full of Present Moment Reminders from Eckhart Tolle, and notifications from Oprah and Deepak’s meditation series, and mindfulness emails from the yoga studio down the street, and monthly updates from my local Transcendental Meditation Center. I’m the one that signed up for these things, and I’m glad I did, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed by all of my options I do nothing at all.

Bella does not believe in multi-tasking. She gives each activity her full awareness, whether that’s chewing on a bone, greeting a dog, bathing in sunlight. If she had a mantra, it would be the same one you see on the walls of 12 step meetings: “Keep it simple.” (“And play as often as possible!” Bella might add.)


  1. She sees the world with fresh eyes

When Bella and I go for walks around the neighborhood, she walks as far ahead of me as possible on the leash, and finds so much pleasure in the same route we take each day. She is a master of spotting and celebrating the newness of things, a flower in bloom, a different scent in the sky, an ant crawling across the sidewalk.

Rather than being lost in thought, her eyes sharpen to the present moment, and she notices the faintest of sounds, the tiniest of flowers and bugs. She stops to investigate all of it, never in a hurry. And sometimes, if I pay enough attention to her, this world becomes fresh for me again, too.


  1. She takes care of her body

When Bella is hungry, she eats. When she is tired, she sleeps. When she is thirsty, she laps up her water. Her thoughts have not disconnected her from her body, and she naturally takes care of it. She doesn’t overwork herself or starve herself or stay up all night jacked on coffee. She respects her tiny being, her precious life, — without even realizing she is doing so. And sometimes watching her take care of herself is the gentle nudge I need to put my computer down and eat breakfast. To go to bed. To take a deep, conscious breathe. To pause and ask my heart, body, and mind what it needs.


  1. She brings me back to the moment

I still frequently fall back into old but familiar thought patterns: harshness, perfectionism, anxiety. I hear the voice of my alcoholic father screaming when I was a child, or the rigidity that imprisoned me during the eight years I suffered from an eating disorder, and it makes me believe that peace is impossible. Maybe I should just give up already.

But then, this nonjudgemental, loving presence climbs into my lap. Bella loves me no matter how enlightened or unenlightened I am. She pays no attention to the pessimist or the worrier in me, and she doesn’t define me with the same limiting labels I use to define myself. When I hold her and look into her beady eyes, my heart calms, my awareness increases, and my seemingly inescapable problems fade into the background. I experience the here and now: Bella’s soft pant, the swish of her tail, the grassy scent of her fur, the air moving in and out of her lungs and mine.


  1. She is soft-hearted

Bella is soft-hearted, meaning she doesn’t wear some kind of armor around her heart to protect her from feeling. She doesn’t numb her pain with addiction, or feel the pressure to wear a “brave” face over her real, authentic one. Bella will never tell you she is “fine” or everything is “great” when it is not. Instead, she’ll tell you exactly what she’ is experiencing with the language of her body. She’ll tremble if she’s scared. She’ll leap into your arms if she wants affection. She’ll cry if she’s in pain. She doesn’t try to rationalize or justify what she’ is feeling;, she releases that emotion in the moment. And it reminds me to do the same.

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15 Sep

Dropping the Struggle with Change

by Roger Housden


Change itself is the one certainty we can be absolutely sure of. You might say this is obvious. We all know this already. Except that we don’t, or at least we don’t often act as if we do, when change arrives on our doorstep. We may have lived for years as the lead character in a story that has enabled us to feel secure in our job, in our family relationships, in our place in the world. Or we may have lived for decades secure in the story of our suffering, the injustice done to us, the bad hand we were given.


Either way, our belief in the story is what creates some sense of a solid identity, which in turn gives us the illusion of security. But then the house of cards can fall at any time, as we also know from our experience, which is why, deep down, however rosy our picture may seem, a constant vein of subliminal anxiety about what might happen next is likely to be running through us.


Our life is already, even now, slipping through our fingers. So given that nothing we are familiar with, including ourselves, is going to last, how can we live another day without breaking out into a cold sweat?


We can bow to whatever passes across our landscape. We can trust the inscrutable intelligence of the life that is living us, as it is showing up for us, in this very moment. If it is sorrow, let us make friends with sorrow. Let us not drown but swim in the waters of sorrow. Naomi Shihab Nye, in her wonderful poem “Kindness,” says that if you are ever to know what kindness really is,


You must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.


