Thursday, October 27, 2011

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grounded in Life!


Look around. What do you see? What you see represent all the blessings life has given you. Even in the worst of conditions, what you see reflects your state of mind, your dreams, your self-worth. If you don’t like the picture, change your mind, love yourself more, live by faith and the assurance that everything is provided for us and there’s a Divine Plan for every step we make. The magic resides in believing with all your heart and embrace the fact that your seed was planted on earth to make a difference, to be your unique being. Living in a state of gratefulness will open the doors to transform your life into a passionate path where everything unfolds to guide you in the right way. Gratefulness is bliss of fresh air that transports you to grace.

Look around-I ordered myself. What do you see? I questioned. I saw the fruit of fourteen years of hard work, blessings in plain sight. I saw the images of things I had left behind. My adventurous drive took me away from them for a period of time. I am back to realize that an all powerful hand has been carrying me all this time. I have been here and there as part of my path to an eye opening experience. I saw the need, the pain, and the hopeful eyes of those who live one day at a time not knowing what tomorrow will bring. And still, they live, they give, they share, and carry life as the most precious gift of all.

The story of my life has been a constant starting over with the excitement it produces. No fear, no doubt. Here I am, facing the whole process again. No fear, no doubt. Life is a rollercoaster. Sometimes we are on the top. Some other times we see the world from the bottom. It really doesn’t matter as long as we learn to live through every single curve, fall, or rise with love and appreciation for everything that surrounds us. This is my view and my happy thought to keep living out loud grounded on gratefulness and faith.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Going Metta!


Today’s midday lesson, not from school but from life; one of those conversations you are able to have after finding a way through the back doors. “Metta” is the way to heal all our pain; to release all hatred.” Metta is the word for loving kindness. According to its practitioners, its practice allows us to feel our connection with others as well as with all life. It is the attainment of love without attachment, without the desire to control or possess. Its ultimate goal is to seeing goodness in us, which seems to be the hardest part, and seeing it in others alike. Once goodness is found, then we move into that space where only love and kindness reside. As difficult as it might be to see these attributes, especially in turbulent times, those who know say that we just need to remember that we are all rowing in the same boat, trying to achieve the same goal; to find happiness. “We just need to learn how to remove our own feelings of guilt, remorse, and regret to welcome feelings of acceptance and forgiveness. Only then we can enter Metta.”

I am a visual/experiential learner; had to see and feel to actually understand. This is how metta goes. We sit comfortably, although this time we were walking. The process starts by repeating phrases. You are holding an image, yours or another person to whom you want to send some loving waves. It’s not about seeing a clear picture though but about holding a powerful intention. It is about shutting the brain for a brief time and pumping all the love from your heart as you hold that image. And then, time stands still and your love touches that person in subtle ways.

I was told that the first aspect we must turned metta is self-love. I am always saying that we cannot give what we don’t have so that part wasn’t hard. The most difficult stage is to hold that image and don’t drift from your intentions; to stay with that person, holding the image, and sending waves of love and kindness. What if the waves don’t reach the receiver? What if all the power of healing love is not felt? ‘You never doubt love, priya. That’s the only force that would never fails. Phir milenge.” Probably, I will not see him again but I am glad I decided to risk security to get some drinks and chips. Humble people have the gift of ancient wisdom. Metta will stay with me no matter where I go.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gyan Shakti


She wakes up every morning to begin a long and lonely bike ride through the leopard hills. Her destination is a local school far away from civilization. Cultural schemes don’t allow what she is doing. A woman with such a self imposed task is exposed to harassment, social degradation, and the natural dangers of the forest sanctuary inhabited by all kind of wild life. None of these threats have minimized her strength and determination. Against all odds, she is faithful to her calling; to reach almost fifty children and give them the gift and right of education. These children are the sons and daughters of the farm workers, one of the many underprivileged in India. There is no building, only one board, no seats but personal lots of dirt shared by all. There are no fancy uniforms, much less shoes or school supplies. However, every day they walk to school with a smile, a fervent desire to learn, and gratitude in their hearts.

