Life is like an EKG

Everyone experiences highs and lows in life, just like an EKG. Today, ACC welcome Lynette Bloise a professor from the University of Massachusetts to talk about the highs and lows of our lives and how we can carry on throughout. If our life doesn’t have the highs and lows like an EKG we are essentially dead, is how Lynette likes to put it.

Lynette Bloise moved to the United States in 1984 from Puerto Rico and has had her fair share of hardships. She shared her life experiences with the group that we had at our weekly Wednesday incubator meetings, and many people could relate to the “up and down” type of lifestyle she was talking about.

Lynette believes that we all are on this earth equally, but that we all have a different journey and a different heart that leads us down different paths. She believes we are all equal because “Nobody comes out of life alive”. She shared the story of Viktor Frankl who was in a concentration camp in 1942 and was there for three years. Most of his family, including his pregnant wife, perished in the camps, but the managed to survive. Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning. He saw that those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. 

Lynette then read a quote from a philosopher that said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost anyhow”. This means that if you have something to live for, you can do anything you put your mind to. We went around the room and people shared their own ‘why’ in life and the examples ranged from grandkids and great grandkids to education and music or nature.

Lynette truly believes that kindness has a ripple effect. She said, “If I touch one life, then that one person is going to touch five more, it’s a ripple effect like in the ocean.”   

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"Fake" News

Radio, newspaper, word of mouth, television, computer, and magazines are all ways to receive news. But how do we know if the information in the news is true?  Today, one of our interns Alexandra Shore gave a presentation on “fake news”. She is currently a sophomore journalism student and wanted to share her recently learned knowledge on how to sift through fact or fiction.

There is one test that she put the main focus on which is the C.R.A.A.P Test, an acronym which is supposed to remind people that there is a list of steps we can take to sift through the information.

 The C stands for currency:

  • How recent is the information?

The R stands for Relevance:

·      Who is the intended audience?

Authority:

·      Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?

·      What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?

·      Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy:

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose:

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

One tip Alexandra shared with the group is to always take information with a grain of salt until you have time to fact check the information.

 

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Today, we welcomed Maureen Groden who gave us the pleasure of sharing her knowledge about women’s leadership and how to deal with loss and grief.

The first half of our meeting we discussed women in leadership positions. Maureen Groden is part of her towns select board, she is a professor at the University of Massachusetts, and has been a leader of many other organizations in her career.

Women are often still viewed as “new” to leadership. Although we can think of Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, the women of the women’s rights movement in the 20’s, somehow women are still outnumbered by men in leadership positions. In universities, businesses, courts, unions, and religious institutions, male leaders outnumber female leaders by wide margins.

Maureen helped us think about why that might be, and a lot of people who attended our meeting kept referring to the topic of culture. This is because in our society whenever we think of leadership we tend to think of competitiveness, masculinity, and individualism, and all of these things are traits that men are known to have. Women are expected to act like men which causes women to embrace the competitive culture and masculinity  in order to be taken seriously and seen as a true leader. Maureen believes that we need to restructure our values of leadership.

For the second half of our incubator meeting, we focused on ways to cope with loss and grief. Maureen worked in many Hospice’s and said she had become accustomed to dealing with not only loss, but how to comfort those who have lost.

We first discussed how you don’t need to have someone pass away to feel loss. Someone can physically still be living but due to substance abuse and addiction it can feel like a loss. The second thing we discussed is that everyone grieves differently, and sometimes it may feel as though people have certain expectations on what the right way to grieve is. But Maureen shared that grief is normal and there is no right or wrong way to deal with it.

Maureen left us with grief care notes that we can refer to and one quote that stuck out said, “Grief is the most intense and enduring emotion we can experience. There is no quick fix. There is no short cut. An ancient African saying is “There is no way out of the desert except through it.” Each of us will take a different route and will travel at his/her own speed using the tools provided by his/her own culture, experience, and faith.”