Why does she say this? Because the experience of loss brings us close, not only to someone dear whom we may have lost but to the whole of humanity; for every individual has and always will know loss. Loss breaks the heart open, and when the heart breaks open we become a kindness to ourselves and to the world.


In the great themes of life — love, loss, parting, and death — poetry can surpass scripture in slipping the visceral experience of a deep truth into the bloodstream. It feeds the imagination with shimmering images more than the mind with the letter of the truth. In his Sonnets to Orpheus, Rilke urges us:


Want the change. Be inspired by the flame

Where everything shines as it disappears.

(translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)


Exquisite image! Why does he exhort us to want the change? Because change is the way it is. We harbor notions of what is good for us and what is not, and try to organize and strategize accordingly. Yet life does what it does without concern for our preferences, so Rilke is urging us to look beyond the parade of circumstances and events to the fundamental fact of change itself. In wanting the change, we are aligning ourselves with truth, with what is already happening.


We flow rather than self-consciously make our way. In that flow, the sense of who we are and where we are going becomes more malleable and fluid, more responsive to the conditions around us instead of bound by fixed beliefs and agendas. In the flow of change, we forget ourselves, and a deeper remembrance emerges — the remembrance of being always and ever joined to a greater life — not as an elegant concept but as a lived experience in the moment.


So Rilke is urging us to want the change that is happening, to embrace it, whatever it is. If we are in the middle of a divorce, let it be that. If we have lost our job, let it be that, and if we are dying, may it be so. Of course it’s not easy. Nobody willingly allows herself to be dismembered, torn apart, crushed like a grape between the fingers. The ego will never assent to the sacrifice of the story it has so lovingly tended. The impulse must come from something else in us, another organ of awareness, you might say, that knows somehow, however much it hurts, however much we may be on the rack — a sacrificial lamb, it may seem to us — that what is happening is true, necessary, inevitable, and ultimately, therefore, good. .


# # #


Roger Housden is the author of Dropping the Struggle and numerous other books, including the best-selling Ten Poems series, which began in 2001 with Ten Poems to Change Your Life and ended with Ten Poems to Say Goodbye in 2012. Visit him online at www.RogerHousden.com.


Excerpted from the book Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have. Copyright © 2016 by Roger Housden.

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06 Sep

Secrets of the I Ching

Secrets-of-the-IChingIn her documentary, THE SECRETS OF I CHING, filmmaker Bettina Wilhelm goes in search of the life and achievements of her grandfather, Richard Wilhelm, by following in his footsteps through China and Europe. She combines historical exposition with pictures of China today in pursuit of the essential theme of Richard Wilhelm’s life: to discover how the great truths and wisdom of mankind can outlast historical change and continue to retain their relevance. Richard Wilhelm was fascinated by the cultural heritage of the universal wisdom he discovered in the Chinese classics. With his translations he tried to impart these Chinese cultural treasures, so that Europe and the West might meet together, eye to eye and on a par. Wilhelm’s indefatigable efforts and the fascinating texts he made available, give the film a longlasting vibrancy.

Richard Wilhelm came to China as a young missionary, where he soon set up a mission that went against conventional expectation. He did not baptize a single Chinese. Instead he strove towards an understanding of Chinese thinking. China was being bled to death by the colonial powers and Richard Wilhelm experienced at first hand revolts against foreigners, the passing of the imperial-dynasties and the First World War. During a time of such turbulent upheaval, he searched relentlessly for the deepest truths that might enable people to deal with the changes and to shape their own lives. He accomplished some of the greatest works of translation of the 20th century: CONFUCIUS, LAOTSE, other classical texts of DAOISM and, most importantly, the I CHING, THE BOOK OF CHANGES. This book has served as an inspiration for many readers. Even today, Wilhelm is considered one of the most distinguished mediators of Chinese culture in the West.

Whilst Wilhelm’s translation of Confucius and Laotse arose from his own personal quest, it was a Chinese scholar who drew his attention to the I GING, THE BOOK OF CHANGES, one of the most complex works of Chinese culture and philosophy. Like other imperial magistrates in 1911 after the decline of the empire and China’s transformation into a republic, the scholar had taken refuge in the German leased territory of Qingdao. Wilhelm was both fascinated and worried by the tremendous changes taking place in China and in the world at large. Like C. G. Jung, with whom he was friends from the 1920s, he searched for universal wisdom that could withstand historical change. It was Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ging, transcribed from German into English, which lead to the wide circulation in the West of The Book of Changes and to its being held to be one of the greatest and most relevant of classical Chinese texts.


