Martha's Vineyard State of Mind

Writing, meditating, eating, biking, swimming, reading, resting, laughing, and connecting
with self and friends.

These are the four basic needs of the heart...


I learned this from one of my guided meditations and wanted to share. The four needs of the heart are simple and all start with the letter "a." Are you feeding your heart right?  

Are you cultivating your unique gift & are you sharing it with the world?

Some of us are born to sing, others to dance, yet others to heal, cook, or write. Yea, some of us were born to make people laugh!

Each of us -- and I mean every single human being on this earth --  has a unique song. A purpose... And it is our duty to find this gift, nurture it and share it with the world. In sanskrit it's called dharma and it holds that each being has a unique gift to share with the world. Deepak Chopra discusses this in his wonderful book. "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success." The Christians call it "a calling." For the ancient Mayans it was an inherent energy that was bestowed upon each human being that came from the feminine, masculine, and cosmological energies that were present at the time of conception.

Bottom line: while calling it different names, it's the same concept: each human being has a purpose that when tapped and shared will not only enrich the person but the world. There are so many ways that each of us expresses that unique voice. And it doesn't have to be huge, i.e Oprah, Einstein, Mother Theresa. In fact, it starts small. With your passions, your loves, your unique ways of loving and living and seeing life. It's living right with yourself. In fact, the closest translation of dharma is righteous living.

Have you found your purpose or gift? Are your nurturing it? Are you, as the ancients Indians ask, walking in your dharma?

You know you are living your dharma when you experience bliss and receive bliss. I've found it in writing. It brings me joy to write and to share my writing. I find connection and inspiration. I feel empowered. And, yes, joy. When we experience other people walking in their dharma, our soul recognizes it. Think of musicians who take us to pure bliss when they sing or play their instrument. Or chefs, when we taste their alchemical creations.  Or actors who move us to tears, fear or laughter? Writers who unlock doorways to freedom that show us paths to discovering things about ourselves that we did not know. Dharma is deeply felt because it comes from that mysterious place where the expression is not forced or contrived. It just flows... Elegantly.

Your love supreme... is it you?

To love me or love me not that was always my challenge. Until one day, I realized that if I didn't make myself a priority, no one would. I started a revolution with myself, and it was a win-win for all. When I practice supreme love of myself, my loved ones and anyone in my circle gets a better me, a more whole me. It wasn't that I tapped into a selfish gene, rather, that I discovered an internal truth: I am a divine being. 

I wrote a piece exploring self-love where I explore the importance of having daily holy moments with yourself.  READ THE PIECE ON MAMIVERSE.COM

“There is nothing you cannot be; there is nothing you cannot do. There is nothing you cannot have.”

Yes, sometimes all it takes is to see beyond your horizon to unlock greatness. My favorite quote from  Neale Donald Walsch from his book,  “Conversations with God"

I'm going to my first gay wedding tomorrow...

I will be attending my first gay wedding tomorrow afternoon and I am over the moon. Juan and Nelson are special to me for many reasons. Their elegance, generosity and dignity as a couple and as individuals is inspiring.  Both men show dignity in health, in dis-ease, in joy and in the metaphoric rain and sunshine of life.

I will be taking my 9 yr. old son to witness this marvelous display of love and commitment. He is super excited too! I love that my little guy did not bat an eye when I told him Juan and Nelson were tying the knot and that he was coming with me. The only thing he wanted to know was if there would be other children present.

Juan and Nelson have been together for 35 years. How many straight couples you know have lasted that long? We live in an age where partners and lovers are disposable much like iPhones. We discard people and relationships same way we do technology--when the next new updated version comes along, we exit. This couple's love is enduring and gorgeous to witness. They have been a couple much longer that most straight couples I know. One could say, maybe my circle is like that - but I look at statistics and it's true across the nation. This couple show straight folks how its really done and I love them for it!

It took New York state much too long to legalize gay marriage, but I am proud that my home state finally saw the light. And as they said in the 60's, we finally showed other states that 'right has might!'  May marriage equality become the law of the land. And mazel tov to Juan and Nelson on their wonderful public declaration of love.

Looking forward to my talk in Jersey City tonight with the fierce women of LUPE

This evening I get a chance to talk with Latinas United For Political Action, the smart and beautiful women of LUPE. They organized in 2003 by a small group of women with 20 years of experience in education, law, public policy and small business to promote the political power of Latinas in New Jersey. Fierce women who saw a need for leadership and went to task. LUPE has helped hundreds of Latinas through their advocacy.

The power of friendship and networking is real. LUPE is a great example!

