When we live in the moment, not regretting the past or fearing the future, we are set free to accomplish the absolute best we can in the now. Fear is always forward — we fear the unknown, the myriad “what ifs” that multiply our anxieties about what is to come. When we let go of everything but the present moment, our creativity and joy are released so we can accomplish our goals and dreams. Despair flourishes in looking backward with regret. We choose not to look back to the past, except to celebrate how far we’ve come, and get a fresh sight on where we are headed. When we understand that experiencing regrets and beating ourselves up for past missteps drains our energy, we begin to bring only the lessons we’ve learned from the past with us into the present. We realize that we are the sum of all our experiences to date, and we choose to love who we are today. Armed with this attitude, it’s exciting to build a bright tomorrow — by taking steps in the present moment.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
— Lao Tzu, Taoist Philosopher
Love crushes fear! When we allow ourselves to experience altruistic love, or passion for a cause, we’re empowered to overcome tremendous obstacles in pursuit of that cause. Likewise, when we transfer our focus from our own solitary ambition to thinking about and appreciating family, friends, etc., we find we can achieve much, much more. Try this exercise, either upon waking or just before going to sleep at night: Think, “Who do I love?” Let your mind relax and visualize each person’s face or some aspect of their personality, a cherished memory. You may want to include yourself in this list. Learning to love ourselves is empowering and healing to self-esteem. Concentrate on the positive feelings — love and courage — called up by this process, and make a mental prayer or wish for your loved ones’ well-being. Next, think, “Who loves me?” Now relax and visualize each person as they come to mind. Again, including yourself on the list can be beneficial. Allow yourself to experience all of the positive feelings — love and courage — that are being released as you engage in this exercise. Say a mental “thank you,” for all the love and support you’ve received, and allow yourself to experience the desire to reciprocate. If you apply yourself to this process for a period of days or weeks, you’re sure to benefit.
Life is full of risk-taking and change; and both are stressful, but necessary for success and potentially very rewarding. In order to live fully, we need to be willing to continue to move forward, grow, and change. Adapt or perish, right? Making changes in our thinking or behavior require a bit of risk-taking — we’ve got to leave our comfort zone.
We can increase our self-esteem and improve self-image by banishing negative thoughts, attitudes, and mistaken beliefs, which block success and happiness. This positive change can be brought about surprisingly quickly, but it requires risk-taking, as we learn to let go of the old familiar thought patterns and processes we picked up in our family of origin and dragged along, like a ball and chain, throughout adolescence and adulthood. Even self-inflicted misery can seem comfortable in its familiarity. But when we summon the courage to change, grasp the power to change, and begin to take contrary action, we get swift results. Anyone who has made a list of self-enhancing, positive statements or affirmations, and then systematically applied them, knows how powerfully this process can create change and increase self-esteem. These tools begin building new neuronal pathways in our brains, and as we continue the process of positive reinforcement, we create a new super-highway of self-realization, success, and happiness.
Another effective way to increase self-esteem is by developing our bodies, changing our body image. When we’re building muscle we’re building our brains. Say we want to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat — we’ll be required to leap off the comfy couch, drop that bag of Cheetos, and head for the gym; in so doing we risk missing our favorite TV show, or time on Facebook. But anybody who engages in regular workouts experiences a physical and psychological payoff which trumps any online or cable benefit. Our bodies show gratitude, make no mistake. As we continue a daily program of physical exercise, we build new muscle, growing strong, energetic, optimistic, and confident.
The more often we reinforce the new behaviors, the more benefits we enjoy. We learn to set new, measurable and do-able goals for ourselves at regular intervals; “upping the ante” and increasing risk and change in order to multiply success and enjoyment of life. In so doing, we climb higher and higher up the scale of vitality. Along the way, we extend a hand to others, passing on all the positive energy we can in order to empower others engaged in the climb. Sharing success with others increases benefits for the entire human race. The more happy, healthy, powerful, optimistic, fearless people who live on this planet, the better. It’s definitely worth the risk!
I am becoming a rabid fan of MMA! For nearly a year now, I’ve been speaking to raise awareness about human trafficking. Saturday I spoke at an event sponsored by Mike the Pike productions, called “Fight Traffick!” What a rush! Having worked with military veterans in San Francisco over the past few years, I deeply appreciate courage. There was a whole lot of courage in the coliseum Saturday — fighters, promoters, commentators, fans, announcers, security, vendors — every individual there was inspiring and bold! I am doubly inspired by the fact that they dedicated their event to Not for Sale, a grassroots organization that is working globally to end the heinous human rights violations committed by human traffickers! Thanks again, MMA and Mike the Pike Productions!
During my speech, I shared my personal story as a human trafficking survivor, the toll it took on me — my downward spiral through addiction to homelessness, and my ultimate breakthrough, when I reclaimed my warrior spirit and decided to fight to get my life back, or at least go down swinging. I felt the power of my awesome audience of thousands of warrior-spirited fans applauding my comeback. After my speech, I met numerous individuals who shared with me their personal stories of courage and triumph over adversity. It’s Monday, and I’m still electrified by all that positive energy! And the time I spent in the octagon? Priceless!
When I speak at events to raise awareness about human trafficking, visiting churches and universities, I often converse with audience members who are amazed that trafficking occurs in the U.S. I always emphasize that this heinous crime is committed within our borders – frequently.
Yesterday a man named Francisco Domingo, in Immokalee, Florida was charged with human trafficking. He is accused of holding teen girls hostage, making them pose for nude photos and forcing them to perform sex acts on video.
One sixteen year old victim’s account is horrifying — the girl was brought into the U.S. illegally from Guatemala in 2008. Authorities report she was held against her will, and that Domingo was taking the wages she received for working in the farm fields. This alone is extreme cruelty, in my opinion, but court documents further state that Domingo regularly forced the girl to have sex with several men while he videotaped it. The child victim testified that this happened several times a week.
The above story is an example of international trafficking. Let’s not ever forget the outrage of domestic trafficking, which is going on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in the U.S., in both urban and rural areas. Last month a story appeared in the Topeka, Kansas news: a child put too much information on her Facebook page and ended up being snatched by a 50-year-old man, trafficked to several cities and sold for sex, finally landing in Chicago, where she was turned out onto the streets and prostituted.
In spite of all the progress we have made in educating the public about the violence and misery inflicted on victims of domestic sex trafficking, a number of stereotypes about the sex trade still prevail in the American psyche. There is nothing glamourous about being an “escort;” it’s dangerous, dehumanizing and incredibly stressful. Sex workers are preyed upon, threatened, often literally tortured by their pimps or handlers. The average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is thirteen, and a great majority of these children are vulnerable because they have been previously sexually abused or physically abused. This is not a “Pretty Woman” movie with a phony Cinderella ending. This is a vicious reality.
One way to eradicate this problem is to approach it from the demand side – target the johns, the customers who solicit sex, and offer an education program to rehabilitate them, in this way reducing the demand and confounded the traffickers where it hurts them – financially. This has been done very successfully in the city of San Francisco, by an organization called SAGE – Standing Against Global Exploitation. This approach of SAGE’s really gets results, as compared to the old way of prosecuting the victims of commercial sexual exploitaiton and cycling them through the criminal justice system. Since its founding in 1995, SAGE project has saved the city of San Francisco 4.5 million dollars.
I am grateful that the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI are giving human trafficking a high priority. And I am equally grateful for the numerous grass roots organizations formed by dedicated American citizens who are fighting to abolish modern day slavery.