What if we could create and change our lives by the use of our thought?  Attain cars, success, and happiness with a few affirmations and the use of our imagination?  I’m sure this New Age philosophy sounds familiar.  Well, after reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes, I wasn’t convinced that this is all it took to attain the things you want in your life.  Though it sounds fun to view life as a “catalogue” where you can pick and choose what you want and trust the law of attraction to bring it to you, is that what happiness is really about?  In the book it says that this philosophy is the key to health, relationship, prosperity, and true happiness.  Sounds fun, exciting, and simple enough.  But as I really began to divulge the book and examine closely to what it was saying, it seemed to be very problematic.  There’s a chapter on money, wealth, relationships, etc.  The book tries to show the reader how to attain materialistic happiness, but is that what human happiness is all about?

In the spirit of my blog, I tried to dig a little deeper and came across Louise L. Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.  I bought it off www.half.com nearly a week ago.  It only cost me a $1.00 with a few extra bucks for shipping and handling.  I opened the packaging and the book looked like it had been through a rough journey.  The edges were tattered and there were quite a number of price tag stickers on the front cover, each one getting cheaper as the dates became more recent.  The cover has a giant heart with the colors of the rainbow filling the inside. 

As I began to read, I couldn’t put down the book and I finished the 200 pager within a few hours.  It was actually funny because, I went to the gym and people read the title You Can Heal Your Life and responded in a variety of ways.  This one older white guy laughed and shook his head.  When I headed over to the bikes to keep reading, this older lady placed her hand on my shoulder and said “Hun, you okay?”   A little intrusive and humorous, but altogether it didn’t bother me.  I just kept reading.

The book opens up with discussing “What is the Problem?”  Louise Hayes believes that it is safe to look within ourselves.  When we focus on our exterior problems (my body doesn’t work, my relationships are dysfunctional, and my finances are low) they only seem to accumulate, grow and even lead to other problems.  Though The Secret says that we can simply close our eyes and imagine what we want in order to make it ours, if we don’t believe we deserve it then things won’t be blessed upon us.

Hayes says that the root of the problem is when people do not love themselves.  Not a narcissistic love, because that sort of vanity is rooted in fear, but she is talking about a deep respect for oneself.  A sense of confidence and pride in who we are and our place in the world.  An example she uses is being overweight.  I choose this example because being a female college student with many female friends, this is always seems to be a key concern.  Hayes says that we waste a lot of energy trying to correct this problem, but it really isn’t a big problem.  She says, “To spend our time berating ourselves for being too heavy, to feel guilty for every bite we eat, to do all the numbers we do on ourselves when we gain weight, are just wastes of time.  Twenty years later we can still be in the same situation and still not even begun to deal with the real problem” (27).  She suggests that instead of focusing on excess weights or diets, we go on a mental diet that helps us to eliminate our negative thoughts.  When we don’t love ourselves and are the constant subject of criticism, she says that this absence of love is what causes the excess weight to begin with.  She adds it’s amazing to see how quickly weight sheds off when we improve our self-esteem.

Not only does she go through individual problems that people consistently complain about, but she also helps the reader figure out where those problems are rooted in.  Examples include security, fear, resentment, and anger, which in turn affect our stability and comfort. 

We are constantly being told through society, parents, religion, and all other dominant institutions how we must behave and act.  Many of the time we buy into these beliefs like “Boys don’t cry” or “Don’t go out at night” or “Don’t trust strangers” or “Money doesn’t grow on trees”.  These messages instill insecurity and limit our thoughts of what possibility the world holds for us. When one believes these things they tend to become true and they in turn shape their lives.  Hayes goes over the steps of deciding to change, how to change, and building the new.  She guides you along the way with mental exercises that helps us to fight the resistance to change, let go of resentment and fear, and changing our consciousness.  Similar to The Secret, she does say that when we feel like we deserve good things, we don’t feel guilty asking for them, believing we are worthy of it, and accepting it willingly.  She also guides the reader with a number of affirmations that help people make the changes that they want to see in their lives.

Whether or not you believe in New Age philosophy, reading the book helped me identify many of the messages that I grew up hearing, and I was able to see how they have affected me in my life.  Everything comes from somewhere… whether it’s a bad temper or phenomenal sense of humor; we have learned it somewhere in our lives. 

