Every Child is Potentially the Light of the World.

Every Child is Potentially the Light of the World.

“Every child is potentially the light of the world—and at the same time it’s darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary most importance.” Bahai writings

The keywords in the above quote are; potential light, darkness, and education. Throughout history, education has been a fundamental factor in the advancement of civilization. At times this education has brought mankind light and at others darkness. Education has given man the ability to place manned rovers on Mars and acquire new medical knowledge. Advancements in communication have made the world flat. At the same time, mankind has created a world laden with moral dangers: selfishness born of materialism, children alienated from their parents, and a society in decline.  These conditions are not confined to race, class, nation, or income status. 

At an early age, children are asked,” What are you going to be when you grow up?” We send them off to school to find the answer. In school, they study various branches of knowledge in order to choose a profession based on demand and earning potential. In the end, the future is one of studying to work, working to earn, and earning to spend.  It’s a materialistic treadmill. The result is a society aimed at earning more and more money. Despite all the success and material gains, most people are still not happy and we are raising a generation of people who are living for themselves. This reminds me of the lyrics from the Broadway play Bye Bye Birdie, “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way, what’s the matter with kids today?”

Ask a child today what do you want to be when you grow up and they still don’t know, and now, many don’t care. What caused these young people to disconnect? When did the light of education dim in so many eyes? The methods for educating children are well established as evidenced in our technological and scientific advancements. But these advancements have come at a cost. Somewhere along our journey, we lost our children. As mankind enters a new age of maturity, we must develop a new purpose for educating our children. The tree of educational knowledge must add branches that evolve the inner and outer child as well as develop useful skills that benefit mankind.

I don’t think anything is wrong with today’s kids. Their true essence is there, often hidden inside. Through good counsel and education that essence can be brought to light. A quote by Alexander den Heijer may shed some light, “When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Instead of focusing on “fixing” the child, let’s focus on adapting the environment to ensure the child’s success. As the child gains inner and outer success and perfection, his light begins to shine.

Our primary and most urgent responsibility is the education of our children.  And, their teachings don’t only come from books. In early childhood a firm foundation must be laid; a foundation focused on refining character, learning virtues, and developing good behavior. Knowledge achieved through traditional book learning is praiseworthy when coupled with ethical conduct and virtuous character. These traits must be taught and practiced every day at school.  Fortunately, mindfulness, wellness, meditation, yoga, and art classes are appearing in school systems all over the world. 

The evolution of mankind is in full display in every child’s face you see. As each child’s inner light shines, it will surely brighten the world. As Neil Diamond sang,” Turn on your heart light. Let it shine wherever you go. Let it make a happy glow for all the world to see.”  It is truly our responsibility, as those that have come before them, to cultivate and support these additional branches of education. If we do not equip them with the social and emotional skills they need to conquer a rapidly changing environment, then their failures will be ours. Let us plant the seeds that will one day grow into a canopy of success in the hands of today’s youth. 

 

 

 

   

 

Transforming the World, One Mindful Student at a Time

Transforming the World, One Mindful Student at a Time

Imagine you are a bear hibernating for the winter. When bears hibernate, they take long, slow, deep breaths in and out, through their noses. Take a long breath in through your nose, and let it all the way out. Take another long breath in through your nose. Let it all the way out. Keep breathing like this and feel how relaxed and warm and safe you are in your cozy bear cave. Once more, take a long breath in through your nose, and let it all the way out. 

Now imagine this is how teachers lead the first minute of math class for first graders all across the country. The room becomes calm, and the teacher is able to start the lesson on time, with the focused attention of the students. These are bite-sized mindfulness practices, and when they’re done consistently, they can be a powerful tool to help our children live healthier, happier lives. They are simple to execute, they take very little time, and they cost nothing. In a world that’s increasingly fast-paced, where kids are bombarded with media and screens, where they have less and less downtime to just be, these practices can teach kids essential skills. Like- how to calm themselves. How to focus and pay attention. How to manage their behavior and emotions, and how to practice compassion and kindness. They can also help kids cope with and release anxiety and stress. 

Anxiety is a serious problem for teachers, parents, and children. When I go into schools to help them bring mindfulness into the school day, I hear over and over from teachers, principals, and school counselors that the teachers and students are stressed out. Even very young children are displaying more anxious behaviors than teachers have ever seen before. 

