AwareNow: Issue 35: The Breath Edition

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AwareNow™ is a monthly publication produced by Awareness Ties™ in partnership with Issuu™. Awareness Ties™ is the ‘Official Symbol of Support for Causes’. Our mission is to support causes by elevating awareness and providing sustainable resources for positive social impact. Through our AwareNow Magazine, Podcast & Talk Show, we raise awareness for causes and support for nonprofits one story at a time.












3 AWARENOW / THE < TITLE > EDITION CLICK, TAP OR SCAN TO SUBSCRIBE Get the monthly digital edition of AwareNow delivered to your inbox. Always aware. Always free. ON THE COVER: EMILIE GOLDBLUM PHOTO BY: MACHETE HARNESSING HISTORY

This edition of AwareNow is proudly dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in word and deed lived a life of service to educate and empower all. His dream will not be fogotten, but carried with hope for humanity and faith in one another.

“And I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old as I happen to be, and one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause--and you refuse to do it because you are afraid; you refuse to do it because you want to live longer; you're afraid that you will lose your job, or you're afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity or you're afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house, and so you refuse to take the stand. Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90!

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice.”



Truly proud, we start the year in continued service to society with the stories shared in this issue. Inhale the truths told. Exhale any hesitation held. Too long we’ve held our breath in anticipation for a tomorrow that is only an extension of today. Here and now we make what is and what will be.

This issue is one you not only read, but feel…

Every interview invites you to walk in the shoes of another. Each personal story is an insight shared by a sister or brother. ’The Breath Edition’ embodies our humanity. These pages remind us of who we were, are and want to be.

Between the front and back cover, reading between the lines you’ll find that you are different person from start to finish. Onward & upward. Together we rise.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.


Editor In Chief of AwareNow, CEO & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties

Allié started her career in performance poetry, then switched gears to wine where she made a name for herself as an online wine personality and content producer. She then focused on content production under her own label The Allié Way™ before marrying the love of her life, Jack, and switching gears yet again to a pursue a higher calling to raise awareness and funds for causes with Awareness Ties™.

Jack got his start in the Navy before his acting and modeling career. Jack then got into hospitality, focusing on excellence in service and efficiency in operations and management. After establishing himself with years of experience in the F&B industry, he sought to establish something different… something that would allow him to serve others in a greater way. With his wife, Allié, Awareness Ties™ was born.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in AwareNow are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Awareness Ties. Any content provided by our columnists or interviewees is of their opinion and not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, political group, organization, company, or individual. In fact, its intent is not to vilify anyone or anything. Its intent is to make you think. @AWARENESSTIES @AWARENESSTIES @AWARENESSTIES




Life consists of a series of breaths in the form of moments. When those moments are captured and preserved through the lens of a talented photographer, they can be vividly revisited, reminding us of how far we have or have not come.

Moments captured by Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. (1922 – 2007), a native Memphian and internationally acclaimed photographer, memorialize historical figures and moments in a manner where the emotion captured conveys personal narratives and societal states.

Composed of over 1.8 million photographs that span more than 60 years, the Withers Collection captures history one moment at a time. From Dr. Martin Luther King to Rosa Parks, the fight for civil rights is preserved in Withers’ photos. Music legends and sports heroes, from BB King and Elvis Presley to Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson were photographed, harnessing the real, raw emotion of historical moments. The personal side of public figures breaking barriers and pushing for progress on stage, in the field and at the podium was powerfully documented in photography by Dr. Ernest

While history writes itself in real time, it’s images from the past that captivate, informing society and inspiring social change. As we look back at these moments, let us look in the mirror at ourselves. For all that we are and all that we are not yet, let us reflect on dreams of the past and realities of the present. Let us be aware and take action to find our way to a future that celebrates diversity and inclusivity.

“Being present is a must but acknowledging history is important as well. We have come a long way but still have a ways to go. I hope that these images by Ernest C. Withers bring emotions to the surface that lead to right action.” FEATURE




© Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the WITHERS FAMILY TRUST
© Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the WITHERS FAMILY TRUST Withers' Boys with Satchel Paige, Martin Stadium (1950/1959) James Brown Show (1959) Rosa Parks, SCLC Convention in memory of MLK (1968) Louis Armstrong with fans, the Hippodrome (1950/1959) Rural West Tennesee (1940/1949) Sweet Willie, activist for the Invaders Tina Turner, Ike and Tina Revue, Club Paradise (1962) Bunny Downs, Ray Neil, Tony Stone (1st lady player), Buster Haywood (1953)
“I believe the end game and ultimate purpose of my grandfather’s work is to both reimagine and reconfigure the standard for which curriculum is taught and consumed in schools across the country and the world as a whole… changing the perception of the role African Americans have played in the configuration of our nation, the impact it has had on our current standing in society, while offering the youth a clearer outlook and brighter hope for the future across the board… Moreover, the historical significance of this archive goes without saying.”
Jamaal Withers
Managing Partner, Withers Archive Enterprise
© Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the WITHERS FAMILY TRUST ERNEST C. WITHERS IN FRONT OF HIS 1941 FORD DELIVERY VAN (1940/1947)


Dr. Ernest Withers, Sr. (1922 – 2007) a native Memphian, is an internationally acclaimed photographer recognized for his iconic photographs in Memphis and the broader south during the Civil Rights era. His well-known images of musicians during Memphis’ early days of legendary blues, soul, and rock and roll scene; his chronicling of Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and participants in Memphis’ 1968 “I AM A MAN” sanitation strike; and his preservation of the end of the Negro Leagues comprise an unequaled time capsule of the heartland of Mid-Century America.

Withers images are in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian and other esteemed institutions. He took pictures of public facilities as they integrated, such as the Cossitt Library, of Memphis, where Novelist Richard Wright checked out books under the guise of running errands for his white boss in the 1920’s, and the Memphis City Zoo. Withers also travelled, capturing Dr. King riding one of the first desegregated buses Montgomery, Alabama, at the end of the famed bus boycott there. In 1955, he was employed by the Tri-State Defender newspaper in Chicago to cover the trial of Roy Bryant and JW Milam for the lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi. Here, as in his own community,

Withers went beyond the call of a photographer by joining other members of the Black Press in persuading locals to testify against the murderers, as well smuggling those who testified out of the state following the trial to ensure that a similar fate did not befall them. Some of his most famous shots are those taken during his unparalleled coverage of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike in 1968, the revolt which culminated in the assassination of Dr. King.

Apart from documenting those fighting for racial justice, Withers also gained acclaim by capturing some of the lighter sides of life. His archive includes the insightful images of Negro League baseball, with negatives of Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks stored alongside an image of 17 year old Willie Mays, not yet the “Say Hey Kid,” after winning a championship with the Birmingham Black Barons. Also preserved are the famed Memphians who brought soul, rock n roll, and the blues into the white, mainstream music scene. BB King, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin, were some of the musicians captured by Ernest Withers, often before their rise to fame. Being the official photographer for Stax records, his images of David Porter, Isaac Hayes, and Rufus and Carla Thomas paint a picture of the heart of the American music scene in the mid-20th century.

In addition to this wide breadth of subject matter, Withers’ archive stands apart from other famous photographers by the personal nature of many of his pictures. He was not an aloof artist who would simply enter a scene, snap a picture, and be on his way. Withers was always an active member of his community who could tell you not only the names of almost everyone pictured in his 1.8 million image archive, but those of their mothers, cousins, and the story of their lives. This personal connection formed with his subjects, even those he had just met walking down the street, allowed him to capture moments full of vibrant emotion – whether joy, sorrow, or something in between – on film. His images of Dr. King lying in a bed at the Lorraine Motel, or that of Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke lightly holding hands (at a time where their relationship would have been taboo as both had fathers who were pastors) are exceptional glimpses of the human side of these famous personalities, so rarely preserved on film.

This repository of personal histories extends far beyond the shots of famous individuals and events for which Ernest Withers is currently known. Over half of the 1.8 million images that make up his collection are windows into the life of everyday Memphians. Tableaus captured in Martins Stadium (one of the few baseball parks actually owned by a Negro League team), countless clubs on Beale Street, weddings, funerals of loved ones, or just walking down the street allow us to access a quotidian side of American life rarely glimpsed by the modern public. At a time when having one’s photograph taken was a special occasion, Withers captured hundreds of thousands of the fleeting, intimate moments that make a life. These images, teeming with vivacity, paint a brilliant picture of the city and its people that brought America Rock n Roll – a remarkable history which otherwise would have been lost to time.

Ask yourself what is actually important and gives you a deep, genuine feeling of belonging and connection.


Release The Genie Fact: The Genie is the first original blue Avatar.

First of all, have you had a good Christmas and New Year? If there is any time of the year which stretches and uses every single part of bandwidth, it is the festive season. For anyone who has a disability or invisible disability, this can be an exhausting time.

A great way to step outside ourselves, and look at our lives, is by imagining life as being represented by an hourglass.

The sand at the top of the hourglass represents the finite future, passing through the present, to the bottom of the hourglass representing the past. The feature which prevents the future from disappearing straight into the past is the constricted narrow part of the hourglass which represents the present.

This, I believe, is the true measure of bandwidth. No matter how much of the future is yet to come, and how much of the past has already occurred, the sands of life can only pass through the present a single grain of sand at a time. If too many grains of sand try to pass through the narrow present channel at any one time it becomes clogged, and the life’s natural flow slows down and stops.

When we become overwhelmed with stuff, we lose sight of the important things in life and get lost in the chapter of life we are currently in.

At this point, a big hand would pick up the hourglass and give it a shake to start the flow again. Fear not. Life has a great habit of doing the same to dislodge the sands and make sure the important things continue to flow through. Sometimes, life gives you a bigger, more uncomfortable shake and it is dif ficult to understand why. Know that it never loses sight of the great adventure we call life, even if and when WE do.

I came across a thought-provoking definition in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) which is quite interestingly called “temporal bandwidth” which I will leave here for you to contemplate, as it is a real mind bend.

“Temporal bandwidth” is the width of your present, your now…. The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

We are living a technological golden age of which the new God is called speed. There is a feeling that there is some sort of social acceleration in which time appears to be moving faster. This illusion is fueled by the sheer number of choices competing for our time and attention. It causes anxiety and shifts our thoughts to compare ourselves with others and the choices they make.

The irony is that we have become “over choiced”, and it has become increasingly dif ficult to tell genuine causes from non genuine.



Written and Narrated by Paul

AwareNow Podcast


Where style meets grace, there you will find Emilie Goldblum. At this intersection she choreographs her life with care and balance, moving through each step providing space and gratitude while being mindful in each moment.

ALLIÉ: An athlete, an actress, a mother, a wife, you move people with how you carry yourself in so many ways. With style and grace, Emilie, you embody a sense of ease. And ease isn’t easy these days with so much uncertainty in this world. What is at your core that keeps you so calm, cool and collected?

EMILIE: I think at the core… the answer is 'humility'. There's just always this inner part that’s appreciative of just being humble in knowing that I've been lucky. I've worked hard, and things could all be very different. We just don't know… At any point, anybody's life could be very different. So every day that I wake up healthy, every day that my kids wake up healthy and my husband I'm just so grateful for that....that in itself, our health.

ALLIÉ: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like they say, if you don't have your health, you don't have anything. So that's a great point, a great reminder.

EMILIE: It's that saying… you can forget your accomplishments and then remember your mistakes and learn from


“Identify it, and then move on…”

ALLIÉ: Between work schedules, school schedules and travel schedules, you have a lot scheduled. How do you bring and keep balance in your life?

EMILIE: I think that's like my number one priority – balance.Trying to eat healthy, trying to be healthy, but also I’m giving myself room to be a human. You know, I love chocolate. We were at a play date earlier with the kids and they had this homemade cake. Then they had a little bit of chocolate and cookies. The kids were eating, and I was like, “Here, have some fruit.” But I also let them eat the chocolate. And for myself, I like it after dinner. I just had a little piece of white chocolate before popping on here with Jeff. I was like, “Okay, I'm gonna go do this interview.” And he's like, “Do you want a piece of chocolate?” I was like, “Sure!” You know?

Our dinner I made. It was delicious. It was just turkey sausages, green beans, avocado and kale. So there's a lot of healthy things there. But then, I'm also not afraid to eat a little sugar. It's like it tops off your whole meal. It feels good. I'm not eating to excess. I just don't think there should be such strict rules when it comes to food and diet and lifestyle. I just feel like that balance hopefully can come from your own unique desires and likes and dislikes... I think there's so much judgment out there, and I'm guilty of it too. I try to remind myself like, “Whoa, what are you doing? Em. Slow down. Stop. Where's that coming from?”

I think it's Eckhart Tolle who always mentions your 'pain bodies', and we all have them. It comes from somewhere… from an experience, from your childhood, from a teacher, a coach or whatever. And it's nice when you can jump in and catch yourself, whether it's a negative thought about somebody or yourself. And then it’s just being aware… “Okay, let's cool down. Let's not go down that road. Why are you doing that?” For me, that 'why' is always helpful. It's like, “Oh, you're kind of insecure about this. So you're fearful, and that's why you're thinking these things.”

ALLIÉ: That's a really good point. It's interesting the fact that we do have to sort of, to your point, jump in. We have to interject. We have to interrupt ourselves sometimes, you know?

EMILIE: Yeah. A lot of times. And I think that's where that whole wellness of life and that balance of yoga, pilates, and exercising come in. Those are really great outlets and practices to remind yourself. When something gets hard in your workout, for me, for example, I'll hold my breath… It's just the training of our mind because it's such a tricky thing. It likes to take over and go into auto drive. It’s on autopilot, and we have to come in and be like, “No, you're kinder than that. You're better than that.” You're just feeling insecure or afraid or whatever it is that you're feeling... Identify it and then move on… and do not beat yourself up about it. I've done that too. As we grow up and grow older, we do it all. We can experience and be everything that we love about ourselves and everything that we hate about ourselves.

ALLIÉ: Right. We don't have to be this or that. We can be both and just learn to evolve.

EMILIE: Yeah. Evolve and be graceful in our mistakes. Say, “Okay, that wasn't cool.” And then if it's something with somebody versus your thoughts… If you weren't kind talking to somebody or your spouse… For me, you know, I feel like that's the first person that we can always take out our aggression and frustration on… It's always important for me to step back and realize, "Hey, I was kind of impatient with you, and I shouldn't have been like that. And I'm sorry." You know, owning... It’s owning your faults, I guess.

ALLIÉ: Right. I love that too… just to pause and to take an inventory of what you need to look at and reevaluate. You know, what I'd like to look at now is a time in your life, Emilie, when things were unbalanced and uncomfortable? I'd love to hear what that was and how you were able to course correct and restore that balance again for yourself.

EMILIE: I feel like there's been two... I mean, there's been more but that I'm willing and able to share. Early on when I was training as a rhythmic gymnast, I had just transitioned out of artistic gymnastics into rhythmic gymnastics. Even though both gymnastics, the two are very different, and there are two different body types. I was coming into rhythmic gymnastics with this artistic gymnastics body type, which was a little bit stockier, but way stronger. And then in rhythmic gymnastics... I ended up developing longer flexible stretchy muscles. My coach at the time who I still adore, I have a very complicated relationship with. I love her. But she was, you know, harsh in her words with my body type. And I remember I started to make myself throw up for like a week. So it wasn't very long, but still it was a very drastic measure that I thought I wanted to do. And then my mom was like, “You can't keep doing this. If you do, I will pull you out of the sport.” It was that boundary early on. It was an adult that I trusted and loved that stepped in and provided

32 I have this strange naivety about believing in myself. EMILIE GOLDBLUM OLYMPIAN, INTUITIVE STRETCH BODY MOVEMENT COACH, MOTHER OF 2 & AWARENESS TIES OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR Photo Credit: @machetebangbang

EMILIE: (continued) the boundary for me. I was young, so I was able to course correct. And I think when we're young, we're able to bounce back quickly and not aggressively judge ourselves. You move forward with things quicker when you're 11, which is the age that I was. I had that boundary with my mom, somebody I trusted.

Later on, I feel like I had an imbalance when I first moved to Los Angeles. It was probably the second year. It was just really hard. I was on a very, very tight budget for food… for buying food for the week. And so my diet kind of suffered… I got really skinny. I was working for this coconut water company. So, I would drink a lot of coconut water. And freakishly enough, you can kind of survive off of it. <laugh> You know, it wasn't good, but I was able to barter sometimes. I was a taste sampler girl at several different Whole Foods in California. And so sometimes I could barter some coconut water for whatever the other people were tasting and sampling at Whole Foods. I had a very good friend who worked at Starbucks, and at closing they would discard all their food that was gonna be bad the next day, even though it wasn't really bad, you know? But it wasn't good enough to sell. So, he would call me and be like, "Hey, I've got leftover sandwiches, you want them?" And I was like, yeah. <laugh> So, it was just like survival mode, I guess. I find that when things are in imbalance, when you're just literally living to survive or trying to survive, for me it worked out and it was worth it... I don't know, I have this strange naivety about believing in myself... I am humble, but I also believe in my strengths. I believe in my determination, and I believe in myself that I will get to wherever I need to go, even if I think it's one thing at one point in time and then it morphs and develops and journeys into something different. I'm accepting and open to see the course play itself out versus trying to micromanage and shape it into what I wanted it to be.

I think that's what's really helped me to course correct... Being open. This is where you want it to go, but now it's going here and maybe you should just go with the waves, you know... We all have that, I think. We all have our natural strengths and our natural things that gravitate towards us versus us trying to clamor on, holding onto something and making something work. It just feels like too much work for me sometimes. I like to work really hard, but I want it to also feel supple, natural, healthy, balanced.

ALLIÉ: I love how you pointed out that yes, you are humble, but at the same time you are con fident in yourself and it's okay. We almost have to give ourselves permission sometimes to do that it seems.

EMILIE: The more I meet people who have everything they want and more and have achieved their goals... Those people, they're the most humble… and not the ones that are screaming at the top of Instagram saying how amazing they are. They don't need to.

My confidence is a personal, internal thing that I just believe in my work ethic. I believe in my strengths and my passion. And usually what I end up doing is something that I'm passionate about. So it's just hard to not believe in myself because… well, I love this.

I mean, I think it'd be different if I was trying to go into the stock market or trading where I don't know anything. Then I would be very insecure and not sure if I would sink or swim.

ALLIÉ: That makes me think that perhaps when we do feel comfortable and con fident, it's sort of an indicator. Maybe it's the universe indicating that yes, you're going the right way. You're doing what you're supposed to be doing because you're comfortable… Yeah?

EMILIE: Right.. You're listening to yourself, you're following what you want to be doing versus what's cool on paper or what somebody else wants you to be doing. And for that, I'm super grateful for how I've somehow navigated to always follow my heart's desire, whether it's in relationships, friendships, work, or moving from destination to destination. It's always been something that I've been really passionate about.

ALLIÉ: Speaking of moving from one thing to another regarding matters of movement, what I find interesting is that what's physically important mirrors what's emotionally and mentally vital as well. So I'm speaking about what you know very well, 'strength' and 'flexibility'. Your greatest passion is to help women find their own unique version of physical excellence. Because I feel like so often we look at and think of the word 'perfect' and think of a particular form that's not us. And so it's trying to find our version of perfect for us. I would love for you just to share about Maison Goldblum, which so many of us have fallen in love with.

EMILIE: Thank you. Well, Maison Goldblum, on the fitness side of it with Maison Goldblum Stretch, I just want to empower and give tools to other women of feeling comfortable in your own skin in movement and not feeling like you have to fit a certain mold because we all come from different walks of life. Yes. We're all human, and we're all made


EMILIE: (continued) up generally of the same things… molecules and cells and all that and our internal organs and everything. But it's like we all have very unique childhoods, and bodies with bone placements. All of that makes a huge difference for people's physical ability.

For me, Maison Goldblum Stretch is just about giving the tools to people and letting them know that it doesn't always need to look 'cool' or look 'sexy'. That's so much of what we see out there. It's like this permanent lip pout… It's like working out to look sexy. And it's like... I don't know, I just want people to have fun when they work out. I want them to let go of their inhibitions. And not like, “I need to do it like you, Emilie.” No. I don't want people to do anything like me because I'm me, and they're them.

All I care about is the proper alignment and measuring your point A to your point B… your personal best. I think that's just because that's what I know. That's what I've done with myself and it's sort of been this lifesaving lifeline tool that I keep coming back to.

ALLIÉ: Well, it's beautiful. Let's switch gears and talk about the stage and the screen. You've experienced so much on both sides. I'd love for you to share a couple of things. What do you feel is the best performance that you have ever given? What is the best performance that you have ever seen? And I know it's a lot because you've seen a lot and you've been in a lot .

EMILIE: The best thing that I've ever seen, it's when I was 11 and I was in Moscow. I was training in Russia... And I wonder if it's because it was... when you're young and things really shape you and you really get ‘marked’... And so yeah, it was when I went to the theater. In Russian, it's called Lebedínoye Ózero, which is Swan Lake, and it was at the Bolshoi Theatre. That was literally the best ballet that I've ever seen. Remarkable, poetical, beautiful, graceful, strong, powerful... There was just such passion in everything. That's probably the best thing that I've ever seen.

But I don't know what to say about the best thing that I've done… I think what I could phrase it as the performance that perhaps I enjoyed maybe the most and just the whole experience... I think performing at the Oscars for the Weekend for 'Earned It' with an amazing group of dancers, women who I look up to. I was in the air doing aerial. And I love this choreographer, Fatima Robinson, who I was working for. The music I loved. It was just sensual, beautiful, sexy, but easy... I don't know, it was just... I really vibed with that whole experience, and I think it was always a dream of mine to perhaps one day perform at the Oscars. I loved the costume, the look of it… Everything was just kind of in my wheelhouse of likes and wishes.

ALLIÉ: Regarding what we see on stage and screen. On tv screens, we have watched and loved ‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’. When it comes to your world with Jeff, according to you, Emilie, what is it that you love most about the life that the two of you have created together?

EMILIE: Definitely it's the amount of laughter and growing that we do together. I feel like he really pushes me to see myself clearly, and I do the same with him. We have really healthy discussions. Before we got married we went and saw a therapist, and I loved our therapist. She's passed... But you know, we enjoy nurturing who we are at the core, but then also evolving and trying to be better, more compassionate and more communicative without any sort of microaggression or passive aggressiveness. He's the person that… I've always been able to tell him things that I've never been able to tell other people. It's just feeling really safe and protected… and laughing all the time. If we're not having a serious conversation, it's just really fun. Life is more fun because we're together.

“I want them to let go of their inhibitions… I don’t want people to do anything like me because I’m me, and they’re them.”

“It’s honoring that this is who you are and then honoring this is who I am…”

ALLIÉ: That's beautiful. I love how you speak to nurturing each other and seeing each other more clearly. Sometimes I think we get in the way of ourselves. To have someone who can sort of bring us back to who we are, its…

EMILIE: It's honoring that this is who you are and then honoring this is who I am and not trying to... wipe it away. We love those things about us and about the other person. It's just about this deeper understanding of what it is in this particular moment that he may need that I wouldn't particularly need in that moment, and then vice versa. And I think that's really... I wasn't able to do that in past relationships with other people. So I feel like for me that was a really rare thing. And to have it with my husband, it's amazing. And with our children, being able to lead by example and to model it. They hear us talking calmly about a disagreement, you know... being respectful and kind at the same time.

ALLIÉ: Well, that leads me right into the next question that I had for you. And it's the fact that we all want to give our kids the best. So when it comes to your Charlie and your River, what is the best part of yourself, Emilie, that you want to give to them?

EMILIE: I think it's that kooky kind of carefree but passionate person and child kid that I have within me. But I think it's also a little bit of 'forgetting', you know, not holding on to something, a grudge… It’s not holding on to an experience that wasn't a good one. You know, it happened. Learn from it. For me, it happens almost naturally… I've read that it's like children of trauma... It's almost a natural thing that you do just to self preserve. And it's like forgetting. And sometimes I'll hear stories about something from when I was growing up or in gymnastics from other gymnasts and

EMILIE: (continued) I’m like, what really? Literally, I've forgotten it. I know now as an adult that there was a level of abuse. I wasn't sexually abused, not in gymnastics or anything, but there was a level of psychological abuse, physical, and because I think I've managed to talk about it with a therapist and the parts that I remember and the other parts where I forgot... It's been good for me to move on with my life and have a happy, normal life without... without constantly being haunted or hurt by something that was out of my control. It's just nice that I don't have to remember that all the time.

ALLIÉ: I think that's such a good point too. What a gift forgetting can sometimes be… permission to not have to continue to carry something that you shouldn't have to carry.

EMILIE: Right... Yeah, I wanna do what I can to forget, but obviously you don't... You know, your body... That was the book that I read it in, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’. And I found that book really helpful for me. Just in understanding things about myself... I used to think forgetting was a horrible thing. I was so harsh on myself about that. I was always like, “Oh my God, you're so dumb. You're so dumb. You're so dumb… You forget. You forget. You forget…. And then I was like, oh... I read that book and I was like, okay. It's okay. This was your survival mechanism, and no, you don't forget everything… <laugh>

ALLIÉ: So we've talked about giving our best to the world, to our spouse, to our kids. When it comes to giving our best to support the causes that we care about... As an Official Ambassador of Awareness Ties, you know that we support causes through storytelling. What is your story, Emilie, of the many causes that need awareness raised and action taken, what would you say are a couple of the causes that you are most passionate about?

