Independence From What

For thousands of years people have fought to be free from others. I learned that first I have to be free from my mind. My mind was a chatterbox and I believed everything it said. It mostly said to follow unwritten rules and concepts that were probably used by my ancestors or by others around me. Some of those concepts included: “You have to blindly obey;” “you don’t have enough;” “you are not worth much,” and “you are not capable.”

Once I realized that I was accepting these behavior patterns, I was able to make the decision to become free of them. It’s not an easy process, but one worth pursuing. It requires that you become an objective evaluator.

One benefit from this for me was improved relationships. I did not need to be controlled anymore because I didn’t believe anymore that others had to tell me what to do. I was and am capable to be, to do, and to make decisions for my well being. So, I learned to say, “No.” I learned to weigh my choices. And I was also able to evaluate relationships in order to ask for dynamics to change if necessary.

If your life is not yielding the results you would like, the problem may be stemming from a paradigm that is no longer serving you. Freedom is a wonderful thing!

Happy Independence Day!

Feeling Successful?

A person who feels successful has three characteristics. First and foremost, they do what gives them a state of wellbeing and joy. At the same time, they also give regularly of their time, talent and treasure, and finally, they love who they become in the process. Success is not just being promoted to CEO, getting a degree, getting married, or getting a job. That is just part of the process.

The first two go hand in hand because if we do not take care of ourselves first (i.e. Putting our oxygen mask in an airplane), we cannot take care or give our best to others. I remember being drained of energy, and always tired, when giving my all to serve in all the possible committees at church and the school where I worked, I ended up sick because I did not make time to pamper myself, and didn’t do the things that were good for my mental, physical, and emotional health. I now meditate daily, walk, eat as healthy as possible, and take time for me when needed by going to the spa, going on mini or long vacations, going to retreats or just being.

Giving, is an extension of being, is a satisfying activity that actually has many benefits. Just the act of giving with a generous, loving intention is more than enough. However, in the process of giving great things happen. You develop a sense of purpose, and a sense of wellbeing. According to Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Stephen G. Post, giving helps with stress and depression among other ailments. He also says that when people give to charities that have meaning to them, a region in the brain associated with pleasure and trust, create a “warm glow” effect – that fuzzy feeling. I talk about giving of your time, talent and treasure because it is a basic component in the ancient philosophies and then adopted by religions as well. People who understand the law of giving and receiving know that giving in these three areas results in amazing returns unimaginable to them.

People who feel successful do not just achieve a goal and say, “I have arrived!” They achieve a goal, celebrate, and continue growing and serving. When we decide to rest on our laurels after obtaining a goal, paradigms, old fears, and bad habits may creep up and keep us down. It does not mean that we shouldn’t take breaks or vacations, those are essential. It just means that Our dream must be bigger than a goal, for our lives to be meaningful. So, people who feel successful love who they are becoming in the process of life.

Clear Days Ahead!

A few days ago, I woke up and felt a bit lazy. For some reason, I didn’t feel like going to my morning appointments. I listened to my body for a bit, but then, I knew I had to get going. I drove on the expressway and got off on a 6-lane road with a small median. I was driving on the far right. I had the sidewalk to my right, and there was traffic to my left and behind me. Suddenly, in front of me, I see a huge brown pick-up truck facing me and speeding my way. The windows were dark, and I couldn’t see inside. I heard sirens and then saw police cars on the other side of the median. I looked around for my options.  For a moment, I couldn’t see any, and the truck was getting closer. Then, as I looked in my left mirror, there was a break in the traffic, and I escaped. Later, I heard in the news that the truck had been stolen, and that he had crashed nearby. A few years ago, my body would have been paralyzed and my brain in a fog in this situation. You see, my mind is not in charge now, I am. I was shaken a bit afterwards, but I was not afraid during the event. Fear comes from negative thoughts, and I choose not to have those controlling me anymore. I have been working for a while to maintain a clear mind.

Preventing brain fog takes more than just changing my negative thoughts to positive ones, though. I have taken the time to observe my actions and my emotions to see how they affect my thinking. I have come to realize that many of my habits either make my mind foggy or clear. The main one is what I eat. If I eat too much, or too little without my daily water intake, my brain does not work well. However, if I eat healthy balanced meals (in my case vegan) in good proportions, I don’t get sleepy afterwards. And if I fast on just fruits, raw vegetables and juices appropriate for my metabolism for appropriate bowel movements, that’s heaven for my head. Fasting one day a week is a good habit to have, but if you need more than that, it’s good to have a health practitioner guide you with your choices.