Today, I met them; the same innocent faces that have caught my heart ever since I landed here. They have nothing but feel happy with anything. They know there’s a woman who has been risking comfort, social status, her reputation and her name to be with them bringing hope and the possibility of a different life. They hold their hand as their savior.

Gyan in Hindi means wisdom and enlightment. Shakti is the sacred force, the energy that empowers us. Gyan Shakti is the name of this school in the middle of nowhere. Wisdom and empowerment are the sacred offering this devoted teacher is giving to these children. Teachers are many but there is always one who would make a significant difference in our lives; the one to whom teaching is much more than a profession but an integral part of her life, like a second skin.

Back home we are always asking for more even though we have everything. Teachers in general, me included, complain about harsh working conditions, huge classes, and low salaries but we do teach with high tech, in nice air conditioned buildings, and a monthly salary that could supply a whole year of food for these children. Meeting them and their teacher was like fresh breeze of enlightment and empowerment. Probably this time I missed the target but the lessons learned stay with me as a reminder that we all posses that sacred force that would translate into Gyan for a whole new generation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a Girl! Now what?


Sometimes we listen or read stories in the newspapers and imagine they are stories from the distant past, legends, events that would never happen in the 21st Century, a time when we are supposed to be evolving as a human race. Not this time.

Gatherings serve many purposes. This one was an eye opening event where real stories were revealed by those who have gone through these experiences, those who were lucky enough to escape the girl factor. The story started with a sad but true revelation; being a girl is still considered to be a curse in India. Females are seeing as weak and useless human beings. Many of them are killed within hours of being born. Others are not even given the chance of a first breath, killed inside the womb. Technology has increased the chances of selectivity and, amazingly, educated parents with more opportunities and resources to pay for a sonogram or other kind of test are the ones paying for terminations of girl fetuses.

In a country still rule by patriarchal norms, women status is the lowest of the low. It is the preference for strong males the main threat for women survival. The main cause of death for girls is precisely gender discrimination. Medical care for them is almost unknown. They are the last ones to receive immunizations. On top of this entire calamity, many of them, too many, are sexually abused by the age of four, labeling as worthless. They represent a sin, a humiliation, and a punishment for male dominated families.

Once more, to hear the stories of these women was heartbreaking. At the same time it reminded me the hymn of Isis I am so proud to exhibit in one of my pages. Maybe I could recite it to the men in this country and remind them that they would have not been here if it wasn’t for a woman!

“I am the mother and the daughter
I am the arms of my mother
I am the sterile one, and my children are many
I am the well-wed and the spinster
I am the one who gave the light and the one who never gave birth
I am the wife and the husband
And it was my man who bore me in his belly
I am the mother of my father
I am the sister of my husband
And he is my rejected son
Respect me always. I am a Woman.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Look at Them and Reach Out


Free and compulsory education to all children in India up to the age of fourteen is established as a constitutional commitment of the country. According to the Parliament, the Right to Education Act, declared education as a fundamental right of ALL children. This commitment supposes that all children must be in school; government agencies should be taking action and ensuring high quality education for all these children. As it usually happens when politics, personal interests, and money gets in the way, this is not the case. The truth is heart-rending.

As a visiting educator, my personal account contradicts all that is written in paper. Truth is that, even though children comprise more than one third of the population, it is evident that they are not the priority of this country. Of course, I am referring to the majority, the underprivileged, the ones I have seen day after day ruminating the streets barefooted, begging for money or some hope. These are the one whose rights have been violated. Only fifty percent of them actually attend school. Not all of them finish it. Wondering why? One in every ten children is disabled. Ninety five in every thousand do not reach their fifth birthday. A staggering seventy four percent are anemic. Add to this the girl factor, child bonded labor, and child sex workers. Keep adding and consider that those who do go to school most of the times have to walk 15 kilometers, 9.32 miles, to get there. What do they have left?