Two of my favorite chapters in my book are the chapters on friendship, "Talk Circles-The Power of Latina Friendship" and "Finding Professional Success: The Get Ahead Guide for the Nueva Latina," a chapter where I explore the life of the professional Latina. I will be tapping into those two subjects this evening.

My career, health, spirit--every last bit of me has been enhanced and enriched by a tight circle of sister girlfriends. It's the modern day version of the ancient form of comadrismo that I experienced as a child. My mother has a two comadres and compadres for each of her five children. And throughout our lives she has maintained a tight bond with these men and women who by Christian tradition made an agreement to care and guide us. They take care of each other, as compadres and their kids. But this is the thing, beyond the church, where my parents and padrino's and madrina's ritual took place, this covenant is embedded in the souls of our DNA - to care for the young. The idea that the community is responsible for all the children, not just your biological ones. By extension, we are too responsible for the care of each other-- the concept of my you are your sister and brother's keeper. 

Comadrismo is an ideal concept that is challenged my modern day dog eat dog world of politics and business, hello DC! But, as they saying goes, peace starts with me. And you. Uno a uno, una a una...If you can get past that mentality -- the, 'I'm get my mine, destroy whomever in the process..' --  the power of that human connection can be transformative.

I don't have traditional comadres and compadres in the way my mother has, but even without the religious covenant before the priest, I have deep bonds with sister friends in my life and my kids have what we call Latin aunts.  These women have helped guide me professionally, personally and spiritually. And will are there for my two boys.  

If you don't have a professional group in your life, and are around Jersey City this evening, stop by LUPE's Annual Summer Meeting. You might connect with something new that can change your life and that of your family and immediate community:

Liberty House 
7 pm to 10 pm
76 Audrey Zapp Drive

Letters hold magic, give hope, feed inspiration...letters have the power to heal.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone you love?

Letters or a beautiful card with your words-- not the ones written by Hallmark folks-- hold the power to be white flags that beckon healthy dialogue between two people. Letters hold magic, give hope, feed inspiration...they have the power to heal. They are the original alchemists. 

It was for that reason that I decided to include sample letters in my book. Written with profound love and care, letters can help kick start difficult conversations that we want to have with loved ones but are not sure how to start. Many times we just can't or don't know how to break the ice. I hoped that by including sample letters I could help others build bridges for understanding. 

If you are having an issue with someone, why not a letter? If you are grateful for the loyal support a friend provides, a letter just because is a gorgeous gesture. (I'm writing a grateful for my momma today...) 

I enjoy writing letters. When I'm happy or sad, when I'm in love or when I'm angry or when I'm feeling grateful to someone for being in my life, writing a letter always seems to help me. Sometimes these letters are burned, discarded or filed away. Many more times my letters are mailed or hand delivered to the person who inspired them. Old school letters are the best -- paper, envelope and a stamp -- but I found that in a pinch, emailing a letter helps too. 

When was the last time you wrote a love letter? A grateful letter? A just because letter? If you're feeling a little down, a love letter to yourself might be good medicine.

Below is a recent note from a reader. It's beautiful and powerful. Thank you braveheart for your note and best of luck to you on your letter and conversation with your mother.  It's hard, but oh so necessary and worth it. 
Dear Sandra

I'm a 28, soon to be 29, Boricua born and raised in New Jersey. I have recently started reading your book and am wowed. I have only reached chpt. 2, but the first chapter almost had me in tears. I swear that it was written about MY relationship with MY mother. She is a wonderful woman who lives for her children. She's worked hard and along with my father have tried their best to provide me with the best they could. However, once I hit puberty the tension between us has grown. I consider myself a good hija and am an example of living my life to make THEM happy, not myself. I graduated with honors, both B.A and M.A., have a great job, and have lived on my own since I turned 23. Yet, like you wrote, "Nothing I ever did, except for excelling in school, was good enough." I plan on using the format of the letter you wrote, from hija para madre, to somehow connect with my mother. We've recently had a falling out because of my decision to move in with my bf. Her concern was not "lo que diran" but her fear of me losing my independence. I believe that letter along with what I have learned from that chapter will help heal the relationship and allow it to grow. 

I know I'm just in the beginning of the book, but I look forward to ask questions and voice my concerns as I continue reading. I also look forward to sharing what I've learn with those around me. 

Thank you for creating something that lets us know that we weren't and aren't alone in the circumstances and situations that we have faced and will continue to encounter as the new Latina generation. 

I thank you for the reason that you write. 


Jersey City, NJ

A 21-day meditation challenge... it's free! Try it!

