Tag Archives: Heroes

Following Bliss: An Intent Interview with Modern Mystic Alanna Kaivalya

FollowingBliss_HerosJourney_COVER_500pxAre you following your bliss? Do you even know where to start? Our newest course in the Intent Shop, “Following Bliss: A Modern Mystic’s Guide to the Hero’s Journey,” written by Alanna Kaivalya, gives you the playbook you need to find your own happiness and unlock your inner potential. Intent sat down with Alanna to ask her how the inspiration for the course came about and how she thinks it can truly help you discover your own inner hero.

INTENT: For those in the Intent community that aren’t familiar with your work, what is your background and how did you get into your field?

ALANNA: In my college years, I took a course on South Asian religions and was at once captivated by the stories within those traditions. These were myths I had never been exposed to, and the rich characters and antics immediately awakened something within me. It was right at that time that I began to teach yoga, and incorporate the stories into my classes. People loved them, and eventually I ended up writing a book on the mythology behind yoga poses called Myths of the Asanas (Mandala, 2010). During the time I was writing this book, I stumbled upon the extraordinary work of Joseph Campbell and was inspired beyond my wildest dreams by this man whose work paved the way for people to think outside the box and explore the common thread within all mythologies. I decided to embark on a program that would take me through Joseph Campbell’s own course of study so I could broaden my understanding of myth to include myths of the contemporary west. With the pursuit of my PhD while continuing to teach mythology across the country as well as the completion of my second book (Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan, New World Library, 2014), I find myself now fully immersed in Joseph Campbell’s teaching with the unique lens of having brought it to the public in a way that allows them to unlock their own personal mythology and find the core connection to the self-empowering force of myth.

INTENT: What lead you to designing this course?

ALANNA: Joseph Campbell wrote his seminal work in 1949, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, where he looks at the common structure of the journey of the hero throughout various myths and legends around the world. Understanding how this common thread affects us now, in a time where our myths are constantly being questioned, helps us to reunite what has been broken and lost. Finding a way to track and discover our own heroic journey is a way to revivify our aliveness and take back the precious moments of our lives. Joseph Campbell asked people to “follow their bliss.” I’m showing you how.

INTENT: What does being a “modern” mystic mean to you?

ALANNA: It means taking the tools and structures that we have in this life, in this time, at this moment that are relevant and alive for us and using them to discover something more about ourselves. The time has come for us to recreate living mythologies that speak to our current modern psyche and enliven us. What is great, is that each of us already has some kind of personal belief system–figuring out exactly what that is, and what it is aligned with–is how we answer the question Carl Jung asked himself, which is “What myth do we live by?” When we know what myth we live by, what kind of hero we are, then we understand how to navigate all of life’s trials, tribulations and challenges in order to reveal something more powerful within ourselves.

INTENT: In the course you build a lot off of Joseph Campbell’s archetype for a hero – how did you find his work and what drew you to Campbell?

ALANNA: Joseph Campbell is the man behind our modern understanding of myth! You can’t go very far into an inquiry about myth without bumping into his work. He popularized the study of myth and brought to the fore the idea that there is a common theme within all mythic structures, building off of Carl Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious and universal archetypes. Joseph Campbell, it turns out, had some pretty serious answers to my biggest questions and so I’ve come to be an admirer of his body of work and have been very interested in doing what I can to not only bring his work even further into the public eye, but also to show people the power and potential that his work can have in their own life, on a personal level.

INTENT: You say in the course that you want to take off where Campbell left off in mythology – where do you want to go with it now?

ALANNA: When Campbell died in 1987, he was on to something… that technology and the modern age would continue to accelerate and it would fundamentally change how we interact with one another and how we understand ourselves. This is true, and as a modern comparative mythologist, I’m looking at how to use our experiences of the world today to make our myths start working for us again. Basically, a living mythology activates human potential, and the human psyche has a primary need for myth in order to understand the unexplainable. There is a lot we still can’t explain–even with our technology and science–but as we learn and are able to explain more and more about our universe and condition, our mythology must be malleable enough to evolve and continue to speak to our human potential. This kind of rapid growth and learning can be embodied through our own personal mythology–what each person carries inside of them. Because each of us is now developing our own unique experience of the world, outside of the old, simpler way of living where the world experience was pretty well defined and confined to a much smaller group. On a global scale with wider, varying interests, what we believe needs to satisfy the core structure of each of us as individuals while still uniting us to the larger group.