Maybe you are thinking that India is a far away country; that we should worry and take care of our own problems, which are many. Maybe you don’t see how this country and their children would affect you. One of the things I have learned while waking up in this country every day is that, what happens here will eventually affect not only India but the whole world. These children and their pain, lack of education and opportunities will eventually touch each of us. As one big community we can’t limit our vision exclusively to our place, our own private circle. There is enough of that in this country. We must think bigger, enlarging our hearts, and looking for options to give these children some hope. Let’s not let them starve. Let’s help them paint their own dreams in different colors. It is our duty as citizens of the world. What if these were our children? Well, they are.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What I Know Now


It is amazing how powerful experiences could be no matter how long or short. I have always wanted to fly, meet new people, see new places, and get to know others through their daily battles. In part, it was this urge, this habit which brought me here, taking a risk once again; willing to leave everything known, loved, and comfortable behind. After a short seven days, this is what I know now.

1.Our dreams will take us places when there is something to be learned.
2.There is no such thing as failure when we use the lessons to become a better person.
3.Even when far away, we must keep our priorities straight.
4.We should always listen to the voice of our hearts, where all the answers reside.
5.Never be afraid of mistakes. They teach us a better way.
6.We must walk through life with eyes wide open and a clear mind.
7.We must embrace those who come to our presence and accept their reason to be here.
8. There's only one of you. Love, respect, and accept yourself unconditionally,like the only one.

This has been an incredible journey. The land of Gandhi was not what I had expected but more in many ways. This time it was total silence speaking to me, loud and clear and it brought out weaknesses, strengths, and newborn feelings until now hidden. And, it was precisely the discovery of those feelings, the whole purpose of this journey. Now I know and am prepare for the next amazing trip.

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ma’am, Please Take a Sit

Six hours of sleep last night while playing with my thoughts and a headache threat. It was tough to wake up this morning even in the midst of hunger and the urge for a warm cup of coffee. After an extended hour in between the sheets, a hot shower seemed to scare away the ghosts from the previous night. Already walking down the pathway, the fresh morning breeze reminded me of this new sky, the squirrels dancing around me, the small leaves falling one by one, and that gray, zinc high wall on the other side; the wall I’ve got to despised as a symbol of division, us and them. That’s the same wall I try hard not to look at ever since I found out what lies behind it. But, that is another story.

Late as I was, the dining hall was about to close. As I was turning around, missing my coffee already, a calmed voice. “Ma’am, come in. Please, have a sit.” Coffee was brewed, custom made, and delivered with the right amount of sugar. The deliverer, the sunniest smile I have ever seen, the same one walking me back to the door as I left.

Yes, being here is breaking my heart. It is bringing out a sense of compassion unknown to me till this day maybe, because in America, with our still all powerful thinking, I haven’t seen this humbleness, this respect, this clarity in the eyes of people who, even when rejected, still acknowledge the sacredness on each other. It’s getting out of hand as I try to manage it. I am divided among mixed feelings; going back to my normal life, where family and loved ones are waiting for me or staying, battling this sentiment that makes me feel powerless against the suffering and unfairness we have created. I have yet to decide in one of those sleepless nights.

In the meantime, one thing I know for sure. These people have so much to teach us! Formal education, money, possessions do not make a person. Respect towards each other comes from the heart and theirs is a big one. Maybe it is time for all of us to strengthen and enlarge ours.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Truth about Passion


When I was in high school, my dream was to become a clinical psychologist. Ever since I remember, I had been in love with people, listening and trying to guide them through their self-discovery process. However, sometimes life takes us away from our dreams just to help us discover others. That was my case and I became a teacher. As a teacher, I wanted to inspire young minds and souls in following their path living their lives to the fullest. Adults, with all their preconceived beliefs could be hard to change and deal with. They have this tendency of sticking to what they think is true. It is called manipulated training and whatever they have been trained to do they will. I figured out that it would be easier and wiser to help the not yet fully tamed young minds rising.

