Tag Archives: Role Model

Being the Role Model your Foster Child Needs


Role models. They are everywhere. A few years back, controversy was stirred when a professional athlete once stated that he was not a role model. Unfortunately, this is not true for you. As a foster parent, you will be a role model for countless people, as many eyes will be upon you. Not only will you be a role model for your foster children, but for the public, as a whole. After all, not many in our society know what foster parenting or foster care is really about. If you are like me, your own friends and family members don’t even really know what you do. Gosh! I have written several books on foster care, have a radio show and a weekly video series, and have spoken to countless organizations. Yet, my own family doesn’t really appreciate what my wife and I do on a daily basis as foster parents. Continue reading

The Coolest Meditator In The World

The Dalai Lama @ The Vancouver Peace SummitHe turned 78 last Saturday and still says he meditates for three hours every day, starting at 4 am. He says he is just a simple monk and that kindness is his religion, calling for love and compassion to promote world peace.

When we met with the Dalai Lama he was standing on his veranda overlooking the beautiful Himalayan Mountain range, smiling and waving for us to come. We went to bow as is the tradition but he lifted us, took our hands, and said: “We are all equal here.”

We really didn’t know what to expect as he walked us into his sitting room. We imagined this spiritual leader to millions would be a serene Buddha-like figure sitting on a throne, yet he sat between us on his couch, still holding our hands, for forty-five minutes. He was the most ordinary person we ever hung out with. The world’s greatest meditator was simple and unassuming, he felt like our best friend, and he laughed a lot.

Ed and Deb Shapiro with the Dalai LamaJust by sitting with the Dalai Lama we realized the effect of his years of meditation, as his very presence emanated all those qualities that meditators seek, such as inner peace, loving kindness, authenticity, and mindful awareness. This is particularly seen in his devotion to ahimsa, non-injury, and his policy of non-violence, which is why he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Research, such as that conducted by neuroscientist Richie Davidson, a friend of the Dalai Lama’s, at Wisconsin University, and shared in our book Be The Change, proves how meditation actually develops the part of our brain that increases compassion and loving kindness. “By training the mind, we can actually change the brain toward greater contentment,” says Dr. Davidson in Be The Change. “There is certainly evidence to show that meditation practices designed to cultivate compassion and loving kindness change the brain in many positive ways.”

However, the mind desires endless entertainment and much prefers being distracted than facing the constant dramas racing around inside it. The idea of sitting still and watching our breath can appear boring, meaningless, even a time-waster, and not at all fun or creative. Yet meditation invites an undoing of what isn’t and a revealing of what is; we don’t become someone else, rather we become more who we really are, which is far from boring! It is about being fully present in this moment, no matter what we are doing: if washing the dishes, then let any thoughts and distractions dissolve into the soap bubbles; when eating, be aware of every bite, taste, and texture.

As the Dalai Lama wrote in the foreword to our book:

I strongly recommend anyone interested in meditation not to simply read what these people have to say, but to try it out. If you like it and its useful to you, keep it up. Treat this book as you would a cookery book. You wouldn’t merely read recipes with approval, you’d try them out. Some you’d like and would use again. Like cookery, meditation only makes sense if you put it into effect.

A regular practice of meditation can produce discernible changes in the brain in a matter of just six to eight weeks. To feel the difference in yourself try the practice below.

Weed Pulling Meditation

Find a comfortable and upright place to sit. Take a few deep breaths, then watch the flow of your breath as it enters and leaves.

Now bring your focus to your heart, and as you breathe in feel as if your heart is opening and softening; as you breathe out, release any tension or resistance. Sit here for a few minutes.

Now visualize yourself walking in a beautiful but overgrown garden. All sorts of colorful flowers surround you, but among them are numerous weeds.

You find a place to sit amidst the plants and mindfully begin to remove the weeds. Each one represents a negative aspect of yourself or your life. Name it as you remove it, and watch it leave your mind as you discard it.

The more weeds you remove the lighter you feel, as if a weight is being removed from you. As you do this, the flowers are growing stronger and brighter.

