The way we think about biological sex is wrong | Emily Quinn

Did you know that almost 150 million people worldwide are born intersex — with biology that doesn't fit the standard definition of male or female? (That's as many as the population of Russia.) At age 10, Emily Quinn found out she was intersex, and in this wise, funny talk, she shares eye-opening lessons from a life spent navigating society's thoughtless expectations, doctors who demanded she get unnecessary surgery — and advocating for herself and the incredible variety that humans come in. (Contains mature language)
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Sometimes We Are the Ones Who Need to Change

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” ~Albert Einstein

When I was younger, I had a lot of opinions about what other people needed to change.

“Why can’t people conserve more?” “Why can’t people stop throwing cigarette butts on the ground?” “Why can’t so-and-so stop being so annoying?”

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve recently realized that as I focused on all of the things that others needed to do, I was avoiding taking a look at my own very real flaws and failures.

I used single-use plastic containers for smoothies and coffee. I had a car and drove a lot, often when I could have walked, biked, or taken public transit. I used air travel, frequently. I didn’t ever shop at thrift stores or make an effort to reuse things. And I also, um, was very critical of others, and myself.

In short, I had plenty of issues of my own.

There is a quote by Jacob M. Braude that reads, “Think about how hard it is to change yourself. Then maybe you will understand why it is impossible to change other people.”

Not only was it impossible for me to force another person to change, I was also avoiding the impact I could have made by changing myself.

This is true in so many areas of life.

Consider the person who always dates “horrible” or “crazy” people. We always blame the other person and think, “Why do I have such bad luck with men/women?” It’s rare that a person ever looks at themselves and considers that maybe there is something about them that is attracting this type of person—that maybe, in fact, we even subconsciously choose to get involved with screwed-up people so we can point the finger at them instead of confronting our own intimacy issues and asking ourselves why we are avoiding real relationships (or friendships).

So many people also complain about how “society” needs to change. Yet all of us doing the complaining make up society.

If we want change, we are the ones that need to change, every one of us.

This isn’t necessarily pleasant to hear. Because, of course, as long as we complain about what other people need to do, we avoid the discomfort and effort of looking at ourselves and making changes in our own lives.

We complain that people are always on their phones. Yet all of us are on our phones, constantly. We complain that the political process is corrupt, yet how many of us run for office, vote regularly, or even dedicate time to really understanding the issues? We complain that we never talk to our friends, but how many of us make the effort to reach out and really listen to what is going on in someone else’s life?

I’ve realized that for a very long time, I’ve blamed other people for my circumstances; and maybe circumstances did have an impact in some ways. That job that didn’t work out, those traumas that happened in the past. Yes, they are part of who I am.

But the truth is that as I look back at my past, almost all of the instances in which I’ve had a conflict or something “bad” done to me by someone else, could have been avoided if I had taken responsibility for myself and not given my power away to someone else.

For example, I’ve recently taken two international backpacking trips. After the first one, I stayed with relatives temporarily to get re-established in the US, and it ended with conflict and hurt feelings because boundaries and expectations were not clearly defined.

And while my first reaction was to feel sorry for myself and tell myself how “mean” they were, the truth is that I should have been more proactive about either having a discussion to determine a clear agreement or budgeting better and supporting myself.

I’ve realized that expecting others to care for me or take responsibility for my life can only end in disappointment and disempowerment for me.

I think in the past, because I was living according to others’ expectations of me and because I was afraid of intimacy and really diving into life, I subconsciously was not taking full responsibility for myself and on a certain level was expecting other people to care for me and support me.

It’s scary to take full responsibility for ourselves and our lives. In a way, it’s easier not to try, because what if we fail, or what if people don’t like the real “us,” the one we keep hidden? Because hey, if they don’t like us, at least it isn’t the real “us” they’re rejecting, and we can pretend that we “didn’t really care” anyway.

So many of us live with our dreams and selves tucked away and just float by with what life gives us, and criticize others or the state of the world instead of working on ourselves or taking steps to fix those things we can change.

