Staring At The Inside

inspect

I  think I have an eye to see the beauty in people. I say this because I will often find myself staring at one particular detail of a person. I find people’s unique traits captivate me. It happens with strangers, old friends, and everyone in between. It’s never intentional, at least not at first.

It’s like I’m a magnet that gravitates to the smallest details of people. I do this with other things too; drawings, paintings, beautiful views, handwriting. But it’s people that fascinate me most.

I don’t’ want to sound creepy or vain, (at least I don’t think I am) I just find I get so caught up in appreciating the visual of what makes people special.

And as I study and scrutinize (we’re talking moments here, going for not creepy) I am driven to find out why I feel this way. What makes this person’s twist in their hair especially intriguing over the other twisted strands I’ve come across this week? I know it sounds crazy.

What I’ve come to understand so far, is I am getting the chance to peer into the very exposed nature of the actual person I’m encountering. They are very honestly and vulnerably sharing a unique truth about themselves. Something they probably do not notice or appreciate themselves, but I do. And I find it to be a privilege to know the uniqueness of a person, new or familiar.

People are that way. Captivating, complicated, unpredictable, and raw. It’s when we try to hide, try to cover that up, that we loose some of our allure.

And it got me to thinking, how could I go on to put into words a description of the beauty that’s within? We generally speak about how it is your inner beauty that counts. Firm believer here. But how would I actually describe it in a person? I would have to sit down and observe. So I did.

A few days ago we had one of our warmest afternoons since the close of winter. It was one of those days that gives you a literal high. Sunny, gentle breeze, about sixty degrees, and everyone in the city hustling about.

With so much happiness and energy in the air, I knew I had to sit and write. After picking up my son from preschool, he begged me to go to the playground. I had already decided that was exactly what we were going to do.

I thought at first to observe some of the parents, but we’re at the playground, and it’s the  children that steal the show. Not one child seemed out of place. They were all playing tag in an effortless performance. It was awesome.

So I studied, I questioned, I laughed, and I wrote. This is what I discovered about the beauty of the human soul in children. I found every detail rings true for us grown ups too.

1. In the midst of whatever we are engaged in, we need to be heard.

The desire is so strong that I would often hear a child repeat himself (scream if needed) two, three, fifteen times, just to be sure he was heard and understood. Once he was, he was perfectly content to pick up right where he left off.

This need never goes away. When we are sure we are heard, we feel secure. Our level of trust, respect, and appreciation for those around us grows. We then want to share all the more so.

2. Here’s a big one; we want to be in control. This one made me laugh. I mean, when do we ever grow out of wanting to control our surroundings?

We enjoy life, the game, as long as it goes on played under the terms we silently set out. We want a say, at least to some degree, and we want to feel safe. This gives us some hope that we can be successful, that we actually have a chance to win this thing. While power and control can get out of hand, I find it to be a great opportunity to grow.

For instance, we learn what we actually can and can not change. We learn how to treat others while we exercise this control. If we succeed, while understanding the power we have to work with, we also learn to stand up for what we believe in and let go what we must. Yes, I learned this all at the playground.

3. Next, I observed we need the right environment to thrive. We need to move about, explore, wander. We are creators, makers, and we need to room for that kind of magic. The playground is the perfect setting to see kid’s imaginations go wild and the joy that comes along with it. But imagine the opposite. Imagine a child expressing and sharing his potential say, at the bank. Don’t hold your breath. While we can’t live in a play zone all day every day, the right environment is essential if we are going to have the opportunities we need to live out our potential. I believe we are all capable of so much more if we would just weave into our lives a more creative setting.

While we can’t live in a play zone all day every day, the right environment is essential if we are going to have the opportunities we need to live out our potential. I believe we are all capable of so much more if we would just weave into our lives a more creative setting.

4. Finally, from the characteristics I saw at work, I saw none as obvious as love.

I saw love as the prime energy driving these kids at play. True, each child had very individual needs and desires, but to me it was obvious love was at the root of their actions. The way the kids looked at each other with such high esteem, so much hope, they believed more in each other than they did in themselves.

It was natural, too. When I got to thinking, I realized love was and is the only sustainable motivation we can draw from to reach our potential.

