Leadership Council Application

Boston Creates Leadership Council application
Fri April 24 2015 5pm

  1. In the space below, please tell us why you are interested in serving on the Leadership Council for Boston Creates (3000 characters maximum)

I have been an arts lover since a small child in Chile, falling in love with ballet, staging puppet shows for neighborhood children in my yard, and growing up in Boston reciting poetry on stage and organizing art events that go deeper than just “showcasing culture.” My first career was as a middle school math teacher, and education and curriculum development deeply inform the way I engage the arts and build community through it. I am currently Executive Director of a local nonprofit (new name forthcoming) I co-founded with Somerville artist Pampi which enables us to formalize the arts and community work we have collaborated on since meeting as undergrads in the late 90s. I love and honor planning, setting goals, working to meet those goals, spreadsheets, and creating a culture where people’s voices are elevated and nuanced discussion is encouraged. I would look forward to serving as a community culture liaison to civic leaders. Art is a vehicle and essential component of social justice, and with the myriad of issues affecting Boston and the surrounding communities, we need a strong process that will truly empower and uplift community members. Through active working relationships with local artists, educators and community organizers, I could help bridge policy so that it is grounded on the needs of Boston’s diverse communities. I want to share my experience, passion, and commitment towards our city through this timely and necessary undertaking.

  1. In the space below, please provide an overview of your current relationship with Boston’s arts and cultural sector (if any).

My history with Boston’s arts and culture starts in my youth. I organized my first arts and culture event as a high schooler at Boston Latin, focusing on the expansive Latin American identities represented by the students, and continued through my college years at MIT with an expanded vision to connect to immigrant and diasporic experiences from around the world. Later, I worked in arts development at BalletRox, a local dance company with a youth focus. The organization Pampi and I co-founded works at the intersection of art, social justice and education with an aim to release creative potential and drive collective changemaking. This new venture is based on years of experience engaging and supporting community. An example of our work is a long-time series of over 15 curated and interactive art events that break down the artist-audience barriers and where we have micro-commissioned over 70 local artists of all disciplines to create original work around issues that are timely and relevant. Through this work, we have met and engaged with local leaders from across the arts and community organizing sectors, and I look forward to informing the Boston Creates process with these experiences and relationships. Pampi and I are also part of the founding committee of the new Mass Creative Workers, which is organizing artists from all creative sectors around the issue of a living wage and other needs so that cultural workers can remain in our local neighborhoods and maintain Boston’s reputation as a national cultural spot. We also co-authored the 70-page report for the May 2014 Greater Boston Cultural Convening organized by Dr. Barbara Lewis of the Trotter Institute. For this report we recorded and analyzed the two days of panels and discussion, distilled the themes that surfaced regarding the hopes and needs of Greater Boston’s arts and culture communities, and drafted recommendations as well as next steps. This guiding document and the experience of writing it would immensely inform the Boston Creates planning process because it comes from the voices of our local arts community.

  1. If you wish to share any sector-, discipline-, or issue-specific knowledge or specialization that you would like to contribute to Boston Creates, please describe in the space below.

As an arts administrator, community organizer, and teacher, I place great value on being organized, thoughtful, inclusive, making things happen, and stepping up and back as needed. With an acknowledgement that all our work must always look at the big picture and all systems are inter-related, I bring experience in and an emphasis on intersectional models manifested through community-oriented programming. I have specific experience in event planning, group facilitation, grant writing, board development, and dance arts administration (concept development to performance). I also spent years in the retail industry where I learned the art of customer service, which is a much needed skill when engaging diverse audiences and individuals that enables relationship and coalition building.

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A Song with Everyone – Canción con todos

As I begin my third week in South America, currently in Rio de Janeiro, I wanted to share the lyrics to this regional anthem. I don’t remember a time when I did not know these words. Even while on the plane from the United States to Santiago de Chile, our first stop, this song was the most persistent of my thoughts.

