Monday, July 11, 2016

The Art of Living - How we guide children and build community


It was a Sunday morning with our two children 
peacefully asleep...

Sam and Nick, amazing then, and amazing now
but it was unlike any other Sunday morning in my life.  On this morning I would find out if the love of my life would live.  The doctor told me she had experienced a heart attack.  

Marie Sierra, Mom, Pianist, Dancer, Friend, Love of my Life
Driving to the hospital, I thought of of this amazing woman in my life and our 2 children... and slowly and silently began to weep, from both a sense of profound love and simultaneously the fear of potentially having to let go.  Today Marie is 100% recovered and after 23 years of marriage we are completely and madly in love.

It was a moment of opportunity... for both of us. When Marie suffered her heart attack, I was much heavier, weighing 300 lbs., and Marie was in very good shape.  

300lb Enrique on the left
Neither of us were eating in a healthy manner. On our first visit to her heart doctor, he looked at me and said, "You should have been the one with the heart attack," and I nodded in agreement. Since then, Marie and I have embraced life at a new level. Part of this journey includes cooking with coconut oil, and creating healthy and delicious meals with super foods. We both feel so much younger.

 Prior to that moment, if someone had asked me, “Do you embrace living?” I would have responded… “absolutely!”  Today I can tell that back then I was on my journey of developing my potential to reveal my own purpose to myself, and I continue on this journey. Today I can also share with you that I have, with the support of many, including Marie, truly embraced the Art of Living.  

 Many people have experienced being afraid of being alone, but can we ever really be alone?  We may sense loneliness, but can we ever truly be alone?  I ask you to consider, “To truly live, do we not need to at least recognize our connection to our community?”  The community we are born into, the community we choose, and the community we create.

Does community create a sense of unity?
Does unity create momentum?
What do you choose to create?
How do you choose to live?
My Mentor, Dr. Carroll Rinehart, on the left and on the right, my colleague and friend, Corey Ferrugia
Marie has taught me a lot, as have my  many mentors, including my Nana, Victoria Cañez.  There was no such thing as an “ordinary moment” with her.  With my brother in spirit, Corey Ferrugia, founder of MyTown Music, our shared mentor Dr. Carroll Rinehart, and our inner circle of colleagues, we have taken this idea to new heights.  In 2000, I founded the non-profit education organization, the Fostering Arts-Mind Education Foundation.  Today its new name is the Global Learning Foundation and my closest circle of colleagues, artists, educators and thought leaders have reverse engineered the Art of Living.  

I’m sharing the first 3 steps with you right now.  Enjoy and consider living, loving, and learning like a child!

When do feel the most connected?  What prompts this?

An example of The Art of the Question with Preschool children from the Benson Center of Child-Parent Centers Inc.

What kinds of questions do you ask your friends?  
Your colleagues?  Your family?  

Perhaps even more important, 
“What kinds of questions do you ask yourself?”  

Are they questions with a specific answer in mind or are they questions that truly seek to find out what the person across from you has experienced and would like to experience?

For those of us who work directly with children, the use of great questions leads to breathtaking results related to improved creative and critical thinking. Above you see one simple example of a question, a positive provocation, that was used with preschool children. This led to children learning a great many things about life and learning via the creating of maps.

A map drawn by a preschool child at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers Inc.

A map of home and school drawn by a preschool child at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

As the former Associate Director of Bands at the University of Arizona, I made a lot of statements.  Little did I realize that statements didn’t create the kind of response I was hoping for, no matter how dramatic the delivery. After I left the University of Arizona, I received a call from educational icon Dr. Carroll Rinehart.  He offered me an invitation…. To have coffee with him and talk.  I met him for an early breakfast and kept doing so for many years.  He told me stories and asked me questions...three questions… over and over again and over time, I began to realize why. While I founded the Foundation, I am not the Foundation.  The Global Learning Foundation is a hub of thought leaders who seek to not only think, but to take action, and we already have.  With over 100,000 children and families impacted by our educational approach, the Context Method®, we are now poised to expand our sphere of guidance in the world of learning, business, and entertainment. Here are some questions for you :)

I invite you to experience this 15 second video and allow yourself a moment to consider your thoughts on:
“When are you most engaged, and why?”

When are we most energized by what we are doing?

4 yr old creating a piece of Art based on quarter notes, half notes and whole notes...he was definitely inspired!  I remember because I was there! From the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
  • When we are able to inspire ourselves, can we inspire others to inspire themselves?
  • When others inspire themselves, can a community be inspired?
  • When a community is inspired, can a nation be inspired?
  • When nations are inspired, can a civilization be inspired?

