AwareNow: Issue 39: 'The Pause Edition'

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ISSUE 39 THE AWARENESS TIES™ OFFICIAL MAGAZINE FOR CAUSES THE
EDITION REFLECTIONS ON INTENTIONS OLIVER
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ‘THE SPIRITUAL ACTIVATOR’ EMILIE GOLDBLUM ‘PERMISSION’ MARK RAYMOND JR. ‘ABLE AWARENESS’
‘LIFE IMITATES NATURE’
EICH ‘STORYVILLE’
‘IF ONLY’
‘THE HOW
OF IT’
‘HEAL
‘THE MAGIC
THE MURAL’ W/EDDIE
PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY OFFICIAL EDITION PARTNER ARTISTS FOR TRAUMA
AWARENOW
PAUSE
NIÑO
CYDNEY HELSDOWN
PHIL
DEBORAH WEED
JORDAN VANHEMERT
& WHY
LAURA SHARPE
TOGETHER’ SHEPARD FAIREY & JON FURLONG
BEHIND
DONALDSON

THE PAUSE 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.

ABLE

THEY ARE US DR. TODD BROWN

A RECIPE FOR LIFE PAUL S. ROGERS

WE ARE ALL GRATEFUL ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE: WWW.AWARENESSTIES.US/SUBSCRIBE.HTML

STORYVILLE PHIL EICH HIDE & SEEK ALLIÉ MCGUIRE THE SPIRITUAL ACTIVATOR OLIVER NIÑO PERMISSION EMILIE GOLDBLUM THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MURAL HEAL TOGETHER LAURA SHARPE IF ONLY DEBORAH WEED POLYPHONY TAL ANDERSON SERVICE ACADEMY RYAN & THOMAS GROWNEY 006 018 020 034 036 046 048 060 062
ON THE COVER: OLIVER NIÑO PHOTO BY: EVIE JOY
AWARENESS MARK RAYMOND JR.
HOLY OUTCRY BURT KEMPNER LIFE IMITATES NATURE CYDNEY HELSDOWN THE NEXT RAINBOW JENN BOYD/SONJA MONTIEL THE HOW & WHY OF IT JORDAN VANHEMERT NEUROSIGHTED DANIELLE BIDDICK 070 074 080 084 086 090 092 098 100 THE NONVERBAL PRINCESS JESSICA FREW/GUSTAVO VERA NEURODIVERSITY WORKS ALEX GILL 5 EASY MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES KATHERINE WINTER-SELLERY BUTTERFLIES FOR HOPE ELLE SELINE TEACHER APPRECIATION ANNA LINDWASSER IN A LIME LIGHT VANESSA CALDERON THE BLAME GAME DENIS MURPHY/TANITH HARDING TEACHING ACCEPTANCE NUSRAT JAHAN NISHU 108 110 118 122 124 128 130 136
SHEPARD FAIREY/JON FURLONG/EDDIE DONALDSON

The pause - that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.

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Mark Twain

ALLIÉ McGUIRE

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

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

JACK McGUIRE

Production Manager of AwareNow, President & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties

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

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

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It’s ok to not be who you used to be. The treads of our souls are malleable. Take a pause. Know our fates are not set in stone.
www.IamAwareNow.com
www.IamAwareNow.com @AWARENESSTIES @AWARENESSTIES @AWARENESSTIES
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www.IamAwareNow.com
The only way that you can touch the true depth of a person is by asking them questions.
PHIL EICH PHOTOGRAHER, WRITER, COMMUNITY STORYTELLER & MAYOR OF STORYVILLE
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Photo Credit: Phil Eich

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PHIL EICH

STORYVILLE WHERE PEOPLE MAKE STORIES & STORIES MAKE PLACES

Phil Eich is the founder of Storyville, an agency dedicated to creating and promoting human-centered marketing for cities. While people make stories, and stories make places, Phil makes magic by capturing and conveying the human experience through the photos he takes and the stories he shares.

ALLIÉ: From one storyteller to another, I would love to have an off-the-cuff, unscripted conversation. If you could just start us off… Where is Storyville? How do I get there? Where is it? Because I want to move there, quite honestly.

PHIL: Well, Storyville lives in each one of our hearts. <laugh> Storyville lives on the internet. But where Storyville really lives is in every single community. The thing that doing the work that I do has really opened my eyes to is how amazing almost every single person you will meet actually is.

I work in large communities and small communities, and so many of our communities have issues with self-esteem. Like, there's nothing good here. I wish we were like this. I wish we were like that. Meanwhile, in every single one of these communities, you have people with the most incredible stories. We don't know them. We don't know them as

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Photo Credit: Phil Eich

“Meanwhile, in the process, what we’re missing is the transformative power of intentional interaction.“

PHIL: (continued) So, to me, Storyville is this metaphor that every town, every community, every city is Storyville. You walk into a breakfast place and the waitress bringing you your omelet has some kind of amazing story. You walk outside and the guy that bumps into you on the sidewalk has some part of his story that will just blow your mind. That is incredible to me.

ALLIÉ: It absolutely is. To your point, we don't know our people around us. I feel like we certainly are aware of particular hashtags and profiles, but actual people… first, last name, and their story, we don't know.

PHIL: One of the purposes of this storytelling work is to really take this idea of ‘community’ back to the most basic building block, which is two people in real life sitting across from each other saying, "I want to know you better." And for all the good that our communities do, economic development, community development, and how do we get more small businesses and all of that stuff, how do we grow an economy, all very important. Meanwhile, in the process, what we're missing is the transformative power of intentional interaction.

ALLIÉ: Absolutely. Have you always wanted to be a storyteller? When you were five years old, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a storyteller." Was that it?

PHIL: Not at all. This work was never a passion of mine. It didn't start off that way. A lot of people are like, "You must be so passionate about photography and writing and things like that." I am now, but I used to be a middle school teacher. I used to teach fifth and sixth grade. From the moment I stepped into the classroom, I knew that the classroom wasn't going to be my forever home.

I love kids. I love the act of teaching. I'm infatuated with this act of teaching someone something. But I had a lot of issues with the educational system. Kids would raise their hands, "Mr. Eich, why are we learning this?" I would say, "I don't know." So, I knew right away, the classroom wasn’t going to be my forever home.

Right after the recession of 2008, my twin brother moved in with me because he had lost his job. I was living in a house by myself at the time. I said, "Move in with me while you figure out what your next step is going to be." His next step was to start building acoustic guitars in my garage -- a very speci fic kind of guitar made out of steel. It's a steel body acoustic resonator guitar. Unbeknownst to us, he was one of three people in the world to build these guitars by hand. So his wait list for his guitars skyrocketed to three years. People would put down a deposit, and they'd have to wait three years. Not a real way to run a business, and I was looking for a way out of teaching. So I said, "Matt, let me work for you to help you start this business and catch up.” I left teaching, and we moved to Saginaw, Michigan. Things were going really well. Neither one of us knew anything about business. Neither one of us knew anything about marketing. I had a little bit of an experience with photography, so I got drafted along with building the guitars to run our social media.

Because we didn't know anything about marketing, we had no idea where to start. What we knew was we didn't want to look like all the other guitar builders in the handmade world. “You're paying us $25,000 for the world's most perfect

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www.IamAwareNow.com PHIL EICH PHOTOGRAHER, WRITER, COMMUNITY STORYTELLER & MAYOR OF STORYVILLE
The camera was this way to feel safe.
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Photo Credit: Phil Eich

PHIL: (continued) instrument. God himself has separated the clouds and given the world this instrument.” It's all BS, really. That wasn't us because here we were just fumbling our way through. So we took a very documentary-style approach to what we were doing. This is what we're doing today. This is the guitar we screwed up. This is the guitar we didn't screw up. We'd play games with people on social media, things like that. It worked really well and it was going really well. But because it was a startup business, I ended up really poor.

Things got to the point where I started having to buy my groceries with a credit card. The turning point came at a grocery store in Saginaw. I went to the store, bagged up my single bag of food, swiped my credit card at the selfcheckout lane, and it was declined because I had maxed out my credit card on food. I had to shamefully leave my groceries there and walk out in the parking lot. I said, "Oh, this is what being broke is like."

Then the next question was, “How do I get out of this? What is something I could do right now that people could pay me money for?” I didn't have time to go back to school. Getting a minimum wage job wouldn't have helped me out of the hole I was in. So, I thought about this idea of, if my brother needs me to take photos and run social media, other small businesses might need me to do the same too. Also at the time, I was dealing with debilitating social anxiety. It was to the point where I could not talk to anybody outside of my family. I knew things were getting bad when my girlfriend, now wife, had sent me a text when I was building guitars at work. She said that we were invited to a wedding. Immediately, I was terrified of going to this wedding. Going to a wedding meant that there was a wedding reception and a wedding reception meant talking to strangers. For the next two months, no exaggeration, I would clock in at work and I would sit at the workbench, and I would compulsively obsess about all the excuses I could use to get out of going to this wedding reception. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I started to realize this is not normal. This is going to, if I don't do something now, affect the rest of my life. I'm never going to meet somebody new, make a new friend, make a new connection or anything.

How am I going to fix this? Well, I had a background in music previously. The idea when you're practicing music is that you break a gigantic piece of music down to its littlest parts. You practice just this one measure with just the right hand until you have it perfected, and then you add the left hand, and then you add the next measure, and you can do something impossible. Standing in that parking lot, I was like, "Well, I have two really big problems right now. I can't talk to people and I don't have any money." The idea was this. I'm going to take my camera and I'm going to go into random, small businesses in Saginaw. I'm going to offer them 60 minutes of free photos. I needed photos for a portfolio in order to get clients. What that would do is it would not only get me photos for my portfolio, but for 60 minutes, it would give me practice talking to strangers. The camera was this way to feel safe. It was this way to be curious. There was a reason I was there; because I had a camera. On top of that, I found that I was most comfortable talking to people about work. If they wanted to talk to me about guitars, I could do that because that's about guitars. If I was talking to them about their small business, I was more comfortable. These 60-minute sessions gave me a way to dig myself out of being broke. At the same time, it allowed me to practice asking people questions. Why did you name your business this? What do you love about baking cakes?

So, I started my business first working for small businesses, just creating content on social media. It was not a passion at all. It was absolutely a necessity. It was the one skill I had that people could pay me money for. Even for the first two or three years, I would not call myself a photographer because I didn't see myself as a photographer. I'm making things that people pay me money for. A photographer is something completely else. It's for people that love photography and chase it as a craft and things like that. That's not me.

After I transitioned from working for small businesses to working for communities, that's when it became a passion. I saw what I was missing through my social anxiety and how these interactions with people — I call them little nudges — nudged me to being a completely different person, living a completely different life. Not necessarily because of something I intentionally did but because all of these stories and all of these conversations, I was nudged into what people call ‘community storytelling’.

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12 It’s literally science. www.IamAwareNow.com PHIL EICH PHOTOGRAHER, WRITER, COMMUNITY STORYTELLER & MAYOR OF STORYVILLE
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Photo Credit: Phil Eich

ALLIÉ: That is an incredible story. Wow. What a journey it's been.

PHIL: That was about seven years ago when that started.

ALLIÉ: How many stories have you told now?

PHIL: I think since I started working for communities four years ago, it's somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000. About 3,000 interviews is the number I use.

ALLIÉ: That's incredible. Now, I have to ask this question, one storyteller to another. For me, next month we'll have told over 1,000 stories. I feel like, because of that, I have lived 1,000 different lives and I have this depth of life experience. Do you feel the same?

PHIL: I love that you asked this question because when I go and speak to communities, one of the biggest pushbacks I get to storytelling is that it’s feel-goody and fluffy. But we need numbers, we need data, and we need hard evidence that this creates change in our world. What I tell them is that storytelling is not just warm and fuzzy make-believe. It's literally science.

Inside our brains, we have neurons, and neurons fire whenever you do or experience something. So, I pick up that cup, and neurons fire. But within those neurons, there's a very special kind of neuron called a mirror neuron. Those guys are special because when I observe you pick up that cup, they fire in my brain in the exact same place and the same way as if I'm picking up that cup. So, when somebody is telling a story or you have this moment of interaction, what happens is something called brain-to-brain coupling. My brain is firing in the same way that your brain is firing in the exact same place, creating a real physiological connection. So, when you say that you feel that you've lived 1,000 lives, it's because, to your brain, you have lived 1,000 lives. That's the reason why we say I got lost in a book. Because, to your brain, you are literally in that book. So, when we have these intentional conversations and tell these stories, our brain is functioning in a way that I did live in South Africa. I did grow up homeless in LA. I did experience racism. I did experience all of these things because they're firing as if we lived those parts of those people's lives ourselves. That is fascinating to me because it's more than just passion, and it's more than just fluff. It's a basic fundamental function of how we are designed as humans to interact with other humans. That's incredible to me.

ALLIÉ: It is, in fact, then to your point, this element of empathy.

PHIL: Yes. That's how empathy happens. It's because your brain is firing. You have sympathy where I am sad for you that you went through that. Empathy is, I can feel that. I used to be under the impression that to really empathize with somebody, you had to experience homelessness. You had to experience racism. And you do, to a certain extent. There are levels of empathy.

When I started learning about the science of it, what's amazing to me is that everyone can experience the power of storytelling and experience a depth of empathy because our brains can fire in that way. Not to the level of I live for a decade on the streets of Detroit homeless… But there's a little part of our brain that if you are open to sitting down and listening to somebody else, you can authentically empathize with them. That has been the biggest gift, I think, that storytelling has given me. I was so sequestered in a life of social anxiety that I didn't have any interaction. And because I didn't have any interaction, I didn't have any sort of empathy. I wasn't outwardly hateful, but there was an emotional disconnection from people I just couldn't overcome. The gift that this has given me is, most of the time, if somebody is telling me a story that is intense or sad or they've overcome something immense, I will sob through it. People don't get it. Like, "Phil, why are you crying?" It's because I'm so cracked open at this point where my brain is like, "Phil, this is getting pretty intense." You can feel all those emotions. That has been an incredible gift.

ALLIÉ: Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s a reason when you're watching a scary movie that you get scared. You physically jump. You're not really about to get stabbed.

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PHIL: Right. Everybody jumps at the same time. It's because your brain thinks that you're in the movie.

ALLIÉ: I've got goosebumps.

PHIL: See, that's the power of it. Why storytelling? It's not just this cool little passionate thing. It's how we communicate as humans. It's an experience that's available to everyone. Everyone can experience it. You don't have to call yourself a storyteller. You don't have to be an extrovert. You don't have to do all of these things. If you just approach every human interaction with, that is another human sitting across from me, selling me my groceries, whatever it is, and acknowledging that, you become a storyteller. “How's business going?” That's a story. “I love these clothes. Why'd you pick these clothes to fill your store?” There's a story there. This is an everyday opportunity for all of us to experience the power of storytelling. That's what I want people to understand. It’s not just in a magazine. It’s not just on YouTube, and it's not just on Netflix. You walk out the door of your house in the morning, and there's an in finite opportunity for you to experience the lives of other people by simply saying, "Tell me your story."

ALLIÉ: Absolutely. Then that degree of connection… There's a reason why so very often we'll say, "We've become so disconnected from one another." Because it's not just a physical disconnection. There is this emotional disconnection. We've become so siloed, and stories have the ability to break down those silos to bring us together. To your point, if you share a story, you will learn something new about someone. "Hey, I grew up in Grand Rapids." "Hey, I live in Grand Rapids. What part?" All of a sudden, you're connected. Instantly, you're not strangers anymore.

PHIL: That is tremendous to me. On one hand, it fills me with a lot of excitement because there's so much potential. All of us want to change the world in some way, but most of us won't change the world on the large scale. What we can do is through these interactions and through these stories and through building these connections and relationships is this… I can change my world because I perceive it differently. Then in turn, I can change somebody else's world because they perceive the world differently.

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Photo Credit: Phil Eich
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PHIL: (continued) For instance, I walk into a Walgreens and I'm buying Benadryl for one of my sick kids. I throw it on the counter, and there's an older lady across the counter. She scans it and she's like, "Do you have a rewards card?" or whatever they says… I say something like, "You sound like you're from the South." All of a sudden, what happens is this woman who was living a sad day, she's at work, and all of a sudden, somebody is interested in her. Her world changes in that moment. She could have been going through that day saying, "Nobody cares about me. I'm just selling people stuff. I hate this job." All of a sudden, somebody looks at her and says, "You sound like you're from the south." Now she feels seen, she feels heard, and she feels like she's important to someone. I don't know what happens to her when she walks out of that Walgreens, but in that moment, there's a chance that her world has changed.

ALLIÉ: Absolutely. How powerful to be seen and be heard. What is the value of that? The way I think about it is… it's that whole, “If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” We start asking ourselves. If I'm here but no one sees me, no one hears me, what's the point? Do I exist? Do I matter? Telling or hearing a story can change that. It can have an impact on that.

PHIL: Oprah Winfrey, over the course of her news and talk show career, interviewed 37,000 people. Somebody asked her, what do they have in common? She said, "The one thing they have in common is that every single person you will ever meet has the same desire: to be seen, to be heard, and to feel important." That's a basic, fundamental human need. That's why we shop where we shop. That's why we buy from brands we do. That's why we move where we move. That's why we have relationships with the people that we do. It's because somehow they check off those boxes. It sounds super silly, but Apple, for instance… Why does every creative person, designer, photographer, have a MacBook Pro? It's because, in their marketing, Apple has said, "Creatives, we see you, we see what you need, and we're going to give you what you need." Every creative is like, "Oh, it's so perfect." Now, on the base level, is it that much different than a Windows operating computer? No, it's not. But what Apple has done, it's intentionally said to creative people, "We see you and we're going to give you something that you want." That connects with us in some kind of way.

What's also fascinating about storytelling is that it operates on so many different levels. Sometimes the obstacle is, "But I don't have a good story. I'm not a good storyteller." It doesn't matter because it can be as simple as, "You will never guess what happened to me at work today." Now you're a storyteller. It's an activity that we can all experience every single day on different levels. That's fascinating to me.

ALLIÉ: I totally agree. It's just allowing yourself to be present, to be in a moment with someone. Like, let's share a moment. Another thing I'm curious about… I used to look at people and see people, "Oh, that's someone I know.” Or, "That's a stranger." Being able to identify people that way. After the things that I have done, after the things that you have done, do you now see people the same way? I see people differently. I see everyone as a story. This isn't just a person. This is a story. I see the depth of them, not the ‘what’ of them. Does that make any sense?

PHIL: It makes a lot of sense. I like your word ‘depth’. I use the word ‘complexity’. People aren't simple. We love to simplify people beyond their humanity. You're a Republican. You're a Democrat. What that does to our brain, it says, "I now know everything I need to know about you as a human because I see that you're a Republican or I see that you're a Democrat." But that's not how people work.

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“Now she feels seen, she feels heard, and she feels like she’s important to someone.”
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PHIL: (continued) Here we are talking about storytelling and how people are amazing, and I will tell you I am still very much a human. There are some people I meet and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, just stop talking. I'm not interested in this. I'm not curious about this.” I know I need to be better, but... That is also evidence that people are complex. Here I am interviewing thousands of people and it's still a process for me. You'd think I'd have it nailed down to be able to walk into a room and talk to every single person. That social anxiety is still incredibly present with me. A couple of weeks ago, my brother had an open house before a concert at his guitar shop. I went just to hang out. I walked into that room going, "I forgot what terror feels like in these situations." I went and grabbed some barbecue, and I sat down at his desk. I didn't talk to a person. That experience, along with all of these storytelling experiences, really showed me the depth of people, and how the only way that you can touch the true depth of a person is by asking them questions.

