Thursday, October 25, 2018

Transcendental Meditation ...

A couple of years ago, I attended an introductory talk on transcendental meditation on Madison Avenue in NYC. Having grown up with a brother who read Carlos Castenada and spoke about reaching enlightenment as one of his primary goals, I already knew TM would be important and a right fit for my life and experience. One of the many valuable lessons I received in conversations with my brilliant brother Orlando was that with awareness and a spiritual practice, intuition develops. After the TM intro, which seemed very familiar as if I had already heard everything the TM teacher was saying, I watched Jerry Seinfeld do standup. I watched him and thought he seemed unperturbed by everything. I looked at his face and felt a need to know what the mechanism was underneath this calm. And I looked him up on YouTube and found out he had been practicing TM for almost 40 years. I went to the training on September 23rd and it was very simple; the training lasted 4 days. I received my mantra and have continued to do two daily 20-minute meditation sessions. I have only missed 2 afternoon sessions since 9/23/18. TM has made me feel calmer and the increased awareness gleaned from this practice has helped me prioritize daily actions in order to finish projects and each meditation session feels like a restful swim into my subconscious where I’m allowed to bring small gems to the surface to examine. I feel rested, energized and excited to do the most menial tasks. It is hard to describe but I will keep trying. After a TM session, I feel myself as an integral part of a whole and the irritating details of quotidian life no longer grate. The nerves are happy and flexible.

Monday, September 7, 2015

On task in an Off-Task World by Odilia Rivera-Santos

Forward head motion is one of those ailments of the cellphone, FOMO, constantly-connected age. The slightly down turned head to read a tiny screen strains the neck, which can lead to pain radiating down one's back.
For those who know no other existence but one of obsessive-connectivity, the ability to sit for hours at a desk with the dry, non-glossy, non-hypertexted pages of a book may never come. It reminds me of people who can't watch black and white film because the lack of color 'bores' them.
Focus is a practice that requires practice. Without a plan to set aside time for reduced stimuli, we don't do it. Living in New York City means the moment you leave your building, you're thrust into the private lives of strangers: elevator conversations about custody agreements, actual breakups and worse are the abnormal norm. 
We are the Internet in the flesh, spilling over with too much information and poor privacy settings.

Rituals for De-escalating connectivity 
1. Meditation. It is a lot less complicated than you think. Set a timer for ten minutes, sit in silence, breathe deeply, and close your eyes.
2. Write down 5 actions you will take toward an offline goal -- organizing a group to lose weight, write, dance, run, do yoga?
3. Explore a different museum every day for one week. Take a guided tour with an artist/educator.
4. Buy a drawing pad and pencils.
5. Walk/run/bike through all the boroughs with friends, Transportation Alternatives or a Meetup group.

Disconnected and it feels so good.,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

PTSD Can be a Collective Experience by Odilia Rivera-Santos

1. Choose a cause and know you cannot change anything alone.

2. Join a community at work on your cause and ask how you can help.

3. Devote fifteen to thirty minutes per day to being of service in whatever way is comfortable for you.

4. Keep a journal on your feelings, efforts, expectations, outcomes, and goals.

5. Be gentle with yourself. Ingesting violent imagery on a consistent basis can be very damaging. 

6. Take a time-out to laugh, be silly, have fun, play with your kids, nephews, nieces, watch standup comedy and take your self out of your self everyday.

7. Spend some time doing mindless or mindful physical activites. Walk, run, bike, clean, meditate, paint your apartment.

8. Socialize everyday even if it means going to the movies and chatting with the usher. Isolation causes desperation.

9. Step back when you feel overwhelmed. You cannot ingest a continuous amount of negativity on a variety of issues without slipping into a quicksand of hopelessness and negativity.

10. Watching videos of individuals being murdered is not activism; it's masochism. Unless you are a part of an investigative team, journalist, or a member of a jury, there is no benefit to be gained from watching assasinations. The visceral response to watching a video tends to revisit one's mind at unexpected times and this affects both mental and physical health.

11. Activism is humbling. We can each do a small part to eradicate societal ills and it must be a collaborative effort. To work in isolation is to fail and experience a greater sense of hopelessness.

12. Self-care, self-care, self-care. Often, a person will say "I love myself" because it is an accepted American mantra; however, if you examine your daily actions, do you SHOW yourself some love everyday? 