EMILIE: For me it's, it comes back to that balanced wellness. It’s being as healthy as healthy as you can be in your given circumstance. It's about lifestyle and making conscious choices. And that's where I see myself, as I give classes online for anybody and everybody who would like to take class. It's always available. And so I feel like that's like the movement of it. Because if you are moving, you're not remembering something that could have been traumatic to you.

Credit: @machetebangbang


Exclusive Interview with Emilie

EMILIE: (continued) And I think that my passion is helping people gain that con fidence and let go of things that were making life difficult for them. You know, life is too short... And life's not easy. There's so many quotes about how life is not always gonna be a simple road. I just try to do my best in that way, sharing what I know best with the world.

ALLIÉ: Well, you do a beautiful job at that. Speaking about more sayings and whatnot. Life is a dance they say... And sometimes we dance alone, sometimes we dance with a partner. Either way, we are moving through all of these moments of our life. My next question of you, Emilie, is what is it that keeps you moving? What is it that keeps you passionate about the present moment?

EMILIE: I think that's just what I'm meant to be doing with each new day. Like I was saying earlier about me just being grateful to be alive and healthy every morning. And so with each new series of movements, it's like a new breath, you know? I think that's all I can really ask for... being here in this moment, appreciating this moment, whether it's a good one or a bad one. And then moving on from it, but not being too far ahead. And that's the tricky part about it. You don't want to be in the past. You don't want to be too far ahead. You want to be right here and right now. I think it was also Eckhart Tolle who said something about... you can be in any situation and you can either accept, be upset or happy about a situation and you can choose…o do that. And I know it's obviously not that easy to do in many dif ficult situations. I guess it’s accepting. Accepting what the moment is and doing your best.

ALLIÉ: Yeah. Not forcing it to be one thing or another, but just allowing it and moving through it with... with grace. What a gift that is.

EMILIE: It’s what being present is about… just accepting and doing your best in that moment. What more can we really do?

ALLIÉ: So one more question for you, my dear, would be this... Going back to that whole dance thing, being that life is a dance. If you could only move to one song on repeat the rest of your life, what would it be? Hardest question of this whole interview right now. <laugh>

EMILIE: Especially for me. Oh my goodness… I don't know. Probably one of the Beatles songs for sure. I always love Strawberry Fields Forever. I could listen to that on repeat, and it's nice and long. It changes, and it's trippy and wild. I probably could listen to that.

ALLIÉ: Strawberry Fields on repeat. That doesn't sound like a bad thing. Thank you so much, Emilie, for taking all this time to share yourself and your truth and for helping all of us become a bit more aware now. Thank you so much.

EMILIE: Thank you, Allié. ∎

39 AwareNow Podcast
TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN Learn more about Emilie Goldblum:


The air filled with chaos.

Six year olds shooting teachers, insurrections, wars, climate change, famine, human trafficking… Men and women searching, longing for contact yet glued to their screens.

In the air of chaos, how does one breathe?

One inhales with hope, determination, kindness, love, compassion and understanding. Then we can collectively change the winds.


Multi-Media Artists, Author & Official Ambassador for Homelessness Awareness

SAGE GALLON is a published & award winning multi-media artist. His paintings, photographs, books, music and films present common themes of our humanity with ingenious artistry and inspiring articulation. Despite the losses he’s endured in his life, the wins he’s gained along the way serve as a light for so many lost in the dark.

I’m the moments that made me… I’m in the paint.
Photo Credit: Benjamin A. Peterson


Gregory Siff is a special human being. The fact we were lucky enough to capture this interview while he was at his mothers house in the room he grew up in says it all.

EDDIE: So let me start by saying how grateful I am that you took the time today to speak with us. You know, we've been friends for a while, and I hold you in high regard and I think it's a wonderful opportunity to share you and your work with the AwareNow tribe.

GREGORY: We are a reflection, Eddie, and thank you. Because I'm just so thankful I met you on the path, you know, doing what I love, and right out the gate, I mean, we've got I think over a decade of history together... Probably longer now. Yeah, 12 years.

EDDIE: It's been a minute.

GREGORY: Coming out to a new place you know, from New York to LA. And, you know, finding yourself... the characters that you meet along the way that lift you up, that are like you just said... your tribe. It's like there's a recognized fire between people that are going through this beautiful life. And you know, we all need each other. So, thank you for having me. It's great to connect and go full circle to what the future may bring, you know?

EDDIE: That's right. So I'll share that when I first met you, and you know this... You were this really happy guy just bouncing around at Risky's house, and I was like, who in the hell is this leprechaun guy that's just so happy? You



I never thought I would find the thing that would love me more than I can love anything.

“… if this is halfway through the movie, not bad.”

EDDIE: (continued) so infectiously happy that it had to rub off. There's no way that you're gonna be around Gregory Siff and you're not gonna feel good... because that's what you do for people with your art and with your personality. So I think, you know, the way we start these off is I have a question that I ask people. Who are you? Not what is your name, but who are you?

GREGORY: Oh, I love that. I am... I am my father. I am my mother. I am the kid that doesn't know the limits that everybody tries to put on them. I am color. I am... I am just, you know, I'm in my room where I grew up my whole life. So I'm the same kid that was playing with action figures on the floor that's moving paint around on the walls. I guess I would just say, you know, I'm the moments that made me. Yeah... I'm in the paint. That I guess is who I am. And I hope that some other kid is watching this or seeing this or curious about it and knows that there are no limits, and you are who you paint. I think that's a really good thing... If you really want to know somebody, you can look at the things they've created and what people say about them, the stories they say. You know, two days ago was my halfway point, if I'm lucky. I made my 45th birthday and like my dad got to 85. So that was cool. I'm thinking like, okay, if this is halfway into the movie, not bad. We put up a lot of things that we wanted to do. So I keep running on, but I guess I hope I'm endless and limitless with what I have to share and what that can bring.

EDDIE: Do you remember the moment you decided that you were gonna be Gregory Siff, the artist?

GREGORY: Yes, that's a great one. You know, we have all these dreams and they feel impossible. And I was out here in New York. I loved theater, opera, commercials and acting. And I tried my hardest and did really well in New York, but when I moved to LA it was like everybody in the world was doing it. And there was something that was special about me in New York, but there was something that wasn't being heard in LA... It was weird because I never thought that through being... through loss and unsuccess or things that were not getting through in your goal... I never thought I would find the thing that would love me more than I can love anything.

And it was tough because there were a lot of paths that brought me there. And it was losing my best friend, my dad, who was so connected to me... not succeeding in a dream that I had poured so much of my heart into and feeling kind of like... You know, my mom would call me on the phone and be like, what are you doing? And I had to like go get a job and go get... There's just so much adult stuff like health insurance and this and that, and you're kind of like trying to figure out what's going on. And it's like, I just found that in paint and in street art... I just found some kind of safety and actually felt like I was on the right... I was meeting the right people and feeling the right way. So when I felt that low, I could connect with my dad. I could make enough to pay my rent. I could feel great... I could go hang out with my friends at Known Gallery. I could meet, you know, Eddie and Lisa. I could find people that, you know, believed in me and was like, "Yeah, you got that. You got that fire kid." That's Kenny from Seventh Letter, my bro... "You got that fire." And sometimes the fire doesn't look good. Maybe in the beginning my art was just not at the point where it was supposed to be, but I knew I had to get it out. And I don't regret any of the paintings that don't look like the stuff that I love now,

but it's all a part of…

I knew I was gonna be an artist, when I was driving on the PCH heading up on that Paci fic Coast Highway tour for the first time. I was driving, and this agent called me. He was like, I don't have anything for you. I have no movies, no tv. I don't think you have it. I might be able to get you a commercial. And I said to myself, you know what? Don't call me about any commercials. Just please don't call me. I've got this art thing, and I've got this. I've got my paint and I gotta focus on that. So don't distract me. And I hung up. And I was really scared. I was like, I gotta make this work. And that's why LA to me became my muse, my 'Under the Bridge' Chili Peppers moment, you know? That was my song.. These palm trees, Sunset Boulevard... I'm taking LA over everything right now. I'm taking this to be home. That was the moment that I was like, "Yo, you better paint something every day.”

EDDIE: And you've done well. I mean, watching you evolve has been interesting because there's so much dimensionality to what you do now, compared to in the beginning. You know, like the Siren show was super sick, but super basic and one dimensional. And now you've really taken it to a whole other level, which I can appreciate because it takes work, right? It's hard work... Being an artist is hard work, wouldn't you say?

46 Don’t be afraid of authenticity and what it GREGORY SIFF ARTIST
looks like.
Photo Credit: 2WENTY

GREGORY: Yes. I love that you said that, Eddie, because to recognize the one dimension about it... There was something there that night when I had a hundred canvases, just black and white primaries. Everybody's staring up looking at it, hundreds of people looking at a hundred paintings and seeing themselves in it with a word and be like, "Yo... I'm broken. I'm alive. I'm an OG...." All these kinds of things existed up there. And it meant so much to me too because I called that show 'There and Back'. And that was like my relationship with New York and LA, going back to mom and coming back to LA... trading time for this dream with acting and now with artwork. Is it gonna work? And my dad always wrote that and always said that... "You've been there and back.”

So I titled my show 'There and Back'. It was like everything that I had to do had meaning. It wasn't like, "Yo, I wanna be an artist, and this is cool. And I wanna make money. Check me out on Instagram." It was like, "Yo, I got this thing... And if I don't do it, I'm not gonna be a happy individual floating around here. I need this." Art is hard and it becomes hard when you pretend to be something that you're not. And I had to learn that too because I was just captivated with, I mean, you laid it out on the streets. Even MAR and everybody's like, "Yo, you're hanging with Eddie...That dude's legit. That guy has been there from the beginning." And I love that someone who knows the lay of the land and been there was like, "Yo man, you want a space in Cahuenga? You want to come to this thing and be a part of that?" And Risky... Risky embraced me, and he's one of my first mentors and brothers out in LA.

EDDIE: It is his fault that we're friends.

GREGORY: <laugh> You were playing dominoes... I was like, this guy's in movies. This is a movie star. I was like, you know, in my acting days. I was like, I don't care about acting anymore... but I think I've seen this guy. I know this guy is like a movie star. Yeah, you're a star among your friends because you guys proved what it is to be art in LA.

EDDIE: Yeah, I always tell people... I don't think I'm a genius. I don't know anything more than anyone else does. I think I've just been very lucky by proximity to be around people like yourself and like Kelly.. and to be open enough to just take it in, you know? I'm a hard headed dude and always have been. But there was a soft spot in there that I allowed things to go into. You know, like a little baby with the soft spot, right... We're just blessed individuals to be around such creative people like MAR and like Kelly and Kenny and Casey. It's just like... What a group of guys, right? When you think about the creativity and the things that have happened and continue to happen, it's really 'needle movers', you know? And I just got lucky that I picked the right group of guys to hang around. It's not all been perfect, but it's been creative and it's been fulfilling to say the least.


Show us who you are.



GREGORY: It's also beautiful to see over the years how we've all matured in our work, in our shows and in who we are. Like, I see you, man, and I'm like that, "That's my dude." I remember... you have a million ideas. You make 'em come true. And I'm happy to be a part of some of those ideas and the future stuff... You know, I'm a complex con rocking out, and I'm over here. And your daughter is there hanging too. And she's just like you, man…

EDDIE: She loves you. She loves you by the way... So speaking about kids, one thing that I've always admired (not having a mom since I was 16) is your relationship with your mother. Tell us about that. How important is your mom to your creative being?

GREGORY: Thank you. Well, I didn't know until I just had only my mom, but I didn't know before... I guess I look back and even... You know, I'm back here for holidays and stuff, and I'm like, "Mom, how did you do it?" Because I was like, I wanna be an actor. And she would take me to the city. If I said anything... I wanna play for the New York Mets. "Okay, let's get ready for practice." Anything that I said, she was just like, "That's possible. Let's do it." And I think if you don't... I was able to make that way in my commercials, in my acting, even in my art. And my mom's my biggest fan, even to this day. I mean that roll call on her phone of my art... We're out in the city, and we'll be talking to someone and it's like they talk about a mural, a painting. Boom! <gestures holding up a phone>, Takes me 10 minutes to scroll through and go back.

She is my number one. She's my everything when it comes to who I am... Now I'm getting older and I'm like, "Wow, you really did it." Whether it was the Toys R Us days like, "I gotta stop in there for the action figures!" And I was like, "Mom, how did you put up with this?" And she was just like... There's really no answer. It's just patience in a person. But she's my best friend. And also, I mean, I listen to things. My mom's very poetic without. She's born in Brooklyn and has this whole vibe about her, and the things she'll say become painting titles and color ideas. And she's memory. She reminds me of all the things that I've been through so far.

I had a show in New York in 2018 at 4AM Gallery. Lisa put it up for me in Chelsea. And I didn't have a title for it, but I was at dinner with my mom and I was like, what should I call this? And I wrote down every title of every show I had. And she said, "Well, you know, when you were little you used to color... like when in coloring books." And I was like, wow... 'When You Were Little You Used To Color'. Nowadays, we forget. How many people use that side of them? It's always like, how are we gonna make this money? What are we gonna do with this paint? What's this? How are we gonna get through here? It's like... Just take the color, take a marker, take some crayons, take some paint color, and lose yourself. Lose all those ideas... It really is one of the most beautiful feelings when you catch that wave and you're coloring. And my mom just is all of that to me. She's... She's the goat.

EDDIE: <laugh> Yeah, she is. That's great.

GREGORY: And then my dad, you know... that happening and not having him anymore... She became extra. It was like, now I'm in LA. I gotta make sure I show up. I gotta be present... I didn't mean to interrupt, Eddie.

EDDIE: It's all good. I don't even know what I was gonna say... I think at the end of the day, to see how special your relationship with your mother is... is amazing. And I can really appreciate the honesty in that. You just don't hold back. And you touched on something... It's like ego and the intentionality and purpose for a lot of these artists out here is to get paid and be famous. And I think the reason I wanted to include you in AwareNow is because of your authenticity and your realness. And I don't mean like "keeping it real", right? I mean keeping it real... Real means a whole different thing at this age and at this time. And I think if there's one thing I can say about Gregory Siff, it's that Gregory Siff keeps it real.

“It’s really is one of the most beautiful feelings when you catch that wave and you’re coloring.”

GREGORY: Eddie, I'm hugging you right now, bro.

EDDIE: I can't feel it. I can feel it.

GREGORY: You brought up the moment about kids and how that kind of... With my work that's how I felt as a kid having that in my life. And I think that's important to paint with kids and to share your work with kids, with our youth. How important a mural is, an outdoor piece of art that can inspire in a moment. And that's what I love about what I do. And it's kind of found me. Many different charities have found us... going into hospitals and just making stickers with the kids. Sometimes it's not even about making the sticker, it's just about being face-to-face with somebody who's young and in a hospital... or young and lost. 'Mondays at the Mission', which I did with Christopher Kai... It's all of these things, which sometimes you don't wanna do because you don't want to go into a hospital where there's sickness and all this stuff. Or you don't wanna go down Skid Row and see what's going on down there. But my art brought me to these places that pushed me through things that made beautiful things happen out of it and made me feel better about being a person... That's what I got from AwareNow.

EDDIE: Yeah, man... if you had to pick one mural, what's your favorite mural you've ever done and why?

GREGORY: In New York City, 80 feet long, 9 feet tall... It was my cousin who hit me up and said, these guys want to pay you for a mural. It's for the New York Foundling. It's one of the longest running homes for youth, displaced and everything... They would like you to come out here and paint this mural to raise awareness about what's going on. And I was like, wow. I've been in New York my whole life, and I've never even heard of the New York Foundling. When I went out there, I sat with the kids and we talked and painted and came up with ideas. I made a whole roll call of words and lists of how the city makes them feel, how life makes them feel, and what the family means to them.

And I just, over the span of three days from like 6:30 in the morning, as soon as the sun came up until the night, I did this mural full of all of their words. So when they walked by it... It evoked such pride in them. And that was like, "Yo, that's my... that's my shining moment." I weaved the fabric from all these kids and put this quilt up of their life. And I did it with crank, which I love to use. This permanent, drippy... it's used for tags, it's used for everything in arts now. But that was probably (my favorite), and that was in 2014, and still to this day. I actually have a piece of the mural carved from the wall because it was on a big construction shed... This was the summer of 2014. This became my Stance collab and became such an iconic character. It's on these walls and it just said, 'the New York Family Hospital, mural in parts'. But they were gonna throw it away. And my cousin hit me up. He's like, you gotta get over here. We had to pay like close to $2K to rent a truck, to cut it down, and to save all the pieces. And, you know, it was my bro, I put family in there. I put little secret things that meant so much to so many people. And yeah, there's a lot of murals, but that was probably the biggest and the most important to me.

EDDIE: That's amazing. Hopefully we can come up with a scenario like that for Louisville. Because Louisville's going through and has been going through a lot of turmoil just based on economics and racial differences. And as I pitched the city, I'm like, "You know, Greg's gonna talk to these kids and he's gonna make these kids' ideas, hopes and dreams a part of the DNA of this mural. So as they grow and years to come, they can drive by and go, 'Hey, I did that. I was a part of that.'" Community engagement is really important for the projects that we're doing there.

GREGORY: I love that. I love that it's gonna be in your hometown because already that give back is there.

EDDIE: Will you talk about who's your favorite artist – living or dead?

GREGORY: Wow. I love so many of them... When I grew up, when I went to NYU, and I didn't know... I just knew I wanted to act. I didn't even want to take classes. And they told me, you gotta take some liberal arts classes. And I was like, okay. And I'm happy. Yo, college was amazing, but I knew that... I was like, "I don't wanna get a briefcase and I don't want to go to a new studio and I don't want a nine-to-five, but it's important to go because I got to take all these classes. I took this liberal arts class. It's so crazy, I'm sitting in my room, and this is the only book I didn't sell back... because you sell your books back and get the money after.

I was like, I don't want any of this, but this is the one that I kept. Jean-Michel Basquiat's Whitney catalog. This is probably worth a lot of money as rare books go. But this was the first time I saw Jean-Michel's work. I saw he was going through something, and I really didn't know pain yet... I didn't have a heartbreak. I didn't lose anybody important to me, but I knew that there was something going on in these paintings. And I was like, I feel like I could do this because I liked art. I feel like I could do this. So I went to the Brooklyn Museum with my dad back in 2005, when he was alive. And we walked in there and I saw these paintings from Basquiat. Huge. And I was like, boom... It was hitting me.


loved the fine and the ferocious and I wanted to bring it together.”

GREGORY: (continued) And I was like, "No, I can't do this... This is his. This is his story... Nobody can do this. This is his." And that's what I loved. It was like it was your imprint. So I knew then and there... You know what you love, but then you have to know yourself in order to get it out. It takes time. It took a lot of time. But I guess Jean-Michel Basquiat and Warhol were the two. And I know it's kind of like hip and cool to say right now, but back 20 years ago, nobody knew. Artists weren't as 'rock star' as they are, even though they were rock stars because they had that timeline. But my mom brought me... We went to Mr. Chow in the city and the hamburger drawing by Andy was in the window. And I was like, "Why is a hamburger in the window?" My mom's like, "No, that's fine art. That's Andy Warhol." So those two, like the New York dudes... and me being from New York, as I was getting older I was like, "I might be one of these guys.”

There's so many. Then I get to LA and like right behind you... all of your guys. There we go. RETNA, REVOKE, RISK... color, scale, size, you know, ferocity, no rules. I loved the fine and the ferocious and I wanted to bring it together. I didn't wanna be too soft and happy, but I wanted to be positive. And I also know, like my dad has these boxing gloves... It's crazy, Eddie, that I'm right here and all this is coming through. My mom was talking about these boxing gloves. I painted on my dad's gloves from the Navy. I wanna show it to you because this quote you're gonna love... I painted on his gloves, and I just took these out to show my girl because my mom was talking about it. I painted on these gloves, and it's kind of crackling because the leather is so old, but it says on these gloves... On one of them it says, "The same shirt I warm you with..." On the other, "is the same I can choke you with.”

EDDIE: Oh shit. <laugh>

GREGORY: My dad would tell me you could be nice, but don't be too nice. You have to protect. That always got me... My dad was that kind of guy. And I always feel like I need the reminder, because I have a lot to be grateful for, but I have a lot to protect too. And I see that in the guys that I admire.

EDDIE: What what does Gregory Siff do regularly to connect to source, to introspect. Is Gregory spiritual? Is Gregory religious? Is Gregory all of the above?

GREGORY: Yes. Pray...Pray when your eyes open, pray when you go to sleep. I mean, a constant amount of connection to God. I grew up over here in Rockaway Beach and made my communion and con firmation. Then I also had a lot of Jewish friends, my mom's half Jewish, and my dad's Jewish. My mom's Italian. And I got to experience a lot of reverence for something greater than you because this is definitely, without a doubt, not just me... You know, I'm definitely the paintbrush and not the painter completely. I guess it's a combination... I can't explain it. This is the best thing to try to describe and that's why we paint paintings. It's because you can't say it in words... God is all around us and in us and going through us. I'm happy that I had two parents that showed me that. So what I do, to get back to the question, is I just wake up and say that thankful prayer and go to sleep and... I guess from Vincent van Gogh, 'The Letters' is how can I be useful? The art is there to be used to help situations that need it... I find that in my way to do it. You know?

EDDIE: I love it. I mean, I've been really helpful over my years, right? I've been a leader, and I've helped a lot of people. But there was always an angle for me, you know. There was always an ends to a means. And now, I find myself in a place where being of service is paramount and showing that gratitude for all the gifts that I've been given and trying to do my best to give it away or give it back or share it. And it feels good to just be a little sel fless every once in a while, you know?


EDDIE: I can definitely say that our relationship is testament to my growth and my understanding of that, the importance of that energy. So, I appreciate you for that, and I look forward to the future and the things that we will continue to do separately and together to continue to spread that inspiration. Because I think one thing that Gregory Siff does is inspires. You're very inspirational.


The thing that you wanna cover

is the thing that everyone’s gonna fall in love with.
Photo Credit: Eric Coleman

GREGORY: Thank you, bro.

EDDIE: How does that responsibility weigh on you to know that your art evokes so much emotion? Does that come with a price? Do you ever feel heavy or is it always just light and airy?

GREGORY: It's like weights and muscles and stuff and work... working out. And the more you work out, the better the body looks... but there's also joints and things as you're getting older. They hurt, but you're still in there. You're still doing it because you're building. And as I'm painting, I meet so many people. I meet so many... I met my best friends through painting things on walls. It becomes a little heavy because someone said to me on my birthday, one of my good, one of my best friends, Lee, he was like, "You're the only guy I know that every one of your friends is your best friend." And I never thought of it like that. And I was like, yeah... Sometimes I want to check in. It's not just an exchange of a painting. It's like somebody that says, "I believe in you." When someone collects a piece of your work, it's not even a transaction. It's an exchange of energy. It's beautiful and sometimes it could get heavy because you got your mom, and you got your girl, and you got your own time... but I wanna make sure all the people that are my brothers and that my people that love who I am as a person, I want to make sure that they get that too. So yeah, sometimes my muscles hurt, but I'm still looking good and I don't miss a workout.

EDDIE: <laugh> That's right. That's funny.

GREGORY: I'm sure everyone kind of feels like that because we wanna be inspiring. I mean, I'm not even a father, I don't have... You have a lot of responsibility and it's a beautiful responsibility. So, I feel that I'm learning.

EDDIE: Yeah, I went through a phase where I was heavy as the head that wears the crown, you know? It's like, you know, being in front of a lot of things, I personally just got worn out from being the plug... It's like, can somebody plug me? Can I get a plug? So I know, being that creative source and always giving away a portion of yourself, for me at times has become taxing and it seems the way you float through your life that it doesn't really weigh on you.

GREGORY: No… I've learned to take the moment. It's almost like, nowadays with our phones, we have 'em in our hands like constant... always looking. But like now that I'm home with mom, I'll put the phone down for three hours on the thing and forget about it. I don't do that in LA. I usually have it on me. If it buzzes, I look at it. But we have to remember to put the phone away and take that time. Because you can't just be serving everybody. You can't just be

Photo Credit: LA CANVAS

Exclusive Interview with Gregory Siff

GREGORY: (continued) like, "Yo, I got you. I'll make this painting. I'll be there, I'll do this." You come home. You don't even have that moment to reflect on the first exchange of that guy that really smiled... or whatever's in the moment. So, it's always good to go home. It's good to go back home to remember places... I'm in my room. These places have souls of younger versions of yourself... And you gotta hang out with those guys.

EDDIE: Yeah. That's one thing I kind of regret... that I never went back to Louisville sooner, but at the same time, I had a dream last night about buying my childhood home, you know? I just bought a home there and it's not where I grew up, but I had a dream about that. So it's weird that you're at home because I wonder how I'd feel if I walked into my room as a kid. Would it be cool? Would it suck? Would it be deep? Would I hurt? Would I be happy? So... Every time I go home, I drive by the house and I sit out front. They probably think I'm some crazy old creepy dude, because I pull up and just sit there and soak it in. Let me ask you this. What advice do you have for you young aspiring artists?

GREGORY: There's so many things that I could guide with... but one of my acting coaches once told me this a long time ago... the thing that you don't like about yourself is the thing that you don't wanna hide. Maybe it's that you don't like how your hair looks. The thing that you wanna cover is the thing that everyone's gonna fall in love with. So be careful about covering that. Show us. Show us who you are. Don't be afraid. It doesn't have to look like the coolest thing. It doesn't have to look like your heroes.

