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STORIES OF COURAGEOUS VULNERABILITY ©Expanded Consciousness LLC All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without written permission.


TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction...............................................................................................8 SECTION 1 – DETAILED STORIES Learning to Listen By: Chip D’Ascanio
Pennsylvania – USA............................................10 Unlocking the Heart By: Annie Hart
Pennsylvania – USA.....................................................19 Opening Up – Becoming Conscious By: Eric Mitchell
Pennsylvania – USA..................................................25 The Merman and The Butterfly By: Katherine Pedrick-Filer
New Jersey – USA...................................33 9 Lives By: Brian Hines
Pennsylvania – USA....................................................42

SECTION 2 – VIVID SHARES Taking a Stand for Women and Children in India By: Sushma Pankule
Nagpur – INDIA................................................52 19 Years – Rolling the Dice! By: John Anthony Stippick
California – USA......................................55


Leadership and Integrity By: Martin Mihalache
Bucharest – ROMANIA..........................................59 Single and a Mommy By: Wendy Zalles
Pennsylvania – USA........................................................62 From Frustration to Free Flight By: Dinesh Harshad Shah
Mumbai – INDIA.............................................65 What I want to Remember About Tomorrow By: Ross Trotter
Pennsylvania – USA.........................................................69 An Unscheduled Sting Operation By: Doug Hoffman
New York – USA.......................................................75 Finding My Voice By: Eileen Forrestal
Sligo- IRELAND...................................................81 Going Walkabout By: Judi Romaine
Indiana – USA............................................................86 Being Unstoppable By: Harshit Munshi
Mumbai – INDIA................................................90 Writing the Words I Can Not Speak By: MSquare
Cape Town – SOUTH AFRICA................................93 Career Choice Led by the Choice To Serve By: Pete
Pennsylvania- USA.................................................................97 Life Begins at 42!


By: Jocelyn Britto
Mumbai – INDIA...............................................101 Mom Goes To China By: Karen Rudolf
Florida – USA.....................................................104 Mom’s Calling By: Paul Shultz
Pennsylvania – USA..............................................107 In The Mirror By: Carlos Melendez
Pennsylvania – USA.....................................109 From Breakdown to Breakthrough By: Vincent J Kellsey
Hawaii – USA...............................................112 Escaping The Fairy Tale Ending Trap By: Leyda Polen
Florida – USA.........................................................115 Live, Love & Lead By: Nomaphela Lopez Nduna
Khayelitsha-SOUTH AFRICA...119 From Disaster to Discovery By: Dineshh Shah
Mumbai – INDIA.................................................123

The One Phone Call That Transformed My Life! By: Patty Cunningham
Pennsylvania - USA.......................................128 Courage Unleashed Unexpectedly By: Oliver Snow
Pennsylvania – USA..................................................131 An Unlikely Brotherhood


By: Robert Toporek
Pennsylvania- USA..............................................136 My Mother’s Son By: Siya Nondumo
Pretonia - SOUTH AFRICA..............................140

SECTION 3 – CREATIVE STORIES Coming Home By: Anasuya Isaacs
California – USA.................................................148 Discovering Myself By: Shalini Basal
Mumbai – INDIA...................................................152 Calling All Angels By: Donna LeClair
California – USA................................................156 Hello Charly! By: Claudia Pellegrini
Buenos Aires- ARGENTINA....................166 Moments That Took My Breath Away By: Christina Marie
Pennsylvania – USA...........................................170 Are We The G(enerator) O(perator) D(estroyer)
Of US?
 By: Dineshh Shah
Mumbai – INDIA................................................180 Memoirs Of A Gay-Sha By: Scott Harris
Pennsylvania – USA................................................183 A Flamboyant Diligent Village Boy


By: Mandi Dikana
Pretonia- SOUTH AFRICA...........................186 My Mother/ Myself By: Gail Davis
New Jersey- USA......................................................191

Sirens & Sexuality By: Case Erickson, Houston Texas…………………..197 BHA to AHA: Before Heart Attack to After Heart Attack By: Edie Weinstein, Pennsylvania, USA……………...202


We just asked each author to provide us with 3 specific elements: Element 1 ~A way of living or being in life that either wasn’t working or wasn’t known to them Element 2 ~A moment of courageous vulnerability that profoundly changed their lives Element 3 ~The outcome of this courageously vulnerable moment Once we received all of these incredible, amazing, and beautiful collective stories from around the world, we divided them into three sections. Section 1 Detailed Stories-these stories are longer in length as the authors wanted the readers to travel with them through the details of their stories. Section 2 Vivid Shares-these stories are shorter yet equal in power. These authors wanted to share their courageous vulnerability by providing the essential information Section 3 Creative Stories-these stories have a creative element to them. Some poems, unique writing styles or simply put: the creative-detailed stories or the creative-vivid shares.



Learning to Listen By: Chip D’Ascanio I was born in Wayne, PA and grew up on the Main Line (in the Philadelphia, PA suburbs) in an Italian family that had its own challenges. It was a different era. My father and grandfather were hard working men. My father was a contractor and my grandfather was a mason. I never really got to spend much time with my father because he always seemed to work full and part-time jobs. Between the ages of 7 and 8, my father personally built our house in Devon, PA, while working a separate full-time job. It took him two years. Being Italian was something to be very proud of, and in the project where we lived, my friends were Italian, Irish, and Black. That was just the way it was. None of us really had anything. There was no prejudice that I remember; we were just kids playing as our families tried to survive. My family can easily be classified as the traditional Italian family that followed very strict rules. These were times where seat belts where unheard of, and if you got into trouble the only person you had to deal with was your father, grandfather or uncle who would whack you on the spot. As a kid there was no such thing as an allowance. We would go under the trolley station and look for money people would lose while getting on the trolley going from one trolley station to another. We would collect soda bottles and bring them to the local grocery store to collect $0.02 a bottle. At night I would go back to the store and steal some of the bottles and take them back the next day


- - of course I got caught! Sam, the owner, told my uncle who sat me down on some steps and asked me to go in his tool bag and get out his brick hammer. I still remember how scared I was. He grabbed my hand held it down, slammed the hammer down next to my hand and he asked me what happened. He told me he would cut off one of my fingers if I didn't tell him the truth, which I did. He then told me if I ever steal anything again he would really cut off a finger, telling me, “Don't you ever steal or lie again!” Stubborn Determination When I was 8 years old, we were living with my grandparents as my father was saving money while building our house. I remember sitting at the dinner table ready to eat my spaghetti when I noticed my grandmother putting cheese on the spaghetti. I told my mom I wasn't eating it because I don't like cheese. After a few times of my father telling me I would eat the spaghetti and everything on my plate, I continued to inform him "No, I am not eating this.” This is when I suddenly found my eight-year old head being slammed into my dinner plate as I was told that I won't move from the dinner table until I ate what was on my plate. With a bloody lip and bloody nose, I sat at that dinner table for many hours never eating the spaghetti. Finally, my mother took mercy on me and allowed me to leave the dinner table. This is one of many times I refused to "listen" and vividly recall of just how determined I was as a child. If I didn't want to do something, no matter what the consequences, I didn't do it.


I had a reputation around Highland Avenue for always getting into trouble. Next to my grandmother’s house was a big field where my cousin and I played. One day we found some matches and accidentally set the field on fire. Another time playing in the field and in the oak tree, I got poison ivy real bad. I thought I would get rid of the poison ivy and set the tree on fire. There was a cabin at the lower end of the field which caught on fire which I was later blamed for, which, of course, I didn't do. By the time I was eleven, from a social standpoint, I started to understand my Italian heritage was something that was looked upon as something bad. While I never had any problems gaining friends, they all were different and accepted as such. I had friends that were Italian, Irish or Black and I also had American friends too (that's what we called non-Irish, non-Italian, or non-Blacks). One day my American friends invited me to a swim club (Colonial Village). When I signed my name on the sign-in sheet, the person behind the desk took one look at my Italian last name and told me, "You’re not allowed in the pool, you’re a grease-ball, no grease-balls allowed.” Next thing I knew everyone was shouting at me "grease-ball" and I ran scared and crying never looking back. Well, at another point in time, I did look back once. It was when I decided to beat the crap out of the so-called friends who took me there and turned on me. When I was twelve I got my first job working in a gas station (which is where I later met my wife). I worked every Sunday from 7am until 7pm for $1/hour. The owner had the contract washing the US Post Office trucks


and a local dry cleaner’s trucks. This is where I learned how to drive. When I was 13, we attended CCD classes at church every Monday from 7pm until 8pm and my older sister would go until 9pm. As she would go into church; I would take the car with my friends, and drive them around town. One night her class let out early, she thought the car was stolen, but my father knew better! When I got home, I got the beating of my life! Later that year I was invited to a girl’s 13th birthday party. I had a chore to do that day; shining everyone’s shoes which I didn't do. My father told me to go shine the shoes before I could go to the party. I went down to the basement looked at the shoes, and then ran out the cellar door. I was such a stubborn and hard-headed kid. My poor mother and father and what I put them through. At the age of 15, I started drinking alcohol and going to bars and, yes, getting served. (All of my friends were a year or two older than me.) We are still all close friends today. We all say to one another, “Thank God there weren't drugs around then.” Off to serve in the Army When I was 17, two of my buddies and I decided to go into the Army. I do attribute the Army as the entry point where I started to let go of the chip I carried on my shoulder. Throughout the 8-weeks of boot camp, I was still doing things my own way and spending a lot of time on KP (kitchen duty). Once I even took responsibility for something I didn't do (someone said "F" the Army). They


made me do two hours on and two hours off for 24 hours on my and knees with a tooth brush and Brillo pad cleaning the orderly room. I also remember going after a buddy I met in boot camp named Vinny who went AWOL (absent without leave) and talked him into coming back. My captain thought highly of me and didn't even punish me. But for me, even something as simple as saying "yes sir" - I would intentionally say "ya sir" just to cause a little trouble no matter what the consequences were for my lack of respect or lack of listening. I seemed to want to be in trouble. (Kind of like when I was 8 years old, refusing to eat the cheese!) The army must have seen something in me because I was asked to go into the ASA (Army Security Agency). They sent me to school where I got a Top Secret Crypto Clearance, the highest clearance in the military. And, when I joined this special team, I really started thinking about my life and my new choices. It was really apparent when the Military security background checks started. My parents and family members and friends had an Army visitor at their door, asking about me. Everyone thought I had gotten into trouble, including my parents. Listening to my heart After going to school and getting transferred to Virginia, I really got an education about prejudiced people. Driving down to my new base crossing over the Mason Dixon line I started seeing signs in restaurants saying ‘whites only’. I


couldn't believe that blacks could only go to the back to get some food, never being allowed to eat inside. In my barracks where we slept, my bunk-mate was a black guy named Collins. You assigned bunk mates by names. We had a big guy from Texas in our barracks that used to call Collins “a nigger always looking for trouble”. I remember going up to him telling him to quit it. He looked me in the eye and said, “Let me tell you something boy, in Texas there are niggers and they are the same in Virginia.” When Collins and I would go to the town restaurants, Charlie’s diner and Charcoal Broiler, also had ‘whites only’ signs. Going into the middle of town, I saw that the white restaurants were on one side and the blacks on the other. He was not allowed in the white restaurants so I went with him to the black restaurants, where I was accepted. Reflecting on this time with Collins, I promised myself that I would never let my kids grow up being prejudice about anyone. After serving three years in the military and getting an honorable discharge, I came home not knowing what I was going to do. I applied to some well know companies, but in the meantime, while getting a haircut, my buddy Mex asked me to go to barber school so he could make $25 for recruiting me. At first I said, “No.”, but later I went to the school so he could make the $25. I went for a few days of trial. I really liked this one instructor, who liked teaching me. Boy he taught me a lot! Not just about barbering but so many other “life” things. I was now in a listening and learning stage. A few years later, I met my wife. It was love at first sight.


I asked her to marry me six weeks later, and we were married within a year. We still have the most amazing marriage ever. She is one of the best things that ever happened to me. She’s been a great influence in my life relating to so many things. She continually teaches me the POWER OF LISTENING. We have 2 wonderful sons, who are now married to wonderful wives. I see a lot of my wife in these daughters-in-laws. One of the things we taught our kids is to do things for themselves: Learning to address any of their problems with teachers, coaches, etc. and learning how to listen and talk to anyone. I will never forget my oldest son, 13 at the time, coming to me and asking me to go to therapy. I was amazed but I listened to him and I agreed. It was one of the best things I could have done. I learned that my life story, my childhood and all of the problems I had growing up- were leading me to be so very strict with my son. I was able to realize this and listen. I love my boys and we've always had a great relationship, but learning this made it even better. It was because I listened to him. Life, as good as it gets! Fast forward, I am an Italian barber who has been in business for 41 years. I have made an incredible number of friendships from the so many different types of people: people from all over the world, blue collar, white collar, professional, all walks of life from men, women and children. These people walk through the doors of my barber shop and all bring with them the knowledge and information that has allowed me to learn more things than Â

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anyone could ever imagine. There are entire families that I have cut hair for, which stretch up to 5 generations. I have been blessed with all of my employees. I have been able to listen and learn from them, helping them as they continually help me -- not just as an employer but as a friend going through good and bad times. Looking back on my childhood, I really believe that if my mother and father had some of the education materials that the doctors and therapists had, I’m sure they would have heard me crying out for the obvious help that I needed. But, for all the heartache I gave them, they never gave up or stopped loving me. As such, I always loved them. I truly believe my Military Training taught me how to start listening and learning, and it really transformed my life. I thank God for the most wonderful life anyone could have asked for.


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Highland Park Gang
(Chip is the little boy on the bottom left looking down at his candy)

Chip “The Barber” 2012


Unlocking the Heart By: Annie Hart in Pennsylvania, USA It was one of the hardest times of my life. I was lying on my bed flat-out and immobilized. I had just gone through my greatest heartbreak ever. I was scheduled to go back to England and do a seminar for Youth At Risk. My partner lived in England and I in Philadelphia, USA and we had been there together when we met the youth and worked with them on a 5-day residential retreat. The theme of my workshop was Anger and Emotional Management, which was quite an irony since I wasn’t even able to manage myself. I was really quite low. I had spent six months preparing for this workshop, learning everything I could about how to handle anger. I had a stack of note cards four inches high with really great ideas for what I wanted to do. But at the time I scheduled this seminar, I hadn’t anticipated this heartbreak. So there I was lying on my bed, feeling like I just didn’t even know how I was going to go on. I heard myself say inside, “I need something. I need something for my heart,” and about ten minutes later suddenly the name of a book popped into mind. I had heard about it years ago but never read it. It was called the Heartmath Solution. I immediately called the bookstore and they had it on the shelf. I jumped in the car and sped to the bookstore to buy it.


When I got home I started reading it right away and was really intrigued by a lot of the ideas and concepts in the book, information I had never heard before. They talked about the heart being like a brain, a kind of computer in the body that regulates many of the autonomic functions and has amazing benefits, if you know how to use it. I wanted to know more, so I went on their website and found out that they had a computer program that was a kind of heart biofeedback technique to work with your own heart energy. The program was quite expensive at the time and I certainly didn’t have the money to pay for it, having just moved back from England, but the company had a 30-day money-back guarantee, so I said to myself, “Okay, what the hell, I’ll get it and I can always return it.” So, I bought the Heartmath computer program and started using it. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I just started doing the program five minutes a day. The basic technique is that you activate your own heart energy by generating the coherent waves of your heart, which is its natural rhythm. You do that by sustaining feelings of care, gratitude or appreciation or love, whatever heart feeling you want, and those feelings start to change the rhythms in the waves of your heart. You can actually see the changes right there in real time. It’s amazing. I didn’t know if I was doing it right or wrong, but I did it every single day and within a short time, less than two weeks, I was driving down the road in a horrible rainstorm and suddenly I noticed that I was feeling good for no good reason! It was in that moment that I realized something was working.


I was still getting ready to go back to England and do my workshop and I was really worried about what I was going to do. With the heartbreak, my head was in a fog and I just couldn’t think clearly. I have a very high standard for my trainings but I just knew that sadly, I couldn’t do any of the things that I had prepared to do. So I asked myself, “What do I have when everything else is gone?” And I heard myself answer, “You have your heart.” And with that, I went off to England with my stack of note cards, my computer and my heart program. This was the first time since I’d been back to England without seeing the love of my life. Usually he picked me up at the airport, but this time I had to travel there completely alone. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, going back to the place where we’d been together and doing it all by myself. I just kept telling myself that I had to keep it all together to lead this workshop. I found it a huge irony that I was going to lead them in emotional management when I was struggling to keep my own self together, but I forced myself to put my attention on what I wanted to do for them, rather than myself. I got off the plane after a long overnight flight and was walking through one of these small English towns feeling so down and hopeless about life. I remember thinking that I had to pull myself out of this. I couldn’t show up like this to my workshop. So I decided to try desperately to find something to appreciate about my situation, appreciation being one of the heart feelings that allows you to find more balance. The best I could do was to


appreciate that I was feeling so awful, but somehow this got me through. When I arrived at the venue there were about 35 of these amazing young people who I hadn’t seen in nine months. We’d had a profound experience together on the residential retreat and they were really glad to see me. It really warmed my heart and I was glad I had made the trip. When I got up in front of the audience to begin, I looked down at my four-inch stack of note cards and realized that I couldn’t use any of them. I couldn’t begin to think about what was on them or comprehend any of the ideas I’d created. So my note cards just sat on the table the entire time. I never used them at all. Without my notes, I had to figure out something else to do. I turned to the AV guy and asked if he could possibly hook up my computer to the projector and he said he could. Now the amazing thing is that normally you would need to prepare well in advance for some technical expertise of this kind, especially traveling to a foreign country, but right on the spot we hooked it all up and after a few minutes we were able to watch the demonstration of the heart rhythm program right on a giant screen behind me. After doing the first demonstration using myself, I turned to look at the audience and realized that they were all mesmerized. I had never seen this youth group be so quiet or so attentive. I was totally amazed. That’s when I realized that I their attention so I started asking them who wanted to come up to do a demo and quite a few of them


raised their hands. I did four or five of these demonstrations and they were in rapt attention the entire time. Something about watching the heart rhythm on a giant screen made people very quiet and then I realized that the heart rhythm has some enthralling power. They were all in a trance. I did a few more demonstrations and after each one I told the young people that they could go back and sit in their seats in the audience. But strangely none of them wanted to move. Each of them chose to stay sitting beside the computer and after awhile I had a whole group of kids sitting right next to it and not wanting to leave. I wondered what was going on for them that made them chose to stay close to the computer. It reminded me of the way a baby monkey clings to the mother monkey. It was like somehow using this heart program had generated caring feelings in them that were still associated with the computer. It was very amazing. When we got near the end of the day, there was one more kid in the back of the room who hadn’t tried it yet. He was also the one student in the group who had not really had a shift the whole year. This boy, Ronnie, had really stayed angry and defiant while every other kid had a major life transformation from the program. But Ronnie didn’t open up at all. He just remained really angry and closed. Something in me got up the courage to ask him if he wanted to do a demo. Part of me really didn’t want to ask him because he was so difficult, but much to my surprise he said yes and came up to the computer. When he sat down next to it I whispered in his ear “Focus on


something you love about your family.” Now, had I known then what I knew later, I would have never said that because his primary issue was his family. He was very angry at them. I continued standing close to him while he did the heart technique but I didn’t really know what happened inside of him. In fact, I didn’t imagine anything happened at all. He finished the demo and sat back down in his seat without saying a word. I closed the seminar by asking the audience if they had anything they wanted to say about the day. Much to my surprise, Ronnie stood up from the back and said, “This is the first time in my life that I can actually say I think something might work.” That one comment from Ronnie made my whole trip worthwhile. It helped me to see that when all else is gone, I really do still have my heart and I also learned about the life-changing power of real heart energy. I still use this work today. It truly changed my life. Annie Hart 2012


Opening up-Choosing Consciousness By: Eric Mitchell in Pennsylvania, USA When I was 8 or 9, my parents divorced. Prior to this moment, my only memory of them is yelling and screaming at each other. From a survival perspective, I really had to learn to be on my own. Once my father left, we didn’t have any contact with him for one year because he went off to another state to try to get sober. He really did try, but with all his issues it was just too difficult for my father to have a normal relationship with his kids. My dad was now gone, and my mother worked full-time. While she did her best to juggle work and two growing boys, I had a great deal of time raising myself. My older brother couldn’t take care of me, and I guess he had his own survival instincts which prevented him from connecting with me. All of this eventually led to me creating an internal world of “I’m on my own” and I learned how to retract within my internal world all the time. I was closed off to the point that I’d just cut off the few friends I did have for days at a stretch because I could simply retract into my internal world of “I’m on my own.” I guess I could have immersed myself in school, but I found school to be a place where I was a target for bullying. I spent a great deal of my middle school days the target of bullies because my reaction was simply to not react and take all the punishment. However, what always nagged me was the “what” and “why” I was being


punished by these kids. I never spoke up. From ninth grade on, I decided enough was enough. I began to react aggressively to being bullied. By the time I reached about tenth grade, I started fighting back. However, it seemed like nothing worked for I was always being called out on defending myself. Imagine the frustration and anger I had at the people whose JOBS were to protect students could be as callous as to punish one for defending themselves while the bullies would walk away without even a reprimand. I will never forget a conversation I had with my guidance counselor just as I had been accepted for college. He asked: “How did you enjoy this great high school of ours?” My response was, “Thank God, I am getting out of this prison where you smile and allow students to be abused by other students.” He sat there stunned in silence, and I got up without a word and left. It actually felt good to tell him how I felt, but in hindsight, I could have been a bit more mature. All of this certainly impacted me, my behavior and my thinking patterns. In the world “I’m on my own” that eventually transitioned to “I don’t need anyone and I prefer to be alone.” Run faster, Mitchell The one consistent factor in my life was sports and that was a great avenue to vent some of my frustrations. Sports became something that I knew I liked, yet as a child, I


never finished what I started until I discovered track and field. I had this track and field coach who said “Mitchell looks good when he runs but he can’t run fast.” I could have easily retracted and quit just then and never had placed another pair of spikes on my feet again. However, this moment was different! I knew I had untapped and unfulfilled talent – and I was ready to explore it! I recall vividly digesting what this coach was saying and for the first time ever, I decided this was something that I would not and could not accept. Something about the coach’s words ignited a level of determination in me, on so many levels. By the time I finished my freshman track season, I exceeded my own expectations as a sprinter and I was FAST! I was fueled by my internal determination and it didn’t stop until I proved that coach wrong and become a part of a National Championship Relay Team. Taking care of ME This coach’s negativity was also the catalyst in helping shape what I wanted to do with my life. I did dabble a little bit that I might want to be an Officer for the Marine Corps. I had every opportunity to become one, however something stopped me. Later I would find out that my father’s journey in this regard was similar to mine. He had an opportunity to go to law school and never went. He was offered opportunities but he turned them all down.


I knew I really enjoyed sports, which led me to go into personal training. Personal Training wasn’t satisfying enough for me so I decided to take on coaching. This was the role where I felt I needed to be. I wanted to instill confidence in kids! Obviously, this positivity was never given to me as a kid from coaches, or anyone else. So I modeled my coaching style around a very positive way of interacting. I vowed never to tell a kid that they can’t do something. If they wanted something, I encouraged them to achieve it, and put their mind fully in it. I grew up in a “safe” environment where people didn’t take chances. My parents were both from very small towns. They had a very clear way of viewing life as it related to hard work and what job you had, and you didn’t go out or take a risk. We never had thoughts of creating the life of your dreams. You never took chances; security was the only thing that was a possibility. I did move away from that way of thinking, and developed my own business. Eventually, I bought a business to help train kids to learn to go above what they think is possible for them which is the opposite of what I had. I didn’t have the guidance or more to the point, I wasn’t encouraged to follow my bliss. Happiest when I am alone When my stepfather came into the picture, I was already a teenager. There were a lot of power struggles and ego tug-of-wars. My brother was kicked out of the house at 18, and while on the surface I was close with my mom and


stepdad, I was different than them because I’m my dad’s son. I carried this chip on my shoulder that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I had to answer to anyone, I would lash out. In fact, my mom and stepfather used to joke that “Eric is happiest when he is by himself” - which was actually accurate. When I was going into my sophomore year of college, my father passed away. Under the circumstances, he wouldn’t take care of himself. His disease of alcoholism was what led to his eventual death. I recall there were a lot of times where as a teenager; I had to take care of my father since he wouldn’t take care of himself. Looking back now, I can see the impact this had on me. Often, I would pretend I was happy. People would see me as this happy guy with a lot of personality and charisma, but on the inside, I was alone, with my own thoughts just pretending to be happy. Purpose and Fatherhood In my 30s, I had two things happen that would forever change my life: final control of my business, and the birth of my son. If I had to pinpoint my biggest, most profound breakthrough for me in terms of opening up, it was the moment my son came into this world. That was the most incredible moment of my life. Something about this moment shifted my existence as a man in such a profound way, that in that moment I was forever changed. I was connected very deeply through his entering into the world that my “I’m alone” way of being - would no longer


work in the world. My son’s birth was the moment I understood that you need people to survive and that all relationships, both positive and negative are really important experiences to have the learning and growing process of life. It’s almost as if the moment my son was born, I became conscious and started to recognize the importance of being conscious and all of the things that I experienced prior to that moment, shaped the man that I was becoming. I really got, you do have a choice. In my business of coaching kids, we are all about goals and finding out what you stand for. The big 3 for me are: Integrity, Honor and Trust. There were a lot of times I didn’t have those things. Being a father, I started to understand myself a little better, what was missing, what was already there, and that I had this automatic “I don’t need” attitude. I don’t need emotional support, I don’t need anyone. It was automatic and what I learned to do to survive. I would never really talk about this stuff, until my son was born. Once I started to open up and look within, the flood gate opened and my awareness set in. Now, I not only accept and forgive other people, I can also forgive myself. When I look into my son’s eyes, the experience of what true fatherhood is- comes alive. For me it’s like my internal compass (where I was destined to end up) reads that I am finally home. Integrity, honor and trust have become the foundation of who I am in the world. For the first time in my life, it felt important to really open


up. When I think about whom I need to be as a man in the world and in all of my relationships; I use Integrity, Honor and Trust as my guiding principles. This is who I am in the world I taught myself to truly challenge ME. My choice is-the road less traveled. I created a business that makes me feel that I am truly living a life based on what my purpose is and I’m excited to show up for my wife and son as a man who lives a life he loves and is living his purpose. And now, I understand, it’s a consistent journey that requires openness and consciousness. As a man, I’m a father, a coach, a boss, a co-worker, a son. I can be really present to the people in my life. Being a coach is deeply satisfying. I truly am doing what I am called to do. I truly am here to help kids help themselves. I am profoundly connected with that truth now. I am no longer “closed off” and there is freedom on so many levels. Proudly, my mother gets to be with this happy and fulfilled man. She never gave up on me, was always there when I needed her. My mother became my #1 supporter in business and has been such a wonderful “Nana” to my son.