Along with food, being mindful makes a big difference. It’s easy to accept stress and allow it to take over our minds.  So, we must find a way to decompress by taking breaks, walking in nature, listening to soothing music, using essential oils, doing asanas and meditating.

Here are some specific recommendations:

  • Taking vitamin B-12 if you are deficient
  • Doing the cat/cow pose
  • Doing intermittent fasting (on fruits/vegetables, or just juices)
  • Using rosemary essential oil
  • Meditating with a personal mantra daily
  • Drinking more water than you think you should be drinking
  • keeping worry and fear out of your head by changing your thoughts

Clear days ahead!

Be well!

Who’s Driving Your Train?

Most of us believe that we are in charge of our life, but are we? When we are born, we already come with a predisposition to act in specific ways. I know that my siblings did not react the same way I did to the world. So, where do those patterns of behavior come from? Most of us know that our genetic imprint, or DNA carries the genes that encode the skin, and the eyes, and that mutations in them cause diseases. We now know that they also carry our ancestral and cultural imprints. So, our behaviors may come from a great, great grandparent. We can already see the resemblance in our physical body, why not in the other areas? Studies of children who are adopted have also shown the deep cultural imprints that may be dominant in someone’s life. That is not all, those who believe in reincarnation say that it is possible that we have been carrying our behaviors for several lifetimes. Why do we keep carrying these behaviors?

Early on, there is a part of us that develops and finds its place in our life, that’s the ego. It takes shape as we see ourselves separate from our parents. The ego is our self-image. One of the favorite pastimes of the ego is to drive the train, and the train is your life. Its other pastime is to make you submit to the behavior patterns you have been carrying, because if you stay the same and do not change, you do not have to take risks and get hurt. The ego is constantly protecting you with the use of arrogance, so others don’t see the real you, or by requiring constant approval from others. Your behavior patterns could include always having drama, being accident prone, being constantly, or constantly pleasing others like in my case. The ego makes sure that you continue faithful to your pattern because at some time in the past you accepted it as part of your belief system. The funny thing is that nobody is imposing this on you, you are. If the behavior no longer serves you, you do not have to keep it. It’s time to shake up our belief system to let go of what is no longer useful.

If our life is the train, the track is our behavior pattern, and the conductor, the ego, is driving, then, where am I? In the back of the train? Oh, no! It’s time to have a talk with the conductor. He needs to give-up his seat. How do we go about doing this? The first thing is to start observing ourselves using “the bird’s eye view.” As we separate ourselves from situations and relationships and look down on ourselves, we can see how we are acting and reacting; what behaviors are being repeated, and what behaviors are serving us. The next thing is to stop wanting to control everything; stop wanting to get approval for everything; stop inventing rules to stay in our comfort zone, or stop wanting to please everybody. Finally, we need to make some decisions. We need to decide that we are not the role we are playing. I can be a teacher at this time, later I can be a learner, then I can be a mother, or a helper. We can play the role and comeback to just being. We also must decide to give ourselves permission to be free to change our mind when necessary and allow ourselves to take risks that give us life.

Personal evolution happens when we go beyond our egos.

Be well!

Face to Face with Death

Do you know how you feel about death? Are you ready for the death of a loved one especially if they are old or sick? Do you think about the fact that you could die at any moment? How would you live your life if you had conversations with yourself about death?

My idea of what death is has changed over the years. I believe that the idea culture puts in our heads about what death is, and our experience with it, determines how we feel about it.

According to the dictionary, death is “The cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism.” Most of us on this side of the world see death as the end of a person. Some may accept a little mystery beyond the body but refuse to discuss it. So, loved ones may go through feelings of sadness, anger and loneliness for years. There are cultures that have a different idea of death. They see the essence that makes the body be alive separate from the physical body (a vehicle). That essence continues evolving in a different dimension. Just having a different relationship with death, allows them to be less attached and less selfish, for it is everybody’s purpose to evolve. Not only that, there is an understanding that we are all part of the same essence, so we are always connected.