“Canción con todos” was written by Armando Tejada Gómez (lyrics) and César Isella (music), both Argentinean. Arguably the most famous version is the one by Mercedes Sosa, another Argentinean, who was a worldwide ambassador of the region’s New Song and folk music during her 50-year career.

link to Mercedes Sosa singing “Canción con todos” on tour (1980 – skip intro to :29) and another live recording when she was able to sing again in Argentina after its dictatorship (1983 – skip intro to :58)

(rough translation by me to the right)

Salgo a caminar

Por la cintura cósmica del sur

Piso en la región

Más vegetal del tiempo y de la luz

Siento al caminar

Toda la piel de América en mi piel

Y anda en mi sangre un río

Que libera en mi voz su caudal

 

Sol de alto Perú

Rostro Bolivia, estaño y soledad

Un verde Brasil besa a mi Chile, cobre y mineral

Subo desde el sur

Hacia la entraña América y total

Pura raíz de un grito

Destinado a crecer

Y a estallar.

 

Todas las voces, todas

Todas las manos, todas

Toda la sangre puede

Ser canción en el viento.

 

¡Canta conmigo, canta

Hermano americano

Libera tu esperanza

Con un grito en la voz!

I go for a walk

Down the southern cosmic waist

I step on the region’s

Vegetation of time and light

I feel while walking

All of America’s skin on my skin

And a river that flows through my blood

Liberates its flow in my voice

 

Sun from the heights of Peru,

Bolivia’s face, tin and loneliness

A green Brazil kisses my Chile, copper and mineral

I rise from the south

Towards the full bowels of America

Pure roots from a scream

Destined to grow

And erupt

 

All voices, all

All hands, all

All the blood can

Be a song in the wind

 

Sing with me, sing

American brother

Free your hope

With a scream in your voice!

 

Do or Die

Part I: Pretty Much Everything in My Life Relates Back to OCD

In the summer of 2005 I decided to DO because the other option was to DIE. I had quit my teaching job a couple months before. I felt that if I did not, I would end up in a mental hospital. The school where I taught was so structured and the children so controlled, that my OCD had nowhere to thrive. In fact, my OCD had not yet been diagnosed; I just felt trapped. I would not have returned to the school for a second year anyway because I disagreed with the teaching methods: group work was discouraged, silence was golden, test scored reigned. However, I quit early because my head required it.

I had never quit anything before. For several weeks, I felt like a worthless failure. I questioned the validity of my life and asked whether I would be better off dead. I had asked myself that question once before, while an undergrad at MIT. Academics were so demanding, especially since my extracurricular life was as intense as my classes, that the idea of continuing to sleep 3 hours a night and scraping by for Bs defeated me. (Note: I acknowledge the privilege I had in even being able to complain about my academic life, but my reality was what it was, and more on this balance in a later post.)

Before reaching out to seek a diagnosis for OCD, which for seven years I suspected I had, I determined it was necessary for me to confront my feelings and make a crucial decision: Do I want to live or do I want to die? Dying was not an option: too many people loved me, and I did love life. I had too many opportunities and felt I would be ungrateful if I thought death was better than to pursue them and do some good in the world. So, I chose life. Then, having chosen life, the next question was evident: Do I choose to remain miserable or seek happiness? The answer seemed obvious: Why would I choose to be miserable? I would only hurt myself for my remaining 60 years on earth.

So, the complete final answer was: I choose life and to seek happiness.

I sought a diagnosis, which came back as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (at a level of 6 on a scale of 8) and mild Social Anxiety. For over a year I met with a therapist who helped me manage the OCD with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and my life transformed. With my worst symptoms under control through hours of practicing cognitive reappraisal, enduring anxiety exposures, and other effective techniques (and later with the added help of medication) I was happy for the first time in my life: I could relax enough to enjoy simple get-togethers and grand beach vacations without the sabotaging OCD symptoms.