If you're not willing to take the time to interact with them or ask them questions or give them a space to get to know them, you have no right to judge whoever they are. That can be a hard pill to swallow because we love saying, "You are terrible. I'm going to stay away from you." It's a lifelong pursuit and a lifelong challenge, and something to fall back on, is just understanding how complicated people are, how beautiful we can be, how terrible we can be, how fallible we are, and how inspiring. We are infinite. I think it's Walt Whitman that said we are infinite. That is absolutely true. ∎

16 www.IamAwareNow.com AwareNow Podcast STORYVILLE
TO LISTEN Follow Phil on Instagram (@storyvillephil) and visit Storyville (https://storyville.substack.com).
TAP/SCAN
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www.IamAwareNow.com
As hard as I’ve tried, I can no longer hide.
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HIDE & SEEK

COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE

as hard as i’ve tried i can no longer hide from the truth no amount of gin and vermouth can conceal what i feel time to deal with what’s real time to heal

as hard as i’ve tried i can no longer hide

it’s eating me up inside from within i sin against me daily

truths denied are justified as pride maintains despite these refrains as hard as i’ve tried i can no longer hide

sooner or later you find the traitor you sought to find within your own mind

who knew it was you who did you wrong all along

truth i spied as now i confide as hard as i’ve tried i can no longer hide

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A page from ‘My Refrain’ by Allié McGuire, this piece speaks to the games we play with ourselves when wrestling with addiction.
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www.IamAwareNow.com OLIVER NIÑO SACRED GEOMETRY & ENERGY ACTIVATION EXPERT
is energy.
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Photo Credit: Evie Joy Photography

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH OLIVER NIÑO

THE SPIRITUAL ACTIVATOR

UNLOCKING SACRED GEOMETRY & SPIRITUAL GIFTS

Oliver Niño, also known as ‘The Spiritual Activator’, is a Sacred Geometry and Energy Activation expert, thought leader, and celebrity spiritual advisor to stars such as Demi Moore and Gwyneth Paltrow. He has trained and certified healers from over 60+ countries and has almost 2 million students online. As The Spiritual Activator, Oliver focuses on teaching people how to identify, activate, and master their spiritual gifts.

ALLIÉ: Let’s start with speaking about something sacred. Sacred geometry is also referred to as the ‘Language of God’, for those unfamiliar, what is sacred geometry? And please share a few examples.

OLIVER: With sacred geometry, at first, I was fascinated by it. When I grew up, this whole energy thing wasn't an interest. I never knew I was going to be a healer. I never knew I was going to do everything I'm doing now.

When I had my spiritual awakening, one of the things that came up in the forefront was looking at the signs everywhere. Looking at patterns and creation. If you look at sacred geometry, you look around you, it's everywhere. You can see it with the mysteries of the world. The pyramids of Egypt and pyramids all over the world. You can see it

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www.IamAwareNow.com OLIVER NIÑO SACRED GEOMETRY & ENERGY ACTIVATION EXPERT
not just by coincidence that we have something this divine.
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Photo Credit: Hannah Rose Gray Photography

“I realized sacred geometry is the language of creation.”

OLIVER: (continued) If you Google sacred geometry in nature or around us, you're going to see everything has this divine ratios and proportions do it. Then I realized sacred geometry is also within us. Whether it's the spirals of our DNA or if you zoom in more in the DNA, they're two pyramids back to back that looks like it. Then our cells are spherical in nature.

I realized sacred geometry is the language of creation. It's everywhere. It's inside of us. It's around us. So there's something to it. It's not just by coincidence that we have something this divine. The more I did research, I saw that there were some scientific studies showing pyramids, for example, have very healing and also protective nature.

For example, they did a study in a burn ward in Canada. They put some patients that had burns under a pyramid and some outside of the pyramid. The ones that were inside the pyramid healed faster. They say that when they have fruit under the pyramids of Egypt, they stayed fresher longer. So people started putting produce under pyramids at home. And true enough, they lasted longer. They even did an experiment with brine shrimp. They put brine shrimp under a pyramid and one outside of the pyramid. The ones underneath the pyramid, I think they lasted three weeks or longer than the ones that were not under the pyramid.

For me, just seeing that was fascinating. Wow, there's something that I can't explain, but I also can't deny that it's affecting our day-to-day lives. That's sacred geometry.

ALLIÉ: Thank you for bringing us up to speed, Oliver. Now that we know what sacred geometry is, how do we use it and gain from it?

OLIVER: It still surprises me. I had one client that came in several years ago, attend one of my workshops. She came to me because she had this debilitating social anxiety. She couldn't go and do a grocery store run for 15 years. She was on medication. She had lots of therapists — nothing wrong with those. I feel like everything has its place and everything serves its purpose, but for some reason, those methods just weren't working for her the way she wanted. She came to me because she would attempt to do a grocery store run, she would get halfway down an aisle, and she would call her friend to take her home. She couldn't do it. She would go from 0 to 60 real quick as far as feeling okay to feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and highly anxious. Her friends and family members would have to finish the grocery shopping for her because she couldn't do it herself.

She went to one of my workshops, and I taught her how to use sacred geometry. There are different types. You can imagine yourself in a bubble. You can imagine yourself in a pyramid. That's the first step. We also set a lot of intentions because intentions are so powerful. Prayer, for example, is a form of intention. If you look at history, throughout time there are so many accounts of people who were experiencing the worst illnesses, and somebody who cared, prayed and spontaneously, they were better. It happened to me as well, growing up with my mom.

Prayer is a form of intention. We set an intention with God, higher power, universe, or whatever people believe in because people believe in different things. Ask to be protected from any negative energy that may drain us of vitality or happiness. That's the intentions.

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Regardless

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OLIVER NIÑO SACRED GEOMETRY & ENERGY ACTIVATION EXPERT
of whether you remember it or not, everything leaves an energetic imprint.
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Photo Credit: Evie Joy Photography

OLIVER: (continued) Then people typically try out different geometry. Imagining themselves inside a sphere or a pyramid or even a spiral. The last layer to that is once they figure out which one works for them, we try different colors like white, purple or gold coming down from the sky. Filling those containers up. Sometimes people have a sphere, and within the sphere, they feel like the light and the sacred geometry holds the structure of protection for them.

For this girl, we came up with hers and she tried it out. I remember not hearing from her for about a month. Then afterwards, we heard from her and she said, "Oliver, thank you. I went to the grocery store for the first time in 15 years and I felt nothing." She did her first start-to-end shopping trip. She didn't feel a thing. For her, she used platinum for the color. Then there were two cylinders that had blades on each side spinning really fast. So anything that's coming to her that didn't belong just got chopped out. Hers was a bit more visual, a bit more unique. Sometimes people will say, "I don't really like the circle or the pyramid. Can I try this and this?" I'm

like, "Go for it." And

it works.

Last week, we had a bunch of folks over here. Some of them have been with us for a while. One girl shared with me that she's been suicidal since she was a teenager. The only thing that worked for her was protecting her energy. That was the only thing.

For me, after hearing this, not only have I seen studies around it. Now, I'm seeing people who I've met who have been in places that were debilitating. They tried it out, and it's helped them out in their lives. So for me, I've seen sacred geometry, as far as protection, bring people's sanity back to where they can operate and not feel like they're always drowning or overwhelmed with negativity. They can actually just ‘be’ for once and say, "I'm okay."

Sometimes that's the next step. It's not to be extremely positive and amazing and happy. It's just to be and say, "I'm not drowning. I'm not overwhelmed. I'm not swirling in frustration… I'm actually okay today." For me, that's step one that I try to get people to.

ALLIÉ: ‘Spiritual Activator’ is the title of the book you just released. Here you provide five steps for clearing, unblocking, and protecting your energy. While most people are familiar with physical detox programs, an energetic detox program may be foreign to them. Why is this kind of detox so important?

OLIVER: I have seen that everything is energy. Two things… One. Everything is energy. Two. Sometimes the things that are blocking us, we didn't even create, but they’re affecting us.

So, everything is energy. They've been able to measure this. There are devices out there that can measure thought waves, thought patterns, certain emotions. If your organs are operating optimally or not, they can measure the energy of a healthy organ versus a not healthy organ.

Everything is measured by frequency. A positive thought, like "I'm good enough," has an energetic output. Also, "I'm not good enough," or "I'm not a worthy," has an energetic output. If you're feeling happy, it has an energetic output. If you're feeling sad or anxious, it has an energetic output.

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“If you’re feeling happy, it has an energetic output. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, it has an energetic output.”
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26 www.IamAwareNow.com Everything is measured by frequency. OLIVER NIÑO SACRED GEOMETRY & ENERGY ACTIVATION EXPERT
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Photo Credit: Hannah Rose Gray Photography

OLIVER: (continued) Your actions… Let's say you're like, "Let me go ahead and put boundaries out there and speak my truth." That courage has an energetic output. Maybe you’re like, "Let me hide and just not say anything." That has an energetic output as well.

What I've realized is between your thoughts, your emotions, and what you do or what you don't do, the trifecta of that creates your vibration. A vibration is like a channel in life. Let's say you're watching the horror channel. It's designed to show you things that produce fear, from the visuals, to the script, to the music. So, if you are expecting something happy or fun from a horror channel, you're on the wrong channel. You might get a little bit of it, but you're setting yourself up for failure. What it's designed to do is produce things that are the opposite of what you want.

A lot of times people get caught in that. They get in the rat race of being in the wrong channel. One step forward, four steps back, and they think that's just how life is. They’re not realizing there's a way to change the channel to where you're in a comedy or a feel-good channel where everything you experience lifts you up. There are some moments that drag you down, but the sentiment in general is lifting you up.

Then when things happen to you, it also leaves an energetic imprint. For example, if you walk into a mall and people are negative, your environment may affect you negatively. That's number one. Or it can be a traumatic event. It can be something that happened when you were seven years old. It can be as simple as you were so excited to tell mom and dad about something, and for some reason, they weren't looking at you. Maybe they were in the middle of opening mail and you're like, "Oh, wow, they don't love me." Or, "I'm invisible… I'm not important." That event that might not even be something you're conscious of right now can produce an energetic output that's negative. Or it can be gestational. You're in the womb and your mom goes through something traumatic. Now it's imprinted. Or it can be generational. Like where your grandparents had an issue with, let's say, abundance, and then your father has it, and now you have it as well. It's passed on this generation.

Here's why I love energy. If it was generational or gestational, or if it happened when you were three or four and you're not conscious of it and can't remember it… If your thought processes is, "I have to remember it in order to shift it," then you won't be able to shift it because you can't remember it. This is the cool thing about it. Regardless of whether you remember it or not, everything leaves an energetic imprint. And it doesn't matter if it happened before you or if you remember it. If the energy's stuck in your heart, you're able to remove it. That energy in your heart can be related to 30 traumatic events, 40 different limiting beliefs, 50 debilitating emotional patterns. You don't need to understand it, revisit it, or know what it is in order to benefit from healing it. You just simply have to release it so it's no longer holding you back.

That's why I love detoxes. It's very similar to a green juice detox. Somebody drinks green juice. They might feel like crap for 7 to 14 days because as you're drinking that, the toxins get flushed into your bloodstream. Even though it's on its way out, your body is reacting to the toxin. So, in the meantime, you might have headaches, you might have a stomachache, you might have no energy, but that's in a short period of time. In the long run, it's good for you. But in

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“You don’t need to understand it, revisit it, or know what it is in order to benefit from healing it.”
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OLIVER: (continued) the meantime, you're having these effects where you're purging it out. It's necessary in order to experience a healthier life, I believe. It's the same thing with energy. Somebody is attracting toxic partners all the time, or they don't have abundance. They have the money, but then the car breaks down and they feel like they're stuck. A lot of times, it's an energetic block, and until it's released, it's like driving with the emergency brake on. You're literally going nowhere fast. That's why I think it's important because it affects all areas of our life — our purpose, our emotional wellbeing, our health, our abundance, our love. Everything in our lives that matters to us, I think energy affects it greatly.

ALLIÉ: “Oliver is a gifted healer, who’s energy healing practices would bene fit those looking to experience more joy, inner peace, and wellness in their lives.“ This is what Tony Robbins had to say about your work. What do you have to say, Oliver, when it comes to your why? Why did you become a healer?

OLIVER: It wasn't for me. Honestly, when I was starting out I was already in a lot of successful businesses. Healing was never on the map for me at all. Then I remember experiencing a lot of pain as I was trying to grow the business. It made me want to hide. The pain was like ex-business partners stealing the business and employees running away with stuff. Then putting the blame on me. I took it, and I was like, "Wow, this is crazy." I remember, for the first time in a long time, it put my doubt in humanity, like, “Wow, people can do this.”

When I love, when I trust, it's all on a handshake. I see the best in people. So for me, it was a big heartbreak and a long time realizing, “Wow, this can actually happen even when you care about people.” That caused me to go into hiding. When I was there, I remember I started attracting people in my life that were also in pain -- friends, partners, even my own family members. I started seeing them in a lot of pain. I realized, “They’re in pain. I'm in pain, but their pain is worse than my pain. I can stay in pain for a long time. But seeing like my dad who at that time was depressed and suicidal, that for me was such a motivating factor for me to be like, "There’s something going on here, and I want to know how to help."

Some of my friends were dealing with the same thing. They were suicidal. My ex-wife was struggling as well. That's what ultimately caused me to go figure it out. I'm like, "They're in pain… I think we live in a world where there's endless possibility. There's a way for me to get them out of pain, and I'm not going to stop until I do." For me, that was the driving force.

That's what drove me to do tens and thousands of healing sessions and learning all these different things. I wanted to be able to get people out of pain. I wanted to be there. I felt like, at that point, it clicked. I had been through a lot of darkness in my life. I'd been bullied to where in high school I would eat in the stalls so that they couldn't see me. If they couldn't see me, they couldn't hurt me.

I've been through enough darkness and I realized I may be uniquely quali fied to help people because I know what it feels like to be in the depths of darkness. Therefore, I'm not going to give up when it gets hard. I have empathy. I'm going to stay there. I can stand with them in the fire, understand, and get them out of there. If I can stand there longer than most, then I probably have a better chance of helping them out.

So, my big ‘why’ is that, and it has been to this today. When I see people come to our workshops and they're like, "Hey, Oliver, I already wrote a suicide note. This is my last shot." The reason why I do it is for them… for people who are in the darkness. I've been there, and I know there's a way out. I know it doesn't have to be that way. I know it gets better. I know that a lot of times people are there because they were never taught the tools. They never had the resources to elevate their energy to feel better. They think that frustration and sadness and anxiety and guilt and shame is all there is to life. They don't know that there's another way and that it can be better. No one ever taught them about energetic blocks. They always thought, "Shoot, I must be broken because I feel like crap. I don't even know why I feel crap." Not realizing they might be empathic, they might be absorbing somebody else's energy, but because they don't have any context, they feel like they're fundamentally flawed and broken.

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“I’m not a typical healer.”

OLIVER: (continued) We were never born with somebody giving us a book saying, "Here's how energy works. Here may be your spiritual gifts. You may be sensitive in the world. Here's how to use them." We don't get any of that. For me, I see it as systemic thing where we are where we are because we were never given all the tools that we can use in life. So if I have been so blessed to come across tools that work for people that I've met, then it's my duty and responsibility to bring that to as many people as I can.

ALLIÉ: You’ve healed so many and taught so many how to heal others. I can’t imagine how many incredible stories there are to share. The story I’m most interested in is about the healing of the healer. Can you share a personal story about your own healing?

OLIVER: I was a closet healer for the longest time. I didn't want to get out. Again, I got my first success in business. I remember it was doing great. My love language is love and connection to people. I love when people were raving about it, they were happy, and everything was going great. Next thing you know, I remember it was a series of things that slammed me down. One of my right-hand people that I really trusted ran away with half the business and bad mouthed me and made up a story. Next thing you know, people hated me. So I went through, "Life’s not fair. Why would you do that? I can't believe you did that." I retreated to my cave, and I was like, "You know what? People are bad. I'm just going to hide."

It reminded me so much of my bullying in high school. I retreated back and then I gained courage to get out. I was like, "I'll take responsibility. This happened because I was probably in a vibration where I have unhealed stuff." I just showed up, and true enough, a few years later, the same thing happened again. The business partner took a lot of money and ran. I was left holding the bag being like, "Uh-oh, my face is on this. I didn't even do anything and people hate me.” For me, that was a wake up call. The deeper the pain I felt, the deeper I ran into healing. I was like, "You know what? I can't control how people treat me. I am not the kind of person to bring darkness to the world. I'm just going to bring more light.” I remember when I was gung-ho doing healings in private, tens and thousands, family members, friends, referrals, I wasn't charging anything for it. At this point, I was just like, "I'm feeling crappy. I gotta be able to turn this into something good." I did a bunch of healings. I remember when I met my wife, she was like, "Why don't you go out there and tell the world you're doing this?" I'm like, "I'm not worthy. I've made so many mistakes." And I'm not a typical healer. I'm not the kind of person that's wearing all white on top of the mountain, like a Mother Teresa, or a monk meditating for 20 hours a day and having zero thoughts. I'm the opposite of a healer.

Even though I'd done so much, I didn't think I was worthy because of my past. I didn't think I was ready. I remember we went to Sedona and we met a very gifted, talented intuitive reader. I came in there, and I was very skeptical. I didn't tell her anything. At this point, I loved people, but I also was very guarded. She looked into my eyes and she was like, "Why are you hiding?" She's like, "You're a healer. Why are you hiding?" I don't know how she knew, but I grew up extremely Catholic. She goes, "If you're looking for penance, here's what God has to say about it." She goes, "Be seen, shine your light. If you want to make it right because you feel guilty for people that you've hurt, shine your light." She goes, "You have a gift. You can bring people out of darkness. Imagine even just one soul that could have been better, their lives could have been changed, they spiral down all because you chose to hide and not shine your gift. So if you're really feeling bad and you want to make a difference, then be seen because you are the gift. Your light is the gift and you can help a lot of people."

That, for me, was the big seed that was planted. I hid for a few more years still. My wife now, Mandy, was pregnant and we had a kid. I realized a lot of the people that come to us are in their 60s, 70s, 80s. Their biggest regret is their kids, or their biggest trauma is their parents. I'm like, "Wow. Who am I going to be as a dad, as a healer if I'm bringing a new life and I'm still hiding? I'm still in this trauma?" For me, that was the biggest motivation. I would've never done it for myself. But since I had a brand new kid coming and I knew what it could do, it was my motivation to finally be like,

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www.IamAwareNow.com OLIVER
SACRED
It may be dark out there, but the light within me is a solution to the darkness around me.
NIÑO
GEOMETRY & ENERGY ACTIVATION EXPERT
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Photo Credit: Evie Joy Photography

OLIVER: (continued) "You know what? Screw it. I'm burning the bridges. I'm stepping away from business. I'm announcing myself as spiritual activator. I'm going to do the unthinkable. I'm putting myself out there, and if people judge me, if people hate me for it, if people make fun of me, so be it. At least I'm going to be the best version I can be before my son is born, and I know I did right by him."

For me, that was the ultimate thing that ushered me. In order to do that, I had to heal some deep wounds of being seen, of releasing and forgiving, and realizing not everything out there is dark. I realized for the first time that it may be dark out there, but the light within me is a solution to the darkness around me. I was never here to suffer and to just be okay with darkness. I was here to bring my light and shine it bright and do that and wake people up.

For me, that was, I feel like, one of the greatest healing moments. I had to step outside of my human story and step into my divine one and realize that I'm more than just my trauma, that I am here to make a difference, and that I could be an example to my son of what's possible or what's not possible in life. I owed him that because I didn't want him to experience what I did growing up.