I am dedicating my story to my parents.
 To my Father: for what he taught me despite his own weaknesses.

To my Mother: for her strength and resolve. To my Stepfather: who gave me the opportunity to have two fathers.

Here’s to: Integrity, Honor & Trust, Love Your Son, Eric


The Merman and the Butterfly By Katherine Pedrick-Filer in New Jersey, USA

“I got the one thing I was sure I would never have!” Speaking powerfully in the world wasn’t something that I ever thought I’d be able to do. Since the age of five, I stuttered. It took me 15 minutes to say my name. I kept thinking I would wake up and would not stutter any more. At 23 years old, I woke up and still stuttered. I looked in the yellow pages for a Speech Therapist and scheduled an appointment that day. When I went to see her, I had to write my name on a piece of paper. All I ever wanted to do was say what I wanted, when I wanted, to whomever I wanted. I had great success in Speech Therapy and after five years my speech therapist, Arlene, said, “I have done everything I can, let’s start a support group for people who stutter.” I had never met another person who stuttered until that moment. The tri-county fluency group was born in 1992 and it still exists today as a chapter of the National Stuttering Association in Southern New Jersey. In 1998, I went to my first National Stuttering Association Convention in Buffalo, NY. I remember for the first time,


I felt like I was part of something bigger, as a part of the world. Being there with approximately 500 other people who also stutter was like a home away from home. Recently, I have led a workshop the past 3 years that I am very proud of. After many seminars at Landmark Education, I have now coached over 100 people in various programs and made a huge difference in many people’s lives. What’s unique about my coaching is that I stand for each and every voice being heard and listened to powerfully NOW with full self-expression. This is the one thing I was sure I would never have! I truly did get the one thing I was sure I would never have: A VOICE!

“I got the one thing I was sure I could never be!” On January 19, 1980 - an incredible human being was born, Edward Charles Pedrick Jr. When my son became an adult, he moved to Maui, Hawaii. On a Saturday, October 6th, 2007 - Eddie went on a hike with two of his friends in the late afternoon. They hiked in Haleakala National Park through the seven sacred pools just outside of Hana, Maui. The seven sacred pools are a series of lovely waterfalls and tranquil pools that flow through the O'heo Gulch and into the ocean nearby. The Pipiwai Streams feeds these falls and numerous pools starting 2 miles inland. As beautiful as this may sound, sometimes these trickling falls have flash flood warnings due to hard rainfalls that can turn these tranquil pools into dangerous waters. On this day,


Eddie’s two friends heard a splash; since Eddie was sharing with them he felt like diving into the waters, they suspected he may have jumped in. Since they did not see Eddie resurface; they notified a park ranger. I got the call on Sunday, October 7 that Eddie is missing. In addition to this, I learned that searching for Eddie’s body had to be suspended due to severe weather and flash floods. The moment I received this call, I felt numb and in disbelief. But, it quickly disappeared. I know he was an avid swimmer and surfer since five years of age and loved the water. The transformation within me as his mother was I created him as a merman. I just made it up, that he was a part of the ocean, and I imagined him in the ocean existing with the beauty and even perhaps flirting with some beautiful mermaids. I share this with people. On October 12, 2007, six days later; the waters had finally been safe enough for the search and rescue team to be able to enter the waters. At approximately 8 am, Hawaii Time, they did find Eddie. Two memorials in celebration of life were held two weeks later - one in Hawaii, and another in New Jersey on the same day at the same time. The transformation was my ability to just listen to all the beautiful stories people shared with me. I really listened. I got to hear who my son had been in the world for other people. I had a hundred conversations that week with various people, Eddie’s friends, and his extended family. I


could have a conversation with anyone about Eddie. I loved listening to their experience, their favorite stories, and what they all loved about him. Since there were two memorials, what was transformational was I got through them both. This experience, this loss, then became a gift I was able to be there for others. In turn, those who also lost someone they loved and cared for, found condolence within me. I was able to help them in their loss process. In addition, it allowed me to know who my son was before he became a merman, and became a part of the ocean. The transformations just kept happening. I learned there is abundance in humanity. I did notice, there where people in my life that couldn’t and didn’t call me, people whom I had known my whole life were unable to be with me through this and they didn’t show up and that was okay. I didn’t make it personal, so I got to listen to them, and what they had gone through in their life. So what I made up about my son dying, I get I can make up anything I want. At the time, I was receiving coaching from an empowering person who suggested that I write down all the stories people where sharing with me about who Eddie was to them. My incredible son died and he knew how important it is for me to be with people. He knew how important that was to me, and because of who he was, I was able to be with the people who loved him and experienced him. I was left that gift of really being there with people now. That’s what I made up around this loss. I get to choose to


be there, I have the opportunity and the honor to be with people and be alive. I clearly see that life is happening right now and I am going to be there for it because I say so. This loss became one of the most exquisite transformations within my life. Eddie truly exists for me now as a Merman. I got the one thing I was sure I could never be: FREE!

“I got the one thing I was sure was never possible!” Once Eddie became a Merman, with that came the realization that I would never be a grandmother. And then, Margherita came into my life. This young woman and I had an instant connection from the moment we met. Sometimes you meet a person and the instant connection, love, care, and affinity seems to already exist between you. This was my experience when I met Margherita and I had no idea what was yet to come. She is truly the love of my life. Margarita had wanted to become pregnant someday but thought it was not possible. One day, she tells me she has amazing news - she was pregnant. In addition to this, she asked me to be her child’s grandmother. I resisted at first, and my resistance within me was about “Is this the right thing to do?” She made it clear to me that this was something that she really felt was already so, that I was “grandmother” to her child. Scarlett was born on February 22, 2011 and I am a Grandmother. Even Margarita’s mother, who is grandmother, reached out to me to share with me that she


is honored that I am Scarlett’s grandmother. As it would turn out, Scarlett was born without a thyroid and due to my creating Eddie as a merman, Margherita told me that she created Scarlett’s thyroid as a butterfly that was living in a garden bringing the world joy and love. One day, I was watching Scarlett sleeping peacefully. I recalled a conversation that I had with Eddie, 6 months, before he became a merman. I was always letting him know that I wanted to be a grandmother and it was a conversation that he and I had on different occasions. Eddie is the only child I had the honor of bringing into this beautiful world. In this particular conversation about wanting to be a grandmother, Eddie said to me, “I promise you mom, you will be a grandmother.” As I watched Scarlett sleeping, tears rolled out of my eyes. I thought about how interconnected this all was. Margherita had entered my life with an instant already knowing of one another and a supposedly medical impossibility of becoming pregnant and she got her baby, and my son got to honor the promise he made to me. For me, this is the wonder of life and how the world occurs for me is: The Merman and the Butterfly. I am Grandmother, that’s what I am, because we said it. All that wasn’t possible in the world had been made possible.
It’s all possible that there can be abundance.
It’s possible to transform the conversation of loss.


I got the one thing I was absolutely sure was never possible: GRANDMOTHER!

“I got the one thing I was sure I never wanted!” After Eddie became a Merman, I had another unexpected miraculous experience that I surely never wanted. When I was a little girl, my father left when I was about 3 years old and in my mind, this meant he didn’t love me, he didn’t want me. As I was growing up, I developed a way of being in the world that existed for me as: I truly felt that I did not need or want my Dad. A part of that was because I had such an incredible Mother who loved me deeply, was always there for me, and all I needed. “I don’t want/need Dad” was something I carried in other area’s of my life. “I don’t want/need” became a theme of sorts. My relationships were all like that, I didn’t need people. One day, my mother gifted me with letters my Dad had written to me many years ago. I was not aware these letters existed until the moment my mother handed them to me. The letters where written when I was 3 to 5 years old, and they were amazing letters! I could see that my dad loved and wanted me in his life. Once I read the letters I could give up the “He doesn’t want me, he doesn’t love me” story. It would still take me a while to reach out to him, but this was the moment that I realized that I really didn’t “not” want this. It was 48 years without any contact with my dad. After all, I was sure that I never wanted a relationship with my dad and that’s what I told everyone. I didn’t want that. The


letters absolutely started the shift from what I was sure I didn’t want. While dating a private investigator, I asked, “Will you look and see if you can find my dad?” And, sure enough, on Christmas Day, he was able to get a telephone number in 15 minutes. Wow, was this something I really want to take on? A lot of different thoughts entered my mind. But, I was determined to follow through. Eventually I created a specific Tuesday for the private investigator guy to be the one to call my dad. My very first experience of my dad was a voicemail that he left me. I played the message so my mother could listen, too. The voicemail said, “Hi Katherine, this is your long lost Dad Larry; I think we have a lot to talk about.” In this moment, I felt complete with my father. “This is your long lost Dad, Larry” his acknowledgement that he is my father opened everything up. Whatever came after this moment was all newly created. When I called him back, and spoke to him for the very first time, his words were: “This is the happiest day of my life.” My Dad and I now have a wonderful relationship, and the first time he and my mother met after 48 years, my Dad gave her a big acknowledgement for raising an amazing daughter and he thanked my mother for all she did. This truly was what I was sure I never wanted. I truly did get the one thing I was absolutely sure, I never wanted: DAD!


Now, in my life today: I can’t wait to see what I’m sure I don’t want
I can’t wait to see what I’m sure is not possible
I can’t wait to see what I’m sure I can’t have And I can’t wait to see what I’m sure I can’t be!!! The Merman Mom and son 2006 Eddie in Maui 2007 “The Happiest Day of My Life!” Katherine & Dad Reunited Dad-Katherine-Mom

The Butterfly Scarlett & Katherine Katherine, Margherita & 2011 Scarlett 2012 (1st birthday)

Great Grand-pop Margherita Scarlett 2012


“9 Lives” By Brian Hines in Pennsylvania, USA As a kid outside Philadelphia, I always seemed to get myself into bad situations. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid. Hell, I played the violin. I just started not to care about my life. AT ALL! By the time I turned 29 years old, I had experienced a lot in life: a drug overdose, being homeless, three car accidents, a plane crash; in and out of four rehab; in and out of jail four times; abusing alcohol; three DUI’S, three times stays in halfway house; three Dead-On- Arrival experiences to the hospital; seven surgeries, and two children from two different relationships. The next thing I was aware of was waking up in a hospital bed where my parent’s dining room table used to be, looking over the edge and seeing the wheelchair that now belonged to me and waking up to the fact that I can’t walk. When I reflect back on my childhood and my development through adolescence, I’m often stunned that I’m still alive. I just did not care. I knew it all and took everything for granted (even breathing.) When I was 18, I had a priest tell me I had more chaos in three years than more people had in 30. And When I was 25 I saw him again and he looked at me and said, “You should be


dead.” I never took that seriously. To me, it was like telling a child “if you put your hand on a hot stove, you’ll get burned.” I was the kid who didn’t stick his hand on the stove, instead; I sat on it, and said, “I got this!” A Voice guiding me As I would get myself in these tight spots, someone was watching over me and, more to the point, I would always be sent messages trying to help me. Spirit, Guardian Angel, or whatever you want to call it. When I was 16, my friend and I were in a car accident. Not a horrific accident, but enough to make me hit the windshield and become unconscious. That was the first time I heard “someone.” As I was laying there in pitch black darkness, a voice that I could not make out said “It’s ok. You will be fine.” Now, at 16, I certainly didn’t believe in a guardian angel. I never forgot about this voice and I never talked it about either. This turned out to be the same voice I have heard every time I almost died. I have chills just writing it. When I stopped caring about my life, that’s when the drinking started, then the fighting. I remember being at a party with friends. Of course, we were all drinking. There were two guys trying to start a fight with me. Even though I was drinking, I didn’t want to fight. I asked another guy to walk me out front and I would just go home. What I didn’t know is that he was “in on” the plan too. I walked down the road and the next thing I know I was punched and I was out for the count. The police report said the three guys kicked me 30 to 40 times in the head leaving my face was all banged up. When my father had heard


“kicked 30 to 40 times” his rage was intense. What I do remember is laying there in that pitch dark stage again, and hearing that voice. But this time I heard a woman’s voice with it. This woman was asking for my name. I heard her say my grandfather’s name. (He died when my father was 12 years old) As this woman, who I never did see, was talking, I heard that voice again, this time in a more demanding tone saying, “Get Up. Do you hear me? Get Up.” I woke up in the hospital. When I went through all of the high school nonsense that was me not wanting to listen to anybody or do the right thing all. It was always about doing what I wanted to do which always took me in the wrong direction. Like being homeless... I didn’t need to be homeless, I had family. I just made the choice to be homeless. It was the same with getting high. I made that choice. As I got older that’s what I learned. We have a choice. It might not be the choice we want. It might not take us where we want. But it’s a choice. It took me along time to understand that. Fork in the Road I always believed in the fork in the road theory that every person is put into a fork in the road situation. What do I do? Where do I go? Should I do this or that? But most don’t see it or know that they had a choice. That’s what my life has been like and I didn’t know it. When I was 19 years old I lived in Reading, Pennsylvania, I was pretty much out there getting high, doing stupid things. One night I kept getting high until I overdosed. My life at this


point was a complete mess. I remember being on the ground chocking in my apartment and having the thought, “Ok this is it. It’s over.” While laying there in that pitch dark stage, I heard that voice, only louder. It was a screaming voice yelling “Get out! If you don’t, you will die in this apartment. Get out now, Brian!!” As I crawled out of the room, which was on the second floor, I didn’t think I could do it. I reached the top of the steps. I had no energy to stand up and walk, so I just slid down the steps. It felt like hours had passed by. Everything was in slow motion, until I hit the last step, then everything was fast again. I pulled the door open and jumped out to the street. I crawled to the middle of the street and just stopped. Again I heard the voice, “Alright kid. Everything is going to be ok.” Don’t you know the first car that passed by was a police car. Now this divine intervention (Both the Voice and the police car) were scaring me. Who was this voice? It wasn’t me. I started realizing that someone was looking over me. Through the next couple years, I found myself trying to better my life. I returned home and wanted to make things right, but I didn’t know how to. Within a couple months I was back to drinking. This time I got a girl pregnant and I thought maybe that would stop me. Instead, I destroyed that relationship, this time there was a baby girl involved. Well, let’s just say I lost my daughter. This was 16 years ago and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her, wondering how she has grown; who she is and what she will become. The fact that I don’t know her~ that I lost out on being her dad~ haunts me every day.


I once said that it took me six years to screw my life up, then it’s going to take another 6 years to get it back together. It sounded good; but what bullshit that was. Once again I tried to control my life. This is ironic because I had no idea how to control anything. I spent the next five years trying to make my life right. I get in another relationship which I was destroying. Before we could end it, once again, I hear the words, “I’m pregnant.” Here I go again: drinking, drugs, jail. It’s like a cycle. Meanwhile I am getting tired of this self destruction thing I keep doing. I start asking for God to help me. The Fall December 17, 2002 I wake up, a little tired from Christmas shopping for my new born son the night before. I go to work. At this point, I’m a tree surgeon making decent money and thinking I’m going to have a great day. Around 10:30 in this morning, I fell 60 feet from one of the trees. I don’t remember falling. I would later learn that when I fell, I actually landed on my feet. The impact was so violent that my leg bones literally shattered through to the bottom of my feet and then retracted back up again. Then I fell forward and hit my forehead onto the driveway. What I do remember is the helicopter. Again while in that pitch black state, I hear a voice on my right, very faint, asking me my name and talking to other people. On the left side, I hear a voice as if he is right up against my ear,


saying “It’s ok, I’m here.” Darkness, pitch black, then light, temporarily, each time, only for a few seconds. For the next several hours, I’d be in and out of it. The doctor said I had a conversation with him and told him how to get a hold of my family. What was strange about that is, I was already given anesthesia, so I should not have been talking. I do not remember that, but I do remember the helicopter ride and hearing that voice say, “You have got to open your eyes!” On the other side, I could hear the paramedics asking me my name. The helicopter had me up against its left side leaving no room for anyone to be on my left side. Yet, I heard that voice in my left ear, “Brian, you’ve got to open your eyes. Try to open your eyes.” And out I went. The next time I open my eyes, I’m in the hospital and I’m looking at my sister. I was staring at her face, and out I went. My sister told me that when I opened my eyes, I thanked her for coming. Then in the hospital, I am looking at my legs, the IV's. My head was banged up and I heard "Brian, it's going to be okay. You're going to be okay." And I remember I didn’t argue (in the past I would argue with this voice.) The next day I woke up and the nurse came in to wash me down. She was so nice, so friendly and the next thing I know, everyone was coming up to see me. I was still in and out of it. Passing out, waking up to someone new who’d come to visit me. Once everyone was gone, I closed my eyes and I heard it again, "Everything will be okay" and I answered, "I know." Then everyone came up with Christmas gifts. I


was lying in the hospital with metal holding my broken leg bones together, with my head all bandaged up and my family brought Christmas to me. When I was able to go home, they put me in the ambulance and my parents turned their dinning room into a hospital room. I was going through the motions and nothing was hitting home for me. Then it hits me I remember being in bed as my brother and parents were all in the other room watching the super bowl. I remember I wanted to get up walk into the living room and hang. I wanted to watch football with my family and I couldn't do it and I remember thinking "Shit! You’re pretty screwed up. Dude, you're pretty bad." It was a moment where I thought, “Wow, I am never going to walk again!” I woke up the next day to my father cleaning my legs and he says, "How are you feeling?" and I broke down into tears and said, "I don't know what I am going to do!” For the first time in my life, I felt really alone. There was no voice. I started journaling at this point, writing to try and make sense of my life, to make sense of my situation. I’d journal and write whatever came into my head. I had a series of surgeries I still needed to have and I was confronted with my doctor telling me that eventually, he will have to amputate my foot.


What now? I woke up thinking I’ve got no friends only family. All the people I thought were my friends are not around. I had nothing but time so I thought maybe I need to look into going back to school and opening my own business. I had a series of surgeries left that would take another year, so I figured first things first, learn to walk and then go back to school and everything just started flowing from there. I took it easy; I didn’t expect results right away, with my surgeries, learning to walk or with my education. From there, doors started opening, and the more I accepted my condition, the more honest I was with myself and my life, the easier it was to be me. Eventually, I finished Business School. As the doors kept opening... I had a chance to buy into a business and I jumped on it. I didn’t go through all this just to fail so I made a promise to myself: I would do what I have to do to make this work. My life today Today, my life is different. Today, every week, every month the old me becomes a bigger blur. The way I used to be and the things I did are fading away. Talk about a fork in the road! That was it and I knew it this time. I haven’t heard “the voice” in a long time. But I think about it when things get hard and I think it was my grandfather guiding me to be a man. I never forgot where I’ve been and the things I’ve done.


Remembering keeps me grounded. I have lived that life. I have tried those things. Now I’m living the life I could only dream of. I’ve learned to love myself and my life. Now I share my life with my best friend and we have 3 awesome boys. That’s my life. Of all the things I have done, I wouldn’t wish any of that on even my worst enemy, however; I wouldn’t change a thing because that’s how I got where I am today. Each evening I go outside. I look up at the sky, drop my head and I pray. I pray to God to “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Today, I hold my wife and sons close to my heart and I pray to God for their safety. And I pray that maybe one day I will be reunited with my daughter. When I became honest with myself, everything from my past and everything I will have to deal with (I still have to contend with a future of more knees surgeries, the possible amputation of my foot, and the potential to be in a wheel chair for the rest of my life,) I can face it. I will deal with it. No running away. No matter what happens now, I know I’ll be okay because I’m happy with who I am. My life is a keeper! Brian and his family



Taking a Stand for Women and Children in India By: Sushma Penkule in Nagpur, INDIA My education has been one of the many things my parents were able to instill the importance of and provide me with. The ability to continue my education became very important to me. The beginning of my marriage was difficult for me to adjust and cope with continuing my education. In our culture, it is traditional for many families to become a “joined family” once married. It’s also customary for the women in the family to care for all of the members in the family (almost 25 members!) Eventually I found myself with an incredible support system in my joined family. My father-in-law would watch my child while I went out to do work. I had the love and support of family in addition to my guides and friends who all helped me get through the difficult times. Getting my PhD would not have been possible without my family, guides and friends. I’m forever grateful. In 1985 after completing my Masters, M. Phil and PhD in Zoology, I joined, Manohar Institute of Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology, as a lecturer of Biology. The college was situated in an Industrial area (MIDC) where there are many small scale factories and a number of unskilled laborers (migrated from the neighboring states) who live in slums around this region. It was not uncommon to see children engaged in household work or working as laborers and thus helping the family to make both ends meet. There is such a colony just near my


college. Some of the girls (hardly 8-10 years old) would watch me from a distance knowing that I was a teacher in this institute. One day a little girl anxiously approached me and asked if I could give her a book and a pencil. When I talked to her, the innocent soul poured out her feelings that she wanted to write and study but was unable due to the financial condition of her family. When I asked her about her friends, she informed me that they too wanted to study, earn money and like me become a teacher, wear good clothes and drive a scooter (during those days I travelled on my two wheeler moped). I decided I could help by purchasing some books of alphabets in vernacular language (with colorful pictures) and giving the girls some pencils and other stationary item so their tiny fingers would be able to at least write their name. Soon they became my followers and I became their role model. After a few months I decided this wasn’t enough, and I needed to do more for these girls. A school, why not!! I started hunting and gathering information from various government offices, I met the officials of the education departments of various schools, and in 1987 I was able to start a girls School with seven girls in nursery. Today this school caters to 1,500 girl students from underprivileged economically backward and marginalized social groups who do not have to pay any tuition fees since I was able to get a government grant for the payment of teachers, Â

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building and maintenance of infrastructure. From 2000 when I became a member of WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom,) I have made it mandatory for my school girls to understand about their rights and duties in today’s society. Special sessions and guest lectures are arranged for the students where various female based issues are the focus. Topics like Education, Environment, Health, Reproductive rights, Female feticide, Dowry system, Suicide prevention, etc.. are arranged to make them aware of their self as an Individual and to make them a capable individual for the family, society and the country. With the support and inspiration of one of the oldest women organizations like WILPF, I am happy, content and ever ready to work at great lengths for the welfare of women through whatever talents I have acquired in my life. In fact my whole life has revolved around the welfare of underprivileged females of the Indian society. I am very happy and I thank my parents and everyone who has ever helped and supported me through my life-time as everyone has contributed to my ability to contribute to others. Sushma Penkule in India with students


19 years, Rolling the Dice By: John Anthony Stippick in California, USA Lately, I’ve lost. Some call it unlucky...It doesn’t matter what you call it, I’ve lost and it is what it is. Life hasn’t always been this way. I’ve had my moments in the sun when life was lucky and I’ve been in the black. Traveling to Hawaii every four to six weeks, plenty of cash in the bank, nice car in the driveway: and a loving family to hug and to hold. This amazingly wonderful and even tragic thing we call “life” ultimately rolls the dice. Sometimes you win; sometimes you breakeven, and sometimes you lose. It’s been 19 years since I had a drink. There is only so many times of the same pitiful comprehension that one person can endure. I found out just how many I could endure...and I had a few more. On September 6th, 1993 (my birthday) I stopped drinking. It wasn’t noble as if I was “giving myself a present” It was because I was getting out of jail, again. When I started to get my life back together, I lived in Houston in a treatment center nestled near the high-rises and skyscrapers. I’d see businessmen; I’d look at their briefcases, shiny shoes, smart suits, and matching ties. I’d wonder what it takes to be “a man of means”. I wondered if I’d ever be free to make choices beyond my past. I wondered as I went to my job of manual labor whether it was gardening, sweeping warehouses, whatever the job required.


