T H E AWA R E N E S S T I E S ™ O F F I C I A L M A G A Z I N E F O R C A U S E S
SEE NO VALARIE STRANGER
FLY! FLY! FLY!
I AM A MILLION VOICES
MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO
COCO DE BREYCKER
THE KIND EDITION EXPLORING KINDNESS IN ACTION
Inspired by the work of Born This Way Foundation,
AwareNow is proud to present ‘The Kind Edition’.
Learn more about the foundation and their mission to support the mental health
of young people as they work with them to create a kinder and braver world:
THE KIND EDITION
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.
06 UNPLUGGED: JOEL CARTNER
PAUL S. ROGERS W/JOEL CARTNER
54 UNPLUGGED: LAURA WESTCOTT
PAUL S. ROGERS W/LAURA WESTCOTT
78 PLATFORMS WITH PURPOSE
TANITH HARDING W/TIFFANY KELLY
08 I AM A MILLION VOICES
12 SEE NO STRANGER
60 AN INCONVENIENT CART
84 FROM WITHIN
22 INEFFABLE INK
62 THE POWER OF KINDNESS
88 HEALING BLACK TRAUMA
32 MAKE NO MISTAKE
PAUL S. ROGERS
66 AUTHENTICITY HANGOVER
90 CREATOR’S CALLING
36 FLY! FLY! FLY!
70 ROUND HERE
94 STATE OF BEING
40 THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO
72 GOVERNMENTAL GRACE
96 STRONGER THAN CANCER
76 KINDNESS IN INACTION
100 WE MUST NOT FORGET
MEHR MURSAL AMIRI & LORI BUTIERRIES
COCO DE BRUYCKER
AALIA LANIUS W/WESLEY KING
TANITH HARDING W/SOPHIA KEAVENEY
CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE Get the monthly digital edition of AwareNow delivered to your inbox.
Always aware. Always free.
AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“Kindness is the language that
the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
- Mark Twain
Contrary to what the dictionary states,
KINDNESS is a verb, not a noun.
It is an action of love and compassion… and it is required now more than ever. In these uncertain times where we seek constants but seem to only find endless variables, we need to make kindness the constant we can all count on. Kindness for others, for ourselves and for our planet is required to reimagine and restore our society.
In this issue, we are proud to share 24 personal stories and exclusive interviews to educate and empower with kindness. While being informed, be inspired by what you see and hear in these pages. Dare yourself to explore the ideas shared and the insights offered.
Be well. Be kind. Be aware.
Editor In Chief & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties
Allié is a Taurus. She 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 original 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™.
Production Manager & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties
Jack is a Gemini. He 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, it’s intent is not to vilify anyone or anything. It’s intent is to make you think. www.IamAwareNow.com
AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
I want to be remembered as someone who was kind. JOEL CARTNER
LAWYER, AWARENESS TIES OFFICIAL ADVISOR & COLUMNIST 6
AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SERIES WITH PAUL S. ROGERS
F E AT U R I N G J O E L C A RT N E R Tune in for this episode of AwareNow Unplugged featuring Joel Cartner, as Paul takes this young Washington D.C. lawyer and Awareness Ties Advisor, Columnist & Grants Director into his own comfort zone. Here are a few excerpts…
Paul: How would you like to be remembered?
Joel: I think I want to be remembered as someone who was kind… I want to have done something of substance. I don’t know what that something is. I think that is something that remains to be seen. Yeah… Someone who was kind and helpful and did something for the betterment of the world.
Paul: What is one thing you could never be apart from?
Joel: Probably books, I think… Books or music. One of the two. Possibly both.
Paul: Where do you stand? Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
Joel: I think… I forget what the word is, but it’s a word that basically means ‘when the consensus from everyone else has risen to make something mean something else then that’s what that thing means’, and I think that we’ve reached that point. Really?! Because I’ve only ever seen Die Hard a handful of times. It not one of those things I return to over and over again. So, I’m very much willing to let those people who have feelings about this say it. If you believe it’s a Christmas movie, good for you. It’s a Christmas movie. Have at it. Be happy.
FEATURED GUEST: JOEL CARTNER
W/SHOW CREATOR & HOST PAUL S. ROGERS
AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
The voices of women that have been silenced forever because the dead cannot speak… LORI BUTIERRIES
AUTHOR, NAVY VETERAN & MOTHER OF 2 WITH SPECIAL NEEDS 8
AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
FEATURE STORY WITH MEHR MURSAL AMIRI & LORI BUTIERRIES
I AM A MILLION VOICES
THE MOVEMENT FOR AFGHAN WOMEN TO BE SEEN & HEARD I was introduced to Mehr Mursal Amiri, a 24-year-old female Afghan reporter, with a phone call, while she was hiding from the Taliban in Kabul. My name is Allié McGuire. I'm the Editor-in-Chief of AwareNow Magazine and Co-Founder of Awareness Ties. A journalist made this introduction along with the suggestion for an interview, as she thought I could help Mehr have her story seen and heard.
In that first conversation, we connected in a way and on a level that neither of us could have expected. She told me the truth about the Taliban and what was really going on in Afghanistan since they overtook Kabul. She shared how her education, career and safety had been taken away. Having spoken out publicly against the Taliban, she was now on their target list. This, however, only made her want to share her story more. By the end of the interview, I considered Mehr as a daughter of my own and dedicated myself to her safety and her story.
While this story begins with two women who were complete strangers (an Afghan reporter in her 20's and an American publisher in her 40's), this story is not about what is different. Rather, it's about what is the same. With the same dedication to protecting truth and preserving human rights, this is a story of our shared humanity. This is a story that brought to life another story - a poem, in fact, written by another woman (Lori Butierries) who was inspired by yet another brave Afghan woman (Crystal Bayat) who refused to remain silent. This is the story of a million voices that became the movement to provide a stage for Afghan women to be seen and heard. With Mehr's voice, Lori's words and Crystal's inspiration, this is a story I am honored to share: www.iamamillionvoices.com
I AM A MILLION VOICES
THE MOVEMENT FOR AFGHANISTAN WOMEN TO BE SEEN & HEARD
AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
I was one of the persons who was talking always against the Taliban… MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 10 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
These are the words dedicated to a nation of women who deserve to stand up to be seen and heard without fear. This is ‘I Am A Million Voices’ by Lori Butierries:
I am a million voices.
The voices of scared Afghan women whose dreams were shattered overnight.
The voices of trapped women that now have to stay inside their homes
unless accompanied by a familial male escort or risk being beaten, raped, or killed.
I am a million voices.
The voices of women crying in despair- their sobs rent the air as they are forced into sexual slavery
and unwanted marriages, including young boys and juvenile girls.
The voices of women being ripped from the safety of their homes and their mothers' arms
to be auctioned off on the streets of Kabul to satisfy the unchecked lusts of the Taliban.
I am a million voices.
The voices of women that have been silenced forever
because the dead cannot speak, and their lifeblood drenches the streets.
The voices of women who were executed by stoning or with a bullet to the head
because they violated the Taliban’s dictates regarding women's roles -
even though their version of Sharia was only recently reinstated after 20 years of freedom.
I am a million voices.
The voices of women crying out for help,
begging the US and other NATO forces for a rescue that won’t come.
The voices of a generation of women who have never experienced
these types of restrictions or brutalities before;
women who cannot understand why other countries won't step in and save them from the extremists
because contrary to what’s being said, this is NOT their culture.
So why is the West “respecting” or allowing this kind of treatment then?
I am a million voices.
The voices of rage-filled women wanting justice for what's been done to their families and them.
The voices of women who'd like to march down the streets to protest and fight for human rights
but can't because they don't want to wind up on the Taliban’s hit list.
I am a million voices.
So, even if the Taliban finds and silences me, they cannot dim the sound of the collective voices
denouncing their authority because it resounds deep inside the chest of every Afghan woman,
and the Taliban cannot take away that part of our identity -
they cannot extinguish a rebellion that they cannot hear or see.
May this poem provide hope for all Afghan women who are unseen and unheard. May these words inspire needed change that is long past due. Please read and share: www.iamamillionvoices.com ∎
11 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
…love is our birthright. VALARIE KAUR
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER & EDUCATOR 12 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH VALARIE KAUR
SEE NO STRANGER
THE VOICE & VISION OF REVOLUTIONARY LOVE Valarie Kaur is a renowned civil rights leader, lawyer, best-selling author, award-winning filmmaker, educator, innovator, and celebrated prophetic voice. She leads the Revolutionary Love Project to reclaim love as a force for justice. Valarie burst into American consciousness in the wake of the 2016 election when her Watch Night Service address went viral with 40 million views worldwide. In the last twenty years, Valarie has won policy change on multiple fronts – hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, solitary confinement, Internet freedom, and more. But that’s just part of her story...
Allie: Professionally, you are known as an accomplished civil rights leader, lawyer, author, filmmaker, educator, and innovator. Valarie, what is it that personally led you to lead this movement that you are now known for as well of Revolutionary Love?
“The first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11 was a Sikh father, who I knew as a family friend. His murder really turned me into an activist.”
Valarie: It began 20 years ago. I wasn't planning to be an activist or to work in civil rights, it was in the aftermath of 9/11 when I was a college student, and Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed. The first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11 was a Sikh father, who I knew as a family friend. His murder really turned me into an activist.
SEE NO STRANGER
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH VALARIE KAUR
13 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“…what we need is a shift in culture and consciousness.”
Valarie: (continued) I needed a way to be able to tell the country his story, his story and the stories of thousands of people who were facing hate violence on the street across America, and then eventually state violence by our own government. Our stories were drowned out in this anthem of national unity. And so I grabbed my camera, I got in my car with my cousin and we drove across the country to capture these stories and that became my first documentary film. You know, the crisis never ended, the backlash never ended, so I just kept being called back to the streets. And then I realized I needed more tools.
Like okay, once I found myself locked behind bars after a protest, that's when I realized like, oh, I need to be more savvy when it comes to fighting institutions of power. So I went to law school and became a lawyer.
So, it's almost like I just expanded my toolkit as the years went on. And all along, Allié, I had this idea that with every film, with every lawsuit, with every campaign that we were making the nation safer for the next generation.
I'd become a mother just when hate crimes are skyrocketing in the United States, it's the 2016 election season and I have an all out crisis. I opened up my toolkit and I just couldn't show up. I couldn't do it. I left my job at Stanford Law. I spent time just sitting and feeling my despair and then realizing that any time I have worked with people who have faced this much hopelessness, they keep showing up because of the way that they are being held by community, beloved community.
I started to realize that we need sound government, and we need just policy. But the crisis we have in this country is primarily a spiritual crisis. It's a social crisis… it’s a crisis of the heart, and what we need is a shift in culture and consciousness. What we need is a new way of being and seeing each other, you know, a revolution of the heart.
So, I started to begin to believe that Revolutionary Love is the call of our times. How can we teach people, inspire people, equip people to do the work of building beloved community where they are to see no stranger 20 years from now, 25 years from now. You know, if the world that we're living in today is shaped by the choices that were made in the aftermath of 9/11 to divide the world into us and them, this decision that's been made since the founding of this country, then could we make different choices now to shape what the next 20 years might look like?
And so this movement around Revolutionary Love began to rise because I realized that I wasn't alone, that there were activists and artists and thought leaders and people on the ground, and mothers and fathers and students, young people who are hungry. Hungry for something that was muscular enough to fight the hate, and the vitriol, and the inequality that we're grappling with in our country right now.
So, that's why I believe Revolutionary Love is the call of our times, that each of us has a role in that great labor. It's just a matter of deciding what I want my role to be.
And you know what I found Allie?
Valarie: Now that I've found Revolutionary Love, it's a song that I'll be singing for the rest of my life. And I begin to see that showing up with love and the labour for justice gives me longevity.
Allie: That's beautiful. You know, you've got a way with words. Let me just say that. There's a specific set of words that I wanted to address. And incredibly powerful words that speak to the darkness of our times amidst all of this social injustice, all of this angst that we find ourselves in the midst of, and these are the words. 14 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
I really began to understand the power of story and telling the untold stories to change how we see and therefore what we do. VALARIE KAUR
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER & EDUCATOR 15 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Allié: (continued) To quote you -- Is this the darkness of the tomb, or the darkness of the womb? It is amazing how much insight can be found in a single question. So I love to hear from you about when this question first came to you and then how you today now would answer that?
Valarie: The question first came to me when I would put my son down in his crib at night after a long day just feeling so exhausted. And then I would pick up my phone and look at the news and just feel this visceral pain in my body, worried not about myself anymore, but about him. And for all of my tools, like not being able to protect him when he's on the street, or in the school yard and someone yells, go back to your country. I realized like the last time I felt that much pain, physical pain, was on the birthing table.
You know, there's that moment during birthing labor, with my particular labor that I entered this stage called transition. It's the final stage in birding labor. It's the most painful, most dangerous stage. And yet it is the stage that precedes the birth of new life. So that's where I thought, okay, the future is dark. Today still there are days that are so dark that I can taste the ash in my mouth. Certainly, what we've been seeing in Afghanistan, I have felt the ash, I have tasted the ash in my mouth as we're watching Kabul fall.
“And I say, well, what if this is the starting point of birthing a nation…”
And the next moment the darkness of the tomb changes into the darkness of the womb. I see glimpses of the nation, the world that is longing to be born. A nation, a world where we're all standing up for one another and seeing each other as sisters, brothers, as siblings, daughters, as sons. I've also seen that as devastating as it's been, never before have I seen this many people in the United States stand up for refugees than in the wake of the horror in Afghanistan. And I say, well, what if this is the starting point of birthing a nation that welcomes all immigrants and refugees, that says we will lead with love above all, that we won't continue to ban and deter and to cage for the illusion of security. Instead we have the capability, we have the resources of building a safe world where we can all be free and where our dignity is recognized, where we are beloved.
So that question, Allié, is literally the question I ask myself every morning. And I've come to feel like it's both. It’s both the darkness of the tomb, the ash in the mouth, the reality of everything that we are losing and that we have lost. And it's okay to sit in that grief, and it's okay to sit in that trauma and that rage. Then I invite you to take the next breath and say -- oh, what is emerging here that has never emerged before? What are the new possibilities here that we can birth, that we could never have done before because there are more people now awake and standing with each other and reaching out, rooted with love, guided by love than ever before. And those moments, if I can hold both, then that gives me the ability to keep showing up.