My experiences with death started young where I observed others and learned how you should behave: One must feel very sad, pray, go to church, not talk about it, and avoid people. It wasn’t until I started meditating that I thought that there could be another way I could approach it. It wasn’t until my uncle’s death that I saw it as a beautiful part of the journey. He was ready to go, so, our conversations took us to his “dreams” of when he slept deeply, how he saw life, and what he had learned. He also talked about where he thought he was going. It was an opportunity for me to be present for him, and it was beautiful.

My grandmother, on my father’s side made her transition a few days ago. We had been told that she was on her last days the day before. So, that day, I dropped off my parents at the airport around 4:00 am to go see her. I went back home to take a nap. I had an interesting dream in which I went through a stressful experience followed by floating down to a most beautiful forest; it was really peaceful! My sister and I decided that it was about me coming home to myself and feeling good about it; however, I think that that feeling prepared me for the news I received a couple of hours after the nap. I could only feel love after my grandmother’s parting; I was not sad. I knew that she was ready to go. She was entering her 101th year. She had lived a full life. I know in my heart that her essence is moving on and evolving. All is well! It is my idea of death that gives me a feeling of peace and love.

What could we gain from changing the idea we have about death? If we come face to face with the realization that at any time, our parents, siblings, partners, children, best friend, or even we can physically stop living, then we would have more meaningful relationships, and we would take care of each other and ourselves more. If we are not afraid of the natural process of someone leaving their body, we can be really present when someone makes their transition. If we are not afraid, we can think about what if my departure date was tomorrow. Would I be ready? Is my conscious clear? Are my relationships at peace? Are my finances in order? Am I leaving many problems for my family?

We would probably lead a completely different life. Wouldn’t we? Maybe you remember the song, “Live Like You Were Dying”? So, let’s take risks that move us forward and give us joy, let’s love deeper, speak sweeter, forgive always, and live as if tomorrow was a gift.

Be well!

Love, Attachment, or Both

You have probably heard that love is good, and attachment is bad. I don’t think that things are black or white -everything is relative. There are degrees of attachment and misunderstandings in love. My initial thought when I hear of attachment is my psychology class in college that explained how children made an attachment with the food, and then with the source of the food, the mother. They did experiments where they removed the monkeys from their mother when they were young. They also did studies with abandoned children. Even though a surrogate mother was provided, the monkeys developed harmful behaviors relating to themselves and others including their own offspring. Something similar happened to children. So, there is a deep connection that we build. Experts also say that attachments should evolve. If we have an initial healthy attachment, where there is a balance with the time and quality of time spent together, when school comes around for example, the child should be a little uncomfortable leaving his parent but should settle into an appropriate school setting without much problem. This in turn forms the basis for healthy relationships with friends, partners at work, and romantic relationships. Unhealthy attachments may be a byproduct of fear, such as fear of being alone, of not being loved, of not having enough to survive, of not being accepted, or of not being enough to yourself. A fear that comes from traumas that have not been healed.

An attachment is something that is not part of you. It should be something temporary, but you make it a part of you through your emotions because you don’t want things to change. According to Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., the level of your attachment depends on how you answer the question, “Are you using knowledge or is knowledge using you?” It reminds me of the yogi’s quest to gain control of her mind through the practice of meditation in order to see the options and have some control in the decision process.  He says that there are five levels of attachment and compares us with a flower. The flower is completely open (Authentic Self) as we realize that we are a living being regardless of what we think or believe about ourselves. The second level is Preference where we use knowledge as a tool for transformation, so we can attach or detach as needed; the flower opens and closes slightly.  The third level is Identity, where I can identify myself as a vegan, yogi, or teacher, for example. The flower is not fully open; however, it still connects with others. Knowledge is beginning to have some control. The flower closes-up some more in Internalization where we allow learned patterns of behavior, and previous knowledge to control us. We no longer live the present moment. We are attached to the past. At the last level, Fanaticism, we believe that only by following those rules or past learned behaviors can we truly be. By reflecting on where we are at a specific time in our life, or a specific moment in a situation, we can decide if an attachment is harmful or not. Ask who is incontrol.

