Monday, April 26, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink

            Water is central to the life of a child in a Montessori environment.  One  begins with pouring water from one pitcher to another developing hand-eye coordination while experiencing joy in successfully transferring water into the vessel.  Practical Life gives the child ample opportunities to use water to care for oneself (washing hands, washing face, brushing teeth) and to take care of the environment (washing table, washing clothes and scrubbing the floor).  We wash fruits for food preparation, mix water with squeezed lemon to make lemonade and use water to boil eggs or pasta to make spaghetti.
            We use water to explore the sciences: sink and float in physics, dissolving solids in chemistry,  plants need water in biology,  making a river in geology.  For our health, we drink water to keep our lungs moist, to hydrate our brain tissue, to replace the water lost through sweating and to aid in the various functions of the body. 
            As the child moves forward in one’s education, one learns that all life needs water, the first form of life was in water and civilizations were first settled along bodies of water.  There is a diversity of life forms in the oceans and rivers.  We use water for transportation, recreation,  sanitation, source of energy, and in religious rites.  We have come to rely on the water cycle to bring us rain to water our plants and bring us fresh rain water. Water supports life and without water there is no life.

The Water Problem
            Now we are facing a serious challenge with our water. I will categorize these challenges into four:
1)            supply and demand of water
2)            water pollution
3)            loss of wetlands, trees, grassy areas
4)            global warming causing polar ice caps to melt, raise ocean temperature

1)            Supply and demand of water
            With our modern lifestyle, we have developed ways of pumping water, purifying water and bringing it to our homes effortlessly.  All we need to do is to turn on the faucet and we have water.  Only 10% of the potable water brought to our homes is used for cooking and drinking.  90% is used for watering the plants, washing and flushing the toilet.  Literally 90% of the purified water goes down the drain.
            We had formed the notion that the supply of water is limitless.  It is not.  We hardly value water.  The price we pay for water is low compared to what we pay for cable television services or our cellular phone. The price structure encourages indiscriminate use of water.  Add to this the fact that our population is increasing, the demand for water in our modern society puts a strain in our water supply.  The supply is limited but the demand is increasing.  Unless something is done, this leads to shortage of potable water.

2)            The quality of water brought to our homes has been compromised. Toxic substances that have been washed off from industrial waste may have seeped into the waterways which is our water source. Biological contaminants in the form of fecal mater from humans and animals end up in our water source when untreated sewage gets dumped into our waters or when holding lagoons for manure produced in the production of meat from cattle overflows and ultimately end up in the rivers and streams.   Even rain water normally considered the purest form of water could be contaminated with air pollutants thus producing acid rain.  Water polluting our oceans and rivers disturb the variety of life in the water and we perturb the integrity of the ecosystem.

3)            With the building of roads, paving driveways, draining swamps to build homes, we replaced trees, bushes, grass and other plants which absorb water with non-absorbent materials.  This means that rain water instead of being absorbed by plants will run off and carry with it oils and other pollutants on the land to the water source.  Erosion of land occurs when water runs through bare soil bringing with it soil to the water.

4)            Global warming melts the polar ice cap and raises the temperature of the ocean. This is detrimental to the variety of life in the ocean.

What we can do.
1)            Change our mind set and start valuing water, it is finite and the demand on this source has been increasing.  Proper pricing will encourage minimal use of water.
2)            Practice water conservation inside and outside the house
3)            Refrain from eating meat one day or more days a week to slow down meat production which will eventually reduce fecal runoff from manure lagoons
4)            Grow ground covers so no bare spot would be vulnerable to erosion.
5)            Plant more trees, they are the best agent to prevent erosion
6)            With increasing population, we have to seriously think of proper allocation of our water source
7)            Compost food garbage to reduce extra treatment of sewage that ends up in the landfill while returning nutrients to the soil
8)            Grow lawn naturally, allow grass to grow three inches before mowing
9)            Be aware of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and be proactive with letters to enforce the provisions and fine violators accordingly
10)         Support local municipalities need to update infrastructure to replace old and outdated pipes to meet current need
            It is our responsibility individually and collectively to maintain the integrity of clean and safe drinking water,  safeguard the oceans, streams, rivers and lakes, engage in activities to promote the health of the planet so life in this planet will continue to flourish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Assertiveness, the Middle Path Between Aggression and Passivity

         My father told me this story.

