Lately, I’ve been in conversations and in circulos with people who have expressed that it’s just too much, when speaking about life and their present circumstances. In a recent circulo, someone shared that they felt like they were in a dike, holding their finger to a hole to prevent it from leaking. And just when they stopped one leak, two others opened. It’s just too much. We’ve also heard the saying, “when it rains, it pours,” pointing to times when everything seems to be going in one direction. We’ve all been there, and it can be overwhelming.
I too have been there and when times like this occur, it can impact us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I remember one particularly tough time in my life when I was struggling. As I was in deep reflection, I saw my grandmothers and tías sitting in a circle, with their arms folded, looking down. With disappointed looks, they were saying, “We’re right here and we can help. But if you want to do it on your own, go ahead, go ahead.” Thinking of that image, I began laughing, and it broke the spell of hopelessness. And... they were right.
We live in world of fear, where society and its systems use fear as tool of manipulation. We are also told by society that we, individually, are responsible for fixing it. But let us not forget that our ancestors and cultures have left us many values, traditions and spiritual practices that can support us along the way. For that reason, it is important for us to have ways of being and practices to ground us, especially when things become “just too much.” Below are four of my main practices.
As we enter this month, where Father’s Day is celebrated, I stop to recall the many blessings that I’ve experienced as a father and as a grandfather; and I feel so fortunate. The making of silly faces, the singing of made-up songs, the comforting someone’s coco (hurt), the coaching of soccer and basketball games, the trying your daughter’s cheerleading moves, and sometimes just watching them sleep. Now I also feel joy by seeing our children raise their own children with such love and patience. I also know that there were so many times throughout the years that the blessings of fatherhood came my way, but I was too busy, too stressed, too scattered or trying too hard to do the “right” thing, to even enjoy those times. Like many of us, I wasn’t always in a place where I could enjoy the sacredness of Fatherhood. And to be honest, if I’m not intentional, I can fall right back into those hurried, habitual patterns. What I’ve found is that there are 4 elements that have helped me along the way that I’d like to share with you all.
So to all the fathers, grandfathers, tíos and father figures, many blessings to you. And thank you for doing your work and bringing joy to all those whose lives you’ve touched.
P.S. Check out the Father's Love workbook on SueñosPublicationsLLC.com. And keep an eye out for my new book, Tata and the Mouse Family, coming soon.
It is a time of Spring blossoming, seasons changing, miracles rising, and radical faith. At the same time, many of us have experienced stormy, torrential rain, snow and winds that have disrupted our flow and made us ask, “When is the rain going to stop and when will the sun come out again?”. Regardless of how you see it, it is definitely an opportunity for growth and transformation. And what we know is that things cannot grow unless there is sufficient water and nourishment. And as I look around, there are flowers with colors that we haven’t seen in a long, long time because the seeds for those colors were buried deep in the soil… only able to come out when persistent nourishment was given. But just as the beautiful flowers grew, the weeds sprung up as well.
The lesson here is that life comes in this duality. You cannot have day without night, light without darkness, blossoms without weeds, and blessings without struggles. So, the questions are, “What do you water and nourish, and what do you need to weed out of your life?”. If you don’t make room for the blessings to grow, they will be suffocated by the toxic habits, burdens, and unnourishing ways. And those miraculous dreams that are just waiting to be fulfilled will never reach the surface.
I know it can seem overwhelming, but it starts with you knowing: You are a blessing to the universe and you have a sacred purpose that is waiting to be fulfilled.
Don’t let the storms discourage you because the prayers of your ancestors will keep you afloat. But you must do your part… one breath, one blessing, one affirmation at a time. And don’t forget to walk where, and with whom, you feel blessed and loved. Then pass it forward because this is not only for you. The children are watching, and your actions can break generational cycles of pain, and water circles of love, trust, dignity and respect.
This morning, I had the blessing of reading and sharing stories with classrooms of 2nd and 3rd graders. It was a part of Read Across America, and I had the opportunity to be in the presence of these young, energetic people.
As an author of numerous children’s books, I’ve long known the power of stories and books in the lives of children. And for that reason, I decided early on in my career to write and tell stories that brought light to the beauty of the history, culture and sacredness of children and families.
The morning was fun and brought out the child in me as I used my drum, flutes, movement and sounds to share the story of Coyote, How He Gets His Name. It’s a story where the Coyote doesn’t like being a Coyote because he doesn’t see himself in books, history or movies, and "nobody wants to be Coyote." Unfortunately, so many of our children (and adults) struggle with appreciating and loving themselves, their family, or their culture, which can lead to health, mental health and other life-long issues. In the end, the Coyote learns that he is sacred, special and a blessing just as he is.