As I am writing this, I am visualizing a game of tug-of-war between unconditional love and the Fanaticism form of attachment as we go through the learning curve of relationships. Sometimes it’s so difficult to be present without allowing our prejudgments of ourselves or others to take control. It happens to me when I feel overpowered by others and old patterns of behavior surface. I look down and respond the way the other wants me to respond. I am glad I don’t stay in those situations for years as I previously did. It takes me a couple of minutes after an incident to realize what has happened. Little by little I am learning to avoid them.

Now, what about love or the misuse of the word love? The problem may be in our lack of communication. We may not be specific enough in what we want in a relationship. So, the people involved come with different interests. Some say that in English we don’t have enough vocabulary to express it, and that we may have too many expectations of one relationship. For this I turned to the Greek, for they have so many words for love. The ancient Greek used the word eros to describe a romantic, sexual relationship. Some saw it as dangerous because it could get out of hand. In the yoga philosophy, as I understand, this energy is the energy of creation, a powerful energy, not to be taken lightly. Philia relates to brotherly love, loyalty to friends, and sharing. Storge is the connection between parent and child, and last but not least, is agape or unconditional love. Some say that Ludus which is playful affection may be part of the list. It is possible that we want all of these or several of them to be provided by one person, instead, the Greek tell us to nurture the different types of relationships with different people.

Not only our expectations of a specific relationship could drive us apart, but also our lack of love of self. According to Aristotle, all friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s love for himself. So, this brings as back to attachment. How we have dealt with attachment to others, to things, or to our feelings in our past will determine how we will relate to others in the future. So, ask yourself, are you using knowledge or is knowledge using you?

Be well!

Decisions, Decisions

Every moment of every day, unless we are asleep, we have decisions to make. Should I get up now or in five minutes, should I have fruit or eggs for breakfast, should I take the day off, should I start this project, should I exercise, should I call a friend, should I cut somebody off on the road because they are going to slow… Everything is a decision. All these decisions affect our life now and in the future. What kind of future do we want? Are we equipped to make all these decisions and be content with what we have done with ourselves in a year, in five, or in ten?

I have come to realize that decision-making is an art, and only through continuous observation of ourselves, and love for ourselves and others, can we be satisfied with what we have decided and have become.

Observing yourself and getting to know yourself requires inner work. You need to understand why you behave the way you do, and why you like the things you do. For a while, I worked with a bioneuroemotion coach who helped me see those patterns of behavior that were part of my culture, and my ancestors that didn’t serve me. Beyond that, I learned that there are unresolved traumas or events in my past that blocked or filtered my thoughts. The only way to heal so deeply, for me was and still is, meditation. I have used different types of meditation in my healing process. Just being quiet and still is a great beginning. I have used kundalini meditations, voicing mantras, or using a personal mantra given by my guruji. The latter is a technique that helps in clearing the mind by decreasing the number of thoughts and increasing the quality of the thought. Your thoughts and decision process become more productive.

Observation of your actions and reactions to others and situations is also very helpful. You need to become a third person as if you were a bird overlooking your interactions in different situations. This observation must be objective. You are not here to judge, but to learn why you act the way you do. This will help you decide what you want to be, and what you can and cannot live with in any particular situation and in your life. The process of observing yourself is never ending because we change, and that is good.

As I observed myself, I realized that there were parts of me I didn’t like so much, and some that I could not change right away or maybe not in this life. I learned that if I didn’t come to terms with that and accept myself just the way I was, I could never be free to be me and to accomplish my goals. So, I began to love myself no matter what-No matter what I looked-like, no matter what my past was like, no matter what things I was not good at doing, no matter what! I stopped trying to measure up to anybody’s expectations including mine. Loving others and accepting others was not as much of a problem for me, but this part is also essential in making decisions because our goal should be to “Do no harm.” We are all connected, and our decisions affect those around us. And the results of those decisions come back to us.

Now that all this is in place, making decisions is a matter of keeping some things in mind and practicing. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you make decisions.

  1. Does this option reflect a love of self, others and nature?  Yes
  2. Am I attached to the outcome? Do I have a specific expectation for the result? No
  3. Have I visualized the positive feeling I and others will have as a result of this decision? Yes
  4. Does it serve the purpose that it was intended for? Yes
  5. Do I see myself answering questions 1-4 the same in 6 months or in 1-10 years? Yes

I am a student of life sharing my lessons. Please use what I share after running it through the filter of your mind and your heart together.