It has to come from you. And the way you do that is you make something every day. And it could be that I don't have a lot of time today. I'm going to this meeting, I got work... I do the one drawing on paper. And you make that. And then the next part of the thing is to share it with the world. You put it on Instagram, you give the drawing to someone, you stack up a hundred drawings and you find a coffee shop and you make an art show. You gotta do the actions too. So, don't be afraid of the ugly parts that you think are ugly because from someone else's perspective, you are a shining, inspiring, beautiful relic of this earth... If I could go back, I would try and tell them. Don't think that's uncool. That's just how you are. That's just something you can't change. I guess those would be the things... Make something every day. Share it. And be authentic to you. Don't be afraid of authenticity and what it looks like. ∎


GuerillaOne x The Seventh Letter

Louisville, Kentucky native Eddie Donaldson moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and became involved with the graffiti movement as an alternative to the turbulent gang activity of his generation. Immersed first as an artist amongst diverse L.A. crews like TCF, AWR, and The Seventh Letter, Donaldson had the vision to develop their homegrown graffiti movement into something beyond the streets. His loyalty and business sensibility transformed the graffiti scene and he evolved into the point person for producing art events and exhibitions that inspire and spread the stylistic of southern California art into the world.

55 AwareNow Podcast
Being an immigrant is not easy. We have to work so much harder to even out the playing field.
Photo Credit: @megmessina


My dear friend @megmessina came to visit last May, and we took a few photos. (She’s so freaking talented. It’s tough to resist a photo session when she’s around). In this segment of photos, in particular, I wanted her to capture the essence of making friends with the past.

You see, I had a nice childhood. I remember being happy and feeling loved. I’m sorry if this is triggering to some, but it was my experience and I was very privileged.

It wasn’t all peaches, though. I lived in a country that was going through a Muslim revolution…and we were Hindus.

After hearing about all the horror this regime has caused, I’ll let you use your imagination on the type of trauma they caused their citizens.

I heard so many stories of my grandparents’ friends being brutally killed, my father jailed, and my family’s Indian restaurant forcefully taken from them.

Somehow my family’s perseverance kept on.

My father was a pujari (equivalent to a priest), and would still lead weekly teachings. Government of ficials would always attend and make sure he was not saying anything against Islam.

The funny story is one of the officials ended up stealing the temple and raising his family in it. He even put my dad on a target list where if he ever sets foot in the country he was born in, he would be jailed, prosecuted, and killed. Not an uncommon story.

Anyway, this photo was supposed to represent making friends with the past and leaving it behind.

It took a lot for me to put on a hejab. I was quite traumatized by the illegitimate Islamic regime. Most Iranian people are.

I’m grateful to be in America, but I still wonder what it would have been like if the revolution didn’t happen, and I was able to stay in the country where my ancestors had lived for the past 12,000 years.

Being an immigrant is not easy. We have to work so much harder to even out the playing field.

I was lucky because my parents raised us to be strong in our hearts, and to enjoy the moments that are given to us.

This is why I do the work that I do. I know firsthand how powerful we can be if we connect with our souls.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. ∎

Connect with and follow Rohini Moradi: @magicinclined
work with the understanding that it’s not your race to win.


You’re halfway through the 100 meter sprint. The blindfold that temporarily rids you of sight is comfortably strapped around your head and eyes.

Your guide is running beside you, yelling directions, and giving you feedback on your position in the race.

“Come on, you gotta go!”

“You’re at the 60 meter mark…pick it up! There you go!”

“They’re coming up beside you, keep working!”

“You’re at the 80 meter mark…keep going!”

“90 meters!”…


As you cross the finish line, your guide gives you a congratulatory slap on the back and yells out a big “woohoo!”

“That’s what I’m talking about! Gold medal! They’re showing us on the Jumbotron right now. Our time is prominently displayed beside our name and country! You did it!”

I hope you have chills thinking about this scene because I do.

But, there’s one specific aspect of this race that really solidifies success for the tandem.

At the very last moment in the race, as the tandem approaches the finish line, the guide slows up ever so slightly and allows the athlete to cross the finish line first.

You see, if the guide crosses the line first, the athlete is disqualified. It’s ultimately the athlete’s race so the athlete must cross first.

For the guide, he or she has to train just as hard, watch their diets, get the adequate amount of rest, but when it comes to the race, the guide must take a step back and allow the athlete to cross first.

Now, how better would this world be if folks had this type of mindset. Put in the work with the understanding that it’s not your race to win.


Although the athlete is crossing first, you’re winning as well. Why?

Your service has led someone to the top. Your service has helped elevate another human being to a level that they might not have been able to reach on their own. Your service has catapulted another person to prominence.

In the words of my sprint guide and brother from another mother, Jerome Avery, people always point to Batman first.

But, don’t forget that Robin is a superhero too!


This month marks a time that sheds light on the work that Martin Luther King Jr. did to guide the minds and hearts of people in and around the United States of America, and abroad. This world would look totally different if he believed that he was in the race alone. He served as a guide and he understood that his work would hopefully lead us to a finish, a finish where others would be guided by his service.

We live in a world where a lot of people are running the race alone. They believe that just because they aren’t members of a certain race, gender, sexuality, religion, or whatever, the focus should be on them and their ability to cross the line first.

News flash! Greatness is not achieved that way.

I am a person of faith and believe in God. I also believe that the first will be last, and the last will be first. I’ll spare you with a full length sermon today but… Ultimately, if you’re selfishly running the race purely for yourself, you may experience success.

It’ll be temporary though. The success might last for a year, five years, ten years, maybe even 30 years, but if it’s solely for your benefit at some point the success will crumble.

As a child in North Carolina, I used to always hear older folks say that all good things must come to an end.

And that may very well be true.

But if you run the race alongside others, working collaboratively, putting in the same amount of work if not more, I believe the good things will last for a long time.

And if you’re a guide, doing everything in your power to stride alongside another in hopes of leading them across the finish line before you, good things will continue to happen.

Translation. All good things will never come to an end. ∎


x Paralympic Medalist, 4x World Champion & Keynote Speaker

LEX GILLETTE has quickly become one of the most sought after keynote speakers on the market. Losing his sight at the age of eight was painful to say the least, but life happens. Things don’t always go your way. You can either stay stuck in frustration because the old way doesn’t work anymore, or you can create a new vision for your life, even if you can’t see how it will happen just yet. His sight was lost, but Lex acquired a renewed vision, a vision that has seen him become the best totally blind long and triple jumper Team USA has ever witnessed.
“…doing everything in your power to stride alongside another in hopes of leading them across the finish line before you, good things will continue to happen.”
We’re not an afterthought.



With multiple disabilities including Loeys-Dietz Syndrome, Marfans, and POTS, Celia Hensman lives with a permanent central line in her chest through which she receives daily blood infusions and complete artificial nutrition. She has never known life without being disabled. In 2021, on The International Day of People with Disabilities, Celia launched The Disability Policy Centre. Disabled-led and dedicated to the advancement and development of policy, they work to ensure that accessibility is at the heart of conversation, consultation, and legislation. Regarding disabilities, policies of truth can only be enacted with inclusion and accessibility.

ALLIÉ: Well, let's get right into it. Let's start with a day in the life of you, Celia. What does that look like? I mean, I understand that every day, much like life, consists of constants and variables. what are your every day constants?

CELIA: Constants for me is I live a very different life, probably like most people engaging with this conversation than the average person. For a little bit of context, I have complete intestinal failure and paralysis of my intestinal system. So I can't eat or drink anything. So everything goes in a weird way to my body. So the first thing I do when I get up in

It’s not for you to tell me what I need, it’s for me to tell you what I need.

CELIA: (continued) me at half past six in the morning. So I can't remember the last time I slept past half past six <laugh>. So I have to get up and the first thing I have to do is sterilize the top half of my body and get ready to unplug my feed, which has been running through the night.

I'm on to total parenteral nutrition. So everything that my body needs and I get, I get through my heart. Obviously that means sterile is king. So I have to get up at 6:30 on the dot and sterilize the top half of my body and then I get ready to disconnect my infusions. And then I prepare my medications, which come in various forms from injections to smaller lines and infusions that I have to put down into my central line. So that's how I start my day, which is not how the traditional person starts their day. I then, you know, move on to the pain management things that I have to do. So obviously because I can't have anything orally, I have to get quite creative about how I manage my pain. So there's lots of heat treatments and TENS machines involved to kind of get me going for the day and get me to a point where I can do my thing.

The next stage of my day, I suppose, is getting myself and my self care ready for the day. Obviously as I have entry points into my body that aren't natural entry points, should we say, I can't just hop in the shower and get clean and be ready for the day. I then have to, you know, wash my area of my Hickman line, bandage myself up, put all my dressings on, then have a very awkward and cumbersome shower, as I'm trying to avoid the water directly because unfortunately my dressings are water resistant, not waterproof. So once I've done that, it has taken me now two hours to get to the point where I'm like, "Right. Work mode now." I sit down at my laptop, I open my phone, I open my diary, and I spend the next, you know, 12 hours on a good day just whole hogging all I've got to do. I am not the kind of person where I'm very good at stopping because I don't eat or drink anything.

I don't take a lunch break because I always forget to take that kind of hour off around lunchtime. I never end up doing it. And then around sort of four or five o'clock that's when work stops and I have to start the whole routine again. So I take myself up to my medical room, start my infusion process again, and that takes about an hour again of my time... of setting up my lines, setting up my medications, and my infusion runs for 14 hours. So once I've done that, backpack on and relax. I just let my body do what it needs to do and spend the next 14 hours of my life with a backpack on and going back to bed and the whole system repeats itself. So even though, you know, I'm a big advocate for 'disability doesn't look like the same thing every single day', those are constants in my life which come rain or shine, I've got to get up and force myself to do those things.

ALLIÉ: Wow. So not being able to eat or to drink anything, has that been the way of it? Always. This has been the only thing you've known?

CELIA: No. So when I was younger... I have a connective tissue disorder, which is very rare and wonderful and not many people know about it. It's called Loeys-Dietz syndrome, which is very similar to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome if anybody knows about that. When I was younger it was, I would cross myself as being non visibly disabled. I had lots of health complications and caught meningitis. My immune system was just all over the place, and I was constantly breaking bones and just general 'unwellness'. But I ate and drank normally. I always had stomach problems, but it was never a stated feeding tube. And then when I was in my teen years was when it started going wrong. I noticed that, you know, I was being sick a lot. But I preface this by saying that as someone with gastro issues and anyone can kind of comply, I have nothing that grosses me out or I'm not willing to talk about.

“I am not the kind of person where I’m very good at stopping because I don’t eat or drink anything.”
You have unique talents about yourself because of your disability.

CELIA: (continued) Obviously, there's a lot of stigma around gastro problems in general. It started going wrong in my teen years and I was being sick a lot and my bowel movements weren't great and I noticed that a lot of foods were kind of irritating me quite a lot. So over a couple of years I started cutting things out like gluten and dairy on the advice of my doctor and following a FODMAP diet and it just wasn't getting any better and my weight really started to slip. I then started feeding tubes nasally. So I had an NG tube, and at that point they'd worked out that my stomach had started to paralyze itself and it just wasn't working anymore. My connective tissue disorder manifests as my body doesn't produce collagen properly, which gets worse as I get older, which means the muscle movement slows down and eventually seizes up.

And that element of peristalsis and the ability to process my food was what was slowly stopping. So I had an NG tube, which is a feeding tube, which goes into your stomach for on and off for a couple of years. And then that progressed to having an NJ tube, which actually goes from the nose down... Not a nice procedure and not something nice and pleasant to live. It goes into your small intestines. So you just pump feed through your nose and down it goes. And then eventually that stopped working as well. And that was during the Covid pandemic. I got taken into hospital and told that I probably wasn't going to come out again. And that wasn't a nice experience during a pandemic when I couldn't have anybody there with me. I was in there for a couple of months and my body had basically gone into full ketosis where my body was eating my own organs effectively to just try and get some energy from somewhere.

And so that was when I went onto TPN. It now means that my entire gut system doesn't need to be used. It's now going directly into the bloodstream, into the devil's mouth, if you like. So that's how I get everything now. I miss food. And I think that's a question that's probably gonna be asked. Do you still get hungry or do you still get thirsty? Physically, no, I'm not hungry, and I'm not thirsty. Mentally, I'm very hungry and thirsty because it doesn't cut out that element of taste and satisfaction... On a hot day, you know, everyone else has a drink and an ice lolly. I plug up a fluid bag. It doesn't satiate me mentally, even though my body has got what it needs, if that makes sense. But it's not a feeling to be scared of, it's not unbearable. It's just every so often you go, "Oh God, I'm really thirsty right now.

ALLIÉ: Right, right. Yeah. So this is all rather new then this sort of level, this degree of it. Wow. It's just incredible… Please allow me. There's some beautiful words that you have shared that I would like for everyone to hear, and they are as follows, your beautiful words... "All bodies are different and beautiful in their in finite diversity. Some of us live in an alternative way, but that doesn't mean we aren't just as capable in our own magical ways." I love these words. You know, you shared these words in a post while showing your Hickman line, which again is that tube that keeps you alive. What I love about this post, Celia, is that you both educate people who don't know, and you empower those who do know... just by sharing your truth, just by being present and by being visible. I guess my question with all of this is, is this where you feel like your strength, where your superpower comes from, just that level of transparency and truth?

CELIA: I think so. You know, I've spent my entire life using mobility aids and my body doesn't look the same as people traditionally think bodies should look. And when I was younger I really, really struggled with that. And it's not that I don't struggle with it now, but it's that I very quickly came to the realization that people look at me strangely or think of me weirdly or think of me and my body is as unnatural and weird and not very pleasant because they don't understand what it is that my body is doing. They don't understand what that Hickman line does. It's natural human instinct to look at something that you don't see on a daily basis and go, "Oh, what is that? That's a bit weird. ...Oh, that makes my skin crawl." To think about that -- a stoma for example.

There's such a stigma around stomas and people can be so embarrassed of them, and I completely understand why. And that's a journey that I'm heading to and I'm prepared for that to be added to my body, but it's because people don't understand the actual process of what it is. You know, we have parts of our natural body, for want of a better word, that everybody has, intimate areas of yourself. But we don't think of those weirdly because everybody's got one and we know what they do and we know what their purpose is.

That's the key is that if we all understand and it's visible and it's out there and it's, you know, on billboards, it's represented across the media, across social media, in business, whatever it may be, people won't have these negative perceptions because it's entrenched as normality. There's this real perception that anything that's arti ficial about your body or anything that's out of the ordinary or a difference is something to be focused on.


CELIA: (continued) That's almost your defining character as a person. "Oh, she's got a Hickman line. Look at her body. Oh, that shouldn't be there. That's a little bit weird." And my point is to say, actually there's something about us all, which is a little bit different. None of us fit the stereotype of normality, of what we should be looking like. Actually, if you try and find people that look exactly like the stereotype of what we're all aspiring for, you're going to find that not many people look like that. And even those people themselves have those levels of insecurities where they say… I wish my legs were longer. I wish I was skinnier. I wish I was curvier. Whatever it is, everybody has something about themselves that they wish they could change. Unfortunately for myself, I can't change those elements about me.

And I'm not embarrassed about my Hickman line because my Hickman line keeps me alive. Why should I be embarrassed about the beauty of medicine and the beauty of my body to have taken something arti ficial and said, "Right, the natural part of me doesn't work. Let's accept this artificial element and power ourselves through." I'm surviving against the odds by the amazing work of my doctors, medicine and progression. But why shouldn't that be celebrated that I have something so medically marvelous about my body that actually people should go, "Wow, that's really cool! That's really interesting. That's so exciting." And not look at it and think, "What is that? That's a bit weird. That's very ugly." Of course, I've had moments in my journey where it's been uncomfortable and walking around with feeding tubes on my face and I've thought, people are looking at me, people are staring at me. I don't like this. This isn't normal. But actually it's because people don't understand. And if you twist the narrative of I just live in a different way, this is part of my body, this is part of who I am, it may not look like what you think the normal body looks like, but that doesn't mean it's not beautiful in its own way. If that makes sense.

ALLIÉ: It makes nothing but complete sense. Absolutely. So to your point about all bodies being different, like you just said, there are things that we love about ourselves and things that we loathe about ourselves at times. So let's get personal for a moment, Celia. I would love to know, when it comes to your body, what is your favorite part?

CELIA: Well, controversially, it is something I've learned to accept. My favorite part is my height. So I have something called Marfan syndrome, which makes you very tall and skinny. So, I'm 6'1". And that is almost like my favorite part about me because when I was younger, it gave me that con fidence where I felt authoritative <laugh>. I naturally feel authoritative because I'm the tallest person in the room. And everybody kind of stops and goes, "Oh God, that person's tall." And it gave me that kind of element of my personality where I felt comfortable. I felt like I held my own, and I held my position. And quite often, you know, as a woman or as a disabled woman, we're quite often disregarded by society. So I turned my height into something which people could have potentially picked on me about into actually being my power stance, taking an element of my disability and turning it into my positive. So I love my height, and I think it makes me very unique because you don't come across very many women that are my height.

ALLIÉ: This is true, this is true. You know, so the thing is... it's one thing to ‘talk the talk’. Many people do. It's a very different thing to walk it. So, here enters 'policy'. We understand, and you understand this very well. Awareness is an issue. Awareness of an issue is an endpoint, is what some people believe... "Oh, I'm aware. I get it. I understand." But awareness isn't an end point, it's a starting point that should lead to action. So when it comes to disability, please tell us about the work that you are doing to convert best practices into policy with the Disability Policy Centre.

CELIA: So the work that I do is quite multifaceted and it's based on the idea and the theory that it's one thing to campaign and raise awareness. Like you said, it's a starting point. We now need to take that awareness, that understanding that is building, and entrench it within our actions. And that is so fundamental to make sure that there is consistency across the board of protection and rights. I kind of preface this by saying accessibility is a right and not a privilege. And having an understanding about disabled people is such a necessity. There's been for way too long this archaic stereotype that disabled people are involved in policy conversation when it comes to health and social care and benefits and that's it. And what we do at the Disability Policy Centre is we integrate the conversation around disability and accessibility into every element of policy and say, actually, you know, disabled people like to go on holiday too.

You know, count us in on tourism. Disabled people, we take public transport arguably more than everybody else because lots of us can't have licenses. So we should really be involved in the conversation about transport. And what we do is we break down areas of policy and legislation here and across the world and look at the current situation, discuss, collect data, do lots of research and then we make recommendations to government, to third parties, to


CELIA: (continued) public organizations, private sector about how they can be improving what they are doing for disabled people. Because currently the conversation around disabled people and the consultation with disabled people is really perhaps lacking in certain areas. So some of the work that we've done already, which has been amazing and incredibly fruitful, is we've done lots of work around the representation of disabled people in politics itself, the people designing policy.

And one of the statistics that we found is that less than 2% of the members of parliament here in the UK identify as being disabled. Now, if you equate that to the over 20% of the population that identi fies disabled, that's over an 18% disparity gap. How can we argue that we are a representative democracy if we are not even representative of the people that are voting? And you know, people then say, "Well, why do we need disabled people in that conversation? Why do we need disabled people talking about education or tourism? Why do disabled people have to be at the heart of conversation?" And that's to say, you can't talk on behalf of us if you do not have the lived experience of what it's like to be a disabled person or have that vicarious lived experience of being a guardian or a carer, whatever it may be.

It's not for you to tell me what I need, it's for me to tell you what I need. And that's basically what our organization does. It collects the voice of disabled people and puts it at the heart of Westminster and government. Some of the other conversations and work that we've done is around SEND provisions and the state of SEND education here in the UK, which is Special Educational Needs or Disability. We're doing an amazing project at the moment called 'Access to Funding', which has just been featured in the Financial Times. So yay, go us. It is centered around investing in disabled entrepreneurs. And one of the statistics that we found was that only less than 17% of disabled entrepreneurs or disabled founders believe they are treated equally to non-disabled entrepreneurs and founders when they're seeking investment because of misconceptions about what they can and can't do, their commitments, how talented they are, et cetera, et cetera.

I could go on and on, but that's in a nutshell what we do. We make sure that the conversation around disabled people is being amplified and considered with equal weight to the rest of the population. A fact that I always kind of like to throw out there is we are the largest minority group. Not only that, but you are the only minority group that you can enter and leave at any point in your life. So if you think the conversation around disability doesn't apply to you, it's not to scaremonger people, but it's to say it might apply to you at some point in your life. And we cannot forget about the one in five people who identify in this way. Arguably, we're currently forgetting about them when we're not hearing their voices enough in conversation.

ALLIÉ: Such great points, all of them. And I love specifically you speaking about the fact that we cannot be just included when it comes to health, but in all facets of all parts. Because a person is a person in all these different facets, not only one specific silo, right? So done with the silos, let's have conversation across the board.

In one of our favorite tracks. So when I say 'our', I mean Jack and I. Jack co-founded Awareness Ties with me and one of our favorite tracks of music is entitled 'To Make Manifest'. And it's from one of our Awareness Ties, Ambassadors, Thavius Beck. The lines read as follows: "Thoughts determine what you want. Actions determine what you get... Think. Act. Now." It's one of our songs that we have on repeat quite often here. So I guess my question from thinking about that song is for you, Celia. Right now, regarding disability and inclusion, what do you want people to think about and what actions do you want them to take?

“So if you think the conversation around disability doesn’t apply to you, it’s not to scaremonger people… but it’s to say it might apply to you at some point in your life.”

Be proactive, not reactive.


CELIA: So what I want people to think about... It's such a great question, and I love the words that you are using. It's very simple. Be proactive, not reactive. We spend so much of our time... A vast majority of the time when the conversation is around disability or accessibility out of the arena of disabled people talking about it or raising awareness, reactive action is happening here where an act of discrimination has happened or someone has come up against an accessibility barrier. People are going, "Oh, we should probably be looking at that in hindsight." And what I'm saying to people is mm-mm... From the point of design, proactively you should be thinking about disabled people. It's one in five people. If you think there are no disabled people on your team or in your family or anywhere in your friendship group or your connection, you are really, really underestimating the conversation around disability.

And then I kind of follow that up by saying, if there really isn't anyone on your team that's disabled, you're doing something wrong as a company because we're not attracting the right people. But from the point of design... We shouldn't be going back to do consultation with disabled people, once we've designed the policy, once we've done the strategy, once we've done the legislation. We should be at the center of it from the beginning. We're not an afterthought. We're not the last thing to be considered, or let's just quickly check this off with disabled people and just check they're all right with it. Our voice should be equal in deciding what needs to be done. Not only are you saving yourself money and time by having to constantly go back and correct the past mistakes. If we just do it now, the situation will be so much better.

And actually, as a social movement I suppose, we will be moving so much quicker than we are at the moment. We have seen the most incredible social progression over the last couple of decades around race and gender and identity and so many other fantastic communities. But I preface that by saying disability is really being left behind in the conversation. And that's not to take in any way energy away from those other social movements, but it's to say, why are we not picking the same pace as other social movements? Why aren't we being considered with equal value to other social progressions that are happening at the moment? And that's because we're in the mentality of being reactive to situations, not proactive. So that's what we need to be thinking about is switching that mentality around.

ALLIÉ: Absolutely agree. And I think it's one of those things where you don't know what you don't know until you know. Right? It's just... I think people are afraid. If they don't know how to fix something, they're afraid to address something, but that simply can't go on anymore.

CELIA: Education is at the core. And I think people get scared... I think you're right. People get scared that they don't want to admit that they don't know something. And my response always to that is, would you rather admit you didn't know something and be met with a friendly group of people who will say, that's all right. You know, let's address it quickly. Rather than you make a mistake of discriminating against somebody or creating a barrier for somebody and having to deal with the repercussions of that? Which would you prefer? Which is the better option for everybody? And that's just asking the questions and admitting you need educating. And there are amazingly talented people out there who will leap at the chance to be able to do that for you. So I think education is so key in the conversation.

ALLIÉ: And you make a good point that it's not that you're going to offend someone. It's perhaps that you're going to... Someone will feel welcomed because you asked and because you reached out. You know, so another quote of yours, "I am who I am because of my disability and not in spite of it." So your disability, Celia, is your power. You referenced it as your driver, your identity and the fact that you find strength in what makes you fight harder than others have to. For those who are looking for the strength that you have found, what advice do you have for them?

CELIA: My advice fundamentally is... You know, I haven't always felt like this. And if you don't feel like that, you are not doing something wrong. You are not alone in that. You are not on a journey that you will never complete. That's how I felt. And I felt, I'm never going to be okay with this. This is something that's going to bother me for the rest of my life, and I'm never going to accept it. And where I started was actually looking at my identity as a person and realizing that my personality, the experiences that I've had, the talents that I've got, the degree I've got, whatever it is... I have got there because of the situations that have happened in my life as a result of my health condition. I picked law at university because I was so interested in human rights because I'd had the lived experiences of feeling like my human rights weren't being met as a person. I set up my organization because I could see what was going on, and I'd wanted to change it to make sure that people behind me aren't going to go through the same things. It's a long process. I'm not going to change the world, but I can tap away at my little corner and do the best I can. It's about realizing that

Accessibility is a right and not a privilege.