At the end of our meeting we all wrote down names of people we were grieving and put them in a basket. We then slowly filled a glass container with different colored sands to remind us of the people we were grieving. We then lit a candle in the sand and said a moment of silence. 

 

By: Alexandra Shore

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Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program

Everyone who attended our weekly incubator meeting today shared their tips on how to stay healthy. People mentioned examples such as drinking water, exercising, and getting 8 hours of sleep. But when it came to keeping Kidney function healthy some were stumped. Thankfully we welcomed students from Amherst College who are part of the KDSAP, or the Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program.

The students of the KDSAP program explained that Chronic Kidney Disease is a “silent killer”. Kidney diseases are also increasingly recognized as a public health concern because chronic kidney disease (CKD) is very costly to treat. Raising kidney awareness can help detect CKD early on and thus prevent complications of decreased kidney function, slow the progression of kidney disease, and reduce the risk of other associated diseases. In order to prevent Kidney Disease, we learned that we need to control high blood pressure and diabetes, avoid medicines like ibuprofen and other herbal medicines that hurt kidneys, drink lots of water (2L a day), avoid too much protein and sodium, and also exercising 5 times a week.

A lot of attention was also brought to how patients can be empowered when talking to doctors about kidney health. KDSAP recommended asking these three questions:

·       How is my Kidney function?

·       Ask how they know kidney function is good or bad

·       Then ask what can you do on to fix the problem or keep staying healthy

Since Chronic Kidney Disease is known as a “silent killer” some ACC participants were concerned about figuring out how to identify symptoms. There are often no symptoms until permanent damage has happened to your kidneys but when symptoms do occur, they include:

  1. Fatigue and weakness
  2. Swelling of the legs
  3. Itching
  4. Headaches
  5. Nausea and vomiting
  6. Frequent urination
  7. Painful or difficult urination
  8. Bloody urine

The KDSAP program will be hosting a kidney screening this Saturday, March 31st from 1-5 at the Unitarian Church in downtown Amherst. Some of the participants who attended the information session today were curious about how the screening process will work so the students LaMarcus, Sam, and Caroline explained the steps:

1.     Registration

2.     Questionnaire

3.     Health Education

4.     Blood Pressure

5.     BMI + Waist Circumference

6.     Urinalysis

7.     Blood Glucose

8.     Private Physician Consultation

Anyone who attends the kidney screening and completes all the steps will be awarded a bus pass for keeping kidney health in check!

 

By: Alexandra Shore

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FYI on Applying for SSI

“What are obstacles to applying for Social Security?” was the question at the heart of David Waldfogel’s talk at last week’s incubator meeting on March 14. As an attorney for the Center of Public Representation, Mr. Waldfogel acts as legal representative for people whose Social Security cases have been denied. This Wednesday, he shared with us some advice he has collected from years of working with low-income clients.

Arranged in a U-shape around Mr. Waldfogel, the meeting stared with introductions as we mused on the question – what are obstacles to applying for Social Security we face in our own lives? After responding to the concerns and experiences of those gathered around him, Mr. Waldfogel jumped right in to clear up the confusion surrounding the Social Security system.

For Mr. Waldfogel, he sees lack of internet access and no reliable mailing address as the two biggest obstacles to applying for Social Security. Because the Social Security application is handled online, having internet access is critical for starting the application and contacting support if anything goes wrong. Having a permanent mailing address is just as important, because Social Security mails out updates on applications and applicants only have a 60-day window to appeal if their case is denied.

The key to applying for Social Security, he says, lies in the first question of the application: “Are you unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions?” Social Security judges whether applicants qualify based on their ability to pursue “successful gainful activity.” In other words, whether they can work and make money. Mr. Waldfogel stresses, no matter what conditions applicants have, if it does not prevent them from earning money, then Social Security does not care.