Born in Stuttgart in 1873, Richard Wilhelm went to Qingdao in 1899 as a young missionary with the East Asia Mission at a time when the territory was leased to Germany. He founded a school there, which still exists today and bears his name, as well as a hospital.  He was an unusual missionary for throughout his entire life he never baptized a single Chinese. Instead he allowed himself to be converted to Chinese wisdom. The times he lived through were turbulent. In 1900 the so-called Boxer Rebellion broke out against foreigners who had colonised the country. During this period, Wilhelm was no mere observer. When German troups attacked Chinese villages he, together with a Chinese doctor, intervened as negotiator thus avoiding further bloodshed.  In 1911 he experienced a tremendous turning point in Chinese history when the country became a republic after more than two thousand years of empire. During the first World War, Germany had lost its Chinese colony and Qingdao was occupied by the Japanese. In the face of dire conditions, Richard Wilhelm retained his ironic sense of humour, enabling him to observe events as they unfolded with relative objectivity.
In 1920 he returned to Germany for a short period, where he met with C. G. Jung, Albert Schweizer, Hermann Hesse and Count Keyserling. Once more he spent two more years in China, this time not as a missionary but as scientific advisor to the German embassy and a visiting professor at the Beida, the University of Beijing.  In 1924 he assumed the first chair of Sinology at the University of Frankfurt, where he also founded the China Institute to further cultural exchange and research into the most profound truths that unite different cultures and periods of time. His friendship with C. G. Jung deepened, with whom he published the book, THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.

Richard Wilhelm died in 1930 at the age of 56. He is buried at the graveyard of Bad Boll in Swabia. The eight symbols, which make up the cornerstone of the I Ching, surround his grave.


For some time the I Ching has not only been known by experts, but from the 1970s in particular by a broader public as well. The I Ching is one of the oldest books of mankind, whose oracle was consulted by Chinese emperors since more than three thousand years ago whenever important decisions had to be made. In the course of succeeding centuries it was augmented by the flower of Chinese wisdom in the form of added commentaries by great scholars. Thus it became the fundamental philosophical text of Chinese culture. One might compare the significance of the I Ching in China with that of the Bible in Christian cultures. In the West Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Book of Changes influenced a whole generation during the 1970s, who were seeking a deeper understanding of life. It remains a “perennial,“ which is reprinted over and over again.


THE SECRETS OF I CHING, is narrated by internationally acclaimed award-winning actor, Jonathan Pryce, known for his outstanding performances on both stage and screen, including the lead in Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross and Age of Innocence, as well as James Bond villian Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies, and most recently The High Sparrow in HBO’s Game of Thrones. 

THE SECRETS OF I CHING is currently available on VOD at DirecTV and Dish; Digital platforms include Google Play, Amazon, MicroSoft, Vudu, Vubiquity and Hoopla.


Connect with us:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SecretsofIChing

For more information, please visit: http://www.wisdom-of-changes-i-ching-the-movie.com



TriCoastLandBlackPR CONTACT:

Maggi Simpson

Tricoast Entertainment


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29 Aug

Through the Fire Excerpt

This is an excerpt from “Through the Fire: Cooking Our Way Into a New Relationship With Food” by Charity Dasenbrock. charitydasenbrock.com

Some of the Basics

Michael Pollan, well-known author and lecturer about food and cooking, says that cooking is what will save the health of our people, community, world, and Mother Earth:

“The decline of everyday home cooking doesn’t only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities, and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world. Our growing distance from any direct, physical engagement with the processes by which the raw stuff of nature gets transformed into a cooked meal is changing our understanding of what food is. Indeed, the idea that food has any connection to nature or human work or imagination is hard to accept when it arrives in a neat package, fully formed. Food becomes just another commodity, an abstraction.”