INTENT: We are currently being bombarded with super-heroes in pop-culture, especially with the success of franchise films like Iron Man and the Avengers. What do you think makes hero stories so appealing to people? Why are they necessary for a fulfilling life?

ALANNA: Everyone needs a hero. Everyone needs someone who can show them the possibility and potential of their own human life. Knowing that someone has gone before you, enlightens you to the possibility that it maybe you can do it, too. This gives us two necessary qualities: Hope and connection. Without hope and connection, we live, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “amongst a heap of broken images.” I believe that the beauty of the Avenger’s series is that it is alive and responsive to the current times and culture. Each of the characters has a modern day twist on the hero: Iron Man is a billionaire genius, The Hulk is a super-smart scientist, Captain America is the ultimate soldier. These are characters that are alive and well in our culture, and with The Avengers, they get just a little boost that makes them superhuman. This is what is active and alive in our cultural unconscious and is speaking to the problems of our society including poverty, modern warfare, the development of the digital age and the collapse of large social structures. We have to have hope and inspiration in regards to the problems we face now. I believe that The Avengers are doing a stellar job of giving us a template for this hope and inspiration.

INTENT: Did you learn or realize anything new about your own definition of hero while designing this course?

ALANNA: Actually, it was the other way around. It was my own discovery of the importance of the journey of the hero and personal mythology that made me want to write a course to show people how to find this for themselves. In my more than decade plus years of taking people through the mythology in the context of eastern spirituality and yoga, I was seeing for myself how important it was for people to discover and understand that the hero they were hearing stories about did not exist outside of themselves. The hero’s path, ultimately, is an internal path and we use the stories of our heroes as templates to discover our own internal journey. This is how we find hope, inspiration and connection when it otherwise becomes unavailable in our relationships, careers, health… you name it. Give people the tools and techniques to reignite their own internal power, to rediscover their own internal hero, and they can make it through any challenge. They become heroes themselves. I have seen this time and time again not only in my work with thousands of students, but within myself. How could I not share these powerful insights with others? This is why I wrote the eCourse for Intent, and why I’m leading this as a live workshop at Esalen in January of 2014. Because, it’s a simple process, and once you know how to find your heroic journey, you can do it time and time again, no matter what struggle you face.

INTENT: What should our followers and those who purchase the course expect to gain from taking it? What should be their goal before starting the course?

ALANNA: This work is designed to give you the tools to face your greatest challenges and overcome your greatest fears in order to live the life you imagined. It’s not small stuff. I encourage those who purchase the course to think big and see where their journey takes them.

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Overcome your own deepest fears and emerge as the hero of our own story. Joseph Campbell asked people to “follow their bliss.” I’m showing you how. Join Alanna at the gorgeous Esalen retreat center on the Coast of California with breath taking hot tubs, locally grown food and Kaivalya Method Yoga.

Click here to purchase your own “Following Bliss: A Modern Mystic’s Guide to the Hero’s Journey” course. 

Unlikely Heroes: The California Teen Responsible for Feeding Thousands of Hungry Families

waste-no-food-sridhar-537x399At twelve years old, most of us were trudging through the awkwardness of adolescence, developing friend groups, and struggling to master pre-algebra. But at that age, Kiran Sridhar, a teenager from California’s Silicon Valley, had larger concerns on his mind.

According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, nearly 4 million people in California are “food insecure,” which means they cannot afford to buy enough food to sustain themselves. Southern California is disproportionately ailed by hunger in comparison with the rest of the state, but the Bay Area also contains some of the largest numbers of food insecurity. This may seem counter intuitive, especially considering the ever-growing prosperity of Silicon Valley, in particular, with its booming tech economy. But the reality that Sridhar learned as a middle schooler was that many in his own community were suffering, even in the midst of such prevalent wealth.