We live in a society that teaches us that something is always wrong with us.  You have to look like this or act like that.  We are never taught to just be happy with who we are.  We are always expected to change parts of ourselves to fit into a preset mold.  Is that what the reaction of the people in the gym represents?  How about the fact the book was marked down to $1?  We are in fact taught that it isn’t safe to look within ourselves and all the bad that comes our way is what we deserve.  When we do get in touch with what the key problems are they usually are something we are able to change.  We can turn our lives around and make things better for us.  Read the book; Peace be with you.

1.  Remind yourself of the all the things you love about yourself.  The things that make you feel special, confident, and that you wouldn’t change for the world. Maybe you have that award-winning smile?  A fierce strut?  You’re a good and loyal friend? Whatever it is, embrace it and work it!

2. Set goals and meet them.  Usually when my path gets blurry and I lose direction, those insecurities resurface.  By setting goals you find a sense of purpose and by meeting them you feel an even stronger sense of achievement.  They don’t have to be huge. I’ll set a tiny goal like finishing a book I’ve started, facing a minor fear, getting my homework done, reconnecting with an old friend or others people that bring out the best in you.  You’ll be suprised at how great and fulfilled you will feel.

3.  Work out!  After starting this blog, I promised myself that I am not going to just dish out modes for inspiration, but actually follow through with them myself.  I talked about Yoga, which I did give a try.  But after blogging about exercising I rejoining my old gym in February and have been working out daily.  Even if its as little as 30 minutes a day.  It has improved my mood, made me eat better, and has been very therapuetic.  I have turned to running, biking, pilates, and weight training.  This has definitely re-inspired me to take better care of myself both mentally and physically.  Plus, I fit into my favorite old pair of jeans! :]

4. Don’t stress about tiny things, no matter how big of a deal they seem to you.  Try to put them into a larger perspective.  I would always feel insecure about not fitting in or being too different.  Whether it be my political beliefs, big hair, or mixed race.  Tell yourself who cares! or so what!  Too many times I have sat and replayed a sitaution that I wish had gone differently.  Stop and shout WHO CARES! (You can also apply my blog about “laughter” to help you find the humor in things.)

5.  Most importantly, I want to resonate with the theme of my blog which is getting to the root of things and not just focusing on things at a surface level.  With that said, one of the most important things that has helped me with insecurities is an awareness of why I feel this way in the first place.  When I really began to examine my life feelings of rejection, fear, and judgement begin to resurface.  Things I have been told about myself, that I had bought into, and images around me that made me feel devalued and unimportant.   Figure out what is triggering your sense of insecurity and use that place as a starting point.

Feel free to comment with your own mechanisms of dealing with insecurities!

RealityCheck22 (12:12:11 PM): Millennium studios is a really fun place. I took dance classes there when I was a kid. What was the inspiration behind your recent “day in the life of a dancer” post?

PowerIsTPM (12:13:56 PM): I have a lot of friends who are dancers. They try to explain to me the feeling that they get when they dance. I really feel like those forms of creative outlets are what remind people why life is so important and beautiful. Kind of like the way I feel when I read or write or am around good company. I’m not a professional dancer and I just thought it would be a fun space to explore

RealityCheck22 (12:15:22 PM): Definitely. That studio especially. It’s full of very passionate people who use their body in really amazing ways: a true art form.

PowerIsTPM (12:15:34 PM): Do you still dance?

RealityCheck22 (12:15:53 PM): Not like I use to, but I do love to dance. For fun.

PowerIsTPM (12:16:11 PM): What form of dance did you use to practice?

RealityCheck22 (12:16:37 PM): In my family dance is an important part of family gatherings. Middle eastern belly dancing and things like that.  I used to do ballet and hip hop

PowerIsTPM (12:17:18 PM): Very cool. Yeah, Ethiopians are all about the dancing and Koreans are all about the singing.

RealityCheck22 (12:18:01 PM): haha, yeah, the ethnic vibe is full of beautiful dances, songs, and really interesting food….which brings me to your post about fatty foods loved that post!

