July 22, 2016

A Picture Says 1,000 Words

And while true, I'll still add some words of my own. I have hit a major milestone in my life, in our life I should say: home ownership (well, mortgage ownership...). As a person who has skirted major commitments until her 30's, and then so dragging her feet into it, buying a home was emotionally, spiritually, and mentally challenging. And of course a blessing too. Costea and I have had as smooth a transition into American life as one could expect. Returning home from the Peace Corps is tough. Moving to a new country for life? Super tough. Returning home, quite unexpectedly close to where I grew up, it was so nice to be close enough to see old friends from time to time. Making new ones, not so easy. We're in that funny age where most people we know have children and so we're that childless couple that can do anything whenever, but don't have friends that can do that with us.

Then there was apartment living. I know many, many (most?) people in this world live in apartments. But I didn't grow up that way, and neither did Costea. In fact, his entire life he had a large garden, raised his family's own animals, grapevines, fruits...you name it. That's a LOT of work, so when you move into an apartment with no outdoor access, you can imagine the shock to the system. At first it seems like a luxury to not have so many "chores". But soon, the restlessness kicks in. So for two years, we made it through watching too much TV and having perpetual "cabin fever". 

And so here we are now. Our little house in the woods. (LOVED that book in 2nd grade!) It's got strange basement smells, more bugs and creepy crawlers than I care for, bathrooms with pink and green tile, and kitchen cabinets that scream, "I love the eighties"! But it's ours. We have so much work to do, it can seem overwhelming. But isn't that life? We can often see the bigger picture, the vision, but it's all of the little steps in between that get us anywhere.

We have many, many steps ahead. We have a place to channel our energy. We can create. And for this, we are grateful. There are so many reasons we loved this little house in the woods. Some of those reasons are easily apparent, and some only exist now in our minds, awaiting to be brought to life by inspired hearts and hands. 

I have ideas for posting about our journey in fixing up our little house in the woods and all of the life lessons that process will teach us. I'll be very happy to be writing again. 

Om tat sat.

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 actually...as 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.