Exclusive Interview with Celia

CELIA: (continued) disability is a talent in itself. We over-index on dedication, commitment, resilience, ability to think outside the box, creativity. You have unique talents about yourself because of your disability and because of your experiences that people pay money to get training to receive and to be better at. You have those talents about yourself naturally. Tap into those and realize that actually there are positive things about my disability. For me, it gets me up every day and it motivates me to keep going. And yes, I have days where I can't do it. And yes, I have days where everything goes on pause because right now I'm focusing on my health. But it's also about realizing that the only person I need to be showing up for is myself and prioritizing my health first. So many of the negative experiences that I've had in my life as a result of my disability, arguably I've caused a lot of them myself because I've tired myself out. I've done things physically that I know going into it I wasn't going to be able to do. But I was so adamant that I had to keep up with everybody and do what everyone else was doing, and I made myself sick or I made myself injured. That I looked at my situation and where I was with my health and thought, you know what? I can't do things in the traditional way, but I can do other things that people can't and I can approach things in a different way. And as soon as I switched that mentality to stop chasing what I couldn't have and knew I couldn't have. And just accepting that and saying, "Maybe I can't do that, but I can do this. And I can do this in a different way." And I focused on that. And that's what kind of drives me and switched that mentality. But I preface it again by saying that's a real journey and I'm not at my end point there. You know, I still have really bad mental health days where I wish I could click my fingers and it all went away, and I just had five minutes with no pain... five minutes where I felt okay. I still have those elements, but it's about realizing that my disability got me where I am today and continues to push me forwards because I'm driven to make sure that other people don't have to go through the real mmm that I've had to go through.

I know so many people have had it so much worse than me. You know, I recognize my privileges that I am a white disabled woman and being a white individual, my experiences and my disability have arguably been better than other people. And I recognize that privilege. I want to make sure that intersectionality is also respected and that, you know, yes, you are a disabled person, but there are other elements about you as well. It's not your ultimate de fining characteristic. I'm a fiance, I'm a sister, I'm a daughter, I'm also, you know, a disabled person. I'm also a woman. There are other things about me, but it is a defining characteristic about me, and I've accepted that. And I'm proud of that now. I'm proud of the fact that even though I'm different and even though my body doesn't like me very much and keeps trying to kill me off, I'm still going. I'm still doing it. I'm beating the odds, and I'm here. I've shown up for myself now. And that's what's kind of really important. It's prioritizing myself above anything else. Even though that sounds very arrogant and big-headed. Actually, if you have to deal with physical or mental health or anything, you and yourself need to be the priority. Your body is a vessel and a vehicle. And you need to look after it to the best of your ability.

ALLIÉ: That's beautiful, Celia. Thank you for showing up. Just in showing up, just in being present, you are a light for so many that are dealing with their darks. And so, thank you so much for letting us get to know you a bit more, for sharing your story, your truth, for fighting the way that you do, not just for yourself, but for others. Thank you for helping all of us become a bit more aware now. Thank you. ∎

73 AwareNow Podcast
TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN Learn more about The Disability Policy Centre:
Dreaming of being forever on an empty train suggests that the dreamer is headed in the right direction for their goals.


Sublime. This dream presented in poetic form is a transformative gift. Not just for the dreamer but for everyone who reads this.

I followed it till the end

This dream is full of Sadness and sorrow

You went away Before I could let go

Empty pain is something new I missed you

Just wanted you to know

When I finally caught up


In this dream I watched you board the train

Full of hurt and pain I reached and couldn't grab I wanted to kiss

The sorrow resisted I didn't say goodbye I pushed my way in

Each never ending car was ghostly empty I was alone forever on this track

- Anonymous

As a dream decoder I am forever reminding people that the dreaming mind seems so very hard to understand or make sense of because it speaks in the language of a visionary, a poet. To understand the meaning of a dream you need to interpret it as if you were back in literature class at school and given a poem to analyse.

Every word in a poem is chosen by the poet for a reason. Nothing is trivial. Poets use symbols, metaphors, puns, pathetic fallacy and other literary techniques/associations to express multiple meanings hidden beneath the surface. This is exactly how the dreaming mind expresses itself. Like a poem, nothing in a dream is trivial and everything is rich in profound symbolism. Your job as the dreamer is to unpick the deeper meanings in the same way you would when reflecting on a poem.

Indeed, I highly recommend presenting your dream as a poem as this dreamer did and also drawing it. As art also speaks the language of symbols. A picture paints a thousand words and so do your dreams.

So let’s explore this achingly beautiful dream. At first glance it appears to suggest that the dreamer feels deeply alone. They are chasing someone who has slipped away. They want to stop this happening and try to hold on but whoever they are trying to keep has left them. The dreamer can’t accept and feels deeply sad that a loving relationship has ended. For them the relationship is not over, as it clearly seems to be for the other person. But …

They need to understand they are chasing something outside themselves which needs to be discovered within.

This is just one interpretation of the dream and the most obvious one. Like a poem it’s the layers of hidden meaning that elevate it. There is never one interpretation for a great poem or a great work of art and remember every dream you have is a great poem and great work of art. So what are other possible meanings here?

Dreaming of being forever on an empty train suggests that the dreamer is headed in the right direction for their goals. They aren’t being distracted by the opinions or demands of others. They are also aware that the greatest and most empowering relationship is the one they have with themselves. They have stopped looking to others to make them feel whole. Even though it has not felt easy, the experience of heartbreak has strengthened not weakened their momentum to move forward.

The relentless sorrow theme of the dream could also be the dreaming mind reminding the dreamer that they are trying to hold onto a mindset or situation or relationship in their waking life which is no longer serving their best interests. They are wasting energy on something they can’t change. Another possible interpretation is that however hard the dreamer tries in their waking life to not be noticed that is going to change. It is their time to be more visible, to shine and step out of the shadows.

The dream could also be urging the dreamer to stop chasing what they think they need to feel happy. The more they chase the more elusive happiness will be. They need to understand they are chasing something outside themselves which needs to be discovered within. They urgently need to learn how to feel content in their own company. This dream suggests the dreamer will get that self love and inner peace because it ends with them right on track.

There are bound to be other interpretations to explain this dream beyond the obvious theme of loneliness. At the end of the day as dreams are highly personal only the dreamer will know which (if any) of these interpretations hits the mark. And the dreamer will know when they have hit upon the right meaning when they get an eureka or light bulb moment. And the correct interpretation will energise and empower them. It will not drain them as dreams always have your back. If that empowered feeling from an interpretation doesn’t come often it is a series of dreams rather than a stand alone dream that provide the answer. Think of your dreams as an epic and long running series with each night episode revealing more and more life changing illumination.

Wishing this beautiful dreamer and all you amazing dreamers out there, ever more revealing, insightful and in finite dreams in nights to come. ∎

Have a dream you’d like decoded?

Scan, tap or click the code to submit your dream to AwareNow. If selected, it will be published in AwareNow Magazine with Theresa’s analysis.


Dream Expert & Best-Selling Author

THERESA CHEUNG is a best-selling author and dream decoding expert who has been researching and writing about spirituality, astrology, dreams, and the paranormal for the past twenty-five years. With a Master's degree from King's College Cambridge University in Theology and English, and several international best-selling books, including two Sunday Times "top 10 bestsellers", Theresa has over 40 published books and cards on topics of the science of cognition to intuition. Her Dream Dictionary from A to Z (Harper Collins) regularly sits at number 1 on its category's Amazon list, and is regarded as a classic in its field.
I have to remind myself to breathe… to be present.


A breath…to give, take, receive, hold or ‘catch a breath’ is a vital ingredient necessary to live. A breath is literally and metaphorically, CPR for living. Allié Merrick McGuire, CoFounder of Awareness Ties, parent company of AwareNow Magazine is CPR for our world. I’ve had the blessing of knowing and serving philanthropically, boots on the ground in the global causes trenches with Allié for over a year. During this time, this woman and angel known as Allié takes my breath away as I marvel at the incredible human being, woman, wife, mother, artist, friend, community producer and solution provider she is for her family and for this planet. When I think about ‘breathing’, I think of Allié…how much quality of life source she breathes into our world and how much she needs us to help her and AwareNow breathe and exist. I wondered, when does my friend Allié take a moment to catch her own breath, to refuel, rest and restore. Yes, Allié is an angel, yet she is also a human being who is dramatically impacted by her own invisible breathing challenges, disease challenges, and stress challenges.

We have all that we need to do the job we’re meant to do in this world.


LAURA: Wow. I am interviewing Allié Merrick McGuire, co-founder of Awareness Ties and AwareNow Magazine. I will share candidly with your audience, as confessed to you, I'm a little bit nervous. Mostly I'm overcome by the honor to interview you today. I don't know if you've ever been interviewed before. Have you ever been interviewed for your own magazine before?

ALLIÉ: Not for AwareNow, no. For other things, but this is a first, so I'm nervous too. <laugh>

LAURA: How about if we just have a conversation? I'll introduce myself to your audience. I'm Laura Sharpe, the founder of Artists for Trauma (AFT). We adapt all creative art forms to bring healing empowerment to life altered trauma survivors. What you and AwareNow Magazine do is a perfect example of what AFT aims to do to share relatability through creativity and storytelling. Allié, you do it so beautifully! I’m excited about this opportunity to interview you and bring awareness and introduction to who you are as a human being and a fellow traveler. Thank you for sharing with your audience, and those people that love, know, and honor you an opportunity to learn a little bit more about you and who you are. You give so much of yourself, body, mind, and spirit... so much breath and the breadth of life, air... fresh air. You exemplify the power of possibilities and opportunities. How do you do all that? When do you get a chance to take a breath?

ALLIÉ: Well, that was an incredible introduction... When do I get a chance to breathe? Every time I remind myself, I suppose. Perhaps like many others, sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe. I find myself... I think when you're moving at a very fast and furious pace to do more and be more, you sometimes forget to breathe. Literally, I find myself holding my breath sometimes. And certainly a shallow breather, I have to remind myself to breathe.

I have to remind myself to be present and to be in the moment. I have to remind myself of what a gift that is and how breath.... Yes, it's the noun that it is, but in that same way, it is that verb of 'moving'. Breathing is moving energy, one direction and then the other… it mirrors storytelling. Whether you are the one sharing the story or hearing the story, it's this movement back and forth, this exchange. And whether you're inhaling and exhaling and repeating or hearing a story, sharing a story and repeating, this is life... And I have found that for me, when I breathe is when I remember what the true definition of a breath is. And to be mindful of that.

LAURA: Very well said. It encompasses so many contexts of the noun and the verb 'breath' as you so well described. As I was preparing for our conversation, those different nuances and contexts came to mind. It was also part of my question to you, and one of the first things you responded with was, “I need to remember to take a breath.”

We get moving so fast. This current frequency of existence with all these different platforms of communication that require us to move at light speeds, faster than generations past... and how that stress impacts the breathing process itself. Right? So when we remember to take a breath, to bring in that life source, because we'll stop for a minute, I'm reminded of the intentional power of when we do pause and slow our breath down, and as you said, bring awareness to the breath, using it as a single focused reminder to just remember to breathe...

Slow down. Just be. And in that space between the fast incessant pacing, that screen of illusion, the speed of all those illusions speeding across the screen in our mind... the power of controlling our breath brings us back to the center of the calm, which brings me back to you. You inspire me. I and our beloved fellow traveler, Eddie Donaldson, had the opportunity to serve alongside you in September, about three or four months ago, boots on the ground, 160,000 human beings at two music festivals produced by our community partner Danny Wimmer Presents in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Breathing is moving energy, one direction and then the other… it mirrors
We were serving through artistic expression, human connection and community collaboration.

LAURA: (continued) How astounding it was! Talk about breath, frequency, and vibration going on at Bourbon and Beyond and Louder Than Life. Yeah! 160,000 people for four days, times two, 320,000 people in eight days. You and I, we were serving through artistic expression, human connection and community collaboration. Just being relatable, breathing with people, listening, everything that you provide through AwareNow. And so as you had described the different definitions of breath in our conversation, it naturally came up. What are some of those different de finitions of breath? How would you, Allié, describe the intentionality of 'The Breath Edition' for AwareNow?

ALLIÉ: Finding bandwidth to breathe... Because so often when we think of bandwidth, we think about technology and what's available, technically speaking. We think of our personal selves and our lives and the chaos that it's often in the state of. And it's like, "I don't have bandwidth for that. I don't have bandwidth for this." It's looking at when we're just maxed out. And it's that stress that comes in realizing that you often feel, "I don't have time for this. I don't have time for that." Is it that we don't have time or that we're not making time? We have all that we need to do the job we're meant to do in this world. I believe that. And so if we take life a moment, a breath at a time and ask "What will I do with this?" To your point, it's all intentionality.

Every single part of every single facet of our life is "What are you doing with this? How are you directing this breath?" Whether you're running down the street... you're directing in a particular way to serve a particular process. Whether you're sitting at your computer and typing feverishly away... It's not being tethered to the outcome of that breath, but just the moment of that breath, the moment of that action, the moment of that intention. Too often we're looking at the end point as opposed to just the present point. And so for me, I guess defining the breath is really just the moment that it is. And to know that if this breath is too hard to take, know that it is only a moment. And to look to the next, reflect on the previous... Our life consists of a series of moments, a fixed number of breaths. And I think what is interesting is, if you take our life on this earth, in this human experience that we have, it's interesting when you think about the fact that there are a finite number of days of minutes, of seconds of breaths that we will take in our life. And so to know how precious, how all the more precious, every single breath is, because there are only so many of them to take. Yeah. And so for me, it's just that the breath is a reminder about the moment. It's about the now and what you plan to do with it.

LAURA: In this natural conversation, in the questions that I was going to ask, and in your different interpretations of breath, you've authentically and organically answered the questions before they were asked. It is about all the different forms of taking and giving a breath and why and how sometimes we cannot. And it isn't always related to stress. Stress impacts all those different whys, whens, and hows in different ways. I wonder if you would share with the audience personal information many are not aware of... You are this incredible producer, woman, wife, mother, friend, philanthropist, and you are also a fellow traveler. You carry a very serious health condition that is invisible. Would you share more with us?

ALLIÉ: Yeah, absolutely. So, it's actually why... It's actually why I wear this necklace, this 'spoon' necklace. I never knew what the term 'spoonie' meant or 'spoon life' meant until I was diagnosed with… Something I can never get rid of... one of those incurable conditions. When I lost vision about two years ago in my right eye, well, that's disconcerting. So Jack, who is I would say my better half said, "Well, let's go. You need to go to the emergency room. We have to figure out what this is." And so in going there, after a series of MRIs, they came to find out that I had MS. There were lesions on my brain, on my spine... And with that initial diagnosis, it floored me. I said, "What?!" But having that diagnosis, I then looked back at my life and the things that weren't really adding up and weren't really making sense.. I said, "Oh, it's just this. Oh, it's just that." And all of a sudden I said, "Oh, it was actually really that." And so the diagnosis, when I got it, at first, it was a bit concerning. It's the blessing in the curse of it though, you know. Because I said, "Okay, well, I have MS. I have Multiple Sclerosis." But at least I knew what it was. So many people suffer for so long not knowing what it is. And so to have that diagnosis, I then said, "Okay, now that I know what it is, now I can figure out what to do with it." First and foremost, what was comforting is that I knew I wasn't alone because my sister, my younger sister, has been living with MS for over 20 years now. She was the first one that I called. So it wasn't something that was totally foreign to me as a condition. It was just foreign to me in my body.

So with MS, it's one of those things where it can be so many different things. It is invisible. So people look at me and say, "Oh, Allié, you're doing fine." But what they don't know and don't see is, for example, moments of fatigue, right?


Find the win.


ALLIÉ: (continued) And, Laura, you understand this very well... fatigue. And people think, "Fatigue. So you're tired... Take a nap." It's like, "No, you don't get it... fatigue. Like, I don't have enough energy… I'm not confident that I can take the next breath." I'm that exhausted. And you know exactly what I mean, Laura. It's when you're used to going a hundred miles an hour and your reins are pulled back without your permission. But then it's perspective... It's saying, "Okay, losing vision in one eye, I still got the other. So what can I do with that?” I think so much of any diagnosis, invisible or visible, is all the perspective that you carry, because that is a choice. A person can have the same day, it can be the best day or the worst day of their life, depending on how they look at it, as is the case with invisible disabilities and visible alike. So my story with MS is one of being humble. It's being appreciative. It's being aware that there are limits to us all. And now understanding what those boundaries are, not to hate them, not to fear them, but to accept them and embrace them and say, let's rock this together. And so that's been my experience as a fellow traveler, as someone with a disability that I wasn't expecting or wouldn't wish on anyone. But yet, now that I have it, trying to find the win in all things... Find the win. And so it’s finding the wins as I inhale, exhale, and repeat, which for any of us is all we can do.

LAURA: Thank you, Allié, for sharing your personal vulnerabilities and realities. I certainly honor and respect the context you so graciously shared. I was also reminded that yes, perspective is critically important, but there is a period of time in injury, illness, disease, whether you're a child or an adult, that those physical realities... When you have the blessing to get on the other side, and you're able to exercise different perspectives, you're reminded how precious each breath is that you can breathe in and give physically and metaphorically. I want to thank you for being an incredibly inspirational breath of fresh air, and thank you for sharing the scope of what breath... taking a breath and giving a breath means to you personally. There are many chapters to you and many layers that we welcome to grow our awareness of how you operate as an individual, of being a part of the solution. As we wind down our conversation today, we are reminded about how precious the gift of breath, fresh air, the width and breadth of an open perspective, an open heart, and a combined intentionality to share the power of possibilities and opportunities with the world through AwareNow, through you Allié Merrick McGuire and your team. We’re blessed to be members of your team and your community. I'd like to ask, how does faith play a part in the way that you deal with the challenges and the gifts happening simultaneously in your personal and professional world?

86 This is worth dying for…
Original Artwork by: Gregory Siff
No, this is worth living for.

“We are called to serve… And for us, storytelling is our course of service.”

ALLIÉ: That's a wonderful question, because it's absolutely so important. So Jack and I... Because we talk about what I've done, but it's only because of what Jack has done and continues to do. When Jack and I started Awareness Ties and we founded this, it was an interesting situation where we both were on different paths in this world and both had different directions. Our paths crossed, we connected and met for the first time online. Then four weeks later, we're married and have this beautiful blended family of five kids, now six with another that we had together, our Forest Grey. When we came together and we left our old lives, we said, let's create a new life. But we didn't want it to be going these different directions that we'd been going... not only personally, but professionally. And so we asked, "Well, what are we going to do?" And that is in essence how Awareness Ties was born. It was this common desire, this drive, to do and be something of service. We asked, "Well, how are we going to serve?" At first, we said, "Okay, we'll put on our capes. We'll save the world..." And then we saw lots of other people with lots of capes on saving the world. We were like, "Where do we fit in this?" And we felt like perhaps it wasn't us necessarily who was going to be going and saving. Perhaps we were going to build the stage for those who are going and saving to be seen and to be heard and to be supported. Faith was important in that. To change takes faith. It takes courage. It takes confidence. Change is... It's funny because in life there are variables and there are constants.

Change for me is my constant because I love change. And I love to switch gears. But when you're switching gears with the whole direction of your life, that does take faith. And from day one, it was a path that we decided to take with the condition that we would not 'force' it. We would only 'allow' it. We had to have faith that the universe was smarter than we... The question became, are we brave enough? Are we strong enough to... some might say to weather, the weather, whatever the weather <laugh>, whatever the weather may be... And we said, yes. It's interesting because I would say, "This is worth dying for." Jack would say this, "No... This is worth living for." Sometimes it takes more strength for the latter. And so it's that faith that we've held. And had it not been for Jack, I don't know that I could have held the way that I have... Being scared, being nervous... of a path that I'd never taken before. And while certainly passionate and 'all in' wanting to protect our kids and our family…

But then you ask yourself if you would put it all on the line. Would you 'bet the farm' on this? And at the end of the day, we said, "Hell yeah... We'll bet the farm. This is worth it." And sometimes we've even had good friends and good family members come to us and say, "You know what? You might have to just do something different, if you can't figure out the right way forward." And you know... We don't know, honestly. And with confidence, we have come to the point where we can say, "We don't know the next steps, but we do know the right direction." And so when you can inhale and exhale, heading in the right direction, trusting, having faith that the steps will present themselves…

I think that's the test. It'd be very easy to say, "Oh, this isn't working out. Let's do something else." It'd be very easy to go that way. But we chose to take the hard road. And the hard road is often the more satisfying route. And so despite the challenges, despite the hardships, we continue to push forward. And when it all gets to be a little bit too much, just reminding ourselves that it is only by inhaling, exhaling and repeating that we can take any day that comes our way. And so with the right intentions in place, we use that as our guide. And that is what we have faith in. We are called to serve. And for us, storytelling is our course of service.

LAURA: We thank you Allié, for sharing insight into you, sharing your breath, your faith, your courage, your leadership, your inspiration, your willingness to 'bet the farm', to go forward in this life of challenges, honoring every precious breath that it takes to live a full life and to give to each other from our bodies, minds and spirits. You are so creative, loving, and embracing about it. Thank you for your leadership, Allie. You are my hero. Thank you for sharing with us today.



Exclusive Interview with Allié McGuire

“Together we rise.”

ALLIÉ: Well, thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity to share and for being the light and the love that you are and that you give to this world. You know that we are all in this beautiful alignment to go and be and for ourselves, but for others. And at the end of the day, I think we can all sleep well with that.

LAURA: Together we can. Together we will. Together we rise. Thank you, Allié. ∎

A breath by definition is a noun that refers to a full cycle of breathing. To breathe is the verb for inhaling and exhaling air into your lungs… or metaphorically into your life.

When needed, we support physical breathing by giving CPR, a tracheotomy, a ventilator, or more holistically with meditation and focused breathing.

For mental and spiritual breathing, ‘Creative CPR’ is needed. This comes in the form of mindful movements, diverse healing art therapies, connectivity, community, and storytelling. This includes sharing knowledge and resources.

Be a resource. Be part of the solution. How can you and I help Allié and AwareNow provide more ‘breath of life’ solutions to combat the global causes that impact our world? Donate to AwareNow.

You can do it now…

LAURA SHARPE contributes to AwareNow with her exclusive column, ‘Fellow Travelers’. Trauma, tragedy and miracle are all part of the life process. They do not discriminate nor are they fairly distributed. Simultaneously they occur across all diverse cultures, countries, colors, ethnicities, genders, religious beliefs, and dimensions of time and thought on planet Earth. In this process of life, birth and re-birth; decay and destruction are integral to creating new life. As fellow travelers, we are mindful, compassionate, and intentional through our attitude and actions to one another. We share our authentic personal story of survival or service to offer relatability, respect and hope to others who are navigating intense physical, mental and emotional life impact. Uncomfortably or joyfully, we share the range of human emotions related to our personal trauma or miracle. In the end or the new beginning, we learn we are all fellow travelers.

AwareNow Podcast
Trust the journey, stay true to you and remember to keep holding on.


This picture came up from 13 years ago. I’m not where I want to be yet, but the girl in the photo prayed to be where I am now, and I’m grateful for that. This is a letter I recently wrote to her…

Hey,It’s me.

How are you holding up? Silly question really… I know it’s tough at the moment but I promise you it will get better, please don’t give up. Those kids in your class who you so desperately want to fit in with, you’ll never see or speak to again after school their opinion of you is irrelevant.

Listen to mum. She’s right about this! Your friends for life will come later on and boy will they adore and support you through everything, you will meet a friend called Zoë who will be like a sister to you and through thick and thin you will have each other's backs, those girls who ditched you back in school to be popular missed out on an awesome loyal friend. When you move to Surrey you will finally feel a sense of belonging and feel included. :)

You know that music you have always loved? Please keep doing it because your music will be played on BBC radio and on TV one day! I know, mad cool right!? I am going to be honest with you now, you are going to get hurt, treated badly and suffer a lot of hardships. People will take advantage of you and your kindness and you will blame yourself and wonder what is wrong with you, the answer is absolutely nothing.

In your 30's you will see these people behave like that to other people and you will realise that the issue was always them. Like anyone you will make mistakes, and burn bridges but that is ok. In your late 20's slowly and surely you will start breaking the narrative and negative behaviour you learnt in order to survive, your circle will also get smaller but more genuine. I am not going to say your pain will be worth it in the end because it won’t be and that isn't cool, you didn't deserve what happened to you, the system failed you and none of it was your fault. You are going to help so many people with your story and that will help you start to heal too. Everyday is not going to be perfect because that is unrealistic, you will still have bad days too, but it does get better.

Trust the journey, stay true to you and remember to keep holding on. Chin up, little one. You got this!

Love from Elle xx

Written and Narrated by Elle Seline

AwareNow Podcast HINDSIGHT


column, Anime Awareness, will use anime as a lens through which to explore these issues.



In the USA, January is National Blood Donor Month. Without a consistent supply of safe blood, medical professionals struggle to perform surgeries, treat serious injuries, manage complications of pregnancy, and treat anemia, cancer, and other conditions. Despite its importance, it’s not always easy getting people to donate. This is true in America, and it’s true in Japan. But Japan has a unique way of encouraging the public to donate - by advertising with anime.

Though anime is undeniably entertaining, it’s more than just that. Anime can be a great way to learn about the social, political, emotional, and medical issues that impact our daily lives and the world around us. This column, Anime Awareness, will use anime as a lens through which to explore these issues.