All I knew is if I just stayed, and took a stand for a better life, I could have a chance. So, I carried a little notebook and took notes. I would tell myself, “I’ll do anything today because one day “MY DAY” will come!” You see, I’m no stranger to being an “underdog”. I still remember my grandmother’s words. “Don’t worry, Papito, I’ll make them alright.” She said this as she mended my worn socks. She’d say this again as she made the same meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Oh, I’m a little guy too! All of 5 foot 6 inches and full of Mexican machismo with a lot of Texan, boot wearing, “I’m tough” bravado. So, when things got rough, I’d think back to my grandmother and say to myself, “I ain’t going back to that life!” So, I stayed in that downtown treatment facility; I’d get up every day and “just do it.”I stayed there for 18 months and I wasn’t willing to leave until I was certain I was a different man. 19 years...Clean and Sober! I’ve often been asked, “What has life been like during those 19 years of sobriety?” My answer is this, “It is often believed that if you get sober life just works out. Nope! You just get a life. While that in itself is massive and not intended to diminish by saying “you just get a life.” My point is, I’ve learned that the gift of sobriety is simply, getting to live life “One Day at a Time.” Each day, I faced struggles of learning how to live again. I had to work hard building a career, a family, and even an education. Yes,


there were times when I wasn’t sure what to do. In those moments, I got the help I needed from my friends in recovery. They taught me to “Trust God, Clean House (inside work), and Help Others.” And if you work hard enough toward what you want, you get it. During my sobriety, I built an amazing life in different locations. Miami, New York, etc...Great cars, money, fine food and good times just came my way. However, I did find out that all winning streaks come to an end. You can only win so many times in a row...Eventually the dice get cold. In 2011, the dice did get cold. Financial backers went bust, had to lay-off employees, mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, my wife was headed out the door, and one of my sons decided he wanted to try drugs. It was during my sobriety, where I entered the darkest hours of my life. All that I had worked for, my “destination” wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had “arrived” but where I waswasn’t “it”. In the middle of all this, a friend introduced me to a saying, “Choose to be happy”. I’d get so angry as I thought that was completely uncaring and not even realistic. I had every right to be angry and I mean “angry as hell”. I live in Southern California and I’d wander along the shore and look up to the horizon and talk with God. I had a lot to say to Him! Here’s what I heard back: “I gave you everything you wanted. It’s perfect just the


way it is! Your job is to discover just how perfect it is as you grow through it all.” What I’m learning about life is: as long as you are alive, it ain’t over! ...It doesn’t really matter which way it goes because life is a journey. On a daily basis, I answer the question: “Do we celebrate when we get “there” or do we celebrate “along the way?” Life is really rolling the dice... We just choose if we want to place a bet at the table (take a risk). Remember, there aren’t any guarantees but you can’t win if you don’t play. “

Keep rolling those dice! John Anthony Stippick


Leadership and Integrity By: Martin Mihalache in Bucharest, Romania During my professional career I have worked as a public speaking and leadership coach. This involved working with a wide diversity of people from many backgrounds and cultures. I was once employed by an up and coming politician from a former Eastern European country to be his personal leadership and communications coach, which involved me living with him and following him during his daily routines. I was initially being hired for a month. At the end of each day he requested I provide him with my observations of his leadership style and communication skills. He was the managing director of a few factories, as well as promoting himself in political circles. After a week’s observation I had enough information to provide him with a very detailed report. I had also built up enough trust with him to deliver the good and not so good observations. His leadership style was extremely autocratic, ruling with an iron fist, and his main ‘weapons’ were money (dollars) and fear. He ‘kindly’ offered to help his employees buy a house by buying half of the house and the employee cover the other half, which seems like a very generous offer. On close scrutiny he was holding his employees hostage to his rules and decisions. For example, if they said no to anything he threatened to sell the employee’s property. In one factory, I was asked during a committee meeting that included the director


what my observations were about this subject. I spoke them and the director asked the workers if they agreed with my observation. To his horror and surprise they all said yes. He fired all the workers instantly. Luckily he realized he couldn’t run the factory without the workers, so he reinstated them. I then met my client in private and spoke deeper about my observations; the guy then pulled a gun out of a drawer and shouted ‘do you know who I am?’ It transpired he was part of a mafia organization, no surprise there!! This was an important moment for me of leadership and my integrity, I stayed very calm and looked him in the eyes and said ‘you cannot buy or threaten my integrity, it’s not for sale, no dollars or threatening behavior can buy my integrity.’ He placed the gun back in the drawer and fired me on the spot. He threw me out of his house onto the city streets. Some hours later his secretary called me and offered to help me find a way home. This amazing experience strengthened me as a leader; it solidified my integrity and empowered my confidence in my decision making. It also highlighted my work as a psychologist in leadership. It’s vital that a leader is fully aware of his or her actions and where decision making comes from within the leader’s psyche. Any issues from the past must be dealt with and dissolved so the leader is as clear as possible in the role of being a leader. The client I highlighted was psychologically stuck at the age of 3 or 4 years, the age when we are starting to demand from our world that our needs must be met. I believe we must clear our past to create a balanced future in our role as a leader.


I have often been asked, what got me to this state of integrity? My life has been a rainbow of experiences. Sure, I’ve had professional training in leadership, and I spent some years in the military where life and death decisions have to be made instantly, and so on. Being in those experiences really sharpens you to what is important in life and what isn’t. I appear to have natural leadership abilities, coupled with a strong desire to live life fully. I am also a psychologist and the human psyche interests me very much, in particular the psyche of leaders. I prefer hands-on study, rather than digesting lots of books. To conclude, I am a leader and a coach that walks the talk. It’s vital that a leader is an example of his or her leadership! Martin Michalache Inspiring Speaker

Connecting the soul to Art

Simply Martin


Single and a Mommy By: Wendy Zalles in Pennsylvania, USA April Fool’s day at the ob/gyn. “I’m pregnant,” were the words I spoke to my sister. “Is this a joke? April fools, ha ha you got me,” she said on the phone. “Nope. You’re going to be an Aunt in November 2008.” Was the silence good or bad? From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I fell in love with this baby being created in my belly. This feeling of “creating a life” and being a mom is something I have dreamed of for a very long time. IN 2007, I ended my 10year marriage because my focus on having a family did not match my husband’s. Although there were additional factors that ended this marriage, my desire to have a child was too great to ignore and my child-bearing years/chances were getting smaller. So, here I am. At age 37, emotionally, physically and psychologically, I was ready. But, how will “he” react with this surprising news? In short, he was continuously in a state of shock for the first few weeks. I am almost 5 months pregnant, having dinner with the baby’s father. It’s easy-going. Smiles and laughter exchanged. Just the two of us talking about what’s going on in our day-to-day. A typical Thursday night date at Panera Bread. So, I thought. What did you say?


We’re finishing up the date, and usually at this point we discuss if I drive to his house or if he comes over to mine. “So, I want to tell you something,” he says calmly. “I want nothing to do with you or the child.” “You want nothing to do with me or the child,” I repeated. I think I repeated this phrase 100 times inside my head. The restaurant all of a sudden went dark and gloomy and I felt numb. Though it was only two or three seconds, my thoughts of screaming and throwing a chair at this guy were first on my mind - and then...instantly those thoughts went away. It was like I was in a movie watching myself handle this situation with the grace of Marilyn Monroe. The words out of my mouth shocked me, “I get that was really hard to say and I want you to know I am okay. I am excited to be a mom, and thank you for letting me know your decision to leave now.” Courageously, I got his communication and wasn’t mad or angry. I was fully committed to making this whole new situation work out and I was empowered to moving forward...not looking back. The LIGHT shines bright Fast forward four years – I wake up everyday and am blessed with such a precious gift, my son. I could be really upset, mad, and depressed about the baby’s father not being involved. I could be bitter paying all the expenses as a single parent... I could be a “victim” and have people


feel sorry for me. Who I am – is a mother, who is being responsible, and accepting what I have (not regretting what I don’t have.) My life includes freedom of expression and peace of mind in any and all circumstances that I’m dealing with. And, I’m pretty powerful in how I handle curve-balls or outright negative stuff. I’m too happy focusing on my future to worry about a past that has already happened. My health and well-being is my child’s health and well-being. Nothing else matters. And, my actions show this everyday. My hope is that through this story, my personal story, people will believe me when I say: we all have a special LIGHT shining within us everyday. No matter what dark cloud or storm is put in our way, there is a light shinning somewhere. Life is life – fill it with enthusiasm! Wendy and Levi, March 2011


FROM FRUSTRATION TO FREE FLIGHT By Dinesh Harshad Shah in Mumbai, INDIA My name is Dinesh, age 60. I belong to the Guajarati community and I live in Mumbai, India. I am a private tutor of French language. I share here my story of having become vulnerable to frustration and my struggle to see the rays of hope at the age of eighteen, right at the beginning of adulthood. I was bright in my school studies, well-behaved in my family and society. I was the first child among four. My parents and grandfather were hopeful about my career based on my academic qualifications and I was performing well enough in school. So far, so good! But the undercurrents, not so visible on the outside, proved to be very detrimental. Concentrating on my studies alone was due to the fact that I was not allowed to play in the street, nor even in the playground, from fears of my parents that I may get injured or meet with a road accident, while hundred of thousands of other parents had no such fears. Overprotection and so many prohibitions made me feeble and my inhibitions grew. Remaining mostly inside my house, there was no other choice but to read and study, which I did like. Another problem was the verbal assaults and severe physical punishments for slightest misbehaving natural in every childhood.


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However, I secured respectable results in my exams from the State Board of Education at the end of my secondary schooling and my parents decided to put me in a hostel to provide an environment more congenial to enhance my college studies. I made a new beginning away from home. Heading toward a bright education followed by a bright career and there were expectations. I was naive. I saw freedom from the bondage of four walls, freedom from what I perceived to be over-discipline, over-guidance, over protection and the various occurrences in my childhood in the name of disciplinary steps. It seemed to me that the other boys in my hostel came from a free and more loving environment. Their company, the games of table tennis and carom, the excellent library of the hostel, the cinema hall in the nearby areas – all led me to open myself up to the possibility of freedom and free flight. But I got carried away. I could do anything being far away from the eyes of my parents and what I perceived to be their negative influence as well as my grandfather. I began to neglect my studies and this resulted in deteriorating my educational performance. I spent only two years in the hostel and the college and then I returned home a failure. At home, there was much surprise and frustration. My sense of being treated with silence and verbal torture returned. I had to find a job at the age of eighteen since my formal education had failed. My transformation that started in the hostel, now took a different direction. In school, I was educated in the vernacular Guajarati language. My knowledge of English Â

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was not sufficient for a white- collar job. My incomplete studies were a big hindrance. The first job I was offered was an office boy, although I was doing clerical work. I continued to experience hatred toward me at home and great frustration in my mind. I was depressed. Darkness seemed to surround me, leading to a future with no promise. I continued to feel more and more worthless and thoughts of committing suicide began to creep into my head. I began to consider different ways to kill myself and at that point almost decided to act. Then unexpectedly, on account of my habit of good reading, I happened to read the biography of Swami Vivekananda, the great Indian spiritual master of the Twentieth Century. I enjoyed reading, and the end of a very dark tunnel began to appear when I learned that in his youth, this great person was so frustrated by similar circumstances that he himself had the thoughts of committing suicide. I was happily shocked. His positive story made me ask myself, “If he could become a star on earth even after such life experiences, WHY COULDN’T I REGAIN MY HOPE, COURAGE AND MY WILL TO SUCCED AND CHANGE MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER?” The next five years were crucial, filled with wholehearted efforts to improve my English, read a lot, learn a lot on the job and attend various classes, meetings, seminars, public lectures of educational values for the sake of my


improvement, development and advancement. At that point, I was prepared for a job with much more salary in a company having business overseas. Considering my good knowledge of English, I was given the opportunity to learn French, and to go to Tunis and Paris for business training in French. I also chose to begin giving private tutoring in the French language, do freelance translation work in three Indian languages (Gujarati, Hindi and Marathi) and two European languages (English and French). Thanks to God, thanks to the recorded life story of a saint, Swami Vivekananda, thanks even my parents whose severe disciplinary attitude did some good for me as well. Last but not the least, thanks to the bright and open experience at the hostel, not only did I save my life, but it also opened my heart and mind to brighter possibilities of life. Let me also take this opportunity to thank everyone in my family, all of my friends, the people in my office and freelance career, and innumerable people whom I remember and whom I might have forgotten. Dinesh Harshad Shah


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What I Want To Remember About Tomorrow By: William Ross in Pennsylvania, USA I grew up as the middle child in a family of three children. My brother Jay was born five years before me and my sister Kelly was born three years after me. Along with my mother and father we lived in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. In April of 1988, my brother had completed college and was living on his own. I was 19 and in my first year of college and living at home with my parents. My sister Kelly, who was 16, was in 10th grade at the local high school. It was the morning of April 4th, 1988 and my dad had taken the day off of work to prep his boat for the diving season with his friend Rudy. My sister had also taken the day off from school because she did not feel well. As I left for classes that morning I said goodbye to Kelly, who was sitting on the living room couch reading a book, and she said goodbye to me. I had no idea that this would be the last time that I would ever hear Kelly’s voice. A few hours later I returned home and as I entered the house and I was told by Rudy that Kelly had just shot and killed herself. This happened just minutes prior to my returning home; the paramedics had not even arrived yet. Kelly was a straight A student in school and was an extremely generous and caring person. She was the last person in the world that I thought would ever do something like this. Unfortunately, Kelly suffered from depression. As I walked up the stairs to where Kelly was, Rudy asked if I really wanted to see Kelly in that condition.


I needed to see this because this was just not happening, I did not believe it; this was just not possible. I entered my parent’s bedroom and walked to their bathroom; my little sister was lying there in a pool of blood. At that point I sat down on the edge of my parent’s bed and my very first thought was “at least things are going to change around here.” The life that I knew prior to that moment no longer existed. This happened almost 25 years ago, and up until about two years ago I had been blaming my parents for my sister’s choice to end her life. The way I saw it, there was something wrong growing up in that house. It was a very strict house and it seemed to me that our entire lives revolved around my father’s hobbies. There wasn’t a lot of freedom for self-expression and I had heard more than once that “children should be seen and not heard.” Even as a young child I had felt that there was something not right about the strictness that I experienced growing up. I was holding resentments about this within my own head prior to my sister’s death, and when Kelly took her own life, I used her action to confirm that I was right, and that my parents had no idea what they were doing. My internal dialogue was, “See, I told you so”. Yet, even as I was swimming in my justified resentments, I was also deeply and profoundly sad for my parents to have to go through losing their daughter. I couldn’t imagine what that could possibly be like for them. The compassion and empathy that I felt for them was overwhelming. Since Kelly suffered from depression, she was seeing a doctor and taking medication (which I


learned of after her death). About four years after Kelly’s death, there was a court case against the doctor that was treating Kelly, about which Dateline NBC subsequently aired a segment. When I was on the witness stand and I was being questioned by the one of the attorneys, my parents were in the back of the court and I could see them. Seeing the profound sadness in their eyes brought everything back as if it had just happened, and my heart was breaking again. I broke down crying and was unable to continue on the witness stand. While I was part of the court case against the doctor, I was not blaming the doctor; I was instead blaming my parents and blaming myself. We should have known better, we should have done better. I cut myself some slack because I was still a kid, but my parents were the adults and they should have known better. At least that was how I saw it. Fast forward to 20-plus years later: I was still blaming my parents. It was difficult for me to be around them for any length of time. I had never told them about how I felt because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Instead I just continued to punish them and get irritated and annoyed by the smallest thing that came out of their mouths. I was avoiding them and keeping our relationship on superficial ground. There was not a lot of depth in our connection. Our connection was something to survive, unless, I needed something from them. A few years ago, I really started to take a good look at myself and my way of being in my relationship with my parents because I knew that this antagonism was not what I wanted. I wanted to know them. I wanted to appreciate


them. I wanted to be grateful and I wanted to have love in our relationship. I knew they would not be around forever and I wanted to be fully present and appreciate the moments that we do have left together. I wanted to get to know them on a deeper level; not just as my parents but as who they are for other people. What were their lives like before I was born? What were their lives like after I pulled away from them? My parents have evolved greatly since my sister’s death, but I was defining them from a fixed point in time from the past; but they are not those people today. I started looking at my judgments, thoughts, and assessments regarding what I viewed as “wrong” about my parents. I began to see through my resentments and see my parents for who they truly are for me and for others. As a young married couple, my parents basically created their own life and pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. They worked and paid their own way through college. Living in a different state than family, they didn’t have any real support system in place and truly only had each other. They raised three children while going to night school and working full time to get their masters, both of them. They simply brought themselves up by their boot straps. They also really saved and scraped for every last penny and they were determined. They met and exceeded their goals. They provided for their children and set a powerful example of what it looks like to be responsible. Additionally, my parents paid my way through college. They bailed me out of the debt situations that I created for myself, and they fully supported me emotionally and


financially through two divorces. When I needed love, support, and help, they were always there. They did not blink an eye on spending fifty thousand dollars for me to go to rehab. No matter what state I move to or what relationship I am ever in, they always drive hundreds of miles to spend time with me. There are thousands of other ways that they have truly been there for me. I got very present to this truth and I was very humbled by it. The thought, “How dare you!!!” came to my mind more than once when I reflected on how I had been treating my parents. I knew that this could not go on any longer. I could not allow this to continue. I had to rat myself out to my parents and let them know what I had been doing and ask them for their forgiveness. But what do I say? What if this breaks their heart again? One evening I finally mustered up the courage to be vulnerable and have the conversation that I had been avoiding for over 20+-plus years. I picked up the phone and told them about what I had been up to for all of these years. I shared how I had been blaming them for what happened to Kelly and making it mean that they are not good parents. I apologized sincerely for placing the blame all on them. I let them know that I understood that Kelly’s death was not their fault, and that I regretted all of the time I wasted wallowing in my resentments. When I finished my Dad said, “You know, Mickey (my mom) and I thought that you were doing that.” This is one of those times I had heard about where a big “secret” is revealed only to find out it was not a secret at all. I can now look back at that and the conversation, and laugh. How absurd!


I was walking around with my resentments, thinking that I was cleverly hiding them, only to find out that they were tattooed on my forehead. After this moment of courage, I began to truly see my parents for the first time in many years with love, affinity, freedom, and a profound desire to get to know them on a deeper level. The transformation that has occurred in me, and in our relationship, has been wonderful. I really enjoy actually listening to my parents and actually hearing what they have to say, learning about them and their experiences, and trying to soak up as much of their wisdom as possible. Now, I am able to truly be in a space of love, appreciation, and gratitude for who they are and how very blessed I am that they are still alive. The space that has opened up for me out of the one conversation that I had been avoiding is truly amazing! As a result of that conversation, and my desire to finally let go of the past, I have learned more about my parents in the past three years than I did in the first 40 years of my life. I was able to change our future by giving up what was not serving me or my parents. I changed what would have most certainly been regrets at their funerals into what will be pure love and honor. I love you mom and dad. You are my guardian angels and I am profoundly and exquisitely proud and honored to be your son. With Love, Ross


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An Unscheduled Sting Operation By: Douglas Hoffman in New York, USA At 5:50 a.m. Tuesday I was stung on the top of the head by an insect I did not see. Fifteen minutes later, I was in my friend Murat's car going as fast as he could drive toward the emergency room. Breathing became progressively harder. Murat pulled in the police barracks and, I could feel that I was about to pass out. I could not tell if it was something in my chest that was preventing me from breathing or swelling in my throat and tongue. I wondered if a tracheotomy would help and more importantly if by the time I really needed one, if I would be able to perform it on myself. I wished I had not left my pocket knife on the desk. I was sure I could find something sharp. Could I cut my own throat while staying calm enough to do it properly? Could I find a straw, a pen, something to keep the airway open? Still, it was not the breathing that scared me the most. For some reason, it was the loss of my eyesight, which came on suddenly, first with a loss of all peripheral vision, then with the darkening of all vision except an intense brightness in the center which obscured all else. In the absence of sight, I became scared. I lost consciousness briefly and saw a vision like an X-Ray of my chest, with white smoke, filling the space between my ribcage and lungs, pressing in on my lungs as breathing became harder. In the vision, like a lucid dream, I knew I could push the smoke back allowing my lungs to expand, but Â

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didn't. I kept focusing on my lungs, trying to shift, to push back the smoke, but couldn't make the shift. I wondered what was next. Then I became aware of my surroundings again, elapsed time felt like hours, probably only seconds. I could see again, just enough to see the dashboard of the car, my legs and arms covered in growing welts, no color but expanding so fast I could see them join into each other becoming fewer, larger bumps. At the police station, as Murat ran for help, I climbed out of the car. Looking for air, I stumbled and laid my head on the trunk. I saw a police woman come out and I tried to walk towards her. A minute later I was inside the barracks, ambulance was on the way. They hooked me to a defibrillator. I was in confusion and hungry for air. The machine kept talking; I tried to look but couldn't see it well enough. Another police officer was in the room, standing in the corner, as far away as he could get. He looked scared. My sight came and went over the period of several minutes prior to the arrival of the ambulance. When it was there, I wanted to run. Several times I tried to stand up only to be stopped by the police officers. When I sat down I lost control of my body. I thought I would shit in my pants, but did not. I thought I would vomit, but did not. There was a clear sense that death was possible, and that I had nothing what–so- ever to say about it. Internally, I was oddly calm. I had this frustrating sense of having no control and at one point made a conscious choice that I would stay calm


so that this would be a lesson. Gathered thoughts of my kids, my life, my friends, where I am and where I have been. I expected to find huge holes, things I didn't do or see. I was pleased. I knew in that moment, that my kids hear "I Love You" enough, I knew that the people in my life are increasingly seeing me for who and what I am, and that I am learning well. I also found some holes, where I need to be in action. Several times between the police barracks and the hospital, I lost consciousness and the vision came back, progressively the smoke receded, until by arrival at the hospital, I was clear all would be ok. Perhaps this is all a bit melodramatic. There is huge emotional material yet to process. I just wanted to get this said while it was still on my mind. I thank you all for the contribution you are in my life. And by the way, I don't have enough life insurance. I guess I'll buy more. Five days have gone by. This week has been perhaps the strangest of my life. I have managed, after the rather intense events of Tuesday, to stay more or less functional, keep my business running, learn a few lessons and take care of Johanna and Joda. I have been aware, that there were emotional experiences tied to these events which were and are for the most part, still hiding beneath the surface. I can feel it bubbling. My eyes fill with water spontaneously, or I go from exuberant to sorrowful in a matter of seconds. I am happy, sad, optimistic, or fatalistic in a moment. I do not know where I am in my life, or I am confident and clear.


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I am, perhaps avoiding something, telling the story, not getting present to the wealth of emotion that lies behind. The truth is that in the moment, I was only a little frightened. Somehow, now I am scared and I do not know what of. In other times in my life, death was possible and calm was the necessary BS to get through the situation. This was different. I had no control, little fear, but a kind of pure powerlessness that I have not felt. I remember when I realized that the police did not have any first aid solution at their disposal and were going to do nothing to help except call an ambulance. It was in that moment when I realized I might not make it. It's hard to call what I felt peace. I was not calm, yet struggling to breath, stay conscious, lungs hurting losing feeling, drifting away/back, angry. But not scared, so much as confused, trusting, but not knowing what. I even had moments of questioning my spiritual beliefs; wondering if the resolutions I had made in that area would serve me or be forgiven or something else. It seems I was split, my physical and other concerns, operating completely independent of one another. I still feel that way, but mostly, I feel alone. Two weeks have gone by and I am anxious for this issue to go away. The pen I carry (an emergency epinephrine injection) seems to me just a pain in the ass. The temptation is to file this entire experience away in my memory as past and to move forward. My doctor tells me that the next time the reaction is likely Â

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to be more serious. He says that if I were stung again, the likelihood is that this “epi-pen” injection would not be sufficient to keep me alive until emergency assistance could arrive. So now I carry two. What a strange place to be. This is not how I know myself. I survive. That is who I am. I have been up and down; have looked down gun barrels and crashed motorcycles and shot bad drugs into my veins. I have never doubted I would see the other side. Now, I see a bee and my shoulders raise involuntarily, a defensive gesture. I feel an insect or even a breeze across my head and I get chills. A walk in the woods seems out of the question. Yesterday I walked outside to take pictures of a doe eating grass outside my window and had to push down fear to walk across the lawn and take the shot. Fear wells in me so powerfully, that tears appear in my eyes. I walk around to the back door of my apartment to avoid the bees at the front. Last week, when I knew the seriousness of this all, I left my “epi-pen” at home by accident, twice. I have been belittling myself for my fear, denying the significance, trying to convince myself that I am just being melodramatic. Three weeks have gone by, and nothing has really changed. Today I walked out of my office and a wasp flew past, inches from my ear. I wanted to run. Choked down fear like bad food, and walked to my truck. I wear a hat to avoid that feeling of an insect or a breeze across the top


of my head. I don’t know what’s next but I do know the story continues. The woods have always been home to me. As a young man I used to say “give me a knife and the clothes on my back, I’ll be fine”. I will not live afraid. I will not lose the woods, my shelter. I will not lose my peace. But for the moment...peace is often elusive.