The best realization I have had recently, which has helped me avoid despair in the midst of much dark environmental and political news and trying personal times, is that I can restore my own sense of personal power and commit myself to things that I can change.

That might mean pledging to never use a plastic bag at the grocery store again, bringing a Mason jar instead of using a disposable cup for beverages, or trying to use more kindness and less judgment toward others in my personal life. I can walk through the fire and take ownership of myself and my life.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s not worthwhile to fight for causes one believes in or speak out against injustice. But it’s important to look at ourselves first and examine what flaws we may be harboring in our own hearts. As spirituality author Marianne Williamson once humorously wrote, “It amuses me how angry I used to get when people wouldn’t sign my peace petitions.”

Williamson herself is an example of this principle. One assumes she did not find a great deal of success in angrily yelling at people to sign her peace petitions. Yet once she decided to look inward and change herself, and examine her own human failings and weaknesses, she gained spiritual knowledge that has impacted millions and helped them find peace within their own hearts.

Ultimately, we can try to communicate and share with others, but we can’t change them.

On the other hand, we always have the option to look inward, claim our power, and take the step of changing ourselves. We can make ourselves into the type of person we keep wishing others would be and do the things we keep wishing others would do. And while it may be scary, it should also be an encouraging thought.

Because the truth is that the power for change, either for ourselves or the world, is not anywhere “out there”—it has always been inside of us.

About Shannon Brown

Shannon spent several years as a writer and editor at a public health agency in Washington, DC. She then spent a total of eight months over the past two years backpacking through Europe, and is now a writer and yoga teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Find her on Instagram (@shannonb_808) or her blog,

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A Meditation for Relationship Changes & Challenges

The Challenge of Change

Adjusting to your life after the end of a relationship, marriage/partnership is different for each person but it rarely all falls magically into place. There will be a period that feels unsettling. Remind yourself that this is perfectly normal.

Whether you are trying to nurture the love in a challenging marriage, going through the stages of divorce, or coping with long-term healing after a breakup, meditation can play an incredibly helpful role. Meditations and exercises that address stress and provide relaxation techniques are particularly beneficial. Here we combine awareness of your body in the present, letting go of tension, and concentrating on love – no matter how many contrary feelings come up – to use as a guidepost for your journey through difficult times.

Sitting Meditation

Find a quiet, peaceful setting and 10-15 minutes that you are free of any task or expectation. Even five minutes is worthwhile. If there’s a lot of chaos going on in your life, and you think you don’t have time to meditate, remember that is one of the very reasons it’s important to do it! Your mind is probably very busy, and your body is at a heightened state of anxiety. Make an announcement to your mind and body that it is time for a pause.


Sit in a comfortable position, either on the floor or a chair. Close your eyes. Keep your back straight and think of a string coming up from your spine, holding your head tall. Take three deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, with awareness.

Starting with your feet, feel the energy that exists inside and around them. Release any tension you are feeling there. Once your feet are relaxed, slowly move up your body and focus on each part – your shins, your knees, your thighs, your stomach/torso, up to your chest, neck, and head, up to the top. Feel all the energy that flows through your body, along with the energy around it.

Now bring your concentration back to your chest and settle it in your heart. Visualize the energy as the love that resides inside of you. Sit with that feeling. Introduce, in your mind, the person or situation that you are struggling to see in a loving light. It can be your spouse/ex. It might be a financial situation or child custody complication that is causing negative or dark feelings. It could be an upcoming event, such as a visit to a lawyer or a conversation with your partner/ex that you are hesitant about.

Continue to visualize the person or situation, then come back to your heart where you have cultivated a loving light. Send that light out to the person or problem. It may be difficult to feel what you perceive as love in that moment, but think of love as energy and light. It is there to help you most of all. The love that you surround a person or situation with, that is causing you anxiety, is self-love that can become compassion even in the most adversarial of dynamics. If you are experiencing hurt and/or anger, that can make this meditation seem very challenging. Acknowledge what you feel, then let it go, if only for a few minutes. Know that time will change and heal feelings, in whatever way it is meant to be. Project to the future where there will be more peace of mind.

