Empowering children through DV education

20170512_092500

“The more that we choose not to talk about domestic violence, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose”- Russell Wilson

Early this year I became a Board Member of  Between Friends, a non profit focused on preventing domestic violence in Chicago area. Our non profit works with kids from 6th to 12th grade and we are present in 40 schools in Chicago. Our programs are tailored to help kids recognize the warning signs of abuse and understand healthy relationships. By educating our children and making them aware of domestic violence we believe we are investing in a safe community for our future generations by taking an important step towards preventing and ending domestic violence.

As a new board member I am required to observe some of our programs. The School program is our biggest one and so I decided to observe a session. Our Program director met with me and walked me through the details including how many kids we have reached etc. Later I went to class where two of our instructors were going to educate 7th graders. When the kids walked in I wasn’t sure if they were the right age to understand complex topics such as abuse, healthy relationships, warning signs etc. The kids seemed playful, chatty, some shy and quiet.

But the instructors skill fully got everyone’s attention. I was really impressed how they started having a conversation with them about their weekend to make the kids feel comfortable and then slowly opened up the discussion to more serious subject of dating violence. The activity required the kids to imagine they were in a relationship with a person of their choice in their mind . The instructors picked a gender neutral name so there would be no judgement if the kids chose to have a relationship with same sex partner.

Then they were given different scenarios where their partner would treat them a certain way and the children had to decide to “stay” or “go”. Rules were – They had to make their own choices, and not be influenced by what their friends said or did. Each kid had a safe space to make their choices and not be judged or ridiculed by others. As each scenario was read out I saw these playful kids suddenly faced with choices like adults. Although at the beginning of the activity they were still giggling and smiling, I saw their playfulness shift to a more serious mood when their imaginary partner started crossing the line. I watched in awe as each one of them made a choice to stay or go.

During  Q & A most of the kids clearly identified warning signs of abuse including the cycle of abuse and shared their views without any fear of judgement on their imaginary partners unhealthy behavior. Often times we dismiss kids as being too young to understand complex human emotions or circumstances. But these kids opened my eyes and I realized I had underestimated their emotional intelligence.

When the class ended I felt proud of these kids and  I realized that by engaging them in such discussions early on we were empowering them to build their lives and communities free of abuse.

Developing healthy attitudes and behaviors are the key to reducing violence. I am glad and grateful that I am part of the effort to create safe communities for our future generations.

Copyright Vani Murthy 2017

Life Lessons from world famous musician – MOBY

Oh Lordy, trouble so hard, Oh Lordy, trouble so hard, don’t nobody know my troubles but God- Lyrics from Moby’s song “Natural Blues”

This week on Monday our guest speaker at life skills class was Moby, real name Richard Melville Hall. I have never met someone so famous ever from the entertainment industry. When I saw him I was immediately struck by his simplicity, his gentle manners and soft spoken voice. He seemed very calm and observant. His introduction blew us away. He has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. He is a winner of several music awards and has co written and produced music for Michael Jackson, David Bowie Metallica, Guns N Roses etc.

But when he came to our class instead of talking about all his success and fame he talked about his humble beginnings, poverty and how music helped him get through his struggles. I came away enriched by the wealth of wisdom he shared with the mentors and students on how to be successful, how to get through struggles and life in general

1. Do what you love- if your goal is to be successful quickly sure you can be successful but it will be short lived. In order to be successful for a long period of time you should do what you love and success will follow. Its not going to be easy because you may not be successful right away, you may get rejected, people may write you off, you may not get the right break but as long as you pursue your passion at some point you will become successful because you are good at what you do

2. Get an education- Success comes with responsibility. A lot of it. You have to be prepared to understand legalities, finances etc. so you can make informed decisions. Yes you can hire other people to do the work for you but you cannot blindly rely on others to make your decisions for you. Education is the key to not only be successful but to sustain it long after your moment under the spot light has come and gone.

3. Figure out the things you shouldn’t do- Watch the people around you. Their lives, their mistakes and realize that you don’t want to make the same mistakes they made. Once you figure out all the things you don’t want to do its easy to know what you should be doing. People, situations, life all these things are constantly teaching you something. Be willing to watch and learn.