Shocked and inspired by this revelation, Sridhar got to work. He founded the non-profit organization, Waste No Food, to connect restaurants and farms to food banks that would distribute their excess and leftover food. According to the organization’s website, a whopping one third of California’s food goes to waste. With so many in the state hungry, such waste is simply unacceptable, and Waste No Food works to get that food to those who desperately need it.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 12.19.35 PM

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or cafe, then you know how much food gets thrown out at the end of each day. Oftentimes food service workers just feel limited by the effort to transport leftover food, or else the fear of liability. But through the program, all the work is done for them with the click of a button. Farms, restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores can sign up on the website to donate their excess food, and Waste No Food then connects them to aid organizations (already vetted for authenticity) who are responsible for all food transportation and handling. It’s a win-win all around!

Now a 10th grader in high school, Sridhar hopes to expand the program to other parts of the Bay Area, and we have no doubt the enterprising teenager will succeed in his aims. As he told CBS San Francisco:

When you’re hungry, that is your primary focus, figuring out what your next meal is going to be. But when you have your needs for food met, than you can actually be a positive contributor to the community and to the economy.

It’s inspiring to see not only what such a young person is capable of accomplishing, but also more generally the length a concerned citizen is willing to go to support his community. Over 50 million Americans live in households that quality as “food insecure,” the highest percentages occurring in Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. These are our communities, our neighbors, and our families. Let Kiran Sridhar and the Waste No Food program inspire you to make a difference.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Photo credit: Inhabitat.com

Graphic credit: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Who Are Your Patron Saints? Here Are Mine

winston_churchillPeople often ask me, “Come on, what’s the key to happiness? If you had to pick one thing, what would you say?”

I think that question can be answered in several ways, depending on what framework you use.

But one answer would certainly be: self-knowledge. It’s the Fifth Splendid Truth: We can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature.

But it’s surprisingly hard to know yourself! So how can you sneak a glimpse into your own nature?

You can ask yourself: Whom do I envy? What do I lie about? The answers to these questions reveal the way in which your life doesn’t reflect your values.

You can ask yourself: What did I do for fun when I was ten years old? You’d probably enjoy as an adult a version of what you enjoyed as a ten-year-old.

You can ask yourself: What do I actually DO?

You can ask yourself: Who are my patron saints? (A “patron saint” is a saint who has a special connection to a person, place, profession, or activity, or in more casual terms, a person who serves as a particular leader or example.)

I have many patron saints, but here are six of them:

Benjamin Franklin: practical, curious, inventive.

St. Therese of Lisieux: showing great love through small, ordinary actions. St. Therese is also my spiritual master.

Samuel Johnson: wildly eccentric, with a deep understanding of human nature. This patron saint made it into the subtitle of Happier at Home!

Julia Child: goofy yet masterly; light-hearted yet authoritative. For some reason, she’s been on my mind lately.

Winston Churchill: indefatigable, indomitable. I wrote a biography of Churchill, Forty Ways To Look at Winston Churchill, so I have a special attachment to him.

Virginia Woolf: intensely attuned to the power of the passing moment.

When I look back on the pieces I’ve written about my patron saints, I see that they’re among my favorite posts.

How about you? Who are your patron saints, and why?

* * *

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12 Inspiring Stories of 2012 and Beyond (VIDEOS)

Happy Holidays from Go Inspire Go! ‘Tis the season to celebrate, give and inspire those around you as we come to an end of another great year. 2012 has been an eventful year for GIG as we continue to grow, creating three times the amount of original content as last year. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without our 30+ volunteers around the globe, the everyday do-gooders we feature, and folks like YOU! To thank you, we wanted to kick off the holidays with 12 Days of Inspiration!

But before we get to the deets, check out our GIG Virtual Holiday Greeting Card to show our gratitude:

Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one our original GIG stories each day, followed by an inspiring action item we want you to do right away.

We’re asking you to share what you were inspired to do via social media.

KIND Snacks has partnered with Go Inspire Go to launch our 12 Days of Inspiration. We kicked off our 12 days of inspiration with a GIG Spark video from across the street from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, giving postcards to strangers and asking them to write a message to soliders who can’t spend the holidays with their family. GaiamTV and Volunteer Match are also joining virtual forces with us to share via their social media platforms each of the 12 days.

