Monday Miracles: Session Three

Every day, women are bombarded with the message that they aren’t enough for the world as they are.  Our hair isn’t straight enough or curly enough; our eyes aren’t the right color; our legs are too long or too short; we are too smart or not smart enough; we are too thin or aren’t thin enough.  The list goes on and on, and there are many markets that seize upon our insecurities and magnify them.  Now we should all know that one shouldn’t look at a magnified mirror too often lest we begin to think that our perceived imperfections become our reality.

Sadly, I know this pressure to be perfect all too well having grown up at an girl’s school where perfection was the golden standard by which we were all judged.  According to my classmates and teachers, and therefore to myself, I came up embarrassingly short on the list and I had a difficult time believing in my own beauty or worth through my geeky braces and glasses, despite having a strong, positive mom and grandmother around me.  The other cacophony of messages was simply louder than theirs.  It has taken me many years, and much struggle, to come to realize that while I am not perfect, I do not have any desire to be so.  Our imperfections and quirks are what make us individuals.  Why do we strive to be a cookie-cutter image of a magazine model, when it is merely a contrived image of a fake ideal?

Young women growing up today have many more challenges with their self-image than I ever did, as the internet all too often becomes a pathway to bullying and despair that they don’t “measure up”.  It seems apt to me, then, that today’s Monday Miracle organization  aims straight at the heart of these problems.  As a social action campaign, Miss Representation seeks to empower women of all ages, finding actions and steps we can all take to foster healthy body images and ideas of self-worth in young girls and women alike, as well as taking on sexism wherever it exists.  Inspired by a 15-year-old named Shea Backes, their current “Take 5 Campaign” asks us to bring a conscious eye to our daily routines with the number five in mind–can we reduce our makeup spending by $5?  Or spend five less minutes to get ready?  Or eliminate five products from your makeup routine?  The purpose of this challenge is to shift our focus away from habits that remind us to grasp at our perfect ideal.  As the women at Miss Representation wrote in the campaign announcement email, “When you consider how many other ways society seems bent on holding women back, it’s a shame that we spend so much of our time on outer beauty. What might be possible if we used that time to educate ourselves, help others or solve some of the world’s problems instead?”  We are all perfectly imperfect, and I for one, want to live my life loving my quirks instead of trying to be someone or something I’m not.  It certainly feels better to put my time into actions that make positive changes instead of trying to perfect the color on my eyelids.

This challenge very much made me think about my daily habits and how I could add some more positivity to my life.  As I don’t wear makeup (I steal my mom’s mascara when I absolutely want to wear some!), I can’t spend less money on products or less time on getting ready or reduce the number of products I use.  Instead, I’ve chosen to take five minutes a day to meditate on some good old love of self.  Mind you, not the selfish, unaware of others kind of attention, but instead practicing some more thoughts of self-worth.  Starting a company such as Sustainable Shanti is inevitably exhilarating and simultaneously stressful: taking five minutes in my day to ground myself will not only benefit me, but also ultimately the company’s future.

So tell me, will you take Miss Representation’s challenge?  And if you decide to join us change-makers, what habit will you transform by the number five?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

As always…be well, do good, and spread the love!

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Monday Miracles: Session Two

Yes, I am aware that it is nearly Tuesday and I am therefore rather late in writing my Monday Miracle post.  This Wednesday, I will be one of the fortunate people to be in the presence of his Holiness, the Dalai Lama.  (If you would like to watch a simulcast of the lecture, you can find more information here.)

His Holiness is world-renown for his dedication to his people and to spreading his message of love and peace, despite his lifelong persecution by the Chinese Government.  His determination has always given me hope: hope that there are people who believe in change as I do and will continue to believe in it, and hope that I, too, have reserves of strength to persevere through the difficulties I face in my own life.

In a world which says “No, you can’t”, or “No, we can’t”, the Dalai Lama tells us to treat everyone and everything with continued compassion.

Be kind whenever possible…It is always possible.

His Holiness is one of the few prominent religious leaders who preaches this kindness with such consistency, irregardless of religion, race or personal creed.  He believes that not only should we show compassion towards each other, we also must treat the earth with love because it is our home and sustainability is our only option for survival.

These pillars of his message move me more than most because they transcend the condescension often found in religious teachings.  One does not have to follow His way to be “right” or “good” or “saved”.  There are many paths in his Holiness’ view.   He is rather forward about his thoughts on religion and the part it should play in our modern world.  Take for example, his idea of science and Buddhism:

My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

Now, I grew up in a religious family where science was well-respected.  But never did my grandfather, who is very reasonable, intellectual pastor, discuss the possibility of his religion changing because of science.

I’m going to keep this Monday Miracle post short this week and I hope that if you are unfamiliar with the Dalai Lama, you will seek out his teachings.  And never forget how powerful your words and actions can be to another human being: they matter.

Be well, do good and spread the love.

Monday Miracles: Session One

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Each day we are bombarded with what major media calls “the news”.  It’s almost always depressing or sensational, leaving many of us to feel despondent and isolated from solutions to seemingly enormous problems, or so I believe.  In light of this onslaught of bad news, I’m officially beginning a new weekly series which I like to call Monday Miracles.

In this world of doom and gloom about the environment, we need to remember that there are people who are working to change the situation, finding creative solutions to the problems we all face.  I’ll start this first Monday with a program with which I have been involved over a number of years.

Based in an often-neglected section of the Bronx known as Hunt’s Point, Rocking the Boat “empowers young people challenged by severe economic, educational, and social conditions to develop the self-confidence to set ambitious goals and gain the skills necessary to achieve them. Students work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways, revitalizing their community while creating better lives for themselves.”

Kids don’t just build boats

at Rocking the Boat, boats build kids.

Photo Credit: Joaquin Cotten

Photo Credit: Joaquin Cotten, Art Director, Rocking the Boat

Adam Green never thought that he would end up running a non-profit.  He just wanted to build a boat, so he got a group of students together at the public junior high school in East Harlem, New York City where he was volunteering and they built a basic plywood skiff.  They launched their boat in the school’s pool because there was no where else to go.  Fast forward to today, and RtB serves over 3,000 students a year through their programs.  Quite incredible, right?  They’re involved in environmental stewardship and conservation on the Bronx River, as well as being responsible for keeping their students off the streets and out of trouble.  Honestly, though, my words pale in comparison to Daniel Martinez Patino’s:

Since then, I’ve become more outgoing. I feel like I’ve grown. I take things a bit more seriously and I look forward to accomplishing a goal. I see the beauty in nature, now more than ever, and I see the art in boatbuilding and woodworking. The best part is all the skills I’ve mastered. My favorite memory is getting into the very first kayak and canoeing down the Bronx River, awesome.

They are an incredible bunch of people who are dedicated to changing the problems in the neighborhood by teaching students to be conscious of the environment, of their neighborhood and of the impact they have on both.  Their voices matter.  Their actions have potency.  I encourage you to check out the program (and donate to it!), as they are helping to train the leaders of tomorrow and I, for one, think they should be applauded, over and over and over again.

Photo Credit: Joaquin Cotten, Art Director, Rocking the Boat