PowerIsTPM (12:18:37 PM): Yeah! Made me feel so much better about my crazy cravings.  I feel like people, especially women, think that there is something wrong with them when they sit around and think about food. It could be something emotional, maybe stress… But we never think about what it is that we are craving and eating…

RealityCheck22 (12:19:29 PM): I’ve seen that too.  Many overweight people talk about “food addiction” and never get help for it because people feel it isn’t a real issue.  I think they actually have a group, kind of like AA, called Over-eaters Anonymous (OA)

PowerIsTPM (12:20:47 PM): Yeah, I actually have a friend that is in that program. She really likes it and it has helped her a lot.

RealityCheck22 (12:21:13 PM): wow, interesting. has it helped them to understand their eating habits better? get a little healthier?

PowerIsTPM (12:21:37 PM): She definitely tries to recognize why she chooses to eat when she does.  The program helps her dig a little deeper and understand why she has an addiction to food.

RealityCheck22 (12:22:27 PM): I mean the weight loss community is a multi-billion dollar business in this country. It’s like they want to keep people in a cycle of unhappiness.

PowerIsTPM (12:22:35 PM): A lot of it comes from the way we are raised, what we have been told growing up, insecurities.. you know the basic list that makes any addict and addict

RealityCheck22 (12:22:47 PM): of course. Having people discuss the issue with a foundation of credibility really changes the discussion. It gives people room for hope, because other people understand It RealityCheck22 (12:23:33 PM): It’s all about perspective and upbringing, how we were socialized…. which brings me to “What is beauty? Who defines it?” man… that was an intense post

PowerIsTPM (12:24:59 PM): Yeah, it really resonates with what we were just talking about. Being rooted in a society that teaches us that there is always going to be something wrong with us. Did you read about the jungle gym that was built in a low-income neighborhood in New York that had a jail built inside of it?

RealityCheck22 (12:26:37 PM): no!

PowerIsTPM (12:26:37 PM): like a “play” jail

RealityCheck22 (12:26:38 PM): ?

PowerIsTPM (12:26:53 PM): It was like swing, slides, jail.

RealityCheck22 (12:26:58 PM): wow

PowerIsTPM (12:27:26 PM): http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/nyregion/26jail.html?pagewanted=print

RealityCheck22 (12:27:39 PM): I mean I use to play cops and robbers when I was a kid, but putting a jail versus a house, castle, or something of that nature is pretty telling. makes the jail become a symbol for something much more divisive.  In your post, the video “A Girl Like Me” That was an emotional thing to watch. How did you feel looking at that as someone with a mixed ethnic background? Did you ever go through that phase in your life?

PowerIsTPM (12:29:46 PM): Definitely. I was one of those young girls of color who always had a white doll. I don’t think I even ever asked for it. Maybe it’s just what my mom assumed I wanted

RealityCheck22 (12:30:35 PM): Right, “because everyone else has one.”

PowerIsTPM (12:30:54 PM): Exactly, I went to schools with all white kids.. blonde hair, blue eyes, the whole package.  So I was never around anyone that looked like me.  Especially being Korean and Black.. it was really confusing being a kid and not really understanding “my place”

RealityCheck22 (12:31:48 PM): That must have been really tough, but probably not something you really understood until you were older, right?

PowerIsTPM (12:31:50 PM): in a world that tries to fit people in certain catgories.  It was confusing. I remember going to middle school and the Korean kids calling me “a disgrace to my race”

RealityCheck22 (12:32:37 PM): wow, that’s very harsh

PowerIsTPM (12:32:41 PM): Being young, and already confused, it just makes things worst. My parents surrounded me with a lot of cultural pride, so I have never felt that shame of being who I am.

RealityCheck22 (12:33:09 PM): I had some similar experiences being white with a dark skinned father RealityCheck22 (12:33:21 PM): that’s very important, my parents did the same thing RealityCheck22 (12:33:42 PM): you have to appreciate where you come from, so you can be proud about where you are going. understand the context.

PowerIsTPM (12:34:36 PM): Though you had ethnic pride, those insecurities still happen. PowerIsTPM (12:34:45 PM): When was the first time you felt “different”? PowerIsTPM (12:34:57 PM): Assuming that you have felt that way in your life, at some point..