Doug Hoffman


Finding My Voice By: Eileen Forrestal in Sligo, IRELAND My name is Eileen Forrestal and I am a Medical Doctor, specializing in Anesthesia. I have travelled the world, parachuted from airplanes, climbed (really high) mountains, rafted the Zambezi river, lived in Africa, and to myself and most people who knew me, I was fearless. My biggest fear at the time was that I would not be able to do all the things I wanted to do in life which was everything! But here I was, at 43 years of age, with 20 years of doing almost everything that I thought I wanted to do behind me and I was still dissatisfied. Something was missing. And it wasn’t courage. Nor was it vulnerability. I had an interesting career in Medicine, a beautiful home; friends, a small ‘normal’ family; money, and I had seen and done most things that people only dream of. My marriage had ended after 7 years, because it was not the kind of marriage I wanted - it should have been ‘different’. I felt I deserved better! I did not have children, by choice, and I was fine about that. I had seen a lot of ill children in my career and somehow I felt I would not have made a particularly good parent (a little too selfish perhaps). So I had my freedom and I was happy. Or was I? I had everything I wanted. I did everything I wanted, but deep in my core I knew something was


missing. Peace of mind.
And without that, I wasn’t free. What had me trapped was the knowledge that I had no real self expression, and without this I had no real power, no real freedom, and no real peace. I had no self-expression because I could not speak. In fact, I was terrified to speak. I always had been. From my earliest memory of my childhood stammer, I would shut down. Just thinking about speaking in public brought back all the adolescent embarrassment and humiliation of a shy schoolgirl. I had woven my life around this fear. My career was dominated by the fact that I would be ‘found out’. If I became a permanent member of staff, I would have to attend meetings, take on teaching, delivering lectures. No way. That would be impossible for me. I’d rather die. The solution I created earlier in my career as I trained was to duck and dive, avoid, pretend to hide this fear of being exposed as a ‘freak’. THERE WAS THE BLAME. It had to be someone’s fault. I decided it must be my mother’s. She was already guilty. She was always apologizing about the pills. I had swallowed the aspirin. I had been rushed to the hospital. I had been handed over to a nun and a black doctor. I had been terrified. I had my stomach pumped out. I was three and just starting to speak. After that, I couldn’t speak. I stuttered and was


humiliated. My whole life after that was about suffering in silence. No one understood what it was like to not be able to say what I wanted to say; to not be normal; to have to hide; to not be noticed. In September 2001, on the recommendation of a friend, I took a personal development course to try and figure out why my marriage hadn’t worked out. People in this course would go to the microphone at the front of the room and get some coaching from the course leader. How was I ever going to get this valuable coaching? I couldn’t possibly speak in front of all these strangers. I’d rather die. I was terrified. Do I leave the course? All my life I had “left the course” ~ run away, changed jobs, moved to another country, or left the relationship, all because I was too afraid to speak and be found out that I was defective. I feared being ridiculed, laughed at, and judged. So, at 43 years of age, a Medical Consultant, world traveler, sitting there in the back row of the course, I was trapped in the terror of a child, and the crippling embarrassment of a teenager. Somehow, I heard the leader invite people to come to the microphone. In one split second – I had a choice. Stay silent and hidden and ‘safe’, paralyzed by fear or take a huge risk and be inspired by my own courage. I put my hand up. This single act of courage changed my life. When I got to the microphone I looked down at all these people sitting looking up at me, waiting for me to say something.


They didn’t know anything about me. I was just another person standing at the microphone about to speak. I said, “Hello. “ I heard my voice reverberate around the room. It was normal. I said, “Hello again”. It was normal again. I could speak without stuttering. People were still looking at me like I had something to say. What was I now going to say? What did I want to say to all these people, waiting for me to speak? I was unbelievably relaxed. My voice was clear and strong. So I said “Thank you. Thank you for waiting. Thank you for listening. And thanks especially to all of you who went to the microphone before me, without whom I would never have had the courage to put up my hand and make that short walk up here and speak”. I then thanked myself for putting up my hand, for getting myself out of my chair, for getting to the microphone, for speaking, and setting myself free. And then, I apologized to myself for keeping myself ‘in my chair’ for so long. Then I forgave myself for keeping myself silent for so long. But I was now up, at the microphone, speaking. That’s all that mattered. There was no going back. I had my voice. I had my word. I would now honor it. I would never sit in fearful silence again. I said, “I love you all,” and I sat down. Free at last. Since that day I have spoken anywhere and everywhere. I


can, do, and will say anything to anyone. Sometimes I get nervous, but it doesn’t stop me. Sometimes I choose not to speak. Now I know what freedom is. It is freedom to express myself, be myself, and to say what I want to say. Freedom is expressing my love. Now anything is possible. Anything I want, I can ask for. I have been on the radio and on television. I have spoken to large groups of strangers and friends. Mostly, I say Thank you. I tell people to get up and go. Go and do the thing that you fear. Do whatever you need to do or want to do. Say what you want to say. And tell the truth. Now THAT takes courage...and vulnerability. Do it anyway. Eileen Forrestal


GOING WALKABOUT By Judi Romaine in Indiana, USA I have a great story to tell, one about the fulfillment of a dream, whatever the circumstances. Even more important, it’s a story that I say inspires others like me who are heading into the completion years of their lives, to rekindle those dreams and live from creation. I believe that context is decisive; in other words, that how we perceive and interpret our circumstances gives us the experience of our lives, good or bad. But, I know most people in the world would say that what happened to me was ‘bad.’ My circumstances included having three emergency surgeries in the past ten years with no insurance that wiped out all of my retirement savings. Then last year, I lost my business of 25 years, leaving me with no income except $700 a month in Social Security to live from for the future. So there I was, with no retirement money, a house that was mortgaged at $100K, and no other income except that small Social Security pension. How was I ever going to even live month-to-month, let alone keep up my house repairs? And what would happen when I was no longer able to get around? Where would I go? What would I do? Then, an astounding thing happened. I was participating in a program with Landmark Education called the SelfExpression and Leadership Program, where the participants create a project that is inspiring and perhaps even basing it on a dream we once had for our lives but


had given up on. When I shared I had lost my savings and my income, the program leader took me aside and reminded me that the program was about creating anything for our futures, whatever the circumstances. I began to recall that I have the ability to give up living a life designed around ‘surviving’ and that I could moment-bymoment give up those fears and step into a new future: one of adventure and completion even when my life got really challenging. Sunrise...Sunset The dream was hidden away in the back of my mind, put there when I was maybe 25 or so, that I would someday live outdoors, traveling about like a gypsy, seeing the beautiful earth, meeting new people, writing stories, living in the moment, completing my life as an adventure. Those forgotten dreams began to surface when I reminded myself I could create anything in life, no matter what, and I had the courage to take it on. I saw myself traveling across the country, watching every sunrise and every sunset. Even better, I had always loved living in small spaces, a minimal kind of life with little to manage. The opportunity of my having to find a new way to live let me imagine myself living in a little Winnebago, sitting in a lounge chair at dawn out in the high desert, sipping a perfect cup of coffee from my white mug as I watched the mountains in the distance turn purple in the morning light. So here was my opportunity right in front of me. I declared that within eighteen months I will go on my


dream Walkabout. I would earn enough money from small short-term jobs to pay off my $12K credit card debt, that I would sell or give away most of my material goods, that I would sell my house, and I would take that small equity (of $40-60K) and buy a tiny Winnebago. I continued to bring myself back to that promise when I got scared or forgot, despite all the uncertainties and hardships that ‘might’ happen on a walkabout, like ‘What if I got sick?’ ‘What if I got lonely?’ ‘What if I was afraid?’ As David Whyte suggests (What To Remember on Waking) I take one step at a time, and keep my eyes and my commitment on fulfilling that dream of adventure. It’s time for me and my dream Having lived in my own house for 20 years, having raised an exceptional daughter whose life was about contributing to the world, having gone back to school at fifty and gotten a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, I was ready to get going. Now eight months out from my Walkabout, October 2012, here I stand. So far I have paid down one-half of my credit card debt, I have begun a blog to share my experiences of living a great adventure on the road with minimal belongings, and I have contacted a realtor to get my house on the market next spring. But, most important of all, I have shared my dream with hundreds and hundreds of people in my life, close friends, family and acquaintances, and they all are inspired by my adventure and are as committed as I am that I fulfill on my dreams.


So this is my next and perhaps my final great journey, however long it takes. This is my quest of discovery, to complete living a created life, not an accidental one. I am setting off in my Winnebago during the 2013 summer and I promise to keep you all updated and inspire you to live from your dreams. Travel with Judi...


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Being Unstoppable By: Harshit Munshi in Gujarat, INDIA I am 24-years old and currently doing my post graduation work in computer science at Gujarat University I would like to share the breakdown I faced in 2009. After completing my bachelor’s degree in computer science in that year, I went for the preparation for the exam called GATE at Hyderabad, which was to be conducted by the government of India for doing master’s degrees. I went for the preparation for doing the master’s in computer science in June of 2009 and I stayed for six months. During this time there was a situation that arose where my health was not good and I suffered from a urinary infection and a fever as high as 103 degrees. Then the time came where a kidney stone was detected. So, even though I stayed six months at Hyderabad and I had completed my preparation for the master’s program, the GATE preparation, I came home at the end of 2009 and applied for the GATE exam in February of 2010. I failed to score the passing marks as I have not prepared well for the exam. In May of 2010 again, without losing my courage, I applied to the Nirma University exam, which is a state university of Gujarat and a well thought of institute. I secured a 12 rank out of 60 students who participated in the exam conducted by the university but unfortunately, due to the cast difference again, I failed to get the


admission and some with a rank below mine or 13 and 14 got the admission. The management of the university had not informed me about these requirements and I again fell into a depression. Then once again I applied for GATE 2011 and once again I failed to qualify by just 4 marks for the exam. Due to above stated situation, my father also worried for me and what would happen to my future at that time. My father also went to the Nirma University management seeking admission for me to get into the master’s degree program, even if they refused to make the decision and they replied that nothing could be done as time had now passed. Impact and Outcome As these incidences happened I also came to be depressed and I was unable to think what to do. At that time there was also a situation that I was being given bank exams and when I was disqualified for the first exams, in 2011 I applied for the bank exams conducted by IBPS which is a group who handles the banking exams. At that point, I qualified for the exam and cleared the written test as well. Then yet again, I took the exam for master’s degree at Gujarat University in July of 2011 and got the rank of 36 out of 120 students who had been given the exam conducted by Gujarat University. Fortunately, I got admitted in 2011! Now it’s been almost one and a half years towards the completion of my master’s degree and I m enjoying my studies in Gujarat


Conclusion I conclude from the above situation that even at a high fever and detection of kidney stone, I did not lose myself and even in the face of failure I did not lose my hope and did not lose courage. Finally, after much struggle, I succeeded. I got what I wanted-a new way of thinking. I transformed from mediocre to unstoppable! Harshit Munshi


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Writing the Words I Cannot Speak By MSquare in Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA Womanhood... Growing up in South Africa as an only child spending so many of my hours with my mother, it was inevitable that I would spend hour upon hour in the world of women. My mother is a strange creature in that she espoused so much independence and voice and presence – she always had her own bank account and independence – but she was also such a traditional wife in that she would say things like: “Let’s see what you dad says”, or “Dad said we couldn’t”...and that would be the end of the conversation. She is definitely a paradox as she would always say, “You are an individual”, yet always acquiesced to my father’s will. I was raised in a society of women where we are raised to be “good” wives and “good” mothers. And I was no exception to that rule. When I spoke to her about this, her answer was simplistic: women should always back their husbands in public, and the fighting should be left for their private moments. And this is what I took with me as I watched my aunts do the same things for all my life. The marriage vows say to “honor and obey” your husband, and I watched the women in my family and community do this, without fail, through abuse and adultery...they honored and obeyed. ...and then there were three... In August of 2005, I came to New York from Cape Town, South Africa with the man I was married to and my two


sons, then aged 6 and 7. We had made a shift of life, out of a comfort zone in pursuit of his dream – and I was an obedient wife; what he wanted I would follow. At first we were seemingly happy and adjusting to a time and place so foreign to our very beings. Yet it became apparent that he wanted more, or rather wanted less...of me. I was devastated, and at first fought the breakup of this 15 year marriage. I had been with this man since I was 18 and had sold my soul to him; given him absolute control of me. I was enraged, disillusioned, hurt and shattered beyond anything I could ever imagine. I remember in December 2007 we had been arguing about something; and as I was yelling a response he stepped in and smacked me so hard across my face my spectacles went flying...nothing, nothing, nothing could have prepared me for that moment in my amount of education or family love prepared me for this...Surely this was something that happened to other people. I remember calling my sons, my voice raspy from shock, asking my eldest to help me find my specs so that I could see what I was doing. I very calmly packed a suitcase, took the boys and called my cousin to fetch us. It was an odd moment, because until then I had told no one that we had been having troubles – yet all I asked her was, “Can you come fetch me and the boys now?” She said later, that when she heard my voice, she knew she had to leave immediately to get me. Everything in me screamed and I now understood what people mean when they say that the emotional pain was so overwhelming that it hurt to breathe... Later that night he called, and he convinced me to come


home and not involve people in our business... He said things like, “I’m sorry;” “Think about the boys”, and “We can work it out.” And I was an obedient wife, I went home the next day, and for a while it was OK. The fights continued and I continued not to tell, not a soul, not my parents, not could I when I was smart and educated and funny and outspoken? How did I voice what I was conditioned to be silent about? Until... the summer of 2008; when he hit me again, and overwhelmed, I fell to the ground. As I landed he put his foot on my face. On my face! I heard my mom’s voice that instant “Get up!” She shouted, “Get up!” And I did...I got up and left. I had no place to go, but I left. Despite the four years that have passed since then, I have not shared this with my parents...the memory of it brings with it a mixture of awed anger and sorrow...I still don’t know if I will ever tell them, but by putting my words to paper, the silence is broken. And that alone is a release to that memory, as I will always see myself as the victor here, simply because I can now speak about it. New Beginnings... And here I am, a little more than four years later, still in New York - stronger, wiser and enthused for life. This experience of writing has allowed me to talk to my parents and establish a relationship with them – one I gave up in lieu of another. They are steadfast and faithful. I speak to them every day in one form or another and they encourage me constantly. I have claimed back the life I gave away, and love myself all the more for it. Once I opened the


doors on my painful memories I could not stop them from coming like a tidal wave. I am not sorry for letting them flow out. To write the words you cannot speak is therapeutic. I have learned to forgive, not just him - but more importantly – myself. I take what works for me here and I live with it, creating new memories, raising my sons, giving them new memories. My sons see me as a strong woman. I do as well. I shape my strength, joys and enthusiasm for life. I laugh and I live. MSquare Living Life!


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Career Choice Led By Needing To Serve By: Pete in Pennsylvania, USA I worked as a policeman when I got out of high school and college but I went into construction since construction the field provided more income and money, which was driving me at that age. I was in my early 20’s and I was living at home. I wanted more money so I could get out and do more. When I was in construction, I was literally angry at the world. I was mad at what I was doing, working in the heat, and because I couldn’t take vacations in the summer months. I took it out on the guys who worked under me, screaming and yelling at them as if they were children when actually they were adults. Then I moved out to another area and I got involved with the fire department. Through that I got to know the police department in that area as well. I had gotten to know the chief of police there because we did a detail at a golf outing. The chief saw something in me and asked me if I had any experience as a police officer, which I did, so he told me to fill out an application Then one day I was at work in my company pick-up truck and the phone rang. It was the chief of police, saying they had a job for me if I wanted it. So I took a big risk, a huge pay cut and started working part-time with the police and part-time in another company; it was a life changer. When I got the call, I had in my mind, ‘I’m getting hired


here and what do I do? Do I give up the money?’ When I realized how unhappy I was in construction, I made my decision. I took a chance and the first year was rough financially but I absolutely loved my new job. It’s been fourteen years now and I still absolutely love my job. I love coming to work every day. It’s an incredible job for so many reasons. When I first began, I started a program for children, a sponsorship for the little league and I had the opportunity to also help coach. I did this for about four or five years. I’ve always loved children and this gave me a chance to help and work with children to make a difference in their lives. And it was a lot of fun for me. This job has given me so many rewards. One of our police officer’s sayings is “if it didn’t come over the radio, it didn’t happen.” I don’t agree with that. I like to be proactive. When my colleagues, who have more experience than I and are very highly regarded, give me the recognition that I am doing a good job, it makes me feel very proud of myself. About six or seven years ago, we got a call where a woman was in the hospital because she had been abused by her husband. After our investigation, what we learned was she was physically and mentally abused by this man for twenty years of her marriage. The reward for arresting her husband was all about giving this woman her freedom back and allowing her to live a life abuse-free.


Sometimes when you arrest people you can feel compassion or empathy for the person you are arresting. In this case, with this abusive husband, it felt good to stand up for what was right. He was psychologically keeping this woman a prisoner. To this day, it brings tears to my eyes thinking about what this woman went through. It’s amazing. She still lives in our township and every day when we drive by, she flags us down and gives us pies and cookies. She’s so grateful. She has turned her life over to God and is happy and free now. The most recent experience that amazed me was watching a natural childbirth by the side of the road, which was the most incredible thing I have ever seen in my life. I did watch my son being born, however my wife had a Csection, so it was a bit different. To see a little person come out of another person like that was absolutely amazing. It was life changing for me to watch the miracle of birth, watching life happen, watching the father and remembering how I felt when my son was born. It was a magical moment. Of course we see the tragic side of life as well and sometimes we have to deliver notifications to inform family members of a loved one’s death. We are trained in this job to be non-emotional. However, as a human being, it is not always easy. We often joke because that’s how we deal with this stuff. We recently had a husband and father killed in a car accident and we had to inform his wife. When we walked into the house we saw family pictures of this man and my


sergeant turns to me and says “This guy looks like you.” There was resemblance there, for sure. The door flew open and a little boy came charging in saying “Daddy, Daddy, you’re home!” and then he stopped suddenly and said “Wait, you’re not my Daddy, you are a police officer?” The look in this little boys’ eyes when he thought I was his father, I had to get out of that house because it was heart wrenching to see that. It’s a part of the job, the hard part. I am a police officer in the suburbs, so it’s not the same as being a police officer in a city. Yet, even these heartwrenching experiences inspire me to do more, to be more and to show up in the community helping, however I can. When I first became a police officer, I always gave the young high school kids a break because of their age. But after watching teenagers getting killed in accidents, I changed my mind about that and now I give them a ticket because someone needs to show them that they are driving in a way that is a danger for themselves and others. It’s important and I get that now. Sometimes, I will call a parent and let them know what just happened instead of giving a kid a ticket, and other times I share the reality that goes with irresponsible driving. This job fulfills me. I never thought I would settle down and get married. I got married when I was forty, I have a full family life now and I’m always learning. Every day, I am learning something new and that makes it even more fulfilling for me


Life Begins at 42! By: Jocelyn Britto in Mumbai, INDIA The first 19 years of my life, I had a great life! I was born in 1970 and it was smooth sailing... My first experience with a major breakdown in my life was in 1989 - I am in the operating room with 9 multiple fractures on my right foot (fractured and crushed,) stemming from a bad road accident. My 3rd Semester of Engineering is to commence while doctors are assuring me I will make it in time for the exam (approximately two months.) The first operation takes 5 hours. The next operation was a week later. The second operation was when I realized the extent of the damage in my foot. Professional Football is completely out, and to make matters worse, nine months later I am still walking in my crutches wondering if I will ever walk again. This is when playing football again becomes my secondary concern with walking my first concern. Eventually, one day I am able to “limp walk.” That was like a new lease of life! Returning to college in 3 rd Semester after a year with all of my batch mates in the 5th Semester, but for me, that was okay because after enduring the year of my injury it was like a new beginning to Life. Ten years later, I’d experience another breakdown. Only this time it was a breakdown in relationships with my cousins. This is when it seemed to me, a cycle was developing every 10 years or so. I’d move away from this breakdown to another 10 years of a great life...then a


major financial breakdown happened which was complex due to disappearing of people in the company and we didn’t have the courage to continue to create the company. This company shut down and I’d experience another financial breakdown after that. Physical injuries, relationship challenges in my family and in business which added to financial downfalls...All of these things are real and what I have learned is that a lot of this was me living in survival mode. I now realize my design made me accident prone. I was being reactive, I was not disciplined. The accident was due to lack of listening; the business falling a part was due to a lack of trust. Breakup in my relationship came from wanting to control. Additionally, in work, there was no consistency or commitment to keep a long term job. I was fearful of being run-over, hard- work, I resisted, I worried about people hating me, everything was about what they will say, and I had a complete loss of self expression. I was experiencing feeling suppressed; as I protected myself (to survive.) Nothing was really possible for me in that way of life. I participated in landmark education through their various programs and seminars and I realized, my life does not have to be that way. My Life Today... The World is Beautiful. I’m able to acknowledge myself and other people from creation and here is what I learned I can choose to...


~Create Communication that creates power! ~Practice Catching and mastering the old model of survival and changing it to the new! ~Speak from newness and creation!

My life is about being of service to others and creating a world that is sustainable and sufficient for all. I am committed to the good cause of the human race forwarding people in their business. Life has just begun...
Jocelyn Britto


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Mom goes to China By Karen Rudolf in Florida, USA There I was, standing in the Orlando airport, ooing and aaahing over my new boyfriend, getting related on the phone ... I had "plenty of time" before my flight out. I always had "plenty of time".... I was to meet my new boss and fly with him to Atlanta, to convene with the rest of our team, before we headed out to China. Here I am, a stay-at-home mom, with little to no experience in the business world. Here I am, going off to China. I’m a mom who would never invite the idea of leaving my three daughters for a long period of time because I was the one parent that they needed all the time. I am a Nurse by trade. A healer! My boss, had seen me prior in action in a newly acquired leadership role, he choose me to balance his team..... In my head, I thought "Wow, cool!" A great adventure has begun, and I was excited to embark on this awesome opportunity! Yet, on the flip side, I was someone with low self-esteem and selfworth. Before this day at the Orlando airport, I was someone without a voice and fear engulfed me. As luck has it.... I missed my flight. “What would my boss think?” first popped in my head. Instantly, I started to question my new job. Ugh... I was sweating bullets by this point. I took a deep breathe, got into action, set my intention, and created a team of airport employees to get me to where I needed to go. In an instant, I dashed across the huge airport, and jumped onto the first flight out,


alone! My voice was now being heard powerfully. What a great evolution. 100

I arrived at the Atlanta International Airport prior to my new boss arriving. He was really hot under the collar, but when he saw me waiting for him, I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled... and knew he had picked the right person for the job. Of course, that was after I was told I best not pull that one again! A new land abounds Off to China. Being the only women in a group of eight men was my new reality for the next 12 months. My goal was to simply, listening for possibility in a land where women aren’t typically thought of highly. I kept thinking I had to know it all. In addition, I questioned: "Why me? Am I doing it right?" Blah blah blah. I was too chicken to even open my mouth back then, to ask why, or even investigate what was expected of me. I used my intuition and leadership training to support me and guide me. This was my transformation – relying on me and only me to be powerful and to take this responsibility on with full speed. I gained a huge respect toward men and expanded my ability to listen. I gained respect for myself. The trip supported my rebuilding my entire life – which up to this point had been about a much weaning self- esteem and self-worth, coming out of a horrific divorce, and having


to start over. I had to step into my power and courage. I found I loved the adventure! The beginnings of freedom were mine! This assignment in China gave me a new ability to guide conversations, and learn that men think and speak differently than women. I intuitively knew my role, and allowed myself to be a contribution. I allowed myself to relax and enjoy the culture, the adventure and learning opportunity. I promised my daughter that I’d be home for her birthday. I let go of all barriers and requested to leave the assignment earlier than planned. Surprisingly, I got what I wanted. This mom now had full self- expression. I was with my daughter for her birthday celebration. I got to honor my daughter and honor my promise. And, the return flight home ALONE was stress-free. My path was now set, the future was being created, and I continue to dance in that conversation with joy, freedom, and ease! Karen Rudolf


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Mom’s Calling By: Paul Schultz in Pennsylvania, USA I’m a college professor and while teaching is what I do throughout the day, learning is a big part of my life. I like taking courses where I grow and develop. In January 2009, I took a course called the Landmark Forum. In that course I learned about something called “the already always listening” - which is that people, in general, have filters that they listen to other people through. For instance, you may have a friend that to you is always running late. They may show up on time or even early, but you have a "filter" that still relates to them as someone who will always show up late. This is an “already always listening.” By virtue of being human, everyone has an “already always listening.” Mine was with my mom. The phone would ring. I would see it was her calling and I would immediate think that she was going to be stressed about something. Sure enough, I'd pick up the phone and start listening for how she's stressed and how that is going to cause me stress. What do I need to placate now? “Mom you’re blowing things out of proportion...” "It's not your fault the squash vine bores attacked the crookneck squash!" These are things I have thought about and have even said to my mom on these calls. My experience after hanging up was exhaustion and frustration. "Why can't she just relax!?" When I learned about this “always already listening”- I


could not wait to talk to my mom and share this new understanding of why things weren’t working well with our conversations. I called my mom and told her that I had been assuming she would be stressed whenever she would call. I admitted that I wasn’t really listening to her and what mattered to her so much that it would cause strife. It was clear to me that the gold underneath the stress was love. She cares so much for her 11 children, 21 grandchildren, my father, her sisters and brothers, friends and really everyone she meets. From this one moment, from this one phone call, I started seeing my mom as a strong loving woman who cherishes, loves or is concerned about so much- for everyone around her. What was revealed to me was: when we keep our "already always listening" of people in place, we miss out on seeing them as extraordinary. I realized that the years of having this "stress" filter of my mom stopped me from being closer to her and stronger for her, even when she was battling cancer. After that January 2009 call, I decided that every time she would call me I would create it as an opportunity to make her laugh. It has been three years since that call and I continue to hear her concerns as strengths. I can listen to whatever she has to say and continue to see her loving commitments under every complaint. And the best part is, we get to laugh every time we have a call.