That’s why Mr. Waldfogel advises applicants to present everything: therapy, emergency room, primary care doctor, medications, etc. He says that a common mistake people make is that they leave certain medical conditions out of their application. Because the combination of impairments is important to establish the whole picture of the applicant and make a stronger case for why they are not able to work, he says to report every single medical condition bothering the applicant when they apply.

Additionally, Mr. Waldfogel cautioned us against some of the other mistakes that people applying for Social Security make. A common misconception, he says, is that people need to see a doctor and have their full medical history in order before they apply. However, this is not the case – Social Security is the one responsible for collecting the medical information – and applicants who wait end up “cheating themselves” out of the time they could be receiving benefits. Furthermore, if an application is denied, he says, the worst thing you can do is to not appeal, thinking that you can just apply again. Mr. Waldfogel warns against dropping the appeal because not only do you lose all retroactive money (money they owe you that wasn’t given during the appeal), but you also go back to square one. Instead, he says it is better to persevere.

In the hour and a half together, Mr. Waldfogel guided us through a quick but comprehensive tour into how the system works. Not only clarifying the difference between SSDI and SSI (earned insurance vs. need based) and the various cutoffs for payments amounts (Maximum $750 federal + $114 from Massachusetts per month), but he also tackled tough questions about the participants’ own experiences and details about the bureaucracy of the Social Security system. After the meeting, I couldn’t help but feel that the meeting itself helped overcome a huge obstacle – lack of information. I left feeling enlightened.

By: Emily Ma

If you want legal advice or have been denied for Social Security benefits – especially more than two times – you can call Mr. Waldfogel’s office at 413-586-6024. If you win the case, the office collects 25% of your winnings or $6000, whichever is less. If you don’t win, then no fees involved. He emphasizes that he cannot help people apply for Social Security, only with appeals. For the actual application process, there are resources at Amherst Community Connections, including Jane Braaten, who is certified by Social Security to help fill out the application. 

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Star Light center

Today, ACC welcomed Robert and Liz from the Star Light center. The Star Light Center provides adults who have been disabled by mental illness the opportunity to gain confidence and self-esteem, learn job skills, and obtain employment. Star Light Center believes every individual has the right to work and to lead full and productive lives as contributing members of our communities. We had a big turnout of over 15 people today who were all very excited to hear about the opportunities that come with being a member of the Star Light Center.

The Star Light Center is an internationally recognized clubhouse modeled program. A clubhouse is a place where people who have a mental illness can go to rebuild their lives. In the clubhouse, staff and members work side by side whether it is cooking lunch, cleaning, doing clerical work, gardening or anything in between. One of our ACC participants was very excited to learn that the Star Light Center has three gardens that members can enjoy. Everyone is always encouraged to get involved at the Star Light Center through doing something they enjoy.

Liz believes that people at the Star Light Center deserve to be treated as the person they want to be and not what society and doctors say they are based on their diagnoses. With this said, the Star Light Center is always trying to help people get out of their shells and to try new things. They offer events for members such as valentine’s day dances, field trips to the beach and to other fun locations on Saturdays, dinner at local restaurants, and even movie nights every second Friday of the month! Our participants of ACC were very excited to hear all of the fun opportunities that the Star Light Center had to offer and a few shared their interest in attending the luncheon on Saturday that will be held at Bertucci's in Amherst at 12.

The Star Light Center gives people the momentum to go out and work in a competitive society by helping members with job applications, resumes, practice interviews, and even help people who are struggling with a current job. One of the most important steps members take towards greater independence is through the Transitional Employment program, where members get to work in the community in real jobs. These jobs are at places like Texas Roadhouse and the Department of Mental Health. Even if people do not need help with their job search or current job, the Star Light Center is a place people can go so they do not feel alone and isolated. At the Star Light Center, they pride themselves in being a community, just like ACC does!    

Membership at the Star Light Center is for life so members have all the time they need to secure their new life in the community. To become a member at the Star Light Center, you just need to fill out an application and have it signed off by a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or social worker that shows proof of a mental illness.   