ALLIÉ: For those who have heard a calling of their own but have no idea how to answer it, what advice do you have?

OLIVER: I feel like if you hear the calling, realize that your answer can simply be you saying ‘yes’ intentionally. It doesn't have to be a big thing. It doesn't have to be that you're in front of a stadium with millions of people and you're doing great things. The calling can just be you being present in that moment.

A lot of times people think their calling has to be something huge. In society, the standards or what we compare ourselves to are huge. But it doesn't have to be like that. It can be something as simple as acts of kindness. I'll give you an example. One of our old nannies that help raised my now almost four-year-old, when he was three months, she was helping us out while we were doing our purpose work. She was there and she was full of love. The more I got to know her, I realized she's been through a lot of traumatic stuff in life. One of which is that her mom left her and her brother when they were seven because she was addicted to alcohol. She left them there without any food for weeks on end. They had to fend for themselves. That caused her to have the same moment that I did -- a heartbreak of humanity. It could happen with people that you love not just people general. She went on that trajectory for a while and then something changed. Right now, she's loving, she's dedicated her life of service to others. I thought to myself, "What changed? How do you go from not having hope to being the biggest sharer of love in the world and to bring your light?" It was the moment for her when she was a kid. She was in the mall, and she was watching this carousel and the kids were going around. She envied it, she wanted it, she didn't have the money, and she'd been watching wishing that she could be there. She felt bad that she wasn’t. One day, this stranger comes up, not even looking her in the eye, and put some coins in for her and walked away. That changed her entire life. In her mind, she was like, "Wow, if a stranger that doesn't even know me can care about about me like that, then the world must be a good place. I just didn't know it." Ever since then, she made a decision to be that for other people. If you think about that, the person that put those coins in for her didn't probably know he was changing her entire life forever. It was a calling he probably had in his heart to do.

So the calling can be big; it can be small. It doesn't matter. But it's a calling that we hear. It might even be as simple as to love yourself, to take care of yourself more, to speak your truth more, or a calling to be seen or to just to be more present. Whatever it is, it doesn't have to be something that somebody even knows about. It's just a calling that you have in your heart.

The answer can be whatever it is that you're ready to give at that moment. There's no right or wrong answer. It's just the answer that you feel ready to give. If you look at life like that, I was getting better 1% every single day. It might not seem like much, but compounded over a year, it's like 3000-4000% better than you were when you started. A lot of it is small, incremental growth that we say yes to and we get used to -- not judging ourselves for it. It makes a mountain of a difference in our lives.

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Exclusive Interview with Oliver Niño https://awarenow.us/podcast/the-spiritual-activator

ALLIÉ: It's so true that it doesn't have to be this big calling. It doesn't have to be a bright light in the sky or this huge momentous thing, but to your point, it’s the incremental things in our lives.

OLIVER: Absolutely.

ALLIÉ: Thank you so much for taking this time and sharing of yourself and your energy and your story. Thank you for helping all of us become a bit more aware now. Thank you.

OLIVER: Thank you so much for having me here. Honestly, it's been so exciting. I know this reaches people that I normally never get to reach. My goal is to reach people that don't know about energy. It's new to them and they want to learn about it or it's something that they've never heard of. They're just looking for something better… I know life can be better. For me, going through a lot of darkness, the things that give meaning is making sure that people don't have to go through what I went through. If I can just do that, then it means something. It's just not for nothing. So, for me, it's important to do this. Not just because it's something that gives my life meaning, but it also is setting a good example to my kids of living a purpose-driven life. ∎

Learn more about Oliver and follow him on Instagram: @spiritualactivator

AwareNow Podcast THE SPIRITUAL ACTIVATOR
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“For me, going through a lot of darkness, the things that give meaning is making sure that people don’t have to go through what I went through.”
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34 Don’t let anyone box you in. Keep searching for your light. www.IamAwareNow.com EMILIE GOLDBLUM OLYMPIAN, INTUITIVE STRETCH BODY MOVEMENT COACH, MOTHER & AWARENESS TIES OFFIICAL AMBASSADOR Photo Credit: @plaximus AWARENOW / THE PAUSE EDITION

IN SEARCH OF LIGHT

Don’t let anyone box you in, keep searching for your light. We all have a purpose and that purpose de finitely changes so when someone says you’ve changed I would take that as a great compliment. That yes I have evolved and learned a few things so suddenly setting boundaries to protect my family and my peace isn’t so frightening! ∎

Direction & EditIng: @machetebangbang

Cinematography & Camera Operation: @plaximus

Gaffing: @luscroggs

Hair: @ryannyc

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Along the way having given myself permission to really feel the downs (physically) always helped lift me back up. I still advocate seeking professional help when serious trauma occurs but movement for me has helped.
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong

THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MURAL FEATURING SHEPARD FAIREY & JON FURLONG

Every powerful piece of art has moments in its making that are equally moving. Capturing those moments is an art in and of itself. I could go on for days about how much this project, the people involved and the city of Louisville mean to me, but what’s captured and captioned here says it all. As a picture says a thousand words, I’ll let these epic images by photographer Jon Furlong of Shepard Fairey’s work speak for themselves. In black in white, see the magic behind the mural of Muhammad Ali at the Chestnut St. YMCA and around the city of Louisville through the lens of Jon Furlong.

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‘THE WRITING ON THE WALL’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY EDDIE DONALDSON
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong
MAYOR CRAIG GREENBERG LOUISVILLE MAYOR
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong
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Photographer Jon Furlong
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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong

EDDIE DONALDSON

GuerillaOne x The Seventh Letter

www.awarenessties.us/eddie-donaldson

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

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Courtesy ObeyGiant.com / Photographer Jon Furlong
“There’s really a heartbeat here in Louisville in the art scene of people that really care…”
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EDDIE DONALDSON GUERILLAONE
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When we hurt together, we need to heal together.
Photo Credit: Ali Center
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TRAUMA SURVIVOR & ARTIST

HEAL TOGETHER GOING THROUGH & GETTING THROUGH TRAUMA TOGETHER

These photos were taken at the interfaith vigil held for the victims of the April 2023 Louisville bank shooting where a gunman killed five of his co-workers at Old National Bank downtown and injured eight others. Here people of different faiths, different colors and different abilities gathered for the same reason. To remember those lost and remind one another that they aren’t alone.

Take this moment to reflect on the impact we have on each other’s lives.

Impossible is not a fact. ∎

When we hurt together, we need to heal together. Coming to together in pause, love and embrace allows the sun to show up to radiate and validate this.
‘FELLOW TRAVELERS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY LAURA SHARPE
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If you can let go of the regrets… you’re going to fly.
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH WEED

IF ONLY A GIFT TO LIFT HUMANITY

Author, speaker and self-worth ambassador, Deborah Weed is a creative whirlwind whose passion and presence inspires others to live with joy, energy and authenticity. Founder of the Self-Worth Initiative, Deborah converts messes into messages. In her most recent book, ‘If Only’, a moving story of trust and love is articulated with an incredible degree of artistry that renews hope for humanity.

ALLIÉ: We’re all familiar with the phrase, “What goes up must come down.” Your life, Deborah, illustrates the inverse. No matter what goes down, you come up. Converting profound crises into positive content, you write stories, songs and even a musical to elevate others. Let’s explore your story beginning with your book ‘The Luckiest Penny’. What’s the story behind this story?

DEBORAH: Well, that's where it all begins. Allié, did you know that if you had a 1943 pure copper penny in your pocket right now, it could be worth a million dollars? Did you know that most people wouldn't even go and pick up a penny because they feel like it's worthless? Take a second and imagine what the world would be like right now if children had self-worth and they believed in themselves. With all the gun violence and everything that's going on,

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“I was in bed. What better thing could I do than to come up with a story and a musical?”

DEBORAH: (continued) When I was a little girl, I used to skip. I was so open to everything. I believed in music. I listened to musicals all the time, and I was too sweet. People said, "You're too sensitive, you're too sweet. You're too this, you're too that." When I got to college, I majored in art, and believe it or not, I got a D. Then I went into marketing and it was like, what? Business? Sweet little me? But there was a sense of, "I'll show you." I'll show you that I'm tough. I'll show you that I've got something special to offer this world. I'm going to get to the top, and then you'll see how magnificent I am.

I ended up working on a $26 million pavilion with Disney and Universal Consultants for Kia Motors in Daejeon, Korea, and I was the director of development for Citibank 19 branches. Me, the nice little girl. However, I never smiled, ever. I played the part. I wore the outfits. I had the attitude. There was nothing about me in me. It was all pretense to cover up that sweet little innocent naive girl who my father once told me was a messenger.

In that corporate situation, I strived and I strived and I strived. Then all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, I had a mystery illness. I went from doctor to doctor to doctor. When I went to the first doctor, they said, "Well, you might have MS." Then I went to the second doctor and they said, "You might have Lou Gehrig's. Because at that time, I was stuck in bed and I was so weak. I'd tell my husband all the time, "I think I'm dying. Can we go to the hospital and wait in the parking lot, and if I die here, maybe they can resuscitate me?" It was that bad. It kept on going on and on and on. But I've got to tell you what the worst part of this whole situation was because I'm feeling as though there might be somebody who's listening right now who's going through the same thing. Because I went from doctor to doctor to doctor, and every single doctor came up with something different of what I had, even saying that it was all in my head. My family — my husband is a lawyer — and even he was like, "Well, something's wrong. She must not be telling the truth." It's like the kid that's saying, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling." That's how I felt. Even my children started to doubt me and didn't believe in what I was saying. There was a profound loneliness in the midst of this physical ailment that was misdiagnosed for three years. I was in crisis.

While I was in bed, I heard about a penny, the penny that I mentioned to you before. A 1943 pure copper penny that could be worth, at that time, $250,000. All of a sudden, it was like if a penny, something that everybody just walks over and thinks is worth nothing, could be worth that much, then how much am I worth? Even if I'm on the sidelines, even if I'm falling apart, even if nobody believes in me… That penny, it became my hero. I had an extensive entertainment background, I had been doing Murder Mystery Weekends and productions and musicals, my mother had started an entertainment agency. I kind of grew up with it. It was like my natural thing to do. I was in bed. What better thing could I do than to come up with a story and a musical?

Here's what I envisioned. I envisioned two 1943 copper pennies. The first one was Alistair. He was British, and he knew how much he was worth. They were at an auction and they were going to find out how much they were worth and why. Alistair was like, "I'm pristine, I've never been touched, I'm worth more than anything and anybody." Then there's Henry. Henry has been on the street. He has been a lucky penny. He has been in the bank. He's had so many adventures. The auction's coming up, and they're going to find out how much they're worth and why. Alistair's been really putting Henry down. But Henry's saying why he feels valuable. Then when they go up for auction, a man comes and he buys Alistair. But when he buys Alistair, he puts him in a silver box where he needs to stay for the rest of his life. Henry is bought by a grandfather. The grandfather takes him home to his little grandson. His grandson looks at the penny, and he is like, "Oh my gosh, that must be worth a million dollars. Where did you get that?" The grandpa's like, "Tommy, why did you say that?" He goes, "Because that's the year that you were born, 1943."

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DEBORAH: (continued) In addition to this story, I had to make it a musical. I mean, that's just what I had to do. But to be honest with you, I didn't know how to compose. All of a sudden, music was being downloaded to me: the melodies, the words. One of them kept me going. I'm going to do my best to sing it for you. Please be alerted. I am not a professional singer. When we did the musical later on, which I'll get to, we had professional people. But I had so much fun singing this for myself in the beginning, thinking that I'd never have a life again. Here's how it goes…

Pee-ew, pee-ew. What am I going to do?

Pee-ew, pee-ew. What am I going to do?

I'm stuck in a smelly garbage can. It's stinky inside here. I'll be brave and unafraid. I'll triumph over fear.

I forgot the rest. Anyways, then there's the part that goes…

I'll do the can-can, I can do anything, can, can.

I'll do the can-can with a better plan, plan.

Anyways, I came up with this whole musical, and it motivated me. It kept me going. I didn't have my family at that particular time. I didn't have my health at that particular time, but I had creativity. I had something inside me that was pulling me into life. Then they found out what was wrong. That was a miracle. What had happened is I had a tumor the size of a grapefruit, but it was hidden behind my uterus. When they did the ultrasound — during this time, the ultrasound was just on your stomach, it wasn't internal — they missed it. I had been hemorrhaging. My iron was a three. My doctor, when he found it, said, "You should have been dead three years ago. I don't even know how you're here." For anybody that knows, your iron is supposed to be a 15.

Once they found it, then I had a hysterectomy. Guess what? I came back to life prepared with this wonderful musical and this wonderful story. I was like, how best to teach a young child what self-worth means? Because self-worth is so complex if you're trying to explain it to a kid, but through the eyes of a penny. I ended up starting this self-worth initiative, and we did this musical. We did it in Miami. We did it in New York. We did it for autistic kids, and we touched thousands of families and their kids.

But here's the best part of this story. When I would ask the kids, "Who's more valuable and why? Was it Alistair? Was it Henry?" The kids would have their open opinions and there was no rights and no wrongs. Some of the kids would say, "It's Alistair. Look at how much money he has. If I had that kind of money, I'd be set." Well, they didn't say set. That's an adult word, but that was their concept. Then a little girl would raise her hand and she'd say, "No, no, no, Henry's more valuable. Look, he has love." When I was listening to these kids express what they were expressing, I became more and more alive. It carried me for a long time until we go into the next incarnation.

ALLIÉ: The next incarnation. You've had multiple incarnations. Let's talk about it in the form of another story. I would like to hear the story behind the book, Paisley's Last Quill. For those unfamiliar, it teaches young girls to not give up their power, to not give it away, and to believe in themselves. Please do share your story here, Deborah.

DEBORAH: Thank you, Allié. Well, here we go again. I am doing fabulous. I'm feeling wonderful. My husband and I go on a trip and we travel. While I had the tumor, because I didn't know what was wrong, I went to a chiropractor and the chiropractor did one of these. At my neck, I have a dissection at C2, which means that your blood vessel kind of bubbles. If I turn the wrong way, I could die. That's what my doctors told me. They said, "You have a time bomb that we cannot correct. You could die if you don't get it fixed, and you could die if you do get it fixed because it's near C2." I've lived with that and I'm still alive. I guess the time bomb just decided, "We can't take you out. We're going to stick with you."

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DEBORAH WEED AUTHOR

DEBORAH: (continued) Well, my husband and I were traveling. I wanted to check how it was doing. I needed to get an MRA and they gave me Gadolinium. But instead of getting my vein, they shot it into my arm, which is kind of like mainlining mercury into your system. My arm blew up really big, and I didn't know what had happened. The hospital didn't explain this to me. All of a sudden, I went from once again being vibrant, doing this production, making such a big difference, back to square one. Stuck again.

Physically, I thought I was dead, and I never thought that I'd be able to come back from that one. While I'm down for the count, seems like creativity has a little joke running with me. I go to an acupuncturist. The acupuncturist had been working with me and he said, "Deborah, I'm not going to be able to fix you with these needles. It ain't going to work. You need to use your creativity and get back into your life. That is the only way you're going to come back."

I come back to my husband, David, and I'm like, "My acupuncture's fired me. I mean, the person who's making money off of me fired me and said I need to use my creativity. He told me to take improv classes." I'm practically not able to walk, but I started taking these improv classes. I had been a producer, and now I'm the actress thinking, "Oh my gosh, I cannot believe I'm doing this.” Little by little, I came back to life. As I came back to life, I looked back on my life and I realized how often I gave away my power. I remembered that sensitive sweet little girl who always felt like somebody knew better than me. Somebody who had the prestige, the name, the money; they had the answers. I remembered what I felt like when I was at Citibank and I had that corporate aura. I didn't show any of my personality because it comes off as fake. If I'm too happy, it's fake or too sensitive, or too this or too that. Then a character came to me and I fell in love with her. Her name was Paisley.

Paisley is a porcupine who dreams of being in the fashion industry. But you see, in the fashion industry, porcupines are like pink cushions. They can only pin up the outfits of the other animals. She works for Zivanna, and Zivanna is this diva. Imagine, if you will, The Devil Wears Prada meets The Lion King, and then you'll get this story. Zivanna wants to make these couture outfits out of nature; fabulous things. Paisley is just the pinner, if you will. She's using her quills to repin things because as she's talking to the animals, the animals are saying, "I don't want to wear this kind of couture." They have their own reasons. I've picked out my favorite line in here to give you an example. Paisley is with the elephant. The elephant's name is a Ecru. Zivanna has made something that's too small for an elephant do this is how it goes:

Next up is Ecru. She rumbles, “This doesn't fit. I wish I was a smaller size.” Paisley says, “The love in our hearts is what matters. You have tons of love, never become smaller to fit someone else's definition of you. Let's celebrate your beauty,” I said. Ecru trumpets for joy as I get busy making changes.

So, Paisley keeps on recreating all the things that Zivanna does. Then a bear falls over the pinning and rips one of the couture outfits and Paisley's freaking out. She uses every one of her quills except for one to repin that out fit. It's what she does with that last quill that runs the story.

Now, the reason that I wrote this book is, like I said, I think in musicals. Maybe my blessing and my curse is because I worked with Disney. I know what's possible with tech, ride motion, and everything that's out there. I always saw this as a big musical like the Lion King, where the costumes and all the beauty would take place and the music. Here's the thing. One thing about musicals is it embeds a message. That's why I believe in musicals, because we sing it over and over and kids sing it or people would sing it and mothers would sing it. When you look at our girls right now, our girls four to one, have self-esteem problems compared to our boys. They're committing suicide. I'm frightened to death. One of the things that I've learned is that a mother's self-worth is probably one of the most important indicators for her daughter. I have so much to say on this. My book is basically a template of what's possible, in my mind. I even created a TV series that I think would be delightful because self-worth is essential. To make self-worth land, if you can make it fun and you can make it with musicals, you win.

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I don’t want anybody to give up…

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“I don’t know if I had the will to live.”

ALLIÉ: I love that, to convey this message of self-worth, you're able to do that through storytelling from pennies to porcupines. You're finding all these different ways with all your different incarnations to bring about this common denominator that resonates with you and that you want to help resonate with everyone else, which is ‘self-worth’. There's a third story, of course, that we need to discuss, and that would be ‘If Only’. This is your most recent book that translates the human experience. It's embodied in eloquence and transcendent with this beautiful imagery. In this story, our failures are shown for what they really are: an entry point for miracles. ‘If Only’ makes us — made me — look back at every time we've fallen, only to see how we've risen. I guess my question for you, Deborah, with this story that is so profound and so emotional, when did you first embrace this powerful perspective?

DEBORAH: I think you're intuiting. You're reading my heart. ‘If Only’ is my opus. I think that I can prove a miracle right now. This story was downloaded fully in 2011. It just came to me. That's what seems to happen. I just wake up and something absolutely comes to me. First, let me go back and set it up because there's another health condition that spurs this one too.

Three years ago, I was in my condo on the beach actually. Beautiful. It was pre-COVID and then COVID hit and three things happened to me simultaneously. Our condo got full of mold, I was given a black box antibiotic, and I took the vaccine for COVID. The three things shut my immune system down to the point where I was sleeping one hour a night for months.

My husband stayed up with me holding my hand because now the lawyer-husband who hadn't believed in me, when he saw that I'd been telling the truth all the time, he is my rock and my savior. Always by my side. To be honest with you, Allié, I guess I say this for every single one, I don't know if I had the will to live. The physical pain… If you take a black box antibiotic, just to share this to anybody who's listening, it's often given for bladder infections. The one that was given to me was actually a chemotherapy drug. I took it for 10 days and it wrecked my system. It started neurological things where I got neurological pain constantly. I didn't know if I was going to make it. But once again, I remembered a story. Now, let me go back to 2011.