After twenty years teaching I can say confidently that I have fulfilled my mission and have consistently followed it. My passion has been evident in the many faces and success stories of my students whom, besides learning a subject, have also been able to learn how to live a better life.

In following that passion, I decided to cross the world, far from everything I know. I abandoned my comfort zone with the dream of reaching out to children in a far away country, sure that a different mission was waiting for me. I am here and, after a week, I am beginning to see the truth about passion.

Your passion will take you to many places. It will give you the strength to take many risks. It will prompt you to push yourself harder, rising your own expectations, wanting to do more in achieving your goal. That same passion blended with the Divine will guide you towards the discovery of hidden aspects of yourself, things you were not aware of, truths that sometimes will hit you hard, making you feel confused and disappointed. Passion by itself is just a human drive, hidden or not. Divine passion is the learning process, the doing with a real mission which once discovered have the power to totally transform your life. There is where I am standing now.

I didn’t come here to teach but to learn. I had to be here to see firsthand the real world which most of the time is disguised and hidden from the public view. I had to look in the eyes of the children begging for food, to see how luxurious mansions are built next to a family of six living under cardboard ceilings and beds made up of dirt. I had to witness the rejection, indifference, and purposeful alienation of the people forgetting their own people.

My passion brought me here not knowing that I would become a learner in order to write my best lesson. My mission is complete. My Divine Passion has just begun.

Please Show Me the Menu


I would love to be able to say that these days. Unfortunately, there’s no menu to choose from in this private paradise but an already set buffet that changes almost every day. So, what is the problem, you would say. Well, in less than a week I have realized that everything, absolutely everything is spicy in this country, even breakfast. My choices are to either starve to death or join the naturally spicy stomachs around me. That’s when a diverse menu and the freedom to choose from it come as a gift from heaven.

Then again, when I look back and around to the real world outside, I have to feel blessed. As a foreigner, I have much more than the common citizen does. Many of them don’t have a menu to look at. Many of them live day by day wondering if in fact there would be some food to fill their stomachs. A menu would be a luxury for them. A piece of bread with some fruit jelly, spicy or not, would be manna from the sky.

In the meantime, I keep wondering. There’s something different every day; a new lesson to be learned every second and, in between the chapattis, turmeric flavors, and chai tea today, more than ever, I keep questioning. How could we all go to sleep at night knowing that so many people in countries like this are starving every day? Please show me the menu with the right answers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On the Other Side


Round the clock advanced security, 100% power back up, parks, water bodies, lakes, sports grounds, and stadium; this is the description of Garden City, one of the many sprawling gated communities in India. As a proud owner, those are some of the many amenities you can enjoy inside the secluded world of comfort and luxury. As a contrast, outside those gates, hundreds of children flow through the streets and inside public buildings. Some of them offer shoe shine services, others extend their hands hoping to feel the texture of some rupees. Their naturally tan faces and clear eyes have the power to melt your heart as you see them barefooted roaming the dirt roads or burning asphalt. The warning is not to help them because they are their parents' responsibility and it is precisely them the ones sending these children to the streets as beggars instead of walking them to the school grounds were they belong at such a tender age. They are the ones who would become and remain the dalits of the Indian society. But, how to ignore their condition?

As a foreigner, I still have much to learn about this mystical culture. As a parent I can’t accept this reality. As a teacher, I know these children have the right to an education that would improve their lives and, as a consequence, the country. As a human being, it breaks my heart to see so much sorrow in their eyes, yearning for an opportunity to escape from a life they didn’t chose.