The Star Light Center is located in Florence, MA at 251 Nonotuck Street. They are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  

By: Alex Shore

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Smooth Moves Dancercise

Exercise comes in all shapes and forms. From basketball to dance, there are so many fun and engaging ways to get fit and stay healthy on your own or with friends. On Wednesday, February 21st, ACC’s very own Pat Creaser showed us her favorite form of exercise: Dancercise, a moderate but effective way to exercise.

Dancercise is a fun way to get your body moving and get in shape by grooving together with a group to whatever funky, eclectic music the instructor feels like playing. However, unlike other forms of aerobics, dancercise does not put stress on the body. According to Creaser, moderate exercise is better for your joints and helps you live a healthy and productive lifestyle. Even better, dancercise allows you to mix and match what moves you want to do to stay in shape as well as which one of your favorite songs you can workout to.

During her workshop at ACC, Creaser decided to give her form of dancercise a special twist by taking moves from one of her favorite forms of moderate exercise and meditation, Qigong. Qigong is a form of meditation that comes from Chinese martial arts practices. By using gentle movements and flow, Creaser helped each resident become more focused and awake for the dancercise section of the workshop. By the end of this section, all the participants and the staff were feeling ready to dance along with Creaser’s dancercise routines.

While “Everyday People” by Sly & The Family Stone played in the background, Creaser led the group through simple exercises to get them started. Then as time went on, she made the moves a little more complicated and had everyone in the circle pick out their own moves to share with the group. What with all the dancing and fun music, the group barely noticed the time flying by until Creaser announced that it was time for a cool down stretch to prevent any sore muscles or injuries.

Wednesday was not Creaser’s first time teaching an exercise class for the community. In fact, she used to teach yoga classes for senior citizens and still leads dancercise workshops to this day.

Creaser prefers exercises like Qigong and dancercise to other forms because all three also act as a form of meditation. In a world where so many people are trying to get in shape, mental health sometimes is forgotten, but meditation through exercise like Qigong and dancercise can lift a person’s mood and help them feel more focused in life. We are so lucky to not just have Creaser as a volunteer but also as our new favorite dancercise instructor.

Please join ACC next Wednesday from 10-12pm for our next workshop, “Can I work on SSI?”, or at one of our weekly writing workshops on Tuesday from 3-5pm at the Jones Library in Amherst.

By: Mackenzie Wilson

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Stavros Inc- Services for People With Disabilities

 

What would your biggest fear be if you woke up one morning and found out you were now entirely dependent on others for help?

This question was posed by Hwei-Ling at the start of this week’s incubator meeting with Stavros, a service agency for individuals with disabilities, and the answers to it all fell along the same lines. People were afraid of being burdens on others, not getting proper care in a timely and professional fashion, and of having to live in an institution for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, Joe Wolejko from Stavros was present to dispel any of those fears and discuss all the opportunities offered by Stavros to prevent these fears that some people with disabilities may have from becoming a reality.

Stavros INC was first created in 1974 as an Independent Living Center by a group of individuals with spinal injuries in Amherst. The group moved out of state hospitals, nursing homes, and parent’s homes to start a new wave of advocacy for individuals with disabilities in the Amherst area and beyond. Now in 2018, Stavros is a thriving agency that offers much of the same services as ACC does to the people with disabilities that they help every day.

As Wolejko described each part of Stavros’ programs, it became clear that this is an agency dedicated to helping others succeed as well as be able to live as independently as they can with a disability. Stavros provides consultations on healthcare, accessible housing, and hiring a qualified personal care attendant for any participant who meets the agency’s requirements. In addition, Wolejko described two amazing programs within the agency that assist people with disabilities in the Amherst area: Transition to Adulthood Program (TAP) and the Home Sweet Home Program.

Working with young adults with disabilities from ages 14-22, Stavros assists with helping the participants of TAP ease into adulthood by helping them learn how to advocate for themselves; understanding their full potential; and even helping them find employment once they graduate from the program at 22. Funded by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, it is an excellent opportunity for young adults living with disabilities.

