December 13, 2015

3 Simple Tips to Survive the Holidays (and Your Life)

Just an opportunity to share our chakra-inspired tree :)

I work with a wonderful woman who always goes the extra mile to support the university students who are studying entrepreneurship and spending time in the venture center where we work. She recently invited a psychologist to speak to the young people about stress management and I decided to also sit in on the talk, since really, can we get enough of that? If you've ever read my writing, you know that I focus a lot on the idea that we are living in a time where we have more input data than EVER before and that the new rate of input quite literally exploded in the past 50, 20, 10, 5 years. I don't believe that we have biologically evolved as quickly as this rate of change around us, and that is why we see an increase in rates of societal "dis-ease" like anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc.

I focus on this all mostly because I experience it. I am highly aware of both the increased levels of stress that our society introduces to us, but also the types of stress that we encounter with each major life change: going off to college, a death in the family, new jobs, marriages, divorces, having children and so on. These life changes are enough to put a person into a special mode of coping, but when you add on the rapidly changing and chaotic world we are living in, the topic of stress management and methods for reducing the effects of stress on the mind, body, soul, are of utmost importance.

It's great that I also happen to be writing about this near the holiday season and though we might (hopefully) face this time with great joy and light (this IS the point an aside, we are nearing the winter solstice, the time when we'll tip over the hump of losing more light each day, and instead start to gain it back), the truth is that for many of us, all of the hustle bustle can throw us into a bit of chaos.

Here's a fantastic example, and I share this with full knowledge that my own experiences are perhaps less chaotic of those people with small children and other extra layers of concern like illness, grief, and other responsibilities. Yesterday was a Saturday and being a day that I don't have to be at my 9-5, I usually end up taking care of all of the things I am too tired to approach in the evenings of the weekdays. So I made my list: 

  • Get ornaments for tree (our first "bigger" one! last year was a small table-top guy with just lights);
  • Find glass containers for making candles as gifts;
  • Take advantage of the 20% off Target coupon expiring that day to find useful gifts for Costea's family in Moldova;
  • Maybe run in to a favorite overpriced clothing store that I just emailed me telling me everything is 25% off (this one never happened).
After the slow Saturday morning breakfast (just love that!), organizing the apartment and whatnot, I head out. I have my favorite yoga music playing loudly in the car, the windows are down because it's so warm outside, and I am SINGING my way to accomplishing the goals on my list. YAY.

Well. I should have know that everyone else was also going to the mall. being just two weeks out from Christmas. Between finding a parking spot, finding what I needed in the store without being in someone's way, and the fluorescent lights and artificial fragrances galore, I got a pounding headache. POUNDING. The little voice in my head was like, "Girl, you should have done this kind of shopping long before now, you know better". I guess I do, but I guess I forgot. Isn't that what we do all.the.time? To end the story, I had a headache until I went to bed even after going home to stretch, drink water my best to relax. 

This little story is just a small example of how hard it can be to remain calm, collected and cool in the world we live in. But alas, there are methods to the face the madness! Since I've already rambled quite a bit, I'll try to keep this as succinct as possible and hope that you'd gain a little insight into making this time of year, and your own life generally, as amazing as possible. Here are my interpretations of our guest speaker's tips:

Tip #1: Observe vs. Absorb

As potentially THE most guilty person of absorbing other people's shit, I can testify to the importance of this tip. My goodness. I used to think I was so nice and sweet because I let people be themselves around me and I'd listen and I'd try to help. Well, while all of that can be good at times, the truth is that it's not my job (nor yours) to FEEL what others are feeling. Many times we can just walk into a room and KNOW that something just doesn't feel "good". The tip here is to observe that and use your discernment as to what to do next. You can either leave the room or if that's not an option, continue in observation mode, but you don't have to actually feel something that is not yours. Observe people's crazy. See it. Delay. And be entertained. One way the visiting speaker talked about this was a mentality of "Sunny in here, crazy out there". Keep your sunny inner weather no matter what. When you KNOW you're going to be around people who bring the crazy, grab a bowl of popcorn and watch the show. 

