the crisis of mass school shootings for moms.

note: this article first appeared on www.chaimommas.com

A decade and half ago, I graduated high school 2 months after the Columbine High School mass shooting. I remember being in my small suburban New York town and feeling unsure of how to handle the emotions of knowing students like me had witnessed such a horrific act. I remember the debates that followed and flooded the dinner tables of homes around me. “It had to be because of video games.” “The music is to blame.” But eventually, those debates ceased and while in the background, new issues and hot news topics surfaced for many of us Americans who were for the most part unaffected.

There were other mass shootings after that too. In other schools, at salons, grocery stores, movie theaters. But the year my first child was born, 28 people died in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I pushed my daughter into a world where, as the recent years have proven, the USA became the mass shooting capital of the world.

I once donated to Sandy Hook Promise and now I get the emails for their cause. I see photos of their children from the parents who lost their babies and who started the organization. I remember reading, Mark Bowden, a co-founder and father of victim Daniel Bowden, stating that he “wants to invest every fiber of his being to prevent this from happening again.”

I felt his pain. I would want to do the same as he and those dedicated parents keep doing…

The thing is, it did happen again. and again. and again.

In the 5 short years my daughter has been breathing in this world and during which my son was born, there have been 11 fatal school shootings across the nation. From Nevada to Colorado to Oregon to Washington to California to Kentucky and now Florida last week, I can’t keep up. This does not include schools where fatalities were not present, but shootings occurred. This does not include the churches, theaters, ceremonies and acts of violence I have become accustomed to hearing about. I’m not sure why our society has come to this. But it has and here we are.

Someone once told me that it feels surreal…the idea of young children going to school and not coming home to their families.

I imagine my daughter and her friends, my friends’ children, my nieces, my nephews. Today I watched her smile and run to her classroom door. “I love you.” and the door closed.

It is surreal. It is wrong. It is scary. It is confusing.

This just doesn’t feel right.

So, as moms, what do we do?

With all the differences in opinions and reasons and ideas…what do we do?

As mothers, we may come from many backgrounds, political views, cultural ideas and beliefs.

But we are mothers. That is a unifying force that no other human in the world can ever understand, what it means to be…a mother. To have birthed and nurtured these souls of light we call our children.

So along with all of these prayers we offer our fellow mothers, let’s do more than thoughts and prayers. I’m linking 5 ways you can take action in this list:

  1. Support mothers who want gun reform. Something is obviously not working here if our children are at risk for dying in their schools. Whatever you political stance is, these are moms demanding action. Remember MADD and how they legally changed what it means to drive drunk? The crisis now is guns in our schools. These moms need our help.
  2. Support the teachers who do not want guns in their schools. These are the people who are taking our kids into hiding when guns are brought into their schools to attack them. These are the people we trust everyday with our little ones and we must help them. And giving them guns they do not know how to use or that can add to violence within the school is not the way. 
  3. Support the children who are marching for change. On March 14th 2018, students like my 16 year old niece, as well as teachers, school administrators, parents and allies will take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. These kids are tired of being part of a mass shooting generation.
  4. Find ways to incorporate meditation as a mandatory subject in school to foster inner tools in our kids. As a yoga and meditation teacher I am biased to this. But just consider what it means. Children are given, as a unified student body but still individually, the ability to reflect on their own actions, silence their mind from the media, pressure and anything else that fuels any negative thinking. It has nothing to do with religion or even a belief system. Programs like Mindful Schools let you incorporate mindfulness into your school to teach kids K-12 on how to manage emotion, handle stress and resolve conflict. As the Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”  Here’s a Forbes article on ways meditation in schools is a good thing, backed by science.
  5. Make kindness a “thing” between peers: Movements like The Great Kindness Challenge is not only free for schools of any age, but shown to eliminate bullying which has often been linked to the stress and added mental illness of our youth and hence them resorting to guns and violence.

You may not agree with some of these or maybe any of these ways to support that I’ve mentioned, but that’s fine. Find your own way. Do something, anything, because when mothers come together we can move mountains (reminds me of this story I recently read and love). We can protect our kids who are in fact vulnerable and unprotected right now.

As vessels of love, we can change cries to laughter and worry and fear to love.

There are many people out there who simply want to see what happens. Who don’t think they will be affected. Who feel that things will work out, be alright. Maybe they are right. But in the end, when it comes to my babies lives, maybe is not enough. Enough is enough.

 

family prayer for home.

puja-shah copyrighted

When men raise their daughters with honor, patience and affection rather than restrictive controlling made to oppress her true essence, she will become a leader, strong and confidant. When she respects herself, men will respect her.