My friend Kathy introduced me to meditation a year ago this month and it was one of the most beautiful gifts a friend could give another. Granted, Tisbury in Martha's Vineyard was a perfect place to delve within. I was on vacation with great friends, on a gorgeous island with idyllic August weather, so hell yea I was able to relax! That lightness and calm feeling that one experiences in meditation is something I would later learn is always available to me, no matter the weather or longitude. Not just me to you too! I promise.

Since then, I've tried to meditate once a day, though I confess, sometimes I go days without it.

Enter Deepak Chopra. Every season, the The Chopra Center offers a free 21-day mediation challenge. Chopra's 21 Day Summer Meditation Challenge is for all--beginners, experts or people in between. My favorite teacher is David Ji--he is extraordinary! Wait till you hear his deep calming voice and beautiful words. The challenge involves only a 15 minute commitment every day for three weeks straight. Thousands from around the globe participate so it's simultaneously an individual, communal, and global experience.

Why 21-days? Experts say that if you do something consistently for 21 days it becomes part of your life  which is why the great people at the California-based wellness center offer the challenge for 21 days. Meditation, which studies show has a number of benefits, including warding off signs of aging, is a great habit to take up.

I'm up for a FREE summer challenge. Are you? It starts on Monday, August 15th! Sign up today! See you in the gap.

The food you eat may be killing you... not an exaggeration

I was stunned, but not shocked, to read that hot dogs and really all processed meats, (yes deli meats, ie, ham, turkey, bacon etc) have been linked to colon cancer. A lifetime of devouring them will cause future health complications. No kidding! Next time you grab that wiener or give one to your kids--think again! Sorry to be a Debby Downer but it gets worse. It's not just hot dogs, it's the entire American diet which is based on highly processed foods. After a lifetime of eating foods with ingredients that you can't pronounce or even know what they are, researchers predict that this generation of Americans will live less than their parents! The people who study this have been shouting at us to take a hard look at the way we eat. Are you listening?

Check out Dean Ornish's concise and sharp lecture on the world's killer diet, i.e The Western diet.

Last year, I visited a Child Obesity Clinic in the South Bronx for a freelance piece that I wrote for HHC Today. Toddlers as young as three years old were being treated for obesity and diabetes. Children who as adults, if their nutritional habits and lifestyle doesn't change, may face dialysis, amputations or both! Causes for the huge rates of obesity are plenty and include poverty, lack of information, sedentary lifestyles and of course, all the cheap and readily available junk foods that are as delicious as they are toxic.  As I was leaving the clinic, I noticed parents strolling babies who held sugar water (soda, orange water, red water in their bottles), bags of Doritos and other chips. Walking back to the subway I passed by several Dunkin Donuts and fried chicken spots and of course, several Chinese restaurants and pizzerias. Not one salad bar. Not one fruit stand. Not one park in a twenty block radius. The neighborhood, still the poorest Congressional district in the nation, is also the epicenter of obesity. No wonder!

But the reality is that the South Bronx is not alone in the rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease and asthma. Bronxites have lots of company--the several million of Americans who are now battling the same preventable diseases which research shows, are also reversible with simple changes in lifestyle.

And yes, it starts with what you put in your mouth. On this gorgeous August Friday, I don't want to just give you bad news. I hope to inspire you to take a look at what you eat and if you have children, what you feed them.

Michael Pollan's "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual," has helped me a lot. It's a simple, cogent, slim book that offers 64 rules to keep in mind if you want to eat healthier.  What should you eat? "Food," he says. PS that does not include highly processed foods.What kind of food should make it to your plate? "Mostly plants!" In fact, 70 percent of your plate should be plants. The grandma wisdom Pollan captured in this book is not that hard to comprehend. Granted, it's a lot more difficult to follow. Food is about much more than hunger-- it's connected to emotions, tradition, culture, (hello chuchifritos, hello smothered pork chops!)  

Ignorance is bliss and it was so much easier for me to eat that bacon cheeseburger with french fries and a cold glass of soda before I became conscious. Ever since I became healthy food awake, I can't find joy in a simple meal of food that I know is simply junk.

It's not that easy, but it can be done

In order for me not to feel overwhelmed or obsessed by what I eat, I take it one meal at a time, and though challenging, it works. I keep it simple: try to eat several fruits a day, drink lots of water, get my butt to the hot yoga studio at least four times a week and I bike everywhere. I also incorporated lots of veggies, am not at 70% more like 40%. And if you know anything about me, that small fact will come as a shock. Because before I was hip to the beauty of nutritious eating, there was not one veggie I met that I liked. The lesson: yes you can.