Anxious kids have a hard time in school and in life. Anxiety causes them to have difficulty focusing and paying attention. They can have behavioral and emotional issues. They’re not ready to learn, and even the greatest teacher in the world can’t get a lesson across if students aren’t ready to learn. We have the tools to help them and to help every child who will undoubtedly, at some point, suffer from stress and anxiety. 

We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. 40 studies a month are coming out on the positive effects of mindfulness in the classroom. Science and research demonstrate it’s positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships. An organization called Mindful Schools looked at 400 elementary school students in four areas of classroom behavior: paying attention, participation, self-control, and respect for others. The students did a simple mindfulness program three times a week for five weeks, and they found significant gains in all four of those areas. 

Just think about that for a minute. Improvements in self-control and respect for others are a total gift for teachers everywhere but are also critical skills kids need to learn just to get along in life. Paying attention in class and participation directly leads to academic gains. They benefit not only the students in that classroom, and benefit the teacher, but also the school will perform better, the school district will begin to improve, and the positive effects ripple outward into the community. 

Now, as a former elementary school teacher, I know that teachers don’t need or want one more thing to teach in the classroom. They already have too many standards to meet, and mindfulness is not on the state tests. My reply to teachers and parents who don’t have time is this: take just one minute for consistent mindfulness practice and you’ll get it back. Your classroom will be calmer. Your students will be better able to pay attention. The lesson will go more smoothly, without interruption, and you will have more teachable minutes. We all know it just takes a few slow deep breaths to help us feel so much calmer because studies show controlled breathing sends the brain a signal that all is well, and the brain begins to calm the nervous system and to slow the body’s stress response.

In order for these practices to work, the kids have to like doing them. So they have to be built around concepts that kids enjoy. They have to be fun. For example, we take a cup of hot chocolate, but it’s much too hot to take a sip right now. So we have to blow on it to cool it off. We take a long breath in and we blow toward the hot chocolate. Repeat that six, seven or eight times. Or we see a big beautiful flower that we’ve never seen before. We’re curious how it smells, so we bring it up close and we take a long sniff and then let our breath all the way out, and we repeat that five, six, seven or eight times. 

When I go into schools and I have 20 super wiggly kids sitting in front of me all smashed together on the floor, I lead them in bear breath or flower breath and they become totally engaged and quiet. The teachers are generally pretty surprised, but the kids are not still because I taught them the benefits that deep breathing has on their central nervous system or because they have been reading up on how trendy mindfulness is. They’re quiet and still because it’s a concept that speaks to them and because it feels good and because it works. 

Like any other skill, constant practice is the key to its effectiveness. Paying attention is the skill we constantly ask kids to do, but we don’t teach them how and we don’t have them practice it. The act of paying attention over and over to our breath coming in and out of our bodies teaches kids to pay attention to other things. Consistent practice for schools means fitting it into the schedule at a non-negotiable time. The same time every day and everybody knows what to expect. 

It takes one minute, but over time it begins to build the muscles for practicing focus, emotion regulation, compassion, and kindness. This isn’t an enrichment program. This is an essential program. 

Think of a child who is caught in a cycle of acting out and discipline and punishment. In school, she disrupts the classroom. She is removed from the class. She misses the lessons and gets behind. She gets frustrated. She acts out some more. Her grades slip. She eventually gives up on school altogether. This happens all the time. 

Now imagine if that student had a grown-up in her life. A grandparent, a teacher, a school counselor. A parent who consistently taught her simple mindfulness practices tailored right to her age.  Over time she learns to calm herself. She also becomes self-aware so she recognizes that she’s about to act out and can stop it in its tracks. She practices showing kindness to other people. She’s able to stay in the classroom, keep up with her studies, graduate, and go out to be a force for good in the world. 

This one simple tool can literally change the trajectory of a child’s life. Now think of this effect multiplied by hundreds, by thousands, by millions of kids and you begin to see it’s so simple, but it can be so powerful. Imagine self-regulation being taught alongside academics in all of our schools. Imagine a whole generation of kids who are self-aware. 

We’re talking about an approach that can be implemented in every home and every classroom tomorrow morning. We start with baby steps, but they are powerful baby steps. We don’t need to wait for the school system to change. In fact, we can’t wait for the school system to change because kids need to be learning the skills now. Start now with the kids in your life. 