        People in India complained to the guru that the snake had been frightening them by blocking their pathway to the market with its slithering, hissing and biting if it gets close enough.  The guru talked to the snake telling it to cool down and not frighten the people needlessly.  The snake listened. 

      The following week, the guru found the snake weak and badly beaten.  When asked what had happened, the snake explained, “You told me to cool down, so I did.  The people took advantage of this and started beating me.”

     “You can’t just lie down and allow the people to beat you until you are weak.  You have to defend yourself from getting abused.  However, do not go out of your way to scare them especially if they are not bothering you. But when they get ready to bother you, scare them a little so they will leave you alone.” 

       There is quite a bit of wisdom in that story.  It is the story of aggression, passivity and the middle ground between the two, assertiveness.

    We have no difficulty recognizing when we have been passive.  We allowed ourselves to be victimized by an aggressor.  We complied with the demands of the aggressor on something we fully oppose for different reasons: 1) to please or appease,  2) we succumbed to the pressure to agree to the demand although we protest strongly against it in our heart, 3) we were completely dominated through coercion that left us feeling defeated.

      We think that when we do something to please we earn points for ourselves with the aggressor.  We do not.  The aggressor is heartless.  He thinks only of himself.  If he demands today, he will demand again tomorrow and the next day.  We keep giving in to appease but we never really please a tyrant.  While we are pleasing somebody else against our will, we are selling our soul.  We no longer know who we are and we hate ourselves.

     The aggressor uses well calculated words to pierce at our sensitive spots.  Insults are hurled.  Put-down’s  are thrown and we are called names to humiliate us.  As victims, we accept these poisoned arrows as we feel hurt and sometimes reduce ourselves to tears.  We were completely defenseless and unprepared for the assault. It happens so fast and before we can think of the appropriate way to respond, it is over. We leave pretending to be cordial but in reality we are nursing a wound.

      To fight aggressively is not the answer.  Aggression feeds on aggression and the fight escalates further to something uncontrollable.  We have to find the balance between aggression and passivity.  That is assertiveness.

      Having experienced insults from certain persons, we avoid any interactions with these people.  We do not have to wrestle with lions unless we are inside a lion’s den.  To avoid fighting with lions, we stay out of the lion’s den.  (1) This is the first step.

        The next step  is to learn to stop the pain  (2).  When we learn to stop the pain we now feel, we are just a step away from preventing things to cause us pain in the future.  We are our own worse enemy.  We let people’s words bother us.  Our recurring thoughts replay what this person said or did and we get fired up inside with hatred for the person as though it just happened yesterday.  It happened ten years ago. The fact is people say negative things out of ignorance.  They are really reflecting what is inside them, they are talking about themselves.  Every insult made against us could just as easily have been said against them.  The best path to take is to ignore them.  Do not take things personally. (3)

       Say very little or none at all during a conflict.  If you have to speak, say it with firmness and determination in your voice that  you  choose not to engage in petty conflicts or useless arguments.  Say you have work to do and leave.  Remember that the purpose of an argument is to win.  Since nobody really wants to lose, the loser for this particular round only retreats to plan the next attack to get even. No conflict has been resolved and the bitter after taste of the altercation lingers for a long time.

        I find it therapeutic to write in my journal a record of the event as it happened.  (4) I write spontaneously including all details and how I felt.  A miraculous thing happens while I write:- an intuitive voice from within offers an advice on what I could have done.  Sometimes this voice gives me insight as to what the other person’s perspective was that I missed. 

