#86: Educate for Peace and Justice


This past weekend, I presented at the Educating for Peace and Justice conference at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. My workshop was entitled ‘Doing Good Better through Effective Altruism’, and provided attendees with an introduction to Effective Altruism, through a guided experience in reflecting on the impact that psychological biases may have on their intentions to do good in the world.

Note that in order to set the stage for effectively learning about effective altruism, I started with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. I feel it’s important to establish an intrinsic sense of motivation and purpose before learning something new, so the participants– mainly teacher’s college students–were able to link the presentation framework with their own ‘Why’. Once establishing our ‘Why’, we delved into 4 types of biases (in-group bias, scope-bias, deficit ideology and belief perseverance) and discussed the ways in which these biases influence our personal and professional decision-making. Finally, participants were introduced to the criterion/framework for helping choose effective causes (scope, tractability and neglectedness). It was a pleasure facilitating this workshop for a group of incredible educators.

Here are my slides. akila-epj-presentation-2017


#85: Know your Why

CC licensed image by Flickr user Art Poskanzer

Thanks to Simon Sinek’s awesome TED talk, I’ve recently realized that one of my perceived weaknesses could quite possibly be leveraged as one of my greatest strengths. Although my childhood memories are quite vague, I feel that I was that kid that pondered the larger ideas behind most things that I did. Going to India and seeing the poverty there first-hand, juxtaposed against the cultures of excess that existed back home in North America, I wondered why such illogical discrepancies in the world existed. It was from this that I connected to a goal and vision for social justice, equity and peace. It was hard for me to take many things at face value, without connecting it to the ethics of global justice. As I grew into a teenager and young adult, I would question the norms and traditions people would follow and wonder why people did the things they did…and why I did the things I did. From there, I dove into studying psychology, education and child development…all with an ongoing pursuit of understanding the deeper ‘Why’ and the bigger picture. Throughout it all I would write my reflections in journals, using stream of consciousness writing, flow charts, acronyms and various webs of knowledge to help find links to my ‘Why’. Understanding, Connection and Equity became part of my core values. When teaching in the classroom, I would approach my pedagogy with a ‘big ideas’ approach and when my day-to-day classroom responsibilities of marking, lesson-planning and solving micro-level disputes amongst students, would start to feel detached from meaning, I would go back to my lens of ‘Why’ to help reignite a sense of direction in me. My meandering journey through this blog, my social justice explorations, my family life and the minutia of my everyday life are continually brought back to my larger vision–the Why of what I’m doing–in order for me to feel centred. That vision is universal PEACE–Peace within ourselves, peace on earth and peace for the universe. Universal peace where every sentient being and our environment, can flourish. 

However, my tendency to continually understand my ‘Why’ has felt like a longstanding weakness and hindrance at times. Connecting everything to my bigger picture and seeking a deeper…and then deeper meaning has felt overwhelming at times or too complex, which then interferes with my  action and implementation. I have certainly been guilty of analysis paralysis on many occasions. I am thus working on being more action oriented and taking actionable steps even when I don’t feel 100% confident about the connection to my ‘Why’ (I feel that 70% confidence or more would be good enough for me!). I think that action can help inform and mould my understanding of Why and fuel a greater sense of connectedness to my bigger vision, and vice versa.  I see action as the evidence that continually informs my Why and I’m going into 2017 with this mindset.

Simon Sinek really helped reinforce and validate the value in understanding my reason and vision behind my actions. His simple yet powerful idea of ‘Starting with Why’ demonstrates that when we first connect with why we are doing what we are doing, before moving on to the how and what of our product, service, idea or path, we can then harness a more authentic, intrinsic, and inspired drive to succeed, from ourselves and others. He depicts the Why–>How–>What framework in what he calls the Golden Circle.

I think it’s a wonderful practice to go back and re-evaluate your Golden Circle on a regular basis. The New Year is a good time to do this. Here is my latest update on my Why-What-How for this blog:


Universal peace, where every sentient being and the environment, can flourish. 