Some agreed with Ōta, but others pushed back, citing the importance of drawing young peoples’ attention to the important issue of blood donation, the value of artistic freedom, and the view that large breasts are not inherently sexual.

The Red Cross’ 2021 campaign proved both less controversial and more effective. The Tokushima chapter of Red Cross Japan created posters featuring Demon Slayer, a wildly popular shonen anime about a teenage boy who is trying to help his sister who was transformed into a demon. Its film tie-in, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, is the highest-grossing movie in Japanese history. These ads encouraged fans to come to blood drives, where they received a special commemorative poster in exchange for their donations.

This was incredibly effective. In April 2021, Tokushima’s blood banks only got 464 donors, out of a target number of 600. When the posters debuted in July, so many people wanted to donate that the Red Cross had to set up mobile donation sites in order to keep up with the demand, and the blood banks were full.


This isn’t the only way that Japan uses anime to inform the public of health issues. Parallel World Pharmacy, an isekai series about a doctor who reincarnates into a magical world, was part of a campaign by the Japan Pharmaceutical

to those who aren’t familiar with it, but it’s not all that different from thinking that a Scorpio shouldn’t date an Aquarius. Also, the man who popularized the idea in the 1930s, Professor Tokeji Furukawa, compared it to the now-discredited Greek philosophy about the Four Humors. ∎

If you want to donate blood, the Red Cross ( is a great place to start. They’re an international organization with chapters in over 150 countries. If you’re eligible to donate, you can easily make an appointment to do a power red (concentrated red blood cells), plasma, platelet, or whole blood donation.

Anna Lindwasser is a freelance writer and middle school test prep teacher living in Brooklyn, New York. She writes and publishes short stories, and is working on a novel. Many of her articles focus on anime. As a lifelong anime fan, she's seen how the medium has the power to bring awareness to important causes.

ANNA LINDWASSER Freelance Writer, Teacher & Lifelong Anime Fan
Every challenge is an opportunity to grow.
Photo Credit: @riverjordanphoto



Be entertained and educated in this episode of AwareNow Unplugged as we go off script with Olympian beach volleyball player and Awareness Ties Official Ambassador for Invisible Disabilities, the amazing Tri Bourne.

Have you heard or know of the autoimmune diseases Myositis? If not, tune in. Become aware right here and right now. See how this professional athlete has overcome and lives with Myositis.

In this episode, hear about other things that Tri’s never shared before. Find out what year he would travel back to in a time machine. Hear what Tri’s least favorite chore is, which fashion trend he would bring back, and what project has given him the most fulfillment. Tri’s answers will surprise and enlighten you. Catch all this and so much more.

Until you’re broken, you don’t know what you’re made of.




An ancient Japanese emperor once broke his favorite tea cup. Instead of simply throwing it away, he put it back together with gold, thus creating the Kintsugi Vase Technique as an art form. By rejoining the broken shards, he made the cup more beautiful than it was before the damage. However, Kintsugi is not just about art. It’s also about embracing imperfection.

We are often told via the media to look good, be good, do the right thing. The world encourages the way we should think and what we should do. It can become all-consuming to hide the elements of ourselves that don’t fit in nor look “right”, according to society's standards.

Today I am a happy 44-year-old British single mother who lives in the States with my daughter and Maltese dog. I direct movies and help heal by guiding people through their stories. My life is strong and solid, but if you look closer, you’ll spot my cracks that I’ve reinforced with gold to be who I am today.

Only 6 years ago I was a married woman going through a tumultuous divorce, preparing to find the means to live solely with my young daughter. If that wasn’t enough, it was all whilst pondering a life-altering decision: which country to live in, staying in the UK or upend and move to the USA? My daughter’s acting dreams pushed us to go with the latter, with the two of us coming” across the pond” with only 6 suitcases. I was left to work out how to support my daughter financially and educationally. I didn’t have the long-term visa I needed to stay in the States, so we had to navigate the legal process every few years, hoping to stay. I couldn’t have a full-time job because of the need to support my daughter’s acting career, which was a full-time job in itself. I was overwhelmed, lost, alone. I felt broken.

I quite literally took it day by day. I slowly refound my footing in this foreign place. I picked up my pieces and moved forward, as there was no other way. My daughter depended on me, and so did my future. No, it wasn’t easy. Months went by with uncertainty. Judgements were cast about my decision to move continents for my daughter’s career. No matter how hard I tried, societal pressures of being a single mum would creep in, with me doubting if I was doing the “right” thing for us. But eventually I put myself back together, reinforcing the broken bits until I was stronger than I’d ever been before. Having gone through this experience, and continuing to strengthen myself with each passing day, I now see my broken shards as my individual power. I see I am stronger now than ever before. Using this newfound knowledge and empowerment, I share my learned methods through my healing practice “Medicine with Words”, hoping to help other “broken vases” find their strength, quieting societal pressures, and reinforce themselves with gold, piece by piece.

“Until you’re broken, you don’t know what you’re made of. It gives you the ability to build yourself all over again, but stronger than ever.” - Unknown
Take your shards and smooth them over with gold. Become stronger through your choices.


“Be authentically you.” - Various Artists (unknown origin)

The art of Kintsugi is inextricably linked to the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, a world view centred on the acceptance of transient imperfections and the beauty found in simplicity. Wabi Sabi is also an appreciation of both natural objects and the forces of nature that remind us that nothing stays the same forever. Rebuilding isn’t just about doing it for ourselves. It’s about doing it for the world around us. Take your shards and smooth them over with gold. Become stronger through your choices. Have a kinder outlook acknowledging how other people feel. Learn to not be so judgmental. Take a breath and put yourself in their shoes.

Embrace your individuality and that of those around you. Accepting your imperfections and letting others see the” less than perfect” parts of you allows you to connect more deeply — to love others and be loved fully. Choose connection over perfection. You don't have to prove your worth. You don't have to please everyone all the time. And when you catch a negative thought of doubt or judgment in your mind, just remember, we are all broken, and more beautiful because of it. ∎


Storyteller, Philanthropist & Official Ambassador for Human Trafficking Awareness

ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS is a British award-winning storyteller and philanthropist based in Los Angeles, having recently directed her latest feature film during the COVID-19 pandemic. Will You Be My Quarantine? is a romcom starring Full House/Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin and is set to release in 2021. Elizabeth’s recent film Evie Rose, starring Oscar-nominated actress Terry Moore, is premiering on Christmas Eve 2020. Elizabeth is the founder and resident director of entertainment company Mother & Daughter Entertainment, whose motto is “Making Content That Matters”, putting focus on each project starting a conversation amongst viewers. Through MDE, Elizabeth established the MD Foundation Initiative, a campaign to mentor and employ undiscovered filmmakers through fellow philanthropic pledges. AwareNow Podcast
I had to rebuild my life in an entirely new way.
Photo Credit: Shane Pase




Only after overcoming mental health issues and a near-fatal addiction was Wes able to recreate himself, and land the gig playing guitar with the legendary rock band, Korn. His transformation spawned a passion for helping others to not only overcome their greatest challenges, but to help transform their lives. Wes has dedicated himself to carrying the messages of his many teachers and how to tap into the highest versions of ourselves, and what he calls the The Vortex of Radness™. From getting the Korn gig, to forming Rock To Recovery®, a nonprofit that uses the healing power of music to uplift those in recovery, meditation has been part of everything amazing in Wesley Geer’s life.

ALLIÉ: Regarding sobriety, most people think steps. For you, Wes, music came to mind. In a post you shared following the 10th anniversary of Rock to Recovery, you gave thanks to your family, your team, brothers, sisters, volunteers, board supporters, and stated that, "We want art and music to be at the center of recovery." With regard to your center and the story of Rock to Recovery, what does that look like? How did this all start?

WES: When you said steps, were you referring to like 12 steps and all that stuff?

ALLIÉ: Yeah.

104 You don’t have to quit your life. WES GEER FOUNDER OF ROCK TO RECOVERY
Photo Credit: Shane Pase

WES: (continued) I went to a rehab that had the big book of AA and it explained so many things to me about this allergy – why if I start drinking a beer… the beer's not my problem. I don't even like beer that much, but I'm off to the dealer's house and all this kind of stuff. It explained in that book in wonderful detail, what I believe to be my issue of just being an alcoholic. And the people I knew that recovered did do the steps. So that's what I did.

My first sponsor was and still is a musician that plays in punk bands. The guy that sponsored him challenged him, "You don't have to quit your life. You gotta put your recovery first, but booze is everywhere." So trying to hide from it, he didn't suggest that. Well, I think that's definitely needed for some people because that powerlessness is really scary. Sometimes it overcomes us before we even realize it.

Anyhow, I'm a 12 stepper through and through. In my experience of getting sober and having toured the world, doing music, and loving art, when I was getting sober, I noticed that I felt isolated to AA meetings or backyard barbecues where everybody's drinking Red Bull. And already insecure and weird, newly sober and who am I and what am I? And now we're all jacked up on Red Bull and I'm like, "This isn't fun for me."

I knew it was necessary as part of my recovery. I had to rebuild my life in an entirely new way. I don't believe in hanging out at bars and trying to stay sober. It's different if you're a musician and that's your job and you gotta go play.

So that was just something that stuck with me. So when I got the Korn gig as a result of being sober, I got back into music having been out for about six years — because I was sober and because they wanted somebody who was in recovery. I took what I learned in AA and the 12 steps on the road. I went to meetings all over the world.

And while I was working with Korn, I figured the gig probably wouldn't last forever, knowing this industry. So what am I going to do next? I had to transition back into normal life once. I don't have a degree. I don't have letters behind my name. So when the Korn gig's over, what am I going to do?

When it finally ended, I was really deep into prayer and meditation at that time because I felt like it was the only thing that would help. I didn't even know if I believed in any of that sh*t, to be honest. But it was basically like what else do I got? I'm lost. If there's something out there, show me the way because I don't know what to do. And by the way, you could cuss and yell at my God because he understands where that energy's coming from. And when the Korn gig was going away, I wanted to fall into self pity. But it was like, "All right, I know I wasn't sent here to suffer and have a shitty life. So let's get that out of the way." Sometimes I think we all feel like that. Like, is this what life is all about? Just an endless suffering and struggle and pain? No, that can't be the thing.

I clearly need to be sober. I'm a musician. And it was like, how do I help people make a living? That was a prayer because I was asking the universe, "How do I help people make a living and pay my bills each month?" And then the idea for Rock to Recovery came to me.

Pretty quickly, I was thinking back to my time in rehab and how we drew pictures and we did yoga, but we didn't have music. I wanted to bring music into the treatment setting and that's what I set out to do. It just started with that simple idea of desperation.

And the prayer that I like to share with people is something I learned in recovery. It talks about prayer mentation in the 12 steps. Again, these are spiritual philosophies that were collected from all around the world through eons brought together in a way that can help people transform their lives. And it certainly worked for me.

One of the concepts they talk about is you can pray for yourself if others are to be helped. So this thing of, "I need a Ferrari," or, "Just give me a big paying job," that doesn't work, so they say, and I agree with that. What I learned in recovery is that if I say, "How can I be me and help the world?" That's the key to life.

And you see this in spiritual philosophies all over. Like this concept of if you're a barista, bring love into what you do. It doesn't matter what you do, it's the heart you bring into it. I feel like that cracked the skies open for me.

I pitched Rock to Recovery for eight months before anybody finally hired me. I just had a rough idea of what I wanted to do. I really didn't even know. And here we are 10 years later, we have 18 program administrators. We do 600 sessions a month.

We've worked with hundreds of treatment programs. We're integrated as part of the treatment curriculum. So we're there for guys like me or an inpatient rehab or something every week. We're in there bringing music and songwriting expression to non-musicians.

I used to do a lot of drugs and on purpose. I loved it. I loved to be near death basically…
Photo Credit: Wes Geer

WES: (continued) A lot of people don't understand that. Well, they don't know what Rock to Recovery is. They think we help musicians. That's not necessarily untrue because we do interact with musicians. But the idea of Rock to Recovery is to bring playing music as a healing transformative force into recovery programs for non-musicians. The concept being: we all think music is super magical, then why aren't we using it more to help people who are hurting and transform their lives?

When I was in my rehab and I was in there with a bunch of guys; we were all shame and remorse and self-loathing and anxiety and cliqueness. I just watched the power of me playing my guitar in the room. It just changed the whole room. I'd write silly country riffs and we'd dance around and be silly. It had so much more power in that setting.

You could strum a chord on the side of the street and maybe somebody might go, "Nice chord, buddy." But in there, it changed the world.

From there, we've been doing this a long time and just seeing where we could grow and take it. We started mainly with addiction and we got into mental health and at-risk youth. We worked with incarcerated youth and with pregnant mothers with newborns.

Then we wanted to work with veterans and see if we could do that. That was really scary because I'm just a drug addict guitar player. How do I connect to a veteran who's watched his friends get blown up and been in battle? What you learn is that it all feels like darkness no matter what gets you there. And the way out is so similar. For many of us, it's that connection. It's expression. And music works for (seeminglingly) everybody in every setting.

Back to your original question 20 minutes later. We started out as a nonpro fit and we started having events to fund our nonprofit. And they were scary. Everyone comes so close to failing, but we roll up our sleeves. Literally, at one of our last ones, we were just cold-calling people to get them in the door. "Hey, I'm Wes. I used to play with Korn. We have this cool event. Will you come?” Because I'm a perfectionist and I don't like to fail.

But we found this other magic thing that happened at our events. We started doing art auctions and things that so many nonprofits do. But what we have that's really special is we have this foundation of this group of musicians with big hearts who are charismatic and dynamic individuals. Then we bring in our artist friends.

While there are so many wonderful nonprofits doing incredible work out there, the energy of our events being recovery, transformation, working against addiction, mental health, but also wrapped in music and bright color and art, and the heart we have in our organization makes them very special.

Photo Credit: Chris Loomis

WES: (continued) Sometimes in life we want to hoist the Super Bowl trophy. But sometimes it just starts with, dude, put on your cleats and just go run on the field. You gotta start there, man. And that's what we did. It's just been growing little by little.

So we celebrated our 10 year event. We had a sit down dinner, which is not our normal event. Again, there's all these artists in there and the energy in the room — that's what you were talking about on my post from our 10-year celebratory holiday fundraiser event.

People were coming to me going, "I've gone to a lot of charity events. This is the best event I've ever been at." Not only was it fun with the comedians, the music, and the yard and you got the guys from Train playing, but it was the energy and the brightness in the color in the room.

This is why I love prayer and meditation so much. If you get out of this logical mind, it's always going to tell you why something's not going to work, why you shouldn't do it, why it's a dumb idea. It's to get connected to the heart and the spirit of the universe and just be like, these events are magic.

We just had a debrief meeting on it yesterday talking about, what could we do better? And it's like, "Guys, are we going to do this event every year?" We have our yearly concert. Are we now going to have a yearly dinner? Because these events are hell on your boy. They're really hard for months. It's just all day every day, and the pressure.

But the point is the events are so freaking magical and I feel in my heart and soul they are so important for the recovery community. Again, we're not there to help musicians specifically. We're there to bring music and push our program, which is to help make the realm of recovery stronger by also having music into it.

We're just that one little part. But now this event has a very important role in. We're in LA. This is the land of music, art, and movies. And there were a few musicians in that room that have sold millions and millions of records who are struggling and who are relapsing and not being able to stay sober. We won't name their names. But it was just incredible energy what it did for the community. We want to keep doing it. That's the answer to your question.

ALLIÉ: That is a beautiful answer. It's interesting. You and I having this conversation now was because of Eddie bringing us together. "Hey Ellie, you need to meet Wes and connect with him." And like you say, all of our paths through life bringing us to this place, whether through art, through music, through recovery, whatever it is. And to realize that we are all so connected. We all have something to offer and something of value. And as long as you have that tenet to be of service that it's okay to ask. It's inspiring.

Here's the thing. The Creative High was a documentary that you were recently featured in. And for those who are not aware, it's a film that highlights how the creative process has transformed you and eight other musicians and artists while searching for identity, freedom. Can you describe your transformation personally and professionally as you traded in the high from substance use to the high from creativity? What was that like? How did you transform?

WES: Well, it's a good conversation to have. I was fed some wrong information and that's okay. People give you their opinions. That's why it's probably important we're having this conversation. My attachment was that I used to do a lot of drugs and on purpose. I loved it. I loved to be near death basically, probably by how many substances. But to get that loaded and then go create. That was my association to it.

So when I came in to be sober, I had somebody close to me go, "Your first band did better than most people who ever make a band. Just move on, have a normal life." I was like, "Yeah, cool." But I forgot something. I'm an artist.

And while sometimes that makes sense for some people, and that's fine, if it does, they want to let go of that part of themselves. For me, I didn't feel like I was done. And it wasn't that I wanted more fame and it wasn't about the money because money is hard to make playing music, especially these days. But my point is, I lost myself. I tried to step away from music and it didn't feel right.

So what I would say to anybody out there is, don't step away. Put your recovery first, but I don't think you have to step away. Then I think the lesson we learned is that it wasn't the drugs writing the songs. I wrote the songs, man. I wrote the guitarist. I wrote the melodies, I did that. The drugs and the booze just help us shut off the brain.

Look, being loaded on drugs — alcohol, acid, whatever you're creating on — you can't say that it doesn't take you to some weird place that maybe you created something magical. You can't fight that fact. But I also can't fight the fact that I can't do that because I'll die.


the first thing you have to look at is, are you truly in control?”

WES: (continued) I had my fun with it, that has to be done. I'm glad I get to play shows on ecstasy and acid and find out, "Wow, playing on acid actually isn't that red." Now I have to be sober to live. It wasn't the drugs that wrote the songs for me. It was me.

And now I can become a truer version of who I am because I'm not relying on drugs and outside stuff to get me through life. Then I have to develop, okay, now how do I play just sober? Then when you get to do that, I got to tour with Korn totally sober. What an amazing thing it is to play really good and I'm not drunk on Jack Daniels and remember everything from the show? And wake up the next morning and go jogging and not wake up and be like, "What did I do last night?"

I'll take it all day long. I get chills now thinking about it because if I just take some little samples of my brain... Limp Bizkit called me to write with them at one point when I was with Hed PE. And the first thing I did is I went and got a bindle of meth because that's what my brain said, "I gotta write a song for Limp Bizkit, I better go get some drugs."

That's how I was wired. I thought music was over. I can't be sober and do music. And then you realize, no, you can become the best artist you ever were getting the best gig you ever had playing with Korn because you're sober.

That's why I like to tell my story because I think it's important for the world to hear. I was blessed with this story. I didn't choose it. I didn't want it to go this way, but I think it can help a lot of people out there.

ALLIÉ: Oh my goodness, so much so. Let's get down to it. When it comes to addiction, the road to recovery is often long and lots of detours and breakdowns. My question is, for those who aren't even on the road and who say they don't have a problem, even though they probably know they do, what advice would you share? What can you say about the benefits of sober life and that road that gets you there? What was it for you that made you say, "Yeah, I don't want to be here anymore"?

WES: Well, you said it. If they don't think they have a problem, then they have to come to the realization that maybe they do. To anybody out there like that, like I was, if you don't have a problem, then you can start and stop whenever you want. Stopping for a month shouldn't bother you at all. Stopping for six months shouldn't bother you at all.

I remember my drummer would be like, "I'm not drinking this tour." And I'd be like, "That sounds so cool, but I cannot do that." I remember walking past Serj from System of a Down and my bass player at the time, and they were just sitting in the sun at Ozzfest not drinking, just talking. I was like, "I wish I could be you guys and just sit there." They go, "Come on and join us." I was like, "I cannot. I must drink and look for women."

I think the first thing you have to look at is, are you truly in control? Addiction likes to let you think you're choosing. I didn't drink for a week, I'm choosing to pick up. Are you really choosing? That's something that people just have to experiment with on their own to figure out. And that's why we lose so many.

In the big book it says, "Many follow this through the gates of insanity or death." Trying to prove that they're normal; that they can drink and use. So what would I say? I think that with being sober and recovery of any sense, mental health or anything, you're becoming the truest version of yourself.

Sometimes I even look at people who smoke tons of weed or drink. It's like, why be reliant on something. Even if you don't have a "problem" why do you want to be in a situation where you have to live your life with something? I don't want to have to rely on weed. I don't want to have to rely on booze to have a good time.

What I really enjoy about recovery is — and it wasn't by virtue, it was by necessity — that I can hang out at a dance club and be fine and I don't have to drink. I can go play a show in front of 80,000 people and I don't have to pound a bunch of Jack Daniels before. What is that? That means I'm the most powerful version of myself that I've ever been. And if that isn't a statement, I don't know what is.

“I think

ALLIÉ: I think that's an incredible statement. I want to switch gears for a moment to a V word. Hearing the word "Vortex", personally, I think something dark, spiraling, that you can't escape. But perhaps that spiraling does not have to do at all with dark. I would love for you to share this movement that you started entitled the Vortex of Radness. I'm super curious.

WES: I'm chipping away on that. I want to write a book called The Vortex of Radness. When I got into AA, again, the 12 steps, they talk about God. I was brought up in the church. I do a lot of stuff that would be considered New Age, which is actually the oldest stuff because it predates any man-made religion.

The Vortex of Radness, I'll share what it is in definition in a second. But in this book, I want to talk about, we're all saying the same thing — intuition, higher self, gut feeling, feel the vibes, I knew something was wrong. We're all talking about this energy we can tap into out there that can guide us and help us transform and get into higher self. I just want to write a book that brings all that together.

So, Vortex of Radness, where I came up with that was through my experiences in doing Rock to Recovery. What would happen is let's say I'm doing my Rock to Recovery. The company and I take in a musician and I show him our methodology. And then he goes and does a Rock to Recovery session. Then the client in there comes in all dark and depressed, and they do music and the client's like, "Oh my God, I feel so good now. Thank you."

And I watch him, the instructor, get super stoked and he goes, "Oh my God, this was the most amazing session." I see his light. He's all lit up and he's sharing his light with me. But I knew that I'm part of that light. So now we're sharing this all together.

To me, that's a vortex because it's spinning back and forth and between us. It becomes a synergistic alchemy where the output or the energy is far greater than the sum of the parts. If I just try to do something good on my own, it's like, "Okay, that was cool." But if I help somebody else and I see them light up in their glow, it re flects back to me and it lights me up even more. That's what the Vortex of Radness is.

So it's a simple commentary even though that wasn't a simple explanation. It’s being of service out in the world and seeing your impact in the world and have it be reflected back to you.

And I'm not talking about accolades or somebody making a statue of you out there, though that feels good too. It's just quietly watching. We have a Rock to Recovery thread on our text thread and there's all of our program administrators in there sharing their stories. And sometimes just watching them share some amazing experience they had in the text thread quietly hits me on the deepest level. That's really what it's about.

So I think when we're all operating in the Vortex of Radness, it's figuring out what special gift do we have that's uniquely ours to bring to the world? And again, it doesn't have to be so special or unique. You can be just a barista or whatever. But when we bring our gift, our heart into the world and watch it re flected back to us by the people whose lives we've made better in that moment, in that day, week or year, that's the Vortex of Radness.

ALLIÉ: That is very rad. That is really awesome. I want to take you back in time. We're going to go 61 days ago with you. 61 days ago on October 20th, you posted a message on Instagram that began with this, "Hey y'all, I don't know who needs to hear this today..." What followed is something that I feel so many of us need to hear every day. You referenced the stories we've heard in history of people who would just go out into the ocean in their boats not knowing what was out there. You mentioned the parallel that it's like a metaphor to our human experience. You closed with this, and I quote, "... if we're called to do something in our heart, it doesn't need to make sense. We don't need a reason. We just gotta answer the calling to our heart."

For me, that really resonated. It reverberated so much. So I'd like to get personal here and just ask, what calling in your heart are you answering?

WES: For me, it's doing the music thing and taking chances. A lot of the best things that have happened in my life, I'm not one who's going to go put it on paper and run the numbers. I just go. I think of parents, where you want the best for your kids. So you're like, "Well, let's think about this and the outcome." It's like, "No, just go do it."

Because you don't know, on your way to failure as the next biggest chef, what experiences you are going to meet and have along the way. You're fulfilling a calling in your heart. That's the number one thing we're supposed to do on this planet.


“Where do you want me? I’m here. Where do you want me to go?”

WES: (continued) I like to talk a lot about that I don't like human brains. And I find people who are more on the atheist or agnostic side, or don't believe in that are so reliant on the brain. And the brain is a constant 'no' factory. All the brain is designed to do is protect you from being eaten by bears and survive. So it's going to tell you all the things that can go wrong. Your brain is never going to tell you that you're going to run into, on the streets of Nashville, the very performer you need to fill in the lineup for your third Rock to Recovery event just randomly. It's just not going to do that. So why are you relying on your brain?

So, in that essence, we've gotta follow our heart. It doesn't have to make sense, just do it. We're all going to take our last breath someday. And I think that we all want to make sure when we're doing that, that we say, "You know what, I always wanted to sail the Catalina and I did it. It was a shitty trip, but I did it." By the way, I did do that and I'm happy.

You don't want to live in regret. You see a lot of memes about that. There's a lot of talk about masculinity and toxic masculinity and what it is to be a man and what men should be, losing the war. You're a fighter. I think that an essence of being human is just following your heart and doing what you want to do.

Who cares if it makes sense, if it's going to work out, if it's going to make you money? I just saw this on the internet. There's this reel where this white, vanilla-ice looking guy with a light blue suit is like, "I don't want friends unless they want to be rich. I got only time for a few friends in my life. And if you don't want to be rich and I want you to be rich, I don't want you in my life." I'm like, "Okay, bro, have fun with that." Who cares?