In 2011, I came up with a story. It just downloaded. I had a friend who was a magni ficent artist. I went to her. I showed her the story, and she loved it. She's like, "Oh yes, I'm going to illustrate it." She illustrated it and we were ready to go. I was so excited. Then she said to me, "Deborah I don't have a lot of money right now. Can I sell the paintings?" Me being me, maybe naive, maybe just always thinking in "we" instead of "I", was like, "Of course, go out, sell your paintings." She did, and people loved it. She was making a lot of money. Maybe not a lot, but she was making money. When it came time to do the story, she reneged. My heart broke. This seems to be another pattern where it's like, you see the vision and somebody takes a left turn and you're like, "Why is this happening?"

Fast forward to now, I go through this crisis. We had to move quickly. We had to move to an apartment. We lost so much just like so many people in the fire and COVID and everything. We lost money, we lost health, we lost so much. Then that story is like niggling at me and niggling at me for these three years. Then I start meeting people and people are like , "Why don't you write? You need to do your art. You need to do this." I'm like, "I can't even function. I don't, you're torturing me. How am I going to be able to do anything except for sit on the sidelines once again and watch life go by? Maybe I'm just down for the count."

During this time, my father, who I absolutely adore — like Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz, he's my tin man, always has been. He always will be. He's carried me through so much with his wisdom and kindness — he developed cancer. He took a procedure. When he had the procedure, he's been bedridden and he needed me to help him. I was just praying, "Please, give me the strength to carry him because I love him more than life itself."

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DEBORAH: (continued) Somehow I got that. Then I was meeting people. I met Renata and Rhonda who wanted to start a writing group. I got in that and I met Anne and Cheryl and all these people who were saying, "Go Deborah, go." Little by little, I said, "Well, what about that old story that I wanted to bring to life?" But this time I'm wiser. I've gone through more. I care. All I really want to do is make a difference. Not coming from me; it's coming from something so much more powerful. I rewrote the story with the help of all these wonderful people. With the new technology I was able to create the images and do it beautifully the way that I would do if I had the budget for a movie or something spectacular that I always envisioned.

When I did, I told my dad and my dad said, "I want to be alive to see your book published." Which made me publish it faster than anything in the whole world. His belief in me spurred me to have wings and to believe. As soon as I got that book, I sent it to him and I dedicated it to him. He said, "Deborah, I slept with it like a teddy bear. For the first night, I slept."

He's living through me at this point just as I've lived through him. He loves his daughter and wants to see amazing things because he always said, "You're a messenger." For a while I didn't believe him. It's like, "How could I be a messenger if I keep on getting knocked down?" But maybe because I've been knocked down so many times, I cared that profoundly. My heart is that open and I really want to make a difference.

I saw firsthand how being thwarted, falling, failing, feeling like I was nothing, wanting to give up; faith was by my side every step of the way. But here's a secret, Allié. I didn't have faith. I didn't grow up with that kind of faith that I look at some people, they just have it. I had to learn it from person, after person, after person; these angels, these people that surrounded me and lifted me when I needed it the most and are kind to me when I needed it the most.

The story is about a snowflake. As she takes her leap with faith, she wants to fly like the birds. But she can't. Faith tells her why. Then she lands on a tree and she wants roots, but she doesn't have them. Faith tells her why. Then she feels love, but it's fleeting and she doesn't understand. Faith tells her why. I think that this is both sides of me. Me in the snowflake, the human form, falling, not understanding, just feeling so lost and alone. Then maybe my higher self or my angels or whoever have conspired this whole thing to come to fruition saying, "This is why, and it's okay." In the end everything is going to be explained. Because on the other side, you're going to see the magnitude of people you touched. Just like you wanted to touch a million people, just like it's always been your ultimate wish, you did. You just didn't see it and you didn't know how.

ALLIÉ: Thank you for sharing so openly, so personally. It is a gift to be able to share, to be able to connect to the degree and the manner that you do. Like many, I feel that ‘If Only’ is a gift to lift humanity closer to what we are designed to be. Again, eloquent articulation, paired with emotional illustration, it's like this godsent formula. It's a story that instantly elevates all who are ready. What is it that you want people to take away and to keep from this book?

DEBORAH: I don't want anybody to give up… I know what it's like. When I wasn't sleeping but an hour a night and in constant pain, and once again, people saying, "You look good, can't be that bad." And I'm just giving it all I have. I can only imagine those people going through COVID. I can even imagine celebrities who look like they have everything who are just crashing and just don't know what to do.

From every vantage point, there's people who are on the brink and I know what that feels like. I want them to have faith. Just like I explained with my story, in 2011, I never thought this would come to fruition ever. I had given up. My heart was getting cold. I had built moats and walls. I didn't want to get disappointed again. But somehow, some way, in some shape, some form, it's molding us and putting us... How would I have met you, Allié? How would've I met you and seen the magnificence that AwareNow and Awareness Ties is doing. I aspire to do what you and Jack are doing. It's so inspiring. As a show of goodwill, I'm going to give a contribution from every book sold because I believe in you with all my heart and soul.

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DEBORAH: (continued) I think the main thing is have faith. Know that there might be a different outcome than what you imagined. Even when you're at your very lowest and you feel like you're all alone and no one understands, there is someone listening. You will see the other side of things one day and you'll realize that you are precious. And just like a snowflake, you're one of a kind.

ALLIÉ: Well, it's a powerful book. I think it should be a requirement for every person. Let's conclude this way. For those too busy treading water with the life they lead to pause and wonder “If only…” regarding their life’s direction and circumstance, what would you like to say?

DEBORAH: I would like to say that “If Only” are the two most powerful words you've ever heard. It just depends on the perspective of how you see them. This book will twist around how you see those two powerful words. I do also have to mention, for years and years, that was the biggest two words I'd say. "If only I hadn't gotten sick, then ‘The Luckiest Penny’ would be in every school. It would be a musical. It would be an animated thing… If only I didn't fall this time, Paisley would be that musical because I have that in me.” There's a million people out there right now that are saying to themselves, "If only this hadn't happened, then I'd be happy... If only that hadn't happened…” But having regrets is like swimming in an ocean and a tidal wave coming at you. It will stop you. It will make you feel very heavy. If you can let go of the regrets and you can realize that there's something on the other side, you're going to fly. ∎

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TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN Learn more about Deborah & her books online: selfworthinitiative.net
Exclusive Interview with Deborah Weed https://awarenow.us/podcast/if-only
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POLYPHONY WHEN 2 UNIQUE & INDEPENDENT MELODIES OCCUR SIMULTANEOUSLY

Emily Martin, a twenty-something aspiring songwriter, doesn’t want a boyfriend. She is perfectly content; she loves watching rom-coms by herself, and if she ever feels lonely, her cat, Winnie, is there to keep her company. Suddenly, everything changes when she finds herself in a duet with a stranger.

Polyphony may be the best 5 minutes and 49 seconds of your entire week. The story restores faith in the chances of falling in love when we are brave enough to take the chance to pursue it. Tal Anderson had this to say about her brilliant film and about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge: “I’m proud of this film for a million reasons, but mostly because it's done… This is the 10th Anniversary of the challenge which was started by actor/comedian Nic Novicki who later partnered with Easterseals to expand this film challenge/festival into the success it is today. So many disabled creatives find community here, and are given opportunities to showcase their talent and passion. I'm thankful for the opportunity and the motivation this challenge gives me --- because I push myself to complete a film every year even at times when I'm too busy, and it ALWAYS leaves me feeling like I accomplished something huge.”

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Service should be as helpful to you as it is to the person that you’re serving.
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RYAN GROWNEY CO-FOUNDER OF SERVICE ACADEMY

EXCLUSIVE

SERVICE ACADEMY BROTHERS RAISING THE BAR FOR YOUTH SERVICE

Reimagining youth service through social innovation, twin brothers Ryan and Thomas Growney founded Service Academy, a new service project. Dedicated to youth purpose and potential, Ryan and Thomas have developed a collection of ideas and initiatives to lower barriers for young people to use meaningful social impact activities to develop the skills they value.

ALLIÉ: During the pandemic, while many young people were gaming, you two were focused on serving. But it wasn’t enough for you to serve with one activity or another. You felt called to build a platform to support youth service through activity and advocacy. Please share the story of how Service Academy started.

RYAN: All the way back to three years ago, this was 2020, and as you can imagine, the world is falling apart. In the middle of this all, Thomas and I were walking on the beach with our dad. We were thinking about, what can we do? How can we help fix all this pain and suffering that we see around us? We had done a little bit of service through our school, but that hadn't prepared us for anything to do in the real world. We didn't have the con fidence in ourselves to think that we had something to offer…

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We want to reimagine youth service for kids all over the globe.
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RYAN: Then we started discussing school-based service programs and realized that service should be self-discovery. Service should be as helpful to you as it is to the person that you're serving. That was the seed idea that blossomed into Service Academy as it is now.

ALLIÉ: I love that your model for reimagining youth service is one that shifts the narrative from obligation to inspiration. Tell us about your template for youth to get something for themselves by giving to someone else.

RYAN: It's really simple actually. It's only three steps. First of all, it's that we need reframe service in people's minds; make them see that it's not this obligation. It's actually something that's really awesome and can be really fun and really impactful on you. The second part about that is inspiring them to have con fidence in themselves. Getting them to realize that they do have something to offer.

THOMAS: They actually have a lot to offer. They have a lot of skills and a lot of interests and a lot of great ideas that could be really applicable to a lot of scenarios.

RYAN: Everyone's a unique person. They have skills and experiences that make them really good at certain things. Finding those things and utilizing them is how we can be our best selves and do our best service. The third and final step of our process is to have them take those those skills and that confidence, and that reframed idea of service, and apply it to problems in their community. We want to make service something that gives back to the community that you're from.

ALLIÉ: On your website, there’s a section about your initiatives titled ‘Hyper-Local Action’. Here you reference the hashtag #LocalisGlobalImpact. Love for you to share your thoughts on this.

THOMAS: What we believe is that global impact comes from a series of smaller local impacts. The only way you can make an actual real global impact is by doing things that you can do today.

RYAN: We've seen from your work that you agree with that as well; individual stories matter. There is no such thing as a global problem. It's just a whole host of local problems. So it starts there.

ALLIÉ: Let’s get personal. Thomas, what has been your most personally rewarding act of service to date? And Ryan, how about you?

THOMAS: For me, it was a couple months ago. I had just broken my leg and I had switched from plank squash, I joined a community service program at our school. Through that program, I was able to meet this young sixth grader named Isaiah. He was pretty goofy. I really like this kid. He was funny. He struggled a little bit attention-wise, but I saw a lot of myself in him. He really proved to me one of our goals; you need confidence to succeed. That's how we want to help people. My goal when I was with him was I wanted to help give him the con fidence to do what he needed to do. What his problem was is that he didn't have the confidence in his own abilities to go sit down there for 45 minutes and complete three pages of a math packet. Just me being able to sit there and talk him through it and be able to give him the help and the guidance and the support that he needed was really helpful.

RYAN: For me, it was actually last summer. At the very beginning of the summer, our school organized this trip down to Costa Rica. That was a super amazing experience because while we were there, we helped build and beautify this community center that was being created in this underprivileged town. It was super important not because of what we were doing there. I mean, that was important, but what I really got from that was this pure connection with all the little kids in this town. Every time we were there, as soon as we drove up in these big vans, they would all run out. They would be so happy to see us and to play with us and to talk to us, even though I didn't really understand what they were saying because I don't really speak Spanish that well. It was such an amazing experience to have that pure connection through joy and laughter.

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CO-FOUNDER OF SERVICE ACADEMY

ALLIÉ: As juniors attending boarding school, what do your peers say about your project?

RYAN: There is a small but really powerful group of people who are helping us do this and are really interested in completing this. But there's also a lot of people who don't really understand, I think, what we're trying to do. But that's okay. One of the major things that we've learned is that you don't need a million people to start a service participation revolution. You just need your core group of people.

THOMAS: You need your 10 dedicated, smart, interested people to make an actual change — your little team of superheroes.

ALLIÉ: Superhero team… that’s awesome. So, you started Service Academy 3 years ago. Please share what you’ve done so far and what you'd like to do in the future. Where are you guys going with this?

RYAN: Our goal is, and this is going to be very general, but we want to reimagine youth service for kids all over the globe. We want to be able to share our message that service is self-discovery and self-exploration to as many people as possible. And that means going to other schools. We've already talked to some of our friends at other schools and they've check out this idea.

THOMAS: We're also trying to do some of this through our podcast and the information on our website.

RYAN: We have this whole host of tools that we want to be able to share with as many people as possible, that includes the podcast. We created a card game to help people start thinking about service and just get it on the brain. We also developed a self-reflection survey. It helps you find out what are the things that I'm good at, what are the things that I want to get better at? And just help you see what your ‘superpowers’ are. That's the word we use.

ALLIÉ: Thomas, you are an artist and into surfing. Ryan, you are more of a technician and sing acapella. As different as you are, you’re both grounded in the same dedication to be of service. For those who want to live a life of service but have no idea where to start, what advice do you have?

THOMAS: For me, it's giving back and staying interested. You will give back the most that you can if you're interested in it. If you wake up every day and that's what you think about, you will work on that and you'll get better at that. And you will strive to do as much as you can because that's what you're interested in. That's part of what we thought with our Superpower Field Guide, which Ryan mentioned, the survey. That is the most important thing. Trying to find things you're interested in, things that you are engaged in, things that you want to change, problems that you are tied to; find those and then branch out from there.

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SERVICE ACADEMY

Exclusive Interview with Ryan & Thomas Growney https://awarenow.us/podcast/service-academy

ALLIÉ: That's good advice. Ryan, how about you?

RYAN: For me I've always liked to think big thoughts and to tackle big problems. What I've realized is that there's this aspect of service called systems change leadership, where you think about how you can change the base system that's supporting the inequality in the world today, and you work to change that. Doing that is so crucial because you're alleviating the root cause of what is causing this inequality. Just look more into that. Just open your eyes to the huge world of service that there is. ∎

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I know firsthand that living with a disability also means always living with the independence question.
MARK RAYMOND JR. CEO & FOUNDER OF THE SPLIT SECOND FOUNDATION

ABLE AWARENESS THE ACHIEVING A BETTER LIFE EXPERIENCE ACT

April was Financial Literacy Month, and there’s no better time than now to spread the news about a financial tool that can dramatically improve the lives of millions of people.

I know firsthand that living with a disability also means always living with the independence question. I became a C-5 quadriplegic as the result of an accident, and immediately after waking up from an induced coma, I began to think about my future and how much control I would have over it.

Would I be able to make my own decisions? I knew I would rely on a caregiver for most daily activities, but what about employment and my financial future? Would I be solely dependent on government assistance?

My experience is something felt by many in the disability community with the common denominator being barriers. Here are the facts:

‣ 1 in 4 Americans are considered disabled according to the Centers for Disease Control

‣ People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than the rest of the population

‣ People with disabilities are almost twice as likely to be unable to pay monthly bills

‣ For people with disabilities, 4 in 10 are struggling to afford their rent

Additionally, people with disabilities worry about their independence and healthcare, and thankfully have the opportunity to have benefits like Medicaid and SSI. Those benefits positively support the lives of people with disabilities, but have “asset limits” in order to remain eligible for the bene fits. These asset limits prevent people with disabilities from saving money beyond $2,000 (a typical asset limit) and planning for their future.

People with disabilities constantly worry about losing their bene fits like Medicaid and Social Security, and further worry about how to have financial stability without having more than $2000 in assets at any given time. That meant people with disabilities couldn’t have jobs, they couldn’t save for the future or for a rainy day. Essentially, that translated into an impoverished life completely dependent on others and government assistance.

That all changed in 2014 with the enactment of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

The ABLE Act created a savings, investing, and spending account for eligible people with disabilities, with the first programs launching in June 2016. ABLE accounts allow people with disabilities to save money that is not counted towards asset limitations set by means-tested benefit programs such as Medicaid or SSI.

ABLE allows account holders to invest in their long-term financial security, creating opportunities for greater empowerment and inclusion. You can use an ABLE account for your future, but like a 529 account for higher education, it can be used now for anything that relates to your disability and helps maintain or improve health, independence, and quality of life. This includes housing and rent, groceries and utilities, transportation, education tuition, legal or financial management fees, and costs towards supportive assistive technologies and medical care.

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ABLE accounts are state-administered and currently 46 states and the District of Columbia offer ABLE programs, and many of these states allow for those outside of the state to enroll if your state isn’t one of those 46. However, for the most part, very few people with disabilities or their caregivers know about ABLE accounts and what they can do.

As of December 2022, only 137,192 people with disabilities were ABLE account holders, a drop in the bucket compared to the approximately 8 million Americans who qualify. And with the passing of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, the number of eligible people will grow to fourteen million in January 2026.

We needed a concerted effort to drive ABLE account awareness. That is why the National Association of State Treasurers launched the ABLE today initiative (www.abletoday.org) to focus efforts on raising the awareness of ABLE accounts. ABLE today highlights how ABLE accounts can positively impact people with disabilities, their families and their caregivers.

ABLE today also fosters partnerships to promote ABLE programs by directly engaging with the disability community. We connect with people with disabilities, collaborate with disability organizations, participate in webinars, develop marketing materials, produce accessible videos for the deaf and hard of hearing community, and attend conferences and meetings to spread the word on ABLE accounts.

There has been some steady growth in the number of ABLE accounts, but overall, there’s a lack of awareness of its life-changing effects. It doesn’t have to be this way. Setting up an ABLE account can relieve anxiety for people with disabilities. For ABLE to really have the effect that Congress intended, these accounts have to become commonplace. ABLE info should be shared with the disability community, from our schools, with financial advisors, and anyone who supports people with disabilities.

ABLE could help bring a brighter financial outlook and more independence for the millions who qualify, and deserve a voice in their futures. ∎

National spokesperson for ABLE today, Mark Raymond, Jr. is the CEO & Founder of The Split Second Foundation, an organization committed to breaking barriers for people with disabilities. Mark's life changed in a split second when a tragic accident left him a C-5 quadriplegic. That tick of the clock will forever influence who he is, pushing him to advocate for others. Mark has a deep-rooted history of serving the community. From renaming historic streets and landmarks in New Orleans to creating a more accessible and robust rehabilitative health infrastructure in the Gulf South, Mark strives for the advancement of those most disadvantaged. He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans.

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“There has been some steady growth in the number of ABLE accounts, but overall, there’s a lack of awareness of its life-changing effects.”
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Among all his inventions, we can credit Benjamin Franklin with the origin of the ‘they’ are coming to overrun ‘us’ myth.
DR. TODD BROWN
FOUNDER OF THE INSPIRE PROJECT & CO-FOUNDER OF OPERATION OUTBREAK
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Image Credit: Joseph Siffrein Duplessis

THEY ARE US INSIGHTS TO STOP THE WHEEL OF HATE FROM SPINNING

In the 2002 movie Minority Report, the character Gideon says, “When you dig up the past, all you get is dirty.” Now over 20 years later, those words ring more accurately than ever. Whether it is Confederate statues, the United States as an Empire, or more, we have not been the best at confronting our nation’s past. Unfortunately, when it comes to immigration, many do not want to get dirty, so we continue to try and bury our nation’s past like a cat in a litter box.

