Trump – And What Our Fellow Americans Need

I’ve been asked many times in the past two months: “what do you think of Donald Trump?” It is a hard question to objectively answer but an easy question to react to.

Since early last year, I predicted that he would win the presidential elections. Why? Simple! He used an effective marketing strategy. I personally saw this recipe being applied by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998-1999. Having lived through that, I knew Mr. Trump would get enough votes to win the election. A lot of analysts and pundits were wrong in their prediction. Sure, statistical models are extremely useful, but our folly is to fully depend on them as the be-all-end-all prediction tool. With a bit of mindful observation and memory we should be able to see some facts:

  • The president of the United States of America does not have absolute power. The system relies on bodies of government that are supposed to check each other. There is congress and a justice system in place to avoid the imbalance of power.  Americans can make petitions to their representatives, and they can make a case for or against certain rules. In other words, they can balance power by using these institutions. They can use their rights to express their opinions. There are systems in place to help guide power.
  • America is suffering from an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor. The problem isn’t necessarily the production of economic goods but its distribution, and that is accentuated by the fact that in “the land of freedom and opportunity” education is becoming harder and harder for kids to attain if they come from families with low income. So, the inequality in education is hampering the potential for upward mobility that allows people to have a dream. That is why an argument to raise job rates and income by adopting protectionist measures is so appealing to many American families.
  • Finally, there is an increase in terrorist threats but not only from foreign militants, but also from inside. This is due to individuals that are subject to mental issues, social isolation and economic pressures. Confusion is inevitable – and it begets more confusion and contradiction.  In a country that values freedom we can find an increasing prison population. In a place that values security, we see a lack of control when it comes to the commerce of deadly weapons.

Let’s admit it, historically it has always been easier to blame immigrants; anyone who is different from what we’re used to. We, as humans, seem to be hardwired to reject other groups and prefer our own groups (ethnic or otherwise). But we have to be fair. Instead of blaming, or pointing fingers, we should practice empathy in order to have a more constructive conversation about the issues that plague us. These times provide us with an opportunity to demonstrate and spread love, friendship, and show that we are all interdependent.

A fair outlook would lead us to conclude that the US has had a huge impact on the world, and that some of that impact is driven by the immigrant talent that makes up some of the country’s social fabric. I would appeal again our capacity to be mindful and perceive things as they are. We don’t have the truth and we don’t understand it all. I know many immigrants in the US that voted for Donald Trump, and we shouldn’t judge that fast.

The two best things we can do are:

1) Show compassion, be patient and see how we can help our fellows Americans. We should demonstrate our true friendship and solidarity and show them our appreciation for the programs that should continue, because they benefit the US and the rest of the world on many levels.

2) Study how we can benefit from the new American policies. For example establishing a quick and effective refugee or immigration program to help bring the talent that is stranded outside of the United States due to the executive orders. Another example would be improving our relationships with China and Asia to get investors for our start-ups and our own companies with the potential to create jobs here. We could also increase funding to international organizations that are aligned with our values.

We can establish strategic and tactical policies to reinforce our relationship with our sisters and brothers to the south and improve our international influence. We should not fear to denounce any violation to human rights and continue our quest for equality, justice and freedom.

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Sand Mandala Meditation in Montreal

The day finally came. We were about to hold the first ever Sand Mandala Meditation workshop in North America. The chosen city: Montreal, Canada – our home.

The idea behind the workshop was to start educating people about this type of meditative practice. We also wanted to see what were people’s reaction to this type of meditation – after all, sand mandala hasn’t been accessible to regular people…until now!

This is how the workshop unfolded Continue reading

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Mindfulness Comes to Montreal

We want to improve. Ultimately, that’s the goal. We want to be fitter, smarter, more attractive, more financially independent; we want to be better – better lovers, better friends, better parents, and the list goes on. In short, we are “here” but we want to be “there”. The question then becomes: how do we get from “here” to “there”? Without a doubt, there’s a lot of work involved in the process. However, something that’s also crucial for the success of your efforts is “mindfulness”. Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is being aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This type of awareness puts you on a fast track to achieving your goals – and people are catching on. There are numerous books describing the effects of mindfulness on both, children and adults. Furthermore, if we take a look at the popularity of the search term on Google Trends, we can clearly see a sharp increase in the past few years.

