I wonder what if…

I wonder what if everybody got 100% in every subject?

I wonder what if schools evolved into open, natural learning communities?

I wonder what if assessments were self-reflections instead of tests?

I wonder what if we would all start being kinder, more loving, and more compassionate to all beings including ourselves?

I wonder what if everybody got unschooled?

I wonder what if education really could be the key to peace and enlightenment on the planet?

I wonder what would happen if everybody could live their dream, pursue their passion and live a fascinated life?

I wonder what if everybody served and benefited everybody else just a little bit more?

I wonder what if we uproot the whole system and plant a whole bunch of new seeds?

I wonder what if schoolhouses became meditation centers, yoga studios, writing retreats, libraries of wisdom?

I wonder what it would be like if anyone could walk into any classroom at any time and start learning about anything they want in any way they want (whether alone or with a partner or in a group)?

I wonder what if there’s actually no such thing as Special Education, and in fact all education is (and should be) Special.

I wonder what if, acting mindfully together as a global society with this whole new paradigm of education, we actually can change the world for the better?

(What are you wondering, I wonder?)

Transmormon: Radical Self-Acceptance Embodied in 15 Minutes {Stunning Documentary}

“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance.

If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness.”

~ Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Sometimes, I hate myself.

Sometimes, I hate my husband. Sometimes, I hate my daughter. Sometimes, I hate my mother. Or, perhaps better said—sometimes I get so frustrated/irritated/angry/upset and judgmental with myself and/or others that a strong feeling of aversion, disgust, dislike or even “hate” arises in my mind.

I am in my mid-thirties, a yogini, a teacher, a supposedly mindful meditator, a peacemaker… And yet this despicable phenomenon still occurs.

It happens less and less, the more mindful and aware and compassionate I am, but it still happens.

This self-denigrating cycle is more frequent and vicious for adolescents and teens.

Especially those in oppressed minority groups. Because when we are are young and inexperienced, we don’t realize that things will change, that we can love ourselves—our minds and hearts and bodies—just as we are in this moment. That we are already, always, enough. That “it gets better.”

Eri Hayward was born as a Japanese-American boy named Eddie and raised in a conservative Mormon community in Utah, attending the Church of Latter-Day Saints and a Mormon private school. From a young age, he knew he wanted to be a girl. Or, perhaps better stated, she knew she was really meant to be a woman.

Because of her family’s chosen religion and lifestyle, Eri was sheltered from the existence of homosexuality throughout childhood and unaware that she is actually transgender until reaching young adulthood. Documentary filmmaker Torben Bernhard met Eri and her family and filmed this footage and these candid interviews with her and her parents a few days before she traveled to Thailand for sexual reassignment surgery.

Watch, enjoy and be moved.

20140807-052859.jpg

Top 5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years in Guatemala

20140804-221341.jpg

{Read the full version here.}

1. I am sensitive and resilient.

In my three long years in Guate (a.k.a. Guatemala City), I was never robbed at gunpoint, as many of my friends were, but I was lied to, judged, cheated, rear-ended, side-swiped, overruled, manipulated, hated, loved, used, ignored and more. I experienced homesickness, loneliness, anxiety, listlessness, confusion, rejection, grief and frustration. And yet, no matter what, I kept sitting, kept stretching, kept breathing, kept going.

2. We are all running and seeking.

I had the duty and privilege of working with some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest people in the capital city. I was surrounded by a large and lively community of fellow foreigners and teachers. Although at times I struggled to find compassion for our rich, often “spoiled” student body, through my experience as a high school academic counselor of sorts, I saw that the rich kids suffer, too. Many had bodyguards, mansions and helicopters but no nurturing from their parents, no compassion, no self-love.

I experienced the first Noble Truth of the dharma firsthand in a deeper way than ever before. Everybody—the rich and the poor and the middle class—is running away from suffering and pursuing happiness. Though our circumstances vary widely, we all experience pain and bliss, attachment and aversion. We all want to be happy.