In the 2002 movie Minority Report, the character Gideon says, "When you dig up the past, all you get is dirty." Now over 20 years later, those words ring more accurately than ever. Whether it is Confederate statues, the United States as an Empire, or more, we have not been the best at confronting our nation's past. Unfortunately, when it comes to immigration, many do not want to get dirty, so we continue to try and bury our nation's past like a cat in a litter box. The more you know about our history, the more obvious it is that the anti-immigration hate speech is by people who hope you don't know history. They prey on a lack of knowledge of their constituents. For the record, immigration is an incredibly complex issue that doesn't have a black-and-white answer. Also, this is not about making you or me feel horrible about our country. We cannot change the past, but if we understand our mistakes, we can work never to repeat them. We must acknowledge that the treatment of immigrants is proportional to their usefulness. Once needs are met, our government quickly moves into marginalization and demonization. For the record, this is not some contemporary attitude. The need, use, and marginalization cycle has been used on virtually every group of people entering our nation for centuries. But because we never learn or conveniently choose to forget, the tactics are the same year after year, decade after decade.

You know, in 1974, on the television show Wheel of Fortune, the wheel's minimum value was $25. In today's world, that is the equivalent of about $150. Currently, the wheel's minimum value is $500. Gambling bigger brings the possibility of higher winnings. It's not much different from the immigration rhetoric we hear today. But, instead of the wheel of fortune, it has become the wheel of hate. Depending on the time, politicians spin the wheel and see whom it lands on to point fingers at and hate. We watch as politicians gamble big on the demonization of whichever group the wheel has landed on and describe the group as 'rapists' or 'criminals' to suit their campaign needs. The idea that 'We Americans' will get overrun by *insert group of people* began as far back as Benjamin Franklin.

You don't have to look hard to find that the U.S. is getting invaded or overrun by *insert group* if we do not act. Politicians have been manufacturing this threatening narrative bathed in xenophobia for centuries. It begins with terminology. Immigrants are classified as 'they,' not 'us.' 'They' are horrible people. 'They' are all criminals that will strip the United States of its institutions or take jobs away from 'us.' 'They' are hellbent on destroying 'our' country.

Among all his inventions, we can credit Benjamin Franklin with the origin of the 'they' are coming to overrun 'us' myth. Dating back to 1755, Franklin targeted Germans, who, at the time, were the largest non-English group of white settlers in colonial America. Initially, 'we' needed 'them' to help us outnumber the indigenous people and the French. But, once 'we' realized that 'they' may threaten 'our' country, Franklin began to describe 'them' as "aliens who herd together and soon would be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them." If 'we' don't act, "Pennsylvania would become a colony of swarthy aliens" (1). Sound familiar? The wheel of hate landed on the Germans instead of today's 'Mexicans'. Why the Germans, you ask? For starters, 'they' were unpredictable and threatened English power. Not to mention the Germans were anti-slavery, which America was becoming more and more dependent on.

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Depending on the time, politicians spin the wheel and see whom it lands on to point fingers at and hate.
DR. TODD BROWN
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So, where does the wheel of hate land next?

So, yes, you people of German descent were targets at one time. But hey, let's not forget the Irish Catholics. In the middle of the 1800's 'we' were warning 'us' of a new threat. The wheel of hate landed on the Catholics. How dare 'they' seek refuge in 'our' country because 'they' were being driven out of Ireland due to famine and being stripped of their ability to vote. 'We' began to say that 'they' were sent by the Pope to become naturalized citizens and vote to "throw down our free institutions" (2). 'They' were going to spread across the land and do what? Well, they were going to voice their anti-slavery views. So, the 'us' group created the Know-Nothing Party, which happened to be pro-slavery and very anti-immigrant, which resulted in states like Massachusetts forcibly removing more than 15,000 immigrants from 1850 to 1863 (2). The Know-Nothings came up with the slogan 'Americans must rule America.' Sound familiar?

I mean, there were lots of 'theys' coming. But to be honest, 'they' were coming because 'they' were being encouraged to come. Settlers from all over Europe, including Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, were recruited through the Homestead Act of 1862 with the promise of 160 acres of land. Of course, the promised land was through the violation of an Indigenous people's treaty, but hey, 'they' were not really American and part of 'us' anyway, so who cares? But again, you can come, but don't invade. So, where does the wheel of hate land next? Look no further than the west coast.

Oh, sh*t, don't look now, but 'we' are getting invaded by the Chinese! Around 1876, the State Senate of California described 'them' as a "dangerous unarmed invasion" that endangered the state and 'our' country. 'They' actually were being classified as a 'separate race that would soon occupy the entire Paci fic coast and it would become but a "mere colony of China" (3). Ultimately, because of where the wheel of hate had stopped, the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act (4). It was the first federal law singling out an entire group of immigrants based on race. As expected, the massive racial violence that ensued resulted in Chinese immigration plummeting. Interestingly, this happened after the transcontinental railroad's completion, in which the Chinese were a huge part of the construction force (4). To be fair, the Chinese never actually came. They were recruited, pushed, lured, and brought. Once factories, canneries, fisheries, fields, and the railroads had no use for 'them,' the phrase "The Chinese Must Go!" became popular.

Immigrants were being labeled as "racial inferiors" by eugenicists like Madison Grant. Anglo-Saxons began to use the "America for Americans" slogan (sound familiar?) to marginalize and demonize immigrants. Oh, and by the way, the slogan came from the Ku Klux Klan (5).

Now we have the wheel of hate landing on, you guessed it, 'Mexicans.' But there's an issue with 'them.' 'They' had strong ties historically that predated the United States, making them indigenous, not foreign. And, for the record, they were white (6) So, 'we' had to begin to classify 'them' as nonwhite based on their location. So, like the Chinese, 'we' began to label them as an inferior race that would invade our land (even though it was technically theirs).

Congressman John C. Box of Texas described Mexicans as a mixed race comprising "low-grade Spaniards, Indians, and slaves mixed with Negroes, mulattoes, and other mongrels, and some sorry whites, already here" (7). 'They' dared to live in their homeland annexed by 'us.' In 1930, Roy Garis described the dangers of the southwestern "Mexicanization" that threatened the "home for millions of the white race." This description included Mexican American children that were born in the United States. 'We' were so worried about 'their' so-called invasion that 46.3% of all deportations from 1920 to 1935 were Mexican, even though they comprised less than 1% of the U.S. population.

But wait, let's complicate things even more. Our agricultural industry began to suffer during WWII, so what did 'we' do? 'We' launched the Bracero Project so the people of Mexico could help us continue to float the much-needed agriculture. The U.S. financed much of the Mexican railroad system to bring 'them' into 'our' country, to the tune of almost a half million Mexican men. But, hey, when 'we' didn't need 'them' any longer, the government launched 'Operation Wetback” in 1954, arresting and deporting 1,075,168 Mexican nationals (8).

Immigration continues to be a flashpoint today, bidding cultures against one another. The redundancy of America's need for immigrants and then marginalizing them to fuel social, economic, and political anxieties is exhausting.

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We need to understand that ‘they’ are ‘us.’

Whether it is Bill Clinton's Operation Gatekeeper to, George W. Bush's exponential increase in border patrol, Barack Obama's increase in immigration enforcement budget from $7.5 billion to over $18 billion to, Donald Trump's claiming Mexico is sending its people to invade America. 'We' need to understand it is not about the President or the party. Both sides of the aisle use humans as political pawns, and this behavior has long been normalized.

If and when 'we' believe that the disadvantages of having 'them' in 'our' country outweigh the advantages, 'they' are kicked to the curb. We allow, invite, and project the land of opportunity as a beacon of hope until 'they' outlast 'their' usefulness, so 'we' dust off the wheel of hate and give it a spin.

From Franklin to Trump, xenophobia pulses through America's veins building an environment of fear and discrimination based on incomplete narratives of how immigration should work. When Americans have believed that the disadvantages of immigration have outweighed its advantages—or when certain immigrant groups have outlasted their usefulness—the immigration myth has been dusted off to justify new restrictions and forms of control. At some point in the past, if you were German, Italian, Catholic, Irish, Polish, African, Chinese, Polish, Japanese, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and many more, you were the 'them.' Hopefully, with a better grasp of the past, we can finally demolish the xenophobia and racism it fuels. We need to understand that ‘they’ are ‘us.’ ∎

A special thank you goes to Dr. Erika Lee and her writings. Dr. Lee is Regents Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, the Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, and the President of the Organization of American Historians.

References

1. Benjamin Franklin, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1755

2. Lyman Beecher, A Plea for the West. Cincinnati: Truman & Smith, 1835

3. California Senate, Committee on Chinese Immigration, Chinese Immigration: The Social, Moral, and Political Effect of Chinese Immigration. Report of the California State Senate of the Special Committee on Chinese Immigration. Sacramento: State Printing Office, 1878

4. https://awarenow.us/chinese-exclusion-act

5. Roger Daniels, Guarding the Golden Door. American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004

6. https://www.heritage.org/civil-society/commentary/the-invention-hispanics-what-it-says-about-the-politics-race

7. David G. Gutierrez, Walls, and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley: University California Press, 1995

8. William G. Hartley, United State Immigration Policy: The Case of the Western Hemisphere. World Affairs 135, no. 1. 1972

DR. TODD BROWN

Awareness Ties Columnist

www.awarenessties.us/todd-brown

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

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We are the sum total of the choices we make, the chances we take and the changes we create.

A RECIPE FOR LIFE A REFLECTION ON PERSONAL INGREDIENTS

Release The Genie Fact: The Genie once read a book about antigravity. It is was impossible to put down.

I came across this quote just the other day, and it was the first thing that came into my mind in relation to this month’s article for the Pause Edition. I think it's one of the most beautiful quotes I've come across, with regard to reflections and intention. If we need a correctional balance in our own lives, we could not do any better but to take one of the greatest boxing legend’s “Recipe for Life” as our own benchmark.

When Muhammad Ali was asked, in a 1972 interview with English personality David Frost, what he'd like people to think about him when he's gone, Muhammad Ali gave his heartwarming ‘Recipe for Life’ as an answer:

“I would like for them to say ‘He took a few cups of love. He took one tablespoon of patience, one tablespoon of generosity, one pint of kindness; he took one quart of laughter, one piece of concern, and then he mixed willingness with happiness. He added lots of faith, and he stirred it up well. Then he spread it and expanded it over a lifetime. And he served each and every deserving person he met.’”

If you’re like me, you just had to pause and reread or re-listen to that quote again. It is so powerful that you just had to take a moment of reflection on how it applies in your own life. If we take the time to examine each one of the ingredients that goes into such a powerful recipe, we can see that we already own every one of them as our natural inheritance.

What I love about that quote is the fact that the recipe, with its many key ingredients, in the end makes up something far bigger than its components and ourselves.

Nowhere in Muhammad Ali's life recipe is there any room for anger, hate, prejudice, cruelty, or excuses such as the long grinding work and life misbalance, didn't have enough time and so many more.

Another thing to appreciate is the subtlety that each individual ingredient has its own separate measure. My 7 yearold loves to help in the kitchen and we have a day on which he can cook. He is totally resistant to following any recipe and no real measure of ingredients. He cooks how he feels it. So as you can imagine, most things turn out pretty much the same. You know its love when you try to eat it regardless!

A course correction, which can be seen as negative feedback or limitation, is completely necessary. If there is no balance, and we add any ingredients in any quantities to the Recipe for Life, it will taste like my son’s cooking. The fact that the ingredients in the Recipe for Life are fixed to certain measures gives us a strong indication of how the end product will taste.

The quantity of each ingredient will vary over somebody's lifetime, and there is no right or wrong answer to make the perfect recipe. We are the sum total of the choices we make, the chances we take and the changes we create. What we find is that it is the smallest of things/ingredients in life which actually become the biggest things in life. There is always time to make room for the things that are important to your ‘Recipe for Life’.

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There is always time to make room for the things that are important to your ‘Recipe for Life’.
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PAUL S. ROGERS TRANSFORMATION EXPERT, AWARENESS HELLRAISER & PUBLIC SPEAKER

A RECIPE FOR LIFE

I would like to humbly suggest one additional item. Despite the rich and vibrant ingredients in the recipe, unless it is cooked in our own personal ovens, at a consistent temperature of intention, it will remain only an enticing idea.

Intention is the magical catalyst or process that works upon ideas and our raw ingredients to make them real. Intent suggests clearer formulation or greater deliberateness for a more settled determination.

The word intention has many meanings such as an aim, purpose, objective, goal, target, end, desire, aspiration and hope. Everyone, at some stage, has led with their best intentions but somehow seemed to waiver and float away in life's constant wind. This is why being able to pause and reflect keeps intentions alive. A great therapeutic exercise to make sure you are on the right track is to view things from the end of your days. What is really important to you? What is just noise and fluff?

I will leave you with this sobering story/reflection. A group of people were gathered at a close friend's funeral. One mourner turned to another and asked: “What did he leave?” The other mourner thought for a few minutes and then replied: “Everything.” ∎

www.awarenessties.us/paul-rogers

PAUL S. ROGERS is a 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” & Best-selling author. His journey has taken him from from corporate leader 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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“Intention is the magical catalyst or process that works upon ideas and our raw ingredients to make them real.”
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Gratitude can teach not only ourselves, but also others, to become more hopeful…
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ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS STORYTELLER, PHILANTHROPIST & OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS

‘MEDICINE WITH WORDS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS

WE ARE ALL GRATEFUL THE POWERFUL STRATEGY OF GRATITUDE

Gratitude is about being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. But what does it practically mean in our day to day life? It’s when we positively focus on what’s good in our lives and are thankful for what we have. In order to focus and assess, we need to take the time to pause. We need to truly appreciate the things we might often take for granted, like having a roof over our heads, food, clean water, and/or relationships with family and friends. Nowadays we can even be thankful for things like the internet and a working phone. When we generally feel sad or down in the dumps, how do we deal with it? Sometimes people take themselves off shopping, or maybe eat something tasty, or even have a drink or smoke. But there is one powerful strategy that costs nothing, does no harm financially, physically or mentally, and can help alleviate this negative feeling. Showing gratitude.

Society does have a dark side to gratitude though, pushing the sense that “You must be grateful for what you have, no matter what.” Yes, it is important to be grateful for what we have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive or desire more. Wanting more doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful, so long as you truly do give the pause and time to show gratitude for that which you do already have. This also doesn’t mean we should stay in unsafe circumstances simply under the notion of “Well I should be grateful that I have XY and Z at least.” For example, if we were in some kind of an abusive relationship, work or love, don’t be blinded by a toxic sense of gratitude of “at least they don’t hit me” or “at least I have a job”. When a circumstance is harmful to you, mentally, physically, or emotionally, showing gratitude at the expense of self worth is not productive nor healthy. Unfortunately these types of situations are often tangled with outside influences skewing your sense of gratitude, so outside professional help is often needed. Looking at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs could actually be viewed as the Hierarchy of Gratitude. The bottom Physiological Needs tier of what we need most to survive, are often the things we take for granted the most. Food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep and clean air to breathe. Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for those we have.

Gratitude can teach not only ourselves, but also others, to become more hopeful, and less pessimistic. In society, gratitude appears to have a butterfly effect. If one person implements the act of gratitude in their life, others around them often then pause themselves and take stock in their own circumstance. The web of gratitude then continues to grow. The more you show gratitude in your life, the more you may influence others to do the same, benefitting society as a whole. We don’t need a holiday to express our gratitude. We can convey it daily through check-ins with ourselves. If you didn’t already take a moment to do so, pause. Look at your life and what you have to be grateful for today. Thank you for reading. ∎

ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS 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. She 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. She is also the creator of the healing methodology Medicine with Words which is designed to help “spring clean” your mind and help free yourself from unnecessary noise so that you can live a more purposeful, peaceful life. She is the author of Filmmaking Without Fear which is a multi-medium resource curated for indie filmmakers. Her FWF podcast is available on all streaming platforms, and the book of the same name is available on Amazon. She is a regular on panels at Sundance, Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival, Elizabeth mentors wherever possible, ensuring she sends the elevator back down to all other female storytellers.

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” - Eckhart Tolle
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86 www.IamAwareNow.com BURT KEMPNER
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I had been enduring a long night of the soul, a night that stretched over two years.
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BURT STORIES’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY BURT

HOLY OUTCRY

This happened half a lifetime ago to someone who used to be me. I had been enduring a long night of the soul, a night that stretched over two years.

During that time, my mother died.

My father died.

One of my dearest childhood friends died. Even my dog, who never met a soul she didn’t like, died.

They didn’t pass over. They weren’t called home. They died, and every comforting belief I’d ever held lay in tatters around me.

I filled the void they left behind with grief and rage. I pored through every sacred text I could get my hands on, hoping to find something that would give life meaning again, but emerged a hollow man still.

I was desperate to talk to someone, but who?

I didn’t think my family or friends would understand and any self-respecting member of the clergy would find my thoughts blasphemous or worse. Well, perhaps not every clergyman.

I had read a wonderful book a few years earlier called ‘The Jew in the Lotus’, an account of a deputation of American Jews sent to India to discuss with the Dalai Lama how to keep a culture alive and vibrant in exile.

One of the most prominent characters was Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, or as he was almost universally known, Reb Zalman. He was ten leagues larger than life, a scholar with an impish grin and mischief in his eyes, flamboyant, compassionate and a wise man for all seasons.

I didn’t know the man, but somehow managed to get his email address and poured my heart out to him. I didn’t expect a reply; it just felt good to get it down on paper. But ten minutes later I received a familiar chirpy announcement: “You’ve got mail!” (I said this was a very long time ago.)

His message was brief. Only four words but they changed my life:

I felt the anger and bitterness draining out of me.

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HOLY OUTCRY

Reb Zalman had also asked for my phone number. Within minutes we began a two-hour conversation which I still can’t discuss to this day except to say it resembled the Japanese practice of mending broken objects with gold, the gold in this case being the sure knowledge that I would follow my inner voice wherever it led me and past anyone who tried to bar my way.

Zalman died a few years ago (not passed over, not called home) and I felt his loss immensely. But this time, largely thanks to him, my belief system held up.

“Your outcry is holy.” Damn… ∎

www.awarenessties.us/burt-kempner

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

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Nature is art.

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Photo Credit: @cydneythelight

LIFE IMITATES NATURE YOUR BODY IS NATURE.

Stretch marks are normal, body hair is normal, saggy boobs and skin is normal. Our bodies work so hard to keep us alive, yet we put our energy into hating it. We don’t have to love it every day, because some days that’s easier said than done. But by normalising normal bodies, at least we can look at it and say, this is what I look like and that’s okay .

If you’re seeing this and you have a tummy like mine, this is your reminder that life imitates nature. We’re made of the earth, the sky and the stars. And aren’t they beautiful? We don’t judge a tree for the texture of its bark. We admire it’s strength to keep growing, reaching for the light. We don’t criticise the clouds for their ever changing nature or the ocean floor for its ripples and dips. We admire them. So this is a message for you to admire your body, because your body is nature. Nature is beautiful. Nature is art. ∎

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NATURE IS
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It’s a teachable moment.
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THE NEXT RAINBOW FEATURING JENN BOYD

It’s mid-morning. High school students are completing an assignment outdoors, and it’s time to return to class. They hear an interesting bird sound from afar. Is it a House Finch? No, a Great Horned Owl. Maybe a Mourning Dove. The students know these sounds aren’t coming from the birds. It’s from their teacher, Mrs. Boyd. She is calling them back to class. They know that Mrs. Boyd loves birds, and has practiced their different songs in honor of their spirit.

When Jenn Boyd was asked to teach Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science at Westlake High School, she was stunned at first. Having no foundation in her education to teach the subject, Jenn began to study. She accepted that her role would be to learn just ahead of her students, becoming a guide towards seeking knowledge.