Tip #2: Protect Your Sponge

Now that we've looked at observing versus absorbing, now let's dive a bit deeper into protecting our "sponge". The way the woman spoke about this was awesome. She pointed out the fact that we are actually, biologically, like sponges. We have receptors connected to our nervous system that are always reaching out into the world as well as taking in the data around us. One example of this would be the pheromones we always hear about that either physically attract or repel us to/from others. So, in the above scenario above of entering a crazy-ass energy room, you know it's crazy even without words being spoken because of your receptors/your sponge. You're taking it in and processing it. And once you realize this is NOT something you want to absorb you can protect your sponge. Here are a few ways how:

  1. Visualization: Imagine you're that sponge and you're just not going to absorb anything icky so you need a protective barrier. One great way of doing that is imagining millions of little diamonds glistening all around you. They are hard, light, reflective, and beautiful. You can see through them and the other people can still see you, but the energy flow into you is reflected off and/or transmuted to something much more lovely. (maybe diamonds ARE a girl's best friend? huh?)
  2. Have a response ready. Our guest speaker shared this one and I liked it. When Aunt Sally or Uncle Freddy or cousin Sue who you KNOW is always bringing some crazy mozies on over to you, you can have some phrase ready-to-go so that allows you to disengage in their crazy. It might look like this: 
                Crazy Person: "Oh my gosh, Donald Trump is going to kill our country and my boss hates me and the house we bought is a disaster and....blah, blah, blah"

                You: "Interesting" (and walks away or changes the subject to something positive).  

Tip # 3: Respond vs. React

Especially when we're with people we know very well and know what to expect from them, we can tend to get reactive. But since we do know what to expect we can also choose to be responsive instead. And this also works well with the strangers who bring crazy (you know, the guy who cut you off at the gas station, or the person who butted in line). Rather than allowing yourself to get in a huff and react to their crazy, pause, take a moment, and respond to the situation rather than allowing for a knee-jerk reaction. This should help you to keep your cool, keep your "sunny" inside :)

I'll end this post with the great Mark Twain quote about trauma,

 “I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” 

In other words, we create many of the dramatic experiences in our lives simply by letting the crazy in and absorbing crazy that's not even ours. So put up your diamond shield, sit back, and enjoy the show! I love you!

Om shanti, Om peace.

July 1, 2015

Holistically Human

We are in the throws of a major revolution. Or maybe you’d call it an evolution. However you want to look at it, things are changing in our world more quickly than in any point of known history. 

Admittedly, I have been confused as to how I have ended up in life where I am. I started out studying business, but only because my dad refused to support schooling in the fashion industry, where I really wanted to go. I figured that a business background would be useful, I could work in the “fashion industry”. Of course you later find out that the industry is very much a “who you know” or “how much you already have” situation where naturally extremely talented individuals can and do rise, but they are typically on the creative side. As in studied fashion or fine arts. I digress.

So it was business. So I worked in big business. So I died a little inside. And it surfaced outside of me in the form of hives for over a year. It was as though my body was screaming from the inside. One of the first major sweeps of our current revolution “saved” me from this with layoffs (AKA 2008). Maybe it was intuition, a dash of passionate interest, sprinkled with a burning desire to heal my hives situation, but when I lost my job, I was already half way through studying for a certificate in holistic health counseling. And in that program my interest for local, organic, whole foods as a source of healing the person and the world, became a new passion. 

I refused to re-enter the corporate world and did all I could to stay afloat doing work I cared about. I took a seasonal job as a local produce buyer. I worked for a startup nonprofit in sustainable agriculture. But I could not sustain me. I couldn’t afford rent. I hadn’t realized a way to do what I cared about and to take care of me. I know many, many of us face this every day. We are not all so lucky to have such fantastic choice of vocation as others. There is truly no “fair” reconciliation of this. Only that we must do what we have to do and somehow find that passion for what we feel we want to do, what maybe we were born to do, with the energy and time we have outside of the way we make our paychecks. Those of us lucky enough will at one point have an opening to reconcile our passions and paychecks. But it’s not just luck, we have to also take risks.

And risk is where I am heading with all of this. 

