Tag Archives: Youth

Get involved: Your Holiday Mom

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 5.35.10 PM

I went to high school in North Carolina. Being located at the heart of the United States Bible Belt, my home state isn’t known for it’s hospitality towards the LGBTQ community. However, my last two years of high school I went to a public residential magnet school which became sort of a liberal bubble set apart from the conservative influence of our outside community. Our head of residential life actually made a promise that he’d lose his job before he ever made a student come out of the closet to their family, so besides being a place where nerds could actually live at school, it was a safe place for those teens who felt persecuted or unsafe identifying their sexuality in their home schools. Thus, we had a much more vibrant LGBTQ teen community at our school, with alliance clubs and leadership positions created specifically to create healthy dialogue for students questioning or coming to terms with their sexualities.

It created a unique experience that most southern kids don’t get to have. Of course, growing up in a “Will & Grace” era I did horrifying things like try to collect gay friends like Pokemon cards – because to my 16 year old mind having gay or lesbian friends was a novelty and I hadn’t fully figured out that people are people, no matter who they like to sleep next to at night. I am so thankful for the experience and the open mindedness it provided me going into adulthood and that I now have many great friends that just happen to be gay.

However, we still live in a world where that kind of attitude isn’t adopted by everyone. And the other day when I was scrolling through my own blog dashboard I was reminded that there are thousands of kids out there who don’t have a home or school to go to that encourages, and embraces, them to be who they are. Each year we hear of teens who feel so outcasted and lonely because they’re LGBTQ that they self-harm or worse – take their lives. The pressure and depression over this can get even worse around the holiday time when these young people don’t feel safe or welcome in their own homes.

Then I discovered “Your Holiday Mom” – an outreach effort by moms and supportive LGBTQ allies from the internet who are trying to give those teens something to make them feel warm this holiday season. The virtual support group collects letters from moms and allies alike from the internet with messages of love, acceptance and hope and publishes them for anyone struggling this holiday season around family members or friends who don’t support them. The letters each remind the reader that they are loved and they have the place in more progressive hearts, so they’ll know someone is thinking about them and caring about them during the season.

I love this idea because it’s a small thing that can mean the world to someone in trouble. Sometimes charity or giving isn’t always about dollar bills, but opening our hearts to help others. Last year the campaign posted over 40,000 letters. This is the second year and they hope to get even more. Will you help? Here are the submission guidelines. Tell a stranger that you love them this holiday season and you could save someone’s life.

VOD: Is Russell Brand an Anarchist or Just Smarter Than We Give Him Credit For?

Russell Brand has been known to rustle more than a few feathers for speaking his mind. He gets a bad wrap for his crude sense of stage humor or the details of his short-lived marriage to Katy Perry ending up in the tabloids. He doesn’t mind telling off reporters when they slack in asking thoughtful and researched questions and he’s all about sharing his enlightening experiences with yoga and meditation. But would you peg him for a political scholar?

He just finished a week as guest editor at New Statesman despite having never voted in his life. In a recent interview on the BBC’s Newsnight, Russell shared his disdain for the current political system and how it favors the rich hierarchy. He spends a large amount of time defending his position of not voting as his way of refusing to comply with a system that clearly doesn’t benefit the lower classes. Having grown up poor, Russell explains that’s why a lot of poor youth don’t vote – their apathy comes from growing up in a system that clearly doesn’t cater to their needs. Newsnight host bawks at Brand, saying he has no right to complain about a system that he doesn’t put a voice into – and Russell argues back that it seems pointless to voice an opinion in a system that doesn’t work. It seems like revolutionary talk, but the further he explains the more you realize it actually makes sense. Is voter apathy a sign of youth laziness or a call for political overhaul? Does it make Russell irresponsible for promoting these tactics or is he on to something?

Even if you don’t agree with Russell’s political sense, you should also check out this interview where he explains that every person is just a different physical representation of God – or the ordering force of the universe. You’ll see it sounds pretty similar to this Deepak Chopra interview. And you probably thought he was just a comedian with crazy hair.