Allié: Your first film, Divided We Fall, won international awards, became known as the go to documentary on post-9/11 hate crimes. It inspired conversations on campuses and communities across the country. Toward the end of this powerful film, going to quote you again, I enjoy doing that. You state -- "stories can change how we see, stories can break down the wall dividing us from them." And I absolutely agree. So, the question here, of all the stories you've heard, you've heard a lot Valarie, please share one story that changed the way you see things?
Valarie: It was my very last interview on the road after 9/11. Here I am this college kid who is just driving from home to home, from gurdwara, to mosque, from city to city in the wake of 9/11, sometimes arriving when the blood was still fresh on the ground. I would sit with aunties and uncles telling me the most painful moments of their life. And what was the most painful was not necessarily the act of violence, but what followed, this lost sense of belonging, this lost dignity. I was beginning to feel the kind of despair spread through my chest.
16 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“I looked at her…I sat with her,
and I wept with her.”
I realized after 100 hours of footage, there was one interview, I still had to do, I needed to interview the widow of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the widow of the first man who was killed in a hate crime after 9/11.
So we flew all across the world to India. We drove through the villages to Punjab, past the farmlands until we reached her house, and there she was standing in the doorway dressed in white, the color of mourning and there were dark circles under her eyes. And I had this long list of questions, and I just looked at my questions and I looked at her and I just crumpled them up, and I sat with her and I wept with her.
As I was beginning to feel that despair like just clench my heart, I asked her the only question I could -- what would you like to tell the people of America? And I was waiting for that like resentment, that bitter response and she said thank you. Tell them thank you. When I went to Arizona for my husband's memorial, 3,000 people came to grieve with me, they didn't know me, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, they came and they wept with me. They loved me. Tell them thank you for their love.
Allié, that moment changed my life, because I get on the plane I returned I'm like, what, how? And I realized that while the nation as a whole didn't hear these stories, the local Sikh community did an incredible job of telling other faith communities in Mesa, Arizona in Phoenix that we needed them. And so they did show up, 3,000 people showed up to see Balbir uncle, not as a foreigner, or as a terrorist, but as a neighbor, as a brother.
That was the moment I really began to understand the power of story and telling the untold stories to change how we see and therefore what we do.
DIVIDED WE FALL
A SPECIAL RE-RELEASE (OFFICIAL TRAILER)
17 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Allié: So, See No Stranger, it's a memoir, a manifesto, Revolutionary Love inspires people beyond words. In fact Ani DiFranco was so inspired by this book, by your book that she wrote not only a song but an entire album appropriately titled Revolutionary Love. With so much to take away from your book. What is the one thing, if there could be only one thing, what one thing would you hope that people would take and keep and share?
Valarie: It's in the title -- to See No Stranger. What if as you're walking down the street, you could begin to retrain how your eye sees, so that anyone who is approaching you, you can look at them and say sister, brother, sibling, child, grandparent, my beloved. What would it mean to change how we see so it's no longer us and them, but we're imagining all of us as part of when big beloved family?
So then if you did see someone in harm's way and you saw them as your own daughter, what would you do differently? You wouldn't have to think about doing the right thing because it would come from your heart, you have already trained your eye to see no stranger, to see through the eyes of love. It's the ancient truth, you know, I'm declaring Revolutionary Love as this new declaration of our times. But really, you know, love is our birthright. I'm just recovering the wisdom that is already buried inside of us for thousands of years. We've heard this call to love without limit on the lips of spiritual teachers, movement leaders, indigenous healers, our scriptures, our songs, our stories.
“Can we structure our society around the concept that every single person has dignity?”
This is our next great transition -- can we take the call to love that we have heard, that we know is right in our hearts and actually practice it on a scale we never have before? Can we structure our society around the concept that every single person has dignity? Can we build beloved community in every school, in every house, in every street corner? Is it possible? It must be because it's the only way we will not perish. It's the only way humanity itself will survive is to take this ethic of love and actualize it.
Allié: Not sure when you find time to sleep, Valarie. In addition to producing films and publishing books, you also created a compass - one in which all directions lead to love. It seems to me an ideal instrument for these days and times when so many are so lost. Please share the concept behind the Revolutionary Love Compass.
Valarie: Before I do that, I sleep because nothing is done alone. I sleep because I'm part of a team and part of a movement, and this compass is certainly an example of that. While I was writing See No Stranger in the rainforest, I was bringing together a set of research scholars to make sure that these 10 core practices that we were identifying were not just infused with ancestral wisdom, but grounded in practical research.
So, from that emerged this idea of like, well if people are asking the question of how do we practice it, I want to put a tool on their hand. So the Revolutionary Love compass brings to life these 10 practices. You can imagine each of these practices as points on this compass. And it's organized in three really simple ways.
You can point the compass to another and the primary practice there is to see no stranger, to practice wonder, wondering about others, to look upon the face of anyone and say you are a part of me I do not yet know. Then to allow that to let that story into your heart, to grieve with them, and in that shared grieving is information for how to fight for them. You are a role for how to fight for them. So the wondering and the grieving and fighting is how we practicing seeing no stranger, how to love others. 18 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Valarie: (continued) So then this is the hard part, right? How do we turn the compass to an opponent? I don't use the word enemy here because the book is filled with stories of every time I want to hate a person, every time I want to see them as a monster, I hear their story and I see their wound and I realize that there are no such thing as monsters. They're only human beings who are wounded, and yet there are still opponents.
Opponents are people who are opposed to your life, your dignity, your ideas, your way of being. Your opponents can come in any form and some feel very permanent, but the idea of making it so that it's possible that they might not always stay in that category is the idea of calling them opponent, not an enemy. So we're facing our opponent, we're pointing our compass at the opponent.
The primary practice there is to tend the wound. It begins with tending your own wound. So rage is a core practice of Revolutionary Love. To honor your rage, to feel your rage, to harness the energy of your rage for creative action, nonviolent action. That is a core practice. And then if you are safe to listen to your opponent, not to change them, but to understand them, to understand the wound and then to take that information to not just resist, but to reimagine. To reimagine the world that could be. So this raging and listening and reimagining is how we can practice orienting to our opponents with love.
And we turn the compass one more time. And this often gets left out, right? So our social reformers from Gandhi to King to Mandela, they have talked at length about how to love others, how to love our opponents, not so much about how to love ourselves. This is the feminist intervention. I really look to black women leaders from Bell Hooks, to Audre Lorde, loving our own flesh, our own bodies is not a form of self indulgence, but a form of political warfare, because it says we matter too, we've got to the last enjoy matters and longevity matters and our dignity matters.
So the core practices there are breathing, pushing and transitioning. So remember the wisdom of the midwife. She doesn't say breathe once and push the rest of the way. No, she says breathe my love and then push and then breathe again. And I find that if I'm showing up to my life with love, orienting to others with love, I'm able to form deep solidarity. If I'm orienting to opponents with love, I'm able to do the work of understanding. If I am orienting to myself with love, I'm finding longevity, and to then practice joy.
19 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“…you know how to love, you know how to wonder and you know that your hands must follow.”
Allie: For those who are hearing your words and reading your books and seeing your films and who are inspired to be part of this movement of Revolutionary Love, what is the best way to support it and be part of it?
Valarie: You are already part of it. We are already part of it. If any of this is resonating with your heart, it is just uncovering this deep wisdom that's already there, you know how to love, you know how to wonder and you know that your hands must follow. And so what we have are the tools to help you put into action what you already know to be true and what you're already doing.
The best way is to go to seenostranger.com and check out the learning hub and then take what's there, what you need into your life and bring it to your people. Read the book together, watch the films together, do the guided meditations together. Imagine what it would mean to then make this a shared vocabulary and shared compass that we might all be able to use. Tell us about it so that we can learn about how you are embodying Revolutionary Love where you are. ∎
“In a world stricken with fear and turmoil, Valarie Kaur shows us how to summon our deepest wisdom.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love
“Tested and tempered by suffering, but rising up with hope and joy, Kaur shows us how to love others, opponents, and ourselves in ways that will bring us closer to the Beloved Community. This book will change your life.”
Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak
“Valarie Kaur is a visionary worker for justice and this book is her radiant offering.”
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
SEE NO STRANGER
20 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Hear the voice behind the vision of See No Stranger, as Valarie Kaur’s message comes to life in the cover’s artwork below… SCAN THIS CODE
TO DOWNLOAD THE APP
TO POINT AT THE ART
& HEAR VALARIE SPEAK
The cover is taken from the portrait of Valarie Kaur called “REBIRTH” by artist Shepard Fairey,
who captured in art the Sikh wisdom woven into the book. The cover is activated by Augmented Reality. This is the first-ever book cover that uses AR to bring the author to life to speak to the reader.
21 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
I created this life by hand. CHAZ GUEST
Photo Credit: Mark Hanauer 22 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHAZ GUEST
THE EMBODIMENT OF EMOTION IN INK & OIL On canvas, on linen, Chaz Guest bleeds ink and oil in a way that pulses with the very essence of raw emotion. I dared myself not to cry. I lost the dare as I dared to stare at his work, with oil based figures that seemed to stare back as if present in permanence. The work of Chaz Guest is embedded with pure empathy. More than paintings you ‘look’ at, his work exists as ‘moments’ you engage with.
Allié: It was in oil and ink on linen, your painting entitled ‘Booker Cooper, 1856’. The image of this African American soldier stared at me, as I stared back. How do you do that with paint? How are you able to create with ink and oil a gaze that holds the stare of a viewer?
Chaz: You know, what comes to me is to have my subject, even if I'm not painting the person, to have that subject present his or herself to you. And especially when it comes to subjects that I'm painting in history. Like if I'm painting some imagery from our history in the cotton fields or the soldier that you speak of, these are individuals that I conjure that have never had a voice. And I desperately want that conversation to happen through my painting. I want them to present themselves as dignified people -- otherwise known as slaves. In fact, they were enslaved people. So let's start there. That's where I started, whereby, listening to my grandmother who lived to be 103, listening to her stories and what she's been through.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHAZ GUEST
23 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
BOOKER COOPER, 1856
CHAZ GUEST (INK & OIL ON LINEN) 24 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“I'm trying to tell you the story with all of my might, with reckless abandon.”
Chaz: (continued) In this case, the soldier that you're referring to, Booker Cooper, I just really wanted this individual to absolutely have a conversation with you. I was so desperate, I wanted DNA to be extracted from this painting one day, in our unforeseen cyber future. So I go at it like that… I'm talking to this canvas and I'm asking — What do you want to say? What do you want to convey? What marks can I make? What lines? Or what oil colors can I use? And that's why I start with oil. Because I move very fast when I'm working with oil, because I don't want to labor on the emotion. I want the emotion to come out of my hand and right onto the canvas. Well, first, not out of just my hand… come through the force of what is the universe -- through my body, through my hand. And I'm trying to tell you the story with all of my might, with reckless abandon.
Allié: Often the figures you paint are from a previous era. What is it about the past and those that resided there that draws you to paint them? Is it your need to have them heard and seen with authenticity?
Chaz: Absolutely. Every human being has their story. I can't tell everybody's story. I'm more familiar with mine as an African American, and I am also familiar with the history that has been so incorrectly told -- most of the time, purposely. I just feel a need to represent a misrepresented people, and no time more than today that I feel this need. It's very ironic, sad and profound, in a way, how you can be rewarded so handsomely for such degradation. It's beyond my capacity to comprehend. When I paint my great grandfather, for instance -- and I'll be quite frank with you -- who was called a ‘nigger’ probably each day of his life, and then to sit and hear these comedians and rappers or whatever, trying to change something like that. I mean, just, every time I hear that I just feel insulted almost every day of my life. And that's not even fair, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels that way. While I can't knock another man or woman’s talent, what I do is try to inject my ability as a painter, and give somewhat of another option.
Allié: When did you first fall in love with the craft of painting? Please share when and why you decided to make your craft your career?
Chaz: I always enjoyed coloring when I was a stuttering kid in Niagara Falls. I mean, my stuttering forced me to be in silence a lot. And plus, I love nature. I wasn't too impressed with people, to tell you the truth, even from a very early age. I'm more impressed with what makes people move and think. I was connected to the earth because my job was digging for the worms so that put me in the earth's vibration… feeling that dirt all the time, being by myself, and digging for my father's worms to go fishing.
“I loved to color until I had blisters on my fingers.”
So, to answer your question, I found a coloring book. I found encyclopedias. There was this little ad that used to come in the newspaper or in the back of magazines that said, "Draw this lumberjack." or “Draw this little Bambi and win $50." Believe me when I tell you, I was not interested in the $50. That's how I am today. I was interested in investigating and capturing this lumberjack. I must have drawn that thing I don't know how many times. And then my sister, she would show me how to color… I loved to color until I had blisters on my fingers. So I think that was the beginning of, like most children, the beginning of being kind of fascinated by the idea of watching things come to fruition in front of my face. Not that I paid attention to it that much. 25 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
MISTY AS SWAN
CHAZ GUEST (INK & OIL ON LINEN) 26 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
I didn't say that I wanted to be a painter. I said, “I'm a painter.”
Chaz: (continued) I was a martial artist and then I was a gymnast for a long time. I graduated college in '85, got to New York in ’86. In New York City, I tried to be a fashion designer and quickly could not handle that. I decided to do fashion drawing. I didn't place this right here. It happened to be sitting right here. I did Discover in Paris in 1987.
Then the magazine sent me to Lacroix, and I did an illustration of him for the magazine. And after it came out, it was he, the haute couture designer of Christian Lacroix, who said, “I think you should pursue painting.” So I went back to New York and made some money. I got back to New York, and I was really, really nervous.
You see, I had retired from gymnastics. I had given so much energy to that sport, but I couldn't even make the national team. By far, it wasn’t a failure. I was very satisfied as a gymnast, but I didn't excel to the highest level. And then when I did fashion, that was kind of like a ‘strike two’, because I had to quickly get out of that because I knew I wasn't going to make it in that world of that hustle and bustle. And also in the community of the designers, I just wasn't going to find my space. So when I came around to art, it really felt like the last time I had a chance to be great. And I'm still not great, but at least ‘great’ is a good thing to go after. And I trust that I can go after this for the rest of my life and try to be great. At least I'm on the trajectory.