Stay here as long as you like. You may not have time to pull up all the weeds, so before you leave promise that you will be back again to remove some more.

When you are ready, silently repeat three times, “May I be happy, may my mind be like a beautiful garden.” Take a deep breath and let it go. Then fill the rest of your day with kindness and smiles.

* * *

Listen to our weekly LIVE radio show every Tuesday at 8:00pm EST: Going Out Of Your Mind.

Join our Be The Change Meditate e-Conference that will uplift and inspire you. 30 eclectic meditation teachers, including Marianne Williamson, Congressman Tim Ryan, author of Mindful Nation, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Gangaji, Joan Borysenko, Seane Corn, neuroscientist Richie Davidson who proves how meditation affects the brain, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Stiles, and us, Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the conference companion book, BE THE CHANGE: How Meditation Can Transform You and The World. Expect your life to never be the same again!

For more information: www.edanddebshapiro.com

photo by: Kris Krug

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama: Beyonce is Not a Role Model


Dear Michelle Obama,

I’m addressing this to you because I admire you. Because you’re smart and a mum to two young girls. And you’re the First Lady of the USA. And because you were recently quoted as saying that Beyonce is a great ‘role model’ to your two daughters, and because you recently tweeted, after the Superbowl, that you were ‘so proud’ of her. I’m writing because everything you do is admired and emulated by so many; but when you endorse a recording artist like Beyonce, I see the most misogynistic aspects of the music industry (that prefers girls to be no more complex than dolls) interpret your comments as a seal of approval for the thoughtless cultural currency that they flood the youth market with. I’m writing because I think it’s time to stop suggesting to very young girls that ultimate feminine success – in the music industry or anywhere else – comes with the need, or the expectation for them to undress.

When Beyonce kicked off her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour two nights ago, wearing her sheer bodysuit with nipples showing, to me she performed the final degradation of her talent; a retrogressive transformation that has taken someone stellar and otherworldly, and made them into something dreadfully familiar and sad.

Variations of Beyonce’s body suit can be found in brothels, strip clubs, and red light districts across the world – where sex is for sale and it happens to be dispensed through a woman’s body. That she is a human being with feelings and dreams, perhaps a sister, a mother, a leader, a teacher, a student – ALWAYS – a daughter – all of this can be forgotten. In those surroundings a suit like Beyonce’s would look far from glamorous. Maybe just downright heartbreaking as a woman somewhere becomes an object, available for the gratification of a desire – at a price dictated by her ‘managers’.

Next time you’re presented with a shortlist of people in popular culture who you should spend time with or commend, think about how many young girls want to be just like Beyonce: Beyonce who sings ‘Bow Down Bitch’ and wears sheer bodysuits and high heels, singing about making money and being independent.

Remember that in the USA, the average age of a girl when she is trafficked for sex for the first time is 13.

Remember that she’s often brought into the ‘life’ by drug dealers who promise her a celebrity lifestyle, clothes like the ones Beyonce wears, and situations where she can live like Queen Bey: looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality.

Understand that in an obscene act of manipulation by the young men who will pimp them, for a very short amount of time – maybe only for a half an hour in one of their early encounters – young girls who are trafficked do actually get to taste the experience that they have identified as ultimate feminine success: they get given hot pants or body suits like the one Beyonce’s dancing in, they dance for men who find them alluring, and for a very short time, these very young girls are convinced that they’ve made it – only to be assaulted, abused, and sometimes murdered in the years ahead, by the men who they thought wanted them.

Beyonce, performing in sheer body suits, nipples displayed, mouth open, high heels and sheer tights, shaking her butt on stage, can no longer be held by world leaders as an icon of female success.

Because for as long as she is, we are feeding a demonic myth that women must make themselves sexually available to enjoy ultimate success. And it is demonic because the impact this myth has on those most vulnerable young girls who fall pray to, is unimaginably horrible.