By integrating my skills in Psychology, Education, the Arts, Critical thinking and Equity


The 1000waystohelptheworld blog: A collection of authentic reflections and informative articles, written to Proliferate more Effective Altruism, Compassion and Empowerment. 

I will be updating this on my about page as my journey evolves. I’d love to hear your comments on your Golden Circle. Why do you do what you do, How are you doing it, and What is the outcome?

#84: Redefine and refocus your body image

How a new perspective on body image can empower you from the inside out!

(This post is mostly for women…and men who truly want to be change makers)!

This quote-graphic is from the site beauty redefined.org

 My body image then and now

My body image and perception of my physical appearance changed after having my children. Stretch marks, weight gain, under-eye circles, a baby bump (or tummy pooch), and ligament pain in my ankle are remnants from two consecutive pregnancies, childbirth and postpartum child-rearing. Before having children, I used to have a small, thin and athletic frame (I did competitive gymnastics and dancing for about 15 years).  I felt confident with my figure, my facial features and my appearance in general.  (Don’t get me wrong, I was not always accepting of myself–I dealt with acne for a long time–and like most women, I have certainly fixated on different aspects of my physical appearance over the course of my tween, teen, young adult and adult years, but I  was generally happy with how I looked.) The irony is that I thought I had a good body image back then, but I realize now that my perception was misguided. Although it’s a work in progress, my body image is better now, than it was before. As I’ve been reflecting on what all of this means and reading some great articles on the Beauty Redefined site, I’ve learned some incredible, paradigm-shifting lessons.

Before I get into what I’ve learned, please reflect on these 4 questions as honestly as possible:

1. What does body image mean to you?

2. What do you first notice, think about and/or comment on when you see another woman,  a girlfriend, or a little girl, in person or on social media (i.e., an Instagram or Facebook photo)?

3. What thoughts and perceptions (subtle or obvious) occur to you when you notice other women on billboards, magazines, music videos, movies (real-life and animated), or pictures (i.e, selfies) posted on social media?

4. How often and in what ways do you think about your physical appearance on a daily basis (think about all the subtle ways that such thoughts may pop up and pass through in the background of your thought processes as you go about your day)?

Another great graphic quote made and provided by beauty redefined.org. Check out their site!

A culture steeped in the external

In reflecting on these questions I admittedly think about physical appearances, whether overly or subtly, regularly throughout my day. My cognitive space is continually processing thoughts (often fleetingly, in the background of my day-to-day operations) on my physical appearance and that of others. We likely have thousands, if not more, thoughts that pass through us throughout a day and we are barely aware of most of them. When I metacognitively introspect, I notice that some passing thoughts about appearances/looks that pass through my head in a typical day may sound something like: “Cute shoes!”, “Hmmm, not sure about this outfit on me…”, “She looks great!”, “My skin looks clear/patchy/tired this morning”, “My hair looks good today”, and the list goes on.  Now there is nothing wrong with these thoughts in and of themselves, but I see a problem when I think about their pervasiveness and how they reflect a culture and a way of thinking and living in our society that prioritizes the external, and more importantly, the other more productive thoughts that I could be having instead. I could be spending my time being more present or thinking more about inner growth, equity, social justice and more!

The real definition of body image

I’ve come to understand that a positive body image is not actually about focusing on our physical body (which includes our facial features, hair, etc.). It’s not about the way we perceive the attractiveness of our physical self or even the degree to which we accept our appearance (although accepting one’s appearance is a good thing!), but the way we value our physical body as a vehicle to live a flourishing life. A positive body image is one that prioritizes the body as a mechanism for health and well-being over an object of beauty. However, our global culture and in particular the media, does not prioritize this.