Home Sweet Home meanwhile is a program that engages groups within the Pioneer Valley to better improve the lives of people with disabilities by building ramps. They rely on donations throughout the community and even get volunteers from the local colleges, such as UMass, to help them build the ramps. To this date, they have built 700 ramps since the agency started.

If you, or a loved one, has a disability but do not feel you know how to advocate properly for yourself or them, visit Stavros in one of their 3 different locations within Amherst, Springfield, or Greenfield. To contact them, call (413) 256-0473 Monday to Friday from 9:00am-5:00pm

ACC was thrilled to have Stavros visit, and we are just as excited for next week, February 21st, when our very own Pat Creaser will be holding a Smooth Moves Dancercise. 

By: Mackenzie Wilson

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Healing Sing Circle

“Our combined attention makes an enormous difference. It is our greatest desire to extend the love experienced in this circle across the planet, joining others to help heal our world.”

This quote was the closing line to the meditation that started Helen Fortier’s Healing Sing Circle, which the ACC staff and our participants were lucky enough to experience last Wednesday on January 31st. Relying on positive energy and the healing power of music, Fortier is a part of a community of people in Amherst who believe that the combined effort of optimism, kindness, and song can change people’s lives and improve their difficulties. Coming to ACC, she promised that the Healing Sing Circle would change the energy in the room, and try to help those that were burdened by difficulties in their own lives, or with issues around the world.

Starting with our group sitting around in the circle, Fortier had each participant in the Healing Sing Circle share a difficulty in their own life, or an issue that they wish would change. Each participant was safe in this circle, because there was a commitment to keep their burdens confidential, making it easier to share, and direct positive thoughts and energy towards helping the people in the room. Following this talk, Fortier stood and emphasized how no one in this circle was alone, but that we were all connected by our shared difficulties and would all work together to change the energy in the room and hopefully our lives.

Placing volunteers in the center of the circle, Fortier strummed her guitar and played a mixture of music that she had written on her own as well as a few requests from the rest of the group. She handed out shakers so people could join in, and encouraged us all to sing along with her as we directed our positive energy towards the person’s burden. There were sad songs, happy songs, and some originals made up on the spot by people in the circle. Although nothing appeared to change, as the Healing Sing Circle went on, it was clear the mood of the room was shifting and people appeared to be much more cheerful by the end of Fortier’s final song.“When you gather people together with a positive focus, we send vibes out into the universe to make them more positive,” said Fortier and her time in ACC definitely had a positive effect on anyone who participated in her workshop that day.

ACC holds events every Wednesday from 10-12pm. Come by next week to experience “Belief”, a workshop on spirituality and faith lead by Reverend Christina Williams. 

 

To experience Fortier sing “Amazing Grace” and get a little taste of her gift, please click the video below. To experience it live: go to the First Congregational Church in Amherst on Wednesdays at 4:30pm.

By: Mackenzie Wilson

HOW TO HANDLE LANDLORDS: FAIR HOUSING

Today, ACC staff and participants were pleased to welcome Massachusetts Fair Housing intern, Margaret Curran, in our weekly incubator meeting to inform us housing discrimination. As always, the meeting began with participant introductions. We all shared one thing we were interested in learning about today, a specific question for Margaret, or even a time that they have witnessed housing discrimination.

Some common interests our participants had were to learn about discrimination regarding disabled individuals, individuals that receive rental assistance, and race discrimination. Luckily for us, Margaret was pleased to cover our inquiries and also taught us much more information about discrimination and legalities.

Margaret taught us about both federal and state protected categories under the Fair Housing Laws. These protected categories mean it is illegal to discriminate a person because of their inclusion in one of these categories. Federal Laws protect discrimination in regards to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, families, and disabilities; while state laws protect discrimination regarding marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or veteran status, ancestry, public assistance, rental assistance, or genetic information. Some other topics we covered were families with children and lead paint, domestic violence and CORI.