Way to go Russell.

The Accident That Changed My Life (Part 2)

165Click here to read Part 1.

By Margaret Westley

My optimism carried me through the extent of my six week hospitalization. Life in a hospital is far from easy, but amazing medical care, family, and friends supported me through multiple surgeries and challenging rehabilitation therapy. However, optimism would only take me so far. And like with any traumatic event in life, a person needs to take time to heal.

More surgeries followed the summer after my accident. One morning I noticed a wound had appeared on my residual limb and it turned out to be an infection that traveled to my bone. More bone would have to be amputated. Though I knew the surgery was necessary, I was tired – tired of surgeries and setbacks preventing me from scheduling an appointment with the person who would fit me for my first prosthetic limb.

A shift occurred. Instead of letting myself feel disappointed, I looked for ways to control the situation and prevent myself from feeling sad. I started with eating as little as possible. Being hospitalized only increased my odds for losing more weight. Eating was the last thing from my mind. The fact my wrists were getting thinner and my stomach more flat were pluses in my eyes. I started to tell everyone I was too tired to eat.

At the grocery store, I started checking labels and counting calories too closely. Low fat, fat free, low carb, carb free were my favorite categories. Though I was a size four/six, the Slim Fast Plan became my new best friend.

Externally, I was upbeat and smiled, but inside I wondered why I had started to be afraid to cross busy streets, and why I trembled during class and why when I looked at a line in one of the textbooks all of the words looked the same. Most people had made positive comments about my weight loss, but I’d already decided I was not yet thin enough. So I joined a gym and survived on coffee, bananas, and diet cereal.

The gym became my refuge where I worked out two or three times a day, and when I felt lightheaded I sat on the toilet in the bathroom until I stopped feeling like I was going to black out. I rarely went to class, but when I did, the bathrooms at school called to me. The quiet in between the stalls was one of the few places I felt safe.

I didn’t yet know eating disorders were a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I didn’t even know what PTSD was.

The crash came. My bed was a close second to the gym as my favorite place to be. Everyone thought I’d gotten too thin. I couldn’t balance a full time school schedule, appointments with doctors, lawyers, prosthetists on top of learning how to walk all over again. People began to tell me I was too thin, encircling my emaciated wrists with their fingers to prove I was not eating enough. There were too many questions, and I didn’t have all of the answers.

Withdrawing from school, in my eyes, was the only option. Since I no longer was a student and did not live in the dorms, I sought the guidance of my mentor who had a friend who owned a bar with a boarding house on top of it. The next chapter of my life started in a room the size of a closet. The quiet comforted and frightened me at the same time. I knew it was time to listen to what it was my body needed.

At times, it felt like my world was crumbling, but I knew I would not have made it that far had I not had hope. I found a therapist who specialized in PTSD and eating disorders. She told me I could be sad, mad even, and that I wasn’t crazy. I just needed to take the time to heal.

Yoga became a life saver. I stumbled across the first class I ever took in the East Village. Interestingly enough, I was not nervous. It was as if my body knew being on a yoga mat was where it belonged. At the end of class after the deep relaxation the teacher said, “namaste” and I burst into tears. I knew then yoga and other mindfulness based modalities would be a part of my life forever.

People often want to know about my healing process. Process is a word I prefer instead of overcoming because I don’t want to overcome anything. I want to learn how to be. My amputated leg isn’t going to grow back anytime soon and to be honest, I wouldn’t want it to. I focus not on what I lack, but what still remains.

Life continues to be challenging. My residual limb swells when it’s hot outside and shrinks on a cooler day making it difficult to walk a lot of the time. Phantom limb sensation and spasms are constants. I get tired more easily than before and bed time rarely is past 9:30 pm.

A little over a decade has passed since the accident happened. Sometimes it feels like it was twenty years ago, and there are days where I am shocked it wasn’t just yesterday. I have some regrets, but being hit isn’t one of them. No matter what day it is, I take the time to connect. In the morning, I lie on my back and breathe. Sometimes I cry. A lot of the time I smile. Laughter happens often. There is no shame. Just one incredible journey.