So, it was one day in SoHo, I saw this limousine. This will sound pretentious, but it really wasn't. We all are visual people, and the visuals of this were just so utterly romantic and fantastic. This limousine pulls up to this one gallery on West Broadway. This guy gets out in a white linen suit with a mustache, and this woman gets out with him. I watched this whole thing… They come out of the gallery and he's holding apparently a painting that she bought and put it in the limo. I remember the person coming out and cheered, toasting with champagne at the door and a little conversation. They get in the limousine with this painting and drive away. And I said, “I’m a painter.” Very important. I didn't say that I wanted to be a painter. I said, "I'm a painter.”
There wasn't a doubt in my whole physical being that this would be the rest of my life. That visual represented great food, wine, beautiful women, great art in your own life… ‘by hand’. And that's what I did. I created this life by hand. Everything that I do and everyplace that I go will be by my own hand. Even if I had to starve or live outside, that was totally okay with me because it's by my own hand. If I fail, it's by my own hand. And that was totally okay with me. So, it was there that I decided. Then I had to teach myself how to paint. Through museums and through bugging all of the guys at the art supply stores all over New York City, I taught myself how to paint.
Allié: For the record, Misty Copeland is my favorite ballerina. And for the record, I love your painting of her. Please share what you hoped to capture about Misty in your painting of her.
Chaz: From my experience of being an athlete myself in this world, in this United States and the world in general, just being black can be a challenge. It can be a challenge. You’ve got to get on the other side of a lot of stuff, to just basically tell people to kiss your ass. You have to be a strong individual and smart. And I just see all of that in Misty, mixed with being a remarkable disciplined dancer. If I look at all of the people that I’ve ever surround myself with, I'm very attracted to discipline. I'm very attracted. I didn't know that until I had to analyze it from my history. I find myself amazingly attracted to discipline. And with that, from meeting her and becoming friends, I saw in her not only the discipline and the beauty of dance, but her ‘warriorship’ of moving about in that world as an African American woman. 27 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
CHAZ GUEST (INK & OIL ON LINEN) 28 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“I just want us to recognize ourselves as the human race and stop squandering this magical and mysterious experience as a human being.”
Chaz: (continued) I wanted to try to put that queen-like aspect into that painting, the strength that it takes to move about such a European world, where they're poking at you. You may not know, but as a gymnast, I gotta tell you, it's pretty rough. They get pretty nasty. And I know it well. So my thing is that I saw her even fighting through that when I was looking at her… that’s what I was really after -- the elegance, the queenship, the strength, the discipline, the pain, the pride. Just that black girl magic, you know?
When you have to fight a score of people…the thing that I constantly think about is what would it be like if these people didn't have their foot on our necks? Just let us do our thing. Move out of the way when it comes to history too. Let me tell my own narrative. I don't need you to try to tell this back a yard story about my history. Move out of my way. Let me tell it. I tried to put this in Misty Copeland's story. I tried to put this in the soldier that you mentioned earlier. I just want us to recognize ourselves as the human race and stop squandering this magical and mysterious experience as a human being.
It's deep. When you look up in the sky and you see the moon moving through those clouds, sometimes it's utterly beautiful. It's utterly breathtaking. The same thing that made that story for you up in the sky, that's the same force that woke you up with in moving your body around every single day. And that's dope. That is dope. I want to get into that. I have no time for color or racism, or this kind of thing. When it comes to my face, I crush it, I knock it out.
Allié: In so many of your paintings, it is the eyes that pull me and draw me in. However, one of my very favorite paintings of yours is the one in your Buffalo Warrior collection entitled ‘The Vision’ where you don’t ‘see’ eyes, rather, you are given the opportunity to look through them. Please share the story behind this powerful piece.
Chaz: When I was in Niagara Falls from birth to 10-years-old, my best friends were Jack Melgar and Amber. They were blond hair, both of them, with blue eyes. They were over all the time. I mean, they might as well have been in the family, these kids. There was not one time that I looked at those kids and saw them different from myself. And I never heard from them about our difference. The race thing never, ever came into question. Now, I don't know if that's a good thing or is a bad thing. Or, not bad, but something that could be ‘not conducive’. I don't know. I just know that it didn't exist… which gave me the opportunity to really explore and investigate human beings, just as what it is to be a human being.
It was when my folks divorced and my mother took us to Philadelphia. In the inner city is where I saw the complete product. By that time, my brain is already fixed. I'm already looking at the situation from the top. Therefore, in this painting that you speak about, The Vision, my character is Booker Cooper, as a little boy. His best friend was Renfield, who was a child of the land owners. I went and changed the vernacular of that, if you noticed. Most people called them ‘slave owners’. I don't like that terminology. I call them ‘land owners’ because I'm trying to change the whole reference of ‘slave'. I'm not from slaves. I'm from enslaved people. 29 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
…what would it be like if these people didn't have their foot on our necks? CHAZ GUEST
Photo Credit: Nabil Elderkin 30 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Chaz: (continued) Those are not slave owners. Those are fortunate land owners. You can go on and on with your own wording. But it needs to be changed. It needs to be altered.
“I've invited the viewer through his eyes, looking at the reality of slavery.”
So, you have Booker and Renfield in the field playing, stargazing as they usually do as children. And then this one day they both run out of the tall grass, and Booker stops. And at that moment, he's looking at his parents and all of the people picking cotton, and the overseer of the land with the whip. And for the first time, it's not like he pays attention. I've invited the viewer through his eyes, looking at the reality of slavery… In this painting, this is the first time that Booker realizes the unfortunate and horrific holocaust that he's living in, and he vows to change that.
Allié: When someone looks at your work, what is it that you hope they will see?
Chaz: When I paint, I'm trying my best to move further and further away from any ego that I may have… In the years that I painted the Cotton Series, I heard from people who were Asian, Jewish, White, European, gay, straight, old, young… Honestly, all of those people would say that the people in my paintings reminded them of of someone in their family - an uncle, an aunt, their mother… So, they personalized my paintings. I’m drawing, and I'm painting. I’m making marks to represent stories coming through. And I hope that that story is a story of humanity moving us closer together instead of further apart to celebrate our likenesses instead of our differences… I think that my paintings are helping me to give that sermon. ∎
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I picture kindness as a beautiful sculpture contained and waiting to be discovered within the marble block that we are. PAUL S. ROGERS
TRANSFORMATION EXPERT, AWARENESS HELLRAISER & PUBLIC SPEAKER 32 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘RELEASE THE GENIE’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY PAUL S. ROGERS
MAKE NO MISTAKE
DON'T MISTAKE MY KINDNESS AS WEAKNESS Release the Genie fact: A genie doesn’t cheat death it wins fair and square.
“Don't mistake my kindness for weakness.”
I know I have heard, and most probably used this phrase myself in the heat of the moment. What I initially meant was that I can be kind, but don’t think that means I am conceding, giving in or stepping back from my position.
Now, look at this from the other end of the telescope. Instead of “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness”, see kindness as a strength mistaken for weakness. A subtle reversal of empowerment.
You've heard about Darwin’s survival of the fittest. Survival is a basic instinct that means look out for yourself, and it is usually associated with selfishness and winning. No real mention or thought of kindness associated there.
But Darwin studied human evolution; he didn't view mankind as being biologically competitive and self-interested. Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual. We can see the fruits of this with our own eyes everyday - more so after being kept socially isolated for the last year and a half.
We are worried at being duped or taken for a ride with too good to be true acts of kindness. We congratulate ourselves on seeing through these shams. It is unfortunate that genuine acts of kindness can be mistaken and fall into the same category. I have found that genuine acts of kindness are given with no thought to the outcome other than to create happiness. They carry a satisfaction at a far deeper level for both giver and receiver.
“We have repeatedly seen examples that trauma and stress do not make a character; they reveal it.”
I'm constantly amazed that the people who seem to have suffered, or are suffering, unspeakable things are the ones who seem to radiate the most kindest for others. We have repeatedly seen examples that trauma and stress do not make a character; they reveal it. 33 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘Make No Mistake’, written and narrated by Paul Rogers:
Learn more about Paul:
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“It is those who react with anger, pain and abuses who have lost their way.”
I picture kindness as a beautiful sculpture contained and waiting to be discovered within the marble block that we are. That beautiful quality and those acts of kindness are already there. It is up to the individual to draw that beautiful creation forward.
It is those who react with anger, pain and abuses who have lost their way. They are are the ones who need kindness the most so that they can find their own beautiful statute.
Make someone’s world come alive today with your own glowing kindness. If you feel you are struggling yourself, then find comfort in this quote from Tao Te Ching, “What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job?” ∎
PAUL S. ROGERS
Transformation Expert, Awareness Hellraiser & Public Speaker www.awarenessties.us/paul-rogers Keynote public speaking coach, “Adversity to hope, opportunity and prosperity. “ Transformation expert, awareness Hellraiser, life coach, Trauma TBI, CPTSD mentor, train crash and cancer survivor, public speaking coach, Podcast host “Release the Genie”, Director at Core Mentors Association (Not for profit) & Best-selling author. His journey from corporate to Kitesurfer to teacher on first nations reserve to today. Paul’s goal is to inspire others to find their true purpose and passion.
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For 15 years, I’ve sprinted to the sound of one voice. LEX GILLETTE
5X PARALYMPIC MEDALIST, 4X WORLD CHAMPION & KEYNOTE SPEAKER 36 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘NO NEED FOR SIGHT WHEN YOU HAVE VISION’ BY LEX GILLETTE
FLY! FLY! FLY!
MORE THAN A WORD IT’S A RESULT OF KINDNESS Most of my life has been spent sprinting down tracks and leaping into large sand pits.
Oh, and I do all of this without the aid of sight. I’m blind.
I wrote this next sentence on my Twitter account after competing at the Tokyo Paralympic Games:
“When you pray to God for eyesight, he sends it in the form of a person who helps you conquer anything in life.”
When I think of kindness, my guide and longtime friend, Wesley Williams, comes to mind. We’ve known each other for nearly 15 years and over that time we’ve traveled to countless places around the globe winning medals and breaking records for Team USA. Wesley and I train together five days a week, working to be the best. When I run those 150meter repeats, he’s right beside me. When it’s time to sprint up an 80-meter hill, he’s running along my righthand side. When I need help completing plyometrics and drills on the track, guess whose right there.
One of the reasons I’m so appreciative of this man is because he could be doing anything, but he chooses to help me become the best athlete that I can be. You don’t find many people like that in this world that we live in. A lot of people are focused solely on themselves and no one else. This is why it’s remarkable that our partnership has lasted so long.
Let me give you the rundown. Over our tenure, Wesley and I have won 15 medals at major international competitions. That includes five Paralympic medals and eight world championship medals. We set the world record in the long jump in 2011 and it still stands to this date. I’ve lost track of how many countries we’ve traveled together.
The truth of the matter is that all my athletic success is linked to Wesley. You can’t mention me without acknowledging him. Without him, none of this is possible.
In the most recent Paralympic Games in Tokyo, things were different because of the pandemic. We would usually have officials who would place the medal around our necks. This year, the medal was handed to our guide, and then the guide would place the medal around their athlete’s neck.
I stood on the podium and my brother, my partner in crime, placed the silver medal around my neck.
That is a moment I’ll never forget. I imagine he will never forget it either.
“It’s trust in its purest form.”
For 15 years, I’ve sprinted to the sound of one voice. I’ve run down the track toward a pair of clapping hands that guide me to the correct takeoff point. It’s trust in its purest form. I’ve run to the steady cadence of one word that echoes throughout the stadium. That word is FLY!
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“…my eyesight has come in the form of an amazing human being.”
Wesley yells this word over and over as I maneuver down the track:
“FLY! FLY! FLY! FLY! FLY! FLY! FLY!”
I begin running. He says this word faster and faster and faster. Once I get to my last step, he yells one last FLY, kind of like a verbal kick-in-the-pants. From there, I’m off and away I go into the sky.
So, circling back to one of my initial statements, my eyesight has come in the form of an amazing human being. A man who essentially puts his own endeavors on pause to see that I elevate to new heights in sport and in life.
When you find someone like this, you hold on to them because they’re special.
In my book FLY!, there’s a chapter entitled ‘Where’s Your Wesley?’ Your Wesley will come in the form of someone who truly understands you. That one person who is constantly putting your needs above their own. That one person who does absolutely anything to see that you succeed in life. The one who acts as a guide to lead you to the right places in this interesting world that we live in. That’s who Wesley is to me.
Where’s your Wesley?
Look high and low to find your Wesley and when you do, you’ll quickly realize that this person will do absolutely anything in their power to help you ascend toward the sky.
And that is when you’ll really learn what it means to FLY! ∎
5x Paralympic Medalist, 4x World Champion & Keynote Speaker www.awarenessties.us/lex-gillette 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.
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…you’re more than you think you are, but that knowledge comes from within. MURRAY RODGERS
AUTHOR OF ‘THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO’ 40 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MURRAY RODGERS
THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO
S AY H E L L O T O A N E W S TAT E O F M I N D
‘The Psychedelic CEO’ is a metaphor for anyone who has explored a deep path of self-discovery and has arrived at a broader understanding of what it means to be a heart-centered human leader in their own life. From deep personal experience, Murray Rodgers believes that psychedelics, specifically Ayahuasca, when used safely with sacred intent, can be a powerful tool for self-development and in the creation of better leaders.
Allié: To be a better CEO, professionals in the top of their game seek to secure that spot by hiring coaches with accolades, signing up for programs that promises reading books by gurus with guarantees and leaning on mentors with track records. To be a better CEO, you suggest a different route. Share the story behind The Psychedelic CEO.
Murray: The story behind the Psychedelic CEO is somewhat interesting. The principle of the whole thing is really based on this Shamanic idea that humans are wounded, leaders are human, and a healed leader is a better leader. So that's really the theme of this entire book.
How I got there was I was one of those wounded leaders. And it began about around my 60th birthday, when I found myself sitting on a chair watching TV alone on my 60th birthday with a bottle of wine, flipping through TV channels, trying to find something to just take my mind off my, sort of, depression and despair at that point in my life. And I came across a Hugh grant movie called The Rewrite. And this turned out to be really foreshadowing the next five years of my life, leading me to where I am today.
THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MURRAY RODGERS
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“It should be about consciousness and empathy and openness.”
Murray: (continued) I spent my entire career, and life really, trying to be exceptional, trying to find myself, but yet I found myself on my 60th birthday alone, depressed, and possibly suicidal. I'm wondering what the hell had really all of this been about? Even when I made a list of, on one side, my failures, I had failed marriage, I had one failed company, I had issues with alcohol, and on and on, I had a lot of dysfunctional behaviors as well. And then I had a list of accomplishments that I was very proud of and they were significant within my realm. And I thought -- if you look at this objectively and say, this is just sort of a normal life by this point in time. And yet I felt very dark and very depressed, very much like a failure. And when I dug deeper into that, I realized I'd always felt that way no matter what I was accomplishing, no matter how good things were objectively in my life. Something had always been missing, something was always absent, something was always wrong internally.
One of my best friends, a musician who lived at the opposite end of the spectrum on $1,500 a month playing guitar and fishing, used to say to me regularly, “Man, with everything you've done and everything you have, I can't understand why you're not happy.” And that was the key question. So I thought, well, I need to do something about it, and I spent the next several years delving deep into consciousness and spirituality, reading, meditation, yoga. I took a yoga teacher training course. Consciousness, workshops, shamanism, that type of thing.
I had come across psychedelics many times, but it was really kind of afraid to try it because I was part of that old school that it was going to be a loss of control and I would just go crazy. But I got to a point where I thought, well, I'm pretty crazy and I feel pretty crazy anyway. Then I ran into a friend at a coffee shop who I hadn't seen in a while and asked her what she was up to, and she said, “I'm going to Costa Rica to do ayahuasca.” And I asked her to let me know how it goes because I was interested. She came back a month later and sent me single word text that just said “go." So I signed up and went to Costa Rica, and ended up doing two weeks down there at Rythmia. And I did about 3 and a half total days in an altered state of consciousness, which was eight ceremonies over a two week period. I had profound healing effects and insights, and just an incredible life experience.
When I came out of that with that renewed sense of self and hope and love and generosity, and service -- the idea that I wanted to be of service -- I thought, well, I wonder if this could be a good leadership tool for people leading organizations, leading businesses, or in fact just leading themselves. I came up with this idea that a CEO was this cultural mantra, that everybody wanted to be exceptional and be a CEO. But it really should mean something else. It should be about consciousness and empathy and openness. I thought, well, that's leading our own life. We need to be leaders in our own life. But nevertheless could it be a valuable leadership tool? So that led to writing the book.
Jack: Say that again please, Murray. What is CEO? What should CEO be again?
Murray: Conscious, Empathetic and Open
Jack: I love that. And just to clarify, what is a ayahuasca? Because Allié and I have never tried it.
Murray: Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant medicine. It's a tea, essentially, that is a combination of a vine and a leaf, that is brewed in an intentional spiritual manner by the shaman who's going to serve it. And it's a very rigorous process. And this thick gooey, very, very unappealing mud like brew is of psychoactive substances called ayahuasca.
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Jack: So, in a health and wellness landscape divided between technological Western medicine and traditional Eastern medicine, where do psychedelics fit in? Is there a science to support it?
Murray: Psychedelics in the Western definition are known as entheogens. So they're substances that induce altered perceptions and moods, cognition, consciousness and behavior. So they change a whole lot of brain functions. And psychedelics are beginning to be understood as the bridge between Western logic and Eastern spirituality. It's becoming a very powerful doorway for those two different mindsets to meet.
“Psychedelics themselves are bringing the modern science community into the awareness that there is something going on in realms that can't necessarily be identified and measured in their totality right now…”
Some of the healing effects of psychedelics of course are well known. You read about it in the news all the time and there's tremendous research being done on the positive impact on depression and anxiety, PTSD, alcoholism, weight loss, smoking, you name it. There seem to be pause of outcomes being documented, not only anecdotally, but now within controlled experiments in the research labs.
The world of Western medicine, it hinges on a paternalistic view or a mechanistic view of the body. And as that is, it's like an automobile and you need to be able to identify the problem, reduce it down to a single problem, measure it, and then just solve for that particular symptom. Eastern medicine is a very broad experience of mind, body, spirit, and all those weave together to create other healthy or unhealthy individual. In fact, in a lot of indigenous traditions, they believe that illness originates from an illness in the spirit or the soul. Soul loss and that type of thing.
So, psychedelics themselves are bringing the modern science community into the awareness that there is something going on in realms that can't necessarily be identified and measured in their totality right now, but in fact are incredibly powerful, and the outcomes are incontrovertible. It's that ineffable thing.
For instance, in Western medicine, the placebo effect is routinely discounted as being nonsense, or something, a fluke -- somebody healed cancer, "Well, it was just a placebo," is what we often hear. Whereas in Eastern medicine, the placebo effect is accessing the highest realms of healing consciousness. In fact, it is the answer for healing. And psychedelics are beginning to allow the Western mind to get around this.
They are natural plants from the earth, a few are synthetics, like LSD and MDMA. But what is happening in the labs with the neuroscientists is that they are beginning to identify and agree that under psychedelics, ego dissolution or ego death, which the Buddhists and other traditions routinely talk about, is in fact, an outcome of the psychedelic experience.
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Murray: (continued) You can read literature that refers directly to this. They call it... They have to use their own jargon, they call them ‘primary states of consciousness’. But what they're finding is that psychedelics create a momentary disruption of our neural patterns, of our everyday thoughts in the brain. There are five parts of the brain called the default mode network. And psychedelics disrupt that network. They create a state of chaos momentarily, which is ego death, ego disillusion. Within that, healing occurs. And it occurs routinely and predictably. So that's an interesting outcome that is now being done through imaging, fMRI, which is just imaging techniques for looking at the brain and the patterns in the brain. Another outcome at the chemical level which is lending credence to the whole thing is that the psilocybin molecule, from magic mushrooms, for instance, is now shown to bind to receptors, called 5-HT2A receptors. They sit in the cerebral cortex of the brain, which is one of the five parts of the brain that form the default mode network. And the neurons, the host neurons get excited, and they get out of control. They are led into a state of entropy or disorder. And right in that state of disorder, they're seeing that's where the therapeutic and experiential outcomes are occurring. So that's now being measured.
So, that's a little bit of scientific voodoo. But the fact is they're seeing there are chemical responses in the brain that are in fact helping with the healing process. They still can't identify all the healing that occurs in the hallucinogenic state. But a lot of the researchers are starting to feel that that state that can't be really fully defined yet is where the healing really occurs. And that's where Eastern mysticism and Western medicine are converging.
Jack: But that does lead me to a question of, how do you control excess or abuse in psychedelics?
Murray: Well, psychedelics are shown to be non addictive. It's really up to... They are. This is a fact, that they are non addictive. Unlike SSRIs, which is typical antidepressants that are addictive. You have to keep taking them, on and on and on. Now, there are certain psychedelics, like ketamine, which does require repeat usage to maintain its effects. But that is very different from being addictive. So there's no evidence whatsoever that psychedelics are addictive.
Allié: Let's switch gears for a moment and speak about you, Murray. As a former CEO, a company founder, participating professional geologist in the energy sector -- pre-psychedelics -- you've led teams around the world, including Austria, Albania, Croatia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, US, Canada. You even played a key role in discovering one of the largest gas fields in Pakistan. Not to mention along the way, you were instrumental in raising over a billion dollars in capital. What was it that made you shift your focus from your own personal success to the success of others? What was that shift? What was it?
Murray: That's an interesting question. It came about through the entire ayahuasca experience in Costa Rica. One of the direct outcomes of psychedelics for many people is you become less self-focused. You become more self aware in the sense of your true nature, your divine nature, but you're less self-focused. It means you start to look at others and you have more empathy and you care about others, and you wonder if there's a way you can help. You're drawn to... I've been drawn to more of a service mindset as opposed to a selfish, taking mindset. And that's a direct outcome of psychedelics.
“…it turned out that what I was really exploring for was love and recognition, and to be seen.”
But you know, the real question for me, having done all these things around the world is... I was always exploring, that was the business I was in, the business of oil and gas exploration. And the question I often had is -- what am I really exploring for here? We're exploring for energy, and we're exploring for resources and we're exploring for wealth that the earth has. But it turned out that what I was really exploring for was love and recognition, and to be seen. 44 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
…a healed leader is a better leader. MURRAY RODGERS
AUTHOR OF ‘THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO’ 45 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Murray: (continued) I had a lot of very unhealthy drives that were wound-based. And in fact, I couldn't find enough oil and gas to be satisfied. I couldn't make enough money to be satisfied. I couldn't achieve enough to be satisfied.
The psychedelic journey revealed this to me, and this was all based on my own wounding, at birth and through my early childhood and some of the issues with abuse and my father's alcoholism, and all of these things combined left a very large wound that I constantly tried to fill.
So I began to look around me after doing the psychedelic journeys in Costa Rica, and talked to other business people and look at them in a different light. And I thought, I wonder if this is the case for many people who are drawn to excessive achievement and exceptionalism, and trying incredibly hard to move up according to that cultural trope of being the top dog. I also began to look at the leadership industry, because I could see that leadership had not really changed fundamentally in many sectors in many parts of the world. Such a complaint, people were looking for great leaders and no one could identify any. And I thought, well what's going on here? It seemed like everybody I met in that time was a leadership coach or an executive development person or an advisor. And then when I looked deeper, most of them had never started a company and never raised any money, and had never run a company, and they're advising people that are doing all of these things.
I thought, man, there's a real gap here. This leadership industry doesn't seem to be serving any real purpose. And I wondered if there was a way I could help with that. I looked at the research on leadership and it was quite clear that issues of ego and power and insecurity and greed in those types of things prevail, still prevailed despite endless leadership training seminars and workshops. Nobody really changed fundamentally in companies. So this old leadership paradigm just didn't seem to work. And I thought, well, what if I could get the message out that psychedelics are a tool, one tool of many, that could be used to really bring people in touch with their wounds. Heal them efficiently and elegantly, and allow them to then conduct themselves in a better way, in whatever leadership role they were in. So I felt it could become a really interesting leadership tool.
Jack: Besides doing billion dollar raises, and going on a self journey, you make music. Describe the music you make, and why you make it.
“The minute I picked up a guitar it lit up something inside me.”
Murray: Music has been a dominant motif for me for a long time, coming from a musical family and musical background. I didn't really start playing music till I was 19. I had been a jock and a real sports fanatic up until that time. But my parents were both well known old time musicians in Manitoba, both being in the Manitoba Hall of Fame, as my mother is a piano player and my stepfather is a fiddle player and he taught me to play guitar. The minute I picked up a guitar it lit up something inside me. It took me out of all the anxiety and all the depression, all the uncertainty, even as a young man. And it stayed there. It just stayed there as being an oasis for me through my entire life. So I can always go to it to find a motive, an authentic expression or expressing my soul or spirit. And it was always a place of purity. So it was good medicine. The music was good medicine.
As a songwriter, some of those things I write are autobiographical, and others are stories of others. But they always have an element of the inner workings of the person involved, and that always interests me. People's stories and the common ground we have. I recorded a CD when I lived and worked in Vienna, for instance, many, many years ago. And it was really about my experience as a foreigner in a foreign country. And also some of the experiences that some of my Austrian friends had talked about, and their experiences in their world. So it's not limited to my own story. It's also about other people's stories. 46 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“We all are leaders in our own lives…”
Allié: If there was just one lesson that you'd like people to take away from your book -- because there are many -from reading the Psychedelic CEO, what would that be? What is that one lesson that you want your words to share?
Murray: That's an excellent question. There's two small parts to that answer. The first one being that you're more than you think you are, but that knowledge comes from within. And exploring the depths of your being will reveal that to you and not the world of outward achievement. That will never make it. And secondly, the idea that a healed leader is a better leader. We all are leaders in our own lives, regardless of where we are and what we're doing, and we all need to be better leaders, I believe, and we can be better leaders, irrespective of title. We could be more conscious, we can be more empathetic and we can be more open. ∎
“I’m impressed (and relieved!) that someone of Murray’s stature in the business world has provoked a profound and revolutionary dialogue about how to not only live but to lead from a place of truly sustainable harmony. He’s explored principles in science, psychology and mysticism to unlock fundamental systems both within and outside of us that have the potential to work in tandem and also compete with one another to produce the most positive outcome for the whole of humanity.”
Paolo Di Florio Oscar & Emmy-nominated Filmmaker & Founder of Counterpoint Films
THE PSYCHEDELIC CEO
47 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
48 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SPHERA
B E Y O N D T H E C A N VA S W I T H S F E R A L O U I S It’s an honor and a pleasure to introduce you to Spherra, an artist and visionary whose paintings inspire others to seek purpose and potential in their own lives with an invitation to redraw lines and fill them in with shades of their on choosing. Sfera’s work reminds us all that our imagination remains a free agent open to the employment of our talent to craft a narrative needed now more than ever.
Jack: For me, and Allié as well, art, music and family are everything. In looking at you and Thavius, you are art, music and family. With Thavius’s most recent release of ‘Cosmic Noise’, you designed the album art, which originated as a 4’ x 6’ oil painting. Was the album cover the original intention of this painting? Or did you paint this for another reason? Either way, it’s kick ass.
Sfera: Oh, thank you! I did do the painting with the intention of using at least part of it for the album cover, as Thavius and I have been starting to collaborate creatively more, and I have been interested a bit more in portraits lately, so this was a perfect opportunity to do both. He wanted the portrait to be abstract but we assumed for the label it would be good to be still recognizable as Thavius. So that was a fun challenge. Because the canvas was not square I just tried to create multiple points of interest that the graphic designer could then sort of “harvest” for any sort of the packaging they needed. I must say they did an incredible job with that!
Allié: An artist and a musician create a life together. As Jack mentioned, for us it’s art, music and family. How do you find the balance? As an artist, a partner and a mother, how do you make it all work?
