Halfway to Adulthood

It’s not that it’s hard to believe that I am halfway done with my college career but rather that I refuse to believe I am halfway done with my college career.

Coming to a school 900 miles away from home, I came in only knowing one person and even that find was a lucky one. Like many others I had to establish a new friend group, find my niche and transfer my mindset from high school to college, but as I wrap up my sophomore year I wouldn’t trade any of these experiences for the world. 

The friends I’ve made and memories I’ve created these past two years have really been one for the books. I didn’t expect to make (what I’m assuming to be) life long friends so effortlessly and quickly and I couldn’t imagine my college career being spent with anyone besides them. It’s crazy to think in just two short years, they know me better than I know myself, have seen me at my highest and my lowest, know some of my deepest, darkest secrets, as well as my obnoxious behaviors and still look forward to hanging out with me on the weekends. 

I’ve gained so much knowledge from some incredible professors and have fostered a sense of thinking that I truly enjoy. Everyone I’ve come in contact with has taught me something about myself or the world around me and I love finding that in new people I meet. 

There’s nothing I look forward to more than these next two years and the new people I’ll meet, places I’ll go and things I’ll learn.

I’m convinced that whoever said high school is the best four years of your life must have went to community college. 

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The Power of the Mind

In my last blog I mentioned I had the opportunity to meet Walter Hrycaj, the director of the School of Metaphysics in Columbia. Well aside from being one of the most positive, happy and understanding man I’ve ever met, he’s also overcome many things in his life and has had so many cool experiences in his life. Because of this reason, I wanted to share his story that I had the privilege of uncovering through my time spent with him. Enjoy.

COLUMBIA, Mo — Walter Hrycaj didn’t let his mind fall victim to his body when doctors told him he had an incurable disease at a very young age.

Hrycaj, director of the Columbia School of Metaphysics, was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, ADHD and OCD at age nine. Doctors told him it was something he was going to have to live with for the rest of his life.

However, Hrycaj began to notice he was able to control his body as he participated in sports, specifically through the discipline of martial arts and the creative expression of skateboarding.

“The discipline of martial arts I believe really helped a lot. I could take all that energy that I had and I could channel it,” Hrycaj said. “I believe at that point in time when I knew how to control more of my physical body and I had the discipline to control my body, that’s when I knew that I had some certain element of self-control.”

His self-control enhanced even further as he developed a passion for skateboarding. He said skateboarding offered him a way to unleash his creativity and individuality and offered a way of finding himself at a very rough time in his life.

“I felt like I had a place and I felt confident in myself,” Hrycaj said. “I didn’t really know who I was as I was growing up through elementary and high school because I was the weird kid that just ticked and twitched and made noises and yelled obscenities in class.”

In addition to growing up with Tourette’s, ADHD and OCD Hrycaj also was faced with a verbally and physically abusive stepfather that would constantly put him down telling him he would never amount to anything.

He said that negative environments such as this one caused his Tourette’s and lack of self-control to emerge.

Hrycaj recognized that he needed to surround himself in a positive environment and rid himself of the people and situations that made him feel uncomfortable. As he did this, he was able to gain back his self-control over both his mind and body and made him begin to question the world around him.

“I started questioning my beliefs, started questioning the creator, started questioning things that were happening in my life,” Hrycaj said, “but there were a lot of synchronicities that played out that I didn’t lose a whole lot of faith. There was still some reason why I was here, some reason why, and I believed in that,” he said.

After divorcing his wife, Hrycaj knew he needed to make improvements in his life. He replaced drugs, smoking and drinking with exercise and began to get in shape. It wasn’t until he started his personal training business that he began to look more in to the effects of the mind on the physical body.

Hrycaj noticed his clients improving within the first three months of working out but after those initial three months they began to revert back to their old habits. This is when Hrycaj realized if his clients were able to know more about their mind and their mind’s potential, they would be able to easier maintain results within their physical body.

Through his search of spiritual practices, mind skills and healing modalities that could potentially help his clients tap into the powers of their mind, he came across the School of Metaphysics.

The School of Metaphysics teaches the full potential of the mind through concentration, mediation and visualization.

Hrycaj said what he learned at the school allowed him to access the full potential of his mind. He found himself better able to concentrate fully on a single idea and bring that idea all the way into fruition, something he wasn’t able to do before.

“With the power of belief you can do anything,” Hrycaj said. “I think Napoleon Hill said, ‘Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.’ Whatever you think you can do in your life you have the abilities to make it happen.”