* * *

mwestleyMargaret Westley is a writer, fundraiser, certified integrative nutritionist, and yoga teacher. Each of these professions were inspired by a near death accident she had when she was eighteen years old and got run over by a bus, which resulted in a broken right ankle and losing her left leg below the knee. Though the recovery was tough, Margaret has always seen the accident has a huge gift! Over the years, she’s been a face-to-face fundraiser, worked in a café, been an office assistant, a healthcare attendant, meditation/yoga teacher, and is currently building a fundraising business and writing a memoir. Everyday, something or someone reminds her about how amazing life is and, for that, she is eternally grateful.

Norwegian Musicians Rap to Save Their Native Language

Nils Rune Utsi is a rapper with an unusual story. He hails from Máze, a Norwegian town of roughly 250 people, and he is the founding member of Slincraze, a music group that raps entirely in a near-extinct language. In an interview with the BBC, Utsi recounts his “average” childhood, his love of music, and his reasons for rapping in “Sami,” a language spoken by less than 20,000 people worldwide.

Although Utsi might seem like an unusual case, he certainly isn’t the first to use the medium of rap as a way of proclaiming and maintaining indigenous identity. Australia has seen the rise in recent years of Aboriginal rappers and musicians, using music as a way of counteracting the disenfranchisement of their communities. Native American rappers like Supaman, Melle Mel, and King Just have also turned to rap as a way of both continuing an indigenous legacy of oral story telling and also connecting to larger musical counter culture.

The lesson here might be that, in addition to books, museums, and archives, a powerful way of preserving languages may be inspiring young people to celebrate their linguistic traditions through rap and other musical forms. This allows for the language to come alive and maintain relevance for future generations.

What do you think about the potential for rap to save dying languages? Tell us your thoughts!

5 Ways to Look and Feel Better Than You Did in High School!

Spa Treatment at Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort - MauritiusIt’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. When we’re in our teens we can get away with bad habits because we have that natural, youthful energy anyway. As we get older, we find that energy is a commodity that we prize and need to be more diligent in our self-care so that we have plenty of it!

Luckily for us, Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life,” has some easy guidelines we can follow to look and feel healthier, sexier, and more energetic than we did in high school!

Here are 5 tips from Ayurveda on how to look and feel better:

1. Know your body type.

THEN: In high school you probably coveted the body types of the women in Charlie’s Angels, or wanted to look like Cheryl Tiegs. Now we know better! YOU are the best you, don’t try to be someone else.

NOW: Know your body type – Are you Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. This way you know what “normal” is for you. That way you don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Every dosha is beautiful! Be your best self.

2. Eat for energy.

THEN: In high school you probably lived on pizza and leftovers, and ran through the drive-through after school.

NOW: Eat energizing foods. Fresh vegetables should constitute 40% of the meal. Green, leafy vegetables are especially high in minerals and fiber, so should be eaten often. Raisins are among the best of fruits because they enhance purity, pacify the mind and heart and increase the coordination between them. They are also a rich source of iron and vitamin B6, and provide magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Raisins aid digestion and elimination when they are soaked in water overnight. One handful per person is a good amount.

A date-milk energy shake is a nourishing way to end the day because it promotes sleep and calms both Pitta and Vata sleep imbalances.

Date-Milk Energy Shake

  • 4-5 whole dates
  • 1 cup whole organic milk (may substitute soy or rice or almond milk)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Boil the milk until it creates a foam. Turn off the heat and cool until the temperature is comfortable for drinking. Combine the milk with the other ingredients and blend until the dates are ground up. Drink it warm in winter and at room temperature in summer.

By the way, the warm frothy milk can also be used as a face mask – wonderfully hydrating and leaves the skin super soft!

Herbs and spices are your friends! Cumin helps digestion, freshly crushed black pepper helps you assimilate food better, cilantro cools and nutmeg soothes. There are spice blends, or CHURNAS, specifically to pacify each dosha – you can buy them ready made or make them at home.