 

Travel Light

Travel Light

Travel Light. These words are the signature to my correspondence whether it is a blog, email or a letter. People often ask if I offer tips for how to pack luggage lightly when preparing for a trip after seeing these two words. That can definitely be one interpretation, but not my intention.

While on the road traveling for work over a five-year period, I am grateful to say that I have explored my fair share of cities. There were periods that I was in the same place for a few months, sometimes only a week and more commonly a day. With this active travel schedule and long work days, I thought I would create a blog so I could share photos and stories with friends and family while on the road. I decided on BohemianBabeTravels.com as the name of the site. Bohemian because it seemed to be the perfect fit for my unconventional lifestyle and Babe as a reminder to always find something to be in awe of in the world around me.

When I set out on the road to organize events, I had two storage units and more household type items at a friend’s place where I would stay when coming home for a quick family visit and to swap out luggage before hitting the road again. I had enough stuff to comfortably furnish a three-bedroom house at this time. While living as a road warrior, I came to appreciate and be content with the two suitcases of belongings I had. It was an adjustment but taught me how to live in a more simplistic way.

While managing an event, I met a nine-year girl who began asking me a ton of questions like curious children often do. After talking for a few minutes and attempting to understand my current lifestyle, she asked, “You mean you don’t go home every night? Where is all of your stuff? What do you miss the most?” As basic as these questions might have sounded, it stopped me in my tracks and I paused before answering. This child was referring to a material object and I couldn’t think of one thing that I actually missed. Not one. At that moment I couldn’t actually even think of one thing I owned that was back at my home base. The list I missed that popped into my head was game night with my family, holding my puppies, going out with friends, celebrating birthdays, holidays, life events together, and seeing faces, hearing laughter and sharing simple moments with those I loved. I came to realize that although I had accumulated all of this “stuff’, none of it held meaning for me nor made me happy. Creating memories with my tribe is what I missed the most, not material belongings.

Through my travels, I met a lot of different folks. I am the person that others refer to as, “that girl has never met a stranger.” I will pretty much talk to anyone. It is my babe view on the world; my lust to learn, and knowing that everyone has a story to share. Some of the most prolific moments in my life came through “random” encounters with “strangers.” I learned more in these times than any formal classroom could have ever taught me. There is much to gain in practicing presence and simply listening. I am grateful for the chance to have connected with people from all walks of life and the things I learned along the way. The stories people shared, the advice they gave, the dreams they aspired to achieve, and the hardships life presented them with were all pivotal in shaping the person I am today and essential in preparing me for the road that lay ahead. 

The buzz phrase today is “being present.” This can often be hard to achieve when we go through the motions of our routines. We get comfortable in doing what we know and less willing to adventure outside of that safety zone. Even if people are unhappy, they will at times choose to stay where they are just because it is familiar. This is fine, but it can lead to getting stuck. When we aren’t moving forward, we become stagnant and cease to grow. It is easy to say “break out of the routine, hit the road, and discover yourself.” Please know while this is a dream for most, it is also not always practical and not at all what I’m saying. I would like to invite others to recognize the world – with those babe like eyes and get your bohemian on – by choosing a different approach to your routine. Break out of that comfort zone and allow yourself to view the world through a new lens. Perhaps it is something as simple as going boho by taking an alternate route to work that day, or being a babe by walking outside during your lunch break to establish a connection, whether it is within a flower, a cloud in the sky or even someone passing. Recognize the essence and beauty of its being. Traveling light doesn’t require a trip anywhere except within yourself. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t serve you. When you choose to hold onto it, it is really holding onto you. Let go and grow. Just breathe and be. This is the discovery of something awe striking when you align with your own divine light.

The Travel Bug: Exploring The Self

The Travel Bug: Exploring The Self

While thinking about writing this blog, I started looking back to the many opportunities I have had to travel over the years. I have been to 6 countries and all but a few states.

I didn’t grow up traveling. My dad was a truck driver and the last thing he wanted to do was go for a “Sunday” drive with mom and 5 kids piled into our small car! Vacations at my house were when dad and mom went away for a week and we stayed home with a babysitter.

My first bus trip was on my Senior class trip to NYC.  I had never stayed in a hotel or seen so many different people from all over the world. I loved the lights and excitement of the bustling city. As an impressionable 18-year-old, that was my first peek at the world and I was hooked!