Be well!

A Reflection On Longevity

Our personal evolution is dependent on the health and strength of our physical body, so I did a little research on the secrets of longevity and one day I realized I had all the facts right in front of my face.

If you are a Latin Catholic, you know about Novenas. It’s a celebration of the Great Guru, Jesus.  We grew up Catholic and that tradition stayed with us even though many of us moved on from Catholicism.  On that day, I observed my 95 year-old Grandma (now 100), actually a great-grandma to 16 children, as she prepared for the first day of the Novena (9 day prayer).

Sometimes before sunrise, Abuela got up to the bathroom after taking a sip from a huge glass of water. She keeps a glass handy all day long. Abuela came back to bed. Now she finds her son bringing her orange juice, and her daughter, who comes every Christmas to visit from Colombia, ready to start their morning chitchat. They discuss the family issues, the country and world politics and more. Not only in the early morning but also during breakfast, and at any time, she is invited to give her opinion and participate in family conversations. 

The morning cannot proceed without taking care of her body. She took a shower, got dressed, did her hair, and put on lotion and make-up. I have offered to help her in the past with her hair when she looks tired, but she says “One can’t be lazy. It needs to get done!” Not too long after that, she is off doing exercises and walking back and forth on the balcony. Several weeks ago, Abuela injured her knee, and she was given a brace. A wheel chair was also brought in which she refused to use. A walker was then brought in which she used a couple of times. A few days later, she was seen in the living room without it and asked why she was not using it.  Her only response was “Oh, I forgot.” (We don’t believe her.) 

The most important part of Abuela’s day is prayer time. Her candles are lit.  She sits on her chair and she begins.  She tells me that she prays for each and every one of her children, but especially for those needing the most help at the moment.  She also says that she has so much to be thankful for: She has lived so much and most of her friends with whom she met every Thursday and Friday for card games or “costureros” (sewing circle a.k.a. gossip circle) have all passed on, but she has so much family that love her and a place to live. She says that she is ready to go, but that she is fine now.

A bit before lunch, she comes into the kitchen to make the rice.  She loves the taste of rice as soon as it is ready. She also comes to check how lunch is coming along because you know it has to be served before one. Abuela has a varied diet and her portions have always been moderate; now a bit smaller than before. 

I can’t talk about Abuela without talking about her sense of humor. She sure has spark.  A day does not go by that she does not make us laugh. She laughs at herself and she makes fun of us. Nothing mean; her view is just refreshing to all those that surround her. Today, she was making fun of my father’s designs for a new product. She tells it like it is!

Since visitors (her grand-children and great grandchildren), are soon to arrive, she checks with my uncle who always takes care of the decorations. “Are you sure this will hold-up with the wind?” “Do you think this is necessary?” “Mijito, this looks beautiful!” Then she goes to the kitchen, “What will the children drink? Is there something for the vegetarians?” Then, she walks toward her room: “I have to go get ready.” A little later, you see her in the living room: “I am done preparing.  It’s time to sit. The tip will be $5.00” She says playfully. 

 Now the family has gathered filling up the living room with chitchat and laughter. As the time for the reading of the Novena approaches, Abuela takes the Novena and her glasses, and she sits a few feet from the nativity set mumbling that she was forced to read. I take a hold of the Novena and tell her that she does not have to do anything she does not want to do. She ignores me and proceeds to try on her glasses to read, and she says, “I don’t need these.”  She puts the glasses on the table. As she begins to read, the room grows silent. She has not read a Novena since I was a little girl. Her grandchildren have never heard her read. She fluently and with emotion leads us into prayer. Wow! She does it better than any of us. We all watch in awe. Most of us wear glasses including the grandchildren. Many of us have aches and pains that impede some movement.  Many of us have some pounds we could get rid of.  However, we are thankful to have Abuela as our model.

Here are the lessons on longevity learned from our grandmother:

(1)  Stay hydrated

(2)  Stay connected to those you love and support you

(3)  Keep moving

(4)  Have a spiritual practice that connects you to All There Is

(5)  Be Thankful

(6)  Have a moderate, healthy diet

(7)  Laugh at life and yourself


#Metoo is a synonym to fear beyond what most people think.