Also, avoid energy-draining foods. Any fast foods, canned, frozen, packaged, leftover, or old foods, or foods with preservatives, chemicals and additives, are difficult to digest and contain little nutritional content. They actually drain the body of energy. If you do have some of these foods and feel heavy afterwards, drink half a glass of warm water with ¼ of a lime squeezed into it.

3. Keep skincare simple.

THEN: In high school, you probably spent a ton of money on grooming products, soaps, perfumes, lotions, hairspray.

NOW: Keep it simple. Nourish the body with natural oils. Abhyanga is a daily self massage which is good for keeping all the doshas in balance. It helps moisturize the skin, helps to release toxins, helps to tone the muscles, and it soothes the nerves. Sesame oil is usually recommended in general and is very good for Vatas specifically. Almond oil is also good for Vata. Coconut and sunflower both work well for Pitta. Corn and olive oils are beneficial for balancing Kapha.

The massage can be done in the morning before your shower, or in the evening before bed. Start by warming the oil to skin temperature, and drizzle a small amount of oil into the palms of your hands. Massage the top of your scalp (on days when you wash your hair), pay particular attention to the circumference of your ears, and the soles of your feet. Massage with long strokes on your limbs, and round strokes on your joints. It’s best to leave the oil on the body for 20 minutes before washing it off in a warm shower or bath. This 20 minutes is a good time to do your morning meditation!

4. Maintain a regular routine.

THEN: In high school, you probably kept late nights studying and partying with friends, up early for school, activities – on the go all the time.

NOW: Regular routine can help prevent stress. Ayurveda says there are 3 types of fatigue. Mental fatigue is a Vata imbalance, emotional fatigue is a Pitta imbalance, and physical fatigue is a Kapha imbalance. For all three:

  • Meditation – Twice daily
  • Good sleep habits.
  • Regular meal times.
  • Regular exercise, morning walk in the sun, yoga.
  • Dosha balancing routines – and teas.

5. Support fertility naturally.

THEN: In high school, energy probably came easily. You were always ready for a date!

NOW: Some grains, such as quinoa, enhance estrogenic activity and support the hormonal activity of both men and women. Cook it with a little ghee, salt, and spices such as cumin. Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are also helpful in strengthening the ovum. Turmeric helps enhance the binding of estrogen and progesterone.

Take the Dosha Quiz to determine your Dosha and learn more about Ayurveda with my free 6 week e-course here.

 

Originally published April 2012

Wordplay Wednesday: The First Time

The first time that we took a road trip
Daddy organizing bags in the car
Mommy promising roller coaster rides
To make up for the times that were hard
And then the first time that I broke my curfew
I can still see that look on your face
I was kind of scared
But I liked how much you cared
I just thought the rules were meant to break

Well I’m looking back at memories
With a smile on my face
Like dandelion blossoms in the wind
They fly away

And so we gotta hold on and keep telling our stories
It’s not the same looking at pictures online
We’re wasting time
We gotta give love and soak up every moment
Because life is a train and the days roll by

The first time that I left for college
My hair was blowing with the windows down
Singing along to my favorite songs
Had the music turned up so loud
And then the first time we met it was raining
You said that we should warm up over tea
Opened the cafe door with one hand
So your umbrella was still covering me

We gotta hold on and keep telling our stories
It’s not the same looking at pictures online
We’re wasting time
We gotta give love and soak up every moment
Because life is a train and the days roll by

American flags were waving
At the time it was all we could do
Praying for the people risking lives
I slept a little closer to you
I held onto you

And the first time I looked in her eyes
I swear it felt like my heart would explode
And in that moment I knew
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do
To keep her safe and happy as she grows

We gotta hold on and keep telling our stories
It’s not the same looking at pictures online
We’re wasting time
We gotta give love and soak up every moment
Because life is a train and the days roll by
Yeah life is a train and the days roll by

* * *

dandelionHi everyone! I’m running a bit low on fresh poetry to share with you all so thought it would be fun to share a new song I wrote this week! It’s about a woman growing up in America, starting as a child and then having a child of her own, and the desire to connect in-person more and share our stories. Sorry for the poor video quality, and hope you enjoy:)

Is Kidnapping Ever Justified?

