I will be exploring the essence of a woman...

Fernando Botero's Reclining Woman @ the Cohen Estate
I'll be speaking at the annual Mind, Body & Spirit day conference sponsored by 100 Hispanic Women and Bronx Lebanon Hospital tomorrow. This is the 9th year that the great women of the organization will host a day of tuning out and tuning in.

This year's theme is particularly intriguing: the essence of a woman. What is feminine essence exactly? Is it tangible? How do you tap into it? Nurture it? I'm curious to explore these questions and more with the participants, especially because so few of them rarely take out the time to be still and ask themselves these questions.

100 Hispanic Women carved out a day to teach women in the South Bronx and beyond something that is sadly a foreign concept to many of them: self care. And it's particularly a opportune time to be delving into nourishing the mind, body & soul given the crazy the creeps in during the holiday season. The self imposed and often dumped on expectations of the holidays will take the zen out of even the most zen monk in us.

Tomorrow promises to be replete with nourishing practices including reiki, massage therapy, makeovers, yoga, zumba classes and several workshops exploring everything from self love to sexuality.  If you are int the area, there is still time to register. Call 212-239-1430 for more information.

"Silent gratitude is of no use to anyone," GB Stern

There is beauty in silence, and yes, sometimes you are meant to keep things to yourself. But I love that quote because for me it means that you don't take anything for granted. There is beauty and power in verbalizing gratitude. And urgency. Tomorrow many of us will pause to be with family and friends -- if we are so lucky -- and taking the time to acknowledge their worth in your life will add to the grace of the day. I believe communicating is an art form that must be learned and practiced on the daily. Each day I learn a new way. Telling each of your beloveds that they matter in your life, that they are loved and appreciated is a powerful gesture.

But, the grace shouldn't be only shared at meal time or during special days - incorporating gratefulness in every part of your life, everyday, will usher in positivity because you remind yourself of all the wondrous things that surround you.

"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert, and the opera and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, pairing, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink." GK Chesterton

To you, dear reader where ever you are, you bless me with loyal support and for that I am grateful.
I thank you for taking precious time to stop by and read my words. May you be surrounded by abundance, health, positivity, and peace of mind, body and soul.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

A very necessary discussion about the current crisis of Latino boys and men...

Statistics don't lie! Latino men and boys are in crisis, from high incarceration rates to high school drop rates, HIV infection, high homicide rates and high unemployment-- something bad is happening. Reasons for the current state are complex and multi layered. And certainly, more research is necessary to get at the root of the causes and find solutions. 

Three educators have edited a groundbreaking book, "Invisible No More: Understanding the Disenfranchisement of Latino men and boys." 

I will be moderating a panel tonight with the three scholars, Pedro Noguera, Aida Hurtado and Edward Fergus and local contributors. 

New York City folks, come out and check out a very necessary book, and a very necessary discussion. 

If you can't make tonight's event and want to understand what is happening and be inspired to be part of making things better, check out this book. It's an extraordinary work of scholarship that sheds light on a most important group in our society. 

New York University Kimmel Center
Rosenthal Pavilion
10th floor
5 - 7 pm

"Like all other people, I would like to live a long and productive life. But, it's not important how long you live. What's important is what you do with your life and how you use it." Dr. Martin Luther King days before he was assassinated.

Why I took my 9 yr. old to Occupy Wall Street

On day 47 of the Occupy Wall Street protest, a movement that started in New York City when a group of patriotic Americans took over Zuccotti Park to protest corporate greed and corruption, I took my nine-year-old to witness democracy in action. My young son went against his wishes and fought me the entire subway ride downtown from our comfortable doorman-protected apartment building.

I decided to brave the alleged assaults, rapes, chaos and crazy being reported by mainstream tabloids and join the peaceful protesters with my youngest child at the makeshift tents where hundreds have gathered from sun up to sundown because we are part of the 99 percent of Americans affected by the Great Recession. As a working class family of writers, we live in the grotesque gap between the haves and the have-nots, a gap that has grown insanely large since the 1970's. Consider that according to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007, the top income of the top 1 percent of Americans grew by almost 300 percent. During the same period, 60 percent of middle class incomes saw their scale grow by a paltry 40 percent. Wall Street was bailed out—and to adopt a popular phrase, main street was left holding the check.

To be clear, while my family may be part of the income 'have not' we have plenty of wealth in the area of spirit and justice and desire to live in a more equitable society.

Teaching my son history that cannot be learned in textbooks is important to me as a parent. This latest history lesson became more urgent one morning two weeks ago, when during our morning ritual of breakfast with the news, I casually mentioned to him that we'd be going downtown to show solidarity with the protesters. "We are part of the 99 percent," I told him. To my shock, my son shrieked, declaring with a firm attitude that only a pre-teen can muster, "There is no way I am going to Occupy Wall Street mom, you have gone mad!"