Thanks for the love — won’t you join us?

Check GoInspireGo.com. We’ve counting down to Christmas by sharing our inspiring videos for 12 consecutive days on GIG’s website and blog.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION:
Our goal is to see how many countries we can get to share our campaign.

1. We need you and your friends/community to download this special 12 days GIG logo and post it as your/their profile pic for 12 days.

2. Share our FB posts/tweets everyday for 12 days.

We want to see how many countries we can reach with our message.

*Day 1* Inspire to write a letter to a soldier:
GIG teams up with Kind Healthy Snacks to wish our soldiers a happy holiday and express appreciation for all that they’ve done for our country.

Call to action: Inspire to create and write a hand-written letter to a solider in the military

(Special thanks to Sirima Sataman, of Ink.Paper.Plate for helping us personalize our KIND GIG cards with her letter press. Loved pressing each
card by hand!)


*Day 2* Inspire to create a GIG Spark:
Toan and some GIGSTERS visit the BAYCAT community as the youth speak up about issues they’d like to address and the changes they’d like to see.

Video: GIG SPARK Inspires BAYCAT Youth to Be The Change

Call to action: Inspire to create a GIG Spark. Use your power and multimedia to be the change.


*Day 3* Inspire to create:
Toan sits down to create Thank You cards with founder of InkPaperPlate.com, Sirima Sataman.

Video: The Best Way to Express Gratitude

Call to action: Inspire to DIY – Get crafty and create something hand made and give it to someone: a family member, friend or stranger!


*Day 4* Inspire to smile:
Claire Lemmel goes the extra mile to fulfill her mission of making people, including strangers smile.

Video: “Going the Extra Smile”

Call to action: Inspire to create a ripple of kindness by spreading smiles and holiday cheer! Smile at a stranger.


*Day 5* Inspire to make a stand:
Psychiatrist Dr. Ron Holt travels around the world to share his inspiring and empowering story to give victims of bullying who contemplated suicide hope and inspire compassion in bullies.

Video: LGBT Bullying and Suicide: It Does Get Better

Call to action: Inspire to stand up for the truth. If you’re being bullied or have thoughts of suicide, there is hope: TheTrevorProject.


*Day 6* Inspire to rescue:
Emelinda Narvaez has spent the last 41 years of her life saving the lives of more than 10,000 dogs.

Video: “Woman saves 10,000 Dogs”

Call to action: Inspire to adopt a pet today and give the gift of friendship.


*Day 7* Inspire to be a Superhero:
With GIG’s help, cancer patient, Nico Castro, 6, uses his superhero powers to help his sick friends celebrate Halloween by collecting more than 200 costumes.

Video: “6-year-old Boy with Brain Cancer Brings Halloween to Sick Kids”

Call to action: Brighten someone’s spirit this Christmas season by volunteering at your local hospital, writing a letter to a cancer patient, contributing to Make-A-Wish or sharing this story.


*Day 8* Inspire to embark on your personal journey:
Jordan Bower walked from Canada to Mexico to create personal connections and inspire people to put down their gadgets and engage in the world around them.

Video: “Make the Connection: Why One Man is Walking from Canada to Mexico”

Call to action: Inspire to start off the new year by making plans to embark in your
personal journey in 2013!


*Day 9* Inspire to help the youth create a change:
Through an aluminum can drive and letter writing campaign, Phoebe Russell, then 5, sparked a movement by inspiring her classmates and her community to raise over $3,000 for the San Francisco Food Bank. She enabled the S.F. Food Bank to dole out more than 17,800 meals! Our GIG video helped her multiply her message many times over. More than 150,000 meals served in her San Francisco community so far!

Video: “Kindergartener Inspires 150K + Meals Pt. 1”

Call to action: Inspire to spread the holiday spirit by donating or volunteering at your local food bank.


*Day 10* Inspire education: Student Video + GIG Video creates movement, sends 32 Kids to School in Haiti
Julian Cohen, then a high school student in New Jersey, wanted to help Rev. Lemaire Alerte reach his goal of building the first high school in the reverend’s hometown of Grande Saline, Haiti. Rev. Alerte was $20,000 short of his $80,000 goal to finish construction.