The common adage ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ is at the core of a positive body image, but the reality is that our society does not promote this. Profit-driven motives have created a culture that centres around the physical appearance of women. Billboards, magazines, music videos, movies, weight loss industries, beauty products and more, showcase airbrushed and physically idealized women as the standard and are seen at every glance, in (likely) every major city around the world. For example, check out this post I wrote on shadism in India. The physical appearance of a woman takes centre stage, and her internal attributes follow like leftovers. These externally-focused messages influence our thinking as they seep into our psyche little by little, every single day of our being. Our global culture is so steeped, obsessed and fixated on women as objects of physical beauty and sexuality to the point where it has become so pervasive and deeply entrenched into our everyday living, thinking and being. Physical appearances have become so ingrained in us that we now normalize it as a ‘natural’ part of our identity, something that is hard not to notice, and something that we may not even notice ourselves, and think is part of us and thus have no control over. However, I think the way we behave around the topic of #looks, is a social construct that can often be fun and expressive, but is more often perpetuating misguided views of women, low self-esteem and taking away from true inner self-worth. As a result, women are by default equated and subsequently judged, then valued as symbols of physical beauty, to the detriment of genuine, authentic valuation of women as dynamic, productive human beings and to the profit of the media and beauty industries

After having both of my kids, my ankle has been unstable and in pain, which has been a blessing in disguise in some ways, because it has created an intrinsic shift in my focus to valuing my body as a key instrument in doing all the things I hope to do–go on hikes with my family, jump, play with my kids on the playground, dance, leap, twirl, run, and more!  As a mother, my body has nurtured, grown and given birth to two human beings, and I feel that this is an incredible gift and feat!  My postpartum goals are not centred around looking a certain way but about being as healthy as possible so that I can live, feel, be, and do the things I want to do. That’s not to say that I don’t want to put any thought or emphasis on my appearance (and I do enjoy dressing up and looking presentable), but thanks to my new awareness, I’m working on not letting appearances be the default thoughts that occur first. As the Beauty Redefined site says, our bodies are instruments not ornaments. I love Angela Liddon’s idea of being a ‘size healthy’, and as I discussed in this pervious post on ‘wearing lipstick’, there are certainly some merits to feeling empowered through beauty. Like all of my goals to live better, it’s a fine balance that is not a black and white issue, and is a continual work in progress.

Noticing your thought patterns and changing how you communicate and act

Many people may argue that despite talking and focusing on one’s or other’s physical appearances, they still ultimately value physical health most. I get that and I feel the same way, but I also think that knowing something rationally is very different than actually living by it.  I am completely guilty of falling into the trap of immediately noticing and commenting on physical appearances. The moment I see a little girl, I am eager to squeal at how cute she is and say that I like what she is wearing. When I see my girlfriends, I often notice their outfits first and often comment on it. Again, this way of being and thinking may seem harmless (and in and of itself, fashion and glamour can be really fun!), but I’m mindful that it is a small part of a bigger picture of how normal and reflexive it has become to emphasize the external first. Why not clear up my brain space and approach that little girl with a dialogue that gives her the opportunity to share something about her interests and intellect (something that people do much more often with men than women)? What happens to one’s sense of identity when their physical appearance is commented on, compared and portrayed by others and media day in and day out and grossly more often than their intellect, kindness or even health? What we think and communicate and what we don’t communicate or emphasize sends a message, that penetrates deeply into young people during their formative years. I am still constantly training my brain to switch away from the immediate urge to notice, perceive and comment on (whether out loud or internally) external features and instead re-focus my thoughts on more meaningful aspects of a person. Imagine a global culture where ‘women as intelligent human beings’ and ‘the body as an incredible tool’ were the identities that dominated.

I would really appreciate hearing your comments on this topic. What are your answers to the four questions I listed at the beginning of this post? What does body image mean to you? If you are a man reading this, I would be particularly interested in hearing your perspective and what you may have learned from this. Please chime in, in the comments section!