So I asked the children to repeat to themselves, “I am special and a blessing, just the way I am.” Then I had them tell a classmate, “You are special and a blessing, just the way you are.” When they did that, the room lit up with their smiles and feelings of pride. Seeing them bless themselves and others brought so much joy to my heart and reaffirmed what we need in the world: the practice of acknowledging, affirming and blessing one another. So as you go about your day, bring light into your life and that of others by reminding yourself that You are special and a blessing, just the way you are. And then share the message with someone else.
As a child, I remember my parents working very hard, to the point that I would joke that "I don’t think my mom sleeps." When I woke up in the morning, she was already awake. And when I went to sleep at night, she was still awake, always doing something.
They sacrificed very much so that we could get an education and live a “better life”. We also learned from general society that in order to be successful, you had to go to school and get your education. My family had a lot of respect for and faith in this western education and supported it in order to prepare us for life. The underlying messages that we were taught by society were that smart kids, or smart people in general, go to school, get a degree and thus become successful.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that society was also indirectly sending the message that my parents, who didn’t have that formal education, were less smart and less successful. And although my parents and family reinforced the importance going to school, what they might not have realized was the importance of the lessons that they taught us. These lessons that came from our indigenous roots, our culture and our ancestors were equally, if not more, important not only to my life success but my overall health, happiness and well-being. In Spanish, we call these type of teachings La Educación or the development of your character. And in the Nahuatl language, it’s referred to as the Huehuetlatolli, or the teachings of the ancestors.
Our grandmothers understood that all knowledge was interconnected and pertained to maintaining balance and harmony with all your relations; from the plants, to the animals, to the sun, to the moon, the universe and all our human relations. In essence, getting a formal, western education only mattered if it could enhance your ability to be in balance and in harmony with all these relations, including the love and care of yourself, your family and community. So, it’s important to for us to consider these two forms of learning in how we live our lives, and what we pass on to subsequent generations.
In order to maintain balance and harmony in our lives and that of our children, through this present climate of much anxiety, fear and disconnectedness, we need to re-root ourselves in these values – values of dignity, respect, trust and love for oneself and for all people, especially those in need of our advocacy and prayers of healing.
Peace in the world happens one piece at a time. And each of us has our own piece to contribute. One prayer and one action at a time. Let us all do our part.
I was recently blessed with a new grandson, Greyson Antonio Tello. What a joy it is to welcome this new little life into our family. My grandma would say each child that comes into the world is a blessing. In essence, we had many blessings in our family. More importantly though, my grandma was sharing that everyone that came into the world was sacred in their own way. It didn’t matter what the circumstances of the family were, when the child was born, or whether the child was “planned” for. In indigenous cultures, all children and, in fact, all people are seen as sacred.
This is so important, and it is actually one of the first rooted teachings for a child when they come into the world. It can, and often does, impact how a person sees themselves throughout their lives. Whether a newborn child is welcomed and seen as a blessing or burden can have a dramatic impact on whether or not that child’s spirit is able to fully connect and trust their family, and others. For this reason... many cultures have traditions and rituals that are specifically focused on welcoming the baby into the family, and the world.
As a child, I remember that when a new baby was born in our family, we had a tradition of going to visit the mother and baby, and taking a plate of food. Then, we were told that when we see the him/her, we had to touch the baby and say something beautiful about the her/him. It was said that if we looked at the baby and didn’t touch it, it might get sick. And we had to say beautiful things because our words had power, and we wanted the baby to feel beautiful, positive energy.
I didn’t understand any of this at the time, but now I know the impact of someone’s perspective and the importance of being connected (the touch) to someone’s sense of self-worth. In fact, researchers now have shown that when someone acknowledges (sees) you in a positive way and touches you (connects) with positive interaction, it releases a chemical in your body that opens your heart and heals you.
Something as simple as taking time to see, acknowledge and connect with people in a good way can strengthen and actually help heal a person. So, I encourage you to turn off your computers, put your phones down, and take a moment to see, acknowledge and connect with someone in a good way. It can heal them, and you as well.
I extend blessings to you and all your relations, and give thanks for another day of life and opportunity. Grandfather sun greeted us this morning with his light to remind us of the light we carry within us, and our responsibility to shine that light on others. We also recognize that the sun will set and grandmother moon will call us to go into the lessons of the darkness, to allow our bodies to rest.
Yes, life is about night and day, and beginnings and endings, that are all part of the circle of life. Our challenge is... “How do we accept and embrace what the circle of life brings us, without resorting to the cycles of pain?”