RealityCheck22 (12:35:18 PM): my father being Middle Eastern was difficult growing up because I was always on the fringes of a society. not “enough” one way or the other. thankfully i live in a diverse city, and that changed as I got older. but it’s still there. the section of my ethnic group that only socializes with other Middle Eastern people. RealityCheck22 (12:35:26 PM): umm, I would say when I was 5 years old RealityCheck22 (12:36:01 PM): I was going to school in Beverly Hills, CA and a little boy in an older grade called me a dirty Arab RealityCheck22 (12:36:14 PM): but I was white and everyone didn’t get what he was talking about RealityCheck22 (12:36:42 PM): then my dad came to pick me up and everyone laughed at me, calling me a “dirty arab” RealityCheck22 (12:37:29 PM): they didn’t understand what they were saying, but ironically when I spoke to my father about it he just said “you aren’t an Arab, you are a Persian.” As if that was enough of an explanation. RealityCheck22 (12:37:33 PM): lol RealityCheck22 (12:38:15 PM): I went back the next day and told everyone I was Persian! And the other persian kids (there are a ton in Beverly Hills) they all ran up beside me RealityCheck22 (12:38:27 PM): they had my back RealityCheck22 (12:38:28 PM): haha

PowerIsTPM (12:38:36 PM): haha PowerIsTPM (12:38:47 PM): That’s awesome!

RealityCheck22 (12:40:18 PM): When I got older I began to understand the difference. My father is Persian, to him and his friends, persians are more sophisticated and Arabs are very different from them. This brought on a whole other division as I got older, but at least I understood the difference in his mind.

PowerIsTPM (12:40:53 PM): Yeah, when I was growing up, my dad would tell me you are not Black! You are African!

RealityCheck22 (12:42:24 PM): Yeah, because to our parents their ethnic heritage is an integral part of the American Dream they created here.

PowerIsTPM (12:43:03 PM): And it makes them feel seperated from the racism that other groups face.

RealityCheck22 (12:43:11 PM): it’s cool to see that even though we come from very different backgrounds we share similar experiences when it comes to race and identity.

PowerIsTPM (12:43:47 PM): Definitely PowerIsTPM (12:49:49 PM): Obviously the one that caught my attention was your car accident blog. I just got in my first car accident over the summer. Scariest experience of my life… and then you become haunted by that image every time you are driving.

RealityCheck22 (12:50:11 PM): yes!!

PowerIsTPM (12:50:19 PM): You are a very descriptive writer without being over the top. Your details allow the reader to really understand what you are feeling.

RealityCheck22 (12:50:27 PM): The worst part is that I have to drive that road every day to and from school. Freaks me out RealityCheck22 (12:50:37 PM): Thank you!

PowerIsTPM (12:50:44 PM): AsI read it, I was thinking I know exactly how you feel

RealityCheck22 (12:51:01 PM): I’m just trying to write the story they way I would tell the story

PowerIsTPM (12:51:52 PM): I’m over the top when I tell stories. Trying to give every little detail… gets a little draining, so I like the way you talked about your experience.

RealityCheck22 (12:52:01 PM): (: RealityCheck22 (12:53:54 PM): the most powerful experience for me, even with the recent accident and sickness, was the moment with the marine. really intense and it spurted this whole off topic binge on military perspective

PowerIsTPM (12:56:30 PM): Before we talk about the blogs I just want to understand a little bit about your voice. In your “about me” section (called “about moi”) You say that you are percevied as obnoxious and arrogant. PowerIsTPM (12:56:39 PM): Why do you feel it is important to mention this? PowerIsTPM (12:57:21 PM): Do you feel like this is central for readers to understand when they read your work? PowerIsTPM (12:57:42 PM): Did you intend to mention that because you keep bringing up your personal strive for success and education?