We encourage participants to share any information they learned with friends and family who may be searching for housing or currently in housing if they believe they are facing any type of discrimination. Margaret encourages that individuals that believe they may be discriminated against due to one of these categories contact the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center to allow them to investigate. If this organization finds that an individual is discriminated against by a landlord, the Mass Fair Housing Center will often sue the landlord and give a monetary compensation to the victim of discrimination.

We were all thankful for Margaret’s enlightening meeting and learned a lot of new information about the laws protecting individuals against housing discrimination.

For further information regarding fair housing, contact:

Massachusetts Fair Housing Center

57 Suffolk Street

Holyoke, Ma 01040

413 539 9796

www.massfairhousing.org

Please join us for next week’s meeting 1/31/18 at 10:00 with Helen Fortier for our Healing Singing Circle!

By: Erin Ransom

My Jewelry Making Enterprise

Today, ACC staff and participants were pleased to welcome jewelry entrepreneur Josh Berin in our weekly incubator meeting to speak with us about his inspirational story of how he made a successful business. As always, the meeting began with participant introductions. We discussed our passions, a goal we have worked towards but now yet completed, and reasons why we attend these weekly meetings.

Many of our participants reported that it was a place to come together, share and listen to each other’s ideas, and get encouragement and support. For example, one participant refers to the meetings as a “place to be around other people that will listen”. As participants went around and shared their goals, one participant realized a common factor among our ambitions; that we all say the word ‘try’. This participant proposed that we all “take try out of our vocabulary, because that shows that you are already doubting it.” Other motivational suggestions elicited from our crowd were to “think globally and act locally.” These inspirational comments lead Josh to share his own story of jewelry making with us.

Josh has been creating one of a kind jewelry for over thirty years now, but has been more involved in the past few years. A rock tumbler machine was given to Josh at age 17 as a Christmas gift, which revealed his creative side. As a businessman of many trades, Josh has owned both a comic book store and a deli. As Josh shared with us insight on how he began his jewelry business as well as the process of jewelry making, he demonstrated making one piece and passed around a few of his beautiful creations. Some of our participants remarked that they could see themselves making jewelry, while others related this to their creative passions. Everyone was inspired by Josh’s commitment to translating his passions into a business.

Please join us for next week’s meeting 1/10/17 at 10:00 to listen to Attorney Everald Henry speak about legal rights and trouble!

By: Erin Ransom

 

12/13/17 Living Fully, Aging Gracefully & Preparing to Let Go

We welcomed John Berkowitz to ACC for a second time to continue the conversation previously begun on aging. For a  topic as daunting as living and dying, participants were very active and enthusiastic about engaging with one another about it. We opened the discussion by talking about our end of life wishes--the circumstances we hope will surround our death. It was interesting to see the range of preferences individuals subscribed to. While some hoped to die alone, others hope that they will be surrounded by loved ones when their time comes. Some participants expressed they lack a fear of death while others expressed an apprehension surrounding the idea of death. Some talked about how they would like to die according to their own personal interests, while others came from an angle of the interests of their loved ones.

Josh presented the group with a series of poems and quotes to spark discussion. Each managed to successfully touch on different topics, such as how we hope to have lived when "death finds you," embracing the fragility that comes with aging, and what we can do to live each day in a fulfilling way. We even talked about cultural differences in attitude towards aging by using a poem titled "The Beauty of Aging" by Nina Brock. The poem talked about the beauty that surrounds aging in Japanese culture, which stands in stark contrast to American culture, which shies away from the aging process with unease.  In Japanese culture, "shibui" (the beauty of aging) encompasses the highest form of respect that is bestowed on the elderly. They are elegant, insightful, and wise--the only ones capable of advising the young.

Many of our participants were interested in attending regular aging meetings held by Josh Berkowitz--a testament to just how eye-opening and needed it was to explore the joys and challenges of aging in a group setting. Allowing us to confront the challenging topic together with others and not alone.