When men raise their sons with loving guidance rather than physical and verbal bullying, he will be a leader, strong and confidant. When he learns to respect the women around him, everyone will respect him.

When women nurture their children from belly to body, heart beat to heart love, cord to breast, breath to smile, their children feel roots in their world, powerful and courageous.

When men treat their wives with gratitude, respect and compassion, and caress their beauty then their women open their vessels of unconditional love and strengthen their family in divine power, bringing in ever flowing abundance.

When wives treat their husbands with gratitude, respect and compassion, honor their protection, their men shine with pride.

When children witness this union, they feel secure and grow well.

Businesses flourish, homes thrive as a unit, health is vibrant and leaders emerge.

Abandon the actions encountered and dogmatic beliefs held and engrained by previous generations and ancestors who accepted interpretations of truth. Nurture the inner and divine equality of love. True yin and yang. Both are needed, both are important, both are alone powerful, but need each other to create the purity of what makes up consciousness.

Do not worry what this looks like.

Do not worry what seems right or how things were done before. Do not worry about the things that should be. Do not worry about rules in rituals that came far after the golden time of unspoken understanding. That was an old home of ego.

Learn.

This is our new home. Our rules. Our essence.

Home is the current place of hearts.

When things get blurry…

Focus.

These inner gifts we individually have.

Follow and trust the voice of heart.

Praise your partner. Praise your children.

Lift your partner, lift your children.

Raise your head to the sun when patterns of the conditioning surface. When ego blares or unconscious flashes seep in.

Cold words and shoulders are not welcome in this home where warmth meets eyes and fingertips.

Even in the hardest of moments…

Melt away any doubt, fear and awaken to this presence.

To do it at other way goes against the grain of innate wisdom. Of the natural elemental energy we are one with.

This is our dharma as partners. As parents. As souls in this realm.

This is the home that Buddha can say is oneness.

This is the home that Vishnu’s serpent brings treasures to reside in.

This is the home that Lakshmi chooses to light.

This our chosen home.

collective rise.

SRF

 

It’s election day. Only a few hours from the results.

Some people feel that we don’t have any good candidates. I may agree that one candidate is not worthy

But I do not agree that she will win only because of her male opponent’s downfall, because, as usual, the stereotype that a woman wins when the man is not strong.

I am not saying that I agree 100 per cent with all that Hillary has put out there.

But when I study her as a candidate, she is a woman that can handle sh*#.

I’m not saying the millennial who wrote that viral article about Hillary Clinton is not right. There were some seriously valid points there.

But when I voted for Obama I heard some arguments.

When I voted in my first election for Al Gore, I heard some more.

Am I a democrat? No, I’m a woman who believes in having rights and choices.

I voted today not because I don’t have any good choices and for the mere sake of it. I had a good choice that I chose to vote for…because I believe it’s time a strong and qualified female took the office.

I voted because I have the right to vote and even with my friends who say “voting doesn’t matter”… I voted because I can.

Because it was more than a presidential election, but one that had me reflect on props (aka issues that matter in the place I call home).

You know less than 100 years ago, women could not vote.

Heck…I had one on one conversations with my grandparents who lived through a time where their country was taken over (British rule over India) and they could not vote. In their own damn country. (Shashi Tharoor had my attention in a recent article I read)

Can you imagine, America?

As Thanksgiving approaches we should be grateful for this ability to vote, to buy land, to have rights over our own bodies and children and so much more.

Talk to someone who lives in a tyranny. In a dictatorship.

And with the hate that this election ignited, it’s scary to think we could head there.

Hate is not what we should focus on.

We need to shift on coming together.

Especially if things don’t play out how we want. We all want something different.

Whoever wins, we as the people that live and breathe freedom should stay banded so that as a the collective, we can rise.

And so if you vote, protest, call, write to legislation…whatever you do, do what you believe with conviction.

Don’t sit back and expect the world to fall into place and run the way you want. Don’t sit back and complain without changing divisions to equations of peace through action…your action.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

That’s what this poem calls for.

 

a moment to pause.

 poem for anniversary

A poem dedicated to my love on our anniversary.

A moment to pause…

page in my pregnancy diary.