In The Mirror By: Carlos Melendez in Pennsylvania, USA Intimacy: This word is what lights, nurtures, maintains and propels relationships into a place of harmony, love, and peace. Most of us don’t talk, touch, or kiss enough. We don’t live in the present. Instead, most people are worried about things that have not happened. Things we can’t even control. These “things” take us away from the opportunity to connect and develop our relationships. We text, e-mail, and use all types of cold electronic gadgets to communicate our thoughts that lose the power of our voices to help them get the messages across clearly losing ourselves in the speed of life chasing material achievements. I share this because of what happened to me. The crash At the speed of 135, I crashed my motorcycle without a helmet on. Even going through a near death experience, sometimes I forget how fragile life can be. This crash changed my life. Up until the accident, I was selfish and self-absorbed. I could not even stand looking at myself in the mirror because even though my bank accounts were healthy, my intimate relationships were dying a painful death. So much so, my children would hide my cell phone because they wanted me to dedicate my attention to them.


Now, after all my healing from the accident, I am building my relationships from the ground up again. It is still work in progress. I like who I am everyday more and more, because I learned that intimacy is something that starts with who I am, in my ability to be available and the closeness I can give to the people I love. What matters most to me Peace and harmony arrives slowly as I started to get closer to the people that matter the most to me – my family. Being vulnerable to those I love, I began liking the face I see in the mirror. It is what has propelled the comfortable feeling of knowing that I can be myself with others and this genuine feeling opens the path of intimacy allowing others to enter the air I breathe. However, it is hard to maintain closeness day-after- day. It takes a deep level of acceptance to understand we can only develop intimacy if we open the paths of communication. If we accept others as they are, we can learn to accept ourselves (just as we are). We can stop hiding and pretending, and be truthful about who we really are and what we really want in relationships with others. Only then can we say out loud what lives in our hearts. I learned this with my family. Intimacy grows with love and kindness. It’s a sweet aroma I look forward to having each day I wake up. For me, I got to answer some deep questions and reprioritize my life. Can you stop to think about how you would behave if you knew the world would come to an


end tomorrow? What would you tell the people next to you? What would you tell your family? How many times would you kiss, hug, and touch the people you love? Would you care about your European car, your house down the shore, or the Rolex you wear? Intimacy is the key to ignite that magical engine inside all of us. In loving relationships, intimacy will always be our most rewarding achievement that will last and nurture our lives more than any other investment we can ever make. This is the outcome for me...a reverence for Intimacy. Carlos Melendez


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From Breakdown to Breakthrough By: Vincent J Kellsey in Hawaii, USA In 2010 I was running a successful coaching, speaking, and seminar business changing people’s lives and making good, if not great, money. In 2011, I was living in a friend’s tiny back room, sleeping on the floor, going to a job I hated, waking in the middle of the night feeling like I was going to go insane with fear and dread and anxiety, knowing there was nowhere to run. I even considered taking my own life to escape the agony. In 2012, I followed a dream and moved to Asia, where I published a book, I led amazing and successful events for companies such as Warner Bros. in Hollywood, more than doubled my income, found the true love of my life, and found joy and happiness again. So what was it that led me from success to despair and back again to success? What was the turning point that brought me back from total breakdown to breaking through to even greater success and happiness than I had experienced before that pivotal event? I was in a long term relationship that was not working, to put it mildly. My partner left our relationship three times in a span of five years, and the first time she left I was utterly devastated, shattered, and I completely lost myself, my identity, my personal power, and my life direction. How is it that we can put so much of ourselves into another person, so much so that if that person leaves we


lose ourselves? I am far from an expert on that topic and will not attempt to delve into it, however I know that it happens to many people, and in reality has nothing to do with the relationship, and everything to do with our own sense of self worth, self power, and self esteem. This type of breakdown can happen to people in any area, when they lose a job, lose someone they love, lose a home, have a major health challenge, etc. It can seem like our life and the world has crashed down and is over, and some even take their lives at this point. For me, I experienced what it was like to almost lose my mind, go over that “edge” we all fear...I saw that edge, walked it, and came back into the light. So how did I get out? How did I walk away from that edge, never to look back? I used the power of an emotion that is considered “negative” to save my life and transform fear into power. A friend did something that to me was a betrayal of trust and an abuse of friendship, and I simply got very, very, VERY, angry. And I discovered something. That anger has power in it, whereas despair leaves you powerless. It is far far better to be angry than to give up, because the power of anger can be turned into action, which can be turned into results, which leads to breakthrough and transformation. I am grateful to that friend, for they truly saved my life by prompting me to transform my despair into the power to take action. I now teach others how to transform fear into


power, and my mission in life is to help people find true freedom and inspire them to step up and become leaders and teachers, showing others the way to freedom. In the words of Buddha, until all of us are free, none of us are free. To your freedom! “Every breakthrough is preceded by a breakdown. The good news is that 80% of the time it means you are on the verge of a quantum leap forward in whatever area you are experiencing the breakdown in, be it finances, business, health, or relationship” ~Vincent j Kellsey


Escaping the Fairy Tale Ending Trap By: Leyda Yolanda Polen in Florida, USA My life started out as many others who have common stories of abandon and abuse. My mother left when I was two years old. I’ve lived my life in “survival” mode for many years. As a way to cope with my experiences, I’ve connected deeply with sad songs which I felt resonated with my existence, and often I used this sad music to escape my reality. Books and movies with lovely fairy tale endings with Prince Charming coming to the rescue the damsel in distress, reflected my fantasy of him coming to my rescue. Yet, the conflict within me was three fold. As I carried around the vision of my prince charming, I also carried around the concepts, “Men are evil,” and “They can not be trusted.” In addition to that, I carried “no one cares,” or “I am on my own.” Combine this with my need to feel I owed people something if they did the smallest thing for me, and I had a recipe for confusion even though I appeared to be a self sufficient human being. Ultimately, I was suffering. Creating conflicting Stories Down the road, I found my “prince charming” and I decided I needed to be dependent, loving, maternal and a caring human being. I thought I could create the fairy tale with the love and dedication that lived inside of me. No


such luck. My prince charming wasn’t showing up the way I was taught (through the books and movies) he should show up. This eventually led to me contemplating divorce. Again, I found myself in an internal conflict. I was thinking about divorce, and at the same time I was viewing divorce as something that would make me a failure. In the end, I realized I was not ready for a divorce. Since I wasn’t ready for divorce, I did what I felt was the “next best thing.” I turned all of my love, maternal feelings and caring toward being my children’s mother. As any mother knows, life moves very fast with children. Before I knew it, the kids were grown. I then found myself in a new phase in life, with an empty nest-I felt alone once more. Depression and sickness kept taking turns as I was trying to continue to grow spiritually. I was trying to grow while at the same time I was fighting with God. I was asking questions I wanted answers to! “Why is this happening to me, I’m a good person, aren’t I?” Creating change I found landmark education and started growing there. Step-by-step in each course I would take. I started to see my life could look different if I looked at my life in a different way. A year ago, I participated in a program with landmark education called “Team Management and Leadership Program.” I was learning that evolving is a process and as I shifted and grew I was finding that while it’s taking some time, I actually have a lot to be grateful


for and proud of. For instance, I am the mother of four extraordinary adults who have gifted me with four amazing grandchildren. These exceptional and remarkable human beings in my life- are my biggest accomplishments I’ve been married more than 20 years and I have all kinds of internal stories existing in my head regarding my husband. I view him as not caring about me or our children (as much as he cares about his work.) Through the work I’m doing with Landmark Education, I’ve learning that’s a story that exists within my head. The daily life is starting to penetrate and I find myself once again contemplating divorce as every ounce of my being values making sure my family remains intact-and not broken. I’d eventually understand my own fears were a big factor in the equation of my life. The fear of being hurt, the fear of being misunderstood or mistreated where all feelings I hide from my husband, yet even more importantly, these fears where hidden from myself. Landmark education has distinctions and new models of communication that I’m using right now. I can make the choice to create a listening with my husband, children and grandchildren that empowers all of us. I can make that choice. I can create a movement of a new listening for the world of Love, Harmony and Prosperity! How inspirational and exciting. Continuing to create a new level of communication that brings love, harmony and prosperity, I am learning takes practice. I learn, I take this new way of communicating


home and I realize, if I’m really going to keep creating these things, I have to keep practicing these things. It takes time to develop. When I ask myself, “What do I want to represent, be and create in my life?” or I ask myself, “Do I want the fairy tale or do I want to master listening and communicating with my loved ones so that I may be full and give communication that is full of Love, Light and Contribution?” The answer seems clear... Love, Light and Contribution Leyda Yolanda Polen (AKA “Yoly”)


LIVE, LOVE and LEAD By Nomaphelo Lopez Nduna in Khayelitsha, SOUTH AFRICA My name is Nomaphelo Nduna. I am Xhosa by culture. The Xhosa are one of the largest black Africans groups in our multi-cultural South Africa. I live outside Cape Town in the rough outskirts of Khayelitsha (a large, poor township. If you don’t know what a township is, think, favela or shanty town). My family originally comes from the Eastern Cape (a part of the country that is the homeland of Xhosa people, almost 800 miles away) but I for one have never been there because of financial reasons. Our family moved to Khayelitsha when South Africa was under the brutal, racist and extremely oppressive system of Apartheid. It was the only place my mother could get work. My mother is a single parent and she still works as a domestic worker. We live below the bread (poverty) line and I have to travel a very far distance to get to school every day, and it is even worse now that I am in university. The conditions I live in are appalling because we use the horrific bucket systems as toilets: outdoors, down the road that many people also use. A truck comes once a week to collect and clean the buckets. We were promised that when we, the black Africans were set free, the bucket system would be abolished. We’ve been waiting 18 years. Sometimes the electricity goes off in our neighborhood and I cannot even study. It takes me two trains to get to campus (an hour on a good day). I take the train so that I


can have a little money left to eat. Sometimes. At the moment, I am doing my third year at the University of the Western Cape. I am studying towards a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology. I am 20 years old and despite all of the difficulties, I have a great chance of succeeding because I am very motivated as I strive for success. I do not settle for mediocrity. Sometimes, I just lose hope and want to give up because of my family’s great poverty as I have to study with an empty stomach most of the time and, if I am lucky, I can eat yesterday’s leftovers. We all know that a child cannot focus with a growling stomach. It is too distracting but I still push and hope that tomorrow will be different than today. Tomorrow I will be able to eat. There are a lot of students who drive their own cars on campus but they are not self-driven. I am misfortunate in that regard but I am rich in knowledge and wisdom and that is enough for me to succeed in this cruel world. I don’t have a laptop or a Smartphone so I have to stay behind after school and finish my reports and assignments at the University because I have no access to a computer at home. The only thing I know about my father is his name and where he lives. He has never had the courage to come see us or write to us. My older brother was like a father to me. I looked up to him always because he inspired me to get an education so that we can get out of the townships and live a healthy life like other people. Unfortunately for me, my time with my big brother was short-lived because he was arrested and convicted of murder and theft after he tried to put food on the table the only way he knew how.


Now he is serving a 27-year sentence in Caledon Maximum prison. I only get to see him two times a year. After all that took place, my bigger sister consoled me and told me everything was going to be okay all while she knew she was going to leave me alone in this detrimental place we live in. We had a very close bond until I lost her to the dreaded disease HIV/AIDS. She did not know who infected her with the disease as she had multiple partners. They gave her money so that we can eat and go to school, so she did not care how many boyfriends she had as long as we were taken care of. She passed away while I was taking my mid-year exams on the 23rd March 2012. Before my sister passed away, I saw her in so much pain day in and day out as the disease was snatching her away from me. She coughed a half a bucket of blood before she died in my arms. I still have nightmares of that horrible morning. I asked God to guide me while I was in under this dark cloud and the Lord did as I wished. He put me under his sacred wings and I passed my exams. The leadership training that an American sister conducted, when I was in High School, helped me to deal with my struggles and pains by opening up my issues to other people. I had kept my feelings bottled up because I did not want to be seen as that intelligent girl who is poor and has no support system in her life. Now I do not mind sharing my story with other people because I have learnt that I can heal other people as well who are still ashamed by their situations. And as a leader, I learnt that to lead is to serve and not about having people following you. I also learnt the importance of doing the little bit of good I can Â

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where I am because it is these minute bits ~ when put all together~ that make a difference in the world. Til this day I thank God for sending the ambassador Anasuya Isaacs to South Africa to teach us, the youth, about leadership. She taught us that our voice matters; that we are important and we are just what the ancestors have been waiting for. As a result, I am doing well at school regardless of where I come from and I am positive that I will get that degree and shine like the star that I am. In all you do, let love lead. I am letting LOVE of my family and my people lead me to success in school. Nomaphela Lopez Nduna Coast On Guard Victorious 2011


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From Disaster to Discovery By: Dineshh Shah in Mumbai, INDIA It was Saturday, May 3rd, 2008, and I’m in a communications course in Mumbai-INDIA. During a break, I give a simple hello call to my mom where I learned my dearest cousin sister and her entire family of 9 traveling in a car, were in a fatal road accident. The whole family, except the eldest son, was on their way to the Jain pilgrimage place in INDIA when the accident occurred. Mom said they have no clue of the actual status. The family was completely clueless. I could hear on the phone the high level of emotions and upset. What to do? How to get information? Whom to contact? Where to go? How to go ahead? I was irritated too, as I was missing an all day course at the most crucial time when family needed me most. My mother and siblings always say about me: “Without Dineshh, nothing works.” Hearing this news I was numb & lost. I didn’t speak much with my mom except some about basics. I was on a mission to discover news and share with my family information that will bring them comfort and freedom from not knowing what was going on with our cousins and their health. Most critical information For a few moments, I started to be emotional and caught up in the “clueless-ness” of the day’s events. I was shivering and numb. After twp minutes, I started working on what’s possible to get at least the latest status. I


contacted another cousin who I was sure would answer my call. I created I’ll get all basic info, whatever I needed to get. Some unknown person answered his phone. I was informed that out of the total nine, most critical are six, while three relatives are seriously injured. He was hesitant to give clear answers to my questions. So, I persisted. Irritated, angry, straight & demanding I asked him “Tell me of nine, how many have hearts that are working?” He was silent. I repeated and then shouted again and again and he informed “Of nine, three are working and they are in emergency ward.” Then I asked, “What about six? Are they dead or alive?” He couldn’t answer that, so passed over phone to someone else. The other one said “Six dead before admitted in hospital.” I took his number and created with him a commitment to stay connected. I asked the unknown man to keep his mobile charged and be in communication. This took five minutes flat. I had answers. Now, how shall I communicate this to mom? How will they take the news? Though full of emotion, I found a calm within. I called my mom and gave the latest update. The news shocked our family. Complete silence. To my surprise, after moments she thanked me, and appreciated me for the update. My family now had an alternate contact number of a volunteer in just minutes, where prior to this they were in the dark, without knowing anything for three hours. Should I stay or should I go? At times of crisis, Indian culture is very close and


connected. Wherever you are, you stop everything and go to be with family. Now it was my turn. I asked my mom: “Shall I leave my course and come back home directly?” She was silent and in the meantime I asked a second question: “Consider how about me continuing in the course and creating energy and healing for the family from here?” It was a bombardment. She got wild, angry, and shouted “You are the eldest son and you only can manage this! You know well but you want to run away from your accountability this time, as you are addicted to taking courses and leaving your family for days.” I had no answer to my last question. I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking I was in a bloody mess. Then after some silence I said: “I am sorry. I don’t know how this came from my mouth. Please forgive me. Now I am leaving the program and returning home, so please let 2 younger brothers & sister keep ready for support to manage any unforeseen action, if required, once I am there.” The moment I finished saying this, my mom said: “Hold on for a moment.....(silence)...Dineshh, You are neither coming home nor leaving program. You have transformed and I want you to be where you are. We all were working to gain information for more than three hours and had no clue of the accident status., while you just got all the details in just ten minutes. Whatever happened has already happened. God is great. We can’t undo it. So here is my request. I want you to promise that you’ll attend to all my calls...immediately. Will you do this? Yes or No?” I said, “Yes.”


I then took a new level of responsibility and leadership and delegated my 2nd brother (Jitu,) to be with Mom & Dad at home controlling all, as if it’s the Headquarters. My youngest sibling, (Paresh,) immediately flew to be with the eldest son of cousin. Lastly, my sister (Mina,) traveled by train to be the leader for the ladies. Again, with quick actions, I had my family all aligned and on task to make sure the family was taken care of. This was a miracle mainly because I was far away from everyone. Integrity-Responsibility-Generosity In the evening, during my course’s meal break, 6 people in my life were getting cremated in the presence of more than 500 people. I was alone, 600 kms from the cremation event, yet I could sense oneness and family being together. I was sitting in the course, alone in one corner. With cups of tea, one after another, I was staring into the sky searching inside clouds and picturing 6 of my most beloved family member faces appearing in the clouds. I was with them, even though they have left this world. Throughout the recent day’s events, I learned how caring and trustworthy I am... to others and to myself. I can make a difference from afar for hundreds of people in my community, those closest to my heart.


Dineshh Shah 2012


The one phone call that transformed my Life By: Patty Cunningham in Pennsylvania, USA When my 33-year marriage dissolved, I was lost. Though I resolved to create a full life without the man who had been such a part of it for 40 years, I did not know how to do it. I knew I needed a lot of help to get over my resentment and come to terms with feelings of rejection and inadequacy. There was a determination to figure out what I wanted to do as a newly single woman. Initially, I focused on forgiving – forgiving myself for my part in the failure of the marriage, forgiving my husband, forgiving life. I spent hours with friends, therapists, and gurus, questioning, asking for help, seeking “the truth.” After five years, I had whittled the emotional poison in my system to about a softball- sized lump that barely impacted my day-to-day life. But, I knew some days will be harder than others. For example, with two grown children, I knew there would be times when we all would be brought together in the same room, for a celebration or family event. Those were the painful times. I couldn’t seem to be in my husband’s presence without feeling inferior, unlovable and inadequate. What to do? I had tried everything I knew; talked to everyone I could think of; and was resigned to waiting for time to heal the rest of me. I discovered me again I experienced an immense healing in a three-day weekend course I took in Philadelphia, PA. The journey into discovering a world free of resentment, anger, and fear


liberated me. I discovered that I had been making up all kinds of stories about who did what and why and that ultimately, those stories were not serving me in any positive way. So I changed my outlook to be a more positive one. I realized that I was missing my best friend and that I had made my former husband wrong. I understood that I was really depriving myself of something unique and valuable; the most influential relationship of my life. To fully bring forgiveness, I knew an apology was in order. My apology to my husband was whole-heartedly accepted and he was pleased that I wanted to be his friend again. With that declaration of friends again, we created regularly get togethers – just the two of us. He agreed to a date night once a month when we could get together and talk – talk about kids, life, and music, whatever. What fun! There’s still something in the way I was present to love again, after a dismal five years since the divorce. Each step was a wonderful improvement and yet there was still a nugget of resentment that I held on to. That “nugget” was actually my former husband’s new girlfriend. This was a can of worms I did not want to open. And, ye, that is exactly what I did. I decided I had to call the girlfriend. Not only call her, but I needed to apologize for making her be the “bad person” I made her out to be; for making her the receptacle for all the negative feelings I had around the breakup of my marriage. I resisted this call – for days. Boy, did I resist! But, it became 100%


perfectly clear that this was the next step to take. So, courageously, I took it. Even as I placed the phone call and spoke the words, I didn’t really believe they would have the impact they had. I really did not expect one phone call to squash that internal, well-tended nugget of pain and resentment. But it did. To my ongoing amazement, that one phone call freed something inside me so that I could look at my husband and his girlfriend, watch her be friends with my children, watch her hold my grandson – and feel no anger or jealousy. None! My children interact freely with my (now) ex and his (now) wife and don’t have to hide the fact that they are enjoying themselves. I can join in whatever festivities are planned, see my in-laws again, and share in births, deaths and holidays again with my whole family. All these family events are full of freedom and pure joy. Making that one phone call I was certain I did not want to make has transformed my life into one of potential and love. Patty Cunningham


Courage Unleashed Unexpectedly By: Oliver Snow in Pennsylvania, USA When I was 22 years old, I was living a carefree lifestyle. A lifestyle that I view as a typical 22 year old life: I was incredibly irresponsible; drank a lot; smoked a lot. I did nothing to improve society, or make a positive difference what-so-ever. A woman I was dating at the time, invited me, my mom and my mom’s husband to a pool party. There were about 25 -30 other people in attendance at this summer party. It was on the Main Line, which is in Pennsylvania. Anything that’s on the “Main Line” is connected to an affluent lifestyle. This party was full of well-to-do people. addition to the mix of people, there were a bunch of dogs running around who were also enjoying the party. As an animal lover, I enjoy watching how the dogs interacted with one another. There was this lead dog at the party. He was enormous, about 150 to 160 pounds. A mix between a Rottweiler and a St Bernard; very ferocious in appearance due to his size and stance, however, he was a very friendly dog (based on prior times in meeting this dog, he was always friendly and non- threatening). One of the other little dogs was a three- legged dog who I noticed was always with the big dog, always antagonizing him, running around the big dog’s legs, nipping at him. They would run around the side of the pool, someone would throw a ball in the pool and they would go get it. In


As my girlfriend and I watched, from the other side of this fairly large in-ground pool, we saw the bigger dog barking at the side of the pool, he was kneeling and barking as the little three legged dog was really antagonizing, the big dog. As the little dog would antagonize and the big dog would bark, as if to say, “I don’t want to play right now” and after the third or fourth time, the little dog nipped at him again and all of a sudden the big dog spun around, out of nowhere and grabbed the little dog by its throat in a full death grip and blood started pouring out of the little dog’s body immediately. The big dog was shaking the little dog violently by the throat - much like a chew toy. Basically a death shake, shaking this little thing back and forth, like a rag doll. All I could see was just a limp little dog who was being snapped back and forth inside the enormous dog’s mouth. This was all happening in a matter of 2-3 seconds. Immediately, everyone just froze in their spot. Everyone just kind of stood there - women screaming, children covering their eyes. It was a moment of “oh my god, this dog is going to kill this other little dog!” Unexpected, but here comes the courage! Something came over me instinctively. I don’t know what was happening for me, but I felt myself jumping up and running around the side of the pool, as fast as I could go barefooted. When I got to the dog, I grabbed the big dog by the back of his neck and I picked him straight up in the air, I still don’t know how I physically did it, adrenaline


perhaps? But somehow, I managed to pick up this 150160 lb dog straight up off the ground and remove the little dog out of his mouth. I put the little dog softly on the ground, though alive, he was lifeless. I held the big dog up in the air for a couple of seconds, as he wriggled, trying to bite me. Then, when he finally surrendered, when he finally calmed down and resigned to the fact that he wasn’t going anywhere, I set him back on the ground. I was in charge of the situation! The big dog relaxed, and he was calm again. For me, this was a life changing experience. Here I am at age 22, with no awareness what so ever that I had anything inside of me that would pull me into rescue mode. This was a big thing that happened to me because this experience unleashed a unique confidence and a personality that I had never knew existed within me until that moment. I was no longer the person who flew from a fight or flight situation. I was no longer the guy who stood on the sidelines, not showing up, not participating, not really caring either way. Suddenly, I gained access to the reality that I could be, and now was, a person who dove into the fight. I became a person that if there was someone in trouble, I was the one that was going to run into the burning building or pull a person out of a car wreck kindof-person. And, I had never been that type of person before. It was definitely a physical-challenge and mentalovercome experience that happened for me that day. Suddenly the confidence I gained through this experience Â

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was incredible – it laid out a realization that I could be something and do something with my life. I was no longer just another number. It gave me confidence which led me to sign up for the military and serve in the capacity as a medic. Now being a veteran, who has put himself in harm’s way, intentionally and with purpose, I can honestly say that the dog event changed my destiny. It took a situation like that where I had to react when no one else was reacting. It was in saving a little three-legged dog’s life where my protective instincts and ability to be “in it” was ignited. I have thought about that moment often. I find myself retelling this experience every few months because it was an important transformational moment in my life. To this day, it’s all very vivid, the smell of the blood, the feel of the wet dogs, a very visceral experience and the adrenaline rush. I didn’t pause to think about what could have happened, I just reacted and it was right, it was instinctive. Everything kind of slows down like a matrix-kind of thing where I can now really appreciate every moment as it is happening. After that specific pool party, people were coming up telling me “That was the most incredible thing I had ever witnessed.” It certainly was a pretty incredible thing for me, a life changing experience. To this day, when my mother shares this story, it still brings tears to her eyes. It’s a day she will never forget watching as her 22 year old son saved the day. And by the way, that little three-legged dog?