In India, over 150 million children work as bonded labourers, 8.1 million are out of school, and one out of six girl child does not live to see her 15th birthday. More gated communities represent the voluntary isolation of those who would not accept this reality, the way to trace the line between the affluence and the slums. As a community, those gates must be opened to bring hope to these children who are only waiting for a helping hand and a chance to dream.

In a country where 40% of the population is below the age of 18 years making it 400 million, the world's largest child population, priority must be given to their well being something that gated communities will not solve.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wide Awake

Jet lag has never been this bad. Two nights in a row and still not able to embrace my love affair with Morpheus. I am starting to wonder how long will this last. Coming up with strategies, number one seems to be quiet obvious; morning walk, workout, and more walking during my day so I could sleep India's nights. Sleeping pills are out of the question. Thanks to the good heart of a new colleague I was able to borrow a computer with a working Internet connection so I chatted. All night long I spent exchanging words with my daughter on the other side of the world. You see, that is something else I have learned quick; you could be told you will have service in two hours but here those two could easily turn into twenty four. Before the Internet was born, letters were the main mean of communication but, the net is here and especially now, I am declaring myself guilty. The worldwide web is one of those things I can't live without!

So here I am, watching the sun rising in the same way I saw it disappearing,ready for my morning walk, stopping to grab some morning, spicy Indian breakfast, and growing my patience with a smile while asking to the IT guy for the miracle of a working Internet connection. Hopefully, a busy morning would bring me back to bed to finally close my eyes and start all over again. So to this I just have to say, to be continued...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Air India 102

And there I was, where those 30.000 feet above the ground make the difference between being home or far from it. It had been a dream but it wasn't until taking off on flight 102 that it hit me. There was no turning back at that point. And then it started; the images of what it was left behind; the questions. There I was, listening to beautiful lyrics I couldn't understand, tasting a dessert not knowing what it was made of, and observing different faces and foreign accents. Some of them were happy to be back home, others were eager to explore a whole new world, and a few like me experiencing mixed feelings after deciding to become temporary Indian citizens.

Yes, this time it wasn't a three and a half hours journey like it was fourteen years ago. This is India...and the difference is dramatic the minute you set foot on this land. This sky splits in between a dirty gray and a "trying to survive" baby blue. People everywhere, overcrowded Gollu Coaches where, literally passengers sit on top of the ceiling. Traffic lights are unknown and everyone fights to occupy the dotted lines between two lanes so you see two lanes and three cars trying to make their way. Among all this apparent chaos, people look humble and their eyes transparent. Life seems to run smooth. From here, at the top of the Aravali Hills, a mountain range that runs all the way to the Arabian Sea, nature is in charge and it smells like honeysuckle and incense. However, when you open the gates, the real India awaits you with its curvy, unpaved narrow roads, farm lots waiting to be nurtured, women proudly walking with heavy bunches of hay on their heads, and sacred black and white cows claiming their domain. Electricity shuts down at least ten times a day. Inside the gates, we have a power plant. Outside in the real world, the common people, enjoy this luxury for only eight hours every day.

It has been just 48 hours. Silence has become loud, giving me the time to play with my thoughts and elaborate strategies. It has given me the chance to reflect on all the things we take for granted some times. Amazingly, with so little, the people here seem to be happy and maybe that's the secret we all have to learn; magic and happiness are everywhere. We just need to see it with eyes wide opened.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Thought


Liquid moment; everything flows, space turns clear, and there’s no other world but our world. Past, present, and future collapse but there is only the NOW. And then comes the realization; years go by, situations change, new people come and go, happiness embraces us. In the end, love never dies. It is there, stronger than the first time. It keeps sustaining us and giving us strength to live and fly. We have just learned how to live with it as we let it go and see it pass by.

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Adultery by Paulo Coelho

AdulteryAdultery by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great story by Paulo Coehlo. Real life down to earth characters struggling to find the meaning of life; a mirror of what we all go through day by day. The amazing story of Linda makes us ponder and question. What's life's ultimate purpose? What force moves us? What is it that we should all strive for?

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