#83: Put down the phone


Put down the phone and be present. 🙂 

CC licensed image by Flickr user Jordi Puig

The creation of a new need

Last week, I shared this post on picking up the phone and making a more meaningful connection through phone calls. This week, I’m suggesting to put down the phone. I remember learning in business school that marketing is not about satisfying customer needs, but about creating customer needs. The Smartphone industry has created a need to be constantly accessible and a need to regularly fill quiet space with digital activity. This need has turned into a habit and a normative practice of constantly looking down to our screens to check our phone. But what does this really imply about the way we are living and being?

I am completely guilty at times, of interrupting a focused activity and impulsively checking my phone because I  have succumbed to the lure of the ‘ding!’ that chimes from an incoming text message. However, as someone who is trying to be better every single day, I prefer to be more intentional, effective, and mindful of how I use my phone.

The genius of Smartphones

I don’t think there is anything wrong with Smartphones in and of themselves; in fact, I think the contrary–they are remarkable devices that can be leveraged wonderfully to live more effectively and innovatively. The ability to access data instantly, use applications to improve our work flow and communicate globally from any location, is a testament to the genius of this technological era. However, I think the hyper-convenience of Smartphones has given rise to a new kind of challenge in living more mindfully and more present; with ourselves and with others. As I wrote in this previous post, the only moment we have is the present moment so how will you make the most of it?

When Smartphones are not used smartly, I think they can become a crutch for distracting us from what we don’t want to deal with (i.e., looking at one’s phone to avoid making eye contact with our neighbour; feeling insecure, whether consciously or not, about ‘missing out’; not wanting to be alone with our thoughts; etc…). It also facilitates a new kind of forum for individuals to live in isolation, thereby altering (or even reducing) the nature of traditional social exchanges (i.e., face-to-face discussions, meeting in groups, working in teams, etc…). When I envision two people sitting across from each other at a dinner table, each of whom is looking down at their phone (and they may actually continue to talk to one another while simultaneously looking down at their phones), I consider this not a ‘face-to-face’ interaction, but a ‘crown-to-crown’ interaction–that is, two people facing the crowns of their heads to each other and spending most of their meeting in this way. It’s somewhat comical, actually!

Being smart about Smartphones

Everyone’s circumstances and needs are different, but for my personal lifestyle, it is not imperative that I be accessible at all times (other than rare exceptions with my children), so these are 3 simple strategies for putting down the phone that I try and be mindful of and implement, within reason:

a) Being present during face-to-face interactions (i.e., having a meal with family or friends), by putting my phone away and out of sight (unless there are extenuating circumstances, or unless I am using it for note-taking). I also prefer turing my ringer off when I really don’t want to be distracted from meaningful activities (which includes working, doing a special activity with my family, or reading).

b) Checking my text messages intentionally, when I know I can pay attention and respond properly.

c) Checking my personal emails intentionally, once or twice a day at a time when I can answer immediately, as appropriate. I have found this to be extremely useful in being prompt, thorough and organized. By checking and responding to all my emails in one or two large chunks, I don’t have to keep thinking about getting back to someone, throughout the week. I also don’t have a data plan on my phone, which also helps me avoid checking my emails mindlessly throughout the day. I prefer to respond to emails using my computer instead of my phone.

These are very simple tips and there are an abundance of more ways to effectively put down our phones as well as incorporate them into our daily lives without forming negative habits or addictions. All that being said, I think we can make a conscious effort to live our best life, by using our devices in ways that enhance our core values and goals of who we want to be and how we want to live. What does that mean to you?

#82: Pick up the phone


The good old days 😉 CC licensed image by Flickr user John Richardson


There I am, standing in the kitchen at 8:30pm, thinking about my friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while. “I should call her”, I think. But I am tired after an exhausting day and I have many other things I want to do as well. The thought of picking up the phone to make a phone call seems a little over my effort threshold at the moment, so I pick up my phone while walking up the stairs to do my laundry, and I send a quick text : “Hey! How are you? Thinking of you!”. I put the phone down and continue on with my evening.