A path to happiness has turned out to be a long-term goal with short-term accomplishments and set-backs.  Happiness requires work: the same work required to maintain strong relationships and accomplish Big Dreams. It requires constant re-commitment and re-adjustments. I re-commit to myself by engaging in constant learning and seeking help. I re-commit to others every time I lose faith (every day) and build it up again (every day). I re-adjust by observing how surroundings change and what people near me need or cease to need. I am a piece of root, or a branch, within Pando.

Part II: On a Frightful but Gratifying Roller Coaster Ride to Successful Entrepreneurship

The decision I made in 2005 to Live and seek Happiness has shaped every part of my life since. Because I chose to DO, I chose to follow my life passion that resulted in palesca.org.

Everything I have learned about successful entrepreneurship and relationships while starting PALESCA and improving my life also applies to building my path to happiness.

Because of the decision to DO and find Happiness, I …

* Only do things that bring joy, or, if they cause momentary discomfort, lead to joy

* Follow my dreams; I do not want to be in my death bed regretting what I did not do.

* Treasure the relationships in my life that are good and work to make them stronger

* Take care of my body by nourishing it with clean foods and joyful movement (because it’s what carries me and there’s no replacement)

* Travel, because I love to travel. It is the one activity outside of basic necessities where I will spend money and not feel guilty (I travel on tight budgets, but I travel!). Similarly, I do not spend money on things that bring me no long-term joy.

As the year comes to an end, I am proud that 2013 has been another 365 spent on my path to happiness building a nonprofit with a mission that reflects my values and passions; appreciating relationships and working to cherish them; and EXPERIENCING the present moment while learning from my past and planning for the future – clichéd but a hard-earned truth and brand new accomplishment for me (in part from practicing mindfulness, so thanks again yoga, meditation and OCD treatment!).

Again, I acknowledge my privilege in a) having the choice to Do or Die, and b) having access to resources that support my decision to seek life and happiness.  What’s left? always-present self-care and payments forward.

Aside

blackface and Indians

My first exposure to blackface was through mid 20th century cartoons.

blackfacebugsbunny

In Chile growing up in the 1980s, television programming included dubbed shows from the United States. Some cartoon episodes showed characters with car-tire-dark skin and large lips in the shape of infinity (associations my seven-year-old mind made). They were less witty than their main-character counterparts and seemed to function in a slower reality, where their misfortunes could have been avoided had they been cleverer.

By age seven, I had seen Black people on dubbed episodes of the Cosby Show, Different Strokes and Punky Brewster, which I watched regimentally. In my own living experience, I had seen only one Black person: a soccer player from Brazil. There is a strong chance, however, I imagined meeting him from overhearing conversations in which my mother described him visiting the university campus where she studied. If my mind did create that memory, then I did not see a Black person outside of television until my two-week stopover in Venezuela right before moving to Boston at age nine.

However, I knew Black people did not look like the cartoons. These cartoons depicted the characters in ways that were not real, and I asked myself why the illustrators would show people in such strange physical and emotional ways? I had never met someone with infinity lips or who acted with such detachment and sadness, and not in a clinically depressed way, with which I was familiar, but in an inanimate way. I had never read such characters in books nor seen them on television with live actors (I had not yet made the connection to Mammy in “Gone with the Wind”). It had to be a targeted reason, and it made me uncomfortable.

I was brought up to treat people politely and to think that all humans are equally important. If someone was nice to me, I should be nice back. If someone was not nice, I should focus on my reaction and still be kind because I did not know the person’s circumstances, and I should tell the adults in my life.

The caricatures distressed me because I knew they did not represent anyone, and I suspected their role was to ridicule. I did not have these particular words to articulate my reaction, but I was able to name my sadness and discomfort. Those cartoons were treating some people badly and unfairly rewarding others.