I also learned that if we pay close attention, love is being manifested all day long and in so many ways. Yet, we miss is somehow. I didn’t think I would be sitting in front of a group of kids one afternoon, thinking how sad I don’t notice this more often. Seeing the beauty in our kids and in each other is a gift and hopefully we start seeing it in ourselves more, too. The gift is always there, we just need to take notice.

Really, love is where our potential is reached and our lives are lived out of satisfaction and passion. We are capable of giving the world so much more. We are capable of sharing our best gift; our true selves. When you do, believe me, people will do more than notice, they will study the beauty you uniquely hold.

 

 

Slavery Hiding In Plain Sight

You might be surprised to find that one of the world’s most horrific atrocities against humanity is happening right under your nose. I am not going to exaggerate or try to sensationalize the subject, but wish to speak plainly on a very realistic and heartbreaking situation today:

Modern-day slavery.

The Department of Homeland Security gives this definition: “Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.”

Let’s just call it what it is: the buying and selling of people.

Forms of trafficking occur in various ways, from forced prostitution and pornography to servitude in places such as factories, local businesses, huge corporations, and agricultural settings.

From infants to the elderly, rich and poor, no single race or background is excluded. Anyone can become a victim.

Human trafficking is quickly becoming the number one most lucrative crime in the world (second only to drug trafficking) and it’s no wonder why. It is incredibly lucrative while the “merchandise” in circulation is reusable and low cost to maintain. (It sickens me to describe a human being in this way.)

Additionally, those dealing and in control put themselves at low risk with authorities since they do not necessarily need to be at the scene where the actual crimes are taking place. It’s terrible to say, but the reality is for the most twisted criminals, this avenue of business is a no-brainer. Even more terrible, if left unchecked modern-day slavery will only continue to thrive.

While we may be tempted to believe shocking evils like this are taking place “other places” (third world countries or lands overseas) let me just say it is a fact human trafficking happens abundantly in our own country, right here in the United States. Not only is forced labor thriving in our country, but in your own backyard. This is important to visualize. From large cities to the smallest rural towns and everywhere in between you can bet there are slaves right under your nose.

It has been found that around 80% of trafficked victims are sold into sexual exploitation and the other 20% involve labor exploitation. Due to the dark nature of this crime, we do not know exactly how many people are being trafficked in the United States (or the world for that matter).

Some statistics to give you a small overview are:

  • The Untied Nations report that human trafficking generates about $32 billion dollars a year and $9.5 billion dollars, just in the U.S. Alone.
  • The U.S. Justice Department states that over 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted, the average age of which is 14-14 years old.
  • The average life expectancy after entering forced servitude is 7 years.
  • In the United states around 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into our land each year.
  • Globally, there are approximately 20 to 30 million help captive to human trafficking and the average cost of a slave is just $90 dollars.

While statistics like these are tragic, they are but numbers, representing the actual lives of real and hurting people. It is so important that we put a face on these people if we are going to feel a realistic wake-up call to what is going on. These are our mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. These are our fellow neighbors who have lost their ability to speak for themselves. And without someone to stand up in their defense, the cycle of slavery continues.

You see, these predators depend on our ignorance in order to continue. Predators right here in our own neighborhoods. ( Our country is one of the richest contributors to the supply and demand.) As long as we think this is a foreign problem or that these people somehow chose this destiny for themselves, it could become easy to forget about the matter.

What I hope to share with you is not just the devastating facts but reveal that becoming part of the solution is in our hands! And taking very practical steps on behalf of other’s freedom is not as complicated and you might think.

The obvious starting point is education and awareness. Being able to understand the who, what, where, when, and why people are being bought and sold.

Take some time to read articles about how human trafficking works, how life is for the millions in slavery, and what is being done all over the world to combat the crime.

Knowledge is power. Again these criminals depend on our ignorance to continue in business.

Understanding the demand and how we can unintentionally enable or encourage the supply is huge. Knowing these criminal organizations operate gives us an enormous advantage. Ultimately we can discover how every individual has a place in ending slavery once and for all.

It seems very overwhelming, I know. The situation is global and out of control. But there are already powerful forces at work that are making their mark on ending this crime. Organizations all over the world are attacking the issue from all sides: Awareness, prevention, victim rescue, criminal prosecution, law enforcement and legislation, victim recovery, and ending demand.

