Category Archives: Resolving Conflicts

A Model for Every Community: The Destiny Arts Center Grows Peaceful Warriors

Established in 1988 as a response to Oakland, California’s increasing rates of violence and crime and the corresponding decrease in accessible programs for youth, Destiny Arts Center seeks to “end isolation, prejudice and violence in the lives of young people.”

Youths often live with frustration and depression. Destiny Arts Center seeks to provide for them a safe environment designed for creative and positive expression.

Instilling in youths valuable feelings of safe worth and respect for others paves the way for a lifetime of positive participation at school and within the community, and inspires every child to achieve greatness.

Destiny Arts Center is a community organization to model in all cities, large or small.

Violence Prevention & Conflict Resolution

Destiny Arts Center Kids Learning Marial ArtsThe martial arts and performing arts programs serve as a proven violence prevention strategy for the center’s youths aged three years old to 18 by reinforcing positive and nonviolent behavior in the face of negativity.

Destiny Arts Center seeks to establish in youth the alternatives to provoking or reacting to violence. Through the programs staffed with positive and genuine instructors, the kids learn respect for themselves and for others, effective violence prevention strategies, and positive conflict resolution skills.

Effects on the Community

The programs offered through the center run at the most essential times in kids’ days: after school, on weekends, and during the summer. This gives the youths an accessible forum to “explore, express and reshape daily challenges through physical, emotional and creative growth.”

The instructors and alumni of Destiny Arts Center have witnessed kids become vocal in the community at large about nonviolence. When kids feel safe and have valuable self esteem, their cognitive, emotional, social, and physical growth is dramatic and positive. When kids learn how to engage their authentic selves and connect with peers and culture in a positive manner, the effects last a lifetime.

The following is a transcription of kids and parents talking about the effects Destiny Arts Center has had on their loves.

Destiny Arts Center, Growing Peaceful Warriors

Danny Glover at Destiny Arts Center

Danny Glover visits Destiny Arts Center

Emerald Mitchell: I come to Destiny because I love being a part of something that is just so profound. How many youth organizations are like us? You know, we dance. Some of us sing. Some of us rap. We act. We perform. But we do it for a reason. We include our own stories in our scripts, in our poems, you know, in our dances.

Any decision that I’m making that is a big decision—that will affect another human being, that will affect an animal, a plant, the environment, you know—we cover that stuff at Destiny. And so I’m doing something powerful, you know, and I’m affecting my community. So that’s why I hang out.

Matt Plut: Actually, it’s the philosophy of Destiny, really, that kind of sets it apart. Jake got fascinated kind of with the dancing and just the way they were teaching him, so we decided to start Destiny here on Saturdays. We live in San Francisco, so it’s a little hard for us to get over on the weekdays. But on weekends we’re here, on Saturday, and he does hip hop here and martial arts after hip hop.

Jake Plut: I used to sometimes get angry over stuff that I shouldn’t have. But now that I’ve joined Destiny, they’ve helped me with my life. I was in a competition. I managed to win two medals. I feel proud and it was a great experience for me.

Giana Cirolia: The five fingers of balance prevention and the seven steps of conflict resolution, they’re like the moment you start thinking about it, that’s like taking a breath and stepping back and just the idea of having that in the back of your mind gives you the chance to deescalate the situation.

Payomo Family (mother speaking): So, yes. I have four kids here between the ages of four and fifteen. The first few months I was really, really amazed with how it affected them in such a positive way. They were so excited to come. The energy and the self expression that you teach the kids and you allow them to have, it really gives them a lot of confidence and it also makes them want to share that.

What Does Destiny Mean?

Kids Empowered at Destiny Arts CenterYoung Man: If I could describe Destiny in word word, I’ll say mind changing. Eye-opening.

Older Man: Full of life.

Young Woman: Can I make up my own word?

Matt Plut: For us, community.

Payomo family (young man): My second family.

Young Woman: Fantastically beautiful.

Jake Plutt: Excellent!

Payomo family (mother): Talented.

Payomo family (young girl): Hope. Community. Beauty. Friendship. It’s love. Future. Growth. It’s amazing!