Finding your place in a culture that renders you invisible is no easy task...

I just finished my lectures at Cal Poly's San Luis Obispo. And what a morning it was. Filled with honest conversation around issues of race, ethnicity, gender and politics. I could not believe how many people made it to breakfast at the crack of dawn to hear my Provocative Perspectives lecture, "Self Empowerment: How to Turn Challenges into Opportunities." My book sold out, a first in the decade old lecture series!

I will see about getting the podcast from the university and post later, but in a nutshell, this was my message:

What are obvious disadvantages in modernist societies -- because let's face it, we live in a world where whiteness, maleness and wealth opens a lot of doors -- are only but bumps along the road. When you look at the bigger picture of your life, you can see it and hopefully not let those bumps keep you from expressing and living to your fullest potential. 

When you feel like the other all the time in a culture that does not celebrate your intelligence, beauty, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation as equal, finding your space and being comfortable with who you are is a complex, painful, and nuanced issue. But you must claim that space for yourself. Tune out the xenophobes and the ignorants who refuse to acknowledge you as whole human being. Stand up to those who refuse to accept that no human being is illegal. Tune out the haters and the bigots who are filled with rage and fear. Embrace the fact that you are: Sacred. Intelligent. And frankly, walking perfection, even if you are filled with imperfections. 

We are here to transcend the package that we were born in! Class, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, title, status, the car we drive, the house or hood we live in, these things do not necessarily define us. They are parts of who we are but not the whole. Getting stuck and getting power in only these things will get you in trouble -- eventually, you realize that the stuff that really makes you you is more ethereal, less tangible to define.

When you acknowledge that the more you know, the more you need to learn and that underneath the superficial layers of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, i.e titles, we are one, then you are more capable of fully singing your song and dissing the dis, in disadvantage.

Is having the option to press numero dos para español good for Latinos? The short answer is no!

Why doing business en español is great for business but horrible for Latino power

It's about time that Latinos start having an honest conversation about a new trend in business that offers services in Spanish

After delivering a lecture celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at a central New Jersey community college recently, I opened the floor to questions. One member of the audience, an older student who described himself as the son of Italian immigrants, asked for my thoughts on many a company's efforts to offer services in Spanish. He was referring to the ubiquitous practice that offers callers the option to access information in their preferred language. You know, the choice to press one for English or dos para español. The student’s annoyance was palpable.

Have your friended yourself today?

The concept of friending the self is something that is often explored during meditation. Rather than fight whatever thoughts are popping up as your try to enter the quiet space, you are encouraged to embrace and accept whatever is happening. In other words, to be a friend to your thoughts. Meditating is not about crushing the thoughts that are coming up... they are clues to your state of mind and as such, they all are important. You welcome them for a moment, acknowledge them and then let go, focusing on your breath as it goes in and out. This is gentle talk.

A friendship with self is something that is worth exploring outside of meditation. Rather than fighting your self, the idea is to embrace you as your very own good and loyal best friend. Ask yourself this: are you a friend to yourself? It is not a silly question or proposition. A good friend is loyal, supportive and loving. A good friend encourages you to achieve your dreams. A good friend does not judge. A good friend is real and honest about your virtues and your flaws! A good friend always shows up. A good friend is kind.

Have your friended yourself today? And, if not, will you show up for you? And will you show up with the best intention ever?

Love bravely, love boldly, love without fear or suffer the consequences...

Jeff Koons "Sacred Heart" at Alex & Steven Cohen's estate

"Cowardly love is for men and not for lovers. Wimpy love affairs never grow, they don't make history, they languish.  Not even memories or the best orator can save them." Silvio Rodriguez 

Provocative Perspectives...

I am following in the giant steps of Arianna Huffington, Leon Panetta, and Nikki Giovanni who have spoken in Cal Poly's Provocative Perspective Lecture Series. Hoping to fill some mammoth shoes on Thursday in my early morning breakfast lecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

"Self Empowerment: Make Challenges Become Opportunities" 

When: Thursday, November 10

Vista Grande Café

Time: 7:30 am (yikes!)

Discussion following at 10 am in Room 220 in the University Union
RSVP: Liz Cofer 805-756-0327 or at lcofer@calpoly.edu

Congratulations to me! I'm a recipient of the Borimix Award...

This is super cool.  On November 15th, I will receive a BORIMIX Award given by the Society of Educational Arts (SEA). With this award, the New York City based theater arts organization recognizes my outstanding contributions to Puerto Rican arts and culture. Sweet!

The awards ceremony is November 15th and it is is open to the public. It coincides with month long festival with exhibits and plays celebrating Puerto Rican culture. This year BORIMIX is dedicated to legendary baseball player, Roberto Clemente.