Little did Cohen know, he would start a movement across the nation. The result: 32 kids would be sent to school in Haiti thanks to his video posted by Go Inspire Go.

Watch how high school students in San Jose, Calif., were inspired to orchestrate goodness and be inspired to do a kind thing for a teacher or organization that aims to educate the community.

Video: “Student Video Sends 32 Kids to School in Haiti. Pt. 3”

Call to action: Inspire to give what you can to support an educational cause. Money is good, but if you don’t have the funds, give your time and volunteer.


*Day 11* Inspire to move and be present:
Nationally-renowned yoga instructor Kim Shand was born with a birth defect. The prognosis was grim. See how yoga saved her life and how she is giving back. It’ll make you rethink yoga and rethink what’s going on in your life.

Video: “Rethink Yoga. Rethink You”

Call to action: Inspire to start the New Year re-energized! Start off physically and
mentally strong, by engaging in activities that allows your body to reach its greatest potential. Kim is giving away as much free yoga as possible on her YouTube channel. More info: RethinkYoga.com


*Day 12* Inspire to give:
GIG’s most popular story so far. Meet Jorge Muñoz, school bus driver by day, and Angel in Queens, N.Y., by night. For more than nine years, Jorge has spent half his salary buying groceries and cooking, packaging and delivering home-cooked meals to 150+ people every night. More than 202,800 viewers watched and shared and many used their power to help. You must watch both videos!

Video: A Real Life “Angel” in Queens, New York Pt. 1

Video: “Surprise” Angel In Queens Follow-Up Pt. 2

Call to action: Inspire to lend a helping hand by helping Jorge provide warm meals this Christmas season. Visit www.anangelinqueens.org to see how you can help.


*Go Inspire Go is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), run entirely by Toan Lam and more than 30 volunteers around the world. For more inspiring stories, please check out our YouTube Channel. Here’s just a glimpse of our IMPACT. It’s because of viewers like you and your generous donations that enable us to bring you these original, authentic stories. If you can, please make a donation or if you cannot, there are other ways to help. Share our message and videos.

Bless you and our every day street corner-style heroes and organizations — the true heroes who are helping elevate humanity.

Happy holidays,
Toan Lam and Go Inspire Go Team

12 Days of Inspiration: Inspire to Smile (Day 4)

Today is Day 4 of the GIG 12 Days of Inspiration Campaign. Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one inspiring story each day, followed by an action item you can take to make the world a better place. You can read more about the series here


gig12daysofinspirationlogo-2*Day 4* Inspire to smile:

Claire Lemmel goes the extra mile to fulfill her mission of making people, including strangers smile.

Video: “Going the Extra Smile”

Call to action: Inspire to create a ripple of kindness by spreading smiles and holiday cheer! Smile at a stranger.

*****

Past Posts in the Campaign: 

Day 1: Write a Letter to a Soldier

Day 2: Inspire Youth

Day 3: The Best Way to Express Gratitude

 

12 Days of Inspiration: Inspire Youth (Day 2)

Today is Day 2 of the GIG 12 Days of Inspiration Campaign. Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one inspiring story each day, followed by an action item you can take to make the world a better place. You can read more about the series here

*gig12daysofinspirationlogo-2Day 2* Inspire to create a GIG Spark:

In this video, Toan and some Gigsters visit the BAYCAT community as the youth speak up about issues they’d like to address and the changes they’d like to see.

Call to action: Inspire to create a GIG Spark. Use your power and multimedia to be the change.

Sparking Compassion and Inspiring Service in Our Youth

It’s a special effervescent experience being around kids. You know, that warm feeling that makes you smile wider and feel more carefree.

Imagine that multiplied 500 times — that’s what I’m feeling now. I was recently invited to present Go Inspire Go‘s GIG SPARK (Lesson on Compassion) to 500 kids (kindergarten to fifth grade) at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif. What an honor!

Photos: Toan Lam

The theme: Community Heroes. I’ve been invited to speak in front of prestigious crowds of adults, but never this many children. I’m proficient in public speaking, but worried if the presentation Kala Shah, a mother of a Sun Valley student, and I put together would hold the attention of 500 little people for 30 minutes. Would they pay attention? Would they get our message? Would they take action?