Monday, July 6, 2015

How to work with volunteers and make them love working for you by Odilia Rivera-Santos

Philanthropist billionaire without the billions: Treat your volunteers as you would any philanthropist who knocks on your door to donate money, because, in essence, a volunteer is putting money in your pocket. He or she is at your organization because of a real committment to a cause or your firm's mission. Subjective Viewpoint: Because the volunteer is not reliant upon your company or organization to earn a living, she/he can provide valuable feedback as to how to improve performance and productivity. They are more comfortable speaking about what is working and what needs work. Clarity and Reciprocity: Before you post an advert for volunteers, make a list of what you would have the volunteer do and make sure you have a clear work flow plan. Assign someone to train and supervise, if supervision is required. Think about what you will offer in lieu of payment. Can your organization provide any free training to enhance an individual's résumé? Can your organization include volunteers in programs providing discounts for your employees? A small token of appreciation goes a long way. Remember, the volunteer is willing to work for free and excited to do so. Respect: A worker deserves respect even if he or she is not getting paid. Be punctual, be organized and if there is nothing for the employee to do, sit down and revise your work flow plan. I have volunteered in many places where no one was sure what the volunteer was supposed to do, so people would sit around doing nothing or a person would be asked to do work meant for a paid employee. There is nothing more important than treating a worker with respect and dignity even if money is not changing hands. How do you get the volunteers to love working for you? Give them clearly-defined tasks. Be prepared for them before they arrive -- don't wait until they arrive to figure out what 'to do with them.' Let them know asking questions is fine. Unlimited coffee and/or tea. If you have employee gym discounts or restaurant discounts, add your volunteers if possible. Allow participation in meetings Know each volunteers name -- these are people, people! Respect their time. They have lives, jobs, families, etc. Before you ask for volunteers, write down what you need. Before you volunteer, write down what you need. IT is a reciprocal relationship in which both the organization and volunteer help strengthen a community and make good on their good intentions.

Monday, November 3, 2014

the Quiet Revolution: educating your kids on a shoestring budget by Odilia Rivera-Santos

By Odilia Rivera-Santos

You can provide an elite private school education for your children without spending any money. It does require that parents take a long look at themselves and invest time and energy in working one-on-one with their children.

1. Attitude - the adults are the prototype for what a child envisions as his or her future adult self. Your language is extremely important. Focus on solutions and not problems when you speak. If you constantly talk about problems, a child will feel that life is difficult and he or she will feel easily defeated. If you state the problem simply and go on to talk about how the problem may be addressed, the child learns critical thinking skills and gains an optimistic outlook. Teach that every problem has a solution.

2. Self-advocacy - young children have to be taught to be activists. They need tools for setting boundaries between themselves and other kids, adults, etc. They must understand that they have rights everywhere they go and that no one has the right to be verbally abusive or to touch them without permission.
Teaching children history with an emphasis on their particular racial or ethnic group as "victims" will create a sense of hopelessness and a person who feels hopeless is less likely to stand up for him or herself.
Make sure to expose children to the history of brilliant leaders and to focus on those who triumphed despite adversity.

3. Goals - the best way to teach children to set goals is to have some goals yourself and to speak to your child about the process. If you are a parent working on getting a G.E.D., do not speak about the experience with regret or in a way that connotes that you feel like a failure; instead, focus on talking about what you are learning and the interesting people you're meeting in the process.
Don't do the "Don't do what I did" speech because it is fear-based, boring and not effective.
Consider presenting yourself to your kids as if you were an employee.
The truth is that your kids are evaluating your parenting skills; your assessment as a parent will come in the way of your child's positive or negative behavior.
Be a dynamic employee/parent who the child will admire. Children listen to people they respect, admire or find interesting. This does not mean that you become their friend and abandon providing structure for children's lives; it means that you must be a person a child would like to emulate.
You are in charge but in order to be an effective parent, you must be humble enough to admit when your parenting approach is not working.
The goal is to have a happy interdependent relationship with your children in which they can make informed decisions when you are not around to offer guidance. If the parenting methods you are currently employing are not getting the results you'd like, change.

4. Standards - there are certain skills that a child is expected to learn before going on to the next grade. You can find a lot of useful lesson plans to do at home on PBS Kids and Starfall is a great website for phonics help.

5. Language - teach your child Spanish by putting time aside to speak only in Spanish. You can choose to speak Spanish on the weekend or at night, but make sure you do not respond to your child if he or she speaks English. If you ask a question in Spanish and the child answers in English, keep asking in Spanish until you get an answer in Spanish. The most natural way to learn language is through employing it in everyday life: watch films, read books, listen to music and have conversations in the target language -- Spanish.
If your Spanish skills need some brushing up, Directo al grano is a great grammar book that provides a comparison of Spanish and English grammar. MIT offers free online courses -- take a Spanish class. Lo que no mata engorda.

6. Recreation as work and work as recreation - you can teach reading comprehension, research skills and critical thinking through doing research on subjects that the child enjoys. You can read the same books and articles and talk about them.
Choose one day per week to go to the library and always keep the appointment.
It is a good idea to read books on library reading lists, as they represent books used in schools. Reading books at home before the child reads them at school will give them a sense of accomplishment and insure they are better prepared.