Back when I was studying the nutrition, I was very convinced that I neede to write a book called Holistically Human.  This book would be about how we’re living in the throws of a time when technology is evolving so much more quickly than our biological selves and because of this we are suffering. We have anxiety, depression, diabetes, obesity, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases galore. I see these as great symptoms of a great change. 

I haven’t written that book. Not yet. Somehow I didn’t feel I had all of the pieces.

Back to my confusion. After some deep introspection during my time spent living at the yoga ashram, I decide to (finally) apply for the Peace Corps. I had wanted to do the Peace Corps since my freshman year of college when I met a group of returned volunteers at a study abroad fair. They all seemed so different than most people I met. They had this knowing about them that I admired.

However, with the death of my brother during my junior year of college, I felt paralyzed to go so far away from my family for such a long period of time. So I dropped the idea from my conscious mind. But it never went away truly. 

In 2011 I embarked on a 2-year journey to Eastern Europe to do whatever was asked of me. I did know I’d learn a lot about the world, myself, and about humans in general. I also knew that I’d gain a better understanding of how government, public, and private industry work together to solve societal problems. And all of this did happen. And then I came home. And then what?

I often find myself in envy of people who always know what comes next. “I’m going to Peace Corps, then I’m getting my JD, then I’m moving to Montana and buying 300 acres and having 5 babies”. Well isn’t that nice?! What a plan! But that’s not me. I don’t lay it out like that for whatever reason. And yes, I know all of the books that teach us about the secrets of realizing our greatest desires say we need a CLEAR picture of what we want to and hold that, then we'll get it. But aren't we also supposed to be careful what we wish for? The only thing I clearly know that I want is peace of mind, happiness, and health.

I guess I don’t trust my fleeting desires for what I WANT as much as I trust that the smaller choices I make daily in my life lead me to what I NEED. Maybe I am wrong but hopefully that as I grow wiser with time, my choices just keep getter better.

"And so how the f did I end up here?" I've spent the last year asking myself. I am not making good money. I do not own a home. (Nor a second home obvi...a desire). I do not have a gaggle of children. I would not be considered successful in the eyes of many. And certainly not in the eyes of my 19-year old fashion industry-wanting self. 

But you know what I've finally realize I am doing? I am facing that revolution I've been so aware, the first major kick of which I experienced in 2009. The awareness likely spans my entire life. I finally feel that I am alive right now to somehow play, no matter how small, a role in preparing us for this revolution. For preparing and for sustaining in a flexible, adaptable way. 

In my current role, I am developing and implementing programs that teach high school students about the entrepreneurial mindset. My boss inspires me with his reason for doing what we do: because the world is rapidly changing and we can assuredly predict that that change will continue at an ever-increasing rate. Bill Gates himself shares concern for the number of jobs that will soon be replaced by AI and the “software substitution”. Yes, the coming technology will change things and we need to have people prepared for this in more ways than simply knowing how to work with technology. Of course we need programmers and consultants and IT project managers, but more than that, we need to let young people know about this change and prepare them to be flexible, adaptable, and yes, entrepreneurial. Because with great change, comes great opportunity. And those who know how to recognize this opportunity, who are willing to take risks, to approach it, to work with it, to bring value to others, will flourish in our new world. 

It’s not just about food and nutrition, spiritual wellbeing, beauty and fashion, money. It’s not just about one thing. It's holistic. I wanted to write about the holistic human, and how to thrive in our world of tomorrow. There is more to the picture, and I am immersed in that now. I am grateful. I would not be here if not for the journey to here.

OM tat sat.

March 22, 2015

I'm Faking Everything

My track record is improving.  Only about 3 months between posts this time! Not much change since my last sharing to be honest. Of course the thoughts are there: the "whys", the "hows", the too much thinking...

One of my guilty pleasures and weekly ways to turn off the chatter box in my head is the HBO show, "Girls". It's not particularly compelling, and many of the characters annoy the heck out of me...but there is something to the hum-drum narcissism of the characters that is so... familiar. I know I am not alone in this, because millions of other people watch the show for a reason. It's a generational thing perhaps. How we all experience our lives as though we are the main character of an elaborate, long, drawn out film, (or Instagram stream).