Man: I feel like it’s not about anything but helping children grow to their full potential as human beings. That’s what i would say. Rooted in contribution.

Young Girl: Awesome.

Payomo family (young girl): Fun!

The Spirit of Destiny Arts Center

Javier Santos: Unlike other places, the real hard neighborhoods where the people grow up, have it real rough, you know, and most of the time they don’t come out to be so positive. All they’re surrounded by is violence and hate, and they’re not really surrounded by that positivity and that peacefulness that they need to get to know themselves and get to be creative and artistic. And when you come to Destiny, I feel that you get that.

Herman Pecot: The spirit is very ripe here. The spirit of Bushido, the warrior’s code, Destiny really cultivates that part of the being. You know, the balance of power and peace and skill and kindness, all that mixed together. So that’s what we’re seeing.

Arianna Butler: I couldn’t imagine me without Destiny. I really couldn’t. And even when we have breaks from Destiny, I’m still like, “Dang! I miss dance class! Dang! I miss Sarah! Dang! I miss the company!”

Dalmacio Payomo: I can’t even explain how deep the bonds are between everyone in Destiny and the company, in the classes that I teach. The teachers that I work with are just amazing.

Everything You Could Want in a Youth Organization

Martial Arts KickGiana Cirolia: If I had two words to describe Destiny, I would say presence and energy.

Young woman: Beautiful and empowering.

Javier Santos: Positive. Family orientated. Strong, beautiful, caring. Real . . . hah! Real!

Emerald Mitchell: A short phrase? I’ll try to make a short phrase that can describe Destiny . . . “Everything you could possibly want in a youth organization.”

Fees and Funding

The Destiny Art Center offers scholarship programs to families who are unable to afford the fees for the various dance or martial arts classes offered. In addition to offering free trial classes, the center also enforces a strict policy that no family will be denied access due to a lack of funds.

Destiny’s success and ability to continue offering quality programs and a safe haven for kids is because of the continued support from the community. Be it through monetary donations, the offering of physical space for programs, or the valuable help from volunteers, Destiny Arts Center is thankful for all its support.

Watch The Video!

Programs That Teach Violence Prevention

Growing peaceful warriors does not mean being passive. It’s exactly the opposite as kids learn how to channel their energy while moving their skills toward violence prevention through dance and martial arts, games, and role playing exercises.

  • Real Talk – Real Moves: violence prevention for teens and young adults.
  • The ABCs of Anger: creative conflict resolution.
  • Self-Defense for Boys and Girls.
  • Moving in the Movement: using dance and theater as tools for social change.
  • Dance Basics: hip-hop, modern, African & Latin dance.
  • Martial Arts Basics: kung fu, karate & Capoeira.
  • Hip-Hop and Beyond: the African roots of hip-hop.
  • Theater for the People : theater games and exercises that explore the nature of life.
  • Yoga Program

If you want to learn more about Destiny Arts Center or to be inspired to create a similar organization in your community, please visit their website.

Learn more, click > Destiny Arts Center

To Forgive and Forget? What is the Key to Forgiveness?

A good friend recently emailed me an article about forgiveness, one of my favorite topics.

While I found some of the content interesting, I found the article’s recommendations lacking.

The author suggested the secret to forgiveness was (somehow) “erasing all recollection” and “removing all remembrance” of past events perceived as harmful. Reproduced below is my email reply to my friend. I hope you find the ideas inspire your own inside-out learning.

Forgiveness and Memory Based Learning

Surely, the article contained a decent description of the problem; however, there is no useful explanation regarding how one is supposed to “forget.” Our learning is oriented toward remembering, and our bodies toward life and safety (survival). I’m happy about this, since I definitely prefer life to death (at least until it’s a good time to head on out for what’s next).

big tiger licking his chopsBiologically, forgetting—if even possible, short of nervous system damage—is far too dangerous a strategy to employ. If a tiger chases me through the jungle and I barely escape with my life, I may consider this a traumatic experience that I’d like to forget; however, it’s very useful for me to remember to steer clear of tigers!