As part of the beautiful circle of life, in September of 2017, the ancestors blessed us with new life, Greyson Antonio Tello. My grandson, who continues that circle of life, was sent by the ancestors as he graced us with his presence. When I picked him up and held him I said, “Welcome grandson. Thank you for blessing us with your sacredness. I am your grandfather, your Tata. Our family welcomes you just as you are. We promise to love you, care for you, protect you and support you in fulfilling your sacred purpose.”
What I was doing with my new grandson was fulfilling the first teaching in life, that of acknowledgement and welcoming. The wisdom teachers have shared with us that when babies come into this world, their spirits arrive asking, “Am I wanted and to whom am I connected?”
That first teaching is so powerful that if you don’t get it from your relatives or someone when you arrive into this world, then you will search and long for it for the rest of your life. It will also trigger you anytime you go anywhere in life… you feel insecure, wondering if you are really wanted or welcomed. This wound of disconnection then breeds a fear of abandonment so strong that it can make it difficult for many of us to trust others, make a commitment in a relationship, or become intimate at all.
So, for me, it was very important that my grandson and all my relations know that from this Tata, they are wanted, loved and connected.
For those that struggle with that wound, you really can’t go back and make that right. The reality is that some of our parents and grandparents, when they had us, were in pain and just surviving through life; or maybe didn’t know how to convey love and acceptance because they didn’t get it themselves.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to understand that the creator doesn't create junk and that each of us is a sacred blessing. And even though we may not have been welcomed in a good way, tata sol (grandfather sun) reminds us every day of the light that we carry within us… and our sacred purpose that is ready to shine.
Blessings to you all and have a good day,
I just returned from the Sons and Brothers camp, which is a week-long camp for over 100 youth from across California. I was one of the elders as part of the Healing Generations Team, which attempts to provide a positive, interactive, rites-of-passage experience for youth of color.
It was at this camp, last year, that we were drumming to provide some dance music, in an attempt to get the youth up, moving, and interacting together. They seemed reluctant to get involved. So in hopes of encouraging them to get up and move, I decided to get up myself. Growing up in Compton and South Central Los Angeles, music, singing and dancing were significant parts of our lives; and I still love them.
But as I was grooving and feeling the music, maybe a little bit too much, I decided to make some James Brown type moves when all of a sudden, I hear a “snap” and feel like someone kicked me from behind. And just like that… “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” That’s when I realized I couldn’t walk so well, and limped off the floor. I guess the dancing worked because the youth did get up but, to make a long story short, I had torn my Achilles tendon.
Upon arriving home and going to the doctor, he recommended surgery. But after conferring with a couple of healers and health practitioners, they told me “the body will heal itself, as long as you participate in the healing.” By this, they meant that I would need to get my leg casted with my foot pointing down, so that the two wounded parts would face each other.
After a couple of weeks getting around in a cast, my body felt crooked. I went to my chiropractor, who affirmed I was indeed out of balance. But then, he went on to tell me that the reason I had been injured was not because I had weak legs or ankles, but because my core was weak. He said, “when your core is weak, the rest of your body will take the hit.”
Obviously, there were many lessons for me here, about slowing down and not trying to be a teenager at my age. But the 2 major lessons that really came to me were about healing and growing.
In reference to healing, the message was: if you really want to heal, then you need to have your wounded parts face each other. Or in other words, you must be willing to face your wounds. I would even go further and say that we must embrace our wounds without shame or blame.
The second lesson in reference to growing is about rooting and strengthening one’s core. How do we build the core of healthy values and practices, that allows us to move and grow in fulfilling our sacred purpose?
The process of incorporating these lessons into our lives is addressed in more detail in Recovering Your Sacredness. But the teaching that I want to emphasize for now is: if you don’t face your wounds (issues, fears, problems, etc.) then, just like my Achilles tendon, although healed, it would have been crooked, or imbalanced and caused me pain the rest of my life. How many of us just “get by” in times of crises, but don’t really face our lessons?
And in reference to growth, we must change our patterns of responding to life by re-rooting ourselves in the core values of self-love and self-respect; and trust our intuitive voice to guide us.
Greetings and blessings to all of you who have chosen to join me as we share, reflect, and explore the teachings and lessons of our journey through life. It is my intent with these reflections to offer a space for us to contemplate the many lessons that come to us through our ancestral teachings as we integrate them with the challenges in our day-to-day lives.
For many of you, this will be a continuation of the teachings that you have heard me share as part of a presentation, training or online video. For others, this may be your first time hearing from me. Nevertheless, I really appreciate you choosing to participate as I expand on the many teachings, and deeper reflections of those teachings, of learning to live life with value and joy.
With that in mind, this blog will focus on three major areas:
With that in mind, I offer these teachings very humbly in hopes that whatever shared here is helpful and contributes, in a positive way, to your journey and your own sacred healing, growth and development.