Happy eating, happy life.

The delicate art of telling someone you love about themselves...

"Oye Mi Canto", by my sister & friend, California artist Anna Alvarado
We've all been there, that moment when someone you love is not acting right-- being self centered, engaging in self destructive behavior, being bitchy, eating horrendous meals and complaining about not losing weight-- the list of vices is endless. So, at what point do you as take a deep breath and tell the person about herself?  And, is it your business to tell a friend or relative when they are acting up or say, doing something that is self destructive? If that person is not disrespecting you or crossing the boundaries you have established for how you want to be treated, and the behaviour does not affect you directly, is it best to throw a silent prayer their way, let them go over the edge and you keep it moving? Or is it an act of friendship, or dare say, bravery, to tell that friend that she or he is out of control?

I go back and forth on this one. And lately, I've been shutting my mouth and offering a kind smile instead. Why? On the one hand, I think that people need to go through their experiences to learn and any intrusion, on my part is, frankly, extra.  On the other hand, maybe it does takes care, compassion and courage to go in there and have that tough conversation. Throughout my live, I've had amazing teachers who kindly, boldly, rudely or flat out bitchily, pointed out some things about me that weren't correct. Yup, I am deeply flawed people... But these moments, as tough as they were to hear sometimes, have allowed me to grow. Many times, I admit, it took me a while to get it and the message was lost in the delivery. But most often, I retreated, and retreat to quiet reflection. Oft times, I see the point.

But the reason why lately I've been holding back is because I've noticed that few people like to hear feedback, no matter how loving, kind or right you may be. Simply put, they can quickly see and point about others shitty behavior but are incredibly blind to their own failings. My mother has a saying: la gente esta pendiente mas de la vida ajena que la de ellos mismos... So, I try to have insight into mine as much as I can because as they say, if you want change in the world, it starts with you!

Why I write...

If I can inspire a woman to empower herself, I've done my job as a writer. I do not have all the answers and each day provides for me teachable moments. But I do know this: to love oneself deeply, to honor oneself as sacred, is a courageous act.

The beautiful letter below is from a California woman. I am not going to post her name out of respect for her privacy. But I wanted to share. Her note moved me to tears. I am filled with joy that my book and my words inspired and uplifted her.

Hola Sandra,

This is (name deleted) from in Los Angeles. I'm writing to you today to let you know how your book has inspired me and changed my life. 

I have been in a 21-year, unhappy marriage filled with verbal fights and a lot of loneliness. No soy una santa tampoco, but it takes two to tango. It's been unhappy for over 10 years and I didn't really know what to do. Or maybe I just didn't have the courage to do something about it. After reading your book and doing lots and lots of soul searching, I finally got the courage to speak with my husband and we both agreed that a separation is best. I thank God for my beautiful family that supports me in EVERY way, and the awesome sisters that I have who have been the greatest supporters in my decision and continue to encourage me to move forward.

I thank you for inspiring me through your lectures and your books. I feel that this is a new chance to a happy and balanced life for me and my 14 yr old son. I will continue to grow and be a positive role model for my son, family and my community.
Muchos besos, 

Words are powerful, they can be used as weapons of mass destruction, or they can help heal. 
I choose love. I choose to use words to create not destroy.

This is why I write. 

Thank you California braveheart for sharing your story. May those who are still in darkness find the  strength to walk toward the light. Know that you are not alone.

Women who pledge to help themselves & their community are special

In college I was not a joiner, which is why try as they may, not one sorority was able to convince me to take the plunge and walk the line. But, as I told the sisters of Lambda Pi Chi at their annual conference in Boston this past weekend, for them, I would walk the line. These sisters are real. They are committed to the mission of advancing themselves personally and professionally, to public service and to promoting cultural awareness, especially Latin American culture.

It was a grand experience to experience. Thank you hermanas for inviting me to share in your beauty.

I had fascinating conversations with many of sisters on a wide array of subjects: how the brain works (one sister is completing her PHD on the subject) mariachi music, US Mexico border crazy, tax incentives for women and minority owned businesses, Bolivian culture, interracial dating, dating a Tea Party Republican, Senator Marco Rubio's (misguided) education philosophy, pet dentistry, the power of therapy and so many, many more subjects. But of course I did, of the 500 members, 30 have PHD's and master degrees!!

One sister, the only Latina who specializes in pet dentistry in all of New York City, perhaps the nation, even shared a trick to stop bleeding-- I cut my finger while chopping a tomato a day earlier and it wouldn't stop gushing blood. She suggested that I blot my cut in corn starch. I did. Bleeding stopped. She was sweet to help a two legged amiga. Two of the hermanas, Christina and Elaine, were so inspired by my book cover image that they drew their version of Anna Alvarado's "Te Espero." (The other image after the jump.)