 

Everything felt heavy for a minute

Felt like weeks

In the days that the rain had come down hard in words and thunder around me

And it had left a residue of gray clouds in my mind as I pieced together what was left in this time

Time is moving fast

Yet my body is heavier and slower in these last few weeks of carrying life

Soon he will emerge

And enter this world

Anxiety of perfectionism patterns set in

The nesting crept up on me

As our home reeked havoc

with 3 year old footsteps

Everything in storage…

We are half in and half out

The heaviness

So I started to fall off my balance beam

As a kid I remember gymnastics and standing on the beam finding a focus and breathing

Like my yoga mat now a days

And it came back to me

As light breaking through that dark

The reminder

Of presence

As I hold belly with awe

And balance

As I kiss my daughter with heart

And nurture

As I hug myself with self care

And feel love

In that light

Shifting my focus

From needs

To gratitudes

Doesn’t mean I don’t need

What I voiced

Simplicity of touch

In my vulnerability

But I found what matters

And a new focus gives me space

To breathe

Into my own feminine power

Smile

At the beauty of my little girl wearing sunglasses in the sand

And be one

With the life I am blessed to carry

As I protect him from negative

Remind myself of my wholeness

I am love.

why trump and jenner are not worth my words.

strong woman

Lately all I see in American news is what seems like a Kylie Jenner obsession or the Donald Trump show.

I actually, to be honest, had no clue what the whole Kylie Jenner saga was when at lunch with friends who seemed to know the details of her latest life story. I said I would Google what they were talking about later, but never did so I won’t even get into it here.
Then there’s Trump running for president, who is hard to avoid with his racist imitation of Chinese business men, his anger against a respected South American reporter, his comments on immigration that sent France and Germany to call him America’s worst nightmare.
Internationally, he confirms the narrow minded stereotype of Americans. I read a meme recently, “if you like that Donald Trump speaks his mind, you simply are saying I’m a racist.”
And I just can’t believe him and this Kylie are still parading our news when the Egyptian government has killed and imprisoned innocent journalists. Not to mention the war torn country of Syria who far deserves words in mainstream media over them.
The people who are caught up in American current events may not have even heard of or know very little of what’s happening in Syria. Mainly because of what shadows their daily newsfeed and front pages of newspapers. Syria is hardly one of those topics.
So wait for it, it’s news that may not entertain you but trust me, is truly worth reporting on.
The violence in Syria began in March 2011 to now. The middle eastern country has been crippled by a brutal civil war.

Since then, the United Nations estimates more than 200,000 people have died in the clashes between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel forces who want him out.

At this point 9 million people have fled their homes in Syria, and over half of those refugees are children.

In 2011, when I read (in an international, NOT U.S., article)  that 15 school children had been arrested and reportedly tortured – for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall, I wanted to protest with those mothers.

The protests were peaceful demands asking to release the kids.

The government responded angrily, and the army opened fire on protesters, killing four people.

The following day, they shot at mourners at the victims’ funerals, killing another person.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Last year in 2014, ISIS entered eastern Syria to gain power and land.

You know ISIS, the crazy fundamentalist group that has destroyed countless ancient world treasures.  And since their invasion, destruction has become normalcy in Syria.

ISIS reportedly placed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) around the 2,000 year old ancient ruins of Palmyra, in Syria, after capturing the adjacent city of Tadmur.

In the city of Aleppo, 60% of the Old City, a Unesco World Heritage site, was destroyed in the fighting.

People are forced to leave their homes.

It is the largest refugee movement in recent history. And the violence doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.

Listen I’m not a reporter but at the humanitarian level, this is crazy. It is now the world’s biggest internal displacement crisis, with more than nine  million people forced from their homes but remaining in the country.

And then there is the boy. Now this, I saw in my newsfeed. 

syrian boy

This boy, Aylan Kurdi is 3 years old, the same age as my daughter. His body washed ashore on a Turkish beach recently, as him and his family filed for and tried to seek refuge with relatives in Canada.
So, as you continue to watch the Trump show, remember we don’t need a “smart business man” running our country whose main offering is knowing how to “play the game” at being an ambassador of the world who would eventually aid in decisions that affect countries like Syria.
This is not a game of Monopoly Mr. Trump. We need someone who values a relationship with money, with all humans, with education, with morality, with our changing world and its complexities that affect people like Aylan and the the millions of Syrian refugee children, our own nation’s colorful families and yes, even Kylie Jenner.
References:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22798391
http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/16979186
http://www.wsj.com/articles/image-of-syrian-boy-washed-up-on-beach-hits-hard-1441282847

 

a meditation poem.

my inner lotus

I wrote this during my first yoga teacher training. I had come home from a strenuous day of asana, but felt open, heart centered, raw. So I meditated and the words danced in my mind. I picked up my journal after opening my eyes and this is what I found…

AUM. 