In the United States, the birthplace of fast food, Americans eat fewer than 70 percent of their meals at home (this does not mean that the food was cooked at home) and less than a third of American families eat meals together more than twice a week, according to Emory University. At least 1 in 4 Americans eat some sort of fast food everyday and consume 1/3 more processed food than fresh. This fact, together with the epidemic of body image issues, points toward a need for fundamental change in American food culture. As we collectively return to the kitchen and the home-cooked meal, this will significantly alter the direction of nutrition and our relationship with food.

This includes not just cooking at home but eating as a family or community as well. Children and adults benefit greatly from the ritual of eating meals together. Family meals provide opportunities for sharing the day’s events and create a relaxing transition from busy daytime activities to slower-paced evening ones. Cooking meals at home and involving your children in food preparation is the best way to teach them healthy eating habits. Statistically, children who grow up in households where meals are eaten together perform better academically and show less tendency toward engaging in risky behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and taking drugs, according to Washington State University nutrition researchers Martha Marina and Sue Butkus. I wish there were similar statistics about adult behavior, things like productivity, work days lost due to illness, etc.

We must return to the kitchen. For us to thrive, we must teach ourselves and our children the love of cooking. We all need to work on creating a culture where this is possible. There are many out there pushing this, and many out there who say it is an elitist cultural “problem.” Poor, unemployed, poverty-level people don’t have the luxury of worrying about this. They have enough to worry about just having enough food to eat, period. We as a culture owe it to our future to make sure no one is hungry and that we all have access to nutritious food.

Michael Pollan also says that:

“The food industry has done a great job of convincing eaters that corporations can cook better than we can. The problem is, it’s not true. And the food that others cook is nearly always less healthful than that which we cook ourselves. But how can we convince folks to give it a try? I think we have to lead with pleasure. Aside from the many health benefits, cooking is also one of the most interesting things humans know how to do and have done for a very long time. And we get that, or we wouldn’t be watching so much cooking on TV. There is something fascinating about it. But it’s even more fascinating when you do it yourself.”

We need to return to that intimate connection with our food. Eating is a very intimate act and experience, as cooking can be. There is no intimacy when food is planted and picked by machines, processed by machines, and then placed in a machine for cooking. The food never touches the hands (or the soul) of the eater or of the cook. The enjoyment of food is a beautiful gift given us by Mother Earth. It truly is the gift of life. No other animal experiences eating the way humans can and do. We eat for more than survival. Our food deserves to be treated with respect, love, and pleasure. We deserve to treat ourselves with that same respect, love, and pleasure.

Cooking and eating are about nourishment as well as nutrition. We can define nourishment as providing the materials necessary for life and growth from a biologic perspective. It is also about emotions, and means to support and encourage feelings, ideas, etc. Nourishment in all its forms is necessary.

There are many reasons why we cook. (For the purposes of this book, I am placing preparing food for the raw food diet in with cooking.) Some reasons are purely practical in that we have to get food on the table for our families and us to eat. Some reasons involve the science and geeky experimentation of it, or the art and beauty of it. Some reasons involve the pleasure of creating and the pleasure of eating. Some reasons involve the spiritual and holy nature of it. All cultures, races, and classes do some form of cooking. Just as eating the way we do is a uniquely human activity, so is cooking. Cooking directly connotes us with our food. It connects us with the rest of the world and our human family. It connects us to the rhythms and energy of the earth and that which we believe created it. It connects us with ourselves.

How we cook is how we are in the world.

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09 Aug

How to Be You

9780143110125Excerpted from HOW TO BE YOU: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life by Jeffrey Marsh, available August 2, 2016. Printed with the permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright Jeffrey Marsh. ©2016.

How are you so confident in life?
How can I be confident?

The confidence question is the most common one I get across all
social media, and it’s confession time: I’m not confident. At least, I
don’t always feel confident. But I suspect that when people ask me
about being confident they are really asking me about trusting
myself. “How can I be confident?” is another way of saying, “How
can I trust myself?” If you learn to trust yourself completely, deep
down, confidence isn’t an issue anymore. Confidence comes naturally
if trust is present.

Let me back up a second. The first step to developing a strong
sense of trust in yourself is understanding that other people’s opinions
of you are almost always bunk—they are based on next to nothing.
Most opinions are based on next to nothing! I don’t ever feel sure
about anything, and I bet you feel the same way sometimes. Once you
get past the initial shock and fear of realizing that few of us know even
fewer things, it is amazing. It is freeing. It is fun. Feeling sure about
knowing something and learning to trust yourself are two different
things. So do I trust myself more than I trust other people’s opinions
of me? I do now. And that, to me, is what is meant by confidence,
trusting yourself. I couldn’t have any confidence without trusting my
own perspective on the world, instead of someone else’s.