RealityCheck22 (12:58:05 PM): I actually feel like changing that up a bit, because originally I was going to blog about my experience with education and success RealityCheck22 (12:58:10 PM): from the start to where I am today. and talk about the times when other students (older students) felt threatened by me and the projects I was doing RealityCheck22 (12:58:35 PM): or when my ego went out of bounds. the pursuit of healthy ambition and all of that, lol RealityCheck22 (12:59:03 PM): now I don’t know, my blog is kind of all over the place, and I need to re-position the brand

PowerIsTPM (1:14:17 PM): I really enjoyed your post of the marine that approached you. PowerIsTPM (1:14:24 PM): Where did that happen?

RealityCheck22 (1:14:42 PM): I was the Panini Cafe in the Marina RealityCheck22 (1:14:46 PM): at the*

PowerIsTPM (1:18:05 PM): In your description of the encounter, it seems almost as though “Mr. Man” is longing for someone to hear his story. The fact that his friend committed suicide shortly before your encounter, yet he let you in to such a personal and vulnerable moment in his life. And you have only been talking for a few minutes. I feel like tjos really represents the voicelessness of soldiers. PowerIsTPM (1:18:12 PM): this*

RealityCheck22 (1:19:40 PM): It definitely represents that our troops don’t feel like they HAVE a voice. Or if they do, nobody is listening. RealityCheck22 (1:20:43 PM): I think it also says something about only speaking about the chaos with someone who they feel can understand. He thought I knew first hand what it’s like to live with a marine. So maybe he felt safe speaking with me.

PowerIsTPM (1:21:12 PM): Yeah, for me the most moving part is when he says, “It’s not even about the war anymore, or fighting for our freedom, it’s about my brothers and getting them home.” PowerIsTPM (1:21:56 PM): How did you feel when he said that. PowerIsTPM (1:21:58 PM): ?

RealityCheck22 (1:22:59 PM): Very frustrated actually. And sad. I wanted to be able to DO something to help him, help THEM get home, and I felt very trapped with my inability to make the change. RealityCheck22 (1:23:34 PM): I do have a brother in the Navy, a medical man, he was in Fallujah for a while

PowerIsTPM (1:24:11 PM): Have you talked to him about his experiences? PowerIsTPM (1:24:18 PM): What he has seen?

RealityCheck22 (1:24:29 PM): it’s a very difficult position to be in. you have to support your soldier, and not let the politics get in the way. But eventually everyone feels the weight of the politics. RealityCheck22 (1:25:14 PM): Yes, I have spoken with him about it. But he really doesn’t like to say much.

PowerIsTPM (1:25:33 PM): I feel like that resonates with that voicelessness.

RealityCheck22 (1:25:35 PM): It’s a hard place for him to go back to, especially on his side because his job was to save lives, and sometimes you couldn’t

PowerIsTPM (1:25:37 PM): No one will really ever understand PowerIsTPM (1:25:52 PM): so you stay quiet

RealityCheck22 (1:26:02 PM): yeah RealityCheck22 (1:26:26 PM): he talks about how life was there, but nothing specific about combat or images that are too difficult RealityCheck22 (1:27:08 PM): he concentrates on the cultural exchanges that happened, and the people he could save RealityCheck22 (1:27:58 PM): One of my best friends is a marine, he is the same way about his time in Iraq. But the guy I spoke to…was different. RealityCheck22 (1:28:12 PM): maybe dealing with some PSTD and trying to hide it

PowerIsTPM (1:29:14 PM): That’s great that you try and make a visual statement in supporting the troops. I feel like because a lot of young people do not keep up with the news or pick up the paper, they forget our people are out there dying everyday. People our age. Because we are not directly affected by the turmoil of war, we don’t have to deal with what is happening to American soldiers and families in the Middle East.

RealityCheck22 (1:30:52 PM): Very true. If people our age continued to be supportive of the troops I don’t think we would have so many cases of PTSD. It’s not the shock of the experience, to an extent it’s the idea that they went through it for nothing, and that their country is ashamed of them.

PowerIsTPM (1:32:35 PM): Also the resources available to them after they are released from duty.

RealityCheck22 (1:32:36 PM): And we tend to fit everyone under one umbrella. Many of the soldiers over there are very involved in the middle eastern society in positive/productive ways RealityCheck22 (1:33:37 PM): its not all about horror stories and mis-treatment, for many of them, it’s about making the best out of what they can. a success is coming home alive, but a really successful mission is in created relationships that win the hearts and minds of the people over there

PowerIsTPM (1:34:36 PM): Did your encounter with the marine inspire all your video posts? PowerIsTPM (1:34:41 PM): How did you pick them?