     There are books on  assertiveness  training. There is one specifically on “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense.” (5)  It is not as important to be armed with the skills of verbal come back’s to insults as it is to build an invisible shield of peace around us to protect us from feeling the pain.  In the end we visualize  the Lord of Peace giving His blessing to us saying:

Peace be unto you.
My peace, I give unto you.
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled
Neither let it be afraid.                       John 14:27

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Siete Pasos para ser mas Feliz (Seven Steps in order to be more Happy)

How to be more  Happy.

            I read my first non-fiction book in Spanish by Dra. Isabel, entitled, “Los siete pasos para ser mas  feliz,”  “Seven Steps in order to be more Happy.”  My message this morning is a brief summary of the important points from this book and my own thoughts on the subject of happiness.
            Dr. Isabel says that we look for external things to be happy.  This search in itself causes us stress and frustration.  The harder we try to get what we want, the longer the wait for these material things to come, the sadder we get.  When we get what we thought we wanted, we want other things and the journey towards endless search followed by frustration repeats itself.
            Dr. Isabel wrote how to gain happiness with seven steps: (pages 7-9)
1.             Recognize the beliefs that  bind you.  In order to change your reality regarding happiness, first change your beliefs.
2.             Identify the emotions that hurt you.  If we live constantly with feelings of fear, happiness cannot exist.
3.             Free your negative interior voice.  We have to find a way to diminish our worries and our stresses by using our inner dialogue.
4.             Use positive affirmations in order to change your attitude.  When we change our form of thinking with positive affirmations, we open to us the path towards happiness.
5.             Take control of your life: like how to manage your time;  set goals, prepare for difficult situations, practice breathing exercises, gain benefits from meditation and conquer economic insecurity.
6.             Surround yourself with positive persons.
7.             Gain more happiness with your life style. There are many simple things that you can do right now in order to live a more happy life.  For example, to be spiritual and to have a purpose in life are exceedingly important in the happiness equation in order to be very happy.
            We all want to be happy.  Each one defines happiness in his own way.  We think we will be happy when we have a big house or a car or a yacht or other material goods.  We do things that will bring us more money. We think money will bring us happiness.  That may be true in the beginning but after a while we feel emptiness inside and realize that money is not everything.
              What is wrong with this picture is that we believe that we attain happiness through acquiring external things.  This is really difficult to do because we need to change the circumstances around us.  What we need to realize is that we need to change our beliefs, our thoughts and our inner motivations and happiness comes to us.  
            The same is true with our relationships.  We want him/her  to change into the image we have of him/her.  This is not only impossible, it causes unnecessary friction between two people.  Each one wants to determine one’s own life and not to be pushed or pulled like a puppet.  The secret is when we change how we behave, we affect other people and they change because we have changed.
            Consider a butterfly.  The more we chase the butterfly, the more it runs away from us.  When we stand still, the butterfly alights on us. Happiness is not something to be chased halfway around the globe.  Happiness is right within us.
            Happiness is a by-product of living the life that we are meant to live.  We are here to learn our lessons in life.  We feel frustrated and angry simply because we have not learned our lessons just like finding our feet hurting because we kept on putting the left foot on the right shoe. 
            We feel unhappy because we expect life to be a bed of roses.  Let’s remember roses have thorns.  We need the sunshine of success and the rain of failure in order to grow. 
            We are unhappy because we think someone should make us happy.  The truth is no one can make us happy, we grow our own happiness.  We decide that we are going to be happy in all situations.  We cannot control what is outside of us but we certainly can control what we feel or think about situations. When we feel and think that difficult situations are challenges that once conquered will make us stronger then we face challenges head on. 
            We are unhappy when we think that life is only about getting benefits for ourselves.  We are happy when we give of our talents, our treasure, our time, our gifts to make a difference in someone else’s life or contribute to the betterment of this world.
            We are our own worse enemies.  We tell ourselves that we cannot be happy or we cannot get out of a miserable situation or we do not have the qualities that make us successful or popular with friends. All these negative self-talk causes us to lose our self-confidence and lead to unhappiness.  In order to be happy we have to change our beliefs.  We need to look at ourselves and examine our fears, our doubts. We need to put a stop to these negative things and replace them with positive affirmations.  These glorious affirmations can come from the Confiteor in our liturgy.  With these  we can erase our negativism and see the Light of Love,  Joy  and Peace in our hearts.
 Oh Lord God, Thou hast created man to be immortal and made him to be an image of thine own eternity, yet often we forget the glory of our heritage and wander from the path which leads to righteousness.  But Thou oh Lord hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee.”
With these glorious affirmations, we can erase our negativism. Continuing with the liturgy ---
Look with the eyes of thy love upon our manifold imperfections and pardon all our shortcomings   so that we may filled with the brightness of thy everlasting light and become the unspotted mirror of they power and the image of thy goodness, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Note:  I translated the above sermon  into Spanish as my culminating project in learning to speak español  under the mentorship of my student, Yajaira Villanueva.  She also made corrections to align with the Spanish idiomatic expression.  I practiced reading for a month then delivered the sermon from memory to a Spanish-speaking congregation in Hialeah, Florida, La Parroquia de la Nuestra Sra. De los Angeles on June 15, 2008.