“I know there are super heroes out there that say being an artist and a mother is a cinch, but for me it has been the defining challenge of my adult life…”
Sfera: That is an excellent question… I know there are super heroes out there that say being an artist and a mother is a cinch, but for me it has been the defining challenge of my adult life and the main reason that I am starting my art journey relatively late and am predominantly self taught, since art school never quite fit in the equation. Part of the juggling act is simply time but the huge unspoken portion of the challenge for me is one of psychic space. As a mom, my kids are omnipresent in my mind and soul. The Venn diagram for their sphere and mine in this would overlap far more than halfway, leaving me a smaller slice for things that take my entire attention. And for me, art is one of those. I almost go into another dimension or something and cannot simultaneously be available or interrupted. So Thavius and I have created two magical days a week- Saturday is his day to himself and Sunday is my day all to myself. I basically squeeze most of my art making on Sundays since the pandemic kicked off a home-schooling journey. I have just now, for the first time, hired an assistant who may be able to help us create a bit more room not only for more art making but maybe even some grown folks time together, since we don’t get much of that either. 49 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
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TALK TO THE HAND
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Jack: Like yourself, Frida Kahlo focused a lot on surrealism, putting so much of herself and the causes she supported into her work. Do you do the same with your own? Love the title of your website, by the way, spherealism.com. Sfera: Thank you! That word is a play on the primal element of my philosophies- the sphere- and what I consider to be a holistic approach to art, incorporating many styles and influences, particularly cubism and surrealism. One way I may describe Spherealism is as a feminist yin to the male dominated cubists’ yang, and in that, many parallels could be drawn to beloved Frida. Since there are a lot of subconscious or semiconscious elements allowed up and out onto the canvas, most of my work is surreal in one way or another. It may be impossible for me to keep myself out of my work, though I do try to get out of my own way and be more of a channel than a storyteller. Spiritual and political commentary is everywhere, though the main thrust of the expression is more primal and less narrative, one of my favorite things to do is sprinkle visual puns and hidden stories within a piece, so though the heart of each work is intended to be beyond the function of story,de-centered in a way that any one viewpoint is impossible to collapse upon, there are myths woven throughout. In the labyrinthine experience of viewing, there are many gems to stumble upon along the many pathways you could choose to follow, that do indeed speak to specific cultural and political statements, as well as personal mythology and inside jokes with myself that clearly I feel compelled to make.
Jack: If you had to choose a personal favorite from the paintings you’ve done, what would it be? Why? What is the story behind it?
Sfera: I think my favorite work is always the one I’m working on. Again because of the way I approach art I end up treating any current body of work as a whole, and it’s hard to separate them. One of my earliest works could be considered pivotal, in that working through it on and off during my first couple years of oil painting, I began to articulate my personal language and style. That one is a play on the family portrait, de-centered and entangled in dynamics of creation and procreation. I can’t say it’s my favorite but I think it was a milestone.
Allié: Some describe art as ‘music that’s seen not heard’. If your paintings could be heard, if all of your artwork sung in a choir, what would that sound like?
Sfera: The harmony of the spheres of course!
Stay tuned for a collaboration between Thavius and me exploring just that. ∎
Learn more about Sfera Louis: www.spherealism.com
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I’m an out-of-the-box kind of person. LAURA WESTCOTT
MENTAL HEALTH CAMPAIGNER, VOCALIST & AWARENESS TIES OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR 54 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SERIES WITH PAUL S. ROGERS
F E AT U R I N G L A U R A W E S T C O T T Catch Laura 'Aura' Westcott in this episode of AwareNow Unplugged, as she and Paul get comfortable with conversation that past, the present and the purpose of it all. Prepare to be empowered and entertained. Here is an excerpt…
Paul: What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical?
Laura: I don’t know why… ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ came into my head. Someone the other day said that I reminded them of Holly Golightly because I attract cats, and I was wearing glasses that very similar to the one Holly Golightly wore in that film.
Paul: What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Laura: Anything to do with paperwork. Anything with an Excel spreadsheet… budgets and things like that. I don’t actually like being on a computer… I find it very boring - putting things in boxes. I’m an outside the box kind of person… anything that involves creativity, face-to-face, people interaction. And things where you get instant results… I love learning.
Paul: If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would that be?
Laura: It would have to include problem solving on a big scale, because I’m not a small vision person. It would be something like reversing global warming or how we can end world poverty… how we can split resources so everyone has enough.
FEATURED GUEST: LAURA WESTCOTT
W/SHOW CREATOR & HOST PAUL S. ROGERS
55 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
So many parents have nowhere to turn and don’t know what’s happened to their child. LYDIA WORTHINGTON
MOTHER & ADVOCATE FOR PANDAS AWARENESS 56 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LYDIA WORTHINGTON
A PARENT’S STORY OF BEARING WITH PANDAS When most people hear ‘PANDAS’, they think of bears. When Lydia hears it, she thinks of Asa, her son. Asa has pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, commonly referred to as PANDAS. Strep throat is a common childhood illness. Some kids get it again and again, and a simple round of antibiotics usually clears it up. But for a small number of children, the infection triggers strange behavior changes known as PANDAS syndrome. Here is what you don’t know about what you didn’t know.
Allié: For those hearing about PANDAS for the first time, please share your experience with Asa. What were his symptoms that led to diagnosis? How is it being treated?
Lydia: With PANDAS it’s hit or miss. Some kiddos suffer for years and years and are unable to fully recover. We were so blessed Asa has a more “mild case” of it beginning when he was 4. He was diagnosed with strep, and we treated it accordingly with a round of antibiotics. We thought it was taken care of, but it turned to Scarlet fever. He was non functional and highly volatile in the beginning. Lost his speech and ability to be reasoned with at all. Not only viciously physical with our household, but with his closest friends and teachers. Head butting teachers and pushing friends off the high slide ladder backwards. Throwing his urine soaked pull ups at my face. Very scary times and unsure if he would be kicked out for good and forever doomed to being “a bad kid”. Him saying “my brain is giggly when I do homework and when I hit my head. Sometimes my brain comes out this ear when I hit my head. I have mad hands and my brain is giggly”. These are scary things to hear from a 5 year old. We have gone to so many specialists and had so many tests done, functional MRI’s, tons of bloodwork, allergy tests, psychology and neurological consults, etc.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LYDIA WORTHINGTON
57 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Have it not be in vain… LYDIA WORTHINGTON
MOTHER & ADVOCATE FOR PANDAS AWARENESS 58 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“Our hope is to give some insight and knowledge on this very misdiagnosed and unknown condition.”
Lydia: (continued) etc. We finally found a pediatric neurologist in Baumont that has been wonderful. He did a full work up and got Asa’s baseline strep level which was off the charts. (Normal strep A 0-200 and Asa’s was 890. Strep B 0-77, Asa’s was 1,400). From there we closely monitor his emotions, health, and the health of those close to him. With PANDAS the strep strain he had at 4 years old crossed over the blood/brain barrier. When he “flares”, his basil ganglia is on fire. We’ve seen it on brain scans. The basil ganglia is best known for “fight/flight/freeze/fawn. He goes for fight or fawn. We have learned to see the early signs of fully dilated pupils, a glazed over “drugged” look, unpredictable rages, unable to focus and reason. We do immediate ibuprofen around the clock for a few days to calm down the inflammation and sometimes that’s all that’s needed. If there’s a larger issue we will call his specialist and they will run bloodwork to see how out of control his infection is. From there it’s antibiotic time and clearing out his system by Epsom salt baths, tons of fluids, etc.
Allié: PANDAS wasn’t identified until 1998. With it being fairly new as a diagnosis, are there many resources available? What resources have you personally found to be the most helpful?
Lydia: Chris and I were so blessed to have an amazing pediatrician for both of our sons. I still remember finally “giving up” and taking Asa in when he was 4 1/2 because he was “gone”. I would find out later that this same term is used for almost the entire PANDAS parents community. “My child is gone”. His pediatrician brought in a paper about PANDAS and Suggested she try a round of antibiotics that she heard may help this. Having a good pediatrician to start with that is open to possibilities outside of the box is a must! Finding other parents to vent to and be a sounding board is a lifesaver. Finding people that are like minded and willing to educate the public and medical staff and not just sit in the shame and devastation and not climb out. There are support groups I’m in where it’s OK for us to say what we’re truly feeling about our children and there’s no judgment. We understand the pain and grieving of the childhood years being lost. But then to also have a positive impact and have this happen for a reason. Have it not be in vain.
Allié: While PANDAS syndrome is curable, Asa also has autism for which there is no cure. For other parents who have children with incurable conditions, what advice would you give for those days when it seems like too much?
Lydia: You definitely need to find a support system. At least one person that can tap in and you can check out, even for a few minutes. I know so many that do not have a partner in this. My husband and I have learned that communication is key. My sister gave me an amazing mantra that I have held onto for years now. “This is only a season”. In Michigan it seems our seasons change daily, and tomorrow it might be beautiful and sunny. It’s been my savior some days. “This is only a season”.
Allié: In various languages, your son’s name, Asa, means ‘hope’ or ‘healer’. What is your hope both for your son and for the PANDAS community?
Lydia: We knew the meaning when we picked Asa‘s name before he was born. It just seemed fitting for this baby I was growing. Our hope is to give some insight and knowledge on this very misdiagnosed and unknown condition. It breaks my heart that there are so many children labeled “bad” and misbehaving. So many parents have nowhere to turn and don’t know what’s happened to their child. To make this more common knowledge and understood would be a breakthrough. ∎ To learn more about PANDAS and find resources visit the PANDAS Network: www.pandasnetwork.org
59 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Please don’t make
your convenience our inconvenience. MATTHEW WALZER
PUBLIC SPEAKER, ADVOCATE FOR UNIVERSAL DESIGN & AMBASSADOR FOR DISABILITY AWARENESS 60 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY MATTHEW WALZER
AN INCONVENIENT CART
ONE’S CONVENIENCE IS ANOTHER’S INCONVENIENCE To Whom It May Concern:
You see them in every parking lot you are in, but before you read any further, ask yourself one question, do you know what the painted white or blue lines next to a handicap spot are for? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but they’re not for shopping carts. I don’t know if it’s just another product of the crazy world we are living in, but more and more lately, I’ve seen shopping carts left on the painted lines of handicap spots, or even worse, IN THE SPOTS THEMSELVES. The white lines aren’t for shopping carts, they are for something far more important. You may not realize, but a shopping cart left on painted lines can inhibit a person who uses a wheelchair, scooter, canes, walker, or other mobility device from getting in or out of their car safely and at their own pace, or in some cases, from crossing the street. I have an adaptive van with a wheelchair ramp on the rear passenger side. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve not been able to park in a handicap spot because of a shopping cart, garbage can (yes this actually happened) or other inanimate object left where it doesn’t belong. I and many others with disabilities, can’t just jump out of our car, move the shopping cart, and then get back in the car and park in the spot. It’s too big of a safety hazard and a highly unnecessary hassle before we even set foot at our destination. Next time you leave a store, consider taking those 30 extra seconds and move your cart where it should go, not where you feel like it should go. Please don’t make your convenience our inconvenience. I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and I hope that this piece serves as a reminder that a small act of kindness can go a long way. Best Regards,
Public Speaker, Advocate for Universal Design & Ambassador for Disability Awareness www.awarenessties.us/matthew-walzer Catalyst in helping Nike develop and design its FlyEase line of adaptive footwear. Matthew Walzer is a strong public speaker and advocate for universal design and the disability community. Having accepted numerous awards for from organizations such as The ARC and United Cerebral Palsy, Matthew has also spoken at the White House at an inclusive design event under The Obama Administration. Matthew currently serves as an Official Columnist for AwareNow Magazine and an Official Ambassador for Awareness Ties where he works to raise awareness.
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I had no idea how to be kind to myself… ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS
STORYTELLER, PHILANTHROPIST & OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS
62 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘MEDICINE WITH WORDS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS
THE POWER OF KINDNESS
A CONSIDERATE CURE FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
Four months ago I woke up to a pain that was the most excruciating I’ve ever felt in my life.
It wasn’t spontaneous, though. For quite a few months prior I had been having pain in my back and my right leg, but I had totally ignored it. I tried to push it down, willing it to simply go away. But that morning in particular, it was the worst it had ever been. My body had decided enough was enough, and forced me to hit the brakes.
The pain was so bad I felt like my body was actually broken and being held together by my skin. If I turned too quickly with a slight twist, I would come tumbling down like the game of Jenga. Any precarious movement and I would be broken. But it wasn’t just movement that hurt. Sitting still, lying down, none of it was comfortable. My hips got so painful they felt like they were on fire 24/7. Nothing I did made me comfortable. I couldn’t even sleep to take myself away from the excruciating pain. I woke with pain, went to sleep in pain. Every second of every day was constant, debilitating pain.
My normal life physically had to stop. I couldn’t drive anywhere, go to the grocery store. Living on my boat, carrying anything, walking anywhere, even sitting on a chair, was horrendous. If I couldn’t do the simplest of tasks, how was I ever going to have a proper life? It began to take its toll on me mentally. I had no idea what was wrong with me, so I had no idea how to fix it. I had to accept that it wasn’t just going to fade away on its own. I needed help.
Upon doctors’ tests, it was determined that I had three slipped discs and an annular tear, amongst other things. I literally had no choice but to stop and put full focus on my recovery.
“…being kind to myself always felt selfish…”
The most important thing that I needed at that moment was kindness. Kindness from friends and family, but I also needed to be kind to myself. I’m the type of person that will sleep on the floor if necessary, give up my comfy chair for someone else to sit, stand when it’s needed, drive others, and pick people up. Offer to do what’s needed or more helpful to others, ahead of my own needs. I’m not trying to say I’m amazing or any different to other people. It was just to me, being kind to myself always felt selfish when I could instead be helping others. I had no idea how to be kind to myself, but the doctors said it was necessary to heal. I quickly learned it meant spending money and time on myself to get better. I wasn’t used to that. These things were normally kept for my daughter, my dog, or my friends. I had to change my entire lifestyle to accommodate my new physical needs. I had to buy a mattress to properly sleep on, and purchase a more supportive chair. My daily schedule had to shift to incorporate physical therapy and stretches. I had learn to press pause on work or get up earlier in order to take myself off for a walk each day. I had to eat better, taking proper care of my body.