My friend forwarded me the security advisory, which began, “There have been three kidnap incidents in Ikoyi in the last five days.” I read this while sipping my morning coffee, a knot hardening in my chest.

My husband and I moved to Nigeria with our three young children in 2011. We live in Ikoyi.

Wax market
Lagos market

I skimmed through the rest of the message, gnawing on my thumbnail. It provided practical tips on staying safe, such as varying your routine, avoiding fuel stops on isolated roadways, and bringing braiders to your home instead of leaving your child at a salon for hours.

The email ended with a warning: “If you live in an area with high kidnap rates, there is always a possibility that you could already be a target, or that you or your family members are being developed as targets.”

Our sweet children could be targets? I slumped over on the sofa and decided to lie there until I died.

My husband, John, called me from work an hour later. Death was taking longer than planned, so I answered the phone. “Did you hear about the kidnappings?” he asked. “I must have gotten that email from a dozen people.”

“Those poor families,” I said. “Do you think we’re safe here?”

“Our risk is low. These are almost always inside jobs and I trust the people who work for us.”

“Isn’t that what everyone says?” I asked.

I stared at the photo of our kids on the end table as John explained that most countries have had periods in their history when kidnapping is common. “It happens in Russia and Colombia. It happens in any place where there’s income inequality and lack of opportunity. In Brazil in the ‘80’s, plastic surgeons perfected an ear replacement technique because victim’s ears were sent along with the ransom note.”

If John was trying to comfort me with facial mutilation stories, it had the opposite effect.

roll_6_32

When it was time to pick up the children from school, I roused myself from the sofa. After bolting the front door, I climbed into the back of the SUV and buckled my seat belt. Our driver, Sunday, locked the car doors. We circled inside the electrified walls of the compound, waiting for the blue-uniformed security guards to open the gate.

The children were sitting in their classrooms, all body parts accounted for. I hugged them and felt the knot in my chest loosen.

At home, the kids snacked on watermelon slices. They began doing their homework at the dining table while I had my cooking lesson.

Taiwo comes over once a week to teach me how to prepare my husband’s favorite dishes. She has spent twenty years working as a chef and instructor to ex-pat and wealthy Nigerian families. Over the last few months, we have become friendly. We chat about our children, about her church, and about the meaning of Yoruba names. She is proud that her oldest daughter is the first in their family to attend university.

melon 'soup' with goat
Melon soup with goat

I began washing bitter leaf in a bleach bath in the sink. Taiwo struck a match and lit the stove. She squeezed palm oil into a pot. As it sizzled, she sliced a plantain.

She told me how easy it had been to find transportation to my house and thanked Jesus. It is rainy season here and she arrived just before the skies opened up.

I mentioned the recent kidnappings as I stirred the greens through the water. “Isn’t it terrible?” I said, submerging a leaf.

Taiwo told me a story about a mother and daughter she knew from Church who were kidnapped in Benin City. She said the women were held for two weeks before being released. “These were good, God-fearing boys,” she said of the kidnappers. “They graduated from university but couldn’t find jobs. Their families needed them to pay school fees for their junior siblings.”

I pulled the stopper from the sink and watched the water gurgle down the drain.

“When educated Nigerians can’t get jobs,” she said, scraping the pot with a spoon, “it’s fair for them to turn to kidnapping. The wealthy have more than they need.”

The children’s laughter echoed into the kitchen. I stared at Taiwo, my mouth hanging open.

I mumbled something about misdirected governmental spending but Taiwo interrupted, offering rapid instructions on preparing stew.

In the evening, I sat in the dark living room, left with more questions than answers. I wondered if others felt like Taiwo did. Would the people we know in this country sympathize if our children were kidnapped? Or would they think it was a fair price to pay for the opportunities we have had?