Although this scenario may seem harmless and is quite normal in today’s digital world, I admit that deep down, my lack of willingness to make that extra little bit of effort to pick up the phone and call my friend points to a level of avoidance in connecting on a more personal level. Hearing a person’s voice (when you cannot see them in person) is exponentially more personal than communicating via text message or email and certainly takes more time and effort. However, before cell phones and emails became so mainstream, phone calls were the norm and were not perceived as effortful; it was all we knew and as such, we would just pick up the phone and call someone if we wanted to convey a message to them. Now, the convenience of technology has created a relative perception of burden and effort. Born out of this digital age, a society of great efficiency and convenience has arisen, but so has a resulting side effect of a culture of avoidance, discomfort, resistance and in some cases, fear of actually making a more personal, meaningful connection with someone.

Close your eyes and imagine the voice of someone you know well: their unique sound, intonation, inflexion, and personality that comes through in the way they speak. The way they may happily exclaim, deeply sigh, softly say ‘mhmm’, the style of their laugh, or even the way they pause in thought. Think of the register of their voice, the ‘colour’ of their voice, the way their voice lends to their personality, and the way their voice makes you feel. So much of the way we respond when interacting with someone comes from our interpretation of the messages they are communicating, not through words, but through the tone of their voice and, when in person, their body language. I was talking to a girlfriend of mine on the phone the other week and she was telling me about a blissful new relationship she was in. As she was speaking, I told her that I could “hear her grinning from ear to ear through the phone” and she told me she was! What a beautiful moment of connection I was able to share with my friend.

I critically ask myself: when did using my device to communicate, excusably become an easy way out of connecting with someone more meaningfully through a good old fashion phone call? More importantly, do I value my relationship with a given friend, family member and myself enough, to step out of my comfort zone and my ‘too busy/too tired’ mentality in a particular moment, and put a little extra effort to pick up the phone and talk to them?

Now don’t get me wrong, I still use text messages and emails regularly and still more often than talking on the phone, and I certainly think that text messages and emails are extremely beneficial when used in the right contexts–to quickly convey specific information (i.e., meeting details, an address, informing someone you are running late etc…). However, when conveying more personal or open-ended sentiments such as ‘How are you?’ or even ‘Happy Birthday’, although digital communication can be used in such situations and still lets someone know you care (and I do genuinely care when I send personal messages through email or text), I think the depth of love, authenticity, empathy and connection that you can get out of those communications will be wonderfully richer if you can hear and experience such moments through a present interaction instead of reading words on a screen. Communication is not just words, it’s an entire experience of connection.

Below is a link to an episode from a podcast I love, called the Good Life Project by Jonathan Fields. This particular episode elaborates on the topic of technology and its impact on empathy, communication, connection and education.




#81: Splash proudly, splash humbly

No Indispensable Man.jpg
This is the second poem passed on to me by my grandmother and mother.

Last week I shared a poem that was passed on to me by my (late) grandmother and my mother. This week, I share another poem that my grandmother passed along (my apologies for not having a reference). While it may not change the world, I think the message is extremely important and difficult, especially considering the status-driven world we live in. Humility is such an admirable quality that I believe can make someone more effective in making a difference. When one is not so concerned about recognition, power, labels and status (and selfies!), one can more clearly see what needs to be done and act in a rational, authentic manner, keeping the best interests of the overall goal a priority. Leaders who have the ability to stay genuinely humble and deeply connected to the issues and people in need, have the capacity to make a measured difference in the world. Unfortunately, I think they are few and far between and often it is those who work behind the scenes and are unnoticed, who are actually the humble heroes and silent leaders, supporting the change taking place. However, I don’t think humility needs to be equated with being silent or only behind the scenes. In fact, I think that someone who can authentically communicate their good work and promote important messages with humility and without a personal agenda can truly empower, inspire and motivate those around them (a rare and incredible quality to possess!) Do you know any of these rare gems?