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This trend, plus the increasing availability of numerous scientific studies that analyse and prove the impact of mindful meditation on our brain activity, convinced us to give it a try.

In our quest for mindfulness, we have interviewed and consulted a master in Transcendental Meditation, we have practiced Yoga, body scan, breathing meditation,  and mantras meditation in a fairly regular basis. Needless to say – we haven’t mastered any of these types of meditation yet. However, through this practice, we have “found” more time in our lives. This is time that is then devoted to things that make us happy: sports, socializing, and even writing this blog, among many other things. And this happened in the midst of a very busy year – planning a wedding, finishing an MBA degree, dealing with sciatica problems, working on one of the most important projects I’ve had as a professional, and of course, trying to build a community based on mindfulness.

There were times in which we felt overwhelmed by the amount of effort we had to put into meditation. If you have tried it, you know that it is hard to sit, close your eyes, and actively think about clearing all of your thoughts. Sometimes we were too tired or too hyper. So, we looked for ways to introduce a reminder in our lives that would trigger in us the desire to meditate through an effortless activity that would still carry the impact and benefits of the other types of meditation we were practicing. We wanted something that was simple, appealing, and that would still create for us a state of mindfulness. We found the answer in the sand Mandala.

A sand Mandala is an ancient art form of Tibetan Buddhism in the form of sand painting. The word “mandala” is Sanskrit meaning “world in harmony.” Mandalas are drawings in three-dimensional forms of sand.

 

 

 

The sand mandala is carefully constructed from dyed sand particles to represent the particular esoteric, textual traditions of Buddhism. It is a transient art form, thought to have originated in India and been transferred in the middle ages to Tibet. It is constructed as vehicle to generate compassion, create awareness in the present, realize the impermanence of reality, and, on a spiritual level for the Buddhists, a tool for the social/cosmic healing of the environment.

So, we built a Mandala set and started doing it. Surprisingly, it was like playing, but it still created a mental state of awareness and mindfulness. I completed my first mandala with my 7 years old son and the result was extraordinary. The observed benefits of doing the mandala over and over again can be summarized in the following sections. These are concrete benefits that even those who don’t believe in spirituality can benefit from.

1) Focus

Completing a Mandala is not easy. It requires your full attention. But as you see the sand fill the spaces between the lines, your mind starts letting go of worries and to-do lists. The noise of daily life suddenly starts to quiet down – allowing you to achieve a level of focus that is hard to come by. The more times you go through the process, the easier it gets to translate this focus to other areas of your life – allowing you, for example, to: become more productive, easily establish priorities, and immerse yourself in the task at hand.

2) Connectedness

Patterns in the Mandala are generally concentric. The internal designs remind us of our inner personal circles, the middle ones symbolize our relationship with our community, and the external ones symbolize our connectedness with the world. By attaining a balance between these three circles, we are able to experience a ‘world in harmony’. The colors you use might be chosen to express a particular feeling. With every time you complete the Mandala, you will notice the evolution of that relationship – and how your mood changes accordingly.

3) Patience

 The first few times you try to complete your Mandala, you will feel an urge to finish it the same day. This often happens due to our impatience. We want to see the finished product and we want to see it now. With time, and through practice, you will feel more at ease with stepping away from the Mandala for the moment – coming back to it reinvigorated at a later time. This is extremely useful in our daily lives. There are so many instances where we can avoid getting angry or frustrated if we simply knew how to walk away temporarily and come back to the situation at a later time. This tool allows you to hone that skill.

4) Mindfulness and Detachment

 It is hard to look at something you just made; something beautiful; something that took effort to complete; and consciously get rid of it. Instead, we tend to cling to material things. The Mandala teaches you that everything in life is temporary – your house, your job, your car, your relationships, even life itself. This realization makes you mindful of everything around you. Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the things you spend time on and the people that surround you.

At this point, however, we didn’t know if other people would react the same way or feel the same effects. So, we contacted a meditation center here in Montreal and asked if we could give a Sand Mandala Meditation Workshop. They agreed.

Now, the moment of truth has come. We will find out if this, in fact, is a type of meditation that people can use to complement their search for mindfulness. We will see the effect of sand mandala meditation on other people – and we couldn’t be happier to be sharing this gift. We will let you know exactly how it went, in detail, next week. Stay tuned by subscribing to this blog or following us on Facebook. Don’t miss out!