I learned of blackface many years later, and I made the connection with these old cartoons just a couple of months ago, when Pampi was preparing for her performance honoring Josephine Baker and Scott Joplin in connection with the piano she painted, also in their honor, for Street Pianos Boston. Now that I can interweave blackface within historical and cultural contexts, I can intellectualize my experiences with those old cartoons.

A child knows when people are treated as less than people. Children are sophisticated, and their feelings and reasoning capture the essence of experiences. Although blackface is condemned by many, we still see racist instances of its use, as each Halloween shows us. I trust that even children who put on blackface for Halloween feel some discomfort inside, even if they outwardly defend their actions.

As adults we can influence change. With our sense of right and wrong, we can carry messages of transformation, and not just with people who already think like we. I trust we can affect behavior and thoughts to strengthen systems of respect and kindness.

NOTE: With Thanksgiving a.k.a. National Day of Mourning (www.uaine.org) just two days ago, I must state the obvious and note that dressing up as an “Indian” for Halloween is equally terrible. See here for more (includes links for further reading) – nativeappropriations.com/2013/10/so-your-friend-dressed-up-as-an-indian-now-what.html

Trip to Patagonia (Chile & Argentina), January 2013

NOTE: I will add more details over time. For now, I just wanted to get the logistical details of this post out there as the summer season begins in South America and people start to visit Patagonia in higher numbers. SCROLL TO THE END for a list of all the services, including bus lines, we used. PRONTO LO TRADUCIRE.

Early this year, I took a trip of a lifetime with two dearly loved friends. We went on a three-week adventure that spanned three countries in South America’s southern cone: Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

I was born in Chile and have a large extended family in Santiago and other cities up and down the country (note: Chile is so long and narrow that you’ll hear people talk just of north and south, or up and down).  We spent a week in Santiago, a week in Patagonia (crossing between Chile and Argentina) and a week between Buenos Aires and Piriápolis, a beach town in Uruguay about one and a half hours east of Montevideo.

It took me almost a year to plan the trip. Santiago was easy: stay with at my uncle’s, visit other family, and see as much as possible of the city the way locals do. Buenos Aires simply required finding adequate housing, which I did through www.airbnb.com (thank you J.Crew customer who told me about the service!). The rest consisted of walking and eating our way around the city with a map, the internet, and a tourist book. Piriápolis was trickier: We had to settle on the perfect beach destination that was far enough to feel like a getaway yet not too far to necessitate a long bus ride from the ferry station in Colonia where we landed after crossing Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires or to the airport outside of Montevideo on the way back. It also had to be quiet enough for lazy and relaxed days in the sand, sun and water. Once we settled on the city, I again used airbnb to find a studio apartment within walking distance from the beach.

See a map here of the cities and routes in the Argentina-Uruguay portion of this trip.

The part of the trip planning that made me want to run around and scream was Patagonia. We visited Torres del Paine north of Puerto Natales in Chile, Perito Moreno glacier outside of Calafate in Argentina, and Isla Magdalena (a penguin colony and national park) in the Chilean Strait of Magellan. These three locations are consistently touted as the ones not to be missed.

Click here for a map of the cities we visited and routes we took in Patagonia and which transportation companies we used for each leg.

There is at once an abundance of information and a lack of detailed resources about Patagonia, both of which are overwhelmingly frustrating. I searched, emailed, and called endlessly to arrive at an itinerary that maximized our time and allowed us to include every chosen activity.

The following account details our nine days in Patagonia. As summer approaches in the southern hemisphere and the number of travelers increases for a new high season, I hope it can help others planning a trip to this beautiful part of the world. A word of caution: Information changes quickly, so research carefully, and plan in advance to secure transportation and accommodations. Then, surrender to nature and soak up the experience!