When I choose to forgive another (or myself), I do not place my attention on “erasing all recollection” or “removing all remembrance,” as the article’s author suggests. What we resist persists. I strongly doubt the subconscious aspects of our mind-body will even allow this type of forgetting process to occur. These parts of self are charged with safety, and they must do their job well.

Hypnosis and similar state-altering processes can sometimes block conscious recall (“hypnotic amnesia”) that may seem like erasing and removing, but all of the memories still exist in the other-than-conscious parts of the mind. In my current view, not even death of the body removes memories from existence; I see memories as morphic fields within fields within fields.

Perception & Acknowledgment

A key to forgiveness is in perceptual shifting, not attempts at memory removal.

For example, my friend, your traumatic journeys as a little girl, moving from country to country, are part of your learning path. Attempts to remove these memories would only negate the learnings inherent in all of your life experience.

disagreeing with each otherMy sense of life is that we come here to learn. Sometimes living hurts. We co-create with people, and some of them are dense vibrationally and unaware of their heart-love and oneness with all that is. Sometimes we’re the ones who hurt others. We’re all human.

Earth is an incredible school, powerfully mirroring our consciousness in stable-state illusions of physicality.

Perhaps forgetting is not the key to forgiveness. I like to allow the memory / trauma / pain to fully exist; to provide all the necessary space to acknowledge “what is.”

This includes everything my individuated self—the precious and beautiful ego self with all its successes and failings—thinks and feels regarding each life experience. Past wounds are neither amplified nor discounted. Thoughts of blame and shame toward self and other are allowed to exist. Thoughts about cause and responsibility, vengeance and retribution, and subsequent feelings of bitterness, resentment…on and on…are allowed to exist. They become the objects of my simple life meditation—the meditation of living life. They rise and fall in my awareness.

Our Life Experiences as Co-Creations

I own all of my life experiences as my co-creations.

I do not dissociate nor do I disidentify, since the events and thoughts occurred through the process of living the life of this individuated self; in my case, this expression of a life called “Kirk.” I do not dissociate, since what I feel can heal. I do not disidentify, since my soul incarnated into my body, purposely identifying with this space-time. Instead of dissociating or disidentifying, I choose to own all of my life experience—including being hurt by others and hurting others—as my co-creations. My “be here now” includes my doing and having, from “have, do, be” to “be, do, have.”

Expanding Into a Forgiveness Practice

Here’s a forgiveness practice I prefer.

By expanding to include ALL, I naturally become the witness / observer / watcher, but not as a duality that sets up self against soul as opposites, preferring soul to self.

I am the individuated self that lives within the boundaries of space-time, with all of its life learnings. I own the karma. AND, I am the boundaryless eternal soul. I am the self…I am the soul…I am the soul group…and I am all that is—the all that is where self versus other, and all dualities, release differentiation. I am the differentiated, individuated, particle self and I am one with the undifferentiated, whole, wave of conscious of all that is.

observation of nature and lifeMy awareness moves, depending on my state of being, from one perceptual position to another; for example, from self to soul or from self to other. I inhabit this life I am co-creating, with all its pleasures and pains. When I remember to awaken in any given moment, I expand my awareness to include my soul, and perhaps taste the fullness-emptiness of all that is. And from this remembrance, expand to include all I have experienced and all I am. There is no need to forget when I can expand to include.

When I remember to expand to include…all…the toxic triangle of aggressor > victim > rescuer naturally falls away. I remember that we are all one, and I naturally express more kindness, moving from within love. My heart awakens and I remember that I already am, always have been, and always will be that which…is…beyond words…along with everyone else and every thing…and from this space of wholeness, forgiving others is as easy as breathing out…and then inhaling…life.

Dealing with Self Judgment? A Meditation for Moving Into a Resourceful and Non Judgmental State

We are often told it is not good to judge others.

The guilt or shame we feel when we do can turn into negative self judgment.

We can get caught in a mental loop where we begin judging our judgments.

This state can create an emotional dam causing mental reactions that keeps us from accessing a creative state of authenticity where we have access to our inner wisdom and guidance.