RealityCheck22 (1:35:11 PM): yes, that’s a huge issue! one that I might blog about in the future. there are not enough resources for our troops coming home. I’m proud of the effort our current President has put into that area. Hopefully the sins of our nation towards Vietnam vets won’t be duplicated with the vets from Afghanistan and Iraq

PowerIsTPM (1:35:11 PM): I am a very visual learner. What statement were you trying to make in the categories you divided the clips into?

RealityCheck22 (1:35:21 PM): yes, it did. RealityCheck22 (1:37:45 PM): well, I wanted to explore what got the most hits on youtube. The sub-divisions were about making the narrative clearer. RealityCheck22 (1:38:29 PM): for fun was about keeping it real during chaos, finding a few laughs.. .or having too much time on their hands. lol

PowerIsTPM (1:38:42 PM): Lol

RealityCheck22 (1:38:54 PM): the second was to make us remember the fear and anger that united us all after 9/11 RealityCheck22 (1:39:34 PM): two very different, very powerful videos, but they had over 200,000 views RealityCheck22 (1:40:05 PM): and the last was about how the military sometimes manipulates people into joining up RealityCheck22 (1:40:45 PM): honor and the warriors code is very well and good ( I sure appreciate them) but when you are 18 and just coming out of high school, the videos might be a little overwhelming

RealityCheck22 (1:41:06 PM): playing on their GI Joe fantasy

PowerIsTPM (1:41:28 PM): Call of Duty obesession…

RealityCheck22 (1:41:37 PM): hah, yesss PowerIsTPM (1:41:42 PM): -_-

RealityCheck22 (1:41:54 PM): well it was great talking with you RealityCheck22 (1:42:13 PM): thank you for taking the time to speak with me and explore some of our blog themes

PowerIsTPM (1:42:42 PM): Definitely. I will be back on your page commenting and hopefully we can exchange some more ideas

RealityCheck22 (1:42:54 PM): I would love that.

Who doesn’t love to dance?  Whether you go blow off some steam at the club, wiggle your toes to a catchy beat, or wave your hands wildly in the air as you tell a story.  Our bodies are constantly moving.  We all have our own unique presence seen through our body language.  Our bodies speak and express themselves through non-verbal art.  Our movements express who we are and attribute to what makes us different from one another.  Whether you know it or not we are all dancers. 

I spent my Saturday evening sitting in a very intense dance studio called Millennium in North Hollywood.  The studio teaches everything from hip hop, jazz, tap, and ballet. It is a nationally prestigious dance company that has and continues to foster some of the greatest choreographers in the world.  There are also a large number of celebrity clientele that dedicate time to becoming a student at Millennium Dance  Studio.  The initial owners, AnnaMarie and Robert Baker, were dedicated to creating a space for dancers, where those who have a passion for the art of body movement could let their creativity be free.

My friend Simon attends classes their every weekend.  I have never danced professionally, let alone sit in a class of people who view this art form with an immense amount of passion.  The minute I walked into the room with my jeans and flip flops, all eyes shot my way.  I sat in the corner and tried to sink into the wooden floors, maybe camouflage into the huge mirrors that I leaned my back against, but  it was too late.  They saw me and I knew and already knew I was most definitely not a professional dancer.  I sat like a little school kid.

The dance teacher’s name was Nicky.  It was an advanced hip hop class and the people attending were some of the best dancers I had ever seen.  There has recently been a huge movement of recognizing dancers.  Through popular shows like America’s Best Dance Crew and Dancing with the Stars, this genre is getting the credit and attention it deserves.  As I sat in the class, there was something so hypnotic about the presence of these dancers.  They had this style that didn’t seem to be something learned or picked up.  It was natural.  Something that couldn’t be explained and something they weren’t trying to do.  Once the music started, the bodies started moving effortlessly.  Each movement was clean, powerful, and made a statement.  I felt as if I was in middle school, staring at the “cool kids” and asking myself, “How do they do it?”