Days have passed but my thoughts remained on Taiwo. How could a morally upright woman come to the conclusion that kidnapping is a justified commercial enterprise? I can’t relate but I have never been pessimistic about my children’s future. I don’t know how it feels to live without the expectation that my kids will prosper.

Wordplay Wednesday: Change

flying
It’s a constant battle
Between two voices in my head
They’re both mine but I don’t trust
The one that in my dreams has led me
Towards a situation
Where I know I won’t be safe
It’s always a man that’s pulling me
But I can’t focus on his face
I try to turn my head to see
So that I remember
What he looks like to report him
It’s like I know how it will end
But I can’t get a hold of what’s real
I feel like I’m sedated
And in my dream that’s my fault
I’m weak and feel frustrated
That I’m not acting like the person
I know myself to be
I can’t even walk in a straight line
But I’m more worried what others will think
About the fact that I can’t seem to
Just pull myself together
It’s like someone turned the world sideways
When I liked it the other way better
He leads me to a party where
My friends all seem to be
And I’m trying to tell them
How scared I am
Of this person
That they don’t see
And as this dream keeps repeating
I think that person might be me
And I’m just pissed off at myself
For always loosing control
My self-destruction goes against
The girl who does what she’s told
And in this ebb and flow I’m safe
I don’t have energy leftover to
Pursue the things I want in life
I know what I need to do
I’m clear on what I care about
And what I do now isn’t it
So what’s keeping me from moving forward?
Why don’t I just quit?
And start down the right path
I’m not afraid I won’t succeed
More though that I will
And where exactly that will lead
Because I’ve gotten so used to
The routine that’s become my life
And my cynical nature
Who and what I do not like
But recently I had this vision
That I’m relatively sure will happen
If I don’t make a change right now
And start to fill my life with passion
I’ll end up the wife at the dinner party
Who always drinks too much wine
And brags about what she could have been
If she’d just taken the time
Well I don’t want to be that person
And I know I’m well on my way
So I’m going to just go for it
And change my life today

I wrote this in 2002 at age 26, after a friend suggested I try to write about a dream I kept having.

Go Inspire Go: Why YOUth Matter

Zararwadi SmileIf I could choose one quote that defines the ethos of our youth today, it would be, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Simple but sweet words carefully crafted by my favorite poet, Dr. Maya Angelou.

This is a bold statement, I know, but hear me out.

Before I was invited to develop curriculum at the Academy of Art’s (AAU) Multimedia Department and the University of San Francisco, I too believed that many young folks were apathetic, entitled and not in touch with reality.

Boy, was I wrong. Or as my students would say, “You got moded.”

Reality Check #1: A few years ago, I was given the rare opportunity to build and teach a high school summer bridge program at AAU. I thought that my students would be excited to execute the final I had prepared. “You are going to create a short video on ‘hot spots’ in San Francisco. It could be a cool place to hang out, shop or eat.” I instructed in a sure tone of voice. I thought hands down, students would be stoked.

Instead, hands eagerly went up. The questions they asked changed the trajectory of my stereotypes toward the youth.

One student raised her hand and said, “My mom was so excited that you were teaching us because she follows Go Inspire Go (my nonprofit) on social media.” Another student said, “Yeah my friends follow you on Twitter in Sweden.” A third student said her friends who live in the Midwest follow our stories. Their collective wish: “Can we do our video on a story for GIG and if it’s good enough, would you post it?” My heart skipped a beat. Chills ran from head to my feet.

I was taken aback.

Julian Cohen, a high school junior from Jersey City, N.J., saw an article in his local newspaper about a reverend who wanted to build a high school in Grande Saline, Haiti, following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Cohen was sad that there was no high school in Grande Saline and was inspired to make a video to engage action. This led to two youth movements that eventually sent 32 kids to school for one year in Haiti.

This led me to create a GIG program called GIG Spark, Lesson on Compassion. Students think about a problem and how they could be part of the solution. They create a short 90 second video and send it to us to multiply their message.