Sit with the mind of love, clear of other emotions, for the rest of your meditation. If thoughts or feelings come up, greet them and then envelope them in the light. When you are ready to end your meditation, bring your concentration back to your breath and open your eyes.


Along with sitting meditations like the one above, mindful meditation, which you can practice as you go about your day, keeps you focused on the present and on your feelings. When we are mindful of our surroundings and feelings, we are better able to cope with trials and tribulations.

Remember – take care of yourself! Exercising, eating healthy food/regular meals, and getting plenty of sleep are all so important during stressful times. Please seek out counseling or therapy if you feel overwhelmed, along with friends who love you and can be supportive. Though marriage issues, divorce/breakups, and adjustment to being single can feel very isolating, know that you are truly not alone. Above all, be kind, compassionate, and patient with yourself.


Derek O’Neill, fondly referred to as the Celtic Sage, inspires and uplifts people from all walks of life, offering guidance to influential world leaders, businesses, celebrities, athletes and everyday people alike. Distilled from his life work in psychotherapy, a martial arts career and study with wise yogis and Indian and Tibetan masters, Derek translates ancient wisdom into modern day teachings to address the biggest challenges facing humanity today. For additional insights listen to his free radio archives or order his books on Love/Divorce, Grief, Mindfulness, Anxiety, Stress and Depression.

Image courtesy of Yoann Boyer.

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Being an Artist Is the Most Important Job for Society!

This is not what one usually hears when choosing a life in show business. Most people get a negative reaction from their friends and family when they tell them that they are going into the arts. “They are told that being an actor, singer, dancer or musician is not a proper job.” In all honesty, artists are crucial to the quality of our lives. One of the reasons the world is not in such a good place right now is because we are missing great inspirational artists.

Now, don’t get me wrong we have some great artists, it’s just that we need a lot more. Maybe that’s where you come in! We need actors who illuminate the truth about life through their performances, dancers who can show us how a body can move and express itself, singers and musicians who bring joy and a deeper understanding of life through music and song. Music is the number one universal connector, it brings people together.

Great artists can show us how to express our feelings and be emotional. They teach us that being our authentic self and following our instincts, is truly what life is all about.

We desperately need comedians to bring more humor to the world. We need unique writers and film makers to show us other cultures, different ways of living, and an understanding our own diverse and complex problems.

We’re living in a time of big political upheaval and social media change which brings a lot of uncertainty and loneliness into our lives. Artists shine a light on our common fears and human needs. They teach us that we are all basically the same. We look and behave differently but we all want the same things in life. We come from different cultures and colors, but together we create a great and beautiful rainbow.

I believe that being artists is the most important job for society. They are the mirror to our lives and doctors to our soul. If you have chosen to be in any area of the arts, I want to congratulate you. The world and I thank you for being a soldier of light into a world of darkness.

I believe that being artists is the most important job for society. They are the mirror to our lives and doctors to our soul. @berniehiller (Click to Tweet!)



Bernard Hiller is the premier acting and success coach in Hollywood. His revolutionary techniques and methods have taken the artistic and business community by storm. He teaches sold-out Masterclasses in over 16 countries. He trains top artists in Los Angeles and CEO’s around the globe. His methods of “behavior transformation” have resulted in amazing acting and business success. Bernard has started the career of Cameron Diaz and coached Jeff Goldblum, Lionel Richie, LL Cool J, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Doran, Emma Roberts, Billy Crystal, and Jennifer Garner to name only a few. Leonardo DiCaprio recommends him as the top coach in town. Bernard’s #1 Acting and Success book, Stop Acting-Start Living is a must read. You can connect with him on Facebook & Twitter.

Image courtesy of Vidar Nordli-Mathisen.

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