I like that he tied in "I want you to be rich so you can have a house and the family you dream of." But that as the motivating factor is so wrong for me. I go back to the John Lennon quote where it's like, "Hey, what do you want to be?" the teacher asked John Lennon. He goes, "I want to be happy." Oh, well, you didn't understand the question. John Lennon says, "I don't think you understand life."

We should be on the endless pursuit of happiness, which means don't listen to this thing <points to head>, listen to this thing <points to heart>. Disconnect from this factory as much as possible and follow your heart. And I will say this last little part; the key to my life that I like to share with people is I always ask, where do you want me? That's my biggest prayer. Where do you want me? Show me. I don't know. I know where I want to go, but I don't know what the universe has in store. When I first got sober and I was so lost and I didn't do music and I didn't make any money and I was broke, I would go underneath the ocean. And I always faced the sun so I'd see the light. I'd pray and go, again, I'm not a religious guy, "Where do you want me? I'm here. Where do you want me to go?" That's what I'm saying, just follow your heart and trust it's all going to work out.

ALLIÉ: Awesome.

WES: Sorry, you're getting the cold brew rambles today.

ALLIÉ: No. I'm getting the beautiful beautifuls. I was almost in tears just from quoting you to now being...

WES: I saw you.

ALLIÉ: I know. You're pulling on my strings.

WES: Well, let's ask you a question. Somebody did this to me. Why did it pull on your heartstrings? Well, I don't want to answer for you, but I'm guessing that you have some calling going on. What was moving about that? What's going on with you personally?

ALLIÉ: I think it's just because when you're in a situation, to your point a moment ago, where you know the direction you want to go, but you have no idea what f*cking steps to take. That's scary, especially when you feel like, if I just let me down, fine, but I can't let everyone down. When you're in a situation, when you believe so much, I always say, what would you die for? But my husband corrects me and says, "No, what would you live for? What's worth that?"

It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s the heart you bring into it.
Photo Credit: Shane Pase

“F*ck the reasons. Just do it.”

ALLIÉ: (continued) So I think why that pulled at me so much is because that's what my heart tells me to do. Everything that we're doing with AwareNow, with Awareness Ties, that's my heart. That's our heart. And we'll put everything on the line for it. But when your head tells you, "Well, numbers say that..." I think that's why that hit me so hard and that gave me what I needed to hear that day, which is how you started that post. "I don't know who needs to hear this today..." Oh my goodness, Wes, I really needed to hear that. And I think everyone does.

WES: That's awesome. F*ck the reasons. Just do it.

ALLIÉ: Can't we just make that a shirt?

WES: Yeah, we can. That's interesting. I go to the deathbed thing. Like, When it's all done, that's why I started HU3M3N and doing music again. It doesn't make sense on so many levels. The chances of it making money, not to be negative, it's harder to make money. I have another career. I have plenty of other stuff to do.

And maybe that's the thing I was talking about. I don't remember in that very moment, but when I draw my last breath, if I didn't write some more music and put it out, I would be like, "What was your problem, you idiot? You should have done it" And at least now I've done it. I go, "Okay, I did it." It was way too much work or it didn't work out, but I know that I followed my heart. That feels good.

ALLIÉ: Absolutely. As you can see from the conversation we've had thus far, I really enjoy reading and pulling quotes from your posts. I want to end our conversation with this one. And it's not actually a quote, it's more of a caption. It was a caption on a video of you meditating and it read, "When you learn that sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is sit.” To conclude the conversation, for those who don't meditate, want to, but are not sure where to start, please share how meditation has changed and shaped your life.

WES: I need three hours for this. The craziest thing about meditation, it's the most powerful thing I believe anybody could do. And all you're doing is sitting there.

The number one key, I will tell anybody listening to this, that none of you will hear — that sounds very negative, I'll say 98% of you will not hear what I'm about to say — the only thing you can do in meditation that's wrong is to judge it. Let me put another way. There's no way to meditate wrong. There's no way to not be able to meditate. There's no way to meditate poorly. There's no failed meditation. The only way you can do it wrong is by judging it.

The point is, we're not trying to stop our thoughts. Our brain thinks. It's never going to stop. Our brain's never going to stop thinking. The heart beats, the brain thinks. It's what it does. That is not the goal of meditation. The goal of meditation is to offer the opportunity to let the brain chill out a little bit and bring the focus elsewhere and bring it into the body. In so doing, we create more space for what I believe is divine intelligence to come through. I have so many stories that it's how I got the Korn gig. It's how I created Rock to Recovery. It's how I bought my house out in the desert when I thought I was going to buy here. I got quiet and I sat down and I got messages. And they're not me. And whether people want to believe that or not is fine. But the point is, I have literally been redirected so many times. Again, when we're lost and we're looking for answers, and you're up here in the "no" factory, you're not going to get where you want to go. Again, the thing with meditation is it's like anything. It's like playing guitar. It's like having a savings account. It's like working on a relationship. It's not about what happens in one meditation, it's about the cumulative effects of having it be a part of your regular life.

There's a saying about meditation, which is, it's not about what happens in the meditation, it's about what you take afterwards out into the world. So I meditate every single day. And in doing that, it provides an opportunity for me to get the much needed guidance and inspiration that comes through. I'll have ideas pop up, songs pop up. And, by the way, for me, most of the time when I'm meditating, I let my brain just go all over just thinking about stuff. But it's still super effective.

Let me tell you one thing I did, for example. I got into this Wayne Dyer Meditation for Manifestation. It's a 20-minute meditation and it's all guided. He tells you what to think about. And then you go, "Aaah." And when you're going, "Aaah," you're imagining the energy going through your root chakra, out your third eye, and you visualize what it is you want to manifest.

It all lined up.
Photo Credit: Chris Loomis

WES: (continued) It could be serenity, it could be a new job, it could be anything. At the point when it was so painful, I wasn't playing music anymore, I was like, "You know what, universe, I want back into music." And I started doing the aaah, and I was thinking, I want to be in a band. It better not be shitty a band. I'm not getting in some van. I'm 38 years old. It better be a good band and I want to get back into music.

I did this meditation every day. I was visualizing me playing in a band and all this stuff. Within 10 days of that, Korn texted me out of nowhere. I hadn't spoken to them in 15 years, and I was never super tight with them anyhow. They're like, "Hey, you want to come play with me?"

I kept doing this meditation every day. I was like, I want to start this new business. I had this idea. Anyhow, out of nowhere, I got a check for $10,000. Then I was like, I feel like my brother's going to fire me. My brother fired me out of nowhere, unexpectedly. And it's what I wanted so I could get unemployment.

I was obsessing on, "I'm sober. I feel like a rich guy should take me traveling with him. I could help him stay sober." After my brother fired me, sure enough, my friend called me. He's in Hong Kong, "I need you to come travel with me and help me stay sober." It all lined up.

Every time I looked at the clock, it was 2:22, 1:01, 3:33, 11:11. I was talking to my hippie friends going, "What is that?" And they're like, "That means you're in spiritual alignment." I'm like, "I don't know." All this started happening and I was like, "There's something going on." So I just went deeper with it.

I'll tell you one other quick story. I looked for a house around here in the Aliso Viejo area for months. I found the perfect house and put in an offer. And it was like, "Something doesn't feel right." I meditated. I heard this voice say, "Go out to the desert."

One day, I put an offer on a house. I don't know why because it was really ugly. It just felt right. And it's near Joshua Tree, but it's in 29 Palms. I know nothing about the desert. I'm driving home going, "What the F* have I done? I've just put an offer on a house. It's not even in Joshua Tree, it's in 29 palms. It's on a dirt lot near a junkyard."

Photo Credit: Paul Hebert
It’s being of service out in the world and seeing your impact in the world and have it be reflected back to you.
Photo Credit: Steady Jenny


Exclusive Interview with Wes Geer

WES: (continued) I went home having a panic attack. I couldn't sleep. I meditated and I was like, "I want answers. What's up?" And I heard that voice say, "This will be very powerful for you through the people you meet." I said, "Through the people I meet in the desert? I want to hear it'll make me money. It's a sound investment.” As soon as I got out there, I met this whole new culture of amazing people… I met this artist guy who renovated the hotel, who's managing my property. This A-list actor I won't name out there. Within a couple weeks, I had more of a community of friends out there, powerful friends and musicians than I had here in Laguna Beach in six years. What was the message in my meditation? This will be very powerful for you by way of the people you meet. That was before I even closed the deal on the house. I got that message through my meditation.

So I can't tell you what experiences other people will have, but I'll tell you that the magic of the universe lives in a place that we can't see. But we know it's there. The energetic realm, the ether, the realm of the spirit, wherever our souls, our guides, our spirits, our saints, our gods, whatever you want to call them live. That's what I'm trying to tap into and it seems to be working.

ALLIÉ: Wow. Wes, I cannot thank you enough for all of the stories that you've shared and all the inspiration and hope that you give by the work that you do. And just showing up the way that you live.

WES: Thank you.

ALLIÉ: Thank you for helping all of us become a bit more aware now. Thank you.

WES: Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for doing the work you do. What a beautiful time it is that we live in, where we all get to share the stuff at the level we're at now… The level of social consciousness and social awareness. It's a wonderful time to be alive. There's a lot of amazing people out there. And by the way, everything I'm saying here, people taught me. We're all just a product of the people that we let lead us.

ALLIÉ: Well, thank you so much. I really just can't thank you enough.

WES: Thank you so much. Oh wait, can I do something? There's a book out called Rock to Recovery: Music as a Catalyst for Human Transformation. These are 18 vignettes. It's a book of hope, really. 18 short stories of people who've had miraculous transformations where, by the way, our music program happened to be part of that. It ties in a little bit of the science of music. But if anybody out there is struggling or wants a book of inspiration, it's really good. It's available on

WES: And then, of course, I've gotta plug the band, HU3M3N. We gotta spell it and make it really f* up. So nobody can find us. And anybody offended by my F bombs, sorry about that.

ALLIÉ: It's okay. These are things, we are all humans. ∎

Learn more about Wes and Rock to Recovery:

117 AwareNow Podcast

Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?


didn’t know because to me both seemed right.


You know that goal you set every year but may not get to or that resolution you strive for but fall short? It is something we plan to do but at times miss the mark; not purposefully but because life just gets in the way. You become too busy with work, family, friends or loved ones. Maybe school, homework, and managing all the millions of tasks you have to check off just become overwhelming, and you forget the most important thing of all... self-care. I'm definitely guilty of this.

Right before I turned 18 eons ago, I made a promise to myself: explore three new destinations a year. (it could be the town next door, a new city, state, or country.) This promise ended up being a gift that kept on giving.

I was able to experience life in a way that changed me forever. I was no longer sitting in front of the TV, wishing I could touch the Great Wall of China or climb the stairs of Machu Picchu, I was actually doing it.

I didn't want to just see animals at a zoo but experienced a walking safari in Africa standing within reach to the wildlife.

I didn't want to salivate over the Michelin star meals on screen but I was indulging in it in person. I stopped flipping pages in a book daydreaming of what life could be. I am living it.

Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

I didn't know because to me both seemed right. You can go do it or sit there hoping you did.

Don't get me wrong, the choices I made also have their shortcomings. I choose to spend my money on experiences instead of owning a home, driving a fancy car, having brand name bags, or owning expensive things. My way of life and choices on how to live is not for everyone, but it's OK.

Find that balance.

Find that happiness.

Make a decision for yourself.

Care for your mental health.

(Because in the end that's what matters most.)


“Check your own well-being so you can be well enough to check on others.”

This past year, I splurged and disconnected from the world to reconnect to nature. I hiked to the southernmost glacier in North America.

I spent a week at the St. Regis in the Maldives and swam in the Great Barrier Reef.

I volunteered in Poland aiding the Ukraine crisis.

I visited the beautiful country of Nicaragua that's still politically unrest.

I explored old ruins and cities in Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. I indulged in a culinary adventure in Singapore, New York, and Berlin.

I guess you can say it was a great year of exploration, rest, reset and indulgence.

Last year, I even decided to add another title to my extensive resume and am now a travel consultant.

It was all of this, and so much more. I allowed myself that time, space, and ability to breathe and take in the moment. I gave myself a mental break.

I rewarded myself for all the hard work and for making it through every single rough patch that came my way. I made sure I was OK before moving on to the next checklist.

I encourage you to do the same. Find that passion, balance, happiness, and figure a way to inject it in your life, and to give yourself that much needed break you deserve.

Check your own well-being so you can be well enough to check on others.

PS... how do I do all this traveling without breaking the bank? Message me on Instagram @GoGreenDress

As a travel consultant, I can help you plan your next adventure. ∎


THI NGUYEN brings with her over 2 decades of non profit experience as a participant, advisor, board member, consultant, volunteer and research and development specialist. Her expertise combining technology to further advance the vision and mission for philanthropic causes has allowed her to serve as a trusted partner with many notable organizations large and small. Thi has experience working with organizations focusing on combating various global issues such as: human sex trafficking, homelessness, poverty, fair wages, global warming, malnutrition, gender equality, humanitarian assistance and human rights. She's currently developing an app to connect individuals and corporations to assist nonprofits in furthering their vision and mission.



I am okay in this body.



In thirty seconds, Coco de Bruycker shows undeniable confidence and comfort in her body and herself. No longer does she need to run…

I am ok in this body.

I’m not running away anymore

I am love.

I love how deep my feelings run.

I am courageous to show them.

I am safe.

I am here now.

I am alive to the joys of this life.

I wasn’t afraid to say the hard things.



From grant making to filmmaking, the Embrey Family Foundation based in Dallas, Texas has supported left-of-center causes and organizations since 2004. With purpose and passion, the foundation serves humanity in seeking to expand awareness and elevate consciousness. From the foundation’s board of directors, we speak with Lauren Embrey and Lindsay Harwell.

ALLIÉ: Here's the thing, passion comes in many forms. When it comes to the Embrey Family Foundation, passion is embodied in the following: advocacy, racial equity, human rights awareness, arts for social change, gender equity, social justice, and collaborative connections. Regarding all of these passions, I'd like to get personal with both of you. Lauren, in looking back at all the foundation has done, is there a certain project or a speci fic moment that you felt personally most passionate about?

LAUREN: What I'd like to say to that, Allié, and thank you for that question, is that there have been so many amazing and magical moments. Not being specific right now, I'd like to say that I think what I loved the best were the times where I got that intuitive gut hit. I really believe in coming from the heart first and listening to the intuition first and then using my head for discernment and diligence. But the heart coming first and not the head coming first in my decisionmaking. So I could get that real intuitive hit like, "Wow, that sounds like a really great project. That's a super good initiative. It really feels like it's filling some gaps, filling in some space that's necessary. I'd really like to help support that. What could we potentially help to do to get that going for you?” Because it was usually the seed funding. That was the thing that was most exciting for me, and for us, was finding these new projects, new leaders as well, and


LAUREN: (continued) We wanted to get behind and say, "Let's help support you." So that these people, these projects, and these initiatives could have a little breath, a little space in some of these new launches that they were trying to get off the ground. So that they could do what they needed to do to move it forward. And then once proven, there were always people there to fill in the money afterwards. So we loved going in in the beginning and getting something going and doing the seed funding, helping new leaders, helping charismatic programs.

Now getting specific, the one thing — I think I'm speaking for all of us — was the racial equity and justice work that we did here in the city of Dallas. We started an initiative, which really would've been more of a forum because there weren't really stated ways that we were going to do this. We were just learning as we went. And it was called Dallas Faces Race. We started that in conjunction with another family foundation back in 2012. And it was very strategically thought through with a steering committee of people from different walks of life within the communities that cared very much about this work. So it was very diverse and filled with the ideas of equity, not knowing exactly what that meant. But as we moved down the path, learning more and more about what that was. We did trainings, we had conversations, we brought forth healing modalities. We were really open and honest in conversations so that people could tell their stories and we could listen to their stories. And it was the days where people were saying, "We're not going to go in and tell you what to do. We're going to listen to you, and then we're going to work together to see how we can help you make that happen and support your capacities to do brilliance in your community. You're the ones that know your community.”

Dallas Faces Race really planted some seeds in this community that I think was helpful in where we are now, which is being open and recognized and wanting to be different in the realm of racial equity and inclusion and justice within the city of Dallas and our community. That's what I'd say rises to the top because it had a lot of longevity to it. We built communities, we met so many amazing people. We broadened our circles. We were able to hook people up, connect people that could work together. Then we would just sit back because it wasn't our job to be doing it in their communities. That, I would say, with the seed funding and then bringing people together in collaborative ways, where their voices were uplifted and not our own, which is very contrary to philanthropy. A lot of times, it's the donors' voices that are uplifted. That is changing, definitely. Not so much the people that are doing the work. Thankfully, that has changed. That's what I would offer up as one of my faves.

ALLIÉ: I have to say, I love how you spoke to the fact that it wasn't that you were there to speak out about a subject, but rather to say, "We want to listen." People often talk about the voices that are heard, but it's about the listening. This is why we have one mouth and two ears, correct? The fact that you were mindful of that ratio and knowing that that was what was needed more than anything. I think so often we have a need to be seen and to be heard. That your foundation supported that in that moment, in that way I think is absolutely phenomenal. Speaking about all that the foundation has already done, my next question is for you, Lindsay. In looking forward to all that your foundation can do, is there a personal story of your own that you can share that drives your passion and direction for the work that you're doing?

LINDSAY: Actually, I don't have a specific story to tell because it's mostly a culmination of watching all the things that my mom has accomplished. She would bring me to events, I would go to all these things that would be what she was trying to accomplish. I meet all these people. I was just a dancer. I was in school. I was like, "This is just what my mom does.” Then through the years, seeing the actual impact that it's made, all these things that people have been saying to her, I was like, "wow. My mom actually is accomplishing so much when I've been so focused in my own world and my own field.”

Once Covid hit, I didn't have my field anymore. When mom approached me about taking over the foundation, I didn't know what my future was going to be. I didn't know if I wanted to still dance. I didn't know what I really wanted. What I love about dance is that I can connect to people, and I can maybe give them a moment of breath or a moment of relief or a moment of being seen or being heard or understood, whichever the piece can make them feel. And I feel like that goes inside with philanthropy. You're trying to make a difference. You're trying to make life easier for people. You're trying to build people up. You're trying to give them the things that they don't have and that they need. So bridging those two things and also seeing what my mom has accomplished and hoping that I can do at least one-eighth of that.

LAUREN: This, of course, is one of my favorite moments as well; Lindsay saying yes and taking over. It's a dif ficult transition to think about leaving and moving on, especially after the grand experience that I had. But of course, it's time. It's very exciting to see what he's going to do, what he's going to bring, and what's going to happen moving forward. That's one of my favorite moments.

ALLIÉ: Well, it's beautiful.


ALLIÉ: Here's the thing, it's easy to back what's popular and to fund what's trending. It's a bit more dif ficult to go against the grain and to give to something not widely supported. My next question is, can you share a time in the history of the Embrey Family Foundation, when you stood up in support of a cause when others hesitated or refused?

LAUREN: To answer that question, a little bit about my personality, Allié, as I love to go against the grain. I actually really enjoy it. Part of the seed funding was recognizing these things that no one was recognizing at that moment yet because it was something new and being able to stand up for the movement forward in the world and knowing that I had a platform to do such. I wasn't afraid to say the hard things. I wasn't afraid to say what people necessarily didn't want to hear… and especially privileged white folks like myself, to speak very honestly. So I enjoyed going against the grain and shaking things up a little bit because I need to get shaken up. For my own consciousness elevation and my own awareness, I need to get shaken up.

By presenting that to others as well, with kindness and care, of course, but also stating the facts as I saw them, it was greatly accepted by folks as well, which was surprising. It was like the time was right for it. No pushback, people really accepted what I was saying when I was speaking out in voices for communities of color and how we needed to change, or human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, sex trafficking.

Those would've been a lot of the areas that we got into that were newer. In particular, people weren't aware of child sex exploitation and trafficking in America at the point that we got involved in that. Then we got very involved also in some new initiatives that were around women in politics. We funded that research where, for women, everything was about their appearance. It wasn't necessarily about the work they were going to do or what they were going to say. It was about how to respond when you get these attacks when you're running for office and things of that sort.

So those would've been a couple of the areas that people weren't aware of yet. It hadn't reached a level of people understanding that this issue is actually happening out there and what can we do about it. But it is a gender issue, a race issue, gender and race together for the most part.

“For my own consciousness elevation and my own awareness, I need to get shaken up.”

LAUREN: (continued) What I enjoyed was using my own voice to help share, elevate, and expand the awareness around what I was seeing and what I was hearing from people in listening to the stories of the inequities and the sufferings of the folks. I've always enjoyed doing that. We'll see what Lindsay decides to do. But that was a real marker for us. And if you talk to people in the community or nationally that we've funded, I think that's something that they would probably say. They were willing to go in and do the things that nobody else wanted to do.

ALLIÉ: Well, thank you so much for shaking things up and not being afraid to do so because that's what we need. You can't just sit and preach to the choir all day long because it's not the choir members who need to be woken up, who need to be shaken. For doing that, thank you so much.

LAUREN: Allié, in the foundation world, those donors are put on pedestals. No one will come to you and say, "I don't think that's right." Early on in the career, if we wanted to fund it, they'd be happy to do it. But it might not necessarily have been the best thing for them to do as far as looking at their operating budget and different things of that sort. Luckily, that has transformed and changed to where now it is more of a collaboration around what the communities need and not doing what the donors want.

ALLIÉ: In 2016, Lauren, you wrote an article that was published as the first in a series, My Passion, My Philanthropy in Women's eNews. I did some digging. In this piece, you speak about the many, "You can't, you're a girl" messages that you received not only from society in general but your own personal circles as well. It was very interesting to read. From driving a moped, as you referenced, to training for the Olympics. You were deterred because of your gender. My next question is, what work for gender equality from your family's foundation, are you proudest of there?

LAUREN: Well, it was our main focus and our main pillar there for a while in many different ways. And both the racial equity and the gender equity harken back to my own experience in life, which usually is what happens. Your life circumstances inform what you're interested in funding normally.

I would say that the elevation and expanding the awareness around the sex traf ficking and then how women are treated in politics. What we really dug deep into was young women's leadership, initiatives for young women of color in our communities, and elevating black women and women of color overall so that they could have the support for their amazing charisma and capacities that they have available.

I'll tell you a quick bit. I was at a movement for Black Lives' funders briefing, and I don't remember what year it was. It might have been like 2018, 2019. The black women there were really leading the charge in discussing what was coming up: the strategy, the implementations, the tactics. And I was literally blown away by the breadth of intelligence, the breadth of beauty and charisma that was coming out of all these women. That was a moment where I sat back and said, "Not my time anymore. My voice doesn't need to be the main voice anymore. This is where the world is moving." Then I came back to Dallas, and this was national initiatives and things we were involved in. But really a movement towards elevating the voices of the women of color in this world to take leadership in their own lives and to put forth the strategies, projects, and initiatives that can make things better in their lives and their communities because they were the ones that knew how to do it.

I would say that would be some of what I would be most proud of; knowing when my voice wasn't the main voice. And it was a sticky, little thing because it was a loss in a sense for me. Based on what you just expressed through my article, I felt like, "My voice is finally being elevated and people are listening to me. I'm being able to say what I feel is right and see how well people are open to hearing it." And now I'm talking about pulling my voice back in.

I had to have some inner conversations around that, and conversations with women of color that I was friends with to talk through this and see how that would actually work. Knowing that your voice isn't really going to go away, but how are you going to provide that space and that breath to this new person to come in and not take up so much space knowing that equity would be provided through that? A new thinking would be provided through that. A new way of being would be provided through that. You're building cultures in a sense.

ALLIÉ: Absolutely. To your point, being able to say, "Okay, I need to share the stage now," to offer up that space to share the spotlight and be able to allow others to be ampli fied as well, it's important work that's been done and that continues to be done. When it comes to gender equity, it's not the only cause that you're passionate about, Lauren. You just spoke about some of the others. One specific project that I'd like to talk about is there was a film, Playground, the documentary about child sex trade in America for which you were an executive producer. The trailer alone, I watched the other day, I have not yet seen the full film. That, for me, was a real wake-up call. When it comes to philanthropic tools, how important is the medium of film in your opinion


“The arts relate to people.”

LAUREN: I think it's super important when one of your main tenets and part of your mission is to expand awareness. We got involved in documentary filmmaking as an investor with a very savvy group of people that knew the world of film and investors that wanted to utilize that philanthropic tool to make the world a better place to expand awareness around the issues they were funding and care about.

That provided us with sustainability. I think it's a fantastic tool if you choose to use it because it's the arts and arts for social change. The arts relate to people. It can hit you in the heart in a way that a lecture on some of the tragedies of the world where you're just seeing the photos… That's hard for many folks. It's important to see, but it's hard for a lot of people to take that in and see where it's going to go.

But when they're looking at it in the world of film and they're broadening their horizon, they're broadening their awareness about what's happening in the world, then a seed could be planted. They'd maybe be like, "Well, I'm going to give a few bucks to this organization." Up to, "I'm going to get involved in this issue and see what I can do.”

That's why I think it's so powerful. Plus with streaming, once all that happened. We started before all of the VOD started. So it was still just traditional theatrical. And now that we are where we are now with all the streaming, it's been able to go gangbusters and get to many more households. That was the objective; how many people can we get this information out to? And film was the way to do it.