Choose one thing you think you’d like to be more confident
about and take the time to look within yourself. If you want to feel
more confident about reading things aloud at school or at work,
say, you’d need to examine what you’ve already been taught about
reading aloud, and decide what you believe about it. Does the ability
or inability to read aloud mean something about you? Is it something
that everyone should do really well? I’m not saying that uncovering
and trusting what seems true for you automatically makes you
confident, or that, in our example, it makes you excellent at reading
aloud. To me, confidence is not attached to the outcome (whether
you read well or not), it’s attached to the process: How do you treat
yourself while you’re reading aloud? Can you trust your adequacy no
matter what happens? If you know what’s most important to you, it
doesn’t matter whether the reading goes well. This is hard to talk
about because you were probably programmed to focus on how you
perform in that situation. I’m asking you to focus on how you do
what you do. That’s trust. Take a big step back. See a bigger picture.
Trusting yourself in every situation takes time and practice, and it
takes focus. It’s not about reading well, it’s about staying in that
trusting place with yourself while you read. That is the path of a

We tend to think of superheroines as the other people, these separate
and superior superhumans who possess extraspecial skills and
thoughts. That isn’t true. They are just people who trust in themselves.
Heroines are just like you. Heroes doubt themselves at first,
just like you, but they go ahead anyway. Maybe what makes people
seem confident is their ability to move forward even as they are
building faith in themselves. They know they might make fools of
themselves; they know they might fall flat on their faces. But they go
ahead anyway, building trust along the way.

I see everyone as a hero. Life can be so tough sometimes. Other
people’s opinions can wear on you. Other people’s hatred can make
life feel very difficult for some of us. Anyone who can go through the
challenges of dealing with others’ negative opinions, of having their
dreams mocked, or their feelings ridiculed, and still get out of bed,
willing to do it again the next day . . . Whew! That person is a hero.
You are a hero.

You need to trust yourself, and your own story. You need to add
yourself to the list of heroic do-gooders because you have something
to contribute. Maybe you don’t wear a cape. (But, of course you
could!) In your own way, though, you are brave. You have the ability
to go ahead and do things you aren’t sure about. You have the ability
to go ahead and try things that other people think are stupid and
wrong, but that you, in your heart, trust is right.

And aren’t you lucky that you have the chance to do that? Aren’t
you lucky that you get this life, this chance, to learn to set aside the
yuck and muck of other people’s sometimes nasty words and do your
best to live your life as fully as you know how? You don’t need to be
confident to do that. You just need to be a dreamer and a questioner,
and have the willingness to trust that your experience—your way of
seeing things—is valid. You need to practice trusting that you are

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30 Jul

Homeward Bound

Orphan Keeper Cover ImgBy Taj Rowland


The poet Maya Angelou once keenly observed, “The ache for home lives in all of us.”


For me, it was an ache that started early, at the young age of seven, when I was kidnapped from the street near my home in southern India, driven hours away, and sold to a Christian orphanage. Despite my insistence to the orphanage owner that I already had a home and family, he wouldn’t listen (or didn’t care). I was adopted by a family in the United States and by the time I’d learned enough English to tell my new and unsuspecting parents the truth, it was too late. When all their attempts to find my Indian family failed, America became my new home.


It was a strange country and the transition was difficult. Their customs, housing, food and language were all peculiar. It didn’t take long to realize that in order to survive, I had to forget my past and focus on my future. And so, I turned my back on India, my family, my memories—my home.


I adapted to my new country, did my best to fit in, and as time passed, I grew accustomed. I excelled in sports, school, and scouting, and was even elected student body president of my high school. In fact, I almost convinced myself that my home in India no longer mattered, that I didn’t need to look back. There was just one problem: deep inside my head and heart was a voice that whispered otherwise. Despite my best efforts to forget India, I learned that India wasn’t about to forget me.