When the class was over, I mustered up to talk to the some of the dance students.  I don’t know why I was so nervous… sweaty palms and everything.  I talked to young woman in the class named Emily R.  When I asked her why she dances, she responded by saying, “When I dance, everything else disappears.  Everything that you worry about, all the things you stress about, slowly fade.  It becomes nothing, but you and the music.”

Another girl said, “I dance because it’s my therapy.”  This statement brought me back to my blog.  Resilience, therapy, and inspiration.  The beautiful things this world offers us, that reminds us that it’s worth living this life, struggling, and doing what we do.

All these headline news of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.  I was reading about the issue of Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls.

When we hear about these issues of rape, abuse, and violence against women, the media usually turns them into individually stories of “Are the children telling the truth?”  The epidemic of rape in American culture quickly shifts to a very surface level look at a huge crisis.

According to an organization called RAIIN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network):

  • Someone in the United States is raped, every 2 minutes
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
  • 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.
  • 9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.
  • 60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police

Terrifying…

But, what is the root of the issue that causes abusers to go after children and women?

I was part of an extensive 3 day workshop with an organization called Generation 5.  It is a grassroots organization located in Oakland that focuses on changing the root causes of child sexual abuse.  They focus on holding those who abuse accountable, while also focusing on the social norms systematic institutions that perpetuate a culture of violence and rape towards young people.  Sustainable justice for ending sexual abuse can temporarily be solved by throwing people in prison, but once released, chances are they will go after others.

I was watching Oprah a few weeks ago, as she sat with four admitted child sex offenders.  Oprah Winfrey was a survivor of child sexual abuse and rape, and hosted a courageous and daring show that showed insight into the minds of men who abuse young children.  The men all mutually agreed that when they went after young girls, it was a psychological draw.  They can’t control their lustful thoughts of children, no matter how hard they tried to get them out of their head.  A couple of the men admitted that when caught and locked up, they came out continuing to abuse.

This type of uncontrollable feelings towards abusers and their victims are much more complex than the ideology of a sick individual.  The numbers tell it all, it is a wave that has become common culture.  I personally believe that people don’t come out of the womb trying to hurt people, they are a product of trauma and society.  This can turn into a dangerous individual that does end up damaging others.

Violence, authority, blame, power, silence, shame, and guilt… The concepts that continue a cycle of abuse that leaves survivors and victims voiceless.

Generation 5 states in their mission statement:

“We are living in a broader social context that teaches power-over relations, private ownership (parents/family) of children, a dismissal of children’s accounts (legal), mixed messages and little education about human sexuality (it is bad, shame based, and it is used to sell us everything from cars to deodorant), and the ongoing mixing of sex and violence. We are not taught to address pain and trauma deeply, but rather mask symptoms or blame the individual for their distress. Child sexual abuse is about having power over another person and using that power sexually. The norms that allow for this behavior are sadly, ever-present in our society.”

On Oprah, the four sex offenders were all actively seeking help.  They were making progress through intense therapy with professionals and being kept away from children.

According  to Generation 5 the goals of Transformative Justice as a response to child sexual abuse are:

  • Survivor safety, healing and agency
  • Offender accountability and transformation
  • Community response and accountability
  • Transformation of the community and social conditions that create and perpetuate child sexual abuse, i.e. systems of oppression, exploitation, domination, and State violence.

To me this is hope for the future.  Looking deeper within the problem to advocate more sustainable change.

I am not making excuses for people who abuse.  I just feel it is important to hold those 100% responsible for their actions, but real change starts with taking those steps away from a culture that focuses on problems skin deep.  I know it’s a little controversial, feel free to tell me what you think.

DREAM BIG, BOLD, AND IN COLOR!

Never Aim Low, Set Goals, Fight to be the Best You, Never Give up.

Simple, but so important.  There are always going to be people telling you to set “realistic” goals, to aim lower, or shoot down your dreams.  Another way to get to where you want faster is to limit words in your vocabulary that bring out a negative energy.  I have consciously removed the words “never” and “hate”. Really does take a weight off your shoulders.

I was thinking about my previous blog entry on rap objectifying women and this Lupe Fiasco song.  Who is responsible for this epidemic of violence, misogyny, and levels of ignorance in music?