ALLIÉ: The fact that you bring up that all important word, sustainability, that you were able to find a sustainable model for producing this. So it's not just a flash-in-the-pan situation but rather something that could be continued, and with that sustainability, then be able to scale. These are important wins to find.

Lindsay, after studying dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, you attended Juilliard. You toured internationally with Gallim Dance and nationally with the Brian Brooks Moving Company. You've been a dancer all your life. It's your passion. What is it about dance that moves you personally?

LINDSAY: I feel like that's such a complicated question because I have been dancing for so long. I have a very interesting relationship with dance now. So I'll speak to how I feel about dance at this moment in time. I think it is one of the most honest ways you can express yourself. I do not think the body can lie.

If you just turn off your mind and let your body go, you find so many beautiful things about it. You find joy, you find sadness, you find anger, you find all the emotions that you hold inside. The body keeps the score, if you've ever read that book or have heard about it. Your body remembers everything that happens to you. The best way to process all of that is moving or letting yourself move or being let to move.

That's what dance means to me. It's my purest form of expression. It's myself. It's who I want to be. It's who I'm trying to be. It's who I was in the past. It's all of those things, it encompasses all of you. I think it's a beautiful art form that's greatly under-appreciated because you can go so far with it. Yet, it's used as a tool of being impressive and trying to sell you something when it's so much more than that.

Going back to the human race as a start, we communicated through body language. All the old rituals are all dancebased. So dance is at our core. Dance is part of the human condition, in my opinion.

ALLIÉ: Well, that's a beautiful opinion.

LAUREN: African women worked through their trauma through dance.

ALLIÉ: I love how you say that it is a tool in that way. Just like we were talking about film being a tool, dance is a tool. And not only for someone who's sitting in the audience and watching and getting that experience but for the dancer themselves to find and feel all those emotions. And I quite agree with you that the body can't lie. For you to say that it's this honest way to express, that's a really beautiful way to say it.

LINDSAY: People are so self-conscious about when they dance or when they're moving. People are always like, "Oh no, don't look at me," because then you'll see so much.

That’s what dance means to me… It’s my purest form of expression.

ALLIÉ: Visual and performing arts, we can all agree, have the power to heal, helping both the artist and the audience move through trauma. My question now is, is there a trauma of your own, a personal trauma that you endured where dance has helped you heal?

LINDSAY: Another complicated question because having said all of what I just said, the dance world is traumatizing. Going to Julliard was traumatizing. Booker T. was traumatizing. Dancing for Gallim was traumatizing. Dancing for Brian Brooks Moving Company was traumatizing. It's the nature of what it was built on. The way capitalism has used dance has made it not what it should be. Even though it's still there at its core, all this other stuff messes with it.

In terms of where dance brought me back something, it was after I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks your nervous system. For me, it caused me to lose feeling in my hands and in my feet. I couldn't use my legs properly. I realized it was happening in a dance class.

I was going to get ready to go over to Europe and do all these auditions. In one of my first classes to start this journey, I was going across the floor and trying to do jumps. I jumped, and when I landed, my legs gave out. I thought, "That's weird. That's never happened before. I'm not that tired. I haven't been dancing all that much, so it shouldn't be that.” I was like, "Oh, let me work out more and be more physical, then I'll build up that strength again." That's what I thought it was. Then it never went away.

I started losing the feeling in the soles on my feet, I couldn't feel anything. I'd be walking around and be like, "I hope I'm going to make it somewhere," because I could just collapse at any minute. I didn't know it was Guillain-Barre until I went to a neurologist. He did this quick, little exam on me. He didn't say a word the entire time, and then we got to the end of the appointment. He was like, "You need to go to the emergency room ASAP because if left untreated or if not caught, it can kill you. It can go to your respiratory system and cause you to stop breathing." That's what I was working with.

I flew back to Dallas because I wanted to be with my family. I went immediately to the emergency room, got a spinal tap. I was in the hospital for four days. Probably should have been more, but because I wasn't on insurance at the time, they were like, "Okay, let's expedite this process," which gave me meningitis from the procedure that I had to have for it. CLICK, TAP OR SCAN TO WATCH NOW
I’ve always wanted to make people happy by what I do as a performer.
Photo Credit: @itsjeyson


Exclusive Interview with Lauren Embrey & Lindsay Harwell

LINDSAY: (continued) My brain swelled. I got sent home from the hospital. I couldn't get out of bed for two or three more days after that. The second I'd lean up, my head would be throbbing. I'd throw up and it was awful. But then when I got back, me and my best friend had created this duet the summer before this all had happened called Accumulated and Revised. We had already been asked to perform it at this small venue in New York City but a very popular one. It was the first time I danced since then. I've gone back and I've watched that. Mom, you were there for this show, I remember. I went back and watched the video of that performance. I was like, "Not my best at all.”

LAUREN: Give yourself a break on that.

LINDSAY: I know. But that was like a month after I got out of the hospital. From being told of other people that had Guillain-Barre or reading up about it, usually people are left with some kind of residual effect from it. I didn't have any. My legs worked again. I had all feeling, everything was fine. So that trauma of almost having my body taken away from me gave me much more appreciation for what I did and all the trauma that I've dealt from dance. Dance is so much a part of me now that having that reconnection to my love for it or to the appreciation for it was very much needed because it was also right after Juilliard. It was like two, three years after school had ended. So it came at a very crucial time to be like, "Here's what could be the other side of the coin. Here's the other option that could have happened to you."

ALLIÉ: Lindsay, as you think about the next chapters to write in the Embrey Family Foundation's story, of all the passion to be penned, what is it that excites you the most about the future and your philanthropy?

LINDSAY: I can go back to what I answered for the first question. I want to make a positive impact for people. I want something good to happen for people. And if this is the model that I can do that in, I'll happily do that. Because I've lived my life as a dancer, as an artist. That's always been a part of me. I've always wanted to make people happy by what I do as a performer. So it's another asset of that. I don't think it's that far off from where I already am. In terms of business and accounting and money and all of that stuff, very different. But at the core of what it's trying to do, I've already been there my whole life because I also create my own work. And when I do create my own work, it's always about audience interaction. It's always bringing the audience in. It's always about making it about them or letting them know that, "This performance can't happen without you. You're integral to the art, you're integral to the performance. You're integral.” It's that same mentality. I'm here to help make life better for all of us but also for people that don't have the voice, or to the people that are scared to do it. It's building up those communities or the people or the environments that need a little bit of life and a little bit of love, need something to look forward to. Because another day is going to come, so let's make it a little bit brighter for people who want that day to come, to know that something good's going to happen the next day. Or be like, "Something good happened today. I can carry that and I can move on and do something with it.” It's getting us out of this capitalistic rut that is so exhausting and draining that can broaden people's perspective. There's a way to live your life, but there's so much more. There's many options for you to live any way you want to.

LAUREN: You can see why I'm so proud and excited now to see what Lindsay can do. ∎

Learn more about the Embrey Family Foundation:

137 AwareNow Podcast
Nobody chooses to have a brain illness.



Leslie Carpenter is a Mental Health Activist and State of Iowa Lobbyist. She is an Advocacy Mentor for the National Shattering Silence Coalition. Interviewing her is Kerry Martin, a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Activist, who is the Founder and CEO of Accelerating Social Good.

KERRY: Leslie, thank you so much for taking time out this morning to talk to me from the Iowa State Capitol, where I know we can find you most days of the week volunteering, dedicating your time to advocate for bills to help those with serious mental illness or as we both like to refer to them, no-fault illnesses that affect a part of our body, the brain. As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I'd personally like to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for advocating on behalf of our community.

As a mental health advocate myself, I've found passion and dedication such as yours usually starts with a personal story. Can you share what drives you?

LESLIE: Absolutely. We have two adult children and our daughter is healthy and well but our son is very, very sick. He lives with schizoaffective disorder. We have had the mammoth job of trying to get him into treatment and into the appropriate care for the past 14 years. And, it has been unlike any other challenge in our life because it has wound up in the legal system instead of it just being a medical problem. Which it is, right?


LESLIE: (continued) It’s the first thing that my husband and I faced that we couldn't just roll up our sleeves, do the research for, help and be effective at getting him the help he needed because of how broken and siloed this system is. So it is very much coming from a personal space where we still have a very vested interest in improving the system for our son, but also for all the other people that we have become aware of living like him, mostly untreated and undertreated in our country. So is it personal? Absolutely. But is it also bigger than just us and our son? Absolutely.

KERRY: One of the things I wanted to focus on in this particular talk with you was the IMD Exclusion. Can you explain what the Exclusion is and also speak to how it has affected your son and your family in particular?

LESLIE: The IMD exclusion stems from a federal policy that was put in place back in 1965. It was part of the Medicaid Act of 1965 that LBJ signed, which had many wonderful things in it for our social safety network, but it also included the IMD exclusion. IMD, ‘Institutes for Mental Disorders’, impacts people with mental illnesses or brain illnesses, including people with intellectual deficits. What they did is they made it so that you can't get federal matching Medicaid dollars for any facility with more than 16 beds dedicated to taking care of people with brain illnesses. This legal form of discrimination doesn't exist for any other medical diagnosis and is still in effect almost 60 years later.

And has it been a major factor? Yes most definitely because it prevents matching dollars for everybody aged 18 to 64 with those illnesses. And it limits the access to care because people have been deinstitutionalized from state psychiatric hospitals. Other facilities are also not able to get the same level of reimbursement if they have more than 16 beds.

It has personally affected us in that it's reduced the number of state psychiatric beds in our state. We are ranked last in the country, 51st in the country. I often refer to that as being dead last because it does result in people dying. We only have 64 beds for adults and 32 for children across our entire state of Iowa. This is really a problem in terms of being able to take care of the people with the most serious illnesses at the level of care that they need. We are seeing new access centers opening up, which are wonderful but they're limited to, you guessed it, 16 or fewer beds. We need more beds in many of our cities. But they can't get them because they have to go for that level of reimbursement that's available at 16 or less.

KERRY: If the determination of whether to receive needed psychiatric care were based on a doctor's expertise rather than this sort of arbitrary law, we wouldn't be seeing what we are seeing today: an acute shortage of psychiatric beds which has led to our jails, prisons, streets and graveyards “housing” our most vulnerable citizens where they are certainly not getting the treatment we as humans all deserve. It’s abundantly clear to advocates that the fallout of the IMD Exclusion is a revolving door of utter devastation and despair with an unfathomable cost to society which far exceeds the cost of caring for them. If the IMD Exclusion was repealed by Congress now almost 60 years later, what type of world would we be seeing for people with not only with serious mental illnesses, but for people in general? What kind of world would be leaving our kids?

LESLIE: I think we would see a much better world, one with more balance of figuring out the right kind of care that people need all along the continuum of care. That policy caused a huge pendulum swing from everybody being in an institution which none of us are advocating for, right? But it has swung too far to everybody being in the community without actually having services available to provide the kind of care our loved ones need. So the ideal world is to have a few more of those institutional level beds available, but also being able to build out other levels of care all along the continuum.

And of course you know my dream is to create things like psychiatric assisted living complexes, places that wouldn't be the scary, horrible atrocity institutions of the past, but places where we could have a campus and some acute care beds where people could stay as long as the doctors felt they should, right? Not just how long the insurance companies would say that they would pay for, but as long as they should, to have their brains actually be stabilized and healed enough for them to learn about their illnesses and for their families to learn about their illnesses. And then step down that level of care and have those other levels of care available right there in a supportive community environment. That's my dream. And I do believe it is absolutely possible if we can create not only enough will amongst the people that are in power in politics, but also enough will among the general public to understand we need to find a better balance.


“Not enough people understand that these are brain illnesses that really are not a choice that anyone makes…”

KERRY: It's interesting because we have what you dream of, these beautiful facilities for people who have dementia and Alzheimer's. We also don't have exclusions to prevent payment for treatment for them or those with other physical illnesses such as heart disease or cancer. And, just speaking of Alzheimer's, for example, we look at the National Institutes of Health, which is our government's largest public health agency, and what they're spending to find a cure for Alzheimer's versus serious brain disorders: $475 per person on Alzheimer's and $37 for serious brain disorders, a 1300% difference.

As someone with a serious brain disorder, it makes me feel like society doesn't care about me or about those like me. I wouldn’t of course wish either on anyone, but why the glaring mismatch in spending, particularly in light of the fact that mental disorders top the list of most costly conditions when it comes to health spending, with schizophrenia the most expensive?

LESLIE: That's an excellent question. I hate to say it, but it comes down to discrimination. It’s literally discrimination when people in power don't think that maybe a cure could be found. I think that is a piece of it: it’s an act of discrimination. Not enough people understand that these are brain illnesses that really are not a choice that anyone makes, right? Nobody chooses to have a brain illness. And, that's something that we really need to do a good job of educating everybody to understand – that these are illnesses. They are not something anybody chooses, and we need to be dedicating just as much, if not more money to this, because let's think about this. Most of these illnesses come on in late childhood, early adolescence and early twenties and thirties depending upon whether you're a man or a woman, right? These people are in the prime of their life. And if we could manage to find cures and better treatments, they have the opportunity to move forward and work and be productive, contributing members of our society just like you are.

I mean you're amazing and we know many people who can do that. We just need to make that level of care available to people who have more serious forms of these illnesses, who currently don't get that level of care. And funding research is a huge priority. The other piece that I would like to say is that we as a society have recognized that it's not okay for grandma to be abandoned on the streets in the middle of winter in her nightie barefoot, right? Just because her brain isn't working right anymore because of Alzheimer's. We as a society need to recognize that we need to take care of our adult children who have a different type of brain illness, who often are just as unaware of their illnesses. We need to step in and help them too. And for the life of me as a fellow human being, I can't understand how we can't get that to happen. We need to help get that message across.

KERRY: Right now, we have a chance to repeal the IMD Exclusion in the Congress. To date, 14 Congressional leaders are now co-sponsoring H.R. 2611l introduced by Representative Grace Napolitano, who represents the 32nd district of California, "Increasing Behavioral Health Treatment Act" that would among other things repeal the IMD Exclusion. If there is one thing concerned citizens could do to help, what is it that?

LESLIE: Absolutely. If every single person who happens to read or watch this today were to reach out to their own US Legislators, both House Representatives as well as Senators, because we'd love to get a Senator to file a similar companion bill in the Senate, right? Every single person could reach out to their own US Legislators and ask them to support H.R. 2611, which is a bill specifically to repeal the IMD Exclusion.

And just in case anybody thinks that their voice doesn't matter, let me tell you, as a volunteer grassroots AC activist, I have to say I've become an activist. Now, I can tell you that we've changed laws here in the state of Iowa this year.


LESLIE: (continued) We have bills running to add beds to our state mental hospitals. That's something that I've been told for five to six years now was an absolutely impossible thing to accomplish. We are about to accomplish that. We can make a difference. It can be one person coming and beating down the door repeatedly to do that, and everybody here can reach out to their own representative. You have that right as a citizen and as a constituent. And I'm begging you to please step up and go ahead and reach out. It only takes a minute to email your legislators or call their of fices, but your voice can make a difference. We just need more of you.

KERRY: I recall reading an article about that seriously mentally ill homeless man who was charged with pushing an innocent woman in front of the moving subway train. He had told a psychiatrist when he was pushed out of treatment before he was ready, that it was just a matter of time before he was going to push a woman in front of a train. He will spend the rest of his life in jail but obviously people don't just fall between the cracks, they're basically pushed between the cracks. They're pushed out the door and they're pushed into the abyss. And I would like to think that we as a society can do better and can start caring about each other as human beings.

So yes, I’m absolutely going to do everything that I can and have already submitted my letters and written to my representatives, asking for meetings, and am going to write an OpEd piece. As you said, we now need the will of the people behind us to affect change to benefit us all. I know you have to run into a meeting, but I want to thank you for everything you are doing for us. And, thank you again for your time and making us more aware now.

LESLIE: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And absolutely that case you brought up is a prime example. Many people interacted with that gentleman over the course of the past years, if not decades. Many people knew he was at risk and needed higher levels of treatment. Too many people, however, threw up their hands and said, “There's nothing we can do.” What we're asking people to do today is say to themselves, “This time we can do something.”

One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Kennedy, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope … and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples builds a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” So please do join us in this fight. Send forth your own tiny ripple of hope. Thank you. ∎ CLICK, TAP OR SCAN TO WATCH NOW
Take part in the ‘Write for Rights’ campaign to Repeal the IMD Exclusion by spending a few minutes to email letters to your House Representative and Senator using the Action Network platform. Join NSSC and other countless other advocacy organizations and advocates - NAMI, Manhattan Institute, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Mental Illness Policy Org, Treatment Advocacy Center, Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance, National Association of Medicaid Directors, the National Association for Children's Behavioral Health to name a few – and let’s all speak up and put an end to housing our most vulnerable citizens in our jails, streets, and graveyards. We deserve better. Our children deserve better. Let’s send forth our own individual ripples of hope and make waves of change. “As a parent trying to get help fo a loved on who has a serious
illns, it’s like being foced to watch your child drown and (you’re) powerles to save them. I tried to get him the tretment he neded because he was to sick to relize he neded help. He finally sliced his throat right in front of me.” (This is an excerpt from a mother’s appeal in her letter to US Congressman Raul Ruiz.) Please write for rights today. Visit
It is crucial for those that have never taught to understand what it takes to be a teacher.
Photo Credit: Alex Nabaum


Hey, can I get a soapbox over here, please?

I used to be a teacher. It was incredibly draining, but I loved every electric second of the free- flowing ideas and debates. Okay, maybe not every single second. What I can say that I have missed are parents who second-guessed virtually every lesson that did not suit their beliefs. I had parents say things like, "I saw something from a source that I happen to like, so I am right, and you are wrong." What the what?! To be fair, it's a part of teaching, and sometimes parents had comments that, to be honest, were valid. But unfortunately, the U.S. has been thrust into an attempted hijacking of the education system using parents as political pawns to undermine teachers at every turn.

Before I get on too much of a roll, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am NOT arguing that parents are stupid. That would be incredibly rude and, to be honest, incorrect. Arguably we as a country are not less knowledgeable than before and possibly more competent than ever (1). But, it is crucial for those that have never taught to understand what it takes to be a teacher (it varies from state to state). I had to:

• Attain a college degree

• Log 500 hours of classroom observation

• 'Student teach' 125 students for an 18-week semester

• Pass three general knowledge certification tests (reading, writing, and math)

• Pass a subject area test

• Land a teaching job

(I was on a year-long probationary period, being checked on by my mentor and various administrators almost weekly.)

• Pass a 60-hour English as a Second Language course (ESOL)

• Pass an Americans with Disabilities course

• Attend 120 hours of professional development

• Pass another pedagogy and methodology certification

Once completed, I still had to log another 120 hours of professional development every three years while teaching fulltime, and attending staff, department, 504, and parent meetings. Oh, don't forget having to complete ~30 ESOL student reports and logging 10 to 12 grades per student, totaling approximately 1,500 grades per nine-week quarter. All to be told at various points in my career by parents that I did not know what I was talking about or was not quali fied to teach their child.

Years ago, Isaac Asimov said, "there is a cult of ignorance in the United States. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." Unfortunately, he is not wrong. More and more people are "provoking one another into emphasizing aggression, encouraging each other to aggrandize ourselves at the expense of others, and rewarding us for displaying our most negative thoughts are destroying our ability to function as citizens, even without the slew of emotional problems created when our minds are spinning in a tornado of random sensory input all day" (2). Society has begun the slippery slope of emphasizing what feels good over doing good. Politicians drive this counterculture by pushing their constituents, who cannot confront their ignorance and think that teachers and the 'liberal' education system are instruments designed to destroy their own belief system. To some, securing their beliefs is only done by rejecting the existing education system.

No, not that one. The larger one. Okay, great, thank you (clears throat).

In other words, throw out a few buzzwords to rile up the voters, take the decisions away from the people qualified to make them, and give them to those not qualified.


History is a puzzle. If we throw pieces out, where we came from, how we got here, and why.

ag of Critical Race Theory (CRT), rooted in what Michael Goldhaber calls the "attention economy," by which those who can gain attention may gain political and cultural strength. Politicians, including potential school board members, attempt to gain power by whipping up a frenzy of emotion void of fact and reality. Don't get me wrong, CRT would be worth discussing if it were being taught, but since it is not, we should probably move on like some of our elected leaders and news outlets did once the election season ection of reality. For example, there have ndings or reports that schools are teaching it (3). In Virginia, the Governor opened a CRT reporting hotline, but it was shut down after months of receiving no credible reports (4). The CRT panic is only one example of how quickly resilient, civic-minded citizens of a supposed tolerant community can be manipulated into working against teachers and the education system. Unfortunately, these citizens are also the

Suddenly, no one in the education sector is safe. One does not have to look further than what recently happened in Sarasota, Florida. After continuing to work through the COVID pandemic, newly hired Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen was pushed out of his position after only two years (5). Leading the charge was an elected school board member with zero background in education and coincidentally is a member of the far-right group, Moms for Liberty. According to the school board member's website, the district should "Focus on education, not indoctrination! Keep CRT out of the classroom!" and "Parents are the primary decision-makers for their children - NOT the government!" (6). In other words, throw out a few buzzwords to rile up the voters, take the decisions away from the ed. In a nutshell, she, the person with no classroom experience, was elected on the emotional railing against teachers, administrators, and a Superintendent living and

amin. This isn't about replacing teachers with parents. It's about involving parents in their children's learning.' Well, you are correct—kind of. First and foremost, this is not about x up their El ooding the schools to teach. This is about controlling the curriculum and deciding what their children should learn and what they should not. Without getting into a battle of ner points of methodology, let's

Six families say they do not want their children to learn about the massacre of indigenous people at Bear Creek

How does the teacher teach that? How do you separate the students who cannot be exposed, only limited exposure, and those who can discuss the lesson? What happens when the lesson plans now become heavily redacted by a few parents, or worse, they replace the information with something based on their beliefs, not historically sourced material? History is a puzzle. If we throw pieces out, students will not get the complete picture of where we came from, how we got here, and why. How does a teacher reconcile all the moving parts and missing pieces by continually modifying lessons based on parental whims? If parents want to be involved in their child's learning, sit with their child, and discuss school. Attend meet the teacher night. Ask respectful questions. Read what is being sent home by the school and teachers. This movement is about parental control driven by the political aspirations of people that are not

and love to voice it at the expense of those who do.”

I’m going to reiterate what I wrote earlier: I am not arguing that parents are stupid. That would be incredibly rude and, to be honest, incorrect. Arguably we as a country are not less knowledgeable than before and possibly more competent than ever. What needs to be clear is that many people who appear that are driving these movements are examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. If one is not familiar with the 1999 study from Cornell University, researchers found that the more incompetent or unskilled in an area someone is, the more con fident they are that they are not incompetent. Essentially, "not only do people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it" (7). Nor am I arguing that our education system is perfectly run by perfect people and taught by perfect teachers. We can all agree that there are gaps that need filling.

The argument here is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about who is quali fied and who is not. We are becoming a citizenry proud of not knowing things and love to voice it at the expense of those who do. " To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they're wrong about anything." (2). We are now beginning to see the effects too. Policies driven by unqualified individuals drive teachers out of the profession and discourage college students from entering. Currently, 14 states have between 1-3000 teacher openings. Couple the shortage with the 163,000 underquali fied teachers (8), and we get close to 17,000,000 students getting a poor or nonexistent education in our country this year alone. That is ~34% of the K-12 students in the U.S.! Where does that leave us in three, five, or ten years as states now remove formal certification requirements and even the need for a college degree to teach (9)? As the puncture marks in the education system widen, it churns out incomplete and underdeveloped young adults. We find ourselves with a belief system in which people, "well-intentioned or otherwise, are mistaken that their unquali fied and undereducated opinions are as good as a teacher's knowledge" (2), and that is an incredibly dangerous thing.

Michael J. Fox said, "If you have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you are pissing on today." We need to take a step back and realize what is occurring right now. Right in front of us. We are experiencing a rare movement of unqualified people challenging our education system at an unprecedented rate re flecting Anatole France's quote, "If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still foolish." Wisdom comes easily after the fact, but if we continue down this path, we may not have the competence to reverse our direction. "Remember, knowing things is not the same as understanding them, and expertise is not a parlor game played with factoids" (2). Society can flourish without people knowing everything because we divide labor, like store clerks, surgeons, and teachers. The issue is not that people don't know much about educational theory or behaviorism because many don't, and that's okay. But it appears that we are slowly becoming a country that worships its own ignorance, and that IS a problem. ∎

(See article references here:

Dr. Todd Brown is a winner of multiple education awards, including the U.S. Congressional Teacher of the Year Award, U.S. Henry Ford Innovator Award, Education Foundation Innovator of the Year, and Air Force Association STEM Teacher of the Year. Dr. Brown is the creator and founder of the Inspire Project and cocreator of Operation Outbreak, which was named the Reimagine Education Award for Best Hybrid Program in the world. He is also an Education Ambassador for the United Nations and an Educational Ambassador of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“We are becoming a citizenry proud of not knowing things

You cannot be destroyed.




“You cannot be destroyed.”

It was a message I’d been waiting for, a message I needed to hear.

A few hours earlier I showed up for an all-day workshop on breathwork. I’d been interested in holotropic breathing since I’d read about it some 20 years ago but never had the opportunity to explore it further.