As a youth I went to England and there interacted for the first time with large groups of Indians, people who looked just like me. As first I was terrified, but as I ate their curry, and listened to their music, and observed their colorful dress, long suppressed memories began jumping up and down in my head waving their excited arms. In England, I even drew a map of the village where I’d remembered living as a child, and I secretly vowed that one day I would return.


That day came just a handful of years later. When in college, I met (through astonishing circumstances), a girl from southern India named Priya. She was such a change from the blond, Caucasian girls I’d been dating, that when I brought her home to meet my parents, my excited mother pulled out her scrapbook full of articles, letters and photos, many related to India.


Years earlier, when looking for my family in India, my mother had written to anyone in the faraway country who would listen. Now, as Priya studied one of the replies, she commented that the handwriting looked familiar. When she turned the letter over, she gasped. It was written by her father, a man who’d actually been friends with the orphanage owner in India years earlier. What were the chances?


Priya and I married and a year later, headed to India to attend her brother’s wedding. It was my first time back since coming over as a child and I intended to make use of the trip. I had the address of the orphanage from my mother’s letters, but when I arrived, I found it was closed down. Worse, the orphanage owner had passed away. I was devastated. It was my only clue.


Let me pause here to say that most of us spend our lives searching for home. You don’t have to have been kidnapped as a child to feel the need to belong, to want to believe that your life matters, to hope that one day you’ll grasp your place in the world. It’s a yearning we all inherently share.


For me, the search was reduced to riding around in a hot and muggy rickshaw, in city after city, looking for familiar landmarks. In a country of a billion people, the odds were overwhelming.


After a multitude of setbacks and successes, on the last day I had to spend in India, I found myself on the outskirts of a city called Erode, standing in front of a hut that I believed belonged to my older brother. They’d sent for his mother—perhaps also my mother—who was down bathing in the river. As I waited, I remember seeing an old woman racing up the hill weeping profusely, begging that we tell her everything we knew about the boy who’d disappeared as a child, the son she’d never forgotten.


As we all try to find some semblance of belonging and connection in our lives, our search is seldom easy—yet we carry on. Why? I’ve learned that if we’re both patient and persistent, if we never give up, we’ll occasionally glimpse miracles.


We are all homeward bound. Good luck in your journey.



To learn more about Taj and his astounding journey, pick up a copy of The Orphan Keeper, available at bookstores everywhere or visit TheOrphanKeeper.com.

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25 Jul

Thanks to MS I leave a Legacy Behind for my Little Ones

parentingBy Oyuki Aguilar.


I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on July 22, 2008.


You can forget many things in life, but not when you find out you have an incurable disease. It was in a white office, I remember it felt like someone kicked me in the stomach, and then immediately the urge to defend myself. I began hitting back with questions. “How do I fight this? Can it be controlled? What can I do to get better?” I did not have tears running down my cheeks, I remember only a bit of anger running through me. My doctor was surprised, apparently not many people react like that right away. Truth be told, I surprised myself too. I found out that day I was stronger than I thought.


I began to follow my neurologist’s instructions and took better care of my health. I told myself I was going to give this condition the battle of a lifetime by eating healthy and nurturing my body. No more canned food or processed meats, no more saturated fats, preservatives and chemicals. I slept better, I exercised and it worked, I felt much better. Two months later I received the news that I was pregnant with my first child. I finally felt afraid for the first time; I discovered quickly that my children were always going to be my weakness. I had no idea how my disease was going to play a part in my pregnancy however I was determined to fight even harder. The next year I gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl and one year  later I also gave birth to my handsome son. I was so busy with a toddler and a baby that I hardly had time to worry. But as children grow and become more independent, I began to have time to pick up where I left behind and being the human that I am, sometimes I would feel uncertain or depressed.


I know our lives have no warranties, I know we cannot control the future or other people’s but a part of me was seeking reassurance.


How could my essence live on for my children if…


On January 2015, as a new years resolution, I decided to write letters to my little ones  in case I would leave this earth for any reason; I wasn’t ready to go and have my voice vanish forever. I realized it was very important for me to let my kids know how magical they made my life in the most ordinary of circumstances, so I began this project of writing to them and the world around me was enhanced, I saw rich colors and beauty all around me and my words would not just flow, they would gush out of my pencils and pens to create the most lovely verses.


I found delight in carpool, bathing my children, dinner… I observed simple family moments and they were all filled with wisdom and very important teachings to capture.