 Not only did Hrycaj learn skills such as meditation, breathing, visualization, concentration and memorization, he also learned a lot about love, compassion and forgiveness.

Hrycaj says the knowledge he gained through the School of Metaphysics gave him the strength to look his stepdad in the eyes and tell him he loved him despite all the negativity he put him through during his childhood.

 Hrycaj now teaches and directs at the School of Metaphysics in Columbia and hopes to see the school flourish and grow even more than it already has.

Friendship Through Finals

For the past couple of weeks, two others and I have been working hard on our final group project for our multimedia journalism class. We decided to focus our multimedia piece on the School of Metaphysics, something I didn’t know anything about before doing this project.

What I came to learn, the people I met and the friends I made truly made this long project worth the while. My group mates and I took a two hour road trip to Windyville, Mo in order to pay a visit to the international headquarters of the school as well as view and tour the Peace Dome. The trip offered a bonding experience for our group and I felt like I really had a connection with these girls whom I had only met in class this semester. Not only was the drive itself one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on, but the campus of the School of Metaphysics had such an intense feeling of serenity that it was no wonder they chose that land for such a place.

I also had the privilege of meeting Walter and Larry from the School of Metaphysics in Columbia. These men are two of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life and their positivity and happiness made me reflect on some attributes within myself. It really is true that just by surrounding yourself with positive people you can gain a more positive outlook on life.

While this project caused me a lot of stress and anxiety, it was definitely worth it in the end as I saw it all come together.

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The Illusion of Sri Kumare

I recently watched Kumare, a documentary about New Jersey filmmaker Vikram Gandhi on his quest to perpetuate the idea of religious leaders as nothing more than illusions in the mind of their followers. He impersonated a fake Indian guru and set out to Arizona to spread the word of his alter guru ego, Sri Kumare. With the help of his two friends, he quickly booked gigs at many yoga studios and collected a gathering of people who wanted to learn from the proclaimed master himself.

His disciples are interviewed as saying he is one of the most influential and real people they’ve ever met, not a doubt in their mind that his identity was anything less than authentic.

His philosophy was simple, truth is an illusion. There is a guru inside everyone and it’s up to you to bring that inner guru out. Basically, through all of his teachings he was telling his students that he wasn’t real, but regardless of his teaching style, the way he enhanced his followers lives was noticeable and undeniable.

As a religious studies major and an enthusiastic proponent of the hypothetical, I found this documentary to be extremely interesting. While the description of the documentary sounds a bit sacrilegious at first glance, when looked at closer it offers a first hand look at how movements get started and gain followers. Vikram pretends to be a guru but the only thing that is fake is his accent and backstory, his teachings are all of his own personal beliefs. Isn’t this how philosophies and religious movements get started? One person has an idea, shares it with another person and if they agree they join together and live by those ideals. It speaks a lot to the authority of perceived power because had he walked in to those yoga studios as an every day Jo-shmo from New Jersey and taught the same principles, he would have been looked at as a crazy skeptic of religion.

In a twisted turn of events, I personally believe he both supported and refuted his hypothesis of leaders as an illusion with this little experiment. Did he fake being a guru? Yes. Did he gain followers and supporters by promoting the idea that he was a religious leader? Yes. Does this make him an “illusion”? Yes and No.

A guru is a sanskrit word that means teacher. In many Indian religions, a guru is known as one with exceptional wisdom that passes this wisdom from teacher to student. Although his teaching style was questioned by some of his students after he revealed his true identity, many still agreed that he was one of the most influential people they’ve ever met and continued to live their lives the way he taught them. Leaders are only leaders if they have people to lead, obviously. They only possess the powers and authority they do because their followers give it to them. So I suppose they are illusions in the sense that they don’t have a proclaimed right or doctrine to power other than that people believe they have it, but all in all that is the whole premise of a leader.

So, Vikram Gandhi may have not been a guru at first, but who’s to say he wasn’t one at the end?

Bossy Without The Y

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“…yeah but most female bosses are bitches.”

A statement from my roommate’s boyfriend that resulted in a lot of emotion, sarcastic comments and a solid minute and a half of me and my roommate looking at each other wide-eyed going, “Ooooooooooh.”

He backed up his claim using some science jargon about how biologically men are inclined to lead because of their testosterone to which I responded with some snarky remark about how women can’t possibly be leaders because we’re too busy shedding our uterine lining and bleeding from our vaginas every month or something like that. Which to me, the bleeding from the vagina defense is always a good one when men refer to things women can’t or shouldn’t do.