In essence, what you do is hyperventilate for a prolonged period of time and whatever happens…happens: an altered state of consciousness, a feeling of deep well-being or absolutely nothing.

The workshop facilitators took the dolphin as their inspiration.

Dolphins breathe consciously. It’s not an automatic process for them.

When put under general anesthesia, the animals would invariably die.

Imagine what it would be like to choose each breath.

Let me paint a word-picture of the venue: stained glass everywhere, large windows opening onto unspoiled woodlands, not a square or rectangular room to be found anywhere, candles, mats, flowers, soothing music.

We broke into groups of two --one to do the breathwork and one to sit alongside and offer a comforting presence and any necessary assistance. In the afternoon session the roles would be reversed.

I was a sitter during the morning exercise.

What transpired over the next 90 minutes or so was pretty remarkable. A lot of emotional release, both sorrowful and exultant. In respect of the privacy of the participants, I will not go into any further detail.

After lunch, it was my turn. I lay on my mat, pulled a blanket halfway up my body, relaxed and started breathing deeply from my mouth, faster than normal but not frenetically.



The music varied from soothing and ethereal to hard driving, with much percussion punctuating it.

My experience was ecstatic from beginning to end. I was gently lifted by a whirlwind and deposited on my back in a sea that was conscious and sending me love.

The spirit-wind then took me to a beautiful garden facing a stream and a classical Greek temple, inside an Indian teepee and over a spectacular mountain range.

Along the way I was filled with the absolute certainty that we can never really be destroyed, and knowing that (as opposed to believing that) filled me with transcendent joy.

I was a bit reluctant to return to my everyday state of consciousness, but eager to share my experience with the others. I slept more soundly that night than I had in ages, secure in the knowledge that at least some part of us will always exist.

Could that be the reason for the dolphin’s eternal smile? ∎

BURT KEMPNER is a writer-producer who has worked professionally in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. His work has won numerous major awards, and has been seen by groups ranging in size from a national television audience in the United States to a half-dozen Maori chieftains in New Zealand. Spurred by his love for inspiring young people, he started writing children's books in 2015. Learn more about Burt and his books at his website:

152 AwareNow Podcast
I wanted more people to get to know my work, and I want to touch more lives…



Nasreen Zankawah is a Ghanaian author, journalist, entrepreneur and winner of the Creative Leadership Award at the 2022 Global Youth Awards in London last November. In addition she is an alumna of the Ghana Institute of Journalism and currently pursuing a degree in law at the University of Ghana.

TANITH: Nasreen I know you are really passionate about reading and writing - where did your passion come from?

NASREEN: My passion for reading began when I was in primary three. My dad used to buy me books and novels for children. When I was done reading, he would ask me to narrate the story and if I was able to narrate it well, he would give me a reward. I was always eager to read the books he bought for me and then after a while, I didn't need any reward. I got my own books and then developed my passion for reading. Every reader can be a writer, just as every writer is a reader. In class six, I had a classmate of mine, who was so good at writing and I admired her a lot. I told myself, I could also try writing to see how it turned out, but I wasn't okay with what I had written. Most people preferred reading her stories compared to mine. I knew I had to put in more effort. So I paused writing for a long time.

When I got to my third year in high school, I picked it up again and I wrote a short story, getting a friend to read it. She read it and wasn't intrigued by it, and I knew I had to change something or read more broadly. I had to work on my creativity. I had to work on my writing skills. So when I got to the Ghana Institute of journalism, I did a creative writing course. We were asked to write and publish a number of poems or short stories, and then present to our lecturer for CLICK, TAP OR SCAN TO WATCH NOW
My first goal is to become one of the best writers in Ghana, Africa and globally.

NASREEN: (continued) grades. I wrote about 40 poems. After I was done, I realised this time, it turned out so well, and I was impressed with myself. I started writing my first novel, ‘The President's Bodyguard’, but I didn't know I would publish it. It was something I was just trying to work on. I knew how I wanted the book to end so I just started my first sentence, then used the books I had read previously and some movies and I was able to think of some creative ideas. I put all these together and started writing and I continued when I got to my final year in university, I knew this was a story that would actually sell if I tried. A story that people would love. After I was done, I was so happy, so impressed, I read it all over again. I couldn't believe that I was able to write this book and that was when I decided that I was going to publish it.

TANITH: You published your first book ‘The President’s Bodyguard’ in 2020, tell us what it is about and why you decided to write it?

NASREEN: ‘The President's Bodyguard’ is a story of a young woman who gets expelled from the military and finds it difficult getting other jobs because she is quite inexperienced in other fields. Every job she takes, she gets fired within a very short period. Then she applies to be a bodyguard at the Flagstaff House, where the President lives in Ghana. After numerous attempts, she gets called to join the security team and on the day of her orientation she is given the opportunity to tour the Flagstaff house while waiting for her colleagues to arrive. She’s speci fically told not to enter certain offices, because these offices are out of bounds. Then she comes across an office, but it doesn’t have an out of bounds inscription and it’s slightly open. She enters and sees a very beautiful of fice with a picture of the President and his wife and daughter on the desk. There’s a huge bookshelf so she goes straight to the books, and then she hears footsteps from behind. It’s a man and he’s angry because she’s in his of fice, and it gets into a very heated argument. He decides to call security but she pushes him and runs out of the of fice before he can make the call. She asks for directions to the conference room for the orientation but gets lost and finds herself back in front of the previous office, the door is slightly open and there is blood on the floor. Curious, she enters the office and realises the man she had met is lying dead behind his desk. Before she can do anything the police are already in the of fice arresting her for murder. She’s taken to jail and has to go through the process of proving her innocence, and so many things happen after that.

TANITH: As mentioned you recently won a Global Youth Award for Creative Leadership. How did it feel to be recognised internationally for your work?

NASREEN: It was quite overwhelming for me because I've always wanted to be recognised for my work. I didn't know I would get recognised internationally so soon. This year, in March, I got an award in Ghana and told myself that I was going to put in much more effort to get my work outside Ghana as well. That's when I became more serious with my blog, I published so many short stories, poems, quotes and articles. When I got the nomination for the Global Youth Awards I was really surprised, I had to cross check to be sure it was really my name! I was so excited and happy I didn't know what to do at that moment. Then also hopeful that since I was nominated, that I had this chance of winning the award. I prayed so hard and eventually I really did win the award. It was so overwhelming, and I was so grateful. I became more motivated. I was inspired. I wanted more people to get to know my work and I want to touch more lives with that as well. Getting this particular award is really a great deal for me and I am so so grateful for it.

TANITH: You are currently working on a project called ‘Read with Me’ tell us about it and how it will work?

NASREEN: Read With Me is a literary project that specifically focuses on orphanages, children in deprived areas, and marginalised children as well. I came up with this idea because, I know there are numerous reading clubs, even in these orphanages, but I actually want to be a part of these children. I want to read with them. I want to have discussions with them and want to know their way of thinking and see how I can impact their lives positively. I want to help them gain the interest in literacy just as I did from a very young age. Who knows, they could also become writers or even more. So really it’s about having a feel of the lives of these children and hopefully being able to impact their lives positively and also guide them.

TANITH: What is your ultimate goal personally and professionally and what are your future plans towards that?


Students will climb mountains for you, even when afraid of heights, simply because you care.




“No one cares what you know until they know that

care!” – Benjamin Franklin

When I attended Education Week’s webinar on “Effective Communication for School Leaders” there was a particular panel that discussed ways to keep school staff motivated. During these tough times of teacher and staff scarcity in our education system, I was curious how school leaders were actually doing it. How could they possibly inspire and motivate their teachers and staff to continue showing up trying to balance their home and work life under pandemic conditions?

Dr. LaDonna Braswell, principal at North Parkway Middle School, began to speak. Through my computer screen, her compassion, commitment and service energized me. She referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote sharing how this quote is used often when describing the work with students. However, LaDonna couldn’t help but think of her teachers and staff. She knew that during tough times, the adults within her school had to know that they were cared for too.

North Parkway Middle School is an inner-city public school located in Jackson, Tennessee. It carried the reputation of being one of the lowest-performing schools in the district. Since LaDonna’s leadership, North Parkway became a Level 5 school, which is the highest distinction under Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVASS) scores. Students continue to move beyond proficiency, and the school discipline data has proven to be the lowest in the district among the middle schools.

LaDonna acknowledges that she accepts and understands that the work of an educator is hard and her teachers can be quickly drained of enthusiasm. She shares, “Teachers need to know that someone has their back, that they are being cared for and supported. Otherwise, even if they stay, their ability to teach children with care, kindness and patience will be nonexistent.”

Her commitment to education goes way back to her being in third grade, struggling with a speech impediment. LaDonna was made fun of by her peers, and she never wanted to read out loud. Her teacher, Ms. Grif fin, invested special interest in LaDonna tutoring her after school and showing her care and patience until LaDonna felt safe which led to her building confidence. She later found out that Ms. Griffin was tutoring her for free.

For LaDonna, she grew up where school was her safe place. Even when sick, she would make every effort to be in school every day because she knew that her teachers cared about her. One high school history teacher in particular, Dr. Marilyn Taylor, was aware of LaDonna’s trauma at home, and committed to helping her feel a sense of belonging in her classroom. LaDonna admitted to not liking history, however, she would make sure to enroll in every history class that Dr. Taylor taught throughout her high school years. She trusted Dr. Taylor. Just recently, their lifelong relationship became evident when Dr. Taylor made a donation to North Parkway Middle School.

LaDonna shared, “I wanted to create more Ms. Griffin’s and Dr. Taylor’s in the world, and I am going to do everything possible to help find those teachers and make them shine for children.” When she became a teacher, she took interest in knowing who each child was as a person. She noticed that when she made the effort to understand the child that’s in front of her, that child increased their effort towards learning, way beyond expectations. LaDonna says, “Students will climb mountains for you, even when afraid of heights, simply because you care.”


“They need to breathe.”

Love and compassion are the driving force of LaDonna’s leadership. She knows that the energy that she brings into school each day is contagious and impacts the entire school community for that day. When LaDonna arrives to school, teachers say that they can feel the energy in the buildings shift. Schools are not only a place of belonging for children and their families, but also a place of belonging for the adults supporting that school. At The Decided Heart (DH) Effect, we strongly believe that people can decide to either react and comply to the temperature of the room, or become the thermostat to actively change the temperature of the room. LaDonna is clearly a thermostat.

To ensure that North Parkway remains a safe place for everyone who steps foot on campus, LaDonna focuses on her teachers. “They need to breathe,” she shares. Particularly for teachers and staff, LaDonna wants them to know that it’s safe to step back, pause and decide if it’s time to scale back. Many teachers never had such support before. Instead of feeling guilt or shame for not being able to reach standards quickly enough, LaDonna says it’s okay to slow down and find another way that works. She acknowledges that there will be rough days, and educators need to believe that the next day starts anew.

“We are not experts but instead practitioners constantly finding solutions for children. This means that we need to think creatively all the time,” LaDonna shares. Last week, LaDonna’s instructional coach had teachers and staff share how they were feeling by posting a gif on the Padlet platform as an icebreaker activity. It was a fun and creative way for everyone to check-in with one another. For those gifs that were particularly low energy, LaDonna would ensure that she checked in personally with those educators. Currently, North Parkway Middle School is among the schools that have the strongest teacher and staff attendance rates in the district.

With LaDonna’s strong faith, she knows that God has placed her where she needs to be. Her priorities are always at the forefront:

We are humans first.

We have emotions.

People need to care.

It’s normal to not have a good day.

We keep trying to find the best solution.

How is LaDonna successful as a school leader? She shares these beliefs:

1. Understand your culture. Decide how you will elevate it.

2. Be honest with compassion. That builds trust.

3. Model the way, especially when mistakes happen.

Make sure your people know that it’s truly okay to make mistakes.

4. Add fun throughout the year, especially during times when morale tends to be lower.

5. Be aware of who is struggling and make sure to personally check in.


AwareNow Podcast


It’s beautiful to learn that Dr. LaDonna Braswell and my work with The DH Effect is so aligned as she says, “The work is hard but it must be addressed with HEART work.” LaDonna, I couldn’t agree more.

In addition to being a school principal, LaDonna is also coaching school leaders and educators through her company, Next Step Consulting. When I asked her how she is able to do all the work, her response was, “I have never worked a day in my life.” ∎

For more information about Dr. LaDonna Braswell:

Next Step Consulting:


Co-Founder of The Decided Heart Effect

SONJA MONTIEL has served more than twenty-one years in the college admissions profession, having extensive experience in the areas of freshman, transfer, and international admissions. During her time working with thousands of teens and young adults worldwide, she began to witness many societies creating an unhealthy college-bound culture that misguides our young people in their pursuit of living a life of ful fillment. In 2021, Sonja met Hilary Bilbrey to begin something amazing. They created The DH Effect – The Decided Heart Effect with a mission to guide individuals, schools, and organizations to build high-trust relationships and belonging through self-discovery and personal accountability.

I love you for seeing my flaws and not wanting to fix them but understanding why I have them.


A lot of people learn love as a defense mechanism or a survival technique as kids and young adults. As these individuals grow older, everyone one they love suffers for it, until one day you find someone that will not run away from your self-sabotage or many ingrained flawed makings. They stay with you, hold you, and never give up on you. For me, that’s when I found the only person I wasn’t afraid to lose because of my internal struggles with survival at all cost. I started realizing my patterns and why I had them. I learned the steps to correct them. Perfect I’m not… but I now have a better understanding of love and what it feels like in a healthy environment.

I love you so much for loving me

Even when I didn’t know how to love myself

I love you for seeing my flaws

And not wanting to fix them but understanding why I have them

I love you for letting me breathe

I love you for all the scary things you couldn’t see

I love you as though I might lose you I love you for making me believe I never will

I love you because every misstep is a lesson and I’m learning love is more about understanding then misdirection

I love you will never even come close to how I really feel I love you for your heart’s innocence and your will’s confidence

168 Start with yourself.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard



Carly Mentlik is the founder of children’s wellness company, Inner Rainbow Project, as well as a Licensed Holistic Psychotherapist with a background in progressive education, Prana Vinyasa yoga teacher, intuitive empath and mom. Distilling ancient, complex teachings into something creative and magical is a gift she shares and gives with Chakra Kids.

ALLIÉ: Let’s start at the very beginning – Chakra 101. For those who don’t know, what are chakras and why are they important?

CARLY: I've been quite fascinated with the chakras for a long time before I had any idea. That, actually, is quite normal that people have a love for them but it's an intuitive sense or an intuitive drawing and there's not like a, "What is that?” Chakras were first discovered, as far as we know, in ancient India. Yogis envisioned chakras as energy centers along our spine. They used a practice of envisioning them, visualizing them, and using sounds and meditation to help clear the energy throughout their bodies. It was a daily practice of visualizing, helping go up your spine and envisioning that there's energy that could be released and moves in flow. It gave yogis a daily practice of being able to relieve and remove, release the kind of energy and stuckness that is natural to pick up throughout our daily lives. They're called samskaras in yoga. And it would help them be in the world as their true self. It was very energy-based.



To me, it’s like a map to your best self.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

CARLY: (continued) In the 1900s, in the west, a psychologist, Carl Young, heard of this. And they're like, "We don't have anything like this in the west. There are no kinds of stages towards becoming a better person. It doesn't exist." So he found out, "Okay, I'll pair the chakras." Along our spine, there's a root chakra. He paired those with psychological concepts. So if our root chakra is aligned and balanced, then we're safe and secure in the world. He paired them, so they became known with psychological concepts. Now in the modern times, they were also then connected with the rainbow colors to make it more understandable. That wasn't something initial. Now, the chakra system is known not just as a body-based system to help clear energy, but it's also used as a framework for being able to live in the world as your best true self. So it gives you this organization of different holistic categories. You're not just like, "Okay, I need to feel empowered or I need to calm my mind." It considers all different aspects of you as a person and gives you a framework of like, "Okay, how do I know?" Your other question was, "Well, who cares?" Why is this helpful to us?

To me, it's like a map to your best self. It gives you clues. Just real quick, the root chakra is connected with security and protection and your place in the world. Sacral chakra is connected to creativity. For kids, I like to teach friendships there because it's also about you getting out into the world. The solar plexus chakra, which is just right in your belly, that's connected to power and feeling good about yourself and self-esteem. The heart chakra, you could see there how someone could say, "Oh, we have an energy center in our heart." What kind of concepts? So, kindness, love, and gratitude. You can see how that's connected. Throat chakra, speaking up for yourself in the world. Third eye chakra is mindfulness, your wisdom, listening to your intuition. And crown chakra is a connection to a higher self and to the world. If you have this ability to know like, "Let me check in with myself," you can learn how it feels in your body and what it might look like if these chakras are out of balance and misaligned so then you're able to bring them back into balance. So instead of being like, "I feel weird. Let me just see what to do." It gives you this direct, "Okay, what's going on here? I'm feeling anxious, I'm feeling worried." And that's connected with the second chakra. Then you have these tools you can go right to and know how to help yourself instead of just being out in the world. So it really helps you figure out what you need to do for your own self to be the best, happiest person you could be.

ALLIÉ: I love that. It really speaks to the whole mind and body working as one, right?

CARLY: Absolutely.

ALLIÉ: Especially because so much of what we were thinking and what we're feeling is also ethereal. You can't touch it, you can't feel it. But if you could feel it, if it had a location on your body, it wasn't just out in the world but actually something that you could touch, that you could channel, what an incredible asset your chakras are. So thank you for that 101, that crash course in chakras. So much in life gets lost in translation. And it's not only when it comes to adults. It's for kids as well, of course. I love how you were able to visually translate the chakras, embodying them in the characters that you created, which are adorable.

CARLY: Thank you. I have a lot of fun with them.

ALLIÉ: I can feel the fun that you have with them. Tell us how these Chakra Kids came to be. How did this happen?

CARLY: You heard my explanation. It's as concise as possible and as grounded as possible to something that, again, initially started and a lot has to do with intangible feelings. I work as a therapist, too. It's dif ficult to verbalize and explain into words what we're feeling inside our body. That's always been something that I'm interested in, how can we create this representation?

I've always been into characters. I loved the Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, all of those. And they were all their own little worlds to me growing up. So when I started to learn about the chakras and imagine how I could bring these complex concepts where it's like, "What is that? Is it in my body? What are you talking about?" How can I put that into something tangible and something relatable? Because mental health, overall, is something that there's still so much change over time. There has been positive change, but it's still something that there's a stigma around. It's still something that I even experienced with my daughter when she was like two years old, to have a dif ficult emotion and have some instinct to hide it or to not have it. So the part of the reason for the characters is to help these concepts. The idea of working through your emotions, working on being your best self could even be relatable and fun.




Many adults are reclaiming their light. They’re working on remembering their true selves.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

CARLY: (continued) Then I used my knowledge and connection of the little personalities and the characters and all of that. So how can I translate these concepts into a personality, into the chakra characters? For example, the root chakra, all of the colors, all of the elements, everything that they're wearing, all of their superpowers, all of their magic accessories, they all are some way to help you understand that chakra and how it can help you in your life. They were going to be chakra bears, actually, initially. Then I started imagining there was a lot more I could do with the personalities and get in depth. Because the same as people, the way that you might learn to balance your chakras, the way that you might calm down, your tools might be different than mine. So having the different characters, even the boy and girl, there's actually some non-binary characters. But even having the different characters within the chakra helps you understand this. Your path towards being your best self might be and look different than someone else. And that's okay.

The other thing about the characters is that there's an attempt to normalize the shadow. So all of the characters aren't just shared with the positive aspects of their personality. The challenges that they experience and the emotions that they deal with are all shared openly. So there's an intention on that part to help being able to use the chakras and just be open to different emotions.

ALLIÉ: And I will say I love that part of it that you see, what does this character struggle with? What is hard for them? I think that's really important for kids, especially when they're trying to speak up about something that's bothering them or something they're frustrated with to be able to say, "Well, it's like so and so. It's like this character." It gives them someone because feelings are sometimes hard to put into words if you can put them into characters instead, which you've done in such a beautiful way. That is really important for our kids. It's a great tool to use. Personal question here, do you have a favorite chakra kid? Is there one who's most like you?

CARLY: Yeah. And I actually have a quiz on my site for anyone who is interested in seeing which character is most like them. All of the characters, actually, I have a certain person in my life that's their essence and that's who I model. I am personally a combination. The Chakra Girls were created first. That's who I initially identified with. Svadi, the orange chakra girl and Ajna, the indigo third eye chakra girl; I'm a combination of those. But then it's hard for me to say my favorite because then, say, the heart chakra boy, I think of him as my nephew. I'll have someone I love in my life. Or my daughter is a lot like the green chakra girl and a mix. So then I'll have some af finity towards them like, "Oh, I love that one." But yeah, I definitely connect with the orange and the indigo personally. That would be who I am the most like.

ALLIÉ: I'm glad that you brought up the fact that you do have on your site where you can take a quiz like, Which chakra kid are you? What a great way for us to individually, not only as kids but as adults, be able to say, "Let me just pause a moment and reflect on myself and where I'm at in this world and how I show up in this world." So I think that's a really cool tool to have. Again, I love your website. You offer so much. You offer programs, a podcast… What I'm very much in love with is the free guide, 108 chakra balancing ideas for kids. I downloaded it. I read it. I love it. My husband Jack and I are now introducing the characters, the concepts to our kids. In addition to this guide, though, you have a book. Please tell us about Activate Your Inner Rainbow.

CARLY: That's my newest creation. I want to share the characters and make this chakra system as accessible as possible. My background is in developmental psychology. So everything I create is created intentionally so a lot of different ages can use it. But initially, my curriculum was for 8 to 12-year-olds and can be used younger. I also had these, I call them the mini-mystics. I envisioned, "Well, how can I start to break it down even farther and bring the concepts to the youngest, the miniest of mystics?" So I came up with the book. I don't know if I identify much with the word channeling, but really, that's what it is. The whole book came to me at once.

Activate Your Inner Rainbow is a way to introduce the characters and the chakra system in a really open and accessible way to even the youngest of kids. Because you can relate to the colors as well, even just to get a sense of like, "This color helps me feel this way." So it introduces the characters, and then it's interactive in the sense of where you have a chance to imagine what you would want to do with the character's magic accessory. To me, that's where the magic of the book is. Let your children answer and listen to what they say. It's going to give you a lot of information about who they are, what they care about, what they would do if they could do anything. That's what Activate Your Inner Rainbow is.



Exclusive Interview with Carly Mentlik

ALLIÉ: For those unfamiliar with the term, as I was, ‘light keeper’, can you please explain?

CARLY: Light keeper, I don't know if I coined it, but it's my term that I use for not only parents but for anybody who is the guardian or the keeper of a children's light. I don't mean keep because everyone's light is their own. But you have taken on the role to support helping your child keep their inner light, inner spark alive and shining bright throughout their life. To me, it's a very sacred role that one takes because you're holding space to allow self-discovery so the light never goes away. I also am a therapist for adults so I see that and I also use that. It's like, "How can we see what's going on with adults and then what can we do to help prevent that in children?"

Many adults are reclaiming their light. They're working on remembering their true selves. So my vision and my dream and my goal is that that won't happen to children in this generation. That their light will be maintained and they won't lose it and then have to go on a journey of reclaiming it. So a light keeper is someone who takes on that sacred role of supporting that.

ALLIÉ: That's really beautiful, and it's interesting. I never really thought about it that way. And you're right that so many of us as adults are looking to, in your words, reclaim that light. But what if we never lost it? What if it stood claimed to us? That's really powerful. My final question for you today is, for those of us who want to be light keepers but we're unsure of where to start, how do we begin to do that?

CARLY: My answer is always the same; you start with yourself. You have to start with yourself. I actually have an unwritten book, but it used to be a course that now lives inside of my camp program called The Light Keeper Sessions. One day it will be a book. The Light Keeper Sessions are really you doing your own self-care work and looking into where you are. Have you lost your truth? Where are you most connected to it? Where are you most disconnected to it? And doing your own work to continue reclaiming that. Your children seeing you putting that effort in caring about that, seeing you be vulnerable with your emotions, seeing you offer yourself self-care, seeing you with intention to speak to them in kindness, seeing you treat other people around them with kindness, there's nothing more powerful. It's going to help them get that message even more than anything you teach them, all of my magical resources, any resources that could be out there. Not that those are not important. That's a step, too. That's what I offer. But it really is, start with yourself. And I understand that that can be challenging as a parent because it's not direct. You have to be able to allow yourself. And it's difficult to get over. It’s saying, ”I’m going to give myself permission to take care of myself because that's honoring my child as well.” That is doing it the work.

ALLIÉ: The work I do for me is the work I do for my child. Well, it's really powerful how you said that because it makes me think of the fact that we've worked so hard on molding our children. And to your point, the best way perhaps to mold them is to model for them. You're full of all kinds of insights today, Carly. Thank you so much. ∎

174 AwareNow Podcast
TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN Learn more about Carly Mentlik and Inner Rainbow Project:
“The central themes of kindness and compassion that Awareness Ties promotes are essential for us to grow through our current state to our next golden age as a species.”



We’re always evolving. Here is a list of our most recent evolutions with the addition of a number of new advisors, ambassadors, columnists and partners. We invite you to get to know these new members of the Awareness Ties with the links provided below…


Maxim Jago

Dr. Gerard Jenkins


Hallie Twomey


Anna Lindwasser




Just brethe.

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