When looking at the early days according to history books, women were needed for breeding and rearing children. The family needed workers to maintain the land or to continue the father’s trade. It was a matter of survival. The man, who needed strong and healthy workers, would choose a woman, just like a breeder chooses a mare to be crossed with a precious stallion, to perpetuate the beauty, strength, and stamina carried in the genes.

In our DNA we carry our biological genes; however, we also carry our accepted believes coming from our ancestors. So, many men today come with a desperate need to propagate their genes and to continue the line. Carrying the family name and the desired respect from society is still a real need for many fathers today. So, men are, in a sense, afraid that they will not be man enough. Fear brings about irrational behaviors. That’s why chastity belts, burkas, hijabs, abayas, niqabs, and laws limiting women have existed or still exist today in some parts of the world. That is why in some societies punishment to women who do not want to have sex is still accepted.

Women, on the other hand, also bring with them not only their biological DNA from their ancestors, but their accepted belief-system from an oppressed culture. If you are born in one of those countries which accepts those ways of thinking, it is probably very difficult to rebel against them. There have been examples of women leaders who have fought for their right to be allowed in temples when they are of menstruating age because they are believed to be impure as the law states. There are women who also fight for their right to be educated in schools, or for the right to be treated with dignity if their husband dies. These women are breaking their bonds with the beliefs of their ancestors because times have changed. Societies do not require women just for breeding workers, or to be shown off as an ornament.

In a culture like the United States, it should be clearer that the role of women has evolved. I believe sometimes we go overboard with the feminist view in search for a way out of men’s control. Sometimes the pendulum must swing all the way to come back to the center. The old belief systems no longer serve us, but it is hard to get rid of them. Many men continue to have the belief that if they do not have sex they will not live upto the expectation of themselves or society. Women’s fear and accepted belief-system also puts them at risk of being overpowered because if they believe that they are not more than property, and allow fear to have the upper hand, they will attract and accept this type of behavior even when they have the option to say “no.” In many occasions, we have the choice to speak-up, quit, or run, but we do not see the option because it is clouded by our belief that we can’t. 

I invite you to revisit your belief-system. Reinvent yourself!

The Magic of Gratitude

Little Girl Laying on Grass

A 12-year-old girl and I were reading a passage about a major earthquake that happened in California a while back, and how Japanese students came to show their support to the victims. I asked her what the victims could do to thank them, and she said just say “thank you” because they don’t have anything to give. This answer is not right or wrong, but incomplete. There is magic in the word “thank you” when offered sincerely, there is no doubt about that. The word affirms what is good in your life, and it shows respect for others.

However, I believe that gratitude goes beyond saying, “thank you.” Gratitude is a sincere feeling which recognizes the value of the act of giving, and the abundance available to us all the time. Waking up and being in a state of gratitude during the day as much as possible allows you to see the goodness surrounding your life, and there is always goodness. You may have at least four senses functioning, you may have a bed to sleep on, you may have a body that supports you and takes you places, you may be able to see the sky and its magnificence, you may picture your family and friends and be grateful for them, or you may get caught in traffic and say, “the universe must be protecting me or teaching me something.” I don’t know if you remember some of the people that did not die on 9/11 but could have been working at that moment. One was getting donuts, one overslept, one went to get a haircut, one missed the train, and another one had to switch to a later flight. You never know, until you look back, that what you are going through is exactly what you should be going through.

An attitude of gratitude strengthens relationships, improves your health, helps you attract more of the same, invites others to say thank you, and keeps you in the present moment. The benefits of continuous gratitude are endless. If you need help being in a state of gratitude, here are some tips. First, have a reminder on your night table to say thank you for your day in advance. Second, keep a jar where you place pieces of paper with all the good things you are thankful for each day to be read at the end of the year. Finally, every time something “bad” happens, wonder how the universe is rearranging your world to protect you or to improve your life and move you forward. That’s it! All you need to do is to start being thankful.

So, we go back to why I believe the girl’s answer is incomplete. When we are sincerely grateful, the feeling comes from deep inside of us, and one word sometimes is not enough to express it. The earthquake victims actually wrote a letter to them, and also gave hugs, even though it’s not the custom in Japan, they understood. In our case, we can teach our children to be grateful, draw pictures for others, offer a big smile,  write a poem, give flowers, bake cookies, or do something else that would require our time to make. Gratitude is a magical state of being.

Be well!