He went on to live a good and happy life!

Oliver and Tara Snow 2002


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An Unlikely Brotherhood By: Robert Toporek in Pennsylvania, USA In 1965, Milton Olive, a young black man from the south side of Chicago, Illinois, and me, Robert Toporek, an 18year-old white teenager from the city of Charleston, South Carolina, met while in the Vietnam War. We were separated by deeply imbedded racism. At the time I joined the service, Milton could not vote in the south. I grew up in a culture that promoted not just segregation, but white superiority. Imbedded in the culture was the notion that blacks were an inferior race and whites were superior. So we could not go to the same school, the same bathroom, the same restaurant, and by no means were there ever going to be relationships between black and white men or women. Needless to say our relationship began on a rocky road. To resolve the tension, Olive and I went behind our tent one day and “beat the hell out of each other.” When the fight ended, so did the racial tension. All that was left were two men who now depended on one another. Our relationship became one of mutual respect and deep friendship. We were members of Company B 2/503rd Inf. 173rd Airborne Brigade, third platoon. A lesson of Courage On October 22, 1965, while on a mission in Phu Cong Province, the third platoon was ambushed. Although heavy gunfire temporarily pinned them down, the platoon


was able to attack strategic enemy positions. As the Viet Cong fled, Private First Class Olive and his squad pursued the enemy. Suddenly, an enemy hand grenade was thrown into our midst. PFC Olive jumped on the grenade and absorbed the blast by falling on it with his body; he blew his insides out and that immediately ended his life. When I ran to him, the shock was unbelievable. Seeing him lying face down with his insides lying on the ground, it was just unbelievable. Someone yelled “Let’s get him on a poncho and get out of here.” I was one of the people responsible for putting his body back together and carrying him out of the jungle. Through his bravery, unhesitating actions and complete disregard for his own safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon. For his extraordinary heroism, above and beyond the call of duty, PFC Olive became the first African- American awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. A Commitment Pledged As I helped carry my friend’s body out of the jungle that unforgettable day, I made a commitment to dedicate my life to honor Olive’s memory and heroism. I vowed to find a way to make a positive difference in the lives of others if I survived the war. After the war, I was awarded a fellowship from the Ford Foundation to study methods of personal growth and the impact of that relationship on public education. This led


step-by-step to several other pursuits, always with the goal of helping others realize their potential. There is far more that we need to do to insure that the pursuit of freedom is available to every child. I am leading that charge, with Milton closely tied to my heart EVERY day. Twenty years later, in 1985, I called his father and shared with him my relationship with his son. Mr. Olive shared with me that in Chicago there is a park in his honor, a school named after him, a housing project, and I realized that he was making a bigger difference for people dead than I was alive. That prompted me to take my Rolfing practice to one of the worst drug-infested neighborhoods in Philadelphia, The Badlands of North Philadelphia. I set up my Rolfing table on the sidewalk and started working on children for free. The first day was great, and I began adding more people on my team to join me. For the next 3 years, once a week, every summer our team visited the Badlands and gave free Rolfing sessions and massages. We then began cleaning up the neighborhood, built a playground, distributed books and then started distributing computers. By the end of that project every child in the neighborhood experienced the massage technique of Rolfing, and had been given their first computer. I was fulfilling my promise – my vow from 1965 - to find a way to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Since then, we have expanded our digital initiative and Â

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have collected, repaired, and distributed over 11,000 refurbished computers to families, schools, and organizations throughout the Pennsylvania area. We have helped over 50,000 children cross the digital divide. Eighty- five percent of those more than 50,000 children are minority children living in poverty. This is my transformation – reaching out to all children and seeing no boundaries – no matter their race or economical level or anything. My natural instinct is to know that I am making a positive difference in the world. And, I am fulfilling my vow of 1965 – every day. Robert Toporek

Milton Olive 1965

Robert 2012


My Mother’s Son By: Siya Nondumo in Pretoria, South Africa Losing my mother at the age of 22 was the single most earth-shattering event in my life. I was still a child! To me, her death meant a change in the way I viewed myself, for up until that January evening in 2006, I had always thought of myself only as “my mother’s son,” her baby, and the apple of her eye. Now, to whom would I anchor my existence without her? How could I even validate and legitimize my being, if she was not there? Being raised in a middle-class household, with a single parent working hard to singlehandedly meet the needs of her four sons, of which I was the youngest, in postApartheid South Africa, was a blessing for me. I was guaranteed a meal at the end of each day, a roof over my head, clothes, education; and love and care were a given. This was not the case for most of Black South Africans during that tumultuous time of political transition and uncertainty. My mother was my friend, my confidant, my rock. When I felt weak, she was my moral and spiritual compass; she was a hero and an inspiration to me. Her death came as a surprise to everyone, as we were under the belief that she was receiving the best medical care in hospital, and would recover in time. I can still remember the frantic call from the nurses on the day she died, telling me that my mother needs me, and I told them my uncle would be there for that evening visiting hour. It was then that she took her last breath. My uncle rushed


home to deliver the news to me, and when he sat me down and told me, the shock rendered me near unconscious. I felt my head swimming in oblivion, the words not making any sense to me, voices seemed distant – maybe I lost my hearing somewhat, I was dazed and confused. I can still remember collapsing onto the carpeted floor of our lounge, as my muddled brain tried to make sense of what I had just been told, and my legs gave out from under me. This is how it felt to have my heart ripped right out of my chest. It was of comfort that my best friend – who later became my partner, was there with me that night. His empathy and calmness allowed me to overcome that initial shock and come to grips with the cold hard fact that my mother was no more. My mother was my connection to the rest of our family. She was the glue that held most of our family together, being the first-born child of my grandparents, and eldest sister to all my uncles and aunts. Mourning the loss of my mother, for me, meant taking quiet moments to myself to come to terms with what had happened, making endless to-do lists of funeral arrangements; making phone calls to notify family, family friends, her colleagues, and to my one brother who was out of the country at the time. It was a thankless task that I took upon myself, as I had to keep busy, or risk running out of my mind. Exhausting as it was, arranging and delivering the funeral service for my mother the way she would have wanted, was cathartic and therapeutic at the same time. It made it all the more real, took any doubt away that I was indeed making funeral arrangements for my mother. There were


some mornings though, when one woke up, and in the silence of the morning, it seemed like it was all a bad dream, but then it would come back, like the tide of the ocean coming in at sunrise, the harsh reality of it all would become too apparent, and the heart would resign itself to the truth, that it wasn’t a dream; she really is no longer with us. How does one face life, following the death and funeral of the centre of your entire life? When my mother passed away I was left with one more examination to write in order to qualify for college graduation in the class of 2006. So, what was I to do now? After my mother’s funeral, the family assembled for a meeting to discuss what would happen. My brothers were working in other cities, and had their own lives to get back to. I was in this state of limbo, not knowing which way to go, which route to take. There was no money, and I had no job. My main focus was the examination I had yet to take, and I focused on that as I returned to university to study for the exam. Upon passing the examination, I applied to enroll for an Honors Degree, and was accepted. 137

At least for the rest of the year, I would be sufficiently occupied, completing my studies for an Honors Degree in Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing. Due to God’s grace, I was also offered a position as an undergraduate lab assistant or tutor, and the little money I earned went a long way to sustaining myself that year. I,


who had never had a job (not even a summer job) ever in my life, was for the first time earning my own income. I kept studying further to ensure myself a better future as my mother had always wanted. One of the greatest lessons she had imparted to me was the saying that “God will provide,” which she believed in wholeheartedly, even at the hardest of times. I held on to those words, when I didn’t know where my next meal would come from, or how I would pay for my tuition, and always, just as it seemed there was no solution, God would provide. My brothers were unable to take the burden of taking care of me and our home due to their own financial restrictions. And among her siblings, my mother seemed to have been one of the “well-off” ones, due to her having had a permanent government job with benefits, so they also couldn’t be of assistance at the time. My salary from tutoring went towards paying property rates (a monthly sum paid to the local municipality for the provision of basic services such as garbage removal, sewerage, maintenance of fire hydrants, etc.) and electricity at my home, as well as paying for my tuition, food and clothing for myself while at school. Fortunately, my mother had insured our home such that in the event of her death, the balance of the mortgage would be paid up, so we now owned the property. There were tough times, months when I did not know whether I would be able to make ends meet, but through prayer, and the support of my one brother and aunt, who lent me money when I had nowhere else to turn, I made it through. In May of 2006, it was the same brother and aunt who


witnessed my graduation ceremony, where I received my Bachelors degree in honor of my mother. I successfully completed my Honors Degree that year, meanwhile assisting the Executors of my mother’s estate to finalize all the requirements that needed to be addressed, by providing them with all the relevant documents they required. In January of 2007, I was offered a contract position as a data capturer, which allowed me to gain more experience in the field of data management and analysis, for which I had studied in university. It also provided me with a salary to take care of myself, and my home – the house my mother had left me. By July 2007, I got offered a permanent job in Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal province, and I gladly took it. Even though it meant moving to a city 700 kilometers away from my hometown of King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape Province to a city where I knew no one and had no friends or family nearby, I relished the challenge of a new start. Before my departure from King William’s Town to Pietermaritzburg, to start my new job, I made a promise to myself to have a headstone erected over my mother’s grave, and have the proper unveiling ceremony done at her gravesite. I had been having dreams about my mother, and each time she appeared to me, she lamented how cold she felt. Sometimes I would wash her feet in warm water, or I would gather heavy blankets to keep her warm, in the dreams, but she would appear yet again to me in another


dream, saying the same thing. I was never brought up in a very ritualistic home, and my mother didn’t believe in going to see traditional healers and sangomas, but something deep down in my soul knew that these dreams had to do with my mother’s grave. The Executors finalized my mother’s estate, and finally, our inheritance came through. This afforded me the chance to buy a headstone and have it unveiled at my mother’s grave. But the opposition I received from my mother’s family was disheartening. Misplaced religious, cultural and traditional gobbledygook was brought up by some of my uncles, conspiring to try and stop me from doing what I felt was right. Even when I repeatedly explained to them that I had been having dreams about my mother, they still insisted on their disapproval of my actions. Some family members felt it unreligious to erect monuments to the dead, while others felt it was culturally incorrect – according to Xhosa traditions - to erect a tombstone for my recently-departed mother, when tombstones had not yet been erected for my grandmother and grandfather who had passed away many years prior – a fault that lay with my mother and her siblings for never having done it in good enough time. But, ultimately the decision lay with me, and my brothers, step-grandmother, and cousins supported me, and we successfully carried out the unveiling ceremony. My soul was never more at ease as it was following that ceremony, as I packed my clothes, and took the long bus journey to the city of Pietermaritzburg, where my new life and professional career would officially begin. I felt lightheaded, for once, I felt relieved, and I slept very well for


the first time in over a year. I had job security, was selfsufficient, and living on my own. I was in a loving, caring, supportive relationship with my best friend. The future looked bright, and I remained hopeful. And my mother’s spirit lives on in me and the memories of her I hold dear to my heart. Living without my mother was once impossible to my mind. I have now learned that living life fully, being who God sent me here to be takes courage, but is oh so worth it. With love in my heart, my life is wonderful! Siya Nondumo



COMING HOME By: Anasuya Isaacs in California, USA They say that when I walk into the room every one notices. Despite my big personality that puts everyone at ease, I am someone who hides in plain sight. This started as a child. I didn’t trust anyone to be my friend so I never let anyone get close. I was everybody else’s best friend by keeping them the center of my attention. They were so taken care of that they didn’t notice that they knew little about me. This is how I felt safe and, most importantly, in control. It all started to change the minute I actually shared the most horrific secrets of my life with not one but a whole group of strangers. I always thought that the things that had happened to me would kill me. For all intents and purposes, I was just existing. I felt dead on the inside. When I spoke the unspeakable out loud, I struggled with shock, rage and shame. As I kept talking, I could feel the whole room watching me. Some were crying; others looked in shock themselves. They all looked compassionate. I could feel their love. How could that be? I was damaged goods. My body was a crime scene. I was tired of hiding and running just so I could feel safe again. It was in that room; in the eyes of those strangers; in the arms of their compassion and wrapped in the stories of those who had lived very similar things~ it was there that I learned the healing power of speaking the unspeakable.


I opened the door to that prison I put myself in to keep me safe; my personal panic room. In this room with strangers, I learned the most important gift of my life: there is no safety in silence. Soon after this opening, I started giving writing workshops to young people as a Teaching Artist in New York City. My goal was to give the gift that saved my life. When I was a child and teenager, I stayed to myself. I was always alone. My best friend was my diary where I wrote a lot. I never put any secrets in there for fear someone would find the book and read it. For those emotions, I created fiction. My made up characters could do all the suffering I was living and none would be the wiser. So it didn’t take much for me to detect when my students were hiding painful truths hoping someone would actually see the S.O.S. they contained. I knew I could pull a student to the side and ask questions and hope they wouldn’t deny everything I knew was true. But there were more than one story that needed a rescue crew. So I did the unthinkable. I shared my own story of rape at six years old; of being left for dead in a deserted area; of watching my attacker pick up a brick and smash my brother’s head in as he valiantly tried with all the might of his five-year old body to save me from the boogie man. I shared how I felt, still, so many years later and what that event did to me for years. The kids were shocked. No one had ever spoken to them in such a direct way about things they knew too well. One by one they shared the real crisis in their lives: some


were sexual; some were physical; and other pains came from witnessing atrocities no child should ever see. Each student was heard and seen. That’s all they ever wanted. They learned that day that silence isn’t safe and they began the healing process. The ones that needed it, I directed to the professionals for the next part of the long road back to whole which I call home. I have gone across the globe to the places where silence is killing people with the intention of getting them to speak and start walking to freedom. I share my story with people who thought that because I am an American my life must have been easy, and golden and happy like on t.v. Then I tell them about the rape and also about the years my uncle forced himself on me when my brother and I came to live with my grandmother and how he would pay me in quarters while threatening to have me sent away because no one would ever love me again because this was all my fault. When they see that I am like them, a bit broken, sometimes depressed and trying to love me in new ways, they open up and tell how they contracted AIDS from being raped in South Africa; or that they witnessed they parents get murdered in Kenya; or how their husbands beat them because the food took too long in India. I listen to the little orphans who just want to know when are they going to eat and to the heartbroken, exhausted grannies who are raising their grandchildren because all of their children are dead. The one thing they have in common: they all need to be seen and heard. They want to be known. I listen. I see. I share how writing, drawing and theater are ways to speak the unspeakable. I offer


leadership development training to teach them to use their voices to speak truth to power and help others get free from shame, abuse, and the pains of the past while demanding that which they deserve. Our traumas forced us out of our hearts. We come home to our hearts each time we tell our truth. We restore what was stolen and remember that loving ourselves as we are and aren’t is the best victory. When we share our whole truth we win! And me, I am learning to be seen and heard and to trust that it is exactly my sharing that keeps me safe. My journey has been one of faith... faith in the goodness in humanity to express that which is innately divine in us. Anasuya Isaacs leading Workshops in... South Africa Art/Healing Kenya AIDS awareness

BLISS 2012


Discovering Myself By: Shalini Bansal in Delhi, INDIA I looked upon the sky
And asked myself why Is there so much pain and agony
And the world colored dark mahogany When a ray of hope is reflected
It always seems to get rejected Killing me with soft truths of life
And cutting me deep like a knife But Suddenly, I realized everywhere it was I who Never felt, never cared about you and passing on my pain to the world The pledge is taken Declaration made Free from Agony Free from Pain
So let’s come together my friend Please give me your hand
Living the life of the child within Ending with nothing and nothing between us Giving us hope to rebuild our future Step by step, word by word I wrote that poem twenty years ago. It was the story of my life for thirty years. That is until I confronted my fears and learned to love myself.


Before, whenever I had a chance to move on from the prison of my past, old thoughts would come to haunt me. “What if they don’t like me? Hate my pudding? Think I’m dumb? What if they come in big cars and I feel out of place? What if they are wearing expensive accessories? What if they have been to exotic journeys and I feel sorry for myself? What if nothing has changed?” The resignation I experienced in childhood was back. I remember once we had this school function and I had pumped up the whole group with amazing Ganesh Vandana and on the last day I backed out and didn’t even come for the function. This kept on occurring to me in my whole life in similar pattern. Even the school gettogether which I had planned to organize didn’t happen because I kept postponing it. I even heard comments which made my life hell. I was once again the five-year old child who finds herself the odd one out. My solution was to be resigned! It made me a weak and emotional person. The resignation was such that I hardly spoke to many people in school and when teachers forcefully asked me to read something, I would stammer. In the past, I did not always take the actions I knew were in my best interest. I was afraid. I attempted to reach goals in my life and kept on failing. My life came to a standstill. I stopped believing in myself and believed in people’s opinions of me which I made my reality. I disrespected and abused myself. And I disrespected others. I was victim of their opinions. Then


I realized I was alone. Then one day, I learned to act upon what is most positive for me. I no longer cared about being liked or feared being alone. I realized that I have to show up for my life and believe in myself that I can do anything. With this new commitment to being my true self, I organized a school reunion. Initially I was very slow in doing things and was resisting hard work and responsibility but then I had to do it. If I didn’t, resignation would be winning again. With my support team I kept on enrolling myself into my new possibility and acknowledging myself for every small difference I made in somebody’s life. I started calling up my schoolmates with my new possibility of compassion, love, self-expression, leadership, confidence, joy and happiness. I spoke to them and they said they will come. Although my old being kept on telling me that they probably won’t come, I kept my possibility alive. On the last day I had only received just two payments!! The day of the reunion, I was really busy at the hospital and couldn’t follow up much with people to make sure they were coming. On top of that, I had a major breakdown at work where I had to go to Nangloi where I had to examine children rescued from factories. Then I fought with the area SDM (leader) at work. Big problem! Although initially a breakdown, I instead acknowledged myself for standing up to my supervisor. I reached home from work very late making me late forthe


party for the reunion with no arrangements done. With heavy heart I got ready and went to the venue and arranged everything. By 7:45pm, no guest had come and I was feeling anxious because I had paid for twenty-five people to attend. I called up one of my support team who enrolled me, and again I asked myself why I was doing this. So I waited silently and then slowly my schoolmates started coming in one by one and guess what? I had 45 people come!!! And my baggage of 30 years got completed!!! I got compliments, love and compassion from all!!! In fact, the waiters at the venue were worried because I had not eaten anything!!! I was totally in seventh heaven. After months, I am still getting messages of appreciation and acknowledgement. Now I have forty-five new amazing friends, my parents, my brother and co-workers are enrolled into my possibility and I love my life!!! I am transformed!! Now I know that : ~ I AM a beautiful soul in transformation, ready to break free from the chrysalis to become the butterfly that has always been my destiny. ~ I accept that every experience in my life has been preparing me for this shift into my true and higher self, and I am grateful for each and every one. ~ I have the courage to become more, and break free from those thoughts and ideas that keep me from being all that I am meant to be.


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Calling All Angels By: Donna LeClair, California, USA It’s early December 1990. My father is 63 years old. Divinity glanced into his pit of despair, yanked, and zapped the core relentlessly. Daddy was no longer a young man, but the only tell-tale signs of aging were tiny lines gracefully indented around the contour of his eyes and lips. He’s been losing weight dramatically, his physique dwindling from stout to bone thin, his skin turned yellow, and his urine chocolate brown. He was perpetually exhausted, and at times doubled-over with severe stomach pain. He was too weak to wear his frail disguise as he lay in bed lifeless with eyes like open wounds. At the doctor’s office, he was first diagnosed with the stomach flu. Then, later hepatitis, and finally on December 12, 1990, we were told they were 99.9% sure he had the death sentence of pancreatic cancer and only two weeks to live. The questions that raced through my head, the questions I needed answered now – immediately, like yesterday, "Was it curable or treatable? Could he receive chemotherapy or radiation? Would it help if he did these treatments? Would it prolong his life a year or two? If not, what could be done to help CURE him?” Maybe, just maybe, divinity would bless us with a miracle. I mean you read about them all the time. Why not my father? Why not us?