When I need to keep my ego in check and return to a place of humility, I find it helpful to remind myself of the sheer magnitude of this world we live in. There are over 7 billion people in the world; people of all different ages, incomes, genders, cultures, histories, skills, intellects and communities. People in all different corners of the world, of all walks of life, all waking up, going to bed and living their lives in different ways. People who possess different types of talents and abilities and who contribute to our global community in ways that we may never come to imagine: at this very moment, there may be a child genius sitting in his room inventing a new musical instrument; or there may be a wildlife researcher sitting atop a lonely snowy mountain waiting to catch a sighting of a rare species; or there may be a woman in a remote village hiking for hours and doing back-breaking work to provide water for her family; or an effective altruist who has just donated 50% of her income to deworm school children in India (something that has been shown to be one of the most effective initiatives to help children stay in school); or a recovering drug addict who is just trying to make it to the next day; or a group of children jumping through a fountain (and could care less about me, you, or what’s trending.) Who knows? I am humbled by these thoughts and have barely scratched the surface here. There are such a vast number of possibilities for human greatness beyond what our minds can conceive and there are so many people and things out there doing extraordinary things…or even regular things. The point is that we are all human beings living our lives in our own way. At the end of the day, we are all fatal and no one is any more invincible to this than the other (unless you have the ability to freeze or clone yourself…? A topic and digression for another time and another blog!).

I’d like to know your thoughts on the poem, the value of humility, how one stays humble in the world we live in, and if you have any examples of humble leaders.

#80: Do the little things of yesteryear

Poem-To My Grown-Up Son

Poem To my Grown-Up Son 2
This poem was passed on by my late grandmother, to my mother, who passed it on to me (my apologies as I don’t have  the original reference.) 

My maternal grandmother (Lalu is what we called her for short) was a beautiful person. I grew up visiting her in India every few years and, although she passed over a decade ago, she has always remained a role model to me. She had a way about her that was peaceful, wise, and connected. She devoted herself to social work, tirelessly helping destitute women and kids off the street in India, and was an accomplished English scholar too. But most of all, she had a loving presence that shone from the inside out, through her sweet smile and twinkling eyes. For my most recent birthday (which was several months ago), my mother passed on two poems that my grandmother passed on to her. The first one, entitled To My Grown-Up Son is something I can really relate to, during this particular time in my life–a time when I am trying to stay afloat in getting through each chaotic, zany, crazy, fun, exhausting and precious day with two little ones at home (at the time of writing this post, my older son is almost 3 and my baby is 9 months old). On those days when my patience is being tested, the dishes are piled up, my clothes are being tugged at by a whining, grubby toddler or a wailing baby, I am sleep deprived and exhausted like never before and on the brink of SNAPPING at my kids in UTTER FRUSTRATION (ahhhhh! mothers with young kids–I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here!); I glimpse into the future to a time when I will no longer have my little boys jumping on and around me and vying for Mommy. And then…I pause…and take a moment to just truly BE with them in the present moment. I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything in the world.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the poem. Can you relate and if so, how? Do you have any strategies for dealing with the pull of the day-to-day duties that must get done while also making the most of your precious time with your loved ones? Stay tuned for next week’s blog post where I will share the second poem that Lalu passed on to my mother (my apologies as I do not have the sources of these old clippings).


#79:Live each day as if it were your last

CC licensed Flickr image by new 1lluminati

The time is just flying by and I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. Life with two little ones (both under the age of 3) has been so incredibly busy, especially while trying to integrate other activities, such as reading, working (I’m running my Brains and Bonds program at the moment), sleeping, and even eating! The days just whiz by and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Somehow, with just a blink of an eye, the hustle and bustle of the morning has already transitioned into my final shut eye for yet another day, and before I know it, a week and then a month or more, has passed. I see how quickly time is passing with the development and progression of my two little ones and I just want to tell time to slow down so I can soak it all in just a little more!