In general, my approach to life has been to be prepared, ie. fix things when they break, get things checked before they breakdown, make sure I have the right equipment for the weather (snow shovel, blankets), etc. When planning to travel, I want the appropriate shoes, gear, clothes, maps and always several flashlights. I become motivated to train to get into shape and stay healthy. That being said, I am now more flexible and accepting when things don’t go as planned.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to backpack across Spain on a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage trail called the El Camino de Santiago. My friend Anne had been wanting to do this walk for a few years, so she asked me to go with her. When sharing the possibility of walking the El Camino, a friend told me that although opportunities to travel may come up, most people do not take them. I realized that I have often “jumped right in” when I got the chance, even though I am NOT a brave person and I didn’t always realize all that would be involved. My trips have been hard sometimes, but amazing!

What I have learned from my travels so far, is how these trips change me. When I return home and am looking at pictures and sharing my experiences with others, I realize how much I have accomplished and how much I have grown spiritually. I have been able to meet new people, extend myself mentally and physically, and definitely function out of my comfort zone! I know that I can live out of my backpack, carrying 18 pounds for a month, do better when I don’t have expectations, can live in the moment, and that we humans are more alike than different.

So, when you travel are you your same self, someone else, or your real self? We certainly can see ourselves in a different way when meeting new people, in new settings, or even when traveling with people we know.  

HAPPY TRAILS!   BUEN CAMINO! BON VOYAGE!

Paving New Roads To Be The Next Comeback City

Paving New Roads To Be The Next Comeback City

It was a cold December day, 20 years ago.  The plane had landed on the tarmac of JFK airport an hour ago and now I stood nervously, clutching my passport tightly, waiting to be signaled by the immigration officer to his window. When it was my turn at the window, the officer sternly asked me why I was in the United States? I am sure I gave him a half-intelligent answer because he stamped my passport and waved me in. But thinking back to that moment, I realize that the right answer would have been to “pave new roads for myself.” Because that was what I had set out to do. To leave the comfort of my home country and to come to a foreign land, to build a life for myself among strangers. And the journey that began that day, brought me to Mansfield three years later, where I have chosen to stay and raise my family, nurture friendships, educate my children and find my tribe. I am sure all of you can look back and remember some moment where you decided to pave your own road. Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Do not go where the path may lead, but go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”

The same can be said for a city.  Often longtime residents who have been witness to the glory days, are bitter and disillusioned by the present version of their city.  I bet you have heard someone say  “There’s nothing in Mansfield anymore.” And, I find myself confounded by this attitude. Why do we feel that we are not worthy? That Mansfield has nothing to offer: not to its residents or to outsiders. That the glory days that made Mansfield a shining star are behind us. But then I am comforted by the dozens of examples I witness around me of residents who have chosen instead to go down a new path: of entrepreneurs willing to take a risk and invest in our community… their dreams, their hard earned money, their blood, sweat, and tears, of community leaders and nonprofit organizations who seek to move the needle, with out of the box solutions like the SXSW419 project. We are fortunate that we are home to news organizations that believe in solutions journalism and not just on the gloom and doom stories about our City. To reflect on the progress we’ve made and to continue to shift away from the mindsets that can limit us in terms of what we can accomplish in creating the “City we want to live in”,  I want to share three mindful actions we can support to accelerate this rebirth.

Advocate for your City and feel the pride

Too often we assume others should just know what we want and provide the solutions to our problems or issues. But relying on outside sources can lead to resentment and frustration. We know our worth, we know what we can be as a city and a community. Let us take pride and be brave and deliberate in our actions. Community-based investment, in fact, has the greatest chance for success because ownership translates to pride. Let us proclaim loudly and often that we are #MansfieldProud and #RichlandRocks .

Commit to a plan but write in pencil

If you don’t know where you want to go, you can find yourself “cruising around.” The fact is unless we have a vision for what we want our City to be, it’s easy to find ourselves falling down the path of least resistance. That said,  as important as a well laid out plan can be, it’s important to be flexible in applying it. Margie Warrell in Stop Playing Safe says to, “Write your plan, but use a pencil.” Conditions and economies are constantly changing  – with opportunities presenting themselves out of left field when least expected and obstacles tripping us when we are near the finish line. The future is unknowable but we can shape it if we can set direction and know where we are headed…and we need to be ready to make the needed detours from the linear path to reach our destination.