What was most profound for Jenn during her studies was that every single thing on earth is connected. She shares that “nothing exists in isolation. If you tweak one thing, you tweak something else.” Jenn also realized that the study of environmental science focused on how people were messing the environment up. She shares, “I came to an understanding that I was part of the problem because as a human I was taking all things natural around me for granted.” It was a dark place to be in as Jenn felt burdened with guilt for about a year, grappling with how she could become part of the solution. She didn’t stay in that dark place for long.

In her classes, which included a field studies course, she pioneered programs that had students identify and create solutions to environmental problems on their school campus and community. Jenn also required her students to complete local service projects, not to force students to give back but instead give opportunities for students to feel.

She shares, “I would ask students after their service projects how they felt about their experiences. I wanted them to have opportunities for introspection when it came to their connectedness to themselves, people, and nature. I wanted them to see that they could be part of the solution, not to see themselves only as the problem.” By 2016, Jenn was awarded Teacher of the Month for the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

Three years ago in 2020, Jenn felt like she grew up and began a new journey as a high school teacher of 14 years. When the pandemic came, transitioning to online teaching was a tremendous challenge. She didn’t know all the technology, saw blank screens instead of student faces, and juggled the ridiculous expectations of being a teacher and mother of two young children. She also became a target of cruel racial slurs from people in her neighborhood, in a community where she had always felt safe. Jenn shares, “I would be with my kids and would hear terrible and scary comments like ‘Damnit, there are Asians here!’ When our school district returned to in-person teaching, teachers were required to get monthly COVID tests. At a testing site, someone chased me on a skateboard yelling ‘Wuhan!’ at me. I felt terror. I was angry. I was in a dark place for awhile because I couldn’t understand how people could be so cruel.”

During the continued long pause that COVID forced her to be in, Jenn spent time watching the unveiling of systemic racism that continued to plague the world, from George Floyd to the mass killings in Monterey Park, CA, and so many other events in between. When Jenn returned to campus, her perspective changed. Engaging in conversations with colleagues, she began to notice the injustice on her campus.

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It’s clarity in my interconnectedness to people and the land I hold sacred.
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Experiencing racism more directly and seeing it first-hand in the world, allowed Jenn to be open to hearing what other teachers had brought up around the Native American imagery associated with their high school mascot. She didn't recognize that it was perpetuating a stereotype of a group of people but sought out understanding from a colleague who patiently walked her through the reasons why it was problematic, indirectly strengthening damaging stereotypes. Jenn wondered how she did not see this before, and began understanding that images convey messages too. In the case with the mascot, it was creating negative consequences for their local Indigenous groups, Indigenous students, and the entire student body and community.

This awareness led Jenn to think about how many more people could bene fit from having time and space to engage in difficult conversations to grow our understanding of racism. She imagined a place in her school community where people could identify how racism can show up at school AND collaboratively find solutions. With three other teachers, the Critical Friends group was created to meet once a month to reflect on topics such as grading practices, classroom culture, discipline, and the school’s course offerings. The goal of these meetings was fueled by hope for the future that education would be more equitable. For example, a letter grade has become a major factor in how students see themselves and their self-worth. However, what if learning could be the focus? What happens when we have more diverse and inclusive AP classes where students feel a sense of belonging because of their curiosity and thirst for learning? Jenn believes that when education becomes more equitable, our society will be more equitable too. It is all connected.

During this time, Jenn reached out to an extraordinary life coach, Hilary Bilbrey. Jenn realized that in order to continue being a teacher who would enlighten teens to understand their interconnectedness between themselves, everyone around them, and their natural world, she needed to invest the time to honor herself as a human being. Jenn shared that with Hilary she learned about her virtues, what her personal brand was and continues to be, and how virtues defined who she continues to be in the world. Jenn discovered idealism and humility as her top two virtues. When combined with her love and relentless commitment for nature, Jenn owned her power of advocacy with conviction that the only way to solve the world’s greatest challenges would be through humanity and unity. Jenn describes her vision using an imagery, seeking out one rainbow at a time:

The sun is my idealism.

The ocean below is my humility.

In my quest towards understanding, water from the ocean evaporates, moving towards the clouds above. Within each cloud, I discern through the information through reflection, connection, conversations. When understanding is reached, I anchor to my courage to be the first raindrop to fall.

In my decision to fall, there is unity in others who join me.

The result of that discovery with others creates a rainbow.

It’s a new understanding.

It’s a teachable moment.

It’s clarity in my interconnectedness to people and the land I hold sacred.

In November 2021, Jenn received the Hero’s Heart Scholarship given out by Los Robles Medical Center. With her scholarship, she had students build a garden on campus and donated to a local environmental conservation project.

Jenn’s new lens of thinking and teaching science education through a social justice lens is where Jenn is today. She believes that the relationship with self, with others and with nature can be repaired and that all three are dependent on one another to thrive. Jenn’s time in nature has been most powerful when there is silence. She shares, “In the quiet, nature forces me to look, pause, and see the lessons that come through.”

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AwareNow Podcast THE NEXT RAINBOW

If you are a student in Jenn’s classroom today, aside from hearing the many bird calls that Jenn can make, you will also experience something else. After attending an environmental literacy conference near Lake Tahoe in 2022 and becoming a certified Virtue Project Facilitator in 2023, she teaches students nature journaling as a tool to find the alignment between self, others and nature. Jenn has been invited to teach nature journaling to colleagues at her high school, and will also teach a virtues session at a statewide environmental literacy conference this coming summer.

Before you go, there is just one more imagery that Jenn would like to leave us with. It’s anchored to the virtue of cooperation:

to the effort since each flyer takes a turn.

I imagine a world where people are continuously flying through rainbows, each person fully owning their virtues, contributing to living a life where peacefulness, love, compassion and understanding are accessible to everyone, at all times. Unity is the only way. ∎

Jenn Boyd has been teaching science at Westlake High School since 2006, currently teaching AP Environmental Science and Honors Environmental Field Studies. She also serves as the science department chair. Her parents were both born in Japan, giving Jenn opportunities to connect to their culture learning Japanese language, dance, and traditions. She has been married for 12 years and is a mom of an eight year old and five year old. Her core virtue is idealism. Jenn has a vision for what is possible in the world and take steps towards making them a reality. She continues to work towards a socially just, deeply connected society that understands their role in the community of life on this planet. For more information about Jenn and nature journaling, contact her at manami49@gmail.com

www.awarenessties.us/sonja-montiel

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

For more information on Virtues Training contact Sonja (sonja@thedheffect.com) or Hilary (hilary@thedheffect.com).

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98 We need to center the how & the why. www.IamAwareNow.com JORDAN VANHEMERT SAXOPHONIST, EDUCATOR, DEI ADVOCATE & AWARENESS TIES OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR Photo Credit: @floresart96 AWARENOW / THE PAUSE EDITION

THE HOW & WHY OF IT GOING BEYOND THE ‘WHAT’

Yesterday, I had made the remark that so many pedagogy texts and other things center the ‘what’ of improvisation. They center the the what of the Jazz language, and really what I was talking about yesterday is that we need to center the how and the why — how somebody played something, why they played it and why it was so effective.

We were talking about Freddie Hubbard and how some of the great trumpet players articulate. And I played her a recording of Nat Adderley soloing on ‘Jeannine’ from ‘Them Dirty Blues’ which is one of my favorite Adderley brothers recordings. It really resonated with her.

So, I said, “Well, let's just learn a line from it together to see how Nat was articulating. And so we learned it together… She was learning it and understanding it. She's like, “Wait a minute. That's just a scale.” And I was like, “Yeah, it's just a scale, but it's not the scale that matters. It's how he played it, and it's how he said what he said.” ∎

Follow Jordan on Instagram: @jvanhemusic

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I think neurodivergent or not, the tech industry is a place for everyone.
DANIELLE BIDDICK
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NEURODIVERSITY HIRING PROGRAM MANAGER AT DELL TECHNOLOGIES

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DANIELLE BIDDICK

NEUROSIGHTED SEEING & SUPPORTING NEURODIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE

Whether nearsighted or farsighted, you can clearly see that society needs to set its sights on neurodiversity. And once seen, it needs to be supported, not in passing but in practice. In the workplace, those who are neurodivergent need to be recognized not just for the difference they have but for the difference they can make. Danielle Biddick leads Dell's Neurodivergent Hiring Program, doing things differently to support neurodiversity.

ALLIÉ: So many talk the talk, but seldom walk it. When it comes to neurodiversity, Dell is walking side by side and with neurodivergent employees. You, Danielle, are right there every step of the way. Can you tell us about your program? I’d love to hear what inspired its beginning and what drives its continued progress.

DANIELLE: It all started with one of our ERGs, and ERG stands for Employee Resource Group. Dell has 13 different ERGs. They're essentially communities within the organization where team members with common interests or backgrounds bring their collective voices together to drive business impact. One of our ERGs is True Ability. True Ability's mission is to educate, drive awareness, and serve as a resource for team members who have disabilities, or just those who have a connection to the community like caretakers or family members, or simply anyone who wants to

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DANIELLE: (continued) Back in 2018, we had a group of passionate True Ability team members that came together mainly because of their shared experience with having neurodivergent children. Within that group, we also had several executive leaders who are still closely connected to the program today, which is fantastic. They were able to partner with our talent acquisition HR teams, along with different pockets of the business to socialize the business case for this program, and ultimately, helped it get started. There were several reasons why we wanted to launch the program. More specifically, some of those reasons centered around the prevalence of neurodivergence and the high unemployment rates that are associated.

It's estimated that 10 to 20% of the global population is considered neurodivergent. That tells you right there that we already have a neurodiverse workplace. Yet the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults runs as high as 30 to 40%. Then more specifically for autistic adults, more than 85% are unemployed or underemployed. Those are very troubling statistics when you consider that neurodivergent individuals possess the type of skill sets that we're looking for and that we need at Dell. I'm talking about traits like strong observational skills or strong attention to detail, out-ofthe box thinking or problem-solving skills, and even the ability to hyperfocus for long periods of time.

With that, we recognized that we were missing out on this impactful talent pool. We attributed that to the traditional interview process sometimes being limiting for some individuals and not allowing them to fully showcase their skills or qualifications for the roles. In order to solve for that, we facilitated an interview experience in a very different way in an effort to fill that unemployment gap and tap into this largely untapped talent pool. Then once people were brought in and working with us in the company, we also offered a variety of different support resources for them. That's all in all what the program looks like and how it got started.

ALLIÉ: When it comes to getting the job, you must first get past the interview. What do you do differently at Dell when it comes to your interview process?

DANIELLE: I want to first start by saying that everyone is different. I don't want to make any sweeping generalizations about the neurodivergent community. It's a very wide spectrum of life experiences and characteristics. But ultimately, the feedback that we often hear from that community is that typical interviews can sometimes rely too heavily on social communication, verbal communication skills, or some of those like unwritten social cues that are involved in the interview experience. Those types of things can often cause a disadvantage for candidates who might process information or communicate differently.

In order to solve for that, we've partnered with an organization called Neurodiversity in the Workplace to offer an alternative interview experience by using a skill-based hiring model. A skill-based hiring model is essentially designed to remove some of that bias that goes into traditional interviews by focusing solely on the candidates core competencies for the role.

Through that skill-based experience, we're essentially having candidates put together portfolios about themselves to demonstrate the work that they've done, who they are. It's a good tool for them to use as they're talking to managers rather than that traditional back-and-forth question and answer that you see in interviews. We kind of let the candidates take the lead in those experiences.

Then we give them a chance to work on projects. These are projects that help them demonstrate their skills directly to the managers by showing them what they can do as opposed to just solely telling them. For example, if a manager says, "I'm looking for a software engineer who is proficient in, let's say, Java," which is a programming language, then we'll have a group of candidates work on a project over the course of a week and they will use Java to show what they can do. That gives managers a firsthand look at how they approach problems, how they troubleshoot any challenges along the way, and then has them deliver the same type of conclusion that they would to the rest of the team. It gives them a full view of how this person might present on their team.

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DANIELLE: (continued) Our goal for that interview process is to provide an experience for candidates that's much more structured and predictable. We tell them what to expect. We give them the tools that they need to do the projects, and answer questions along the way. At the same time, we give hiring managers the insight that they need to make confident hiring decisions based off of the candidate's technical skills, their professional interests, and their backgrounds.

What I often hear from managers at the end of this experience is that this is a valuable way to assess all talent, not just neurodivergent candidates. I've even heard some managers say that they've developed their own skill-based interview style for future experiences when they interview. It's taking on more of that universal design approach, which I love because it goes to show that this works for everyone, not just neurodivergent candidates.

ALLIÉ: From internship programs to full time employment, Dell creates space for people on the neurodivergent spectrum with opportunities that speak to ‘A Place For All, A Home For You’. For participants in your program what resources do you offer that support their success?

DANIELLE: Aside from just supporting the candidates, I think it's important to call out that before we even conduct those skill-based interviews, our partners also help provide neurodiversity awareness training to the hiring managers who participate. That training breaks down the different facets and characteristics of neurodivergence. We help educate managers about the different ways that neurodiversity can show up in the workplace, especially as an advantage. At the same time, we provide some feedback on ways to create a more neuro-inclusive environment for everyone.

We help them learn about different ways that they can provide information differently or be cognizant of different ways of learning and socializing so that they can support the individuals that they're hiring effectively. We always ask the people that we're hiring, "What works best for you? How can you be most successful in this work environment?" Then we just meet them where they're at.

In doing that, we provide career coaches who are actually external to Dell. Those career coaches have a very dynamic role in the way that they support individuals. They tailor that support to whatever the person may need. Whether that be some additional support with time management or task prioritization, or just having someone to go to when they are feeling overwhelmed and want to talk through everything that's on their plate.

They also check in with managers to see if there's other ways that they can support the individual. They meet on a pretty regular basis. We partner with local nonprofit organizations, like the Arc of the Capital Area in Austin, and then we work with HMEA, which is based out of Boston area.

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DANIELLE: (continued) Those coaches typically work with folks throughout the first year or so of their employment. But they're always available to re-engage, say, someone has a manager change down the line, or if they're just looking to get promoted and want some additional support in getting there. That's one aspect.

In addition to that, we also partner team members up with True Ability mentors. I talked about our True Ability ERG earlier. The role for that mentor is to provide someone more information about the company culture and to help get them connected to the rest of their network. They're there as more of an ally within the company to answer questions along the way or be a resource for them, however they can be. Then lastly, we offer a variety of different professional development resources to team members. Those are for them to take advantage of. They're not required. Then we offer a variety of networking events for new team members as they're coming on so that they can connect with other program hires and learn about how their experience was when they first started. We've seen a lot of great friendships develop out of that.

ALLIÉ: A diverse talent pool is a deep talent pool. From your experience, how have neurodivergent employees added to Dell’s depth of talent?

DANIELLE: I have so many examples. First, I think it's important that I also point out that we bring talent into a variety of role types across the business, and a majority of our program hires work remotely. We do that because we know that neurodivergent job seekers are interested in and very skilled at a variety of different roles. We don't necessarily try to pigeonhole anyone into one specific role type.

I think there are some stereotypes about, like, only technical roles. But that's not the case for us. With that being said, we are a technology company, so a number of our roles are pretty technical in nature. I'm talking about areas like software development, data analytics, cybersecurity, finance, and so many more. We've also hired people into some non-technical roles like project management, program management, content creation for our marketing or education services teams, and even general sales roles. Again, we try not to necessarily only partner with one side of the business because we know that there's an impact that can be made in so many different areas. But as far as those success stories go, I hear feedback from managers all the time about different ways that team members are making an impact, a measurable impact.

Some of the stories that stand out to me are — this was actually recent — a manager told me that they had a group of senior team members who spent a few days trying to do this bug fix. I'm not technical, so it's hard for me to speak to it. They were trying to fix a bug and they were having a hard time going over it. They brought it up in a team meeting, and the person that was hired through the program said, "Hey, let me take a look at it.” They were able to find the bug within like 20 minutes. The team was just floored. They were like, "We have spent days looking for this." Now they're a resource that those team members go to frequently to say, "Hey, can you just give this a look and maybe you'll be able to catch something that we haven't." I love that one.

There's another story of a program hire who, when she first joined her team, she felt like things were pretty disorganized. There were too many people doing different things, and she wanted to create more synergy or consensus among the team. She actually offered to be the scrum master. Since then, they've found that the overall productivity and the outcomes of that team have improved tenfold.

Then the last one that I'll tell you about, which is probably my favorite, is in one of our recent hiring programs that we facilitated, one of the managers who was participating had done the program before. He'd already hired someone through the program. When it came time for interviews, he couldn't make it. He was sick or something happened. He asked that team member who he'd hired the program a couple years prior to stand in for him. She was on the other side of the table making that hiring decision for her team and working with people who she was once in their shoes. It shows that this can come full circle and that team members are making a valuable impact, driving innovative solutions, and becoming a part of the overall team and culture. It's what I love most about the program.

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ALLIÉ: We’re all tied to a cause. Neurodiversity is one of yours. What ties you to this cause, Danielle? Is there a personal story you can share?

DANIELLE: It's deeply personal for me, actually. When I was young, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was in those special support classes. I always knew because of that, that I learned differently, and with that, had to advocate for some of those challenges that I experienced. I was the kid that would run up to the teacher early on in class and say, "Please don't call on me to read aloud. I'll freeze. I can't do it. I'll trip over my words." Things like that, but also accommodations later in life. When I was in college, it was getting extra time on tests. I also found out that I had ADHD along the way. I consider myself neurodivergent myself, and I was always kind of tied to that community.

I found ways to overcome some barriers that I experienced because of my different way of learning. But I also used it as an advantage where I could play to my strengths. Through that process, I decided that I wanted to be a speech pathologist. I studied communication sciences and disorders in college and was on my way to becoming an SLP, which you need a master's degree for.

At the end of my undergrad, I was ready to take a year or two to travel and start working to make some money to pay for my master's degree. During that time, I began working for an organization in Seattle called PROVAIL. Their mission is to help individuals with developmental disabilities in finding meaningful employment opportunities. I had a couple of different roles there, but where I landed and what I loved most was my role in partnering with the Microsoft Neurodiversity program. What I did was provide career coaching support, just like what I talked about earlier. I was meeting with individuals who were hired through the program, helping them through that interview experience, and then ultimately meeting with their managers along the way. And learning about potential challenges that they experienced in that corporate environment. That helped me drive other programs.

I worked with HP to help them launch their program and develop that skill-based interview. Through all of that work, Dell ended up tapping me on the shoulder to say, "Hey, would you like to come and support us with building this program out here?" The rest was history.

ALLIÉ: For those who look at the tech world and don’t see a place where they fit, what advice do you have for those who are neurodivergent?

DANIELLE: I think neurodivergent or not, the tech industry is a place for everyone. Coming from my own personal experience, I never thought that I would land in the corporate world or even in a tech company. I'm not a technical person. I think the corporate environment is a place for so many different backgrounds and skill sets.

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DANIELLE: (continued) More specifically for the neurodivergent community and job seekers, I'd recommend considering all of the resources that are out there right now. We're at a point in the evolution of the neurodiversity movement where so many employers are catching on to, one, offering these types of programs, or being more mindful of ways that they can be more neuro-inclusive.

There's actually a Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable, which is comprised of about 50 companies, both big and small across so many different industries. We collaborate regularly. We talk about best practices, share updates on where our programs are going, things that we're doing. Then we also share candidates.

Last year, we actually came together to create a career connector, which is essentially like a job board, but it's a resource for neurodivergent talent to go and get connected to neuro-inclusive companies. I can send you a link for that after this. I say that because there's a lot out there now.

Additionally, there are organizations like Neurodiversity in the Workplace who we partner with. They also work with several other employers whose ultimate goal is to find neurodivergent talent and to bring them in the door. Finding organizations like that as well, who can get you in the right pipeline or introduce them to their network is a great avenue as well.