The following self guided meditation can be read aloud and recorded. Be sure to include pauses between the paragraphs for reflection. Use The Heart Meditation as a guided meditation to help create a healthy emotional state where judgment transforms into a much more creative awareness: discernment.

Heart Meditation

Heart MeditationLay down or sit quietly with your hands on your heart.

Allow whatever feelings you have to rise to fuller consciousness.

Whatever your feelings are, allow yourself to have them and to just be with them.

Allow whatever is present to be present.

Take a few moments to feel them fully and allow your feelings and emotions to rise to the surface.

As you move into this feeling state remind yourself you are safe to feel what is within you, for what is within you is there to guide you. Your feelings are always valid. Your feelings hold keys to open doors that will free you from fear and self-limitation.

Connect with Your Breath

Windy FieldLike the wind blows across an open meadow and bends the seeding tassels of grass, take a moment to connect with the movement of your breath.

Now, as you inhale, allow your breath to open and feel it move deeper and deeper within your body.

As you inhale deeper with each breathe imagine you are also breathing in a beautiful radiating light.

Know this comforting light holds useful information that you will soon realize along with the essence of compassion.

Compassion for all that you are currently feeling and have experienced in the past.

Breathe in Light and Information

Radiant LightThis benevolent and comforting light is relaxing to your emotions. As you gently and deeply breathe in light and compassion you are beginning to feel a sense of tolerance and deep relaxation.

This state is connecting with your innate senses and your intuition. You are simply gaining greater clarity as this light filled information guides you to a practice of self-care.

Now you are able to remember multiple ways to create and invite self-love. You remember what it is like to nurture and love yourself just as you would any loyal and trusted friend.

The safety you feel is creating a space that allows old limiting thoughts or beliefs to float freely away from your essence…floating and rising into the distance.

Take a moment now to sense a growing new found freedom that can change your reality for the better.

Find a Magical Key

A Key to WisdomThis freedom has the ability to allow judgments to transform into discernments. Any reactions to the judgments you have held onto in the past are presenting keys that unlock a door where discernments are easily realized.

Simple ways to self nurture that help you create life with ease and magic easily emerge from your inner light.

With your breathe, you inhale a deep sense of self-love and any left over limiting judgments easily release from your physical body.

  • You easily release fears from the past.
  • Your easily let go of any fear of the future.
  • Fear you have held onto for lifetimes no longer makes sense to hold and dissipates until it is gone.

Guided by light, you now know all fear that you have held and stored has gently left and moved beyond your field creating space for new realizations.

You are now able to discern your deep innate inner needs and the values you hold dear to your heart.

Visit A Moment in Time

A moment in timeIn the minutes, hours, and days ahead the essence of your purpose will shine brighter.

Imagine a moment in time where you are free to do whatever you please while trusting the guidance of your  inner self. In this moment you realize your purpose both in your inner and outer world.

It is delightful to know that whatever excites you and allows you to thrive is possible.

Take a few moments and feel and sense what you might do, how you might be, and what you may have as you fully express authenticity and divine purpose.

Notice how all of your senses are involved. One by one your senses easily bring an image to focus that reveals your full, sparkling, light-filled essence. This is an aspect of who you really are!

Now trust that at any given future moment you can express from this newly realized light filled essence.

Spend time and look at yourself. Imagine your light filled essence as it speaks to you in a clear voice. What might it say? What words might flow from your true love-filled self.

Notice the words and how they guide you to a deep understanding of your unique individuality, your loving purpose, and why you choose to be in this world at this time in your life.

Experience Clarity

Creating ClarityA sense of clarity allows you to learn from situations you have experienced in this life. You can easily find additional keys as you need them to open any closed doors that appear in your future. Whenever a door appears that is closed as you open it you are able to connect with your personal power. Your keys always help you open doors to abundance, and help you realize new and powerful possibilities.

Now it is time to draw all you have realized, discovered, and remembered while on this journey into your heart. You know you can trust your mind’s ability to grasp this information and use it in the most useful ways.

This heart and mind wisdom will always instinctively know how to balance and remain fully accessible. You’re a beautiful blend of your higher and true self and the person you feel yourself to be.