3. It’s cool to be alone and single.

It wasn’t cool, in my mind, to be single in Austin in my twenties, watching with envy as my friends and acquaintances coupled off, married and started families. I was always striving for true love, lacking meaningful romance and settling for what I could get.

For my first year Guatemala, I had no exes, no friends-with-benefits, no personal history whatsoever. I basked in solitude. I got to do whatever, whenever I wanted, aside from going to work at a country-club of a school every weekday from 7:30 to 3:00 sharp. I read for pleasure, wrote professionally, practiced solo yoga and meditated more than ever before. It was nothing short of brilliant.

4. A broken heart can be transformational—if we let it be.

A few months into my life abroad, I came home for Christmas and had my heart broken twice—by a guy I’d convinced myself I loved and belonged with, and by one of my best girlfriends who ejected me from her life. Those experiences were painful and not transformational at the time. I felt angry, wronged, judged, stupid, dejected.

A year and a half into my time in Guatemala, my sweet dog, Lucy, my constant companion for nine years, died suddenly from a tragic, accidental fall from my friends’ penthouse apartment. My heart was shocked open, broken, devastated. Yet even from the first night without her, I could feel Lucy’s loyalty and love permeating my being. Even now, if I focus on it, I still can.

5. The right doors will swing open at the right time; it is our choice which to walk through.

My third year in Guate was a struggle. I wanted out. I was dreaming of a life at the lake yet too scared and financially unstable to take the plunge. I stayed and struggled every damn day, attempting to teach unruly 8th graders who denounced mindfulness, stressing over when and where to make my next big move.

Then, within the span of a few months, I met the man who became my life partner, got pregnant with my precious daughter, moved from the city to the magical Lake Atitlan and started a new job at a splendid little place called Life School.

I discovered that time trumps money and a high quality of life is way more important than having a big salary and health insurance. For me, that means being surrounded by nature and like-minded souls. It means trusting in the natural unfolding of life. It means having faith in change, embracing the unknown, loving the diversity and oneness of my own self and all beings, simultaneously.

Gracias, Guatemala! Te quiero mucho. (Translation: I love you very much.)

How to Stop Judging Ourselves & Others.

20140803-072051.jpg

{Read the fancy, full version on elephant}

Working to let go of beng judgmental is a lifelong practice—one that can start right now in this moment.

Become aware of your judgmental tendencies.

Recall that we are all ultimately the same.

To paraphrase a gem of Sikh wisdom: all souls shine with the light of God. When feeling superior or inferior to someone, which is the foundation of judgment, it is essential to remember that each of us is actually just a little piece of the universe walking around expressing itself. We are all interconnected and therefore judging ourselves and/or others is both useless and unnecessary.

Let go of pride.

Judgmental people have a sense of superiority and an inflated ego, whether conscious or subconscious. Pride is a fence that keeps us separated and isolated from each other. When you notice excessive pride arising within, swallow it, take a deep breath and let it go.

One surefire way to put this into practice is yoga asana. Challenge yourself with a difficult pose, and see how the mind goes wild with judgment. Notice and release. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

“If you keep your mind humble, pride will vanish like morning mist.” ~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Cultivate compassion.

Whether we know about the difficulties of a person’s life or not, everyone has experienced adversity. Recalling this truth and cultivating compassion for people helps temper even our most outrageous bouts of judgmental thinking.

Be generous—give metta.

Metta, or loving kindness, is the act of sending good wishes for health, happiness, safety, ease and freedom to all beings without exception, including ourselves. It is a powerful meditation technique that can transform the practitioner, if not the recipient. Take a few minutes per day to practice metta.

“I notice that when I’m generous, accepting, and loving toward myself, all that’s reflected out into the world. The more I cut myself slack, the more I don’t judge myself for being other than I am, the more I’m aware of who I am, see it, honor it and respect it, the more I do all those things for others.” ~ Jeff Bridges

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

~ Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh

As always, this list is merely composed of my humble opinions, and it’s just a beginning. What other advice can you share for letting go of pettiness and judgment?