One of the fascinating things about this Latina sorority is that it's not just Latinas who pledge. There are Asian sisters, African American sisters, and white sisters (Scottish, Irish, German). These women interestingly enough, talked about their love of Latin culture and the beautiful bonds that exist within the organization that transcends where each is from. One sister, a first generation Chinese American from Queens, was eloquent in her explanation for pledging when she was a junior at SUNY-Albany: at the core, she said, these women are seriously intelligent, talented and about empowering women, they just happen to be Latinas. She feels a little Latina around them, and they a little bit Chinese. It works, and it was lovely to see.

I see a trend here-- a multi cultural feminine experience, the future of America.

Sundays are a great for being still

In stillness I find peace.
In stillness I find focus.
I stillness I find purpose.
In stillness I find the sacred.

In stillness I find me.

Meditation is recent addition to my life that has transformed me. I am more patient, loving, creative and calm. I am more compassionate. And, most of all, I am more awake. I never thought I would be able to meditate because I have lots of nervous energy and all the thoughts running through my mind wouldn't let me relax. But guess what, the more I meditate, the better I get at tuning out the outside world and tuning into me.

If you've never tried meditation -- sitting still, focusing on your breath for 15 minutes with your eyes closed in a comfortable place -- today is good day to try.

Check one Chopra Center's guided meditations. My favorite is the Grateful Meditation. But, check out the menu of offerings, whether it's empowerment or help to unblock your creativity, this is an excellent list of free offerings for beginners.

Happy Sunday! Happy meditating.

1000 reasons to smile,: some of my favorites: it will improve your health, heart and bank account

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to frown at a person who is smiling at you? Turns out that smiling is evolutionary contagious! Also, did you know that children smile at least 400 times a day while the average adult only 20? And, that if you mimic a smile even if you don't feel like smiling will trigger happiness inside? 

Ron Guttman's inspiring talk on will surprise and make you smile while watching it and beyond. Guttman's terrific after the jump.

Boston, here I come!

Getting ready to go to Boston to celebrate with the fabulous sisters of Lamba Pi Chi in their annual convention. I admire a group of women who rally around to celebrate each other and help their respective communities. Yes, love is the answer.

Just what we needed: a book about culos.... Ugh!!!!!

Just what Latinas needed: pictures of culos as we sip our morning cafe con leche. Ugh.... this is the kind of project that makes me sick. Don't get me wrong-- I am not hating on the beautiful women photographed in this forthcoming coffee table book nor am I being a prude about the showcasing of the gorgeous female form. Not at all... My issue with the the soon to be published book not so elegantly titled, "Culo" by music guy Jimmy Iovine and shutterbug Raphael Mazzucco is that it's more of the same-- the objectification of women.

As women continue to fight to be valued for more than just our pretty faces and nice asses, this kind of project sets us back. I see it as another put down to females... you know,  just in case we get too haughty with the fact that we are going to university at higher rates then men, its a reminder to be easy with all that brain power. What the project's underlying message says to educated Latinas and really all females, is that no matter how intelligent we are, we are still reduced to being just a nice chunk meat. The proverbial, shut up and show some ass...continues. Ugh...  This message is dangerous and it takes us to slippery slope territory and it's not just for women, but for men, those who love us and those who admire us for more than our physical beauty. It simply mucks up the way in which men see women, particularly African American and Latino men and they way Latinas and African American females see themselves/ourselves. 

In so many industries we continue to be defined not by the smarts we bring to the table but by how big our asses are. What year are we in in like, 1950? For my female friends who work in media, fashion and especially, the music business, this is the kind of project that makes it a little more challenging to sit across a table and try to be taken seriously. Their voices get a little dimmer because the men in the room, encouraged by a music heavy hitter Iovine, refuse to hear what they got to say. It's a reminder that women in that world -- and other industries -- are just there to make the room look good and smell pretty. For smart women who love music and have a lot of intelligent things to add to it, the room just got a little stuffier.

I also wished that the dudes who created this joke of a book would have not used a Spanish word-- culo, which we know literally means butt hole because I have a nagging feeling that it might  book may be code for Latina butts. 
Three lessons I learned from my hot yoga practice that have enriched my life: the importance of being still, learning to breathe deeply and determined focus.

PS No, that is not me in the photo.

A thought about intuition from a genius scientist:

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the natural mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that
honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."  Albert Einstein