4. Don’t give up- You may not get the right opportunity on first try or hundredth try or two hundredth try. It doesn’t matter how many times you have been rejected or failed to land the right job. You still go and knock on doors. Keep knocking until the right door opens for you.

5. Don’t get bitter and hateful- Don’t take failure personally. It is easy to get bitter when people say nasty things or just outright reject you. Its easy to get hateful when despite your best efforts and all the hard work you are still stuck in a rut and all the hard work is not paying off. Especially when others you know are doing well but you are not. It can be difficult to talk about your struggles when others don’t seem to understand because they have never experienced the pain and the hardship you have. Don’t let these things distract you from your goal. Don’t lose interest in the things you love to do.

6. Keep moving- Through all your struggles, failures, hardships the best thing you can do is to just keep moving forward and not get stuck.  Once you get through it and look back you will realize it wasn’t bad after all. Even if it was, its ok because it helped you get where you were supposed to be. You will realize somehow that’s how everything was supposed to happen so you  could be the person you are today

7.  Have a hero- Read about other successful people, get to know their story, their struggles and how they overcame them. You will realize everyone goes through struggles but it is their  strength, courage, passion, determination, patience and perseverance that helped them get through those dark moments.

8. Find a safe space-  Find a place where you can go to when you are feeling down just so you have a safe space where you can be by yourself and reflect on things. A place that allows you to heal. Maybe the beach or your neighborhood where you can go for walks or the park. A place where you feel welcome to just let it all go, center yourself and renew your spirit.

Here is a great quote from Moby,”Whenever I have had success I never learn from it. Success usually breed a degree of hubris. When you fail, that’s when you learn”

©2015, Vani Murthy. All rights reserved

Keep playing

20150424_070747

Move forward with confidence. Whatever it is that your are worried about know that it is only temporary. The only thing constant is Change. There are many new things coming your way. Welcome them with open arms 🙂

“You can’t stop the future, You cant rewind the past, The only way to learn the secret is to press play”-Jay Asher

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like”- Lao Tzu

So keep pressing forward, embrace and welcome change 🙂

 

Say No to Toxic people

You cannot expect a positive life if you hang with negative people- Joel Osteen

I am very aware of what I listen to everyday. I do not wish to feed anything negative to my mind. So I am cautious about the words that are spoken around me be it social interactions, TV or something on the radio.

I don’t want other peoples negativity to sink into my heart and influence my moods or my day. It is easy to get dragged into unhealthy conversations that are no good but just full of negativity where someone is venting their frustrations and wants to go on and on about how that person did this and that wrong. We all experience those moments. We sometimes listen to conversations like that to lend some advice or a sympathetic ear. But the result is it can be a real downer, emotionally draining and the effect can last from a few hours to a few days long after the person is gone.

I had to figure out ways to deal with situations like that. Here are some things that have worked for me-

1. Give brief responses- I try not to engage in the conversation. I keep my responses very brief and don’t give much to the other person to go on. Disengaging from a conversation almost immediately discourages the other person and they stop talking.

2. Keep it light- Changing the topic is the best thing to do if the person shows no sign of stopping. I try to change the subject so we talk about something general, light and positive. A lighter conversation helps the people involved to bounce back to good mood.

3. Keep track of time- Be aware of the time you spend with people that are negative. The more time you spend with them the more likely you will become like them.

4. The choice is yours- Just because someone wants to vent it doesn’t mean you unwittingly become their dumping ground. I have had to clearly tell people that I don’t wish to be part of their conversations and am not interested in listening to anything that does not add value to my soul or is not meaningful to me. I prefer walking away from such conversations if nothing else works.

5. Surround yourself with people- If I know I am going to run into someone that is always venting frustration about people at work or their life or something else I avoid being with them one on one. I prefer to be around them in groups. That way they don’t get an opportunity to dump all their problems on me.

6. Put a positive spin- Instead of letting someone’s  foul mood bring us down we could try put a positive spin on the conversation by helping them see positive things in whatever it is that is bothering them. It is possible that it may change their perspective and they may thank you for pointing out things they had missed because they were so worried about this one thing that was bothering them.

7. Cut the chord- Sometimes you may have to make the decision to keep such people at a distance or cut them off completely. It is in your best interest to get out of emotionally unhealthy relationships. Surround yourself with positive friends, family and business associates. It will help you feel good about yourself, make your relationships more meaningful and emotionally fulfilling.