There are so many opportunities to fight modern-day slavery, but it is a lot to take in at first. I would recommend starting here for with some great resources:

  • The Polaris Project http://www.polarisproject.org/
  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Centerhttp://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/
  • The Department Of Homeland Security (Human trafficking sub-page)http://www.dhs.gov/topic/human-trafficking
  • The Blue Heart Campaign (United Nations)http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/

A few organizations I personally follow are:

  • The A21 Campaignhttp://www.a21.org/
  • Love 146https://love146.org/
  • Traffic Free http://www.traffickfree.org/

The next simple step can be to share what you have learned with people we know, our family, friends, coworkers, etc.

We need to be inspired to help the violated, the defeated. Our passion could mean life and freedom for someone else.

I think it is amazing that you are here reading this article. I purposely wrote very briefly on the subject, simply because I wanted to take the first step- that to inform.

I plan on writing much more in the future, and hopefully from my firsthand experience as continue my journey to fight slavery in the 21st century. Thank you very much for taking the time to learn a little and please feel free to ask or comment on the topic below!

Thank you very much for taking the time to learn a little and please feel free to ask or comment on the topic below!

(Here is a link some inspirational quotes I personally love on the subject:

http://www.destinyrescue.org/aus/blog/27-human-trafficking-quotes-inspire-friends)

Passion To Be Free

loosed

One great reason fueling my passion for writing is personal freedom.

A truly free person is capable of living out their life to its full potential. Honestly speaking, you can never fully live out your calling unless you are perfectly free to do so.

Slavery manifests in different ways.

Mental captivity

This type of captivity binds and controls by imposing limitations on our ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. A person begins to loose the ability to choose for themselves and end up incapable of making even the most simple of decisions. (I personally know quite a bit about this kind of abuse and plan to write here more on my experience.)

Physical captivity

We can easily recognize often define slavery in this way. There is an obvious outward force to confine and control a person. The victim is usually bound by literal chains, confined to a specific place, and forced to work or serve however their captor wishes.

Emotional captivity

Emotional captivity binds us to something or someone external. Perhaps an unhealthy relationship or a painful past experience makes it difficult to move forward. Sadly, their whole identity can become defined in this other person or event.

I personally also believe there exists spiritual captivity, that can be most dangerous and even take on the role of all the previous mentioned kinds of entrapment together.

The important thing to understand here is in any of these cases a person would need to be be freed first before living out their inborn right to grow in authenticity.

For some this will mean they will need a literal rescue. (Modern day slavery weighs heavy on my heart and I will talk about it soon!)

For the majority of us though, this will mean a hard and honest look at our lives to determine if we have fallen victim to any loss of freedom. We all, in fact, have small areas of our lives where we find this to be true.

To what degree am I able to act on my dreams? Who or what is limiting my creative development? We might be surprised sometimes to find the only one holding us back is looking right back at us in the mirror.

I happened to grow up in an environment that greatly controlled who I was and the choices I could make. From a very young age, it was determined for me the friends I chose, to the education I received, and to what extent I could be part of the very community I lived in. I had very few options. At least I was lead to believe so.

I grew to become only a shadow of who I felt I was deep inside. I constantly felt deeply confused, frustrated, and disturbed as I got older and could not for the life of me figure out why. I thought my experience had been normal, but knew something was missing. I couldn’t figure out what for the longest time. I only knew I was miserable.

What I didn’t understand is I had been denying myself every single day. I had in effect been saying, “no” to each and every dream so long ago planted in my soul.(Sounds cheesy, but true!) My true self was buried deep under the lies I had been taught and lived for so many years.

At one point in my life things changed and a combination of certain events and distancing myself from the people I grew up with gave me a rare opportunity. The opportunity to radically change in a healthy way.

It was a fairly slow process, but looking back it’s amazing how everything unfolded in such a way I was able to challenge the way I was living. It was amazing. It was also an incredibly difficult and excruciatingly painful process.

At one point, I remember going into shock. I could not believe my whole life I had been living a dictated life, and much of it a lie. At times I was furious that anybody could steal so much of my life from me. Other times I just sat numb, unable to feel anything at all. This went on for months. But one day I remember waking up and looking out my window feeling hope. Hope that this was just the beginning and all the suffering and sacrifice would not be in vain.

This is a short, abbreviated account of my story into personal freedom. Sometime I want to find the courage to share in detail my experience. For now, I just want to express this:

It is essential to guard and maintain your right to live free. It is a gift and our right as human beings.