Los Siete pasos para ser mas feliz

            Lei  mi primer  libro en español de la Dra. Isabel, “Los siete pasos para ser mas feliz.”    La Dra. Isabel dice que nosotros buscamos cosas externas  para ser felices. Esta busqueda nos hace sentir estresados  y frustrados.  Mientras mas duro tratamos de obtener lo que queremos,  mas tardan las cosas materiales  en llegar, mas tristes nos ponemos.  Cuando obtenemos lo que pensamos que queriamos, queremos otras cosas y el viaje hacia la busqueda sin fin, seguido de frustracion se repite.

La Dra Isabel escribe como alcanzar la felicidad  con los siete pasos:
1)   1)    Reconoce las creencias que te atan.  Para cambiar tu realidad e imbuirla de        felicidad, primero cambia tus creencias.
2)    2)   Identifica las emociones que te hacen dano. Si vivimos continuamente con sentimientos de temor, la felicidad no puede existir.
3)    3)   Liberate de tu voz interior negativa. Tenemos que encontrar la manera de disminuir nuestras preocuaciones y nuestro estres utilizando nuestro dialogo interior.
4)    4)  Usa afirmaciones positivas para cambiar tu actitud  Cuando cambiamos nuestra forma de pensar con afirmaciones positivas, nos abrimos el camino hacia la felicidad.
5)    5)  Toma las riendas de tu vida: como manejar tu tiempo, proponerte metas, prepararte para situaciones dificiles, practicar las respiracion, beneficiarte de la meditacion y vencer la inseguridad economica
6)    6)  Rodeate de personas positivas.
7)    7)  Alcanza mas felicidad con tu estilo de vida. Hay muchas cosas simples que puedes hacer ahora mismo para vivir una vida mas feliz. Por ejemplo, ser espiritual y tener un proposito en la vida son sumamente importantes en la ecuacion de la felicidad para ser mas feliz.

Queremos ser felices..   Cada uno define la felicidad  a  su manera.  Pensamos que seremos felices cuando tengamos una casa grande o un auto o un yate u otros bienes materiales. Hacemos cosas para tener mas dinero. Pensamos que el dinero  nos traera  felicidad.  Al principio esto podria ser.  pero despues de pasado el tiempo, sentimos un vacio adentro  y nos damos cuenta de que el dinero no lo es  todo.

Mi mensaje en esta mañana es una repuesta breve a los puntos importantes del libro y mis propios pensamientos sobre el tema de la felicidad.

            Lo que esta malo  en esta situacion es que creemos que podremos lograr la felicidad adquiriendo cosas materiales. Esto es muy dificil  porque necesitamos cambiar las circunstancias que nos rodean. Lo que necesitamos entender es que necesitamos cambiar nuestras creencias, nuestros pensamientos  y nuestras motivaciones internas para que la felicidad venga hacia nosotros.

