Define Who You Are

Who are you?

This is a very common question that in reality is not so easy to answer. Answering that question is much more than just saying your name. It is so much more than functional social labels you identify with. Titles or positions won’t be enough to answer this question. All your ID cards together can’t answer it either. So, how do you answer the question?

You are your personal factors: your cognitive, affective, physical, and spiritual factors. I call it C.A.P.S. You are what you think and how you think, what you feel, what your body brings, and the essence that brings it all to life. But that is not all. Your personal factors have been interacting with your environment from the time you were born, and some will agree that even before you were born. Your environment changed conditions and this adds to the complexity of the interactions with your C.A.P.S.

It certainly doesn’t stop there. The interaction between C.A.P.S. and the environment… your behavior. Your response to the environmental cues and how the environment responded to you shaped who you are. Behavior and environmental responses are observable in most cases and often the focus of change. However, if you look deeper, the way you behave is guided by the way you think.

If you try ‘behavior modification’ without changing the way you think, eventually, you will fall back into the behaviors you are more used to. If you change the way you think, your values and beliefs, and seek new empowering life, your behavior will change with it. As a consequence, you are going to be well prepared to influence your environment more than what the environment will influence you.

Define who you are.

Listen to that Voice

Democracy is a fine form of government. It ensures freedom to the people and reinforces accountability on government officials and their decisions. The voice of many is the voice that guides the decisions and direction of a country for the benefit of the people. The freedom of the people depends on it. Not so with the human heart.

Clearly, I am not referring to the biological or physical organ, but the essence of what being human is and the organ that guides the decisions in life. We live in a society where people live as if their lives were a democratic country. People listen to the voice of many to be, to become, to behave as someone or something dictated by others. People listen to the voice of fear, imposed to them by previous generations. The voice that speaks about the dangers of change and the risks associated with changing the status quo. The voice that did nothing to break the cycle of mediocrity and expect others to renounce success so no one feels less for being good at something. This voice asks be followed to nowhere. This voice fears everything. This voice fears death so deeply that it doesn’t live at all.

People listen to the voice that offers freedom through worry, anxiety, having, keeping, achieving, and climbing up to nothing as the chains of emptiness become heavier. People listen to the voice that offers connectedness through objects and virtual relationships and the illusion of relationships. That same voice that ignores those sitting around at arm length. This is the voice that claims acceptance and validation through the number of likes and followers. That same voice offers love, intimacy, security, safety, and other things it can’t give.

What voice are you listening to? Are you letting that voice vote and decide who you are? Are you letting that voice of many tell you what to do or how to live? Listening to that voice is letting our lives be controlled by others. Listening to the voice of many is giving away our freedom. There is no democracy in a heart where God is King. His voice brings freedom. His voice informs our path. In His kingdom you are a son and a daughter. That voice of many must be silenced. Live! Be free! Listen to the voice of the King!

Holistic is not an Esoteric or Mystical Perspective of Life

In preparation for the Health Benefits of the Creative Process capstone course for Physical Therapy that I have the privilege to teach this coming fall at Quinnipiac University, and as personal interest as well, I’ve been reading a lot about the connection of the cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human experience and how these are intertwined in a connection between the abstract and the concrete. My interest is to see how different academic fields approach the subject and how the theory is reflected in practice. There seems to be “an awakening” to develop a holistic view of people and the human experience. Holistic is not an esoteric or mystical perspective of life, but a concept of completeness based on the interaction of all its parts. This concept is something we explore in the other class I teach on Inquiry Based Learning. We try to see issues and concepts from different perspectives with the goal of seeing as many aspects of the subject as we can. We explore issues through the eyes of natural sciences, social sciences, art, and humanities because each one of these and their subcategories provide different answers and perceptions of the same subject.

Looking back through the history of learning and exploration of what it means to be human, we land in Ancient Greece where every part of the human experience was connected. Religion was a science, philosophy was an art, art was a religion, architecture was a scientific art based on religious views, and living was about exploring the known and the unknown and finding explanations for life. No wonder St. Paul the apostle praised their devotion and passion when he visited Athens (Book of Acts in the Bible). It was commendable how they poured themselves into connecting the world we don’t see with the one we see in a complete and coherent experience.

Natural sciences, art, social sciences, and humanities are now trying to revisit this holistic vision, especially when it comes to health, well being, and quality of life. These are all interesting and abstract concepts that may mean different things for each individual based on their experiences, beliefs, understanding, hopes, goals, and life circumstances. That is what makes it so vast and interesting, since we all can agree that each person will develop a unique perspective of life because each one of us is unique and different. However, this same unique and different experience was somehow designed for us to live in community and relationships allowing us to make sense of life, and to grow, to have empathy and compassion, and to show love for one another.

I am looking forward to a very interesting semester this fall and guide a new generation of students to find answers through questioning and exploration, and to promote critical thinking which leads to the kind of creative thinking that can change their lives and the lives of those surrounding them. The kind of thinking that is not about accumulating information, but understanding it and transforming every aspect of life covering human experience from multiple perspectives and seeing people in their completeness. I am looking forward to see students conceive ideas that motivate them to pursue their careers as much more than a job, but as a life mission.

