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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guest blog: Being Grateful by Bill Bruner

Yesterday I mentioned that one of the easiest first steps for moving from a place of negativity to being more positive is by expressing your gratitude.

I believe that by finding ways to be grateful in our lives we open ourselves up to a whole new world of possibilities. This small step, that I practice daily, is an exercise that is well worth your time.

For those of you who don't know this practice, it's really very simple. Every morning I sit and think of things from the day before to be grateful for. I try to write them down to have a record of my expressions.

It can be as simple as: I am grateful for all the wonderful people I've met on Twitter or as personal as: I am grateful for the love and support of my wife.

What you are grateful for isn't as important as going through the process everyday. The more routine you can make this process the more you can begin to open yourself up.

What I have found over the past several years of doing this is that what you are grateful for begins to show up more in your life. There are many reasons for this but the simplest way to explain it is that we are all connected, and your thoughts have power.

Even the thoughts you don't express are heard by the universe/God,  and those thoughts create actions without you ever knowing it.

I like to think of this process as being similar to throwing a stone into a pond. A single thought grows outward from its source (yourself) till it is heard throughout the universe. There have been many studies that show that this process does actually work.

One of the most dramatic for me was the effect of thoughts on water. By thinking about the water no matter how far apart the people thinking of the water were the water actually changed its shape and structure.

Know that we live a beautiful universe where love is the greatest gift we can give, and because of this the universe/God wants to give us back what we desire.

If we only think negative thoughts, we will continue to bring negative things into our lives as the universe/God only knows to give us what we ask for.

The journey to leading a more positive/joyful life is different for everyone. The first step of bringing more joy into your life is to start each day with morning "gratefuls."

The process of being grateful opens you up to the good things in your life rather than focusing on the negative. This shift of consciousness is the beginning of leading a more positive life.

It is this change in the way you look at things that opens you up to more and more positive things in your life. For some this shift is easy, and just taking the first step of doing the gratefuls leads them to the next step.

For others the process is more difficult and the shift takes more time. The main reason for this is in the acceptance of the feelings that the "gratefuls" lead you to.

Take time after writing your "gratefuls" to realize the way these things make you feel. Internalize the joy that is now a part of your life. This extra step of feeling what you write helps to move the process out of your head/ego and into your soul.

The ego will always hold you back, and we will explorer the traps of the ego at a later time. For now, know that the willingness to feel and continue to open yourself up is what codifies the process and moves you forward to the acceptance of more good and positive things in your life.

It's in this realization that you will begin to see things change in your life. As in the example I gave yesterday of the stone in the pond, your acceptance of joy from the smallest things in your life will be sent out over and over again bringing you back more and more things to be grateful for.

Release the fear and all the negative feelings in your life, even if it's only for the time it takes to write your "gratefuls." Every move toward the positive will bring you more joy, and the process will become easier and easier and more and more fulfilling.

Today start the practice of being grateful, reflect on what you are grateful for, and know how that gratitude feels to you in your heart and soul. Believe it even if it's forced in the beginning.

Together we can do anything, and if we all start to move to a more positive place, imagine how great this world will be.

Accept, let go and enjoy life.

Till tomorrow,


Quote of the day:

"Life is about love, if we all loved more the world would be a better place. Expand your comfort zone and love someone new today."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Guest Blog: "Cap and Gown" by Brian Leiken

Six years, five graduations, nine hundred school days.

A relatively short period of time in the lifespan of a human, 900 days.

If all the hours I had spent teaching in school were added up into one continuous, non-stop marathon, at 6.6 hours a day, I'd be only 247 days old.

Six years teaching and I'm still just a baby.

This year only two of the students on my case load are graduating, but only one will be at the ceremony, only one will walk across the stage. The other should have graduated last year, but doesn't want to "walk" when most of his senior class graduated a year earlier.

But the girl who is walking across stage is a success story. I've seen her grown from a shy, dependent girl into a slightly less shy but independent young woman. It's been a struggle: building her confidence, teaching her to believe in herself, getting her to work on her own.

"Looking forward to graduation?" I ask rhetorically.

"I'm not going to walk," she says flatly.


"I don't want to walk. It's stupid."

Oh no, this is not happening. "Graduation is a rite of passage, it only comes once. In life, there are no do-overs. You should go."

"No, Mister. I don't want to, it's embarrassing."

"Embarrassing? Everyone is walking across stage. It will be over in like a second."

"No, it's okay. I don't want to. Graduations are boring."

"Of course they're boring!" I exclaim. "Graduation is supposed to be boring! It's for your parents, and your teachers, and your family! Graduation is for everyone but you!"

The girl looks at the floor, unwilling to meet my gaze.

It occurs to me there is more going on here than meets the eye; the benefit of six years, five graduations and 900 days experience. "If you don't do this," I continue, "you may live to regret it."

The girl mumbles something. I ask her to repeat herself, leaning in.

"I don't have the money, Mister."

"Money for what?"

"It's a hundred dollars for the cap and gown."

"A HUNDRED DOLLARS! Cold hard cash?"

The girl nods, quietly embarrassed.

"What about your parents?" I ask. "Don't they have the money?" The girl shakes her head. I've known that her family is poor, I once had to "loan" her and her sister money to go see Eclipse. "Do they want you to go?" The girl nods, gaze furtively darting about the room.

"I want you to go the rehearsal today at lunch. You are going to graduate."

"But I don't have the money."

"I'll take care of it. Don't worry about it."

"But, I don't have the money."

"I'll get you your cap and gown. Go."

I go the special ed department first, explaining the situation. Borquez and Khazani immediately start asking their students; some seniors short on credits have already bought their cap and gown but won't be needing the gown since they won't be graduating.


