bell hooks is a well-renowned  author, scholar, professor, and writer that has continually put out controversial theories and criticism of popular culture.  With Women’s History Month recently coming to an end, I began thinking about this clip I watched a few years ago after doing some internet searching.

Years later, in a new millennium, I think about bell hooks words of pop culture promoting ideas of sexism, misogyny, and pornographic images of women.  She focuses on the images consumers buy into, focusing on black people as the commodity and people in power as the consumers and advertisers.   hook says  that white consumers feel that they can learn about African Americans by examining these music videos and taking away what they belief is some insight into the culture.

I think it’s important to note that rap isn’t the only field where women’s bodies are seen as products that are objectified and exploited as a way to make money.  I feel like people continue to focus on black men as the the main sexists of the world, completely ignoring other forms of popular films, music, and TV shows that show sexism of other men.  They tend to be more normalized.  It’s hard to come across all forms of pop culture without seeing terrible images of women that continue to demean, humiliate, objectify, and “sexify”.  But I have been recently been thinking about rap as my friend and I were listening to Snoop Dogg’s new song on the radio “I Wanna Rock” ft. Jay Z.  He was talking about how Snoop Dogg was really cool and he liked his music, but whenever I think of Snoop Dogg, this image comes to mind:

Snoop Dogg with two women strapped with leashes around their necks and wearing see through blouses.

Maybe as a woman, it’s hard to forget those kinds of pictures.  That image was at the 2003 MTV Award Show.  Seeing that as a young girl (I was probably 13 or 14 years old), I remember being really scared and confused.  When I brought that image up to my friend or his songs like “Where the hoes at?” or “Can you control your hoe?” he really didn’t remember.  I had to play the songs and show him the picture for those memories to come back to him.  Yet I try desperately to get those things out of my head…

I guess that’s one of the many privileges of men in this culture.

I sit on my computer struggling to catch up on weeks of work that seemed to pile up on me…

I get frustrated.

I remember my blog on breathing and take a couple deep breaths and try to relax my mind, so it doesn’t seem so flustered with a 3 page to-do-list.  I get up and stretch, trying to not think about feeling ill and burnt out.

From the corner of my eye, I see my mother.  She’s panting, short of breath, but still manages to hum a tune I can’t recognize.  Going in and out of the kitchen, she hops from her open laptop to the stove and back to the living room, where she is folding a load of laundry on the white couch.

My mother is a womyn of strength and courage.  She wakes up at 6 in the morning where she makes breakfast and a packed lunch for my siblings and my dad.  She heads to work at 7 to set up her 2nd grade classroom.  She then gets through 7 hours of working with 6 and 7 year old children.  She leaves work to tutor students individually until 7:00 in the evening.  She’ll then come home and cook a huge dinner, usually consisting of several dishes because everyone in my family craves something different or have dietary restrictions.  After dinner, she helps my sister or cousin with their homework, getting a head start on packing lunch for the next day.  Then she’ll spend the rest of the night working on the script of her hand-written rhyming plays.  She writes a new one every year and puts on a huge production, where her students transform into actors.  She practices with them afterschool, writes up event flyers that she posts all over the city, and makes costumes.  She heads to bed a little past one a.m. to do it all over again.  And this is just her daily routine, excluding the many other commitments she is involved in.

I find myself inspired by her ability to still hum, even though I could feel the exhaustion pouring out her limbs.

She’s a strong womyn.

My frustration fades as I blow my nose and continue down my list of to-dos.

There is no influence so powerful as that of the mother.-Sarah Josepha Hale

What better way to spend a Saturday morning, then joining fellow comrades in protesting the U.S. occupation in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan?  This is my 7th anti-war march, and though I have seen the crowds shrink from nearly 20,000 to 5,000, I am still deeply inspired by the crowds of students, immigrants, women, workers, children, families, and people of color that continue to come out.

Lissett Lazo

During the march, I talked to Lissett Lazo.  She is a 19 year old political organizer with an organization called the Labor Community Strategy Center.  She goes to Santa Monica College and is studying Sociology and History.  I was drawn to her by her passionate energy as she led a drum and chant group of strong women, Korean elders, Chicano men, mothers, students, white allies, LBGT, and Aztec Dancers.  She held her first high chanting, “From Iraq to Palestine, Occupation is a crime!”