Pause for a moment or two. Allow your heart to recognize the desire of your mind that wants to help you learn and discover what is most important.

Take another moment or two and pause again. Witness as your mind realizes the wisdom of your heart and its ability to guide you to what you value most…what is most dear to your authentic nature.

Embrace Heart and Mind Harmony

Moving into the heartNow take another moment to experience again your heart and mind in harmony.

As you inhale and exhale your breathe gently assists you to awaken present and clear minded from this compassionate and light filled state.  You awaken refreshed and alert, ready to continue your day.

It is comforting to know at any time you wish your body and senses will lovingly help you remember the knowledge gained during this state of expanded awareness.

Now, slowly count from five to one.

Five: You feel the connection to your body and the room where you are laying of sitting.

Four: The outside world is more apparent as your attention moves to your surroundings.

Three: You gently open your eyes and look around you.

Two: With mental clarity, trust, and courage you are now able to discern what is your highest and best choice in any given moment.

One: You are now fully awake, aware, and ready to go about your day with clarity, peace of mind, and a happy heart.


You may also enjoy reading Alana’s answers to questions others have about self judgment and judging others.

To learn more about heart mind balance, visit > Explore Alana’s Answers on the Power of Discernment

Bridging Differences: The Art of a Compassionate Marriage

All too often we receive questions for Alana asking advice on relationship and marriage conflicts.

A love relationship will have its ups and downs because this is a part of cohabitation and sharing a life together.

But why are some relationships more compatible while others are filled with power struggles and conflicts?

In the following question and answer session, Alana helps the questioner find clarity. Alana assists in creating a space to move beyond a dysfunctional cycle of trying to figure out who is wrong and who is right, into a space of curiosity and self exploration.

Alana’s answer uses a relationship quiz developed by Kirk VandenBerghe for defining personal values. This is a perfect tool for couples to take independently or together. The information gained can help reveal relationship compatibilities and differences so couples can have greater self-awareness and begin building common ground for resolving their issues with one another.

Question for Alana: Hi, Alana. My husband and I have been married nine years now and could use some relationship help.

From the start, we have had small irritations. But recently the tolerance levels have come down a lot.

He feels that he is doing so much for our family and me and that I am not reciprocating. I feel that I am giving up so much of what I am for him and our family and still not getting a breather from the issues he seems to have with me.

I have been reading up a lot on past lives and wonder if it’s something there that is causing us to go round and round.

Should I back down or stand up for what I think are unnecessary comments and expectations?

I feel that I have put up and heard enough. But I can’t make out who is right. Obviously, everyone does and says what they think is right. It may not matter, but I feel rather stuck and not sure how to break the cycle.

Alana’s Answer: Greetings, Dear One, and thank you for posting your question and for acknowledging your desire to better understand the dynamics in your love relationship. Let’s see if we can find a way to change this cycle expressed in your marriage.

First, let us view your question from several different perspectives so we may find a more productive way to expand the communication within your marriage. This can help the two of you find greater common ground. Then Alana will point you to a series of exercises, which when taken to heart and acted upon, can help to expand your capacity to support each other on your shared life path.

Many couples do have shared past life experiences, which can sometimes be fascinating to explore. There are so many factors we could examine from a physical and spiritual perspective that might bring an “ah ha” experience. However, this may not aid in helping the two of you learn to be together with greater compatibility.

Relationship Differences

IndifferenceAlso, couples often get caught up in the day-to-day needs to the extent that they forget the simplicity of connectedness, which is based on love and respect for each other’s exceptional beingness. Many couples have yet to view their relationship as a team, a co-creative partnership.

We are all the same in our desire to share love, yet at the same time we are unique. This leads some couples to share more compatibility traits than others. Sometimes couples are drawn together because of their differences so they can learn how to further develop aspects of themselves.

Sometimes people are drawn together on an emotional level, later realizing they lack mental and spiritual compatibility. They connect on one level and it becomes the magnet that draws them together, forgetting to notice if they are compatible in other ways.