I'd also encourage people to network. There are so many self-advocates out there. LinkedIn is a great place for that. I would try to learn from others about how they got into the industry and see if there are even opportunities that they can introduce them to.

Then probably my last piece of advice would be to not screen yourself out of a process. What I mean by that is sometimes, myself included, we'll look at a job description and we'll see one line that we'll say, "Oh, I don't fit that requirement. They won't select me. I'm not even going to waste my time applying." I would encourage people to still apply and to not give up. Don't give up. ∎

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THE NONVERBAL PRINCESS THE BOOK & THE FILM GIVING A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS

A documentary on the story behind the story of 'The Nonverbal Princess', this film tells the tale of three talents using technology to override barriers of disability to tell an unspoken story that's gone unheard until now.

When a producer in the Midwest with multiple sclerosis (Allié McGuire) hears of a nonverbal actress in New Jersey with cerebral palsy (Jessica Frew) who has a children's book she wants to get out of her head and onto paper, she reaches out to an illustrator in Ecuador with osteogenesis imperfecta (Gustavo Vera) to translate Jessica's thoughts to images. With Gustavo's illustrations designed on his laptop, Jessica's narration developed with her eye gaze app, and Allié's production of an ebook, audiobook and video, the story of 'The Nonverbal Princess' was brought to life. Despite their individual disabilities, they harnessed technological capabilities to share a story with the world designed to break barriers and build bridges.

Read the book (www.awarenow.us/the-nonverbal-princess). And stay tuned for the story behind the story, with the documentary coming soon.

Learn more about ‘The Nonverbal Princess’: www.awarenessties.us/the-nonverbal-princess

This isn’t a typical princess story, but seldom are interesting princess stories typical. This is a story dedicated to those who have felt unheard and unseen in society because of a disability.
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INSTRUCTIONAL

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Imperfection is the incentive for growth.
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ALEX GILL

NEURODIVERSITY WORKS PERSPECTIVE FROM A PROGRAM PARTICIPANT AT DELL

Our differences give us depth, not only as a society, but as a workforce. When those differences are not only acknowledged and accepted but appreciated, the world becomes more inclusive. In the tech world, neurodiversity is a term that many acknowledge and accept. But how many appreciate and support it? Dell is one that does. Neurodiversity@Dell Technologies offers internships and full-time career opportunities for neurodivergent job seekers. Program participants are offered skill-based interviews and provided with a variety of employee support resources once hired on. Today, we hear from Alex Gill.

ALLIÉ: Everyone has a ‘thing’. Was tech always your thing? When did you first fall in love with technology?

ALEX: Technology has always been a subject I have had an affinity for, and for me, there are a number of environmental and educational influences that have reinforced this.

My first exposures to technology were unique because of my father’s occupation. He was a Telecommunications Engineer and Enterprise Architect for an aerospace contractor and financial services provider, and a great deal of my interest in technology is likely to have come through both passive and active exposure to the in fluences of his profession. On take your child to work day, I was able to go with him to his corporate headquarters, and experience the technology that he had implemented in the conference rooms and brie fing centers of C-Level executives. He shared stories from his engagement at trade shows like InfoComm and CES, through events he attended at the Boston Computer Society, and interactions with vendors like Lucent Technologies, PictureTel, Wang Laboratories, and MCI WorldCom in evaluating products and services in his capacity as an IT buyer. It was through coding simple GO TO statements in BASIC and playing “Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine” on his Windows 3.1 system that I had some of my earliest exposures to technology.

I was also drawn to technology through Science Fiction at a very young age. The earliest memory that I have was watching “Star Trek” when I was about a year and a half old. I was not consciously aware of the nuances of the program at the time, as it was primarily the imagery of the technology that formed an impression on me, but the works of Andrew Probert, Michael Okuda, John Eaves, and Syd Mead have left a significant impression.

However, later in life, I was introduced to the works of Yoshiyuki Tomino through his Gundam Series, and his body of work is what truly galvanized my interest in technology, in the potential that it brings, and how it can be misused. Describing the meanings of his works to the degree that I would like would extend beyond the scope of this article, but I can say that I having the opportunity to speak with him and gain his advice as an artist is one of the most gratifying and fortunate experiences of my life.

I have also developed an affinity of technology through education. I transferred into a Physics major in college, but before I was able to complete my course curriculum, I experienced challenges in progressing through the major because of structural changes emerging in the Physics department at that time. I then transferred into the Art Department, where as a Studio Art major, I was able to take that technical acumen and apply it towards Graphic

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Candidates need to have systems that provide the means to demonstrate experience on the basis of ability.
ALEX GILL
INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER AT DELL TECHNOLOGIES
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Artwork by: Alex Gill

ALEX: (continued) Design through Adobe products and solutions. One of my most influential teachers in Corporate Identity was an apprentice of Paul Rand, builder of brands like UPS, IBM, NeXT, Enron, and Morningstar. It was here that I discovered what eventually became my working passion in life: Computer Graphics Imagery and Visual Effects. It is programs like Autodesk Maya, Pixologic Zbrush, and Adobe Substance Painter that drive me creatively. My current career drive is to be more directly involved with areas where I can grow and deploy this knowledge, and to follow in my father’s footsteps after a fashion, showcasing how this technology can be of bene fit to others at events like Dell Technologies World, SIGGRAPH, Adobe MAX, and Autodesk University.

ALLIÉ: Just as everyone has a ‘thing’, everyone has obstacles to overcome in life and in the workplace. Being neurodivergent, when it comes to your career, what obstacles did you run into?

ALEX: Like many who are neurodiverse, I have experienced a number of obstacles over the course of my career. Two major obstacles that I experienced are ones that are commonly experienced by many who are looking for jobs, particularly in the creative enterprises.

The first challenge that I experienced was Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). I applied to hundreds of positions, with no responses received, and I discovered that no amount of adjustment to my resume structure enabled an ATS alone to read my applications correctly. Those who have an education in Graphic Design often need to showcase their skills as part of not only a resume, but a portfolio of works or a look book; Applicant Tracking Systems do not have the capability to evaluate this information in their current state of development, and the emergence of Large Language Models will pose additional challenges in this space for prospective applicants across all careers, not only ones that are aligned with design roles.

The second challenge I experienced was a lack of response from recruiters. While it can be said that this is to be expected due to the high volume of applicants and cyclical nature of recruiting, for a person with Autism, insuf ficient information about why these applications were rejected, or what speci fically can be done to improve them, can produce a perseverative feedback loop. We need to be able to have transparency and accountability into why the decision to not pursue us further as candidates at a particular time may be made. Also, as my father had experience in evaluating candidates after they were short-listed, I was aware that Subject Matter Experts who would provide recommendations to hiring managers to fill a role would very rarely see more than five requisitions on a short list, so being aware of this disparity, and the visibility that my submissions were capable of in the back end of the hiring system, created a feeling of vexation that even a simple acknowledgement would not be received.

In the extremely rare event a response was received, it was often one of “insufficient experience”, which is often utilized as a universal solution in justifying the dismissal of a candidate, de fined on the basis of time. Candidates need to have systems that provide the means to demonstrate experience on the basis of ability; it is important to remember that experience is not always directly proportional to time.

However, I would say that the largest obstacle I encountered was during an internship I participated in at another company before Dell. Around a week before the internship was set to begin, I experienced a Pulmonary Embolism which placed me into the hospital. This came about due to a side effect as a result of a prolonged flare of my Ulcerative Colitis, a condition that I have managed my entire life. I did not come home from admitting until the day before the internship began, and no reasonable accommodations were made for me to onboard while I was receiving treatment. I went through my internship, bedridden in recovery, was told by my manager the first day on my job that a position would be guaranteed for all interns upon completion of the program, was told that I exceeded expectations by my manager, but was not offered a position upon completion due to being told that I was not autonomous enough after having disclosed my Autism and Ulcerative Colitis to Human Resources.

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It recognized that we are people who are drivers of positive business outcomes through the product of our efforts.
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ALEX GILL INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER AT DELL TECHNOLOGIES

ALLIÉ: Dell works to be a place for all and a home for neurodivergent employees. In your experience, what does Dell do differently that other tech companies could learn from?

ALEX: I would like to preface that a number of technology companies, particularly Business Roundtable partners, are progressing towards comparable levels of support; it was actually a Microsoft representative who directed me to the job board where I first discovered the listing to apply at Dell, and their Neurodiversity Career Connector is a great partner resource for those looking for opportunity. With that having been said, what Dell Technologies brings is the degree of engagement and support that is involved in every stage of the career journey.

Beginning with the Neurodiversity Hiring Event, I and other candidates partnered with event organizers which included Dell program leads, Neurodiversity in the Workplace, HMEA, and Arc of the Capital Area. The program involved a preparatory process around getting to know the team that we would be participating with during the interview project, defining our skills, and how to best present deliverables. The second piece consisted of a group collaborative project with fellow applicants.

The closest analogy that I can provide to this interview process is that this is similar to a Capstone project one might find during a University internship program, only it’s “front-loaded”; Instead of taking place concurrently during an internship, the interview process takes this group project, and uses it as a live skills-based evaluation system for hiring decisions, where job coaches, HR representatives, and hiring managers can all be engaged in the process of witnessing how the work is accomplished.

What is great about this approach is that it provides more time to those who are neurodiverse to establish individual networking sessions internally through a company, which is a critical tool in facilitating career growth, and for the hiring company, multiple stakeholders have a battery of information beyond written descriptions of skills and psychometry questionnaires to evaluate candidates.

What is fantastic is that this network does not simply disappear after the initial hiring process is completed; I still have consistent engagements with my Job Coach, Human Resources representatives, and a variety of staff members who serve as career touchstones, though I feel that last part can be attributed more to the generally positive workplace culture of the company.

Another key differentiator, which I discovered after joint discussions with a prominent research and advisory firm, is that Dell is the only company which provides C-Level executive engagement during the Neurodiversity program. When the CFO, CHRO, CTO, and several other executive sponsors were all on a telepresence session and engaging with me directly, two special things happened.

First, it demonstrated a direct commitment to enabling opportunity for the Neurodiverse. It recognized that we are people who are drivers of positive business outcomes through the product of our efforts.

Second, it reinforces the agency and reach that I have as a person. It is okay to engage with those who are above you, and that regardless of who a person may be, even if they are an executive at a Fortune Global 100 company, people have the capability to make the time for you.

It is also important, of course, to consider first how to best frame such interactions, but those who are neurodiverse often operate on an innate appreciation of order and structure, and the hierarchical strata of our societies and lack of a communication method that expresses perfect understanding between us can reinforce additional communication challenges when speaking to someone that is of a different rank, standing, or level.

With all that being said, because the Neurodiversity Hiring Program uses systems which can be of support to both neurodiverse and non-neurodiverse individuals, increases visibility to candidate skillsets, and strengthens relationships built during the interview process, I am confident it will become not only a new standard of evaluating talent, but separating the signal from the noise in validating legitimate applicants, as tools and processes associated with what is commonly referred to as Artificial Intelligence develop further.

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ALLIÉ: Tell us about your work at Dell. What do you do? And what do you love most about your work?

ALEX: I am an Instructional Designer that is a part of our Content and Curriculum Design Team within Global Sales Learning and Development. Our primary responsibilities are to construct multimedia learning material for sales representatives, which consist of on-demand video presentations and interactive content, as well as event production material for our Field Readiness Summary and Tech Summit sessions, which bene fit thousands of sellers and additional stakeholders globally. At the moment, my role consists of working on our Video Editing Services for rapid distribution of video content, voice over material, and populating content across our Learning Management Systems.

I started at Dell in the Summer of 2021. During that time, I worked with the OEM Solutions Business Unit, helping to design a significant portion of the look and feel of their corporate intranet. I also edited video and provided camera guidance for Directors and Business Unit leaders, to help them look and sound their very best. After a few months, an opportunity opened up for me to participate in a new Business Unit with new opportunities to examine, and I have a very supportive, caring, and talented team in my current position.

The greatest satisfaction that my work gives me is the number of people that I am able to distribute content to all over the world quickly and effectively. I never expected that, this early in my career, I would be able to have such an impact involving stakeholders worldwide. It is amazing that we live in a time where the services that we provide to others can have effects that can cascade all over the globe.

ALLIÉ: For others who are neurodivergent who have looked but not found a place where they fit in the workplace, what advice do you have?

ALEX: This is a challenging question to answer because it has only been over the later part of the last ten years where I have seen progress in the area of neurodiverse accommodations in hiring, despite the introduction of the American Disabilities Act over thirty years ago, but I have three points of advice.

Point One: You Can Fit in Big Places!

We are still in a period where it is primarily large cap organizations that are capable of providing these solutions at scale. There are companies of every size, from small and mid-cap sized organizations, to private C, S, and LLC entities, that are all capable of providing support. However, to cast the widest net for where the greatest opportunities are available as of this writing, focus your efforts on looking for work at large organizations, ideally ones that have Business Roundtable relationships. Neurodiversity hiring programs and on-the-job accommodations will develop more quickly and effectively at these companies due to size, resource availability, and policy efforts.

Point Two: You Can Fit From Anywhere!

Technologies like Quotron and Telerate were used in the 1970s by stockbrokers to receive market data remotely. My father used telepresence solutions when working out of his home for decades. Through discussions in my volunteer experience of conducting interviews, I have come to discover that Integrated Services Digital Networking has been used as a collaborative solution for voice talent and musical work as early as the 1990s. Technologies like NVIDIA Omniverse and Pixar’s Universal Scene Description are going to facilitate offsite studio collaboration on CGI and VFX in the media and entertainment industry, and will change the creative landscape forever.

Remote Workplaces have been here for a long time, and I have a signi ficant degree of confidence that as remote workplaces enable health, reduce mortality rates, improve balance sheets by reducing the need for commercial real estate, and enable the procurement of more powerful and capable hardware for the production and distribution of goods and services, the opportunities it brings will spread further.

There will be jobs that require a physical presence, but you will always have the option to work remotely.

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“Many of our most valuable opportunities in life come from imperfect situations.”

ALEX: (continued) Point Three: Think Better to Fit Best!

When I first interviewed through the Neurodiversity Hiring Event, I used a set of creative skills during the interview process in line with Graphic Designers, Art Directors, and CG Production which I have discovered would best suit roles in a different Business Unit, and my role took me in an unexpected direction. I am not absolutely aligned with where I am now in terms of tool, process, and application familiarity that I developed over the course of my education and independent study, but that is okay, and that is for two reasons.

The first reason is People. I have the most supportive manager one could ask for, who does everything in their power to provide me the freedom and growth to build myself creatively within the parameters of my role, where I am able to develop a wide array of different experiences and valuable exposures to key individuals. I have a kind and caring team, and people within my network to explore opportunities where I can deploy myself. I also have a commitment to my success, the success of my neurodiverse colleagues, and future applicants, from the highest echelon of staff in this organization.

The second reason is Potential. A former manager and one of my mentors in the company expressed to me at one point that I have a global macro viewpoint and a knowledge base where I can apply myself in ways that may be greater than the creative pursuits that I have come into the company with. I have recently passed my CompTIA A+ exam, am studying to become an Adobe Certified Professional, and, out of curiosity, have recently taken a practice test for the Series 65 examination. I fared well without any study, and this has reinforced an interest in learning more about the intricacies of Fundamental and Technical Analysis through financial development programs. I have started to consider: “Can I do more than I imagined? Where and how can I become more than what I am?” That is what I have found and continue to find special here: Discovering places where I can fit better that I ever thought possible, every single day, and the Continuing Education and Connected Workplace resources that enable me to learn, travel, and grow.

It is okay not to fit best, because you can always fit better. For myself, and for many neurodiverse people, perfect is preferable to good in the ways that we process, and that distinct way of processing provides value. However, many of our most valuable opportunities in life come from imperfect situations; imperfection is the incentive for growth. That is the last piece of advice I leave you with, and wherever you are in your journey, career or otherwise, I send you good wishes, and thanks for your time in reading this today. ∎

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www.IamAwareNow.com KATHERINE
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While your kids don’t have the same stresses as adults, they often don’t connect with their feelings.
WINTER-SELLERY FOUNDER OF THE CONSCIOUS PARENTING REVOLUTION

5 EASY MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES AN INTRODUCTION FOR YOUR KIDS

What is mindfulness? If it’s something you have never tried before, it’s a way of focusing your awareness on the present moment. And at the same time, you calmly acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s used as a therapeutic technique. So right now, it’s something that can really help you stay calm as we deal with all the uncertainty around us.

Mindfulness has lots of amazing benefits. From decreasing your stress to improving your mood. It can also help with emotional regulation. And that’s not just for adults. Your child can experience these bene fits, as well. However, you are no doubt thinking, ‘Get my kids to sit down and meditate? Are you crazy?’ Well, there are ways you can help your children be mindful. You just have to make it fun.

While your kids don’t have the same stresses as adults, they often don’t connect with their feelings. With all the activities they do and the time they spend on their phones and tablets, they are often mindlessly going through the day. This means the only time they are checking in with themselves is when they have a tantrum or meltdown. Staying centered and grounded is the practice that keeps us firmly in the state of mind where we are “bigger than what’s bugging us” and live in the observer mindset.

Mindfulness can help your children check in with their emotions and recognize them. The ability to be with, but not overcome by feelings. To see them, as the Persian poet Rumi phrased it, as guests visiting who we can experience with interested curiosity! Research shows that practicing mindfulness with children helps them increase their focus, decrease stress and anxiety, and can enable positive prosocial behavior. It can also be a great way to connect with your child and find a moment of tranquility. And they can be few and far between right now.

Here are five great ways you can introduce mindfulness to your children. And you will both reap the rewards.

5 Easy Mindfulness Techniques For Your Kids

1. Breathing exercise

Meditation is essentially about sitting down and focusing on your own breath. What does it feel and sound like? Now your child might struggle with sitting still for longer than a matter of seconds. How do you combat that? You can use colorful pillows and play some soft music to create an atmosphere of calm and love. This will also get them interested. You can ask them to pretend they can smell something really nice, like flowers or a cake. As they take a deep breath in, they can then pretend to blow out candles or a ‘dandelion clock’ as they breathe out. Ask your child to think about their tummy rising and falling. Start by keeping it short, aim for 10. Then you can increase the time.

2. Notice 5 things around you

When you consciously notice the world around you, it can help bring you back to the present. This is very helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed by stress or emotion. Noticing five things you can see brings you back to the present. You can turn this into a game for your kids. Sit down with your child wherever you are and explain you want to play the “notice five things” game. Then you call out five things you can see around you, and ask your child to try it too. Then you can explain this can help if they are ever feeling upset. You can also try saying, noticing five things you can hear. This game brings your child back to the now. It works really effectively if your kids are already relaxed and ready to learn. With regular practice, your child will soon be calling on this tool to help with stress or losing control.

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3. Encourage your child to embrace all their feelings

No matter how hard you try to keep your children calm, they will, at some point, throw a tantrum. Mindfulness can enable them to learn how to accept their feelings without judgement. As a parent, you need to set an example in this. Of course, if your child is in the middle of the grocery store screaming blue murder, you are just as upset as they are. So easier said than done. But if you try and see past their behavior, acknowledge your reaction, take some deep breaths yourself, that is the first step to calming everything down. Don’t try and get them to do meditative breathing while they are throwing a hissy fit. This will not go down well! And it won’t work. Instead, wait until they have calmed down a little. Then talk to them about their feelings, and the unmet needs behind those feelings. You can then do some breathing and discuss how you can both look at solutions for dealing with it the next time. And there will be more than likely, next time!