It can take years of a young girl’s life away from her when she tries to escape a life of abuse at home by believing promises of money and glamor, sexual allure and power – a life just like the most successful women in the world; only to be sold for sex, beaten, and made addicted to drugs. It can take a chance of an educated, secure future away from her; and sometimes, if she can’t find an exit – it can take her very life away from her.

Beyonce is a singer and a songwriter. She doesn’t need to wear see through clothes or body suits to sing. We know that because we’ve seen her singing accapella in a hospital in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and – and she sounded like a celestial being from a different dimension.

She doesn’t have to do this. She’s choosing to. And she’s not the first or only one woman to do it. And like the many women who have played this game the way they have, her reasons may be economic, artistic, personal or even misunderstood. But whatever her reasons, her influence cannot be underestimated or misunderstood.

It’s time that young girls were sent a different message. A more refined, intelligent message. A message that engaged them at the level of their intellect and potential because implicit in our message to them should be the acknowledgement that they are naturally brilliant and that we believe that they are capable of everything – without ever having to undress to achieve their success.

The work here is to re etch the self image and self worth of young girls who think that sexualizing themselves is necessary to be powerful or successful.

So please, let it be known that Beyonce is not a role model.
She may have a lot of money, and she may have enormous influence.
But she can no longer be called a role model.

(Unless you think it would be really cool for Sasha or Malia to follow her example and sing songs for people on a stage whilst wearing sheer gold glitter bodysuits detailing the contours of their body, under the management of their daddy and/or their husband).

Instead, call out those who deliberately allow their sexual identity to eclipse the genius of their spirit and sacredness of their soul. Tell young girls that they are more than that. Engage with artists who sing, dance, write, design, perform – but whose presentation centers on showcasing the brilliance of their brain, not their body.

If I had daughters I’d tell them to pass on the Beyonce show because when you’re wearing a sheer see through body suit with nipples on display, no matter how much gold thread in it – I don’t see any light coming out of it. I just see a glowing ball of soullessness.

I’d say to my girls:  all that’s gold doesn’t glitter. Let’s find something genuinely luminous…and take them to a Lorna Simpson exhibition, or a C.C White concert, or hand them a Zadie Smith book.

Follow Rakhi Kumar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheMGGtSpirit

You Are Who You Are When No One Is Looking

By Betsy Brown Braun

The mother unwrapped the straw, poked it into the little box, and handed the drink to her toddler as they walked out of the grocery store. The sliver of straw paper slipped from the mother’s hand. I doubt that she even noticed it.

Rolling my grocery cart back to its stable, I looked around to see how many carts were randomly parked, willy-nilly throughout the lot, nowhere near the stable. Who leaves her cart to roll into the next parked car?

Since my greatest interest and life’s work centers on parents and kids, the world is my lab. I notice random acts, relationships, and interactions wherever I go. Observing, noticing, gathering data, storing information, wondering: that’s me. Today at the grocery store, I couldn’t help but think about where and how children learn to do the right thing, to make the right choices. Of course, “right” means different things to different people, but I’m thinking of generally accepted right. The answer is kind of complicated, but not really.

To do the right thing, children have to do the wrong thing. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Much of growing up is trial and error, testing limits and boundaries. Do it wrong, experience the consequence, then do it right the next time. At least, you hope it works that way. That’s certainly one of the ways kids figure out what is the right thing to do.

However, even without actively teaching your children, they learn from you because they copy you. Think about the things that you automatically do because that’s the way you’ve always done it. There is the great old tale of the mother who is preparing her Thanksgiving turkey with her adult daughter. The daughter asks, “Mom, why do you always cut off the end of turkey before you put it in the roaster?” The mother, who has no answer, knowing only that she cut it because her mother had always done so, calls her own mother. “Mom,” she asks, “Why do we always cut off the end of the turkey before putting it in the roaster?” The grandmother replies, “So it will fit in my roaster.”

