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Meet Hector Rivera of Peace Inside Out in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hector Rivera.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Hector. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born in the Bronx, New York to a loving Puerto Rican working-class family. My family and extended family was a real force field of love that surrounded me everywhere I went during the hard decades of the 70′ – 90’s. We had love, faith, and culture led by a great push to progress through family responsibility, education and work.

At ten years old, my very first paid job was as a tutor for an immigrant Dominican classmate. Soon after that, several families also hired me to tutor their children. I can say I have almost 40 years of experience as a teacher. I love teaching! I can teach anything I learn.

But teaching isn’t the only way to describe what I do today and who I am. I have 25 years as a poet and songwriter performing throughout the country and as an organizer and activist for human rights. I have 20 years as a healer via Reiki. Throughout the years I feel I have flowered into a renaissance man in the best sense of that word due to my own desire to be of service and to a wonderful community of activists and healers in NYC–a community anchored by Caribbean women who seamlessly connected healing and activism. To me, renaissance means rebirth. As an individual, I have died and re-birthed myself many times and oddly as it may sound, society is also going through a rebirth. I am grateful to be part of it playing my role with Peace Inside Out through all that I have learned and through aspiring to be authentically me.

So I am a teacher, a poet, a songwriter, a percussionist, a Puerto Rican bomba music practitioner, a restorative justice practitioner and trainer, a curriculum developer, an event organizer, a convener, a reiki master, an acudetox specialist, a massage therapist, a meditation and mindfulness coach, a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend. I do all the things I love to do in a total expression of who I am within a paradigm that makes complete holistic sense. Peace Inside Out.

Idealistic
I
deal
with
ideas
dear
to
I
Idealistic

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest challenge has been my own mind. The fear of walking my own path; fear in general. So my life has been about being courageous. Courage in the face of colonialism, racism, fear and violence. Courage in the face of my own internalized fear. I’m blessed because I have the incredible examples of resilient ancestors and family as excellent teachers. I have inherited this incredible life full of smooth roads, rough roads, uphills and downhills. So basically the challenge has been to continue clearing my own path with machete-like courage. To continue being a vortex of love and peace. To continue aspiring to that and generating that outwards. When I look outside of myself and I hear people commenting, “Hector you’re so calm,” or they come to an event, bomba workshop, training or reiki session, or hear a song I wrote, and they express how good they feel, and the positive effects on their lives physically, emotionally and spiritually, then I know I am doing well. I am meeting my mission in life. I see my reflections–you–having challenges, yet still watering joy, strength, courage, compassion, love. I see you healing. I see you thriving. I see me.

There is one especially challenging time I’d like to share about early on when developing Peace Inside Out. I was still working a full-time job as a restorative justice facilitator. I enjoyed my job and thrived in creating great relationships with the students and the principal but I was having problems with my relationship with my supervisor. I was basically having a mental breakdown and didn’t know how to ask for help. Inside I had a dream of working for myself and sharing my gifts on my own terms yet I was exhausted every day from a full-time job, with less time to do all the other things that were part of me. I was holding on to so much while trying my best at work. I wound up developing shingles and was fired a week before Christmas. I felt devastated. I wasn’t aware but by that point, I had shingles for over a month. Emotional pain had turned to physical pain. I wanted to be out of my skin. I had ignored the pain early on and now it was becoming unbearable. I was forced to come back to myself. I was forced to stop and to breathe. I began meditating for hours the way I was learning from Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, videos and the monks and nuns from his Deer Park Monastery. I also looked up and used Louise Hay’s affirmation for shingles: “breathing in I am relaxed and trust life, breathing out I am relaxed and trust life.” For hours, while our son was in school and my partner, Melody, was working, I sat or laid down affirming, smiling, breathing, over and over. Then one day, I received a gift of incite through meditation. I received the “how” of Peace Inside Out! Peace Inside Out through walking under the A.R.C.H. Peace inside Out via Art, Restoration, Community and Health.

It all made sense to me and my mission became even clearer. A painful time forced me to lean in and find inspiration, incite and healing within myself. The mud turned into a lotus. A rebirth occurred. Here is a poem I wrote around that time describing the challenges and its resolution. That’s what art can do–help us find answers.

Monkey Mind

monkey mind, monkey mind
you got me running from the divine

monkey mind, monkey mind
I keep running but I’ll never find

I keep running, running
wishing, wishing
this joint was the next
mission, mission
can’t slow down now
momentum’s building
40 years plus
this race I’m running

I keep flying, flying
chasing, chasing
all the rainbows
in my imagination
on a fast forward flight
furious to a dimension
where hummingbirds
answer all my questions

monkey mind, monkey mind
you got me running from the divine

monkey mind, monkey mind
I keep running but I’ll never find

I keep looking, looking
seeking, seeking
that pot of gold
but the arc ain’t bending
I’m seeing all the colors
but they’re all blending
can’t tell black from white
I’m sure the world is ending

I’m feeling, feeling
I’m missing, missing
something outside of me
yet inside it’s breathing
my mind’s distracted
can’t pay attention
don’t remember I inherited
abundant blessings

monkey mind, monkey mind
you got me running from the divine

monkey mind, monkey mind
I keep running but I’ll never find

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Personal and community transformation via Arts, Restoration, Community, and Health. A.R.C.H. An arch holds up a wall and the sky, so we can enter sanctuary. With these practices and aspirations, we holistically develop our best selves and meet our reflections, our community, thriving together. I lead Peace Inside Out with great support from my wife and partner, Melody Gonzalez.

Arts helps us see and interact with reflections of ourselves. We explore important questions with art. We reflect our selves, nature and society with art. Participating in some form of art is recommended medicine for our own well-being, as well as for the transformation of our communities. We currently offer Puerto Rican bomba classes–song, drum and dance, at RioBela Cultural Center (2236 East 7th Street, Long Beach) as well as creative writing/poetry workshops and song-writing for movement-building.

Restoration is restorative justice and more. Restoring harmed relations. Restoring our highest dignified selves. Restoring child-like curiosity for life and self. Restoring healthy non-violent communication. Restoration is largely about communication and community relations. We aspire to and we develop workshops on nonviolent communications and community building.

Community is our pillar of support. We build a strong community when we celebrate together and we learn together. Community is about education and events. We design dynamic curriculum for organizations, from youth leadership to centering wellness in organizing, and we create events that bring communities together, such as the Bombazo Fandango, which gathered as many as 200 international musicians.

Health. Reiki, acudetox, massage, meditation, coaching, dance-fitness, birth support, traditional post-partum support are the offerings we have to help support body, mind and spirit be at its best.

All together, A.R.C.H. is a paradigm for aspiring to peace inside and out. What is peace but all these beautiful human values such as love, security, community, inclusion, joy. It is all these practices that have helped me when I am at my best and helped me when I am at my worst. We share what we practice. From the inside out, I have reached thousands of people doing what I love. I feel this is a victory for a Puerto Rican project kid from the Bronx.

What makes Peace Inside Out unique is that it is informed by decades of engaged practice. Practice as an organizer for human rights, an artist, a healer and a teacher.

 

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Image Credit:

1-3 Juventino Photography
4. Arturo Fotografia
5. Cesar Moreno Marti
6. Desi Barnette
7. Flyer by HecVortex

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