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All of these things were new concepts for me. Showing myself kindness was truly a foreign task. Within three months my body thankfully returned back to normal, but now I’m learning to continue showing myself kindness to prevent falling back into old, bad habits. Showing myself continued kindness day in and day out does take work. Accepting help and saying no to things, taking time out when I need it or should be. Kindness takes a new kind of practice. It slows me down, makes me consider things in a more impactful way. It is an added mindfulness that one needs to devote time to. By showing myself kindness, it has even begun infiltrating into my friends’ lives. They have seen first hand the impact self-kindness has had on my physical, mental and emotional health. I can actually walk again without having agonizing pain. By working on myself and being open and honest about my journey, they too are seeing how they need to be more kind to themselves.
I believe kindness is a domino effect. We need to be kind to ourselves in order to bring kindness to the world. Try applying the following things for yourself, and then inspiring others to do the same. See how they change your life:
‣ ‣ ‣ ‣
Not judging yourself for not being perfect
Not holding yourself to impossibly high standards
Not comparing yourself to others
Not beating yourself up for making mistakes or not being “good enough” at something
One of my favourite words is “kind”. It is such a small word. Nothing particularly significant about its structure. Yet, it is one of the most powerful words. It’s a universal language. Good deeds and gestures are recognised all over the world. It’s something we can all have, show, be, feel, teach, express. Kindness.
If we understand kindness and show it in our everyday lives, then it’s more likely to occur naturally around other people. If we always place the word kind in front of everything we feel and do, then our actions will always have the right intention. Is that a kind thing to do? Would you be kind to your friend?
As a child kindness is taught and expected, but as we get older it seems to be pushed to the back of our lists. Be successful, be healthy, be happy, be mindful, be wealthy. And eventually be kind comes to play. What if everything we did began with “be kind”? Would that mean we wouldn’t get so cross or jealous or angry or impatient? If we showed kindness first, would we treat animals, babies, children, friends, and family members differently? Would we treat ourselves differently?
For the next week, I encourage you to keep a journal of those moments when you showed kindness to yourself, or others, or when kindness was shown to you. Remember how it felt and what it did for your body and mind. You’ll be as surprised as I was to learn how powerful kindness can truly be. ∎
Storyteller, Philanthropist & Official Ambassador for Human Trafficking Awareness
www.awarenessties.us/elizabethblakethomas 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.
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I don’t know my limit. COCO DE BRUYCKER
ACTRESS, VOICEOVER ARTIST & AWARENESS TIES AMBASSADOR FOR DISABILITY
Photo Credit: Paola Balandra Avendaño 66 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘ACCORDING TO COCO’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY COCO DE BRUYCKER
VULNERABILITY TAKES CENTER STAGE If you took me out on a date, second thing* you should probably know about me is: I get hungover. A lot. Not due to alcohol though, merely due to ‘authenticity’. The headache is just as bad.
“The crowd dissolves and you remain on stage all alone.”
Bestselling-author, researcher and TEDx-speaker, Brené Brown once named this state of the “vulnerability hangover”: One moment, you’re being the most vulnerable warrior letting out a scream of victory over your fears, triggers and quirks——only to have a sea of both unimpressed and bewildered pairs of eyes staring back right at you. The crowd dissolves and you remain on stage all alone.
This is me on a daily basis.
I wear my heart on my sleeve and see connections and meaning everywhere. This worst-case-scenario I have every time I regain consciousness to whatever makes me human. “Overdone it!,” my fear whispers right after the curtain has fallen. Fear drags me metaphorically to the after-show party and gets me wasted until I don’t know who I was and what I went on stage for in the first place: Authenticity. It gives me a headache. I don’t know my limit.
Is there a limit anyway?
I wake up in the morning as a mess of a human. I am alone. My head hurts, my heart (ripped off my sleeve) racing next to me. Crowd: Gone. Fear: Sitting on my chest. I gasp. Overdone it.
I check my phone: No new messages. Absurd. Scared them all away. Again. Stripping bare my soul. Again.
Dare me. I open twitter and cry for help at Brené Brown. Undo. Undo. Undo. Undo. Undo.
Brilliant Brené, I would never dare getting in your sight in this… mess of a human that I am… not even on Twitter. Close.
I put my emergency-happy-songs on shuffle, a playlist I use whenever I need a sign or silver lining. Like I said, I see connections and meaning everywhere. “Be Kind”, Zak Abel reminds me this time. He whistles. I stare at my heart next to me. Unimpressed. Bewildered. It just keeps beating minding its business.
I know I am absurd. A mess. Just as messy as life itself.
I remember. That’s why I went up on stage that night: Authenticity, vulnerability both are a part of the my experience. The mess of a human. I step up on stage stripping bare my soul to remind us of how human we are. 67 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“In a world where you can be anything I'll be kind to you, Coco.”
All the world’s a stage, right? There are many ways and stages we are being asked or have chosen to step into authenticity and to raise our voice. If people leave, unimpressed, bewildered, I am proud. Because my vulnerable warrior heart has struck theirs. For better or worse. A mess. Some stay, some leave. My action, my voice had an impact on them.
I put my heart back on my sleeve and get back in the game. All the world’s a stage.
It’s bloody, merciless and bad, but, hell, that’s me, that’s human.
I sing from the bottom of my heart: In a world where you can be anything I'll be kind to you, Coco. You see? You and me? It’s what makes humans. Connection. Meaning. Vulnerability. Authenticity. Awareness. It all ties. Could you be kind to you? It's all I'm asking. Ask yourself out first, it’s the hottest thing——the only partner you got——to wander, explore and leave the stage, the world, better than you found it.
*(I mentioned the first thing in last month’s article debuting the series ‘According to Coco’.) ∎
COCO DE BRUYCKER
Actress, Voiceover Artist & Awareness Ties Ambassador for Disability
www.awarenessties.us/coco Coco de Bruycker is a German-born, US-trained actress and voiceover artist with the desire to express what we all feel but no one dares to say. As a thespian at heart, took on stage at just seven years old, where she discovered her “eagerness to play” (German: spiel wut) as director Philip Barth put it.
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INNER BODY SECRET CERES IS A WELLNESS WAND DESIGNED
FOR WOMEN TO NOURISH AND HEAL THE BODY.
U S E C OD E ‘ AWA R E N O W 1 0 ’ F OR A 1 0 % D I S C O U N T
…such a stunning song, the lyrics especially blow me away every time. NED STRANGER
SONGWRITER & WRITER 70 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘MUSIC WITH MEANING’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY NED STRANGER
ACOUSTIC COVER BY NED STRANGER And then you listen to a song that you’ve listened to so very many times before, but this time you hear something different. They lyrics are richer. The voice resonates more deeply. The entire meaning of the song seems more… meaningful. - Allié M.
Sonwriter, singer and AwareNow Official Columnist, Ned Stranger, shared the following, “Round Here by Counting Crows is one of the best songs ever written. Just such a stunning song, the lyrics especially blow me away every time. A lovely evening with Anya, my guitar, the sunset and the horses.” We couldn’t help but share in AwareNow Magazine.
COUNTING CROWS ACOUSTIC COVER BY NED STRANGER
Songwriter & Singer www.awarenessties.us/ned-stranger Ned is a songwriter, writer and recovering law student.He turned his back on a promising career in the city to focus on his true passions - music and writing - forming indie-folk act August and After with a close friend from university. Several years later, they'd built a loyal London fanbase and toured various European countries, securing millions of online streams across the world and features in The Independent, BBC Radio and numerous official Spotify playlists. Ned launched his solo project this year with a series of new singles, exploring the boundaries between indie-folk and electro-pop.
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We all have to recognize what we have in common rather than the issues that divide us. LUKE GIALANELLA
FOUNDER & PRESIDENT OF GOVLEARN 72 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘GOVLEARN’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY LUKE GIALANELLA
A CASE FOR COMPASSION IN GOVERNMENT Why do we elect the officials we do into government positions? What does it truly mean to “serve your constituents”? Many might say that key traits required to become a public servant include the ability to get things done, strong problem solving and critical analysis skills, and the ability to navigate a complicated bureaucracy. These skills are crucial, but in my opinion, the most important qualities in a leader are kindness and compassion.
“What does it mean to be kind?”
To start, let’s ask a question: What does it mean to be kind? Perhaps it means to put others' needs above your own, or to be generous and provide many gifts or favors to others. In my opinion, to be kind is to truly care about the lives of others, and to work as hard as you can to help others. This is an important trait for everyone to have, but particularly those who serve us and are supposed to represent us in the highest structures of society.
So often, elections tend to be popularity contests won by the candidate that can most effectively slander the other. Thus, those elected to high positions tend to be cutthroat & self-centered, or favor negative messaging over compromise. They tend to serve the interests of their political parties, the PACs backing them, or their big business donors. They do not prioritize the interests of their constituents, simply because they do not emphasize compassion for those groups. Constituents are just numbers to many politicians. If they obtain a majority, they get to keep their job, their money, and their power.
Additionally, with how polarized government has become, compromise is perceived as an act of weakness or defeat. In order to be recognized as ‘strong’, politicians tend to avoid compromise and even resort to shutting down the government to maintain their positions. This lack of an ability to get along or talk to each other civilly then spreads to the voters. In recent years, we have found friendships and marriages collapsing simply due to political disagreements, and human rights issues have been deemed as ‘too political’.
“Why have we become so divided?”
As a student myself, I have been exposed to the ‘sanitization’ of political issues in order to avoid discourse and debate. In an extracurricular politics class, I wanted to discuss same-sex marriage, but the teacher deemed it ‘too political’ to discuss. How have we gotten to a place where issues such as these have been deemed too much of a hot button topic? Why have we become so divided? I believe that this is because of the disappearance of kindness and compassion in politics today. 73 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“We must together break the cycle of hate and destruction around the country and the world…”
Try to think about the last time in a presidential or vice presidential debate where the candidates shared a moment of warmth or kindness with one another. It’s unlikely. Even in primary debates, where candidates are members of the same political party, we see this aggressive behavior and discourse.
We all have to recognize what we have in common rather than the issues that divide us. We must all express compassion. Once we come together in society, this will reflect on the politicians representing us. We must together break the cycle of hate and destruction around the country and the world, and be compassionate and respectful of one another. ∎
Founder & President of GOVLEARN www.awarenessties.us/luke-gialanella Luke Gialanella Founder & President of GOVLEARN Luke Gialanella founded GOVLEARN when he was 11 years old, in the summer after the 2016 presidential election. Finding that there was a lack of substantive civics education for elementary and middle schoolers, he went on a mission to correct that. Creating a website and YouTube channel, Luke is obviously extremely passionate about government and politics and has participated in many mock governments, Model UN, and debate programs outside of school.
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We need to change our perception of what is kind. CRAIG GRAHAM
PERSONAL TRAINER & FOUNDER OF ALT MOVEMENT 76 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘ALT MOVEMENT’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY CRAIG GRAHAM
KINDNESS IN INACTION
SOMETIMES DOING NOTHING IS DOING SOMETHING “Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” - Mark Twain
Kindness is a wonderful thing and in the disabled community it is in abundance. Society has come a long way in the treatment of disabled people over the past 100 years. Prior to the 1930’s, individuals who were born differently were often seen as a burden and abandoned by their families, their rights stripped away from them. Thankfully, our understanding and knowledge has changed since then, equal opportunities are championed for those with a disability as well as equal and fair treatment. The shift in attitude is easy to see, with multiple people often leaping ahead to open the door for a frame user or jumping to lift a wheelchair user down onto the train platform. But although the intention is always good, when does this kindness become unkind to the person with a disability?
It’s human nature to want to help the most vulnerable in our community, but our perception of what vulnerability is is not always accurate. It can be helpful to take the example of a frame user opening the door here. A line of people forms waiting to go through the door as the user struggles to pull while maintaining balance on their frame. Now, its important to emphasise that I believe the intention of kindness is always good in these situations, but it can often be misdirected. It’s painful to watch someone struggle, it makes us uncomfortable and as that feelings builds we get the overwhelming urge to end it. But what if we stopped looking at this scenario as a ‘struggle’? What if we instead begin to look at this as just an alternate way of doing things? The frame user may not be able to open the door as quickly or as efficiently as we can, but it does not mean they are incapable of doing so.
Not every scenario is the same, and no two disabled people are the same so, of course, it is about finding a balance in these situations. If someone is struggling to get up the curb and a bus is careering towards them then the appropriate thing would not be to sit back and let them ‘figure it out’. Similarly, it can be hard to decipher if the action of opening a door will be challenging but possible for one person or completely impossible for another. Dialogue here is the crucial answer. By simply asking ‘do you need help?’, support and assistance is being offered while still giving the choice and complete control to the disabled individual. Independence isn't unnecessarily stripped away and confidence is given by not assuming that that the task is unachievable.
We need to change our perception of what is kind. Maybe kindness isn't opening the door for someone but allowing a person with a disability the time and patience to do it by themselves, in their own way. So hopefully next time we find ourselves in a similar scenario to the example discussed above, discomfort does not build inside of us but kindness is exuded by our inaction. ∎
Personal Trainer & Founder of Alt Movement www.awarenessties.us/craig-graham Craig is a Personal Trainer based in the UK, as well as the founder and creator of Alt Movement, which aims to provide individuals with disabilities alternative and adaptive ways of exercising.
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and masculine energy into balance and with that comes kindness. TIFFANY KELLY
AUTHOR, SPEAKER, FOUNDER OF BEYOND BAMBOO, PHOENIX RISING GLOBAL, & CO-FOUNDER OF ROUNDTABLE GLOBAL 78 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘GLOBAL GOOD’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY TANITH HARDING
PLATFORMS WITH PURPOSE
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH TIFFANY KELLY
Tiffany Kelly is the Founder of Beyond Bamboo, Phoenix Rising Global, Co-Founder of RoundTable Global and an author & speaker. She has spent the last 20 years working and living around the world connecting businesses and communities through award winning people and organisational development initiatives. Driven by the RoundTable Three Global Goals of Educational Innovation, Environmental Rejuvenation and Empowerment for all, her latest offering encompasses each component and lends support to people to be the change they wish to see in the world.
Tanith: Tiffany, we have spoken to you before about the companies you have founded above, but where does your passion and drive come from?