I get to spread the word about the celebratory night and invite people to the awards ceremony. Oh, there's  a one hour open bar sponsored by the real rum diaries rum, Puerto Rican rum company Don Q! Whoo hoo.

I'll be talking, reading & signing books in San Luis Obispo, California next Thursday, will you join me?

Can you stop by? Will you tell all your Cali friends to join me? Help me spread the good word.

Next week I will lecture on the power of tapping into your personal power. It has the potential to transform your life. It's pure gold and it resides inside each of us. No need to borrow or be envious of those who have it because we were all born with it. Nourish it! Use it! Above all, don't waste it!

"Self Empowerment: Make Challenges Become Opportunities."

When: Thursday, November 10

Where: Cal Poly Arts San Luis Obispo

Vista Grande Café

Time: 7:30 am (yikes!)
Discussion following at 10 am in Room 220 in the University Union
RSVP: Liz Cofer 805-756-0327 or at lcofer@calpoly.edu

Try not to judge yourself too harshly, today...

Salvador Dalí's Pink Elephant on Stilts

Mistakes happen. Perfection is so boring and unnecessary. We are like precious works of art that take time and patience to develop. It is in this process of creating and recreating our lives where we will find the most important lessons. So, if today you fall, pick yourself up, dust the dirt off your blouse and keep it moving. Maybe you fell down so that you could learn how to get up with more grace? Or perhaps you needed to understand that sh*t happens and that ultimately, it's gonna be ok. Most of all, don't ever ignore the teachable moment. Try to learn why you fell and whatever you do, above all, do not judge the moment or yourself.

So many times we are so harsh on ourselves that we paralyze our growth. So, try not to curse the sun, the moon y los cuatro vientos, (the four winds, as the folk in my father's small town would say) when things don't go your way and you suffer setbacks. Instead, step into the mystery of your life without fear. Your greatest gift will be in appreciating that the madness is only temporary and it too shall pass. Whatever you do, keep in mind the bigger picture: you are precious and it's in the journey to your greatness where will find the most joy.

Oh no, I've become my mother...

There comes a moment in a mother's life when all of a sudden she realizes, "oh shit, I sound just like my mother!" This, my beautiful señoritas, is not just a light observation. It has profound meaning. I was fascinated to interview Dr. Juan Carlos Dumas who illuminated me something called, regression/progression, an unconscious mental health problem that he says may be at the heart of many relationship bust ups and family dysfunction.

The gist: your childhood traumas--if left unresolved--may bubble up soon as you become a parent.  And this may cause you, your child & relationship unnecessary suffering.

This is the subject of my latest story for mamiverse.com.

Excerpt from mamiverse.com: 

Yvette, a Manhattan mother of two, recounts a day recently when her husband accused her of being a negligent mother because she took one of the boys, who at the time was running a dangerously high fever, out in the rain to visit the pediatrician. "It was crazy the way he went at me," she confessed. "And also very hurtful since negligent is far from what I am, and he knows it." Upon further exploration, the couple realized that what Yvette's husband experienced was a regression/progression moment.
"It's the feeling of an event that is absolutely exaggerated. A serious distortion of reality and an interpretation of what is going on based on the past," explains family therapist Dr. Juan Carlos Dumas. "The key here," says the mental health practitioner, "is that the parent experiencing the 'flashback' is not aware of it; only the observer sees it." In other words, it's a serious blast from the past that takes you back to a traumatic childhood experience and causes an unconscious freak-out moment—one apparent to everyone but you.

Parenting can trigger a lot of different emotional and psychological deep-seated issues for parents, particularly around the issue of discipline, says Dr. Dumas. He explains the typical regression progression scenario: the husband comes in to family therapy accusing the wife of disciplining the children too harshly and blames the mother for victimizing the kids with her aggressive punishment. The father reacts with extreme anxiety, when in fact, his wife is just normally disciplining their child.


The Day of the Dead is also a day when life is affirmed...

Today, on the second day of El Dia de los Muertos, is a good as any day to create an altar, a special symbol of remembrance to those who are no longer living. To people around the world, altars are a away to celebrate the deities or a sacred space to pay homage to the deceased. It's a place where connection between two dimensions -- past and present - the living and the dead is made.  But it's not just about death. As I write in my book, "an altar is also a place where life is affirmed." I included a guide to creating an altar in the chapter titled: Centering your Soul: Spirituality Latina Style. If you don't have a copy of my book, here's the gist of what you'll need: fresh cut flowers, an earth element such as a seashell, rock, twig, something with personal meaning, a glass of water and a candle. Find a small space, and set it up.

And remember the words of Carolyn Myss, when you light a candle every day in the same place, as a matter of honor, heaven shows up.

May your day be filled with sweetness as you affirm death, birth and rebirth.