Reality Check #2: I’m exited to announce that Go Inspire Go partnered up with The Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA, YouTube, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and National Youth Radio to create GIG Sparks with youth at the Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA. They wanted to make videos that inspire compassion, change and a shift in perspective.

If you watch the local media here in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’d think that this area is only known for its crime, violence and destitution. I found that there was so much hope for the youth living in this area of the City.

Photo Courtesy: Oscar Nilsson/ Interview with Betty Sells-Asberry, YMCA Teen Services Director

When I spent an afternoon training six of these young YMCA change makers, I was filled with pride. Kier Wilson, Tajae Hill, and Jonkia Davis were amazingly inspiring. They were so proud to call the Bayview Hunter’s Point their home, but were deeply saddened their neighborhood is viewed as “the ghetto.” They wanted to do something to change the negative perception of their community.

Thank you to YouTube and the Mayor’s office for inviting us to share our “GIG Spark” as an innovative, organized and fun way to inspire the YMCA kids to accomplish this mission.

* This video was created by four of my students at AAU — youth — who asked to come along on the shoot. Thanks Oscar Nilsson, Marcus Pettersson, Eva Broman, and Hugo Albrektsson for your great work!

Reality Check #3: At the University of San Francisco, my alma mater, I was asked to design and teach a Blogging for Social Change course. On the first day, I asked students, “What is your passion?”

With optimism and determination, one student said, “I want people to get out of their bubble and do something to help the people in their community.”

‘Nuff said! Amen to that.

As a kid, I felt insignificant. I thought I didn’t matter. I didn’t feel like I had a voice. What would a Chinese immigrant boy, growing up in a rough South Sacramento neighborhood, say of any importance? Why would anyone care?

I wonder how many youth feel like that today. What if adults took a moment to listen to the youngsters in their lives and hear them out. With a little guidance, support and inspiration, we too could be a part of inspiring a new generation of people who teach what they learn and give what they get!

* * *

Take Action:
* Check out “I LOVE Bayview” on Improve SF!
* Share their stories on social media and by word of mouth.
* Volunteer at your local YMCA

Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

Photo credit: Flickr

Has Science Discovered the Answer to Eternal Youth?

Scented PinkOurs is a culture that values youth and childlike beauty above anything else, even to the point of neglecting our elderly population. Not only do we covet the strength and flexibility of a spry body, but we obsess over youthful beauty and go to inordinate lengths to maintain it well into aging. Well, forget about plastic surgery and face creams – what if there were a way to not only live longer and look younger, but to actually stay young throughout your life?

We aren’t making any promises, but Nature science journal recently published findings linking the activities of the hypothalamus to the process of aging. Early trials have been conducted on mice, but if applied to humans it could change the way doctors approach age-related illness and measures for increasing longevity. The study has discovered correlations between inflammation, stress responses, and aging all localized in the hypothalamus, which could suggest that reducing the one would alleviate the other, etc.

The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that regulates hormones associated with temperature, sleep, hunger, blood pressure, sex drive, and moods, as well as the release of hormones from various glands, including the pituitary gland. The complex nature of the brain is such that we can’t draw a simple line between stress and aging or even inflammation and aging, when a host of hormones and neurological factors are at play. Several things can be said, though, about the effects of stress on the body, which meditation and other mind-calming techniques have been shown to help alleviate.

Stress can increase blood pressure, slow digestion, increase heart rate, and cause muscle to tense, along with other problems. And the latest research on meditation, the brain, and overall health suggests that the practice may reduce these stress-related effects, as well as improve the immune system, cognitive function, and control of the nervous system.

We look forward to further research on this subject! We hope that in the near future much will be uncovered about the potential to reduce age-related suffering, whether through mindfulness practices like meditation, or even through manipulating hormones in the hypothalamus. After all, wrinkles and grey hair are marks of wisdom and rich life experience, but we could just as soon do without the pain and illness that often goes along with aging.

What do you think? Take a look at the studies on your own and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...