I bring up the show because on the last episode I watched, two quick quotes poured out of two characters at the very end of the episode, that I found quite profound. And so today I want to think about and explore what it was in those two phrases that stirred me up.

Phrase one...
Was shared by the unpredictable, borderline sociopath, Jessa. As she strolls down the street smoking a cigarette, discussing the man who just dumped her for his ex, she ponders what she saw in him. She says that he moved so fast he didn't let her think. "I don't do well when I think," is how she put it.

Do you ever wonder if you're overthinking things? I know for sure I do. It's exhausting. It's the reason I sought out yoga and meditation in the first place. While studying with wonderful teachers during my stint at the ashram, we talked a lot about how we can't really control what we think. We have very, very little control over the thoughts that pop into our heads actually. So that's the good news. We don't have to feel terrible when (and this was the teacher's example), we hear a loved one died and think, "I wonder what they left me?" That thought came from left field and you have a million other thoughts flooding in as well, like, "What will I do without this person in my life?"and "Did they die peacefully?" and "How is so-and-so doing?"

But of course that ONE thought, the one that you shouldn't think, will probably bother you. But again, we don't have much control over what we think. Where we gain control is in how much attention we give to a thought. The more time and energy spent on a thought, the more the thought grows and gains power. And the more likely we will be to have that thought again and again.

A great and common example of this would be a thought that arises at some point in everyone's life, "I am not good enough". There are plenty of teachers that show us how to work through these kinds of thoughts. Ask the questions: "Is it true? Can I be 100% it's true? What's the evidence" etc. This is all good for examination. The problem is that we can usually find plenty of evidence that we're not good enough and this thought can become a habit and part of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. It will prevent relationships, careers, and happiness. See how tricky that is? Our thoughts create our reality and so Jessa was spot on...we often don't do well when we think.

You can explore much more about thought power and the mechanics of the mind, which I wrote about in-depth a few years back. Essentially, we probably all do better when we don't think so much, and it takes training to be able to have some semblance of control over the power of our thoughts and how they help us/hurt us in this world. But there ARE methods to sort this out, they just take time and effort, like everything else in life worth attaining.

Phrase two...
Was shared by the show's main character, the naive and narcissistic Hannah, who has just left grad school, started substitute teaching (after her thus far short-lived but successful career as a writer), found out her dad is gay, and that her best friend is engaged. A man who was in love with aforementioned friend quips, "I'm so happy for her", to which Hannah responds, "I'm so happy for everyone", as she stares off into space. Her friend quickly retorts flatly, "I'm faking it", to which, without a beat, Hannah says, "I'm faking everything." This is how the episode ends.

Ok so maybe I totally resonate with Hannah. Do you? Do we all? I have no idea. What I do know is that the more time I spend on things like Facebook, and Instagram and see both people I know and people I don't know, living these seemingly amazing lives full of fun, laughter, smiles, new clothes, new kitchens, vacations, flowers, gifts, yoga classes and...well you get what I'm saying...the worse I feel about my own seemingly lacking life. The comparison game is a slippery slope but rather impossible not to fall into in today's "show off" world.

I mean, let's get real. People have always been show-offs, braggers. But it was only their closest friends, family, and colleagues who would likely have to deal with it. Now, we willingly peak in on what every odd person we happened to meet long enough to become "Facebook friends" with, and get to see their life highlights. "Well geez, they're all better than mine", says the ego. My goodness just writing this last sentence has made me question my own sanity in spending ANY time on these sites.

I like how Maddi Fieleke shares in her blog post:



Anyway, this post has not been entirely uplifting or insightful, but a true rambling of observation. I know there has been been plenty of talk and research on the negative effects of continuous social sharing, and I am sure there are probably plenty of arguments for the positive effects too. For me, I have become very hesitant to share much online anymore. I know I could probably portray that I have some freaking awesome life by how I frame it all, but I'd feel like a liar. I feel myself withdrawing from that sharing. And I know thousands of others are too

Got to love our massive societal shifts! It was obviously an evolutionary step to over-share en-masse and I suspect there will be a return to modesty, simplicity, and humility. That's why I started this blog in the first place ;)