I was able to talk to her after the anti-war march and ask her a few questions:

Me: Why did you come out to the anti-war march?
Lissett: I went because I think that it is absolutely necessary to come out and support this event.  There is a sense in communities of color that because we have this new black president all of our problems (including this war) are going to be solved, when in fact Obama has not done anything to end the war that has been going on for 7 years now. He has actually installed private contractors that do not have to abide by any humyn rights principles, which makes it even more dangerous for the civilians in the areas that the U.S. is occupying.  So by coming out, it is my way of pressuring the government to stop the mass killing of innocent people and to start restoring those resources [being the money spent on the war] into our country
Me: That’s awesome.  Being a young student and activist, how do you feel when you see other students from elementary to high school at the march?
Lissett: It makes me so happy to see young people that are being raised in this counter culture that is resisting this rape and violence culture.  So many of us, including myself, were raised in a bubble where we do not even know about these issues, so seeing youth exposed and their consciousness being challenged and transformed is very exciting.
Me: I’m doing a blog based on inspiration in my life.  What inspires you?
Lissett: Being around people who -even if it is for one day- are fighting to end this matrix of domination. Doing the work of an organizer can be really challenging emotionally, so coming to a march like this, where hundreds of people aspire to reach the same goal as me is a really good feeling and it motivates me to keep going.
Me: What steps do you take in your daily life to keep on doing the work you are doing?
Lissett: I try to proactively practice a lifestyle of resistance where I am constantly seeking to dismantle the racist, patriarchal, classist, etc that I have been socialized to believe. I reach out to find the facts, I inform my peers about it, I try to be conscious of my role as a queer womyn of color as i work towards being a good example to other womyn like me
Me:  Is it hard to stay so resilient?

Lissett: Yah.  It’s hard to find a balance for me because I want to be able to do as much as i can but I don’t want to burn myself out either. The best thing that i have found helpful is being in cultural spaces where people of color are celebrated. I am also invested in my spirituality because ultimately this is where my strength comes- the spirit of those before me and the ones after me that keep me resilient.

Interpretive dancers portraying their vision of war's destruction to communities.

Many indigenous groups came out to relay a shared history of war and occupation

A wide array of groups came out to show their support and relay their own personal message of how they feel the war is affecting their communities.

“Get up, stand up; Stand up for your rights.” Bob Marley

Laughing is therapy.  Laughing keeps you positive.  Laughing creates intimacy and bonds with those you love.  Laughing has no bad side effects.  Laughing relieves stress.  Laughing can cure sadness.  Laughing reduces loneliness.  Laughter can help ease conflicts.  Laughter protects the heart.  Laughter releases endorphins.  Laughter makes the immune system strong.  Laughter strengthens relationships. Laughter makes me resilient.

“Laugh as much as you breathe as long as you live.”

I came across this article in the New York Times Magazine:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/magazine/10psyche-t.html?pagewanted=1&emc=eta1

The diversity of mental illness from nation to nation is dynamic.  Not, only do we hear the different types of illness happening in our own country, but through the new and rising forms of media outlets, others from across the world can too.

The article states, “For more than a generation now, we in the West have aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world. We have done this in the name of science…  There is now good evidence to suggest that in the process of teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we’ve been exporting our Western “symptom repertoire” as well. That is, we’ve been changing not only the treatments but also the expression of mental illness in other cultures. Indeed, a handful of mental-health disorders — depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia among them — now appear to be spreading across cultures with the speed of contagious diseases…”

Not only are other countries and cultures being exposed to Western mental illness, but I think any American would be lying if they say that they too have not been experiencing the mass waves of rising medication, illness research fields, and pharmaceutical businesses that are gaining heavy dominance.  As our bodies experience changes physically, emotionally, and psychologically, many of us our trained to rely on mass news, popular culture, and stories we’ve heard to understand what is happening to us.

Recently, I have been experiencing INTENSE procrastination and have been abnormally distracted this past month.  I can’t seem to focus on anything and my body and mind feel constraint when I concentrate on something too long.  My first instinct was to surf google and see “what was wrong with me”.  I spent hours on the internet trying to find symptoms, a name for what I was feeling, others who had similar stories, medical websites to see if there was anything I could take to help my mind settle.  Is this normal?

In the article, Dr. Sing Lee focused on the huge rise of eating disorders across the world.  He says, “When there is a cultural atmosphere in which professionals, the media, schools, doctors, psychologists all recognize and endorse and talk about and publicize eating disorders, then people can be triggered to consciously or unconsciously pick eating-disorder pathology as a way to express that conflict.”

I have talked about the awareness of eating disorders in school, have heard stories of it causing death in the news, and yet know many many beautiful women and close friends who have this problem.  Lee points out the mere awareness and legitimization of eating disorders as a disease by professionals can trigger that psychological pathway in the observer.  These eating disorders don’t only take the form of bulimia or anorexia.  I have  a friend who is almost 110 pounds and taking diet pills daily.  Maybe the same people trying to save us from our mental illness are creating a few of their own…

The most provoking statement in the article was, “Western drug companies dole out large sums for research and spend billions marketing medications for mental illnesses.”

Who benefits from our mental illness?  Our mass consumption of pills?  Our beliefs that there is something wrong with us?  …Scary, huh?