Granted, he is a smart guy so his science explanation is probably true but I refused to look up these facts because I am a stubborn human being. However, I was confused how this backed up his statement that most female bosses are bitches. That was the moment I hopped on board the Ban Bossy campaign train.

When men are in charge they’re the boss but when women are in charge they’re bossy. This double-standard is exactly what the Ban Bossy campaign addresses while promoting leadership in young women. The Girl Scouts of the USA has partnered with LeanIn.org “to develop tips and activities to encourage all girls to lead.”  Big names such as Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice backed the campaign to spread the word about banning the word. Cosmo offers a great article on the topic stating that various powerful women were described using words such as crazy, too tough, bossy, stubborn, unapproachable, and brusque whereas men of the same positions and sometimes qualifications were described as audacious, determined, confident and out-spoken. This double-standard between men and women bosses discourages young girls from stepping up into positions of leadership for fear of not being liked.

In a piece on Forbes.com written by Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, she suggests instead of starting a campaign against the word “bossy” why not teach our girls to shrug it off? I understand that it’s not realistic to expect something like this to end gender inequalities and stereotyping as well as the benefits of having thick skin, but have you ever tried to convince a women she is beautiful who has been made to feel her whole life as if she isn’t? It’s not easy to do. The things we are taught, way we are perceived and words used to describe us at a young age affect the way we see ourselves, our opportunities and the world around us as we get older. Yeah, it sucks, and having the ability to shrug off every hurtful word somebody says to you would be ideal, but it’s not realistic either. Doesn’t it make more sense to eliminate the ways in which we are being hurt than finding ways to block it out? Agreed, we give words power, but if we can change the way people view women in these leadership roles why wouldn’t we go that route rather than trying to teach 7 year-old girls the concept of sticks-and-stones?

The sole purpose of this campaign isn’t to end the use of a word. What good would that do? It’s about encouraging and inspiring young girls to develop their leadership skills. It’s about respecting woman in positions of power without assuming they’re bossy, bitches or have done anything other than earn where they’re at in their career. It’s about picturing “the boss” as somebody other than a man. It’s about progression.

The Unknown

The unknown. It’s a concept that puts many people on edge and has always made me uneasy. Take death for example. It’s not death itself that freaks (most) people out, it’s the idea that they can’t say for certain what happens after they die that drives the fear. I am definitely one of those people that lets that uneasiness drive my fear of death, but if there’s one illogical concept that makes me more anxious than death it is outer space.

Space. Infinite, vast, mysterious. I think for me, personally, it’s the idea that it goes on FOREVER (another concept that freaks me out) and we just carry on our day-to-day lives on this floating ball in the middle of this infinite structure that we know pretty much nothing about. I just never took the time to learn or think about space because I never could understand why anyone would possibly care so much. My mindset had always been that we have enough issues here on planet earth to worry about than the possibility that Mars may have had water at some point. As I was discussing my fear of space with a friend, he sent me this video and my mind was blown.

The idea that not only are we a part of the universe, sure a teeny tiny half of a speck, but that the universe is also a part of us is quite possibly the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard. The same stuff that makes up this never ending vortex that scientist dream about knowing more of is within us. That just makes me feel like I can go out and conquer the world… or the universe.

Don’t even get me started about his fascinatingly disturbing truth. However, if that is true -that there is a species out there one percent smarter than we are- we should probably stop spending so much money looking because chances are they’re going to find us first… if they haven’t already.

Let Spring Spring Already

Tonight we prepare to set our clocks ahead and although it means losing one hour of precious sleep, it marks the transition to Spring.

I’m over winter. I was pretty much over winter when winter started. I always like to pretend I’m all about winter because I do enjoy skiing and cuddling up by the fire, reading a book and drinking hot cocoa until I realize that I barely get to ski over my winter break, my apartment doesn’t have a fireplace, and I go stir crazy when I can’t leave the fishbowl that my apartment complex sits in.

I’m ready for life to flourish on the dead trees outside my window and awkward tan lines from walking around campus in a t-shirt and shorts. I know we create fictitious times that are always a good way to “reinvent” ourselves, like New Year’s resolutions and our 25th birthday, but spring is my favorite time for new beginnings (maybe that’s just because I’ve been slacking on my New Year’s resolution so this is my excuse). It’s just that for me, as the weather improves so does my attitude and outlook on life. I’m a believer that our moods are strongly influenced by the weather and too much winter is a depressant.

So let spring spring like a slinky down the stairs because I am over the dead and drab that is this winter.