Surround yourself with the right people, and realize your own worth. Honestly there are enough bad people out there in the world- you don’t need to be your own worst enemy- Lucy Hale

©2015, Vani Murthy. All rights reserved

Anxiety hack

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained”- Arthur Somers Roche

Here are some quick tips to deal with stress and anxiety-

  1. Deep breathing- Practice deep breathing few times a day. Stop for a few minutes and take 5-10 deep breaths. It will work wonders on you and help you calm down immediately. I believe the quality of our life is in our breath. “Smile, breathe and go slowly”- Thich Nhat Hanh
  2. Meditation-This is the best stress buster I can think of. Meditation is not trying to stop thoughts but getting to the point where you experience a still mind. For example, there is a small gap between one thought and the next where quiet and peace exists. Meditation helps you increase that gap.Allow a thought to come and pass through your mind like a bubble. Don’t get involved with the thoughts. If you get involved it will create more thoughts. Then you are just day dreaming. Once a thought passes by focus on the quiet before the next thought rolls in. Let the thought pass and then focus again on the stillness between the thoughts. You will slowly learn to stay in that quiet moment for an extended period of time and any thoughts that come will pass by quietly with your awareness focused steadily on the stillness of your mind.
  3. Set your intent- Have a morning routine to set your intent for the day. I start my day by expressing gratitude, taking deep breaths, just being in the moment and saying a small prayer. All this even before my feet hit the ground. I start my day knowing all is well and will be well even when it doesn’t feel that way.
  4. You are in control- Few years ago I attended a class where the speaker talked about who we really are. He said we are not our body, our mind or our intellect. We are a combination of all of these. We are Souls. It got me thinking and I realized I give my mind too much control over me. From that day on I try to remember I am the boss and not the fear, anxiety or depression created by my mind. Take your power back by saying “You are not the boss of me. I am in control here and I got this”. “You cannot control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside”- Wayne Dyer. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. Practice mindfulness- be aware of what goes on in your mind. Watch your thoughts. The moment you notice your mind thinking about the future or the past bring your awareness back to the present moment. A lot of times the fears about future are just our imaginations and most of it may not even materialize. So understand that and bring your mind back to the now.
  6. Stay active-It’s important to be physically active. A walk, run or any other physical activity will help you release the energy built up by a stressful day and help you calm down
  7. Positive affirmations- This works wonders on me. I affirm positive things even when I am in a dark place. Always speak blessings over yourself and your life.
  8. Don’t give up-The only thing constant is change. No situation is permanent. Change is the law of life. So try to remember whatever it is you are going through is temporary. It will soon be replaced by something else. So don’t give up and go with the flow.
  9. Get creative- Creativity is a great stress buster. It heals our soul. Even if you think you are not at all a creative person try it once. I had a student in our life skills class who said she had never painted in her life. I gave her a piece of canvas and drawing paper with some colors anyways and asked her to pour out whatever came to her mind onto the canvas. She created two beautiful pieces of art in under half an hour. My point is you don’t know the hidden talents you have, unless you dig deep inside and explore what’s within. Trust me you will find the process incredibly rewarding.
  10. Take it easy and try to have some fun- Don’t overthink and overanalyze. For example, when you are driving, the headlights light up the road far enough for you to see where you are going. Do they shine the light all the way up to your destination? Of course not. Life is like that too. You know just enough information to help you deal with whatever you are facing right now. You don’t need to know all the answers. Have faith that things will get better. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get the pain out of your system. Cry, talk to someone. Get it out. Then let the healing begin. Smile. Help others. Find something that inspires you and embrace life. The good, the bad and the ugly all of it. No one said life was easy. You are not the only one going through hard times. Ask anyone that has been through hardships and they will tell you nothing or no one can break your spirit. So smile because you really can beat anxiety:)
  11. Volunteering- I try to get out and help someone in need. In my experience it helps me stay grounded and approach others from a place of compassion and love. Try it. You will feel good, inspired and it is an extremely rewarding experience to bring hope and joy to someone else. It will light up your world 🙂

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength”- Charles Spurgeon.

Don’t let anxiety get the better of you. Remember YOU ARE THE BOSS!!

©2015, Vani Murthy. All rights reserved