Words can’t describe the tingles, endorphins and excitement – the chills – that I felt during that presentation — inspiring the children to “Use their POWER to help others.”

It is one of my most memorable experiences as a journalist, public speaker and inspirator

We created a video to share the experience in hopes of inspiring you to share this blog with at least one young person in your life and perhaps spark your own GIG Spark:

During the presentation, I showed them two video examples. The first video we showcased was a GIG original feature (of regular everyday heroes). This video exemplifies GIG’s goal: to inspire viewers to discover, see and share inspiring stories, then to use their power to help others. Naturally, we shared Part 3 of then kindergartener, Phoebe Russell’s story of how she inspired her community to enable the San Francisco Food Bank to dole out more than 150,000 meals. It all started with five-year-old Phoebe’s letter writing campaign to collect aluminum cans to help feed the hungry in her community:

The second video featured a GIG Spark example. Mini Rasekhy, 14, wanted to inspire smiles, so she and her mother took to the streets and used her voice to spread cheer:

I’m impressed with Julie Harris, Sun Valley’s principal, parents like Kala Shah and the faculty and staff at this special school that goes beyond teaching the basics of arithmetic, science, literature, etc. They inspire good citizens with the three Rs: Respect, Responsibility and Ready to Learn.

Sun Valley Principal Julie Harris getting students ready for the assembly with 3 Rs

I still wonder how this presentation will resonate within them in the future. As my university lit professor, Carolyn Weber would say, “I am shooting arrows out into the world, I wonder where they will land.”

This experience taught me a lot about children. I learned never to underestimate the potential and capacity of a young mind to grasp concepts of compassion and action. I learned that if you have a positive message that inspires goodness, you can captivate the audience of any age.

I am honored and amazed that we captured their attention for 30 minutes!

I can’t wait to see how this presentation will resonate with them through their GIG SPARKS and actions of compassion that they’re learning through this experience.

Many parents tell me they want their child to get civically engaged, but don’t know how. Likewise, many of my students tell me they want to do better for their community, but don’t know how. Well, GIG SPARK is your answer. Join us in making a video on this LESSON ON COMPASSION.

I believe kids are naturally in tune with kindness, giving and service. Wouldn’t it be great if we adults paused right this minute and channel our inner child and do one kind thing for another person?

Kala Shah, Toan Lam, Erin Sitt, Akina Chargaulaf

As Maya Angelou said, “If you know better, you do better.” Now you know, please help our youth do better.

What can YOU do?!

Take Action:

1. Many adults tell me they want to inspire the spirit of service in their children, but don’t know how. Here is the answer. Show our presentation to at least one young person in your life and send us your GIG SPARK: info@goinspirego.com

2. This presentation inspired Kala Shah to create a new “Community Heroes Club” to brainstorm service projects. She will share the GIG SPARKS that are ignited from the club via GIG. Make it your gig to start a Community Heroes club and let us know about it.

3. Be kind to one another. Let us know what kind things you’re experiencing via our social networks: Twitter & Facebook

4 Ways To Help Your Child Find the Hero Within

This past Halloween I watched as a parade of fairies, princesses, kitty cats and iCarly-lookalikes pranced by my front window. And then came my daughter. Dressed in camouflage fatigues and desert boots, a smudge of charcoal under each face, my girl looked every bit the soldier. But when she ran up to me and told me she wanted to protect me, I suddenly remembered the intention of her costume: My nine-year-old wanted to be a hero.

I had to laugh. As a child I adored Superman, the Bionic Woman, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" and TV doctors like Marcus Welby. And as disparate as these idols may seem to some, to me they were all profoundly connected. In my mind, all of these folks were heroes — people helping other people.

My daughter and I have had so many conversations about heroes. I tell her that I look up to those who teach me about courage, about standing up for the weak, about giving voice to the voiceless. A hero shows me a better way to live my own life and inspires me to push myself beyond my boundaries, to open my heart to those who may be nothing like me, and to offer my help whenever I can.