Food

For each person per day, we packed: two energy bars and a baggie of trail mix, oatmeal with dried fruit for breakfast, and soups and pasta for dinner. We attempted instant eggs. and they were yuck! Many people made full meals on their tiny stoves. A couple even made pizza on their first night. Someone recommended buying a bag of fresh oranges for the first couple of days, which I would have done if we had spent more than 1.5 hrs in-between buses. I strongly recommend adding US$30 dollars to the budget and buying dinner at least one night at one of the refugios (camp grounds). The nights we bought dinner (at Cuernos), the warm plate of pasta and cheap wine felt like a five-star luxury!

Gear

Tent. Sleeping bag. Sleeping mat. Stove. Gas for stove (buy in Puerto Natales or at Torres stores, like the one in Refugio el Chileno). Plates & silverware (metal! our plastic ones stank). Extra rope & velcro strips. Camp repair kit, just in case. Backpack. Daypack (for hikes when you are able to leave the rest of the gear behind). Camera: photos & video. Walking stick if you want the support. Sunglasses. Hat (cold/sun). Gloves.

Clothes

Thermal under shirt and under pants. Enough underwear. Sports tops (to wear over thermal or on their own, short and long sleeve to mix it up depending on temperature). Water resistant/proof pants. Another pair of sports tights/light pants. Sports shorts maybe. Water resistant/proof jacket. Water resistant/proof hiking boots. Enough sports socks. Something to sleep in. Slippers for camp and the shower.

Remember all your toiletries!

Put everything in plastic bags to guard from the rain. The bags will come in handy for trash, laundry, etc.

Day 1

3 am: Wake up

We packed our bags the night before and made certain all our gear was ready. This day was going to be extremely long. I was so nervous to have crammed so much into it that I had been having panic attacks since arriving in Santiago three days before. My friends assured me they were ready for adventure and we would have loads of fun, but still I panicked.

5 am: Plane from Santiago to Punta Arenas, LAN Chile.

The flight was brief and the staff attentive. I actually love LAN Chile!

10 am: Bus from Punta Arenas (airport) to Puerto Natales

Bus Sur (US $12)
Paid via Paypal
VentasInternet@Bus-Sur.cl
www.bus-sur.cl

We likely ended up using almost every Patagonian bus line on this trip. In order to coordinate flights with final destinations, I looked up schedules for every company to find the best matches for our itinerary.

After retrieving our luggage from the carousel, we waited for the bus by the curb outside the airport for about 45 minutes. When it arrived, the driver had our physical tickets. Bus Sur had sent me a PDF confirmation via email of the purchase.

2:15 pm: Bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine

Bus Sur (US $20)
The bus dropped us off outside the Bus Sur office. The city of Puerto Natales is just now finishing a bus terminal out of which all companies will operate. At the time we visited, each bus line had its office somewhere around the small town; only two or three lines had already moved their operations to the bus terminal.

There was about an hour and fifteen minute layover between buses. During that time, I had to run to the bus terminal from the Bus Sur office (about a 15-minute brisk walk) to buy tickets back to Puerto Natales from Calafate using Cootra bus lines (see Day 7). The only way to buy these tickets was in person at the counter. There was no way to buy them online, by phone or by email.

At 2:15 pm we left Puerto Natales and headed for Torres del Paine. The start to our nature adventure was palpable!

NOTE: In Torres del Paine, we hiked the W route: Five days was enough for us 🙂 We actually did the hike in four days – we did not have more time given our tight itinerary – and it ended up being doable for our skill level given we were not able/allowed to go to Valle Britanico (details below). After many discussions with experienced Torres del Paine hikers, we chose to trek the W East to West; it fit out skill level and overall itinerary better. The map below shows a traditional West-to-East, five-day route. It can be done in four days with a little hustle. Five days allows for more relaxation and is easier on the muscles. More than five days makes room for much more leisure time and natural unpredictabilities. In Torres del Paine, one can experience all four seasons within one trip. We did! We saw sunshine, clouds, rain, (high) wind and even snow during our four days.

For help from some wonderful people, visit the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/17344489636/. I received kind and patient wisdom from Alejandro He helped me map our entire hike with reasonable timings and detailed advice.