An aide who graduated two years ago says he'll bring in his blue and silver cap and gown, after all, he isn't using it. Caps and gowns don't really change; South East's 2005 graduating class would fit right in with the 2010.

But his father has already thrown the aide's cap and gown away. Turns out he didn't think his son would ever need to use it.

Ms. Owens finds a website that sells the gowns for $15, but time is short and it will cost me through the nose to have it shipped.

Eventually, I go to the head of leadership and ask her if I can buy the gown at cost, or about $50. The head of leadership agrees. Khazani, Martinez and Solorio all help contribute cash.

I go back to the girl, handing her the money. I could have paid for it directly, but I want her to buy it for herself. She deserves that.

Two hours later she enters my room with a small plastic bag containing the gown, cap, a black sash embroidered 2010, and a small medal. (In today's world, graduation is worthy of a medal.)

"I have my cap and gown, Mr. Leiken."

I nod, looking up from where I am helping a student finish up a paper. "Awesome, so how was rehearsal?"

"It was okay."

The girl goes to my window, looking out over the football field, where students are lining up for the senior photo. She stares in silence, twisting the cap and gown bag in her hands in endless loops.

"Aren't you going to join the seniors for the photo?"

"No. It's too hot."

"You should go. Be a part of it."

"No, I don't want to." she answers, staring at the crowd outside.

I stop lecturing her. Sometimes you have to let people do what they want to do. Nothing is said, nothing is spoken. Neither of us is bothered by the silence, the lack of conversation.

The bell rings, and the girl turns. "Goodbye, Mister," she says, exiting the room.

It's her way of saying thanks.

Six years, five graduations, 900 days.

It never gets old.

Copyright 2010 by Brian Leiken

LA Teacher
Crossed Out by Brian Leiken at

Brian Leiken is an LA inner-city, special ed teacher and author of Crossed Out, a book about and for his students. Oh yes, he's also my son:)

Photo of cap and diploma by Mary Gober
Photo of We're done! by Kati Garner

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Missing Person

I think most of us at some point experience feeling lost or invisible, drifting without direction.

Looking back at that time in my life, I remember the discomfort of not knowing who I was any more, because my old life of marriage, corporate career, and family, shifted off its foundation officially when I moved from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles.

 I became a missing person.

I had followed the scripts of the American dream for women of my generation: married my college sweetheart, a successful attorney; raised two children; lived the good life on a house on five acres along with indistinguishable years of beach and ski vacations.

Somewhere along the way, I vanished.

Divorce extricated me from a stifling marriage only to find myself wedded to the corporation that took over my life instead. Bottom lines, deadlines, meetings and management consumed my life along with single motherhood.

And then after my children moved away and another marriage ended, I walked away from it all, quit my stressful job, sold my home of 20 years and moved to LA to be near my children and start over.

I was at a loss without the trappings, structure and patterns that glued my life together before.

I was beginning my life again in my 50's and not sure where I was headed, but I had to discover if the girl who once dreamed of doing something creative still existed. I'd come so far to find me again.

Once the familiar props were gone, I was adrift. I wondered if it was possible to rediscover myself and pursue my dream to write and teach, to be free, true to myself, and be of service.

I decided to pursue my passion without giving in to the fears and insecurities that sabotaged my dreams in the past. I had to know.

I looked for my new identity with other singles, at churches, in classes and retreats.

I had no idea where the search would take me. Dipping into myself for affirmation, I found doubts and misgivings.

Surely, the idealistic, creative young woman I was once was still alive. How could I find her? I refused to believe she was gone forever. I searched on long walks on the beach, in mediatation, reflection and time with loved ones.

Slowly, signs of her began to appear: laughter, joy in writing and teaching, delight in small things. I caught glimpses of her from time to time.

Major life changes required shedding my former life's skin for a new one. Renewal felt unsettling and scary, but I knew there was no going back.

I learned it would take time to reconnect with my former self, return to my internal roots, and get my life back.

I didn't want to be afraid to go it alone, if need be. This part of the journey required being solo to be open to life's possibilities without the distractions of someone else's needs.

It was part of my reunion with myself and all that had gone missing  for a long time.

homem by Jonathan Phillip

Puzzle Missing photo by MichaƂ Trochimiak

Also see: DC to LA: A Monumental Change

Copyright © Erana Leiken, 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Still Learning My ABC's

I found some notes I started in 2009 when I jotted down letters of the alphabet and then freewrote words that came to mind from them.

Looking at them now, I see that my word play was really a litmus test for my perceptions about life.

The words  I created from each initial alphabet letter told me how I was doing and my perspective.

I never finished the whole alphabet and I created them randomly, not sequentially. They may not be tea leaves, but they are indicators of where my "head" is and a good barometer for how I am seeing things at this stage of  life.

The alphabet seeds brought forth new thoughts from my interior garden and showed me how my awareness has shifted over the past few years in spite of job changes, health concerns and the old insecurities that used to run my life.

So I am still learning from my ABC's. They are a rorschach, an inkblot for my life now, freely expressed and good to see on the page.

L for laughter, life, light

A for angels, attitude, advance

J   for joy, journey, jubiliation

F  for freedom, forward, fun

E  for energy, enlightenment, enhance

G  for good, grace, gratitude

C  for courage, change, choice

P  for positive, powerful, productive

As I writer, I could complete the alphabet and the words they prompt, but I choose to let the inspiration speak for itself and for me.

They occurred spontaneously and will remain as they showed up in my consciousness. They are welcome at a more contented time in my life:)

Copyright © Erana Leiken, 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Photo of magnet letters by guil