The Community that Cried Religious Freedom

I am a strong advocate for freedom to religion, and I really enjoy attempting to understand different faiths’ basic traditions and how they mold the ethical dimension of their followers lives. However, I am also a strong proponent for freedom from religion as well. Therefore, when somebody’s right to religious freedom infringes on another person’s access to basic human rights, a line is being crossed. This is why I was baffled by the bill that was trying to work its way through Arizona’s senate that would allow religious institutions to discriminate (basically) against homosexuals. I was happy to hear the bill was vetoed by Arizona’s governor, but I still couldn’t believe it had made it that far.

We have come a long way in promoting both religious justice and human rights and I feel even the proposal of such a bill is regressive in both areas. The “religious justice” reasoning seems like an excuse to ignorance rather than an advancement of a people. Rather than spreading acceptance of religion and religious freedom, this to me is a cop-out in this situation. Since religion ranks up there in topics that make people feel uncomfortable, crying “religious freedom” acts as a third rail that policy makers do not want to touch. When the religious freedom excuse is used in situations to oppress other people it de-validates other efforts in the advancement of acceptance of all faiths.

This promotes an interesting issue in today’s society as to what is hindering a person’s first amendment rights? Many different theorists, theologians, anthropologists and various other scholarly people have different definitions of what religion really is. The difficulty to define religion makes it that much harder to determine when the “religious freedom” excuse is really justifiable because what might have religious significance to one person, could be bologna to someone else, and who’s to determine religion from bologna?

Choosing To Be Woman

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I’ve never described myself as a “feminist” because of the negative connotations chained to the word, however there was no more hiding my feminism when I became an advocate for the efforts of the Free The Nipple movement, a movement aimed at decriminalizing the (female) nipple in the 37 states where it is still illegal to be topless. Free The Nipple is a film-in-progress by Lina Esco aimed to “end this insane war on women’s boobs.” I personally think this step towards increasing gender equality and decreasing gender stereotypes is impressive and long overdue.

I always see posts on Facebook and other social media outlets regarding the idea of redefining the “perfect body”  and changing how women are portrayed in mass media. Many people post inspiring stories or confident pictures of so called “plus size” women posing comfortably in their own skin, and I for one am all about it.

I would like to see more images of women of all sizes portrayed in the media because “female” is not a cookie cutter image confined to a USPS “it fits, it ships” box, but rather female comes in all shapes, sizes, proportions, dimensions, lengths, widths and heights.

However, to redefine the “ideal” female image isn’t my goal. I want to strip naked the gender stereotypes that go along with being woman and the way we see and allow our body to be seen is just one stop on my journey to gender equality.

We promote the idea of pride and discourage the idea of shame when it comes to loving your body, yet when we go to show off our inherited masterpieces sculpted to perfection, perfection of our own accord, we are restricted by the gender stereotypes cast upon us by the shadow of The Man. The Man who says we can either show off our bodies or maintain our respect, but not both. The Man who determined what lies on the female chest must be sheltered and hidden while what lies on his is allowed to golden in the light of the sun. The same Man who encourages slut-shaming for a woman’s actions and then turns around and high-fives the man who partakes in the same activities.

Some women work hard for the body they find suitable,  others are just blessed with a fortunate set of genes and others take pride in what they have no matter what anybody else thinks. This sense of pride deserves more than just a Facebook status. It deserves to be shown off without the connotation that the person showing it off is a sleaze, slut or whore. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean that she’s trading in her right to be respected for a greater sense of self-pride. It simply means she’s satisfied with what she has and she’s not going to mask it under clothes and ancient social norms.

You can either wear a mini skirt or be a CEO, rock a bikini on the beach or be a part of the PTO, sport a mid-drift or have a family, I’m calling bullshit on these ultimatums. It’s time to exterminate the idea that shedding our clothes means shedding our dignity. It’s time to put an end to slut-shaming. It’s time to disregard the idea that trading in our flats for stilettos means trading in our respect for degradation.

I can’t put it any better than these four lovely ladies from the Brave New Voices Grand Slam competition did when they said, “…but no matter what garments we wrap ourselves in a woman’s status as trick, treat or geek is not up for discussion. A woman dressing, acting, or being should be her choice, if a woman wants to wear a skimpy outfit, let it be her choice. If a woman wants to cover up, let it be her choice, and if I want to be a mother fucking monster, let it be, my choice.”

So if you got it, think you got it, know you got it, or don’t care if you have it – flaunt it, shake what your momma gave ya and #FreeTheNipple …or don’t, as long as it’s your choice.