W trek map Torres del Paine

Above map is from the very informative and organized blog by Steph & Ben on their trip to Torres del Paine.

The ride was bumpy since most of it was on dirt roads. The views were wide and expansive, with hills and mountains rising here and there. As we approached the park, the Torres became visible. My seat companion first pointed them out. I could hardly believe that the iconic natural wonder I had been planning to see for almost a year was now just a few kilometers away.

This transitory bus companion enveloped me in conversation about his adventure climbing one of the rocky Towers (there are three). I normally keep to myself and have difficulty engaging strangers. I need various encounters with someone before feeling comfortable saying more than casual niceties. Cristian talked to me without asking for my permission, and I was happy he did to help me embrace the unknown.

His climb lasted 36 hours. He did not sleep a wink, even though he could have while harnessed. There is a special permit needed to climb the towers, and the task is “at your own risk” given the obvious risks. I love hiking, camping and the outdoors, but climbing the Towers is beyond the scope of my interests and not a goal I will ever set for myself.

We arrived at the park at 4:30. The drop off location was dusty, and it looked like rain. The first few vans that took hikers to the starting point filled quickly so we opted to wait for the next one. After about 40 minutes, a van came for us and the remaining stragglers. The ride lasted about 15 minutes. The van dropped us off by Hotel de las Torres. Eager to begin the first leg of the hike, we quickly followed others to the start of the trail, made sure our gear was secure on our bodies, and set off with excited smiles and bouncy strides.

5:30 pm: Start walking

9 pm: Reached Campamento Torres

Day 2

9am: Hiked to Torres del Paine

LPa063

The famous Torres! We had perfect weather to see the towers against a blue sky and among fleeting clouds.

11 am: Hiked back to Campamento Torres

12:30 pm: Started hike to Cuernos

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Night of terrible and hilarious wind. We had to rent a room (the last one left because everyone started renting). The wind broke my friends’ tent. We realized in the morning the beautiful view of the Cuernos we had from our room!

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Day 3

Rain,

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with Cuernos behind me in the relentless rain, heading to Paine Grande.

(skipped Britanico b/c it was closed due to repairs)

Day 4

Hiked to Glaciar Grey and back

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Night in Paine Grande

Day 5

Left park on the noon Catamaran. We bought the tickets at Paine Grande. See here for Catamaran schedules (scroll down). The Catamaran crosses Lake Pehoe. Hikers following the W must take the catamaran once: at the start if trekking West to East or at the end if East to West.

5 pm: Bus to Calafate

The only bus I found that travels directly from Torres del Paine to Calafate is a tour bus by Always Glaciers/Chaltén Travel. We saved a day in travel by taking this route! Hopefully other companies start making this trip because many travelers are looking for this route. As of last year, this was the only option.

Bus operated by Always Glaciers. Tour by Chaltén Travel. http://www.chaltentravel.com/main.php
Charged in Argentinian pesos
250 pesos pp
12 pesos service charge
(about US $35-40)
Paid by completing a form with my payment information (credit card), scanning it, and emailing it back.
Everything over email: contacto2@chaltentravel.com or contacto@chaltentravel.com
Johanna helped me, and she was wonderful!

Day 6

Perito Moreno
Minitrekking tour by Hielo y Aventura, the only company allowed to hike on the ice itself.

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Day 7 (travel day)

8:30 am: Bus Calafate to Puerto Natales
Cootra (see how to buy tickets above, Day 1)

5 pm: Bus Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas

Buses Fernandez
http://www.busesfernandez.com/
The only way was to deposit money into their bank account in Chile, so my uncle made the deposit and I paid him when I arrived in Chile.
5,000 chilean pesos per person (about US $10)

Day 8

6:45 am – Isla Magdalena (Penguin colony!)
Ventas Turismo Pali Aike Operadores
http://www.turismopaliaike.com/
I was able to pay by credit card over email.
ventas@turismopaliaike.com