            Lo mismo es cierto en nuestras relaciones.  Queremos que  ella cambie a la imagen que tenemos de ella.  Esto no solo es  imposible, sino que causa friccion innecesaria entre dos personas. Cada uno quiere determinar su propia vida y no quiere  ser  empujado o halado como una marioneta.  El secreto es que cuando cambiamos nuestra  manera de comportarnos, afectamos a otras personas  y ellos cambian porque nosotros hemos cambiado.

            Pensemos en una mariposa.  Mientras mas perseguimos a la mariposa, mas ser aleja de nosotros.  Cuando nos paramos, la mariposa se posa sobre nosotros. La  felicidad  no es algo que hay que perseguir  alrededor del mundo. La felicidad esta aqui  dentro de nosotros.  La felicidad es un producto secundario al hecho de vivir la vida que se supone que debemos vivir.

       Estamos aqui para aprender las lecciones de la vida. Nos sentimos frustrados y molestos simplemente porque no hemos aprendido nuestras lecciones, es como darnos cuenta de que nos duelen los pies porque  pusimos el pie izquierdo en el zapato derecho.

       Nos sentimos infelices porque esperamos que la vida sea un lecho de rosas. Recordemos que las rosas tienen espinas. Necesitamos la luz del exito y la lluvia del fracaso para poder crecer.

       Nosotros no somos felices porque pensamos que otra persona nos debe hacer felices.  La verdad es que nadie nos puede hacer felices, nosotros cosechamos nuestra propia felicidad.

       Nosotros decidimos que vamos  a ser  felices en todas las situaciones.  No podemos controlar lo que esta fuera pero ciertamente podemos controlar lo que sentimos o  pensamos acerca de las situaciones.  Cuando sentimos y pensamos que las situaciones dificiles son retos que una vez conquistados nos haran mas fuertes,  entonces podemos dar la cara  a nuestros retos directamente.

            Nosotros no somos felices cuando pensamos que la vida es solo para obtener beneficios para nosotros mismos.  Somos felices cuando prestamos nuestros talentos, nuestros  tesoros, nuestro tiempo y regalos para marcar una diferencia en la vida de otra persona o contribuir al mejoramiento de este mundo.

            Nosotros somos nuestro peor enemigo.  Nos decimos a nosotros mismos que no podemos ser felices o que no podemos salir de una situacion miserable o que no tenemos las cualidades para ser personas de exito o populares con amigos. Todas estas conversaciones negativas nos hacen  perder confianza en nosotros mismos  y nos llevan a ser  infelices.  Para poder ser felices tenemos que cambiar nuestras  creencias.  Necesitamos mirarnos  detenidamente  y examinar nuestros miedos y nuestras dudas.  Necesitamos parar estas cosas negativas y remplazarlas con afirmaciones positivas.  Estas  afirmaciones  positivas  podemos encontrarlas en nuestra liturgia, en el Confiteor.

“Oh Señor, Tu creaste al Hombre inmortal y le hiciste a la imagen de Tu propia Eternidad. No obstante, con frecuencia olvidamos la Gloria de nuestro patrimonio y nos apartamos del sendero que conduce a la Justicia.  Pero Tu, Oh Señor, nos hiciste para Ti, y nuestros corazones estan siempre inquietos haz que hallan su descanso en Ti.

Con tales afirmaciones gloriosas, podemos borrar nuestro negativismo. Continuando con la liturgia,

Mira con los ojos de Tu amor nuestras multiples imperfecciones, y perdona todas nuestras faltas para que podamos llenarnos  del resplandor de la luz eterna y convertirnos en el inmaculado espejo de Tu Poder y en la imagen de Tu Bondad; por Cristo nuestro Señor.  Amen

Los 7 pasos para ser más feliz: Cómo liberarte del estrés, las preocupaciones y las angustias del pasado (Spanish Edition) Los 7 pasos para ser más feliz: Cómo liberarte del estrés, las preocupacion…