Risk failing more often

Many factors—whether a large employer leaving town, disinvestment, or simply not managing resources can have devastating results on a city—the most important thing is to not let it define us. Failure is not fatal; it’s how we process it that can be dream killer. It is important to heal and repair but then to take risks. When the Carousel idea was proposed for downtown, it was ridiculed. It took committed believers to sustain the belief and take a risk.  It is said if you’re never failing, you’re playing too safe. We discount the cost of inaction in the long run. Our City is on the mend… the tide has begun to turn… people are sharing the same narrative… thanks in no small part to the increasing number of passionate citizens driving change by paving new roads… And, for me personally, that is an inspiration and I hope it will be for you too. It is inspiring to meet people every day in this community whose focus is on shaping our City’s collective future and I am committed to being part of it.
Embracing the new you

Embracing the new you

 

2018 is going to be an AMAZING YEAR! “8” is the number of new beginnings and there’s no better time to envision a fresh start than at the start of a new year. You might say that New Year’s Day represents a big Monday on steroids. Everyone knows that Monday is “the” day for starting new projects and that January 1st is “the” day to start becoming the “new” you. Perhaps it isn’t a “new” you that’s needed, but rather the unveiling of an “evolved” you.

Until your soul is quieted, it’s actually quite difficult to drill deeply enough to identify what’s holding the “real” you hostage. Every one of us is full of the genius necessary to live out our purpose on the earth and do so quite gloriously. Getting there is the issue. It’s a process of stepping into higher and higher dimensions of ourselves. We’re not ready day one, so our lives have a way of helping us if we’re paying attention. I must not have been paying attention.

It was a cold day in January

January 19, 2017, to be exact. One moment I was in motion and the next I was not. It was a hard and brutal stop. When the squad arrived, I was still “thinking” in slow motion. “What on earth just happened? How bad is it? I’m afraid to move. I hope the others are alright. I’ve got to call my office. This is bad. This is really, really bad.” Sirens fade in and out. Surrounded by comforting voices, I just couldn’t catch up with reality.

After doing all they could, the hospital released me into my parent’s care. “I don’t have time for this. Just give me a few days to rest, and I’ll be good as new.” After being bed-ridden for the 1st three weeks, I realized “this” is happening. By the end of the 2nd, I had to surrender to “it” or lose my mind. By the end of the 3rd three weeks, I found a way to embrace it. I had been given a gift; one that came swiftly, violently, and unapologetically. Although it took some time for me to embrace it, the “stillness” was exactly what I needed. I had several months of uninterrupted time to do some work, some real work.

I had increase on my mind

When our souls are quiet, we can reflect, reconsider and re-evaluate our lives. I thought I was “on track”, whatever that means. I thought I was doing okay. But in the stillness, I began to see truths that had eluded me. I began to see what was driving me each day. I connected with the knots in my stomach and the fatigue in my bones. I leaned into the weariness I’d been avoiding. I decided to face the truth behind these manifestations of misalignment. We cannot expect to grow, to expand, or to increase when we’re disconnected from ourselves? It was clearly time for a “newer” me to emerge from the rubble.

When I considered all that I wanted to accomplish, I knew I’d never make it if something didn’t change. I decided to drill down beneath every thought, attitude, and behavior that clearly wasn’t serving me. I focused on anything based in fear, doubt, or unbelief. I probed beneath anger and unforgiveness. I examined deeply held beliefs about life, love, and living in order to pinpoint why I wasn’t manifesting the life I really wanted. I challenged myself to adopt new ways of thinking. I looked at everything I was involved in and asked myself “how does this align with my values, my purpose, and my passions?”

Becoming new

By the time I returned to Mansfield, I knew it wouldn’t be business as usual for me ever again. I had to maintain my new mind-body connection. I learned to honor the limits of my humanity. I eliminated things that I secretly dreaded. I decide to let go of what I thought “had” to be and opened myself up to what “was.” I decided to live a life of infinite possibilities; to approach each day with gratitude for what would unfold, believing that I had all that I needed to live each day fully.

To walk in each new dimension of life, we must become a higher version of ourselves. Who we are is sufficient for today. Who we are becoming is necessary for our tomorrows. Transformation flows from the inside out. When you embrace a new “view” of you, you unleash the power to become a “new” you or, should I say “unveil” the next higher version of yourself. She’s already in you. Isn’t it about time for “her” to show up?

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