I used to wake up knowing which day of the week it was.  Today, most everyday feels like a weekend to me.  “How do you do that?” I am asked.  I have shifted from the idea of surviving to thriving… from staying grounded to flying…. from trusting only in others to trusting in myself.  It has taken some time, and what I have figured out is…

It’s not the thing, it’s how you do the thing.

A self-portrait by a 5 yr old... what is amazing is how the child when about creating the portrait, which began with a very good teacher asking some very good questions.  In other words, what this is a real self-portrait by the child. Taken from the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
Whether it be conducting an orchestra, guiding young children in play-based learning environments or creating innovative technology to impact learning, inspiration can be found when we realize it is our intent that can leave legacy.  What is your intent with every action you take, and from how many perspectives?  Do you realize you can choose your intent, and multiple perspectives? Below you see a couple of images from the behind the scenes making of the children's album "Kaleidoscope." It was inspired because we asked so many wonderful questions of ourselves and we at all times thought about the intent of the music.

Alice Pringle on the right, Enrique and Ricardo creating inspired music for children.
Matt Mitchell on Guitar for album "Kaleidoscope"

Enjoy this 30 second video and contemplate your response to 

“When am I most connected to the inner energy of any activity?”

                                                 THE ART OF STRIVING
When do we strive?  
Why do we strive? 
When do we sense community and how does this impact our emotional bucket?

Find a child's interest and that road will lead to striving. Image taken at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

An original Clay piece of Art by a preschool child. Image taken at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

A description of the clay home and family above. Image taken at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Where is your energy level at today?  
What makes it so?  
Who decides?

In your life would you… 

*prefer to wake up needing that cup of coffee to energize you
*prefer to wake up already feeling energized

possible is everywhere when we are striving...
an original piece of clay Art by a preschool child. Image taken
at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

When I sense community being elevated, connected to thoughts and actions I am a part of, to strive becomes as natural as breathing.

"Creating" creates a community of those who strive. Image taken from the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Everyone has the capacity to strive... here is a child striving in the creating of an original doll with wire and other materials. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
When I used to think about the word community, I would think about my city or my neighborhood.  Today I think about my own internal sense of community and the community that I build with other individual, groups, and with the natural world.  The result in my life is that I have noticed a direct correlation between my energy and how much community I choose to build.  The relationship is a very positive one and whether I am involved in the creating of Art, the creating of business ideas or the creating of entertainment ideas, the overarching concept is always related to “What kind of community will result from this idea?”   Below is a study preschool children created that was focused on creating Art from dried flowers. While the product is certainly beautiful, the process included the building of community with discussion with others and an awareness that we live in a larger community that includes nature. A huge thank you to the Sunnyside Center from Child-Parent Centers Inc. for their continued partnership... truly inspired!

Dried Flowers put into categories by preschool children. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

One category of dried flowers. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Sunnyside Head Start preschool child begins to crush the dried flowers. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers. Inc.

Sunnyside Head Start preschool child begins to place the dried flowers onto their "canvas". Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Sunnyside Head Start preschool child's finished work of dried flower Art. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
I encourage you to ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I create a sense of internal community with myself?  Or is there an internal struggle between my actions and thoughts?
  • Do I take advantage of the moments in my life to build community with others?
  • What does it mean to build community?
  • Are you willing to first attempt to build community and then think about your  definition of community?

Click here to see the full 3 minute video and consider your own thoughts related to how you embrace your own life…  and the fostering of community.

Creator, iBG (Intellectual Brainwave Games)
Co-Creator, The Inner Journey Theatrical Show
Producer, Kaleidoscope


  1. I am in awe of all that you do and of your thought process. For me the most important is the child and all the social/emotional development that help foster all the other areas of development. You really know how to create and question all my thoughts.

  2. You are a champion. Remember that. We each have the ability to choose.

  3. I frequently visit sites like yours because it inspire me and a lot of people to better our lives everyday. I hope I can also contribute little things to my community so I can have a sense of purpose in my life, I don't want to be like the people from the stories in customwritings who choose the wrong path just because no one is there for them.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments Bam! Keeping it real on this end. Here are some additional links I think you'll enjoy!
      Brain games, Books and Children's Music:
      Public Speaking:
      Performing Artist/Composer:
      Redefining Learning:


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