There are millions on earth today that have this very gift stolen from them. Some are born into slavery, others, on dark day forced into it. I believe it is our responsibility as free people to fight for the rights of those less fortunate. I believe it is our responsibility to fight for ourselves just as importantly.

What an incredible privilege to live out life freely! It’s probably easier to understand why I am so passionate about authentic living. I have experienced bondage. My heart yearns for every individual live fully alive. And to live intentionally, with gratitude as they walk their unique and amazing road. It is a gift to share the journey of a life lived true and well.

I want to share all I have learned as a resource to help you and others live this way. Which freedoms do you personally hold most sacred? How do these help you grow day to day? What are some freedoms you’d like to explore more?

For many however, freedom is not a choice. Join me soon as I talk about modern day slavery and what is being done to combat it. This is a huge part of my passion-driven life and I can’t wait to share.

The Work Of Dreaming

What if just one of your dreams could come true right now? What if it were that simple. You dream it. It happens. Bam, you’re there.

The way I see it, we don’t spend nearly enough time dreaming. If by chance we happen to allow ourselves to visit this dusty part of our mind, it’s more likely we’ll find ourselves cutting that moment off too short. We get jolted back to reality, or somehow find ourselves feeling somewhat uncomfortable or even silly.

We think dreams are a lovely idea, but not very useful in a practical in a  world such as ours. Worse case scenario, we declare our dreams impossible.

But why is that so? What if we viewed our greatest desires as extremely practical?

I would like to lay this down right here and now:

Dreams are practical.

There is more to it though. All dreams, as we know, are backed by hundreds of tiny little efforts. Looking back we can account for these efforts all accumulating into the finished reality.

This leaves us with the cruel reality- we can’t simply dream away our lives and not do the work.

Our dreams demand this of us. There is a bit of dedicated labor you know you need to be doing and you need to do it every day. This might be the rough draft

So this is my little bit of wisdom to you today-

Do the work. Commit to your dreams every day. Make the effort to create something,

Make the effort to create something, anything even when you are unsure what to do or what the results will be. Get something started especially if you’re tired, grumpy, bored, or distracted. These are great moments for breakthroughs. Just forcing your hands to take the next step can unlock unsuspected moments of creativity, creativity that often leads to magic.

I also want to add, don’t worry too much about how much you get done or how uncool whatever you worked turned out to be. Take courage and pride in knowing that the worst decision you could have made was kicked to the curb- that of simply doing nothing.

Herein lies the beauty the process. Our dreams are being weaved into all the small threads of our story. Every small action you take to move towards your goal is an essential part of the picture. Nothing you do is in vain.

We hardly ever remember the mundane activities that led us to the day we get to say, “Hey. I’m living my dream.”

That day is coming. It’s coming if, and only if we show up and assign the glory in the everyday labor.

Believe me. Just keep at it. Dream every day, and then go do the work. Then go dream again.

An Exercise In Small Steps

Since I feel deeply called to focusing our eyes on resonates with our souls most it is no surprise that I love to talk about self growth. We all have these crazy visions of what our ideal life looks like, and those dirty life habits we want to crush. Getting the big picture clear in our minds is without a doubt a vital piece of the puzzle in our journeys. It’s so important to dream big and let our hearts fly unbridled by our culture’s assumptions of what we “should do” or “should be”. We all have instilled in our hearts and minds that we were created for more, yet we settle for trying to be “good enough” for our world’s standards. (tear).

What has  made a difference in my life lately is learning to tune into the process related to my goal. Goals are so important. They show us what burns in our hearts, and also give the skeleton and framework for our work ahead.  And after we find that frame, it all becomes about the process, the hard work to come.

But more importantly, what about enjoying the time spent here, in the process?  How much are you enjoying the little steps needed to make our dreams a reality? To make the most of wherever we are in our path, whatever season we find ourselves right now, there has to be a way to make the most of it. Life is offering us something right now that will not look the same tomorrow. The key is to find beauty and joy with what sits in our hands right now. No matter how unimportant it seems.

Now, I’m not saying this is going to help you with every goal you make. (It could.) But I find it really helps in chasing the things that matter most. Because then you can instantly give yourself that passion shot that brings back that awesome feeling. What drives us in the first place.