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Day 9

7:05 am –
Back to Santiago (LAN Chile)

Services We Used

www.airbnb.com – accommodations in Buenos Aires and Piriapolis

www.bus-sur.cl – bus line (Punta Arenas-Puerto Natalies-Torres del Paine)

http://www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/secciones/noticias/20.asp – scroll down for Catamaran schedule inside Torres del Paine (the Catamaran crosses Lake Pehoe)

http://www.chaltentravel.com/main.php – tour company that runs a bus from Torres del Paine to Calafate

http://www.busesfernandez.com – bus line (Puerto Natales-Punta Arenas)

http://www.turismopaliaike.com – tour company that goes to Isla Magdalena (penguins!)

Cootra – bus line, no website, runs Puerto Natales-Calafate

http://www.cot.com.uy – bus line, Uruguay, Piriapolis-airport

Meditation Combats the C%R*A#Z@Y

Since I live on the anxiety spectrum and am starting a nonprofit, my nerves at times escalate exponentially; all the vision, planning and achievements in the world cannot prevent moments of WTF?!

So, more than ever, I am using meditation, exercise and affirmations to keep calm and focused. It may SOUND HOAKY, but it’s really just taking some alone time to self-care … we can all agree on that! Build up our own strength to prevent crises and face them with useful tools instead of just reacting without addressing root issues.

Pampi sent me this article which reaffirms why meditation works: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-ways-meditation-can-change-your-life.html

My daily practice

Morning affirmation and gratitude:

* say a mantra I’ve written just for me, which outlines, in 30 seconds, all the qualities I wish to embody across aspects of my life

* write five things for which I am thankful:

1 about Pampi since we spend so much time together, and we can be the most negative towards people closest to us

1 about my immediate family because ditto

1 about my work because it is a daunting (while at the same amazingly awesome) task

2 about life in general because I forget about the beauty of the world when my mind becomes single tracked

Sometime during the day (I need to become more consistent with timing so unexpected happenings do not get in the way)

Physical exercise! For the heart, strength + flexibility, and release of tension and mind clutter.

Evening meditation:

* a quick 3-minute meditation focusing on breath (one minute), clearing my mind of thoughts (one minute) and sounds (one minute) OR

* chakra cleansing through breath I learned from Reiki

Ta Da! What do you do to keep calm and be your best self?

How to Succeed at Life in Two Basic Steps

Two weeks ago I was explaining to a group of friends that I had learned two basic steps in my Bhangra* dance class this summer (one where the feet touch down on the beat and the other where the knees are raised on the beat), and I had been doing one of them incorrectly since day one. Fail. One of the friends misunderstood and thought I was talking about life in general, as in there are two basic steps to living life. I felt compelled not to disappoint and chose, on the spot, the two steps to follow, per my reasoning, to live successfully.

dogturnsignalStep 1: Use Your Turn Signals

This first step is constantly on my mind since I drive almost every day and so many drivers never signal. Turn signals are vital on the road. They alert other drivers where you are going and allow them to plan for your next move. Heck, some drivers let you cut if you signal your desire to switch lanes. In life, we should also use turn signals. We need to know where we are going, and it is important to plan, at least a little. Then, we can share our hopes with people around us, and they may even help us out.

Mask and corner smile by Eric Bornstein

Mask and corner smile by Eric Bornstein

Step 2: Smile

Smiles are contagious. A smile on our face tells our brain we are happy, and our brain releases happy chemicals. Even if we feel sad, faking a smile still tricks our brain, and we actually begin to feel better. If people around us see us smile, they smile. They also think we are happy and approachable, and we make friends. We spread fuzzy snuggly feelings. The world is a better place. So smile often, no matter how you really feel.

In dance, Bhangra has touch-downs and Punjabs. Life just needs turn signals and smiles.

What are your two steps for life?

*Bhangra is an energetic celebration folk dance of Punjab, a state in northern India.