If you would like to learn more on how you can find bliss and creativity in your daily life, try this simple FREE 9 day meditation challenge I created for Project Yourself here: http://new.projectyourself.com/13280.html. It begins this Friday, May 22nd. 

je suis.

i-am-520074_640

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve been here and between work, being a mommy and life, I missed my spoken word expression.

A few months ago, my Facebook newsfeed was covered with “Je Suis Charlie” on the horrible shooting that took place at the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper building in Paris.

It hit me.

Not only because it was sad that lives were lost, and not because it was in Paris, (if you know me, you know I love Paris), but because it felt like…artistic expression was attacked. And that hurt.

I had written this poem after that, and as more news popped up relating to how I felt. The ISIS destructions, Boko Haram and it’s unthinkable doings.

Alongside the Charlie massacre of 12 innocent lives lost on Jan. 7th, there was a Nigerian massacre which took place the same day, where hundreds of bodies, too many to count according to the news, proclaimed it to be the biggest massacre of Boko Haram yet.

So many innocent people are hurt and suffer.

What I loved about the Je Suis Charlie movement was that there is a clear message to the ones who are hurting this world’s people.

Regardless of the threat of hatred or violence, journalists and non-journalists alike refused to be silenced.

This poem may shock some people.

I am not a war expert or have not spent time working in the UN, for the government or on ground with military personnel.

However I have travelled and volunteered, I have met people of all races and religions and I know some things about peace from an inner place I find that really works well.

Here’s what we need to do if we want to stop it all. Excuse my language, but to f@ck Boko Haram from it’s power. The ISIS and all the terrorists.

It’s simple but there’s a whole lot of, what the New York in me calls, shootzpa, to get through.

We need to stop the sensitivity issue.

We need to prevent future massacres by allowing American and progressive Muslims to speak out forcefully against their radical coreligionists—and the media must cover it. Charlie must draw it. Poets like me must voice it.

A verse from my prose:

…”This is not a war on terrorism
It is a war on all our people
By the trapped minded terrorists
And if we can start
Telling truths
About the control of institutionalized religion
Vs freedom and power of inner consciousness…”

Check it out:

 

year of my avocado tree.

DSC_0381

Photo taken in Napa Valley, California: 2008 with my Nikon SLR

HAPPY NEW YEAR. 2015 will be a good one…

It takes 8 years for an avocado tree to grow and bear fruit,

I live in our countries’ avocado haven…

So I know.

How much care

Goes into one tree

of life.

8 years ago was his first

coma

so we planted

seeds of hope

let our love shine and

watered it with prayer

but things still turned yellow…

remember that bamboo plant?

that nani revived

sang it from yellow stalks

to sprouting green leaves,

yellow sclera eyes

to now

my father’s sparkle.

her Sanskrit shlokas

filling walls

that were crumbling

with each episode

of pain,

as my mother glued

them back

piece by piece

as she always did.

the fruits are growing

and we are breathing

life force into weak limbs

breathing

fresh air again

to surprised hearts

breathing out

instead of holding in

we are breathing

this delicious blessing,

these fruits have never tasted so good,

mother earth

your miraculous ways

have

my hands

at

my

heart,

this year will be a good year

for our avocado tree.

a thank you note to the universe.

the universe

Photo taken in Buenos Aires, Argentina with my Nikon SLR: March 2011

 

Dear Universe,

It’s me again. With all this talk about gratitude from Thanksgiving last week, I thought it would be appropriate to send you a little thank you note, too.

A few months ago, we spoke about my father. I had reached out to you to return the sparkle to daddy’s eyes.

Since then, I’ve talked to you often in my meditations, and like you always do, you told me to just let it all be.

What’s meant will happen.

So, in true mindful fashion, I let go.

I didn’t worry every time I hung up the phone with daddy of what tomorrow would hold, (or at least, I didn’t worry most of the time).

Even when he had that horrible fever, no wifi to FaceTime or see each other, I waited.

He was India, this was the new step, miles and miles away, I trusted.

I trusted you. I trusted daddy’s gut feeling on being there. I trusted myself to be able send positive vibration.

And then without a word, you graciously answered me.

In the most surprising, joyous, amazing way.

His transplant. His surgery.

“Is this really happening?”

I cried, smiling.

I couldn’t believe, on that day of gratitude, what you had sent us. My mother, siblings, husband, aunts, uncles, cousins, all of our many friends and even my little toddler daughter… in prayer mudra.

Oh thank you, as an understatement, thank you universe for your generosity, for the learning, and ultimately, for daddy’s sparkle. It’s coming back, I feel it.