We talk often about the people in our lives that we admire. When I think heroes, one of my first thoughts is of Christopher Reeve. Here was a man who had been stripped of almost everything: as so much of America knows, this world-famous actor suffered a horseback-riding accident in 1995 that injured his spinal cord and caused him to be paralyzed from the neck down. And yet even after this twist of fate, his brilliant and generous mind continued to work overtime. He was still every bit Superman. In fact, you could say that in his own way, he developed x-ray vision into the future. He spoke out and rallied for stem-cell research in the hope that scientists would then be able to find cures for paralysis and other life-altering conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Christopher didn’t just accept his terrible injury; he was reinvented by it. He transformed his celebrity and accident into a crusade that brought hope to millions of lives. He found the hero within him, and that hero was even greater than any Superman could ever be.

His wife, my dear friend Dana, didn’t just stand by her man; she became one with him. After Chris died of heart failure in 2004, Dana took over the foundation that they had created, and she devoted the rest of her life (she died of lung cancer in 2006) to developing programs that would enhance the quality of life of people living with paralysis. Was Dana a hero? Many, many times over. To me and everyone who knew her, she was an angel who moved among us on earth.

ABC journalist Bob Woodruff was reporting in Iraq when an explosive device sent shrapnel in to his brain; after the attack, Bob fell into a coma. When he woke up 35 days later, this die-hard journalist, who was known to read nine newspapers every morning, discovered that he had to learn to speak English again. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury, and for two years he labored to recover his life. But he never once showed any signs of bitterness or despair. His wife Lee has often said that after the accident, Bob "wakes up every day loving everyone and just grateful to be alive." Does he ever ask God, "Why me?" No, he doesn’t. Instead he asks God, "Why not me?"

Five years after Bob’s near-death experience (to this day, he is still trying to pop small pieces of rock from the bomb out of his skin), Lee wrote a memoir, "In An Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing." I am forever touched by how this couple faced their personal crisis with such resilience and love for each other and for the world; they inspire me in profound ways.

Did Lee and Bob find the heroes within themselves? Yes, and their story can show all of us how to rise above our own adversity and become the best people we can be.

I always say to my daughter that for me, heroes aren’t just the people we read about in history books or gaze at as they wave from a shiny convertible in the New Year’s parade. My father is my hero for having made it through a boyhood of total poverty; he was a first-generation Italian boy who had to learn English and build himself from sand. He did it, and he kept his humor. My mother is my hero for conquering every situation with her otherworldly patience, and for rebuilding herself from scratch when her midlife divorce left her scrambling to make a living. My brother is my hero for mentoring and coaching children for little or no pay.

This past Veteran’s Day, I thought about the men and women who fight to keep our country safe. They face gunfire and bombs while we head to our offices, watch our children’s soccer games and walk through our flower-lined parks. To me, each one of them is a hero.

When my daughter and I talk about the people we think of as heroes, I notice that her lovely brown eyes begin the shine. She revels in the idea of helping people and caring for animals. Her learning about heroes has made that her aspiration. If she sees a wounded bird, she wants to nurse it back to health. Whenever an elderly friend of ours comes to visit our house, my daughter always walks her back to her car and makes sure she is safely buckled up. When my girl dressed up as a soldier for Halloween, she told me she did so because she wanted to protect other people. My daughter is my live-in hero for sure.

I have witnessed first-hand how vital heroes are to our children’s lives. For my little girl, they encourage her to dream about the person she hopes to be someday. They also remind her of the compassionate, loving hero she already is right now.

Here’s how you can inspire your child to find the hero within:

1) Talk About Your Heroes

The people I have always looked up to are those willing to put themselves out on the line to help others. As a little girl, Jeanne Meyers, the co-founder of MyHero.com, a website designed to help young people realize their own potential to effect positive change in the world, "loved determined leading ladies who faced challenges with courage and kindness and a little bit of magic." She says, "The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy and Mary Poppins gave me and my friends strong-willed female role models." Talking about your icons of courage with your children is a way of sharing your dreams and giving them insight into who you were growing up. It’s also a lovely way to communicate to your kids that they can have big dreams about who they want to be, too. I have so enjoyed talking about this over my Facebook and Twitter platforms, as it has been a wonderful journey for me to hear from everyone on this topic. I love learning about how others introduce this inspiring discussion with our youth.