I work in an elementary school classroom with 1st graders.  I see them twice a week and spend a lot of time with the individual students.  I look at them and see nothing, but normal year old children… talkative, silly, sensitive, with a couple of those sneaky ones and their mischievous smiles.  Like the growing number of young people in the U.S., many of these kids are on medication.  They range from medication for anxiety disorders, hyperactivity disorders, learning disorders, attention-deficit disorders… probably more.  How about this, is this normal? Mind you, these children are 6 and 7 year old and started their first year at an elementary school.  Is it really that strange for kids of this age to be distracted and having trouble learning?  Is it okay for 1st graders to be taking more medicine than my 76 year old grandma?

The fields of study in science and medicine are continually growing at a rapid pace.  Natural remedies are quickly being forgotten and Western medicine is slowly taking over the world.  What do you think?

“Most men die of their remedies, not of their illnesses.”

Yoga means “inner oneness”.  And is a great way to develop the mind, body, and spirit.  It helps develops strength and flexibility; it practices deep breathing; releases tension in the mind and body; it benefits the heart, concentration, your mood, and so much more!  Starting this Saturday, I will take one class a week.

FREE CLASSES Every Saturday from 5-7 PM

8555 Haskell
North Hills, CA 91343

If this isn’t anywhere near you, you could check online.  There are tons of free yoga classes throughout Los Angeles in parks, recreation centers, and gyms.  Let’s do it!

“Yoga is bodily gospel.”  ~Reaven Fields

Sometimes my mind feels like it’s stuck in quicksand, slowly sinking and unable to break free.  It could be from the long list of things I have to do, things in the past I wish I could change, insecurities of what others are really thinking about me, past trauma, or the future (just to name a few).  They make my thoughts feel static, overwhelming me with stress and anxiety.

Now, think of some things that stress you out…

How do you deal with stress? Maybe ice cream? Procrastinating? Shifting your focus on to someone else’s problems?

One easy and IMPORTANT way to deal with stress is focusing on deep breathing.  Lay your hand on your chest and notice your breath.  When I did this, I was overwhelmed with school and issues at home.  My breath was quick and I felt a little claustrophobic.  Does your breathing feel constrained?

Long, deep breaths release tension in the mind, spirit, and body.  Noticing the pressure happening in my body, I relax and take in a deep breath through my nose, filling my abdomen and lungs with air.  I exhale the air slowly, releasing my stresses, fears, and concern with it.  I do this for a few minutes.  I feel calm, focused, and at peace.

Try it for yourself and see how you feel:

Not only does deep breathing help relieve stress, it also:

  • Purifies the bloodstream, allowing a detoxification to take place in the body.
  • Allows more efficient digestion because of the increased oxygen that is reaching the stomach.
  • Improved health of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves due to increased oxygen.
  • Skin becomes smoother and healthier with a reduction in facial wrinkles.
  • Healthier more powerful lungs, increasing stamina.
  • Allows heart to last longer and work more efficiently.
  • Fights against heart disease by providing extra oxygen to your heart’s tissues.
  • Relaxes mind and body without inducing tiredness. You feel relaxed and energized at the same time.
  • Releases tension and reduces stress
  • (Source: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/149086/the_vital_importance_of_deep_breathing.html?cat=5)

It’s crazy to think that something we do naturally, everything single day. can give us so many health benefits, if we just do it a little slower and deeper.

Instead of waking up thinking, “Oh God! Another day; It’s early; I don’t want to wake up; Ugh; So much to do!”, I will take five deep long breaths and say, Thank you.  And throughout the day, I will practice this breathing as many times as I can.  Everyone can handle this.  It’s simple, easy, and relaxing.   Let’s try it together and see if our days make some positive changes.

Image by Laura Crescio

Visit http://www.stress-relief-exercises.com/deep-breathing-exercises.html to get more tips on breathing techniques

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.”

Everyone needs inspiration.

That push from others; the song that makes you feel weightless; a quote from those who seem so much wiser; family; a bike ride or jog, that reminds you of your inner-strength; warm family meals that are eaten as a community; fresh air; yoga poses; old pictures; ice cream; mangoes; books that fill your soul; funny facebook comments; prayers; thank you’s; a large glass of water when you are really thirsty; gifts from others (that remind you that you are worth it); laughter; hugs; pets; hikes; … and the list goes on.

But, sometimes life becomes overwhelming and stress, procrastination, sadness, anger, jealousy, and fear get the best of us.  It’s hard to remember why we should keep pushing.  As someone who works as a mentor for children and is always putting myself out there for everyone to turn to, I forget to practice what I preach.  This blog is a personal journey of healthy living and inspiration.  For myself and others.

Finding inspiration for sustainable, healthy living through anything and everything!


“A turtle travels only when it sticks it’s neck out.”