I thought of leaving behind a sort of manual for a good and honorable life. A document for my son and daughter to turn to for comfort and guidance.

I wrote to them about cultivating the qualities of humility and  kindness, wisdom and courage; all the ingredients for a successful and happy life.

I compiled the letters and added my own artwork: fresh and colorful paintings. My sister Jadyn is a graphic designer and she put it all together in a stylish petit book to lure them to read (and not be scared or bored.)


I liked the results so much, I decided to share them with others in the hope they would appreciate these everyday adventures and maybe think about writing letters to their loved ones as well. We are not eternal, but our sentiments can live and inspire on through paper and hard drives.


My MS is under control now but still, it is a very unpredictable autoimmune disease and you never know how it’s going to creep up on you, so I stay vigilant and grounded to the present. I stay mesmerized by wonderful people and my amazing surroundings.


I thank my MS everyday for giving me the generous gift of awareness and the power of voice, so that I can leave my essence to my family, friends and generations to come.

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21 Jul


Cover of Shelly's book, INFLAMED.

Cover of Shelly’s book, INFLAMED.

By Shelly Malone, MPH, RDN, and  author of “INFLAMED.” Learn more at http://www.inflamedbook.com

Our digestive system is the foundation for wellness and immunity, having the highest concentration of immune cells in our entire body. It was Hippocrates who first said, “all disease begins in the gut.” The guy has a pretty good reputation, so I don’t take his proclamation lightly. And though this wise, founding father of medicine first realized this over 2,000 years ago, most people seem to be surprised to know that a digestion (or “gut”) issue could be the culprit for a variety of symptoms outside of the expected gas, bloating and poop issues.

The gut has four quite critical functions:

  1. To digest food and convert it into vitamins
  2. To absorb nutrients
  3. To prevent toxins and pathogens from entering the bloodstream
  4. To activate thyroid hormones, which are involved in almost every physiological process in the body

A big determinant to ensuring the above processes work effectively and efficiently is the makeup of the bacteria, or microorganisms that live within the digestive tract, otherwise known as your gut microbiome.


Your microbiome is loosely defined as the community of microor­ganisms or microbes (beneficial and harmful) that share our body space — not only in our gut, but on our skin, in our mouths, nos­es, throats, lungs, and urinary tracts. The microbiome as a whole is the source of intense, ongoing research. And while researchers have not yet been able to correlate specific microbes with specific diseases, they have acknowledged:

“What is clear…is that the microbiome is probably an important fac­tor in many diseases, a factor that has been neglected in the past.”

The American Academy of Microbiology estimates that our bodies have almost three times the amount of bacteria making up our mi­crobiome (about 100 trillion) than we do human cells in our entire body. But, don’t let this fact cause concern (yet). While the harm­ful, pathogenic bacteria (e.g. coliform bacteria like E. Coli, yeasts, fungus, parasites) are the ones we have been so focused on in the past, most of the bugs, like lactobacillus and bifidobacter, are actu­ally beneficial, or commensal, bacteria.


While the microbiome as a whole is a fascinating and timely top­ic, we are going to stay focused on the micro demographic in our digestive system. Not only does our digestive system house about 70% of our immune cells, 95% of our serotonin and 90% of all neurotransmitters also take up residence there as well.

Ideally, we have a strong, working relationship with the friendly bugs.

Through our diet we provide the nutrients to feed these beneficial bacteria, and in turn, they keep our immunity in check, make cer­tain vitamins, regulate our metabolism, and assist in gene expres­sion, digestion, and many other processes that we are continuing to learn about.

It’s a win/win. Or, at least it should be.


Unfortunately, your digestive system and the related processes it is in charge of can be compromised via two general categories. (here’s where we start to get concerned):

  1. Dysbiosis

The goal for a healthy gut is to have the good, beneficial bacteria outweigh the bad. The good guys act as a physical barrier to the bad. If the good guys get killed off, don’t show up in the first place, or if you consume a diet that feeds your body more bad bacteria, it makes more room for the bad (pathogenic) to take over. This leads the way to a skewed ratio of much more bad bugs to good, aka dysbiosis.


  1. Leaky Gut

The protective lining of your digestive system or gut lumen (the space inside the tube of your intestine that regulates the passage of nutrient particles into your bloodstream), can be damaged by various diet and environmental factors. This causes your digestive system to become overly permeable. And when this protective bar­rier breaks down, it takes down your entire system with it.