Tiffany: I really believe that it is something I was born with. Since the moment I learned how to speak I made it clear to my parents that I was a vegetarian and that I wanted to help to prevent cruelty to animals in any way I could. As a teenager I signed up to be a freelance journalist for our local paper and wrote stories and exposés on the things that I wanted to influence or change. I have always believed in spending my time and energy on the things that I want to create in the world rather than spending time focused on being frustrated that things are not changing. Every big idea that has led to us becoming better and more responsible stewards on this planet has started with one person who really believed they could make a difference. My passion and drive is inspired by this - why can’t that person be me?
Tanith: The 3 offerings are very different in terms of what they deliver. How do they fit together? Why are they needed?
Tiffany: I wish I could say that I sat and strategically planned out the work that I am doing with my businesses but actually they evolved organically based on what I felt was needed to make each of them sustainable. RoundTable and my charity Legacy Project are focused on creating global mindset change towards being more honest, self aware and responsible at the same time as unlocking potential in human kind at every level. As more and more people from 35+ countries embarked on this journey with us I created Phoenix Rising as a platform and community for them to connect, share and collaborate. I was being asked to create a space for this new mindset change to flourish and grow. Being a vegetarian and environmental leader means that I have also always been passionate about ensuring that we go beyond sustainability to restore and rejuvenate our eco-system. This is why I created Beyond Bamboo as a community and marketplace for conscious consumers and environmental projects for change. Beyond Bamboo is all about our habitat and ensuring that our future generations can thrive. So how they fit together is that RoundTable creates transformational mindset change, Phoenix Rising provides the community and network and Beyond Bamboo inspires that community to restore and rejuvenate the planet. The Global Youth Awards which we run every year through Legacy project is a way of raising awareness of and celebrating young people who are delivering our Three Global Goals.
Tanith: You are one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to creating balance and bringing more feminine energy to the world - what does that mean to you and why?
Tiffany: I think that we need to create balance in our leadership and policy decision making. I think we have created a very masculine society based on our individual, company and country requirements for security and financial sustainability, a society which is very much about ‘self’ and not about inclusivity, empowerment and collaboration. I believe that it is time for this to change and that is where the feminine energy comes in. The issue is that people associate feminine with female and think that this a gender gap challenge but we need to change the narrative and educate people that masculine and feminine energies below to all of us and that we need both for balance. The feminine yin energy is about everything external to you. People, community, other species and the planet. If our leaders were more in their feminine they would be making decisions that take into consideration everyone and everything both short and long term. This energy is nurturing, empowering, creative and supportive. It is not about winning so you lose, it is about raising the bar for everyone. 79 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Tanith: What do you think is the biggest change we can make as human beings to make the world a place that thrives instead of survives?
Tiffany: First of all bringing feminine and masculine energy into balance and with that comes kindness. I have been asked this same question lots of times and had wonderful debates that have gone on for hours about what this would look like - who decides for example what is kind and what isn’t? Regardless of the multitude of potential answers there are to this, I personally think that if we are all making choices and decisions from a place of honesty, balanced leadership and kindness the world would be a completely difference place. If everyone started to take active responsibility for creating the things that they wanted to see in the world.
Tanith: What’s next for you and what’s your expectation for growth with the projects you are already working on?
Tiffany: I am really excited about the future right now. It feels like all of our projects are coming together in a really powerful and symbiotic way. We had leaders from 29 countries join our Phoenix Rising launch 2 weeks ago and have communities of communities signing up to join. We are currently sourcing for some of the biggest hotel chains in the world through Beyond Bamboo B2B and about to launch a conscious consumer Christmas campaign. Our Global Youth Awards have nominations from over 20 countries this year and we deliver our RoundTable empowerment and leadership programmes in 35+ countries. We have inadvertently created an eco-system of organisations that allows us to inspire, galvanise and provide support for conscious change-makers from all over the world and that feels amazing. ∎ TANITH HARDING
Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global www.awarenessties.us/tanith-harding Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.
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Books provide a fantastic backbone, the ability to escape for a bit but also to define your identity… WESLEY KING
# 1 NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR 82 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘UNSUGARCOATED’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY AALIA LANIUS
FE AT URI NG BES T-S EL L IN G A U THO R WES L EY KI N G Season 8 premieres with Wesley King, co-author of the best-selling book series The Wizenard Series, along with ten other novels, who works to promote literacy for young people by writing stories that are truly relatable to a middle grade audience.
King, who collaborated with the late Kobe Bryant, discusses the process of working on The Wizenard Series, which consists of several books that tackle the psychological challenges young athletes deal with on a daily basis (6:50). As someone who struggled with OCD and anxiety himself when he was younger and continues to do so today, King discusses his coming of age (17:07) and how he thinks we can better understand and support people that are struggling with mental health (22:27). Since the pandemic started, King has been working to craft a story with author, Chandler Baker, called Hello (from here), which comes out this September, about the obstacles and difficulties growing up during the pandemic (31:57). While King has already had so much success as an author, he is beginning a new project about celebrating neurodiversity by focusing on a character who is autistic, a story based-off of his brother who is on the spectrum (47:08). ∎
For more information on UNSUGARCOATED Media or your award-winning host, go to www.UnsugarcoatedMedia.com and stay connected with Aalia on IG: @aalia_unsugarcoated and on Clubhouse @aalia_lanius
Novelist, Speaker, Podcast Host & Social Entrepreneur www.awarenessties.us/aalialanius Aalia Lanius is the Founder and President of Unsugarcoated Media, a 501(c)(3) media organization. Dedicated to helping survivors of trauma lead mentally healthier lives, Lanius' focus is creating media and events that empower, educate, heal, and inspire another the way it has for her. Lanius is also a multiple award-winning American novelist, social entrepreneur, and advocate with over 20 years of sharing her personal experiences with audiences of all age groups and diverse backgrounds. Executive Producer and host of the awardnominated seasonal podcast show, “Unsugarcoated with Aalia”, a visual and audio experience that features conversations intended to bring value and amplify voices that create more empathy and understanding of one another.
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Believe in your potential. THI NGUYEN
NONPROFIT CONSULTANT, ENTREPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST Photo Credit: Albert Evangelista 84 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘GO GREEN DRESS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY THI NGUYEN
THIS IS WHERE KINDNESS BEGINS A while back I decided to spend a little more time being kind to myself. I find it extremely hard to do this because life gets in the way. You go through the motions of a routine and forget to take care of yourself. Maybe work keeps you busy, your focus is shifted to family and friends while you forget the most important person in your life: YOU.
When was the last time you took some time for yourself?
When was the last time you asked yourself how am I doing?
When was the last time you did something for yourself?
For me, I find it difficult to do this consistently. My life is a fast moving train with many things going on at any given time. I guess you can say I don't like sitting still, until Covid. To those close to me looking in, Covid seems to negatively impact my life, but I saw it as a blessing in disguise. It was a chance for me to slow down and take care of myself without all the distractions.
Prior to Covid, I was on the road 90% of the time traveling for work. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love to travel. But between my trips came reports, meetings and, the expectation of being on 100% of the time. This can be very taxing. I didn't think much of it because I absolutely love the work but I realized with a force shutdown how much I needed the break. It couldn't have come at a better time allowing me to take a step back, relax and slow down.
“I realize the kindness I show to my friends, family or complete strangers need to first begin from within.”
Through life experiences I started to realize what is important, what I want and what I need to live a happy and fulfilled life. For me it is an ongoing journey of self discovery, change, improvement and development. I realize the kindness I show to my friends, family or complete strangers need to first begin from within. Understanding the energy around me, the energy I display and the energy needed for my own well being was critical.
I removed myself from negativity, surrounded myself with positivity and focused on doing things that benefited me. Through this process of self love, I made friends, traveled extensively, picked up new skills and learned what it really meant to be kind... to yourself. This continuous process of growth and self discovery is difficult to do but I know it is absolutely necessary in order for me to have the energy to help others. Remember to always:
Believe in your potential
Engage with positive energy
Keep an open mindset
Invest in your development
Nurture your body and soul
Distance yourself from negativity 85 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Photo Credit: Albert Evangelista
Similar to the environment, plants or trees we should continuously let light in our life, develop ourselves, grow and watch how we will blossom to become a better version of who we're meant to be. It is difficult, but "Sometimes you need to remember to be kind to yourself so that you will have the energy to lift others up." ~Thi-ism~
Feel free to follow me on Instagram @GoGreenDress for inspirational messages, gentle reminders and a glimpse of the wonderful world we live in. Kindness starts from within so don't forget to be kind to yourself.
Thank you to Albert Evangelista for capturing these beautiful images and your continuous vision in bringing life to the GoGreenDress. Follow him on Instagram @aarree or book him for all your photo needs.
Thank you for your kindness, Albert. ∎
Nonprofit Consultant, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist www.awarenessties.us/thi 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.
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Photo Credit: Albert Evangelista 87 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
We are entering an era where the Black community is being present for and nourishing their mental health instead of neglecting it. CICELY GREEN
FOUNDER & CEO OF CHICAGO BLACK THERAPISTS
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FEATURE STORY BY CICELY GREEN
HEALING BLACK TRAUMA
THE BIRTH OF CHICAGO BLACK THERAPISTS
Black trauma has been passed down for centuries through enslavement - having been redesigned into inequities, systemic oppression, and racism. As a result, Black communities are disproportionately affected by physical, economic, and emotional health.
Mental health education and treatment has also been traditionally taught and practiced through a colonized lens causing Black communities to be misdiagnosed, over medicated, experimented on, and pathologized. This has led to a stigma and mistrustful perception of the mental health system among Black communities - resulting in over 50% of Black Americans having never received treatment, and only 4% of the mental health workforce identifying as Black. Instead of accessing and acknowledging our mental health needs, Black community’s wounds are covered by the masks of violence, addiction, self loathing, emotional neglect, and abuse. Our wounds are being exploited in a society where we are told our skin is too dark, hair too big and kinky, and bodies are not beautiful. Our culture appropriated. Conditioned to not to trust our fellow brothers and sisters.
I have personal experience in how generational trauma is masked in this way having experienced depression and PTSD for half of my life due to unresolved trauma passed down in my family. Growing up, I did not know the ends and outs of mental health treatment, nor that I could simply talk and feel emotionally safe with anyone until I began studying psychology and sociology, and criminal justice in college. One main reason I chose these majors was to understand myself and my family.
Fortunately, we are entering an era where the Black community is being present for and nourishing their mental health instead of neglecting it. Now more than ever, we are seeking out wellness and mental health treatment, and putting our mental health and self care higher on our priority list. Amidst the George Floyd protests of summer 2020, it became even more necessary for the Black community to access and confide in a mental health professional who has walked in their shoes. This is when Chicago Black Therapists was born.
The time has ended where finding a Black therapist is met with dead ends and endless google searches. The Chicago Black Therapist directory exists to connect clinicians and clients who seek a safe and accepting environment where their cultural, societal, and racial experiences can be validated and celebrated.
We started as a viral Google sheet document of Chicagoland clinicians shared nationwide - into the leading authority and resource for Black mental health in Chicago, Il. We continue to decolonize and de-stigmatize mental health by bridging the gap between the Black community and healing through education, resources, mutually aligned partnerships, and by hosting a directory of Black mental health professionals. Our website receives over 10k Google search impressions per month without any investment in ads. We invite the Awareness Ties community to join us in helping achieve our mission. ∎
Learn more, donate and/or partner with Chicago Black Therapists: www.chicagoblacktherapists.com CICELY GREEN
Founder & CEO of Chicago Black Therapists www.chicagoblacktherapists.com Cicely is an Aerialist, Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Yoga Teacher, Model, and 6x marathoner. She is a practitioner and healer of all things health, wellness, and movement, and has become a thought leader and authority in her community. Cicely has overcome her own struggles to thrive as an entrepreneur through holistic healing, trauma informed care, and by challenging oppressive systems. Through her journey, Cicely has noticed one common theme - the lack of others in wellness spaces whom also identify a Black womxn. This inspired Cicely to utilize her platform and knowledge to create spaces in wellness and movement for Blackidentifying individuals. She is a founder of In Good Wealth, Inc. non profit organization, Chicago Black Therapist Directory, BIPOC Circus Alliance Midwest, and contributor to various racial justice and wellness initiatives.
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We must join forces to take care of the world… CHIEF OGIMAA
ANISHINAABE KNOWLEDGE KEEPER, CHIEF OF FOOTHILLS OJIBWAY ON TURTLE ISLAND 90 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘FROM THE BEGINNING TO NOW’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY CHIEF OGIMAA
FROM THE BEGINNING TO NOW: LESSON 10 I’ve been thinking about kindness…
Most important, to begin with is to be kind to the environment. I might be in just this side of the world, but there is one air, one sun, one world, and one spirit. It's all about us. All over in this world, kindness begins with Creator… God… whatever we call him. God is very kind to all things that he has provided. So, we must be kind to everything that he has provided for us. That includes the spirit of the world. What I mean is the spirit… the spirit of life… The trees that grow look after the oxygen. The flowers grow year after year. The air he gave us to be able to move, able to breathe every day. That is spirit itself.
We must be kind to one another all over the world because we were put here for a reason… No matter where we are. Everything that's surrounding us, we cannot disrespect. We must be kind to it. We must be kind to each other, especially to our mothers, brothers and sisters, grandpas and grandmothers. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here. As part of that creation, women were given the ability to give us life. This is something that was created by God and no human being can do, only God himself. So we all must be kind to women and to the children, because we were children one time. We were babies, because of our mothers, and so on.
That's gonna go on.
We have made it this far, because we were being kind to everything that God has created. He gave us kindness. This gave us a healthy idea to survive and live in this world, wherever we may be. The world needs us… the same as we need the environment, to take care of us.
“If we don't respect and be kind to that spirit of nature, then nature won't be kind to us.”