Written by: Daniella Colombo

The Art of Confident Public Speaking

Back in 2014, public speaking topped the list of most common fears held by Americans. Today, at the end of 2017, the list seems to reflect a growing apprehension surrounding a shift in the political climate (the top spots are occupied by fears pertinent to the government domain). Regardless, speaking in front of a crowd is still something most of us will have to do at some point or another. Public speaking can be a daunting, anxiety-invoking challenge for nearly anyone, and we were lucky to have Dorothy Pam, a lecturer at Holyoke Community College, with us to help relieve some of these fears. 

We started with the basics--the way in which we present our own names to others. Dorothy had one of our participants say their first and last name to the group. She worked with him to improve his introduction; each time he repeated his name, Dorothy would respond with one way he could make it better, prompting him to repeat his name once again. Ultimately, our participant introduced his name to the group with conviction, power, and strength. Dorothy helped us realized the importance of stating your name in such a way when presenting yourself--to make sure listeners don't forget who they are hearing from. If they want to reference you later, they are more likely to remember your name.

The presentation of our guest speaker was particularly timely because of the Town Meeting that week. The lessons she had to teach the group were ones that would enable any community member to give a compelling argument for whatever it was they wanted to fight for. Advice like "tell the audience why they should care," and "speak with passion" and "be extemporaneous" (meaning prepare your speech but never read it) was key to coming off to an audience as a confident public speaker. We were appreciative of Dorothy Pam for empowering us in a way that better prepared us to advocate for our own needs in a town hall-type of setting or give a compelling, convincing speech.

 

Written by: Daniella Colombo

 

11/15/17 EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUES

Today, Reverend Cindy Frado joined us today for a crash course in emotional freedom. Reverend Cindy works as a minister at the Universal Unitarian Church, and has learned from energy psychologists David Feinstein and Donna Eaton. Before things got started, participants went around the room and shared what comforts them in times of emotional stress, and how they react to feeling intense emotions. Cindy came to talk about emotional freedom and give us some tools to use when we feel unable to handle stress in our life. The first was called the Emotional Freedom Technique. A practice based on ancient Chinese medicine, EFT involves tapping your body and talking through stressors. Although it may seem silly or leave you skeptical, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this technique and others like it work-- people report remissions of cancer and feeling heightened levels of restored energy. One of the participants had a phobia of spiders, so that was used as an example. . Before starting, we exercised self-love and acceptance by tapping our “third eye” and saying, “Whatever my issue is, I deeply love and appreciate myself.” Then, Cindy led us through the sequence of acupressure points to tap while talking about our hypothetical fear of spiders. The first spot to tap is the inside of the eyebrow. Then the outside of our eyes, under our eyes, under our nose, and on our chin. Then we moved down to tap our collarbones, our sternum, and our lower ribs, all while discussing the fear of spiders. Then we tapped our knees, and a few spots on our hands. After that was done, we woke up our nervous system by moving our eyes all around and humming. Then we did the sequence again, but this time we reframed our fear in terms of respect and honesty-- where at the beginning, we said that we hated spiders because they were creepy, we now say that although we don’t like them, their webs are beautiful and they keep bugs away. Cindy reminded us that this technique is not meant to change a stressful situation, but to allow us to approach our feelings rationally. It is good to keep checking in with yourself, she said, so that you know what feelings to address. If you are unsure of what you are feeling, you can “tap it out” in order to articulate your meaning. Cindy then showed us 4 ways to keep ourselves emotionally grounded and energized: The 4 Points, The Wayne-Cook Posture, the Homolateral Crossover, and the Heaven and Earth cycle. To do the 4 Points, place one hand on your forehead and the other on the back of your head. Take a deep breath, and then tap the following 4 points on your body: under your eyes, your collarbones, your sternum, and your bottom rib. In Chinese medicine, Cindy told s, these spots are said to be linked to your digestive system, your kidneys, your thalamus, and your spleen, respectively. By tapping or rubbing these spots, you stimulate the proper functioning of these organs. The next practice is the Wayne-Cook posture, in which you cross your foot over your ankle, and your hand over your wrist and rotate them up and out. You do this on each side and hold it for a couple breaths. You may also put your hands together in a pyramid shape and hold them against your heart. To perform homolateral crossover, simply lift your legs up and tap your knees with your hands. Practice this with the same hand and leg, and then the opposite hand and leg. This practice, and the Wayne-Cook posture are meant to ensure your energies are crossed properly. The “energy” refers to the meridians in Chinese Medicine, or paths of life-force that cross inside your body. The last grounding technique is called Heaven and Earth, and it is Cindy’s favorite. To practice Heaven and Earth, stand up and put your hands over your heart. Take a deep breath and raise one hand as far up as you can, and lower the other down towards the earth. Imagine you are drawing energy from down below and bring it up through your other arm while concentrating on your breathing. Do this with both your arms. When you are done, fold your body forward for a breath, then slowly come up and raise your hands above your head. Let the energy rain down on you for a few breaths. Participants all performed these exercises alongside Cindy and agreed that they made them feel very good. Many were excited to use it in their daily lives and attempt to restore their energy. Cindy does admit that these practices are a different way of dealing with and looking at the body, and understands that some people may have trouble integrating them into their lives. She says it is ok to be skeptical, but truly believes it works. In her own words, “whatever helps you get through the day, as long as it’s helpful and not harmful, is great.” Some participants stayed after the meeting to discuss their health and wellness with Cindy, who also runs a hypnotherapy and spiritual wellness center in North Amherst. Participants left feeling well-rounded and inspired. You can find more information about Cindy and her practice at http://www.hampshirehypno.com/