Does this doom the relationship over time? Sometimes, if the couples are not willing to grow to understand each other’s full natures. If they would just allow impartial curiosity to move them beyond their attachments they could learn more by exploring each other’s deeper intrinsic values.

So let’s move past the need to know or be right, and seek deeper answers, which may help you both learn how to relate from a new level of awareness. Then perhaps your differences will soften because a greater understanding of your and his deeper intentions will express with greater compassion for each other’s core needs and values.

What are Your Shared Compatible Values?

Let’s create the intent to explore the deeper essence of each of your individual natures so we may find the compatible values, and the underlying facets of your natures that are expressed with the friction you describe.

This must be done by releasing a blaming state of mind as you move to a place for gathering understanding. Then a bridge can be made that will support you both. This common ground can become the bridge for better communication and understanding that transforms into compassion and relational wisdom.

For a preview of the first exercise > Discover Your Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Values

This is an exercise each of you can do. See if you can be curious during this discovery process and leave judgment behind. As you discover each of your deeper intentions, you will be shown that you are each just “who you are.” Then the actions of attempting to change the other person to accommodate each other’s needs and values will lessen.

The Art of Compromise

Before I share the next exercises let me give you an example of a couple who were blessed with a baby, their first.

The mother had a desire to stay at home and be with their baby until the infant was old enough to start school. However, the father felt they should have his mother watch the baby during the day so his wife could go back to work. He felt it was more important to have the extra income to support their lifestyle needs.

Can you see how neither choice was right or wrong? They both had different perspectives and values, which led to different needs and desires for support.

Through discovery, communication, and examination of possibility, the two found solutions.

Yes, there was compromise from both parties, but neither crossed the line of giving up their non-negotiable needs. If they would have blamed and gone on without taking the time to explore possibility, the two parents may have created resentment, adding to a mountain of misunderstanding.

They could have gone on to spin the situation and “triangulate” with the husband’s mother, which could have made matters even worse.

Instead, this couple each wanted to respect the other’s values and needs. They moved beyond blaming and needing to be right. They saw their marriage as a team effort.

A Marriage is a Team Effort

The wife discovered that her husband’s desire for her to go back to work came from a need to make sure the family remained stable. She was able to listen to him without feeling that her need to be with her child was being threatened. The husband understood his wife’s value to care for their child with her full attention. He learned her intention came from a place of love versus being selfish or denying their needs as a family. Both knew neither was right and neither was wrong, but had values they felt were important.

Eventually, the husband found a way to increase his hours at work one day a week. The wife found a way to work at home part-time, a couple days a week. Their differences were addressed. Although the extra income wasn’t quite as much as if the wife went to work full-time, it was enough to meet their needs. These options came to be because the couple created a neutral space to explore possibility. Solutions were made available because their consciousness could draw in the opportunities.

So often we forget that our conscious attention is a component of what we manifest. When we combine our attention with greater awareness, shifts of perception will open avenues to explore.

Holding this example as a model of successful relationship communication and collaboration, let us move to a series of exercises that can help build a new foundation for your marriage.

Building a Foundation for a Lasting Marriage

Smiling CoupleAlana is going to point you to a series of articles that offer questions you both can explore separately and then together.

By taking an inventory of your greater values, you will come to better understand how each of you has different needs and why they are expressed the way they are. You will come to learn why the desire for support in one area of life may be greater than another area. You may identify how your needs will never be met by changing the other person, but by becoming a fuller and more compassionate expression of yourselves.

If you can create the space for exploring this series together, your open discussion of what you learn will be very helpful in solving the irritations and demands that have been building in your relationship over time.

Even if your partner is not willing to do this with you, by doing it solo you will still learn a lot about yourself. Even self-awareness can be enough to change the dynamics in a relationship, opening space for the partner to make a shift.

Begin by becoming familiar with creating your own values list, then move on to the three-part Relationship Quiz designed to help you discover your values. Doing so will provide a better understanding of each other. This is much more than a compatibility test, as it will put you in touch with your authentic nature.

For Part One, visit > Relationship Quiz

Good luck in your exploration. May you both find greater peace and happiness.

~~ Alana