4. Drop anchor

In this exercise, you stand across from your child. Stand with your feet firmly on the floor around shoulder-width apart, and show them how to do it. Then demonstrate how to push down through your feet so you can feel the ground steady beneath you. Ask, ‘How do your leg muscles feel when you push down?’ Then ask your child to tune in to different parts of their body, starting with the head. Ask, “How does it feel?’ You work down through the whole body so your child can feel the weight of gravity connecting them to the earth. Once you have done that together, ask what they can notice around them. This is essentially a way of linking back to the earth around you and feeling more grounded in the present.

5. Silence game

The silence game has been practiced in Montessori classrooms around the world for many years. This mindfulness practice asks children to be as quiet as they can. And it’s not just with their voices, it’s with their bodies as well. It’s good to aim for a minute, to begin with, asking kids to be as quiet and still as they can. When the game ends, speak in a soft voice and ask your kids what they heard or saw while they experienced the quiet. Then ask them to keep that calm, peaceful feeling during their next activity, and if they can for the rest of the day.

In conclusion, these simple games and activities are an excellent way for you and your child to connect differently. They will help them build tools to center themselves when they feel stressed or out of sorts.

Mindfulness is a way you and your child can experience calm together. As we learn to be with the feelings that arise, experience them as pointing us in the direction where our unmet needs are beckoning us for attention, the feelings subside and nervousness and anxiety are alleviated.

Don’t approach mindfulness with too many expectations. This means you’re living in the future, and mindfulness is about the present. But if you encourage your child to embrace these methods, they will also start learning the necessary tools to self-regulate. If you practice regularly, your kids will feel happier and more peaceful. So will you. ∎

KATHERINE WINTER-SELLERY Founder of the Conscious Parenting Revolution

www.awarenessties.us/katherine-winter-sellery

For over 20 years, Katherine has taught and coached thousands of parents, educators, social workers, and medical professionals in half a dozen countries through her popular workshops and coaching programs. Katherine is a 3x TEDx Speaker, and Amazon best selling author of “7 Strategies to Keep Your Relationship With Your Kids from Hitting the Boiling Point” as well as her workbook A Guidance Approach to Parenting. She has been featured on local television shows across the US and a guest on over 40 podcasts. In addition, she is also a trained mediator, is certificated in different trauma models, teaches a breathing meditation modality with the Art of Living Foundation, ran her own commodities-trading business in Hong Kong for 30 years, and is on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Human Values (IAHV). IAHV has held special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2002, and contributes to the 17 Strategic Development Goals of the UN.

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As someone who has suffered from mental health difficulties all my life it is a true honour to work for this charity and give back to the community that once helped me.
ELLE SELINE
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MUSICIAN, MENTAL HEALTH WARRIOR & AWARENESS TIES OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR

FEATURE PERSONAL STORY WITH ELLE SELINE

BUTTERFLIES FOR HOPE

CROCHETED HELP & HOPE FOR THE COMMUNITY

Surrey mental health and wellbeing charity, Catalyst, has teamed up with Surrey County Council to help spread hope and awareness across the county. Hope can mean something different for everyone, whether it be going for walks, shopping trips, or crocheting - these are all activities that Catalyst has offered to people in Surrey over the past few months. Their latest adventure as part of The HOPE Project will involve members of the public and social media.

With the ‘Butterflies for HOPE Project’, Catalyst clients have recently crocheted 170 little butterflies at their wellbeing drop-ins. They plan to distribute these within the local community. The special thing about these butter flies is that on the back, there is a QR code. If you find a butterfly, scan the QR code and you will be taken to a page on their website where a message of hope can be written for people in the community.

If you find a butterfly, scan the QR code and then leave a message on the ‘HOPE’ digital noticeboard. You can also help raise awareness on social media by taking a photo of the butter fly, uploading it to Facebook/Instagram and using the hashtag #butterflies4hopesurrey

Not in Surrey? You can visit the Butterflies for HOPE page to view or create a message of ‘HOPE’ for others to see: https://www.catalystsupport.org.uk/butterflies-for-hope

This project aims to provide a variety of workshops and activities that will have a positive impact on emotional and mental wellbeing, embedding mental health promotion and building communities and connectedness. The outcomes from all the sessions will be displayed in an exhibition on the 23rd and 24th of June on the first floor of Zero Carbon in central Guildford to demonstrate how the groups have all worked to deliver the aim of the project.

“Our main aim with this project was to give hope to others who may of needed it and to create an infinite amount of positivity throughout our community long after the project ended. Our clients have worked hard for the outcome of the project and have all been fantastic, it has been great to be able to showcase their creativity and talent to the community too. I am looking forward to the exhibition in June where all the excellent work our clients have done can be admired and celebrated by the general public. This project has also raised awareness about how our charity can help people and has been a reminder to everyone that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve with or without mental health issues,” shares mental health advocate and Awareness Ties Official Ambassador, Elle Seline. “As someone who has suffered from mental health difficulties all my life it is a true honour to work for this charity and give back to the community that once helped me.” ∎

Scan the QR code to see/submit messages of HOPE. Follow Butterflies for HOPE on Instagram: @butterflies4hopesurrey

Learn moare about Catalyst online: www.catalystsupport.org.uk Follow on Instagram: @Catalyst_support

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It’s a job that requires organization, people skills, patience, empathy, content knowledge, adaptability, planning, and so much more.
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ANNA LINDWASSER WRITER, TEACHER & LIFELONG ANIME FAN

TEACHER APPRECIATION THROUGH THE LENS OF ANIME

The first week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week here in the USA, with May 2nd being National Teacher’s Day. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but I am a teacher. I used to teach high school full time. These days, I teach on a more part time basis while spending most of my time as a freelance writer.

While I already appreciated the teachers I learned from as a student, actually doing the job myself put the profession in a whole new light. It’s a job that requires organization, people skills, patience, empathy, content knowledge, adaptability, planning, and so much more. I’m in awe of people who manage to spend their whole careers doing it. I’m also pretty impressed by some of the teachers in anime. For this column, I’m going to give a shout out to a few of my favorite teachers from in the anime world.

Koro-sensei - Assassination Classroom

Koro-sensei is probably the most unconventional teacher on this list. He’s a tentacle monster who claims that he just blew up the moon and is going to do the same to the Earth unless a group of middle schoolers stop him first. What’s more, he’s going to help those middle schoolers do it by teaching them the art of assassination.

‘ANIME AWARENESS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY ANNA LINDWASSER
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Koro-sensei is probably the most unconventional teacher on this list. He’s a tentacle monster who claims that he just blew up the moon and is going to do the same to the Earth unless a group of middle schoolers stop him first. What’s more, he’s going to help those middle schoolers do it by teaching them the art of assassination.

This sounds kind of unsettling, but the reality is different. Koro-sensei is actually human, but his body was mutated by unethical experimentations. If he doesn’t die first, he’ll blow up whether he likes it or not. He could simply end his own life, but instead he decides to use his time to be a positive influence on the former students of a woman he met in the lab. These kids have been written off as failures, but Koro-sensei brings out their true potential by taking personal interest in them and encouraging them to be their best selves. It’s kind of amazing considering what he’s been through.

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Shota Aizawa - My Hero Academia

On the surface, Shota Aizawa seems like a terrible teacher - he spends half of class sleeping instead of actually doing his job. But he’s teaching aspiring superheroes while also pulling double duty as a teacher himself. The sleep thing is a necessity if he wants to be alert when he really has to be. Aizawa cares deeply about his students, and will do pretty much anything protect them, even if it means risking his own safety. Sure, he’s kind of gruff and unfriendly, but that’s just his personality - he obviously loves them to death.

Mayu Ooba - Blue Period

Mayu Ooba is the most realistic example on this list - she’s an art teacher at a cram school. Not only does she have a keen eye that easily zeroes in on her students’ strengths and weaknesses, she also understands their emotions and gives relevant advice. But she also has fun while doing it. She’s not necessarily the teacher that stands out the most, but she’s the kind of teacher I’d most like to have.

Now that you’ve appreciated some anime characters teachers, I hope you can extend that appreciation to the real world teachers in your life. ∎

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128 It’s ethereal but real. www.IamAwareNow.com VANESSA CALDERON ACTRESS
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Photo Credit: Daniel Diosdado

IN A LIME LIGHT POST COVID SYMPTOMS AT CENTER STAGE

Freedom to me is when you are dancing, acting and receiving the energy of the artists around you.It’s the rush of having the most amazing time by yourself because you are where you are supposed to be, not judging, not checking in with you just being. It’s ethereal but real.

This has been taken away from me since I had many surgeries plus covid and post covid symptoms for four years. The amount of strength that I need to overcome these bad days that I still go through is even bigger than anything else I have ever done in my life. I am grateful that those bad days come less often and that my life is back to almost normal and I am almost back to myself.

If you are dealing with post covid symptoms let me know. I would love to hear more about each of you. This video is for all of you out there dealing with your own diseases and demons to get over them soon and remember how great life is.

All my love to you. ∎

Thank you @daniel_diosdado for being there in the good and the very bad for me. The fabulous dress is designed by @liinasteinofficial @liinastein. Thank you @flyingsolonyc @s.tephaniewenger @annymonteir and @mmmaddddison for being the best.

Follow Vanessa on Instagram: @nessacalder

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I am excited about seeing more people on the blame recovery path.
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DENIS MURPHY BLAME RECOVERY COACH, AUTHOR & CO-FOUNDER OF ROUNDTABLE GLOBAL

THE BLAME GAME A CONVERSATION WITH DENIS MURPHY

Denis Liam Murphy is the only blame recovery coach in the world. Coaching high performing individuals, by taking them through the blame recovery process, Denis wants to change the course of history by helping people recover from an addiction they didn’t know they had. In addition to this he is co-founder at RoundTable Global, a leadership and development company transforming teams and company cultures and has just published his first book, ‘The Blame Game’.

TANITH: Denis you started your personal development journey many years ago whilst travelling the world - tell us what inspired you to go so deeply into philosophy?

DENIS: Actually my interest in philosophy started around 14 years old, when I discovered the Chinese martial arts superstar Bruce Lee. I watched all his movies and bought all his books, which contained lots of Eastern philosophy. At the same time I was watching a TV show called Kung Fu with David Carradine, that featured a lot of the same messages. It wasn’t until I started watching another show called Shogun, set in seventeenth century feudal Japan, that I become fascinated by the depiction of Bushido, the way of the Samurai warrior.

When looking for a university degree to study, it was no surprise I was drawn to studying East Asian Studies at Sheffield University. The degree sparked my curiosity again as it covered a range of philosophical, cultural and business practices from Japan, China and North and South Korea.

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Of course I knew one day it would be published, but I also knew that would be a byproduct of me wanting to share my philosophy with the world.
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DENIS MURPHY BLAME RECOVERY COACH, AUTHOR & CO-FOUNDER OF ROUNDTABLE GLOBAL

DENIS: (continued) After university, life was a blur. I got caught up in London’s rat race and became single minded in making money and surviving. After seven years of this lifestyle, my mental and physical health had declined. This is when I started to realise I needed healing. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I knew something had to change.

At the age of 31 I had a complete career change, and spent the next six years as a personal trainer learning all I could about strength and conditioning, nutrition, massage and physical rehabilitation.

It was a synchronistic meeting with an old university friend on a beach in Miami, Florida, that become the catalyst for me to take another deep dive into the world of philosophy and self-healing. She had already been on an extensive self-development journey and helped open my mind to other ways of seeing the world.

TANITH: You boldly claim to be ‘the only blame recovery coach in the world’. Tell us more about what this is and how you became the first one?

DENIS: This is a self-proclaimed title as I have not come across anyone that has unpacked blame in the way I have. Of course there are many people that talk about blame and the victim mindset, but they all have the same solution: life is about choice so choose to STOP blaming and DON’T be a victim in life, take responsibility and be accountable.

It sounds empowering, but it unknowingly feeds the blame addiction we don’t know we have. The simple fact is, if this type of blame and control-based, stoic influenced approach worked, then we would all be ‘choosing’ to do the perceived right thing and there would be no issues (or addictions) in the world.

For thousands of years we have used control as our goto mechanism for healing, change and transformation. There is no doubt it works, but only for short-periods of time. It is an energy intensive life strategy that unknowingly keeps us in our blame addiction, and eventually leads to more mental, emotional and physical pain.

After 15 years helping people and organisations become aware of control and blame’s impact, and offering an alternative mindset, it is clear that as much as I am the first blame recovery coach, we need more.

TANITH: In addition to this you co-founded RoundTable Global over eight years ago delivering unique programmes that are frequently described as ‘life-changing’. Tell us about the programmes and what makes them so impactful?

DENIS: We are proud to say our programs are unique and life changing for a few reasons. The original goal of RoundTable was to bring the corporate and creative worlds together. We recognised that humans are innately creative beings, and this is an essential element that determines our happiness, health and success, and surprisingly, our energy levels. We found that the majority of leaders who made their way up the corporate ladder not only engaged less and less with this part of their humanness, they also become more and more stressed. This is why, all of our programs have creativity and imagination at their core.

Another unique factor, is the philosophical red thread that runs through each of our programs. We are the only company in the world that takes each participant on the blame recovery process. This is a deeply healing and transformative process, leaving the participants with a new level of honest confidence and drive to be more creative, healthy and successful.

There are a few common comments we hear from the high performance leaders that go through our programs. Many confirm with remarkable stories how their life changed at home and in the of fice. They go on to say, “Why didn’t we know about this when we were young, our lives would have been so different.” “We thought this was going to be just another run-of-the-mill leadership training program, but it is so different. And I can’t believe how energised I am.”

Because our facilitation style is intuitive, we don’t use ‘powerpoint’ type presentation techniques. We have a structure in what we want to cover, but we understand how different each group is, so are as flexible as possible. This way they get the most out of each program.

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DENIS: (continued) The first program we ever created is called Shine. I remember co-facilitating the first one in a Buddhist temple in the middle of Tokyo. We could tell from that moment how important this program was going to be. And we are very proud to say that 8 years later it is still going strong. It is specifically designed to help senior women leaders exit the victim cycle they didn’t know they were in to become honestly confident.

Another program we offer is called, Symbiotic Leader. This is for senior and board level high performing leaders, who want to not only future proof their organisations, but also their lives. As emotional, mental and physical health is deteriorating all over the world, and stress and fear levels increase, we need to take guidance from nature. I say this, because nature has a way of flourishing out-of-control when it is left alone. This is because there is no blame or control present. This is in complete contrast to our lives and organisations, where blame and control make up the majority of our foundation. We have the the same potential to flourish out-of -control available to us, but we do have to take a deep dive into how nature works symbiotically. It is a life changing 3 days on many levels.

TANITH: You have recently launched your first book, ‘The Blame Game' which was 10 years in the making. Why do you think you waited so long and what has the impact been so far?

DENIS: It might sound strange but my goal was never to become an author. When I started writing over a decade ago my mission was to get everything that was in my head out onto paper. Of course I knew one day it would be published, but I also knew that would be a byproduct of me wanting to share my philosophy with the world.

In hindsight it is easy to see that it wasn’t ready to be offered to the world. I had more experimenting and fine tuning to do before I offered my philosophy to the world. I knew I was on to something, but I wasn’t a good enough writer to put it in a way that people would enjoy reading. It was when I met Andy Earle who owns the company, writeitbetter.com, that I found someone who could really help put a book together in a way I always dreamed of. The soft launch happened a month ago and the feedback has been great. It will be available worldwide on Amazon and other bookstores from 11th May, so I am excited to see what the impact will be when more people can get their copy.

TANITH: If you could change just one thing in the world what would it be and why?

DENIS: Is it too obvious to say, change peoples relationship with blame? As it stands, we have been playing the blame game for so long we don’t realise it has become an addiction we all share. I focus on blame because I know the worldwide impact this will have on everyones life. I am this confident because I now understand that there is only hatred, anger, frustration, conflict, abuse, violence and war in the presence of blame. And there is only blame because we have been using control as our goto life strategy. As a result, we are no longer aware of who we honestly are. We have been trying to get better at self-control for so long, that being fake positive feels normal. This is unknowingly teaching us how to become expert blamers and be dishonest with ourselves and others. This is why I am excited about seeing more people on the blame recovery path. ∎

www.denisliammurphy.com

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.

Find out more about blame recovery coaching:
Find out more about company culture change programmes: www.roundtable.global Get a copy of The Blame Game:
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always

TEACHING ACCEPTANCE

MURSHIDUL: A FRIEND & A TEACHER

You might feel like you are an outcast in a group of people, but don’t let that stop you from engaging with new people. Try to find common ground between you and the people that you want to interact with, and that small detail might just be the thing that opens up whole new opportunities for yourself, this is the first lesson she got from Murshidul. Meeting Murshidul was an encounter that she never hoped to have or never expected to learn the meaning of “hope” in such a broader aspect.

Murshidul always had an eye for creativity, and he sought out those who possessed it with the intention of bringing out the best in them. And one of his findings was the girl that he met not too long ago. She learned small details of life that she used to not care about beforehand, she learned that for life sometimes hope is the smallest spark that you need to keep the will alive, and she learned it’s not weird to think differently from others cause just that variance can be the very thing that makes her essence unique from all others, she learned it’s okay to reach out to people cause no other person other than yourself does not clearly know what you are going through and what is the thing that might bring comfort to you, she learned that even in the deepest darkest depth of the mind there is always the possibility of a new beginning, she learned that in this vast universe, there is and will always be a place you can call your own, that will make you feel the sense of belonging. And she learned all that from Murshidul.

Murshidul might be a friend, a senior in your academics, or an acquaintance, but in the midst of all the character, he is a teacher, an educator who will constantly support and push you to do your best and hype you up in all your achievements. Just like the meaning of his name, he truly is an exceptional guide. No matter what the situation is, Murshidul focuses on the outcome and how that would impact everyone around him, so his first and foremost priority remains that no one feels neglected, or as he likes to say, "outcast." For him, each and every person has something within themselves that can help the world in small steps. Another attribute of Murshidul that makes him a distinctive educator is the fact that he never forces his authority on anyone; each one of his instructions is catered differently according to the one on the receiving end; and he continuously tries to find new ways to approach people from all around the world through various forms of communication.

Now tracing back to how Murshidul and “she” met, she was into art and writing from a young age but a voice in her head always told her that maybe her works were not good enough to be shown to the rest of the world. And at that point in her life, she got to know Murshidul and his approach to delivering the message of hope to people. This “hope” sparked the imagination and enthusiasm in her that led her to believe that maybe she could also learn something from Murshidul and use her creativity to contribute to the message of hope. She is still learning about how this big world works and trying to figure out how a small soul like her can make a difference, but nonetheless, the teachings that she gets from Murshidul each time they converse are something that helps keep the spark alive among her. Murshidul taught her that no matter how alone we get, or how low we feel, as long as there is someone who is beside us as our warmth and protection, the spark will live on. According to her another important and noteworthy lesson from Murshidul has to be his ever-welcoming personality, she learned from him that as long as you make yourself believe that you belong somewhere and you deserve something, then there is nothing that can take that opportunity away from you, and welcome all circumstances with open arms, cause who knows maybe some will turn out to be good and some might break you down. But still, with every occurrence, you are learning something new that is helping you to grow as a whole person, who might actually have the potential to change the world one day.

All these small bits and pieces of knowledge from Murshidul helped her grow as a writer, and she hopes that others like her will also assimilate from Murshidul in the upcoming days and find their place in this world while spreading the message of positivity and hope. Last but not least, let me introduce you to the “she” of this story. This “she” is me, Nusrat Jahan Nishu, who is still learning from all the little mistakes and creating herself one step at a time as a whole person and trying to be included in the chronicles of the world as much as possible. ∎

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