Just Gets Better

August 1, 1998 seems like yesterday. I was woken up abruptly by my father-in-law to get the final details ready for the reception and to get ready for the wedding. On this day, a two and a half-year wait to be finally married to the woman of my dreams was coming to an end. All this time we waited to be deeply intimate and start a new life as husband and wife. Yes, we waited! We followed the original order: we became friends, we fell in love, we dated without having sex, we married, we began a life together, we had kids and we are raising two beautiful, smart, and talented teenagers who love God and people, and we are still together. It just gets better.

We are not perfect. At least, I am not. We have a nice list of flaws and shortcomings for God to work on us. From the two of us, I need more work for my issues. She is just amazing! A few things here and there that need some tweaking, but she is coming along. We are still learning and still moving forward towards the goal. I will not change this life for nothing or no one. It is a gift from God. From my perspective (and I might be a little bias about it) it is the best life you could ever wish for.

If you are still single, or even if you are married and want some insight, allow me to provide some unwanted and unsolicited advice. Each phase of life has a purpose and a reward, and there is time for everything. If you follow God’s order things will go much better than if you don’t. Check the statistics. A relationship is not about you or the other person; it is about both. Trust God in everything, forgive each other, yield, serve, talk, never go to bed angry with each other, never attack the person that will hold when everyone else is gone, and cut the umbilical cord. Yes, your spouse is more important than your parents. Stop being a baby and keep your parents out of it. They can’t be manipulating or making decisions that belong to you two. Same with kids! Love them, but love your spouse more. Keep the order.

When it comes to money, be wise. Never argue about money. It belongs to both of you, as everything else should. Stay out of debt (we learned the hard way). If you have issues in how to use money, seek help and again, be wise. There is no need to waste money on vanity. If you can’t look good in a $3 t-shirt, you are not as cute as you think you are, and no money will change that. Organize your priorities and if you are not giving, do so. The math of heaven is better than ours and God won’t mind the challenge on that. Be generous with your time and your resources.

It is important for both to understand and share a vision for life. Don’t date someone because you are desperate (in more ways than one), or because you are afraid to be alone in the future. If you are not complete by yourself, someone else won’t complete you. Avoid unnecessary pain. When I asked my wife to start dating, when we were still friends, I asked: “Would you marry me?” She was confused because we were not dating at the time, and replied: “Aren’t you suppose to ask me to date first?” My response was unusual: “If you won’t marry me, why would you date me?”

Happy Anniversary, Ivelisse!!!! I love you!!! Here until death do us part!!! It is just gets better!!!


Touch and Connectedness

Back in November 2014 I wrote Connecting Back to Yourselfwhich describes briefly the relationship of touch and connectedness through clay sculpting. I mentioned how touch, specifically physical, can build or destroy a person. I also mentioned how touch is related, in many cultures and spiritual practices, to healing. Jesus healed many people through touch, and Thomas had to touch Jesus after the resurrection because seeing was not enough to believe. People connect through touch by handshakes, hugs, a hand on the shoulder, a friendly push, horseplay, contact sports, dancing, prayer, bumping into each other… you name it. Humans long for contact, but humans broken by touch also run away from it.

DancerI’ve seen people freaking out if they come into physical contact with another human. Their brokenness is so noticeable. Many don’t trust any kind of touch because of bad experiences that brought an unhealed wound to their lives. It is not until a genuine touch of love comes into their lives that their walls begin to fall. A kind, pure, and empathetic hug can do a lot for a person. A handshake can change a person’s perspective about themselves. Nevertheless, as I mentioned many times before, sculpting can bring down some of those walls too.

Understand this: body, mind, spirit, and emotions are so closely intertwined that each one affects the other. That emotional hurt that came through a physical hurt, also hurts the spirit and the mind. It is very challenging to separate and isolate each one of these factors and pretend one doesn’t affect the other. Sadness, for example, which is an abstract concept, can’t be measured in itself but through its manifestation in the physical realm. Many people who are physically hurt because of an accident or other circumstances will transfer the pain to their minds, spirit, and emotions as well. We can discuss many other examples of the interaction between mind, body, spirit, and emotions.

I’ve had experience a different kind of touch and connectedness through listening and having empathy for others. I experienced touch and connectedness, without knowing the person, through their art and creative expression, through their words, through their passions and life interests, and sometimes through their eyes. I had to recognize all the walls I built to isolate from people in order to recognize my own hurt, and my own freedom. Things are very different when your heart and intentions are pure, and your spirit is connected to your body, as your mind is alert of your surroundings and your inner workings, and as your emotions are directed by love and God’s Spirit.

I kid you not when I tell you that no matter how many people is pushing you around or if you are in the midst of a crowd, just like Jesus, you can experience touch and connectedness with specific people, even if their touch is not physical. You too can be a source for healing others through it. The freedom Jesus gives will shine on you and transcend physical barriers to provide a healing touch for people. In a culture where touching people is almost completely unacceptable, touch people with your smile, with your eyes, with your kindness, with empathy and compassion, with a friendly ear… with your life.

AbasedIf you are the one who needs that touch and connectedness, give yourself a chance to open up… Hey! Baby steps! Hug a teddy bear, go outside and touch the flowers and the plants – get   a picture of poison ivy and know how to identify it because you don’t want to touch those. Grab a book and let  the words touch you. Watch a movie that makes you cry, and don’t apologize for crying. Laugh out loud! Get a piece of clay, dance, run to nowhere for no reason whatsoever (like Forest Gump), extend your arms and feel the wind… live! Moreover, allow God shower you with His grace. Let Him touch you and connect you back to Him and yourself.