Usually your intestinal wall is woven like a piece of cheesecloth. When it’s “leaky” though, it’s more like a tennis net. This series of openings allows larger, undigested nutrient particles to get into your bloodstream before they’ve had time to marinate in the proper digestive juices. Various toxins and bacteria can also pass through. These escapees are viewed as foreigners by your immune system and trigger an antibody reaction leading to inflammation, putting a huge strain on your entire system.

Several years ago, leaky gut was only truly acknowledged in more al­ternative settings, but with new research available identifying how the gut lining breaks down and its association with inflammation, auto­immune disease, cancer and other chronic conditions, it is becoming more widely accepted. Today, you will hear leaky gut referred to as “intestinal hyperpermeability” or a “disrupted microbiome”.

The words “leaky” and “gut” aren’t painting a very pretty picture but the concept is imperative to almost everything we’ll discuss. If your gut health isn’t on point, your overall health won’t be either. Getting off course compromises your immunity (e.g. inappropri­ate inflammatory responses), detoxification process (your ability to deal with toxins in the environment), nutrient status, and neu­rotransmitter balance. In fact, the health of your gut even plays a role in determining how your genetic dispositions will manifest.

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13 Jul

Pale Acceptance

By Mac Bogert

I was working with a leadership development group on the topic of conflict (one of my favorites, since I grew up in a family that didn’t have conflict HAHAHA). Rarely do I use another person’s slides, but that’s how this one worked out.

I put up a slide—which I’d missed seeing somehow—that suggested we “develop a tolerance for others’ beliefs and norms.” My first thought was “How the *&$# did I miss this awful slide?” I was immediately glad I did miss it. Words are important. The class took a turn into what I always hope for—chaos, our greatest ally for learning. Some of them were offended by the word tolerance, some couldn’t understand what was wrong.

Tolerance is one of those words we throw around, like empowerment, another of my least-favorite buzzwords. Empower is a transitive verb, which means we do it to people. When I brag about empowering my employees or my students (or my children), I’m highlighting my own power: If I DO IT to them, who really has the power? I direct the folks I coach to reframe the idea as power sharing, which you don’t do to people but with people. When we speak differently, we think differently.

The root meaning of tolerance is a person’s ability to bear pain. So if I proudly proclaim how tolerant I am, I’m citing my ability to bear the pain of others’ differences. I heard a politician talking about England’s decision to leave the EU, and he suggested “we need to be better at tolerating each other’s differences.” Ouch. I don’t think he even considered what he was saying.

Tolerance is condescending. It’s most often touted by the dominant group within a culture, organization, or bureaucracy (like school systems), seldom by those on the receiving end of the you’re different stick. We only need to tolerate differences if those differences cause us pain. Why should any teacher, supervisor, or trainer ever think that tolerance is anything but divisive? Being on the receiving end of pale tolerance is downlifting (the opposite of uplifting).

Let those of us with apparent power, especially when we’re responsible for leading others, start to embrace, and practice, acceptance. I’m a recovering English teacher, so words fascinate me enough to really pay attention. Acceptance evolved from words meaning to receive willingly. How much more powerful and inclusive is that than pale tolerance? I tolerate your difference, I accept our difference. Which position promotes better understanding?

After a time, when we grow comfortable with acceptance and see how much better we start to learn from others and they from us, we can progress to celebrating our differences. And that word’s deepest meaning is assemble to honor.

What if our workplaces celebrated our differences? What if schools moved from the industrial/assembly line tolerance of difference to a celebration? I listen to students all the time, and they feel the condescension of pale tolerance from their teachers and administrators, as do the people I coach in the adult work place.

When we start changing the language we use, our understanding will follow. Acceptance and celebration are for people. Tolerance is for injuries.

BTW, the class agreed to change the slide to acceptance. It was a turning point and well worth the chaos that got us there.

Mac Bogert is the founder of AZA Learning, which provides leadership coaching and learning-design support to 200 clients nationwide. His latest publication is “Learning Chaos: How Disorder Can Save Education.” The book explores the disconnect between what schools do and how people learn. In it, Bogert suggests concrete steps to remove barriers to learning in schools and training centers.

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