2) Don’t Judge Who They Choose As Heroes

So maybe we’d prefer our daughter to admire Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi over Miley Cyrus. But try not to show your disappointment and celebrate the positive aspects of her choice instead. For example, you can point out that "Miley has certainly worked hard to become such a successful star — that kind of commitment is what it takes to reach her level of accomplishment."

3) Show That Heroes Are Human

Even those who act in courageous ways don’t always do everything perfectly. Sometimes they fail; sometimes they make poorly informed decisions. This is something that’s essential for kids to understand. "Children should know that heroes are also fallible people," says Pat Harned, the president of the Ethics Resource Center. "The more we talk about our heroes, the more we not only see the traits that are good, but we can also learn about how to handle challenges, too."

4) Praise Your Child When He Acts Heroically

If he stands up for his friend against a playground bully, tell him you’re proud of the courage he showed and the example he set for all his friends. You can also connect his positive actions to a hero you admire. "That’s the kind of courage Mahatma Gandhi might have shown," you could say. Or, "Rosa Parks stood up for people, too, by refusing to give up her seat at the front of the bus." By aligning your child with heroes we all admire, you give him the vision and support to become the greatest person he can be — and to find the hero within. Please share with me some of the heroic acts of your child.

 

***
Cristina Carlino is a mother, poet and the founder and creator of philosophy skincare, on of the most beloved brands in cosmetic history. Carlino is currently working on Project Miracle, a grassroots social network connecting miracle-makers to the miraculous. Be an angel and make a miracle. To learn more, join Cristina at Facebook.com/CristinaCarlino.

 

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / j.coppolo

Finding Heroes

There are people who have complained on blogs and letters to the editors about the amount of attention the recent deaths of Michael Jackson (in particular), Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, and yes, even Billy Mays of infomercial fame, have received. The question asked, quite bitterly in some cases, is “why are these people so special? What about my father/ mother/ spouse /child/ friend? They were special too!”

And there is absolutely no question they are. The only difference between the average person on the street, and the larger than life personalities that we call celebrities, are the visibility of their actions and the impact on peoples lives on a much bigger scale (usually).
 
For all the “regular joes” out there who wonder why a celebrity death is “more special” than someone in their family – it isn’t. We are all unique and gifted individuals with unique and gifted family/friends and even strangers who touch our lives. We are all heroes, and for that reason I’m sharing today a previous newsletter I wrote about finding heroes.
 
How easy is it to be a hero? Ever wondered if you have what it takes for someone to call you a hero? Well you do! It’s already inside you!
 
We have this idealized image of a hero in our heads: a hero is the person who runs into a burning building to save some stranger at great risk to their own lives. A hero is the soldier who dies fighting for our country. A hero is the kid who saved a bag of puppies from drowning because he heard their cries and pulled them from the water. A hero is the celebrity who dies tragically young.
 
A hero is…all of this and more.
 
These are just the most dramatic examples of what we see as heroes. But there are more everyday examples of heroes that you have in your own life—you just have to change your perception ever so slightly and think again what it means to be a hero.
 
Everyone is born a hero. Everyone. I have a lot of everyday heroes in my life.
 
My partner is my hero—having overcome tremendous life obstacles and bend during the toughest times, but not break.
 
My brother is my hero, for protecting family without hesitation, or give aid to family from wherever he is in the world—I know I can count on him when the chips are down.
 
My other brother is my hero too, for raising such incredibly kind and loving children in a world that is not always kind and compassionate.
 
My mother is my hero, for being able to block out her fear of claustrophobia to be locked into a mask for radiation therapy for throat cancer.
 
My father is my hero, for being the kind of man and doctor that has patients and friends alike admiring his compassion and common sense.
 
And I’m sure that to my cats, I’m their hero for loving them and feeding them and talking to them when they want attention!
 
The point is there are heroes in every one of us. We just haven’t always learned to recognize they are there within.
 
So start opening your eyes today, and start looking for the hero within you. I know you are there… 

 

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