Fatty Foods Similar to a Cocaine Addiction?!

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/03/28/fatty.foods.brain/index.html

The article opens with:

“A new study in rats suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found.”

Sounds foul, huh?  I mean I can’t say I’m totally surprised.  With growing obesity in America, levels of additives that are put into food, and the way we can’t help but daydream about yummy foods… something had to be wrong, right?

The article explains that the more junk food we eat, the more our brain normalizes the pleasure of eating fatty foods.  This is similar to the way our brains become dependent on the comfort of addictive drugs like cocaine.  When we overload our consumption, the part of our brain that processes pleasure also becomes overloaded, building a higher tolerance towards these substances.  This requires the body to consume more and more in order for the brain to acknowledge that it is receiving pleasure.

This is what makes people want to compulsively eat.  That heavenly piece of cheesecake, that cheesy slice of pizza, those bag of chips, or whatever your unhealthy food seduction may be.  The main focus becomes consuming what your mind sees as delicious food, regardless of pain, discomfort, or obesity.

It’s easier to consume these foods without thinking it’s a problem, because, hey everybody has to eat, right?  Eating is a daily activity and when we are hungry our brain shouts “FEED ME”.  We give it what it wants and it’s normal.  You go out of your way to buy and consume drugs, that are usually illegal and have a negative stigma attached.  Scary to think that they share the most important and dangerous part in common…

Dr.Gene-Jack Wang,  who is the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory says, “We make our food very similar to cocaine”.  Cocaine was used in the early centuries, but now the drug has been modified so it becomes a purified substance that effects the brain in a more severe way.  This process of altering natural substances into an unnatural and abusive form is compared to food.    Dr Wang describes modern purifying of food by stating, “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

People try to but back on the “bad stuff”.  Dieting books, programs, weight loss supplements and forms of surgery have become a huge business in America within the past decade.  Usually people that try to lose weight feel like there is something psychologically and emotionally wrong with them, that makes them have an unhealthy relationship to food.  But no shit, the food that’s making people big is pretty much like crack!

Jeez, it all makes sense now.

Kiri Davis is an African American film maker who won an award for her documentary “A Girl like Me”.  The film focuses on issues of hair, color, and beauty among African American woman.

The whole documentary sheds light on important issues, but the most striking moment takes place in the middle of the short documentary, where Kiri Davis recreates the famous “Doll Test” that was done in the 1950s.  Children have a white doll and black doll in front of them.  They are asked which one they prefer, why, and what they believe are the characteristics of the dolls.  Davis conducted her experiment with all black children.  Fifteen out of the twenty-one preferred the white doll.

The most moving part of the experiment is when the young girl is asked which doll is “bad”, she quickly picks up the black doll without hesitation.  When asked why that doll is bad, she responds by saying, “Because she is black”.  She is then asked which doll looks the most like her. She hesitates, shifting her eyes back and forth from each doll.  She doesn’t want to pick the black one (just having stated that it is bad), yet she understands she looks nothing like the white doll.  After a moment of delay, she shoves the black doll towards the front of the table, not picking it up and looking somewhat sullen with the choice she had to make.

In our culture, a woman’s beauty is very one dimensional.  Our bodies, skin color, hair, and femininity are expected to fit a preset mold that we have no control over.  Whether it takes surgery, products, or eating disorders, the pressure is definitely on to get the job done.

The young black girl feels the doll that looks most like her is “bad” doll because it is black.  At the age of 5 or 6, it’s hard to watch clip of the little girl without thinking the damage is done.  It reflects more than her feelings toward a regular dark skinned doll, but a reflection of an internalized racism that will most likely manifest itself in a number of ways, as the little girl grows into a young woman.

I think about high school drop out rates, poverty, and an overall lack of hope in communities of color…  It’s easy to blame individuals, but this documentary reminds me that it is more important to look at the institutions that create a mentality of an expected fate of failure amongst people of color.

It is important as women to recognize these unrealistic and racist standards of beauty so that we can make a conscious effort to love ourselves unconditionally as we are.  Also, to spread a message of individually beauty, not  thiscookie-cutter beauty that stands on an out of reach pedestal.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.”

Refreshing..