Maybe we could even resort to a holistic healer for a cure. I had read about them; I believed in them. I believed Bernie Siegel in his book ‘In Peace, Love, and Healing’ when he wrote that the mind could heal the body and lead to the path of self-healing. Is belief not enough to move a mountain, to cure a disease, to stop the teasing of dominatrix time? Prior to anger rearing its sneaky head fear, shock, and denial slide through reality’s door – I was confronted. It took all of my strength to love God. I cursed him. I wanted to understand his reasoning and I did not want his stupid two weeks to mend, heal, and love - all I wanted was to run to some offbeat clinic and implore a cure ... now ... yesterday! I did not sleep much that night or any to follow: my thoughts tossed and turned with every breath of my body, until one day I just quit sleeping ... I was empty of dreams, and my mind was beginning to signal it would like the familiar comfort of my own bed or some resemblance of normalcy. I read Bernie Siegel's book ‘Peace, Love & Healing’ to him daily, believing we could beat the demon that hovered over our lives, and the monster taking over his body -this sentence labeled cancer. I prayed over and over and over again - on my knees, in tears, begging God to hear my prayers and grant daddy a miracle – I believed God and Angels existed ... now, screaming on my knees I begged for proof. The nurses gravitated towards my father because of his


miraculous uplifting spirit, additionally, they, like us, shed their share of tears each time they left his room. Everybody at the hospital knew us and greeted us on a first name basis because for the remainder of his life Annie, Lynne, and I couched by his side except to go home, attend to personal hygiene and esthetic responsibilities, and wolf down some culinary energy. He was in the emergency room, we were in the emergency room, he slept in the hospital, we slept in the hospital: three cots lined in the hall, scattered in a room - wherever they would let us sleep as long as it was close to him as he was always within our reach, and his face or hand by our side ... always. There was a cold, thick silence my father and I inhabited for years - the edgy, uncomfortable silence that comes from hard feelings, unsaid words and unsaid thoughts. Like starved human beings, he and I devoured every word as I crawled up on his hospital bed, and he held me through endless conversations as we released the poison boiling deep in our craters. I touched his cheek and wept as I glided my smooth face along his half-shaven. A quiver ran across my face as Dominatrix Time cracked her furious whips. He saw in my baffled eyes that which had been in his own. The bottle destroyed all that there was, and robbed all that could have been; floating along the path of austere nerves where hunger now sinks its teeth into the belly of forgiveness. When sobriety and sanity kiss the face of mortality, conscious quivers and brazenly questions why Â

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one would choose the coldness of a bottle over the warmth of the human spirit. Our confessions were an awakening that asked for, and forgave the festering images that now could fade and blur over time. It was life. It was real. It was reality. It was time to heal, time to move on. An omniscient, omnipotent giant who seemingly always held all the cards, had all the answers, and possessed all the power unleashed those two simple words that restored my faith and life, “I’m Sorry.” We shared life and death moments, and neither one was a moral judge unintelligible to the vastness. Death deliberated life, and life liberated death. Two beings wandered through a cosmos where time is experienced not by its relationship to any sort of lingering past but shared by immersions in the realism of the now. For a long time afterwards, I felt like a lost princess awakened after a deep elongated slumber. As I lay on the bed with my father, we held each other in total silence, relishing the simple gift of NOW. All of a sudden the sweet memories, the sharp excitement of my childhood returned.... I am a 10-year old little girl in pink ballerina slippers performing in front of an applauding Daddy, gracefully dancing to the music softly playing in the silence of my peaceful mind. The cancer had taken over his entire being. The doctors inserted a bile bag on the right side of his body to drain the infection in the pancreas and put him on 5 liters of oxygen to help him breathe, hopefully ease his pain and


buy him blinks of time. Hospice stepped in the last few weeks of his life and assisted us with my father’s care. He wished not to pass away in a place that reeked of death and surround his final memories with the antiseptic smell of the cold hospital equipment so we rented a stretch limousine for his last ride home. We covered him with blankets and opened the skylight of the limousine, allowing his starving lungs to breathe the crisp winter air one last time. Our love at that time could not be measured in increments justified by reasoning or perception heralded by crippled minds, archaic thoughts or cautious boundaries; so we slid by the local grocery store and bought him a six-pack of Milwaukee and a box of Godiva. He had always found an unerringly impossible form of happiness in ice-cold beer smoothly gliding down his parched throat, or bittersweet melt of chocolate slowly dripping down his elongated throat. The expression on his face when he flavored his longings claimed that which we were hoping not to endure - life was robbing him of the luxury of taste. He could not enjoy the beer or chocolate; he could not even satisfy his longings with a simple taste. My father was left in a black void unconsciously unable to pass over because of his tormented past. On Saturday, February 2, 1991, out of respect for his last wish, we moved him from his bedroom into his favorite lounger in the living room. A pale shadow of a man lay motionless


staring into empty space, but then all of a sudden his eyes dilated and lit up as a faint light appeared and hovered close to the ceiling of the living room. His brows raised in startled alertness, his mouth opened in awe, his head bobbed as if he questioned with curiosity what death and beyond were offering. At first, he seemed anxious: his voice crying out in fright, his facial expressions turning to anger as he expressed bitterness for his transition into death. He kept proclaiming he was not ready, “Not now!” he shouted, persistently insisting he was not going to leave his children. In the last seconds of his life, I am sure, he saw not the past nor present but the endless possibilities of the life that might have been. In a 4-hour period, he aged twenty years as cancer bled the life from his very being. I clutched his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze good-bye and as peace radiated from his face, he decreed, “I love you, Share,” took his final breath and staring into the light. We watched the last of life scale his eyes as he slipped into the peaceful state of eternal rest. Sixty- three years of living, forty-five days of dying, 4 hours of crossing over... one life blending into holograms perceived not current lens as Dominatrix Time slashes her final whip into the heart of our bleeding tears. On Saturday, February 2, 1991 at 7:20 a.m., my “Daddy” passed away. Something happened to me that night - I shut down. I do not remember how I got home. All I remember is putting on my yellow duck pajamas, nursing a bottle of berry rich


Merlot, grabbing my pillow and sharing memories. Drowsy and emotionally and physically drained, my daughter Melinda slept with me that blustery night. My restive slumber tossing with shadows as I dozed and awoke several times throughout the night, the darkness of the room and the guide of Melinda’s hand leading me back into a hazy stupor of sleep. Her hand would stretch across the bed and hold mine, and as I would turn to face the opposite direction, her hand would gently slide along the contour of my back, massaging my shattering depth of a body. Soothing - quietly, simply, gently smoothing! Her touch and her wise fierce eyes swallowed up the uncertainty as I curled into a fetal position and wept until my heart drifted into a sleep. Melinda’s strong ladylike hands told me life would go on. 160

No matter how dead I may feel ... I have to learn how to live again, so three months after his passing, I decided to travel and tour the "City of Dreams” – Paris. Wondering like a lost soul, I could see why Paris had inspired so many writers as I got the feeling that if I listened carefully to the stones they would indeed carry tales of ancient cultures, and medieval architecture riddled by the beauty of the simple traditional things the Parisians respected, and cherished. One of the wonderful things about the ‘City of Dreams’ is that its past lives on in the present, as vibrantly as it did centuries ago. There are aspiring street artists selling their


goods on the exact same soil walked by Roman legionnaires. Magical. In the heart of the city a taxicab driver deliberately laid on his horn until he received my attention. Capturing the glimmer of my eye, he smiles with a merry twinkle concealed under dark tinted glasses, and then waves with an infectious laughter ... echoing in the street. A short stout man, hair thinning on top, parted on the side, greased down and swept over, with a face shadowed of old thick whiskers - smoking a pipe: a taxicab driver that I chased down the streets of Paris yelling, “Daddy!” Clear across the world from a childhood home on Chantilly Lane, a deceased father’s double seems to sense a lost daughter’s reassurance that my dad’s spirit is alive and well. 161

Sobbing, I race through the streets, reaching out as the cab disappears into the congestion of the busy Parisian traffic. Through my mist of tears, the grief carries me through the west portal of the invincible Notre-Dame cathedral, and lights the pathway to a brilliant sculpture of the Virgin Mary with child showcased in front of a magnificent medieval rose stained glass window, encircled by figures from the Old Testament, saints, and ANGELS ...everywhere ANGELS! My head bowed, my body weakening, and I fell to my knees. He blesses me, one mystified child, with the sight of one last vision, one last smile, and one last roar of


laughter. In praise of this connection, I lifted my arms to altars and wept. I gave thanks. Is he not a God of mercy? Of all the people in this incalculable world, he knew that I was the one who needed the miracle: I was the one regardless of my state of affairs, believed, gained hope, and gives thanks. I realized as I put one foot in front of the other and stepped out onto the road of hope that the world seen through the lens of grief is crystalline in clarity whether it is grieving the death of a childhood or a relationship or a loved one. A wake-up call beckoning a world where everything, I mean everything, has a recognizable and momentary magnificence. Those miracles make all things glow in hue of roses - roses we can smell! I still miss my father (Daddy!), but in a sweeter gentler way like that of a fading song. His voice, once clear and pleasing as a stream running over stones, faded in my ears, and his love vanished to memories revealed in a clearer voice - a promise of yet another tomorrow. A new beginning beckons. A day without tears is here with a far deeper thirst for the taste of life. The 'City of Dreams' now had a new story for the winds to carry... the message was simple, and as powerful as daybreak. It was one of love, faith, and freedom. Â

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Laughing, I knew Daddy in all of his glory was roaring across the Parisian skyline now golden like the fallen sun. Like a gentle storm he was quietly, simply waiting for nightfall to release its blazing stars, and with the touch of his spirit he would bring magic to a grieving daughter’s pillow and to the closing of yet another chapter of a life well lived and learned. I had not known that anything as cold and clear as moonlight could be so full of promises - promises made of white glimmers dancing in the heavens above, stars wished upon on a clear Parisian night. Donna LeClair


Hello Charly! By: Claudia Pellegrini, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA After a painful divorce I moved to Buenos Aires. Starting all over again, I decided to find new activities. Dancing was something I’ve always dreamt of and now I had the time to start. I had scheduled an activity for every single day, even week ends!!! I thought that I just needed to be busy in order to forget and avoid feeling the pain of my marriage ending. WRONG!! Once pain is inside it needs to be healed or it will come back over and over again in one way or another. One morning, I got up to shower after spending the evening before with a fever. When I coughed, I felt an indescribable pain in the lowest part of my back. The pain felt like a burning iron running down my legs. As I bent my knees, I couldn’t feel my feet. Somehow I made it to my bed and called one of my sisters. A few hours later I was in emergency room. I was diagnosed with having “Tarlov Cysts.” I had never heard of anything like this in my whole life! These cysts are made of the same cells as the spinal cord tissue. In fact, they’re actually a part of the spinal cord. These cysts press my nerve endings so that they produce major long-lasting pain and other symptoms which are hard for me to talk about. I went through the stages of grief upon receiving this diagnosis. First, I was in denial. I repeatedly told myself “this cannot be happening to me right now! I have


achieved all I wanted by coming to Buenos Aires.” I rejected the doctors’ opinions about treatment. At this stage, I just wanted a magic formula! Then, I was very angry. I treated everyone so poorly, which I regret so much. I was grumpy all of the time. I pushed myself into movements or activities that caused me more pain. Insane!! Then slowly, I found myself starting to evolve into the stage of acceptance. I started following one doctor’s advice and I started psychotherapy. While going to my sessions, I began to understand a lot of things about the last few years following my divorce. In therapy, I noticed I was becoming more relaxed; giving myself time to process all I had been through. I understood that my life had changed once again, but this time, my body was the one telling me. My body was expressing all the pain I had been trying to avoid by burying inside of me. Once I understood this, I named my pain CHARLY. Well, Hello Charly! He had clearly come to stay and to teach me to live in a new way so I had to learn to live together with Charly. The faster he and I understood and accepted this, the better. Charly is my partner for life. He is a part of me; and as such I had to learn to love and accept him. Ultimately, this meant I had to learn to love myself. As


Charly and I got to know one another on a deeper level, we made a few workable agreements. I wouldn’t push harder than possible. I would rest properly; work less, eat healthier, go to physical therapy, and do whatever it takes to get better. As I respected my body and the situation, Charly, in return, gave me less and less trouble. Through this journey with Charly, I discovered that I have a lot of love around me, tons of support and understanding. Family and friends have all helped me a lot and they still do. The major breakthrough was being able to trust myself. For me, life is a constant challenge. I am perpetually learning that life is also pure beauty. I used to have a life that I thought I wanted. Now I have a life that is all about discovery. My greatest find is that it's never too late to learn and to get PRESENT to the fact that my life is a gift. Claudia Pellegrini


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Moments That Took MY Breath Away By: Christina Marie in Pennsylvania, USA When I walked through the first set of double-doors to the church I was reflecting on how I grew up in this place. All of my Catholic school experiences, my first Holy Communion, confession, Confirmation. The last time I had stepped foot in this church was the christening of my son who was now a healthy and happy three- year- old. I had gone from a Catholic school girl attending church every Sunday to barely remembering to go to mass, even on the holidays. When I walked through the second set of doors, the church was packed! Full of people, many of whom, I have never seen before this moment. I was not expecting this!
 It took my breath away... You could hear a pin drop, that’s how silent the room had become. As I took my seat the music started and everyone stood up. As the double-doors opened again, the echoing shocked-gasp vibrated through the church. They weren't expecting that To take their breath away... Through the doors, a teeny- tiny white casket, the size of a breadbox was coming through the doors. As they wheeled this teeny tiny casket toward the front of the church, I noticed a large man (whom I did not know)


crying a deep heartfelt, unapologetic cry. This took my breath away... Now all eyes were burning through me. I could feel the depth of sorrow, empathy and compassion being sent my way as everyone waited for my reaction since the baby in the casket was the same baby I had given birth to 20 days earlier. Standing at the front of the church with my incision burning, nursing-ready breast throbbing and my heart bursting into a million pieces, I was not expecting any of this. It was all taking my breath away... I was in awe over the level of humanity that showed up in my life from the moment of his birth through the next few years which I jokingly refer to as my, "I- was-a-completenightmare" years. All those years growing up in the Roman Catholic Church did not penetrate me nearly as deeply as those 20 days of being in “IT,” followed by the next few years of trying desperately to heal “IT.” Whatever “IT” was, that needed to be healed. My second son’s birth and death became a forced entrypoint into spirit. I was brought to my knees and that's when everything opened up for me. A few years later, my father said to me, “Christina, you had a cosmic crack!” I smiled a deep-to-the-core smile of


resignation because the words, “You had a cosmic crack” were completely lined up with what I felt I had experienced. These words took my breath away... From the moment of my son’s birth, everything was happening at warp speed. In February of 1995 and for the next few years, my spiritual path and journey was intense. By July, I left my marriage and I did this without blinking an eye or a tear. I was very cold and I didn't care. My desire to be married died with this baby. In those first few months and years, I didn't see or care at all about anyone else’s pain or heartache. My love, compassion and empathetic abilities were all severely blocked from everyone except my three-year-old. But there was even a period of time where I didn't even see him. I was taking care of him on automatic pilot for a solid few weeks after his brother’s death until his day- care teacher confronted me. When I went to pick him up, she gently grabbed my hand and said, "Come with me. I want to show you something." Guiding me into the play room where all the children were playing together, way over on the other side of the room sat my son, alone. He was sitting in the corner with his arms crossed as if to protect himself and his little head was sunk down low. This took my breath away... My heart shattered into a million little pieces all over again.


The intensity of my motherly guilt felt as heavy as a brick house falling on top of me. “How could I not even notice this?” and “What kind of mother doesn't notice something like this?” My son had been known in day-care as "The Mayor!" He was always happy, always engaged in play, loved learning and his essence was always bubbling with pure joy. This boy in the corner was not that same little boy. This was my fault. He had a cosmic crack too and I had been so selfish in my grieving that I didn't even notice. The tears ran down my face. I knew in that moment that I had to “snap out of it!” I only had just enough "giving" left in me to give to him. There just wasn't enough “giving” inside of me to extend past being his mom again; to being a wife; to being able to be anything like I was before. The mother who was once attentive to him, in every moment, is the mother I needed to be again and I needed to be that again now! I will never know what “the missing mom” did to him or how that moment in time changed him. It’s taken me a long time to know how it changed me. As I began my journey into healing all of the “IT’S”~ (yes, with a capital I and a capital T) ~ slowly I was able to see and hear the impact “my” baby’s death had on others and I learned an important truth. Us mothers often believe the concept, “no one will or could love our children as deeply as we do.” My pain and


self-centered grieving reflected this concept. I'm the mom. It's MY body. It’s MY loss! Not true, not true at all. This baby’s great- grandmother lost her great grandson. My parents and his father’s parents lost their grandson. My aunts and uncles lost their nephew. My cousins lost their cousin. His father lost his son and my son lost his little brother. My dearest friends lost something precious as their love was also there and also pure. What I would later be open enough to hear is, as it turned out, their pain was double my own. Grandparents and parents experienced the helplessness of watching their daughter or son-going through a tragedy in addition to their loss of a grandson or great-grandson. For them, it was a double whammy. I never even considered this. When I thought about this… It took my breath away... In September of 2012, my grandmother passed away. I would learn through this, just how deeply her pain and her love was. She demanded to be buried in the same cemetery as her little great- grandson, so she could be resting in peace with him. This took my breath away... As a stay-at home mom, when I was pregnant and my older son was napping, I would spend my time reading stories of love and connection. I picked up a book one day and the main character in this book had an amazing way


of being in life. He was the kind of man I'd want my son to grow up to be. “Donovan” was this character’s name. I said to myself, “That's it! That's the name of this baby!!” Donovan Hugh Whinnery. As I closed my eyes to breathe this in, I had a vision. I saw his name across a movie screen. I felt it was a strong name that would be powerful. I truly believed my vision would come true because I saw it. His death made this vision a distant memory hidden way back in time. A few years later, my life had changed dramatically. I was a divorced mom, living on my own, healing all of the “IT’S” and enjoying the process of living authentically when I was invited by one of my brothers to the movie première of a film he wrote and directed. I was excited for him. After the movie ended, the very next image on the screen was the words "In Loving Memory of Donovan Hugh Whinnery". Again, all eyes on me once more. I was not expecting this! This took my breath away! In that theater, I was speechless and taken instantly back to the moment on my sofa with a napping child upstairs and a baby growing in my belly. I had that vision. I saw it, and it did come true. I couldn't speak. It was too amazing, too outstanding, too incredible and way too meaningful to me. I was literally humbled speechless. It was exquisite and it still.... Takes my breath away!


Inhale. Exhale Donovan was born with a rare chromosome disorder and two significant holes in his heart. When we took him home from the hospital, we took him home to die. It was all very intense. When he died, I was twenty-five years old. It would take me an additional ten years to go through all of the strange and twisted mechanisms that my mind created to cope with this loss and I would learn just how “tricky” the combination of hormones and grieving could actually be on many levels. In this altered state I decided that I was a twenty-five-year old “reproductively- defective woman” which became my inner monologue. Truth is, this monologue developed before Donovan. By the age of twenty-five, my pregnancy numbers didn't add up. It was 3=1. 3 pregnancies = 1 living child. I was eighteen years old when I met my children’s father and all of these pregnancies were with him. I was twenty years old and four months along when I started hemorrhaging, the ambulance rushing me to the emergency room. The reproductively-defective woman belief is born. It was a very scary experience for me as a young woman. It was also a very emotional and hormonal experience. My second pregnancy, Joseph was born. Arriving two weeks early and just two ounces shy of being a nine pound healthy baby boy. He was more than I could hope for. Third time around, that's where Donovan fly's in and out of my life and after that, I became a divorced


reproductively-defective woman. I was, at this point, willing to try just about anything: Cognitive therapy, soul retrieval work, rapid eye therapy, self-help books. I took every workshop and seminar. I investigated every religion: Buddhism, A Course in Miracles, the Baptist church and more. I turned myself into a modern day “Wonder Woman.” Domesticated? Forget it. I tried that and it was nothing but pure pain. Now it was time to shake things up! It was time to do more, to be more to grow and heal. And I was. I was truly picking up new concepts very quickly because I was so hungry, so thirsty for knowledge, awareness and self improvement. What I was also doing, underneath it all was avoiding my grief. I was doing well at work. I became a fitness instructor; got my 1st degree black belt in Martial Arts; took classes, taught classes; became a dance instructor, traveled, entered the US Opens karate competition and placed second in the world...I was doing, doing and doing. In addition to that, I was also alternating being “Mom” for 7 days with Dad being “Dad” for the next 7 days. What was also going on “under the hood” while all of these amazing things were happening... my pregnancy numbers would continue to change and not add up. By the time I was 34 years old my pregnancy numbers were 6=1. 6 pregnancies =1living child, and the numbers where changing because I was creating a vicious cycle that started after Donovan’s death. I’d get pregnant, be very excited,


think about it, get scared, concerned, worried to knowing that I couldn’t go through that again and then I’d completely reject the entire thing. Then move back into my life as if nothing ever happened. Abortions. The first one being for the man who claimed to love me fiercely for a few years, five to be exact. Suddenly, pregnancy had him singing a different tune. His clarity around not wanting me to have this baby was much clearer and more logical than the confusing mixed crazy reasons I wanted to have this child. So I decided to go with it. I hated him and myself for doing it. So now, on top of the unhealed grief, I was busy adding more ingredients to my big dark ugly secret shame. Once I figured out what my insane cycle was, I stopped putting myself in the cycle that was not serving me. I decided to be a volunteer at one of the abortion clinics where I had to walk through the bullet proof doors asking, “What can I do to help?” I was so pissed that the women were being so viciously harassed that I just took action. Not complained. Not hid. I believe in taking action; doing something that can benefit others to help myself heal my own pain. Being a contribution is an amazing antidepressant. Reclaiming my breath Donovan’s death was almost eighteen years ago. Joseph is going to be twenty-one years old in a few days. Through the years, Joseph has shared very openly his thoughts, feelings and opinions regarding the intensity


and changes that took place after his little brother’s death. Joseph is now a young man with a tattoo on his arm of a Celtic cross with his little brother’s name running through it. For him, Donovan represents something meaningful to him that runs deep. He’s still trying to heal around all of this. Not only did he lose his baby brother, he temporarily lost his mother. Joseph’s world changed completely at 3 years old. Actually, it blew up! He would have preferred that I didn’t leave his dad. Yet, as he gets older and matures, he will have his own insights. He’s on his own journey now to work this out now. So now I get to say at forty-three years old that I want my breath back. I want to cut through the tape of shame around the intensity that abortion carries with it and stop punishing myself for being human.

I want my breath back. Therefore, I’m reclaiming it now. I’ve been waiting to exhale since Donovan left and now I am breathing: Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I’m taking the life I stopped living... I’m taking all that back! I am breathing... inhale exhale inhale exhale ...
so I am alive!


1995 Christina- Donovan- Joseph

Mom & Son (Christina & Joseph) 2009


ARE WE A G(enerator)O(perator)D(estroyer) OF US? By: Dineshh Shah, Mumbai, INDIA The 17th of August, being in the house of Leo, is very important to me, my life and people around me each year. The 17th of August of 2012 was especially memorable to me, a special and significant day for myself and my family as I caused an unprecedented result. What happened was that I accomplished causing multiple miracles in a single day: First, I celebrated my birthday with 200+ participants in New Delhi in my Q2/T1- of Landmark Education’s Team, Management, and Leadership Program. At the same time, my son, Hardik is starting his two-year Master of Science in IT program at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Rochester, NY from our home of Mumbai. Third, the publication of ‘Stories Of Courageous Vulnerability’ containing my story was presented in the North American Team, Management, and Leadership Program in Seattle. And finally, I created the extraordinary opportunity to share these miracles with you through the publication of this article. Many people ask me questions like ‘How did I make it all possible?’ and ‘Why did my family allow me to travel to New Delhi from Mumbai on these dates?’


My answer is simple: Knowing, Applying and Living ‘Visualizing/Inventing/Creating Future from Future’ technology. It may seem too technical, so let me flash back; to come from my past or earlier years to get how this technology worked in my life. In September of 2007, at the end of a half month program with Landmark Education based in living inside of ontological (the science of being) principles, the 40+ participants had been told to visualize, create, design or invent and declare our future, coming from future for self to global community for the upcoming five, ten, fifteen or twenty plus years in distance, time and form with specific measurable results for each milestone. I was a successful professional a Chartered Accountant and Stock Broker having been educated to report, certify, analyze, plan, forecast, budget, predict, etc. based on past historic data discounted by future probabilities, based in various standard mathematical and statistical formulas with some contingencies. The three and a half month program I was taking was completely contrary to what I had been taught and know. Pretending to be extraordinarily coachable, I took on to complete one last exercise/assignment of the program I was participating in. I created ‘Futures’ for me, my family and communities in terms of finance, health, education, social and my spiritual status. For ‘Future’, I included my family, extended family, staff, society, and communities for all of us to have our dreams fulfilled. My youngest son, Hardik, at that time was in his second year of school. I asked him to share his dreams and he said ‘I want to get a Master’s of Science degree in


information technology.’ I was thrilled with this and declared that on the 25th of December, 2010 he would be in that program. For the next two years I practiced creating futures with people and institutions that provided for the miracle of funding and supporting our son with his education and career. Opportunities showed up I was never before present to until the program with Landmark Education, making it seem in some ways like a dream, and not reality. But it was real. I have kept the details to a minimum here as I could go on and on, but to cut it short, what worked was creating and calling for a ‘future’ designed around relationships, based in authenticity, trust, commitment, abundance, ease and grace. Today, I am empowered by my ability to create futures and cause leaders around me to take care of what is wanted. Now it’s time for another creation, which I am calling ‘My Third Cycle of Life; Dineshh Shah, a Catalyst Connecting People.’ Stay tuned for the miracles. Dineshh Shah and Family!


Memoirs of a "Gay"sha By: Scott Harris in Pennsylvania, USA When I was ten my world was fun Filled with friends and joy & laughter I didn't know what was to come Who I'd become thereafter Eleven came and I changed schools With all my friends and aspirations Along came homework and more rules A pretty rigid education Walking down the corridor My arms around 2 friends They said "stop!" people will think we're gay. And right away, my innocence ends I knew that word could not be good. Not something I should be
So I agreed and shrugged it off After all, what has that go to do with me? First they started on and off. And then they became relentless Shouting Fag, fairy, queen and poof I was just a kid, I was defenseless I felt humiliated, but you see I thought, this can not last!? And then my friends turned their backs on me I felt my spirit shrinking fast Eight hours a day, five days a week
Was more than I could take
For seven years my prison grew
If I was going


to survive, I had to escape! The bullying got worse you see, And I couldn't speak of this at home My mind became a safe place for me And I got "I'm not normal, I'm alone!" When they laughed and passed pictures of me around the room And then the humiliation started
My face got red, I felt overwhelming gloom Then into my head I departed I knew from now on that I was doomed Life could never be the same Because in the background something loomed The voice in my head said I was to blame I couldn't understand when I screamed out inside Why nobody could ever hear me
No one helped when I stood and cried
No one came to rescue me As an adult I found it bizarre Why can't I let anyone in? I couldn't see the prison bars That kept me safe, but kept me in "I" was pretty smart I guess
This prison I created
Kept me from harm, keeps in the mess Whenever I'm humiliated


I ask you please consider all When you see "Leave me alone!" Hear me shout from behind my prison wall Don't Ever leave me alone! Courageously, I am with you. Vulnerable now. Yes, I have grown.


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A Flamboyant Diligent Village Boy By: Mandi Dikana in Pretoria, South Africa So I grew up getting teased, called names, and I was lucky enough to have been born and bred under a family that was full of love, hope and faith. I was called a “sissy” and sometimes a “moffie” (“faggot” in the Afrikaans language) because I was a bit flamboyant, and that to me was just a difference, it never meant that I was abnormal; however, I was always self-conscious. I was a highly intelligent pupil at school, humble and confident and always diligent, these qualities helped me endure the names I was given from time to time. There was a point in my life when I was a teenage boy that I realized what those horrible names some kids used to tease me with meant, but still, that didn’t pull me down. Feisty as ever and always ready with an answer to any question asked, I was just an innocent child. As I grew older I then realized certain things about myself, discovered more about what I liked and who I preferred to be with. I have always had friends who are female and male, and fortunately for me, I played both girls’ and boys’ games. I chose the word fortunate carefully because children are the most honest creatures, and can be the cruelest creatures as well. And it was around this time that I started to feel an attraction to some of my male friends. And the attraction was mutual, and very obvious in the choices the boys made when we played games because they would choose me so they can kiss me on the cheek, hug me tight and protect me.