I can’t slow down time, but I can slow down my thinking, which sometimes gets ahead of myself when I feel an urgency to solve all of life’s problems, mysteries, challenges, questions, all at once. The introverted side in me loves sitting in various percolative thoughts and contemplations, but in many instances, my kids are with me, playing around me…and I’m not really with them. I’m in my own head, giving them inattentive responses. Then, usually within a couple minutes (thankfully), I snap out of it with a reminder to myself to live in the present and, as cliche as it sounds, live each day as if it were my last. If today were my last day, would I want to spend it in my head, or with my children? Would I want to spend my last day filled with negative thoughts or a smile on my face? Would I want to spend my last day stressing over the small stuff or savouring the little joys? Would I want to take or give? Furthermore, if someone were to tell me that I only had a day, a week, or a year left, would I regret doing or not doing certain things? These questions are quite useful in getting me back to where I want to be in a given moment. As it stands right now, I feel that a day spent being present with those I love, myself and the earth, expressing gratitude, love and kindness to those around me (through actions and words), and a day doing good, would be a satisfyingly good last day. What about you?


#78: Wear lipstick

CC licensed image by Flickr user Simon Evans

Women.  We make daily life beautiful.  We keep communities bonded, children fed, spirits dancing, faces smiling and hearts connected.  Women are the centre of the social network, keeping the family unit flourishing.  Women are resilient, humble and strong.  We bring colour to life through beauty.  As Zainab Salbi, says: women keep life going.

I have often felt conflicted about the role that physical beauty plays in our society and in the life of women.  Beauty can be defined in many ways, but the external, physical aspect of beauty is undoubtedly a big focus in our global society.  Until very recently I had much cognitive dissonance over the role and importance of physical beauty in my own life. On the one hand, I would enjoy looking presentable, dressing up and wearing some makeup. On the other hand, I would often feel turned off by society’s obsession with physical appearance, especially when there are much graver and more urgent issues to be focussing on with one’s time.  When I was in my 20’s, I would actually resist looking presentable (by putting little time and effort into my physical appearance and wearing the baggiest pair of sweatpants I owned!), as a way of going against the grain of society’s superficiality, and as a way of upholding my belief that what is on the inside, is what counts most.  I still fundamentally value the inner self above external appearance, but Zainab Salbi’s interview on TED Radio Hour gave me an ‘aha’ moment, that really changed my perspective into the role that physical beauty plays in the life of many women.  I now see that the way we present ourselves to the world can have a meaningful connection to one’s sense of respect, dignity and sense of vibrancy, expression and beauty in daily life.

Zainab Salbi was a woman who went through war.  She witnessed war first-hand and heard the back-end stories of other women during war.  As she discusses in her talk, women kept daily life going during war: they kept their heads up high,  kept the children’s playful spirit going, and kept themselves looking presentable, even when the threat of bombs and snipers were real and imminent every single day.  During the TED interview, Salbi tells an anecdote of a woman she met, who was living in war-torn Bosnia.  Salbi asked this woman about any supplies she may want or need for herself, to which the woman answered: lipstick. Of all things that this woman could want or need during the time of war, this woman wanted lipstick!  Lipstick was the one thing this woman put on every day in the face of war, to demonstrate that she was enduring and that she was upholding her spirit of beauty in daily life.  It was a symbol of resistance during the war to show that she would not look, feel or be battered, and, if the time ever came when she would be face to face with a sniper, she would want her killer to remember that he killed a beautiful woman. 

From now on, I will assuredly wear my lipstick as an external representation of my inner beauty and of the self-respect and vibrancy I will continually strive to bring to the world, as a woman.



#77: Bond with your family

Family connectedness is at the cornerstone of a happy and secure life. When I was teaching middle school, I spoke to many parents who felt somewhat flustered as to how to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle of their children’s in-school and after-school activities, while also maintaining a connected family unit. Many parents wanted to know how to better understand their children, support them socially and academically, and flourish as a family.

My friend and colleague, Meghan, and I, are offering a family program called ‘Brains and Bonds’. Through this program, we aim to provide a medium for families to connect, create, and communicate meaningfully, in order to grow stronger as a unit…all while having loads of fun. Join us if you can or contact us if you would like to know more.

Brains & Bonds Flyer