By: Sadie Mazur

11/1/17 Middle East Peacemaking, One Inch at a Time

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To set the stage for today's incubator meeting, the group had a short discussion about conflict resolution before handing over the mic to our presenter, Dr. Rick Martin. The question each of us responded to was "How do you resolve conflicts with another person? What strategies or frameworks of thought do you call upon?" This was a unique experience; it's not every day that we are able to get some insight into what the person we are arguing with could possibly be thinking! Our participants shared a range of perspectives--many of us saw value in walking away from a conflict when possible, being able to distinguish between a conflict that is worth engaging in versus one that is not, and taking time to calm down before confronting another person. Most of us try to take the other person's point of view although, as one of our participants wittily put it, "You can never totally be in someone's shoes. If you are, that means you are stealing their shoes."

Dr. Rick shared with us his experience of "ducking bullets for peace" in Israel-Palestine, something he has been doing for 13 years. When questioned about how he manages to take on their incredible challenge, he pointed to courage. He recalls needing courage in order to bring himself to walk into the Palestinian mayor's office and ask him if he would be interested in making peace. If it doesn't work the first time, Dr. Rick advises us to "keep knocking." "We will not have peace until the peace lovers are wiling to take chances--duck pullets, dodge knives, avoid fast moving vehicles--for peace." Dr. Rick also highlighted the importance of having a sense of humor and getting the person on the other side of the conflict to laugh--a strategy that may not cross our mind during a conflict, but one that could really have a huge influence on how the conflict goes.

We probed Dr. Rick a little further on whether peaceful conflict resolution is really always a viable possibility. He seems to think so. Human relationships don't go bad because people are bad or good, or because certain topics can't be talked about; "They go bad because they don't take the steps to talk about a difficult conflict in a peaceful way." As a group, we came to the conclusion that we should understand that others come from different perspectives, identities, and opinions, and "once we get to know each other, we can appreciate the divinity of each person." As one of our participants beautifully captured in a metaphor, we each are one individual droplet united together in one collective ocean. We hope to take today's discussion and apply it when we are able to in the conflicts in our own lives to shift the world closer to achieving wholesome peace and love!

By: Daniella Colombo