Over and over, I remind parents that your kids are watching you all the time. It’s about how you live your life every day. If you ALWAYS hang up the clothes you tried on before you leave the store dressing room, the habit will become your child’s too. If you ALWAYS put your trash in the wastebasket, your child will do the same. If grocery shopping ALWAYS ends by returning your cart to the stable, not doing so won’t be a choice. Behaviors, right and wrong, become automatic when they are habitual. And so it will be for your absorbent child. Doing the right thing has a good chance of becoming ingrained in him, whether or not you are there watching.

Are you a person who does the right thing when no one is looking? If your answer is yes, then it’s likely you’re teaching your child to do the same.

Betsy Brown Braun is the bestselling author of the award-winning Just Tell Me What to Say (HarperCollins 2008), and You’re Not the Boss of Me (HarperCollins, 2010), a bestseller in its fourth printing. A renowned child development and behavior specialist, popular parent educator, and mother of adult triplets, she is a frequent speaker at educational and business conferences, has been a guest expert on Today, the Early Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, Fox and Friends, Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight, Rachel Ray, and NPR and has been cited in USA Today, the New York Times, Family Circle, Parents, Parenting, Woman’s Day, Real Simple, and Good Housekeeping, among countless other publications and websites. For more on Betsy, please visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

*Photo by neonzu1.

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

The 70-Year Old SkyDiver

My role model, the man that I take after, the person with whom I share so many qualities, is my father. And bless his heart, my 70-year-old father will make his first parachute jump on July 1st, Canada Day. Why? Perhaps it’s his unending energy, his fierce spirit, or his eternal showmanship, but my father, 70 years of age, is going to jump out of an airplane to promote his very successful multicultural festival, Abbyfest, abbyfest.com. It is so successful in fact, that it has captured the attention of the mayor and ministers of British Columbia, Canada, a feat rare for a newly arrived resident of Abbotsford.

I’m extremely proud of this man who has shown me by example to never give up, to always work hard and to, most importantly, respect your family and fulfill your duty in life. Although I have never expressed it to him, his example and his teachings are the guidelines by which I live my life. There is not a day that goes by, where I don’t think of him and his life lessons. Even more so, and surprisingly so, I finally have come to realize why, during my rebellious teenage years, that he was so strict. I realize now, had I had children, I probably would have also felt as exasperated as he at my own daughter’s assertions. Perhaps I may have dealt with it in a different way, but overall and funnily, it sort of all makes sense now.

My father, a man of eternal idealism, the beacon of my life and the foundation that gave me the platform to dream and dare a nonconventional life, is jumping out of an airplane at the age of 70 to promote his brainchild festival. Today, as a daughter, I feel dignified, blessed and beyond-words proud that my father, rockstar that he is, is going to do something that only the young consider, the brave do and the experienced brag about. My father, my 70-year-old father, is going to skydive out of an airplane on July 1st.


Mallika Chopra: Michelle Obama – A Role Model for My Daughters

Every night before we go to bed, my daughters and I talk about our
worst and best parts of the day. Today, we all agreed that the best
part was watching Michelle Obama’s warm and passionate speech, and then
seeing her girls come onto the stage. As a mom, I felt we were
experiencing a piece of history together…

The fact that today a smart, articulate, beautiful and accomplished
black woman from the South side of Chicago stood before seasoned
politicians, an audience of men and women, of whites, blacks, Latinos
(and did you see the Indian sardar on CNN!), and addressed the world on
national television, to celebrate the accomplishments of American
society through her own story, is something to be proud about.

When she spoke about being at the crossroads of a woman’s right to
vote and the anniversary of Martin Luther Kings “I Have a Dream”
speech, Michelle Obama recognized the accomplishments of the so many
leaders that came before her. Most importantly, she set a tone of
dignity and a reminder of what we are capable of as a humanity.

“And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister
into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll have families of
their own. And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell
their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll
tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our
fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start
dreaming. How this time, in this great country – where a girl from the
South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of
a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House – we
committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.”

As a mom, I was grateful that my daughters heard the words of
gratitude, hope, and pride from Michelle Obama. As I tucked my
daughters in tonight, Michelle Obama’s powerful, personal words indeed
echoed in our home…


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