So I have this blog I started and, of course, I have a purpose that drives me in keeping it; My greatest desire comes from living authentically, both in my private places and out in this incredible world. As I discover the joys of becoming more “me”, and experiencing the adventures that this will take me on, I like to think I have something real to share with others. More importantly, I know I have more to gain from the ones that their journey with me.

This morning I was journaling  and I came to the realization that I could break this purpose into a few smaller avenues. More specific ways I can help others. They turned out to be these here:

-my personal character growth

-the way I treat and interact others

-my writing

-the way I observe others inspiring me, how the world and people around me impact my life

What I have given myself is a more intentional way of looking at everything I do and how it impacts my blog.  I can be mindful of what I want out of this experience and where I can look for inspiration.

This is a very simple example of how breaking goals or desires down can add some clarity to what we do each day. I recommend writing down your greatest desires down and trying to break down what they mean in smaller categories. Then you can break those items down even smaller and see how every small choice or action you take has greater meaning.

For me it is very important to give small, mundane tasks importance and honor. It reminds me why I am doing what I’m doing. It gets me excited. It makes me want to push forward when the small become just another item to check off. (I’m obsessed with making lists by the way, but not necessarily doing what is on them…oh boy.) I will confess to you right now. Get ready. I struggle with finding purpose when working towards my goals. Ugh, OK, I’ve said it. I have a really, really hard time reaching big goals simply because I forget to believe in myself. I constantly fall back into the old habits of, “Oh, it won’t matter much if I just skip that step this time…”

Well we all know what happens next. This time always turns into every time and pretty soon we forget why we made these goals in the first place. On the other hand, giving purpose and meaning to the little things you do, does make a difference. It maps out how this step relates and falls into the bigger plan you have just formulated. You can literally draw or write out the breakdown of what it takes to reach your goal. Then when the next time comes that you don’t feel like doing the work, you glance over at the map and bam! You have your feet back on track. You know where you’re heading. And it feels good.

We have to have both parts of the picture in focus to find joy in our journeys. The big picture where the passion comes from, and the little, finely tuned steps that carry us there.

 

 

Sudden Sunshine

After what seems like weeks of non-stop overcast, stormy weather, I finally walked out of my house this morning to see a vast and intense blue sky. Can I just shout out a “Hallelujah!”?

It’s amazing how simple color in the sky makes my soul come alive. Any break in the monotony is a welcomed thing. I am often surprised how much I needed that refreshment until after it comes.

I wouldn’t say that I was depressed before, but I literally needed to be jolted back to life. This got me to thinking that maybe this is something I need to be conscious of. That perhaps I should be more responsible for killing off the dreary days?

If instead of waiting for someone or something to cheer us up, what if we prepared ahead by designating moments inspiration? What if a little bit of excitement was what we counted on?

I decided to make a short list of about ten or so activities I could do when I’m feeling low on energy or uninspired.

I’m calling it my “wake up list”. The idea is exactly like I mentioned, to do something for a few minutes that guarantee to energize me.

Here is a look at my list:

1. Read a few pages from whatever awesome fiction I’m reading.

2. Listen to a killer song (probably 311, my fave.)

3. Doodle a whole page.

4. Call a goofy friend of mine.

5. Google images of rock climbing or surfing.

6. Browse my Amazon wish list.

7. Play a joke on my husband.

8. Have a push-up contest. (Yes, I think this is fun so there.)

9. Look at pictures of my son.

10. Write a bit in my journal.

The list works because when you’re unmotivated it can be difficult to decide what to do next. When you have a list ready, you just glance at that list and pick what feels most interesting there in that moment.  You gift yourself  a sort of friendly slap in the face to inspire you once again.

The idea is when you find yourself feeling uninspired or lacking motivation you can choose to do something guaranteed to make you feel better. When you feel better, chances are your outlook and motivation will change as well, possibly getting you back on track with the day’s tasks. That would be a pretty great outcome.

My desire each day is to make for myself as many possibilities to live out of what makes me come alive. To find solutions to the passion killers that so subtly creep into my life.

There are always going to be gray days. There will be boredom and idleness, drowsy days I just want to curl up at watch a movie. Knowing that, I’d like to think I can outsmart at least some of those moments and make the best out of what can be. Put a little sunshine back in my day because I made the choice to do so.