We need the environment to respect us and to be kind to us. Think about the floods and tornadoes that happen. The fires that happen and mudslides. If we don't respect and be kind to that spirit of nature, then nature won't be kind to us. Just like with another human being. If we are not trying to be kind to each other, before long somebody's not going to be kind to us in return. We must be kind to each other, not only the physical but the spiritual. The spirit is ourselves. We have a soul. Everybody in this world has a soul. And everybody in this world depends on environment. Everything that we enjoy today comes from the land. It comes from that environment, and like ourselves, life begins with that kindness and it grows with that kindness. Sometimes we need to stop and think for a while… what really gets us to where we are today in creation. It's the spirit. Mothers are next to their Creator, because they can create humans. Humans cannot be made by man… For the Mother Earth…… She's alive… Mother Earth is a mother. She carries us and took care of us. Everything that we needed, including the food. Vegetables grow from the soil, water that comes out from the mountains and glaciers. The air that was provided for us. 91 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“Now we must show them what kindness is…”
It is about kindness. And we must take care of each other. We must take care of our mind. It's really up to us, because God gave us free will to decide what's good for us, and everything that we needed. He put it here for us. It's for us… Air is for us. The sun is for us. The world is for us…… the children and mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers. Even the great great grandchildren……. Somewhere in there… we find that we care… every one of us. We care about our children. We care about our mothers and fathers. We care about our grandfathers and grandmothers. Brothers and sisters. How can we not think about that gift of Creator… He was kind to us… kind enough to create everything we need… That I call ‘kindness’. Everything that we enjoy today all over the world came from this world that we're in. If we need water… air… food. That's all there. That is to me…….. that's kindness….. And we're a part of it. I think if we look after ourselves, and in that time we tend to look after us… to look after each other in a kind way… I think things will change. We will enjoy ourselves.
We must join forces to take care of the world. We're all in it… If it's here in this part of the world or this Turtle Island… or if it's somewhere else. We all need kindness… We must take care of the future generations so they can enjoy what we enjoy… to see we enjoy things today… because we're working with the nature. If we don't work with the nature, we're not being kind. We're not being kind to the environment. And we're not being kind to each other. When children come, from day one… they want us to be there for them…… They don't know life yet. They have long ways to go. But I understand what a beautiful life that they should have. Like we have. Sometimes it's difficult.
Life is difficult. We make better times for each other, if we take care of each other, and take care of the land. The land provides for needs. The world provides what we need. So we must be kind to all things, human beings, the animals, the water, and the air to work together, because there's one world, and we're all in it. And we're all part of the creation… I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be kind to us… So I think we must join all over the world. Enjoy. Enjoy and appreciate kindness. Kindness comes from the heart. Kindness comes from people. Kindness comes from the Spirit. Try kindness to one another and to the children.
These are the things that I think about.
It's about spirit. We only have one Spirit, one life, one world. One sun. One air and one water. It's all about us… so future generations can have this... Now we must show them what kindness is…
Respectfully recorded and submitted by Kathy Kiss
OGIMAA (ACHA-KOOH-WAAY), JIM
Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper, Chief of Foothills Ojibway on Turtle Island www.awarenessties.us/ogimaa I am Ogimaa (Acha-Kooh-waay), I begin with words from my own language to say hi to everybody. My identity… which is… because God put me in this part of the world is my Annishinaabe language and name. That means “leader” for people and environment here. So I am not saying I am the leader of Turtle Island but that’s what that means. It is an individual’s name, which is a spirit name that we carry on from our traditional culture and lineage in this part of the world. We were put here on this Turtle. This Turtle Island is massive.
92 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
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Science and research show us that our bodies literally react when we are kind. JACQUELINE WAY
INSPIRATIONAL KEYNOTE SPEAKER, PHILANTHROPIST & FOUNDER OF 365GIVE 94 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘THE WAY TO HAPPINESS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY JACQUELINE WAY
STATE OF BEING
KINDNESS: IS IT OUR TRUE NATURE? The dictionary defines kindness as this: “The quality or state of being kind.”
The “state of being” is what fascinated me the most.
Science and research show us that our bodies literally react when we are kind. We get warm feelings of love, happiness, a sense of connection and life meaning or purpose. The same pillars of well-being that we are searching for on Google and Instagram.
“To feel the beautiful light, turn on from within…”
Is this just a fluke or were we designed by ‘nature” to be kind? The human ability at any moment, on any day to experience happiness and love - for ourselves - with a simple act of “being” kind to another? Could kindness be what we have been looking for? A way to fill ourselves up when we feel depleted, sad, and depressed? Could this our way out of a world that at time seems almost impossible to live in? The light at the end of a long tunnel of darkness? To feel the beautiful light, turn on from within and shine so bright that everyone around you will have to wear sunglasses to be in your presence.
I say shine bright. Let kindness be your human state of being everyday.
It’s your choice. What will you choose to “be” in this moment? ∎
Inspirational Keynote Speaker, Philanthropist & Founder of 365give www.awarenessties.us/jacqueline-way Jacqueline Way is a dedicated world changer. Her soul purpose is to inspire and educate the hearts and minds of people globally to create a happy, meaningful life. She expresses her purpose through her charitable organization 365give created and inspired by her son with a simple vision to “Change the World 1 give, 1 day at time.” She is a world-renowned keynote speaker with one of the most watch TEDx Talks “How to Be Happy Every Day – It Will Change the World” Every day she is committed to living the highest expression of who she is as a human being through her work and by touching the lives of others.
95 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
… take each day as it comes. SOPHIA KEAVENEY
STUDENT, ACTRESS & CANCER SURVIVOR 96 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘GLOBAL GOOD’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY TANITH HARDING
STRONGER THAN CANCER
A CONVERSATION WITH SOPHIA KEAVENEY Sophia Keaveney was a West End leading lady in the making, appearing in hit musical, Matilda, and studying at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and attending the BRIT School. At age 15 life took a different turn when Sophia was diagnosed with a Medulloblastoma - a cancerous tumour in the brain. She shares her story now.
Tanith: Sophia tell me about your day to day life prior to your diagnosis?
Sophia: My whole life was just about performing. I went to performing arts school and then after I would go on to singing and dancing classes. My life was basically non stop focusing on being a performer. That was my one goal so most of my time was dedicated to improving myself in that kind of way. I'm one of those people that would rather be busy then to be sat at home watching TV.
Tanith: You started to feel unwell whilst sitting your exams with severe headaches and I believe the doctors said it was stress related. Talk me through your experience from feeling ill to diagnosis?
Sofia: I was getting these bad headaches. The first couple of times I thought it was probably just not drinking enough or not sleeping enough, but and then it started being a bit more regular so I knew it wasn’t normal. At the time I was studying for my GCSE’s and exams are pretty stressful. We went to the GP, and told them that I was going through GCSEs, so they immediately came back with the fact that the migraines were due to stress. They gave me loads of migraine medicines, and I would take them every single day, but I wouldn't feel any better. We went back, and they just said it’s stress migraines, nothing needs to happen. I would take the medicine, and it wouldn't work and I remember going into my GCSE exams, I used to smuggle one little painkiller in my pencil case, because I don't think you're really supposed to be bringing medication in, but my head would be hurting. Then it started getting really bad, that's when I was vomiting non stop. My mum and dad called an ambulance and we went to A&E and we got a Xray done. They were kind of reluctant because they did think it was just stress but in the end, they did one. They then diagnosed me with the medulloblastoma and ever since then I've been getting treatment.
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Tanith: You mentioned before that you were in denial, even following your first surgery, when did the reality set in and how did you process that?
Sofia: When they told me, it came out of nowhere because before this I'd never been to a hospital once. I'd never broken a bone or anything. I’ve never had stitches, I've never had surgery, I've never had anything to do with hospital, so it was a bit odd that the first time, it would be something that serious. We weren't expecting anything like that, we were pretty much expecting them to say it's just a stress headache. I do remember I was so confused, my mum and dad and sister were in tears. I remember just sitting there and I almost laughed, because I just couldn't handle the fact that this was happening. I was thinking it was a joke, so I kind of sat there and laughed at the doctor. I still remember when they said you need to go into surgery and I just went back to my phone and laughing with my sister. I didn't realise what I was getting myself into. And then, I think, after spending some time in the critical care unit, because I was on so many drugs at that time, I wasn't really aware of my surroundings and what was happening. I think it was around three weeks after I’d had all of my brain surgeries. I finally went to my dad and I turned around and said, ‘Do I have cancer?' And he said yes, and that was when I realised.
Sofia: (continued) They wanted me to go straight to get my treatment but unfortunately I wasn't well enough to be transported to a different hospital. At the time I was barely able to move my neck or sit up straight. There was no way they could do it so we had to spend a couple of months in Kings Hospital before I got to go to the Royal Marsden and do my treatment.
Tanith: What advice would you give to any young person that might be going through a similar experience?
Sofia: It’s hard because I think everybody copes with it in a different way but I would say just take each day as it comes. I remember spending days and days thinking, what's going to happen tomorrow? What's gonna happen the day after that? That would just get me worked up, and all you really need to do is think of today and what's happening. I would always tell myself if I'm feeling bad, or feeling sick or I'm in pain because of my chemo, the cancer cells are gonna be feeling 10 times worse. You're actually much stronger than the cancer is so you're dealing with the lighter side of it. The cancer is gonna get the main brunt of it. The main thing I would say to cancer patients is that it's all right to cry and be sad, it's all right to be angry, and to lash out and go crazy with it, because not a lot of people have to deal with that kind of pain at such a young age. I would just say if you feel like crying, cry, if you feel like getting angry and punching your pillow, just punch your pillow. Get all of your emotions out because it's not very healthy to try and keep them in and pretend you're not struggling. You're stronger anyway because you're going through this.
Tanith: How are you doing health wise now and what does the future hold for you?
Sofia: Currently I’m in remission. I'm having four monthly MRI scans and I'm free of cancer so I'm happy about that. Unfortunately I'm still having chronic sickness due to the place where the cancerous brain tumour was so I still vomit and feel nauseous and stuff like that. I’m also in a wheelchair so my mobility is not good at all, but right now I'm in school doing A levels and I'm trying to study. I want to be a Radiographer, so I'm trying to get into universities so I can study radiography and hopefully become somebody that can help other people like me.
Tanith: I love that your journey inspired you to take a different pathway! Will you still continue acting and performing?
Sofia: It is a very fun hobby, I'll never ever stop singing and acting and dancing, because it’s how I have fun, it’s basically most of my life before so I don't think I could ever give up on it, but after this experience my main kind of dream is to just help other people going through the same thing as I was going through. ∎
Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global www.awarenessties.us/tanith-harding Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.
98 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
I’ll never stop singing and acting and dancing… SOPHIA KEAVENEY
STUDENT, ACTRESS & CANCER SURVIVOR 99 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
Healing a nation is no easy task, and it won’t happen overnight. LORI BUTIERRIES
AUTHOR, NAVY VETERAN & MOTHER OF 2 WITH SPECIAL NEEDS 100 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
‘SCARRED NOT BROKEN’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY LORI BUTIERRIES
WE MUST NOT FORGET
THE NECESSITY FOR 9/11 TO ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED A generation of Americans (i.e., Gen Z) has been born and raised since the militant Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda carried out multiple attacks against the United States, on U.S. soil, on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Generation Z missed experiencing a tragedy that stunned a nation and prompted America to set aside its varied differences and personal grievances to come together for the common good of all in the aftermath of monumental loss and unimaginable destruction.
Thus, it is understandable that Patriot's Day lacks the same emotional punch to the gut for Generation Z as it does for Millennials and older generations. Especially when, 20 years later, America is more divided than ever, and the younger generations only have firsthand knowledge of political polarization, civil unrest, failed foreign wars, etc., to draw opinions from, which is a shame.
I can only imagine how hard it must be to believe, in this day and age, that a country as at odds with itself as ours is could ever rally to comfort, support, or help one another, but it did, and it was beautiful to behold.
That's why stories about September 11th NEED to continue to be told each anniversary of the attack- to remind American's that the ability to bridge the gaps in our society still exists; it isn't a fictitious or magical power.
Each story about 9/11, whether it is a personal account, a biography, or even a children's book based on actual events or persons [like the books listed below], can testify to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit when summoned to respond to a mutual cause or to overcome a shared obstacle.
Here are a few resources for children about September 11th: Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree by Ann Magee
30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag
by Amanda Davis
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
The Man in the Red Bandanna by Honor Fagan
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
101 AWARENOW / THE KIND EDITION
“May my fellow American citizens and I rise to the challenge of rediscovering and strengthening the threads that bind this country together.”
Americans, young and old, should know that as awful as 9/11 was, it brought out the best in the American people. Patriotism, compassion, selflessness, etc., bloomed overnight in the hearts of an entire nation from the ashes of rubble at Ground Zero that our tears watered and made bear fruit.
"NEVER FORGET" isn't just a cute or catchy slogan to be bandied about on September 11th. It is a call to action for our country, never to forget its collective potential for love, growth, and sacrifice or the importance of kindness, humanity, and community. 9/11 proved once again that together we, as a unified country, can endure and survive horrific life events. However, the coordinated and unexpected terrorist attacks on 9/11 also proved that America was not, and is not, indestructible.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to protect America from enemies at home or abroad. However, one way to make the United States less vulnerable, in general, is to guard it against internal collapse, which is within our control, to an extent- Like by reflecting upon the lessons that September 11th taught America about ourselves on Patriot’s Day. We can use that knowledge to plant seeds of hope for a better tomorrow in the hearts and minds of future generations by sharing inspirational stories that promote positive change, solidarity, and healing. Healing a nation is no easy task, and it won't happen overnight. Likewise, it will be painful too, but it is worth the effort and possible to achieve if wanted. Otherwise, what's the alternative?
Abraham Lincoln once stated that "A house divided against itself cannot stand," and so far, history has yet to prove him wrong in that regard. Therefore, may my fellow American citizens and I rise to the challenge of rediscovering and strengthening the threads that bind this country together. May the memories of 9/11 be one of the many tools we use to motivate ourselves to continue working side by side towards improving our home, the only home we have, the United States of America. ∎
Author, Navy Veteran & Mother of 2 with Special Needs www.awarenessties.us/lori-butierries Lori Butierries is a full-time caregiver to two children with special needs, one child being terminally ill and physically disabled. Lori uses her life experiences and the medical knowledge she gained while serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy to help others facing similar hardships. Lori focuses primarily on advocating for and educating others about the special needs, mental health, and veterans communities. Her long-term goal is to reduce the stigma associated with disability by talking about it with people of all ages, thus minimizing the fear and the mystery attributed to the unknown in this regard.
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