7. Oral communication skills - boys tend to give one-word answers to questions while girls only need one simple question to talk for two hours. Make sure every question you ask is open-ended. Open-ended questions force the child to think.
Did you have fun at school today? - this is a yes/no question
How was school today? - this is an open-ended question, which allows a child to produce language, review syntax, use of prepositions, etc.

Give the child your undivided attention without staring at them. Some kids feel scrutinized and as if they are being interrogated if you ask questions and make intense eye-contact. Be casual but listen closely. You can try having a conversation as you prepare a snack together or do some other quiet activity.
Do not interrupt a child who speaks slowly; he or she might process information slowly and interruptions will make the child feel uncomfortable about speaking.

Make sure the television is not always on.
Attention deficit disorder begins at home with too much stimulation: cellphones, television, radio, music, a group of people talking at once.

8.Make time for important stuff. Reading and talking with your children is vital. Throw your television out the window, but make sure no one is standing below first. Limit television viewing because there are very few jobs for people that require them to sit still, stare blankly and overeat.

A bad education is hard to undo but a great education is something that no one can ever take away from you. The best inheritance you can leave your children is intellectual curiosity.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Should we ask those who appropriate Black Culture to be activists? by Odilia Rivera-Santos

American culture is Black culture. 
White Content Creators appropriate ideas from Black Communities and earn billions. And everyone wants to be Black until it's time to look for a job or deal with police. 
The demarcations of cultural appropriation are set so that Content Creators and Performers, who aim to loot the stores of Black brilliance for their own gain, can keep walking when shit gets real.

Appropriation and protest. 
Black kids imitate White performers who got their ideas from Black kids. Ironic, no?
This points to the lack of understanding Black kids have regarding their own value and the intrinsic and monetary value of the culture they help create. 

Do White Performers and White Content Creators owe the Black community some recompense? 
Do these people who have the inner resources to take ideas from our 'hoods' and run with them owe the families of murdered Black kids something?

What are inner resources?
The belief you deserve to earn a lot of money from ideas. 
The belief you can change the trajectory of your life. 
The belief that family and friends will offer you support in success and in failure.
The belief you can ask for help without being labeled stupid or weak. 
The belief that asking for help in completing a project is a sign of strength and intelligence, not weakness and incompetence.
The belief that YOUR culture, YOUR ideas and YOUR vision all have value . .. even if you're Black.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What is poverty? by Odilia Rivera-Santos

I was teaching Spanish and noticed female students whispering as they stared at me. One of the students asked about my Tag Heuer watch, which had been a gift from my husband who is now my ex-husband, and another asked about the shirt I was wearing. They wanted to know the prices of my clothes and watch because they thought I looked cool.
In such a situation, I could take the compliment and keep it moving, but I didn't. The young women were interested in getting attention for being pretty, for wearing the right clothes and for a name brand everyone would recognize as expensive.
The objects were valued as a means of escape from a perception of one's own being as mediocre or not enough. When I was growing up, I valued people who were kind and gentle and if they wore inexpensive clothes or shoes, it didn't matter. I admired people who were intellectually curious and courageous within the confines of their confines.
The young women in front of me kept telling me I was beautiful and 'should' wear something really flashy to my teaching job. All my hopes of instilling a love of intellectualism were lost.
They placed a monetary value on everything that could capture someone's eye and I could envision tiny price tags being pinned on someone's beauty, shoes, clothes, hair length, skin color, etc.

The fetishism of labels is something I grew up with in the Bronx. Wearing the 'right' brand was a way to fit in and avoid criticism. I was never interested in joining the club, so I was the outcast.
I was openly poor in my neighborhood -- wearing the same Levi's for years, tattered sneakers and thrift store clothes.

The fetishism of intellectualism. Reading and getting lost in others' lives as a way of avoiding one's own is also an escape from the self and one's fear of reaching one's potential.
What if you reached your potential and it was a much lower floor than you'd dreamt?

What is poverty?
I would say poverty is thinking intellectualism or money or buying expensive clothes and trinkets can shift your perspective of yourself and your value in the world.
Poverty is chasing things, people and situations not meant for you.
Poverty is enduring every unhappiness in order to look good to others.
Poverty is thinking the best option is to live the life that looks good on paper, that impresses others and pleases people who will never know or care about your real life goals.
Poverty is every moment you delay doing what makes you happy.

The real foundation of the concrete is intangible, which is the biggest joke on us who strive to put the carriage before the horse. We build our mansions on the etherealness of a spiritual knowing of our value, which is not attained through gluttony of intellectual knowledge or acquisition of material things.

Prayer turns out to be the inscrutable true foundation of empire.