Did I mention that all along in my entire childhood, the word “gay” existed, and we all knew it as taboo and absolutely unacceptable? Well, it was something we heard about but none of us knew anyone that was “gay”. There came a point in my life when I had to date a girl, just like other boys, and of course being the innocent, oblivious teenage boy I was, I didn’t quite know how to approach a girl, so a cousin of mine did it for me, yes, a female cousin. I never quite understood why I had to date someone at all, but I remember specifically acknowledging that it was something everyone my age did. For a couple of years I dated this girl who later moved out of our village and I was again pressured to date yet another girl. That’s when I refused to do it, because I just did not understand why I had to subject myself to a norm when I didn’t feel the need to. I put my foot down among my peers, but I was subjected to humiliation, shame and at times disgust for being a “sissy”. It’s never easy going through something like this, especially because my Mom didn’t marry my Dad, so I lived with my Grandmother who took care of us at home like her own children. I still remember how she always told me that she never got a chance for an education from her Dad, but she will afford us all a good education so we can have bright future. This was more important to me than dating girls. It was when I turned 17 that I made friends with a girl who later became my best friend and then later my girlfriend because we fell deeply in love with each other. I’d never had sex in my life, and didn’t intend to. She sadly broke up with me when I was 18 and at varsity (in college).


She wasn’t getting any joy out of our relationship but wanted to stay friends. I had seen it coming. I wasn’t going to sleep with her because I was not ready for sex... at all. By this time my attraction to other guys had grown significantly, but I was not prepared to face it because whenever I heard anyone mention the word “gay” it would be followed by slams and terrible labeling followed by judgment and prejudice. I had sleepless nights trying to figure out why I was attracted to guys while also attracted to girls. I even dated a girl at varsity, fell in love with her, but still my attraction to other men was there, unshaken. It was when I went to Bangkok, Thailand that it all made sense to me. I met a beautiful Cameroonian man who befriended me and it all just made sense to me. He was gay. He didn’t hide it. He was handsome. He liked me so much. He fell for me. I had fallen for him too. I felt free to allow myself to be with him those few days before I was ready to come back home. I knew then, I knew I preferred men to women, and I acknowledged that I had to accept it sooner rather than later. However, when I came back to the country, I couldn’t bring myself to break up with my girlfriend because I would then have to tell her the truth about myself. I wasn’t prepared to do that. I was not in a position to fully appreciate it, so how would I possibly explain to her if I couldn’t quite understand it. By this time in my life, I had a best friend of three years whom I met at varsity. We did everything together even though we were pursuing different career paths. It was


when I left varsity that I realized that I had been attracted to my best friend for a long while and I didn’t know it. It then became apparent from the way we missed each other and the way we looked forward to spending time together. We formed stronger bonds when after a family tragedy; I had to be there for him throughout the grieving process. It is funny how our relationship started but now I can safely call him my soul mate. If ever there’s something that is called fate out there, then our relationship is proof that no matter what happens you will be with your forever love. We enjoyed beautiful, stolen moments of kisses, cuddling and a lot of laughter that only the 2 of us understood. My Mom found out about us soon after figured out where our relationship was going. She ordered me to break off the relationship. I agreed, but I lied, I didn’t break it off, I merely put it on hold until she got her head around the idea of her son being in an intimate relationship with another man. My aunt directly asked us about our relationship and what our intentions were; my family was scared and wanted to know. We were scared but we explained to her what we were going through. Ours wasn’t an easy one. I was talked about behind my back by family, friends and relatives. There was a time in my life when I could see the prejudice in their eyes of some of my own family members without them saying much. Nevertheless, I lived with hope. I had to have courage, I was loved by my Grandmother, and she never even once rejected me after finding out. For me I think it was a blessing to have come from such a loving


family because without the love I knew they had and still have for me, I wouldn’t have been able to admit that I am gay. It has become something that is private for me, NOT a secret, but private because I don’t hear people going around disclosing their heterosexuality to others. I truly and honestly don’t see why I need to go around disclosing mine. However, if you ask me, I’ll tell you, because I own it. I am at a point in my life where I no longer fear rejection, because I am living my life the only way I know how. I am being the best I can ever be, and homosexuality is but only a part of the person I am. People think they can easily tell you how to feel about all the hate, prejudice and judgment out there, but in fact they have no idea just how painful it is to have to live a life that is not yours, and pretend to be someone you are not, letting your life pass by while you are trying to please others. Life is to be enjoyed in full, and one of the ways is to be the best you can be. Mandy Dikana


My Mother/Myself By: Gail Davis in New Jersey, USA My Mother Mary Brown, mother of her daughter Gail and her son Darren left on the wings of Angels to reside in Heaven on May 28th, 2012. She was so feisty, loving and had an amazing sense of humor and her commitment, love and determination for her children to succeed was unwavering. One of the hardest things my mother struggled with was her alcoholism. Her love for people and her wisdom in knowing first hand how people struggled, she shared the obstacles she faced with young people always hoping by being honest and sharing that they would choose their paths wisely. Myself I am my mother’s daughter. As a little girl I would tell my mother, “I am going to be just like you when I grow up! I will work as a legal secretary/paralegal while putting myself through college.” I have the same love for people all over the world. I love to see people come together and create amazing works. As I grew up, I found myself meeting people from every part of the world and advising them personally and professionally; especially, if they were passionate about starting their own business, getting married or looking for that right promotion.


The complexity of being the daughter of this magnificent yet challenged woman created a love between us that was both solid, and dysfunctional. We loved and we argued deeply. Mostly, the fighting was about the challenges and concerns that come with alcoholism. It wasn’t my mother that caused the friction and fighting, it was the way things are when alcoholism is in a family. For me, my love for my mother left me concerned for her health and I wanted to help her, and I wanted her to listen to me! My brother on the other hand, showed concern and yet was he also gave my mother the acceptance and freedom to make her own life decisions. My brother had a different connection with my mom that was more “live and let live” based. Throughout my childhood and into my young adulthood, I would watch her drink in the evenings, when I knew she would never allow us to do the same. Eventually this made me wonder “how can she love us so much, and not herself?” I would be so angry about the drinking that when she would check my homework at night, I would not kiss her goodnight. What I wanted for my mother was her ability to see her own brilliance and to love herself as deeply as she loved us. This brilliant woman did not experience her own brilliance. My brother and I would say, “Mom you should become a lawyer!” She would just smile. But inside I knew she could not connect herself to her own brilliance. As a little girl growing up who adored and idolized her mom, the conflict of emotions I saw her go through, I would later realize took a lot of bravery, strength, vulnerability and courage for her to be our mother while not


accomplishing her own inner dreams. I did not realize that me seeing her go through this, I would repeat the same things in a different way. I found myself making choices at times that were not in my best interest, especially with some of my relationship choices. I found I was taking care of others in a way that did not serve me or my brilliance. With the consistent arguing back and forth with my mother, not meeting my father until my mid-20's and having to release that relationship later in addition to the sibling rivalry that existed with my brother- I felt like I was living life on the outside of myself, I wasn’t connected to myself. Often doing all I could to create family outings where it felt like I was pulling tooth and nail for my brother and mother to get together as a family on occasion. The result was me that I sought love from them instead of finding it within myself. I was living the life my mother lived. I was a brilliant woman, creating brilliant things and not connected to the love and brilliance within me. My Mother During the years, my mother stopped drinking after having what was deemed a stroke and her liver was almost destroyed. She continued to smoke which turned into COPD. In December of 2011, she was admitted to the hospital as she had been often on and off for acute bronchitis, and other lung issues. This time, when she was in the hospital, I could feel it in my heart- it was different. I was upset because my life was moving forward and I felt helpless to give her health back to her, angry because she Â

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didn’t love herself enough to stop smoking until it was too late and because I felt in my heart she may not make it through the end of 2012. I remember, she said, “Gail, why are you standing so far away from me?” I could see the hurt in her eyes. I was so scared seeing her there and was unable to do anything about it. The helplessness was overwhelming. I did not want us to have a fuss as we usually do over her health. I did not know which way to turn. I only knew I was going to be there for her more than I had before. All of the memories of what my mother had been through, the challenges she faced, why she was not able to love herself, all of it came rushing back to me in that moment. Then, I heard her voice again, “Gail why are you standing so far from me?” This was when I went over to her and held her tightly. She had become so frail. What she said to me in that moment I had heard before, but it sent shockwaves through my body. As she hugged me back, she said, “Gail you cannot save me. I could only save myself.” My brother and I continued to be advocates for her to receive adequate healthcare daily. She was released in February and I spoke to her (over the phone) daily or every other day. My brother and I worked together, talking to doctors and working as a team. I felt good, perhaps she would get better and I would take care of the remaining details surrounding my business and home life. Then the week prior to May 28th, I would have dreams and wake up with messages within my heart that said, “go visit your mother now or you shall regret it for the rest of your life.” This occurred daily, but I didn't listen to my


intuition. Also, I did not call her for a week before she passed and did not know why. I think I knew in my spirit she was leaving. I spoke to her only briefly on May 27th and she was sleeping. The only thing my mother ever wanted from me- was me. I thought calling her daily and working with my brother was enough, but for her, it wasn’t. I also thought the petty arguments we would always have might negatively affect her health, so I chose not to physically visit her. I think I also knew in my heart she was dying, although she felt much better before she passed. Through her last words to my brother and a woman she adopted as a daughter, she shared that she was at peace with herself and that she knew the things inside of her that contributed to the reasons why we argued, but the only thing she wanted was me to be with her. Myself What I now see and understand is- I did not see the love my mother knew we had for each other. I see she learned to love herself and that gave her peace before she went onto Heaven. It’s only been six months since my mother left us, I’m sure I will gain more insight and more freedom and more healing as I continue to travel the road of this grieving process. What I know now... “My mother taught me to love myself, honor my choices and that everyone shows their love in a different way. She showed me to trust myself and listen to my heart. When


my heart speaks, do what it says. What is most important, she taught me love is around all of us.” In Loving Memory of Mary Brown My Mother


Sirens & Sexuality By: Case Erickson, Houston Texas It wasn’t until my wife and I moved to a little Virginia town about an hour outside of Washington, DC that we found out the town still had an alarm siren. Yes, a siren. As in, call people out of the bed because no one has phones siren (this was 2010 by the way). Apparently any time anyone calls 911, day or night, it goes off to summon the volunteers. Never in a million years would I have thought that one day that siren would be for me. It was the night of my 34th birthday. Our son had just turned four, and our daughter was a little over four months old. I had been married for over 12 years, and in addition to moving to a new town and having two children within the previous five years, we also started, owned and operated three restaurants. Oh, and I was a closeted homosexual. But first, the siren. I’m in the restaurant business so I know that food and beverages equate to treating yourself, so my obvious birthday plan was to include my signature cocktail (which was a departure from my normal nightly bottle of wine).


We had expanded from one to three restaurants extremely quickly, and simultaneously the economy screeched to a halt. What started off as an amazing deal turned into a “WTF is going on here?” business. My anxiety was through the roof, so I had started treatment with Prozac, which does not pair well with alcohol according to the label. I had never had any issue with taking it and drinking wine, but the birthday cocktails were composed of tequila. Oh, and then came the marijuana. After just a few drinks and a couple of drags from my cousin’s stash of weed, the chaos began. As I stumbled back toward my home from the guest house where my cousin was staying, all of a sudden I couldn’t stand, and I was overwhelmed with nausea. I collapsed on the breezeway that connected the two structures, and began vomiting violently. I grew more incoherent. Able to hear 100% of what was going on, but completely incapable of muttering anything useful. I was absolutely powerless. My wife decided to call 911 because I would not stop throwing up, nor could I respond to her with more than just a moan. As I lay there prostrate on the front porch, I heard the siren. And the sound coursed through my veins. The sheer magnitude of the volume heightened my pulse as it vibrated through my entire body. Even though I couldn’t speak, my brain was racing.


Thoughts flashed through my head…“Oh my God, am I dying? Is this it? Is this all there is?” All those years I hated that siren, but now it was my friend, waking me up. Telling me to live. Giving me the gift of being scared to death. Once loaded into the ambulance, I began seizing uncontrollably; shaking violently as the paramedics held me down. And even as they bore down their weight on me, my awareness became light. My consciousness floated up out of my body. And let me tell you, there was no warm and welcoming fuzzy white light. I was scared shitless. I remember vividly thinking, “I cannot leave my children in this kind of financial ruin.” Even though I was suicidally depressed, I loved my kids more than I loved myself at the time, and I came back for them. After a short overnight stay in the hospital, I was home the next day, but I was not the same man I was when I was 33. We sold all three restaurants within six months, and six months later we moved across country to “start over,” in what was one last grandiose attempt to fix something that could never, and should never, be fixed: my sexuality. I was in Austin for about six months when I began the inquiry of being in integrity with who I was, and creating a life that worked for me. I began self-development work, and the question, “What am I creating?” moved to the forefront, as did the hopelessness of my closeted sexuality.


Through the work I was doing, I had an absolute crisis of faith. In another moment of wanting to give up — hopelessly only having a liter of vodka and a Costco sized bottle of Benadryl, I sought God for what I was prepared to make my last time. But it would be the first time finding what I feel to be True Love. For the first time ever I felt like “God” cared more about me than a “law,” and I felt like it was okay to be gay. Contrary to my Southern Baptist roots, I felt healed. But not healed from my “sinful” sexuality. Healed from my torture. Healed from slavery to an idea that I was worthy of self-hatred. And then I thought, “If it’s okay to be Gay, why the heck am I married to a woman?” And it was shortly after this realization that our marriage was dissolved. It took two near-death experiences, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and divorce for me to wipe the slate clean and realize the truth of who I was. Who we all are: perfect, whole, complete spiritual beings here to bring about the evolution of conscious and compassionate love on this planet.


Starting with loving ourselves. And for me it meant loving my sexuality. To move from resisting it to embracing it. To move from tolerating it to celebrating it. It didn’t happen overnight (please let me know if it ever does), and each day is a deeper dive into all that I am. It was messy. But our mess is our message. And my message is one of love. Sirens, sexuality, and all.


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BHA to AHA: Before Heart Attack to After Heart Attack By: Edie Weinstein, Pennsylvania, USA I refer to myself as an Opti-Mystic, which I define as one who sees the world through the eyes of possibility. That line came to me a few years ago while I was meditating. Like many inspirations, this once arrived un-bidden as a wake -up call to remind me that perspective matters a great deal. I think of the dichotomy of optimism and pessimism in this way: we can debate about whether the glass is half full or half empty, until the end of eternity, when the truth is, the glass is ALL full. Even if the liquid in it reaches the midway point, the other portion is filled with air. I suppose I have always been an ALL-FULL kind of person…except when I’m not. I have my moments when I am faced with fear and dragged down by doubt. I have this mantra that plays ceaselessly in my head at times, “If you’re all that and a bag of chips, then how come you aren’t as successful as you want to be? Why hasn’t Oprah called?” That critical voice gets even more personal when she sneers, “And by the way, if you’re so wonderful and loving, then how come you are still a solo act? How can you teach either of these things, if you don’t have everything all nicely sewn up in your own life? It’s then that I want to wrestle that inner critic who I have named Perfectionista, to the ground and pin her to the mat, until she surrenders. She glares at me over her pince nez glasses on the end her nose and snarkily says, “You should know better (regardless of the topic); after all, you’re a therapist


and have a Master’s degree,” and on and on she goes until I want to put my fingers in my ears, except that she is in my head. Good thing I am therapist and know the difference between her voice and what is called ‘responding to internal stimuli.” I can laugh at this now, but there was a time when I took it far too seriously. That was BHA (Before Heart Attack). On June 12, 2014, my life changed immeasurably. I was on my way home from the gym when it felt as if a large and unyielding hand gripped my jaw and wouldn’t release it. An electric jolt shot through it and sweat poured from every pore. Searing heart burn pain cut across my back and chest and palpitations skipped away with me. I strongly suspected, but must have been in denial about the cardiac event that was unfolding, since I drove to my house instead of the hospital. When I arrived, I called to cancel with a client and had the thought, “I’m sweaty. I need to take a shower,” followed closely by a clamoring mental alarm, “What the hell are you doing, woman? Get to the hospital!” In a moment of insanity that I can only attribute to oxygen deprivation, I drove myself to the ER. In retrospect, I realized that I could have crashed the Jeep or seriously injured myself or someone else. I must have had a team of angels looking over me, since I arrived intact. I stumbled through the sliding doors and informed the woman behind the desk, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” Instantly, I was placed in a wheel chair and whisked to the cardiac cath lab. The nurse, who clearly had a sense of humor, informed me that she was only going to shave me on one side, in case the tube into which


a stent was to be inserted, needed to go through the groin. Grimacing at the thought, I asked, “Could you do a landing strip?” She laughed and told me that I was on my own for that when I got home. I was relieved, since it indicated that I would indeed be returning. Blessedly, it was easily placed in my right wrist. I had promised a nurse in the wee hours of the morning when she woke me up to be sure I was still alive and take vital signs, that when I recovered, I would educate women in particular about the ways they can prevent what happened to me from happening to them and those they love. I kept my word and rested first before allowing my raging workaholic to begin spreading the word in anything but a casual way initially. Literally, I had to catch my breath. For the first few weeks following the cardiac event, it was all I could do to walk more than a few steps at a time without feeling winded. It was like meandering through a labyrinth. When I attended cardiac rehab, I would talk while on the bicycle, treadmill and elliptical and the therapists would encourage me to refrain. I told them, "You don't understand. I'm a professional speaker who needs to be able to walk and talk at the same time. This is part of my therapy." They got it. Within a month or so, I had mastered that art and regained my ability. I had what I called my AHA (After Heart Attack) moments during which I realized that the woman I was died that day to give birth to the one I am now. She had to die. She was killing me. I also refer to the


transformation as taking me from Wonder Woman to the Bionic Woman. I had long practiced ‘savior behavior,’ since I took care of nearly everyone, at my own expense. I needed to throw off the cuffs and cape. I refer to the stent that keeps what was a fully occluded artery propped up, as my bionic body part. My second cardiaversary occurred on June 12, 2016. My cardiologist told me that I was a poster child for recovery and he didn’t need to see me for a year. I volleyed back that I decided I wasn’t going to let the heart attack go to waste. I have continued to spread the word about heart health that goes beyond the pumping muscle that keeps us all alive. Yes, a healthy diet, exercise program, medications, taking naps and reducing stress were all factors in my healing. Something even bigger was the internal, psycho-spiritual process that I continue to move through. It had much to do with saying no when I would have felt obligated to say yes to requests made of me. It was about honoring my own heart as I did those of others; being increasingly self-loving. It brought me huge revelations about what was and was not healthy for me in terms of my relationships. I grieved losses, including those of my parents. My dad died in 2008 and my mom in 2010. I had suppressed the ‘normal human emotions,’ in the service of keepin’ on keepin ’on. I was the social worker who consulted with hospice, the minister who officiated at both of their services and my mom’s Power of Attorney and Executor of her estate. Somehow in that mix, the bereaved daughter got lost. She was silently sobbing for attention and I shuttled her aside. These days, I let her


have her say when she needs to and comfort her compassionately as I would anyone else in need. I gave myself permission to be genuine as I peeled off the layers of pseudo-protection. I stretched beyond predetermined comfort zones and am far more daring in my approach to life. I let tears flow that once I held back, attempting to be strong and immovable. These days, I move. These days I sob. Tears are cleansing. These days, I risk feeling discomfort. These days I realize that I don't want to miss a thing. So I don't. I dyed my hair purple. I danced on stage with Chubby Checker and sang “You may be right. I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.” with a Billy Joel cover band.” I traveled more in the past two years then I had in the previous 20, visiting California, Arizona, Las Vegas, Jamaica and the Bahamas. I tell people how I feel about them, since I know we are on loan to each other. Facing death will have that effect. Each day, I face life and embrace it wholeheartedly.


Stories of Courageous Vulnerability is committed to helping the following two non-profit organizations:

In USA The Covenant House Covenant House Headquarters 461 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10001 1-800-388-3888 The Covenant House is a non-profit organization that provides for the homeless youth. They have 22 houses through the USA, Canada and Latin America.

In INDIA VP Youth Trust, INDIA Vp Youth Headquarters
A-106 Ramdev Park, Chandavarkar Road
Borivali-West, Mumbai-4000 092, India VP Youth Trust is a non profit organization founded by Dineshh Shah. VP Youth Trust contributes where and when there is a need with volunteers serving the community for any natural disaster and any other need the community may have. VP Youth trust is also associated with Indian Red Cross, Animal Welfare, Hospitals in India and so much more. International phone number +91 96999 24604 (Email:


Looking to help others but don’t know which non-profit is for you? The next few of our authors favorites: Judi Romaine’s Charity Page: The Hunger Project (THP) is a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. In Africa, South Asia and Latin America, THP seeks to end hunger and poverty by empowering people to lead lives of self-reliance, meet their own basic needs and build better futures for their children. 1-212-251-9100 5 Union Square West 7th Floor
For children to go to school in devastated HAITI, I love what this Landmark Forum Graduate Max- Robert Vital is doing to save his people through KLEDEV. The founder of the organization fund- raising capacity here in the States is Clay Kilgore a TMLP grad. http://www .kledev .org/HOME/


Organizations Katherine Filer LOVES! THE-NATIONAL-STUTTERING ASSOCIATION -is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope and empowerment to children and adults who stutter, their families, and professionals through support, education, advocacy, and research. (800) WeStutter FRIENDS -is a national organization created to provide a network of love and support for children and teenagers who stutter, their families, and the professionals who work with them. Please feel free to contact me at with any questions or comments that you may have!


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Our Author: Gail Davis ListenGive Initiative What is the ListenGive Initiative? Listen Give is Global Storytelling Media, Social Impact and Innovation Incubator Initiative. Listen Give creates global collaborations, stories that inspire and projects that impact the world and provide solutions for humanity. Listen Give’s vision illustrates the connection between creativity and giving back to society. Our main website shares the work we do, ListenGive.Org; while our media website, ListenGive.Com, features written profiles of creative and business professionals; and our online radio show, Listen Give Live,, provides live interviews. The ListenGive Initiative offers its readers an opportunity to look at ways they can give back to society, while being inspired by others living their dreams. The ListenGive Initiative embarked on its first project, “Never Alone Campaign”, in July, 2012. As part of the project, the ListenGive music team produced a musical composition that will be released globally in September, 2016 with Artists from various parts of the world. A portion of the proceeds will benefit several non-profit organizations. ListenGive has partnered with Earth Guardians to support Climate Change; Youth Empowerment Seminar (a program connected with the International Association for Human Values and Art Of Living Foundation) to provide tools in meditation-yoga-breathing enabling students to advance their education and facilitate social well-being; East Rand School of the Arts in South Africa (provide tuition for students); the Public Education system where schools from around the world will be


selected to receive grants; GirlRising to ensure all girls have an education worldwide and others.. The Never Alone Project was created to send a message, “We Create By Working Together". The ListenGive Initiative was founded by Gail Davvis, Alice Liu, Darren Brown and Lloyd Ware, Jr. Our collaborative partners are Jay (Jaee) Logan, Award Winning Producer; Magaret Nagle, Screen Writer and Producer of The Good Lie Movie with Reese Witherspoon; Leora Edut (United States), Hitesh Monga (US/India), Andrew Morrison (United States), Jean Wernheim and Bill Zhang (Sweden/China) are amongst some of the Global members The ListenGive Initiative is also an external partner with the United Nations.. Gail Davvis (United States) Alice Liu (United States), Crosby Collective (United States), Audio Animals (United Kingdom), Phinees Robert (United States), Debbie Williams (United States) Nelson and Kathrin Ortiz (Germany/United States), Anais Ankri (France), Jenique Brown/Zariah Brown/Krishelle Brown (United States), Su Xin-Yuan (China) are amongst the music collaborators behind the “Never Alone Project”. Special thanks to Angad Bainz, Crosby Collective Recording Studio & Staff, Everett Staten, Nicole Condit Duncan, Elisa Camahort Page, Gordana and Gregor Biernat, Nicholas Pope, Deon Sutherland, Anthony Carter, Nathalie Carter, Gwendolyn Weeks, Emily Brown, The Poteat Family, Stephen Bond Garvan, Lena Hansen, Christine Berrios, The Berrios Family, K9dergarten and Marc Donmoy, H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory, Robert Alexander, Dr. Kate Stone and all parties who have supported us over the years.


“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown


Stories of Courageous Vulnerability was originally a Landmark Education Project. Credit for being the leaders in the creation… Expanded Consciousness LLC acknowledges the TEAM of incredible humans who all made this project possible: Ross Trotter Christina Marie Dineshh Shah Wendy Zalles Katherine Filer Anasuya Isaacs Judy Romaine To learn more about Landmark Education


Profile for Christina Marie

Stories of courageous vulnerability  

Stories of Courageous Vulnerability is a book where forty human beings (from all over the world) unite in sharing their courageously vulnera...

Stories of courageous vulnerability  

Stories of Courageous Vulnerability is a book where forty human beings (from all over the world) unite in sharing their courageously vulnera...


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