....no more.

Sunday sessions. On repeat. 

London Grammar Nightcall 

get creative

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I’m really unsure why yoga has become such a challenging activity. It was such a regular part of my life for so many years and even during this challenge, I have to will myself to practice - it. is. SO. painful. Why? 

I’m not sure what I’m so uncomfortable with or exactly what I’m running from, but I can’t seem to get still. Yoga is painful right now. I took class today and I checked the time so often, I think the teacher noticed. I was mortified.

Today’s challenge though, now that felt good. Any excuse to get creative sounds like a good day to me. I spent a lot of today just reading excerpts of my favorite books and feeling inspired. If you need any good reading material just pick up Of Marriageable Age, or Chasing Rumi, or The Pleasure of My Company, or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (I can go on…and on, but I will stop). 

I journaled…a lot. And just spent the rest of the day writing. In the words of Mister Ice Cube: Today was a good day. 

Namaste.

manifesting dreams

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My little pup pup Maximus turned into an old man suddenly and I feel like the change was so fast! He was fine and then suddenly he wasn’t. A year later, even with his arthritis and grey fur, his wobbly walk and his aging eyes, he still acts like a puppy.

We’ve lived every day of the past 12 years together and I while I am able to rationally understand that, as a dog, he can’t be around forever, I just can’t fathom a life without his precious face. I’m trying to surrender and accept what is, but Furry is my best friend, my family, and this is all overwhelming for me. 

So, today was a great day for @yoga_girl’s Manifesting Dreams challenge because I was stuck in an animal hospital all day, anxiously waiting for Max to be seen by the ER cardiologist…for hours. I had so much nervous energy the only positive thing I could think to do was what she said: meditate on what you want in life, start focusing your attention on your deepest and wildest dreams, write it all down

I was so desperate and sad sitting in that ER, but the hope and promise of a magical life filled with all my dreams and wishes made me feel infinitely better. And while Furry won’t be around forever, I know, maybe I only have a few weeks or months left with him, but for now, he’s better and he’s home snoring just a few feet away! I can kiss his little black nose and his huge head and smell his paws, just about whenever I want.

Let the manifesting begin!

Namaste. 

thank you

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A couple of years ago, I was in South Beach with one of my best friends. I had just finished the book I was reading and I was rummaging through her beach bag, where I found a book called The Magic. It’s written by Rhonda Byrne, the same lady who wrote the book The Secret (side note: I’m not really into the book The Secret - I think it’s a fine idea but a lot of the way she describes “The Law of Attraction” just doesn’t vibe with me and the whole phenomenon was too commercial for my taste). 

This book, it’s totally different. Anything magical makes me feel good. I may be an adult, but I still long to see Unicorns and fairies. I’m all about anything that promises more magic in my life. 

Even though the book didn’t teach me how to fly, I loved it and highly recommend it to everyone. Essentially, The Magic, is a 28-day workbook that gives the reader daily exercises to cultivate gratitude. And to be honest, when one cultivates enough gratitude, life definitely feels infinitely more magical. That is a fact.

There are several parts of the book - including writing a gratitude list in the mornings and also scanning the day, while in bed just before sleep, then choosing your favorite moment to be grateful for - that I’ve incorporated regularly into my life. It feels pretty awesome to wake up and go to sleep with a grateful heart. So, I loved Day 7 of @yoga_girl’s Instagram challenge - Thank You. 

I decided to use it as an excuse to write out thank-you notes to a lot of the people who make my life magical. I wrote cards to family members (those who I rarely see or speak to but hold a special place in my heart), friends (who sprinkle my life with laughter, support and sunshine), co-workers (who I see everyday and make what can be a very difficult work environment a fun place), and even acquaintances (people who I don’t know very well but who have had a significant impact on me). I wrote out 48 notes in total…and each card made me feel better and better. By the end, my hand was tired but I felt amazing.

Namaste

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

start a new routine

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@yoga_girl’s Day 6 Instagram challenge is to Start A New Routine. I have so many new routines I’d like to start but there’s one that I’ve been struggling to add to my daily routine for so many years, I feel the Universe is urging me to focus on it: Morning Pages.

I first learned about this practice in The Artist’s Way, but it keeps coming back to me in various forms - without fail, every few months someone suggests journaling in the AMs to me. Strangers, friends, teachers…many different voices repeating the same message: There’s nothing like getting all of the junk out of your head first thing in the morning to create space for new energy to flow in

I don’t really understand what my aversion to this practice is, especially when I can see a significant shift for the positive on the days that I do the exercise. Sometimes what’s best for us is that last thing we make time for. Well, I’m going to start making time for this. 

Tomorrow is a new day so today, I went out and bought a bunch of new Moleskin notebooks to commence. Let the writing begin…

Namaste

break a bad habit

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@yoga_girl’s challenge for Day 5 is about breaking a bad habit. I have many to choose from - I worry too much, get carried away too easily by negative thoughts, my brain usually jumps to the worse case scenario, I curse like a Quentin Tarantino movie, eat a bunch of things my body does not like, I don’t know how to be anything but busy, I’m judgemental, and the list goes on…  

I chose a couple of bad habits to break because, well, that’s just my style. Not to mention, it’s only 16 days. How bad can 16 days be?

Hopefully, the removal of these habits - or at least just the effort put forth in the attempt, regardless of the outcome -  will shift something creating more space for good things to flow into my life.

Here’s my list (and the whys):

  1. NO Complaining - there are a couple of stagnant situations in my life right now that I bitch about on the regular. I’m actually sick of hearing myself (over and over) so I can’t even imagine how others, who have to listen to me, feel. I’m sorry! No More. With the complaining I think I will throw out any negative chatter coming from my mouth, period. And any gossip too.  
  2. NO Food That Makes Me Feel Like Crap - the list here includes: alcohol, dairy, anything processed, sugar, and white carbs like white bread, pasta, blah blah blah. My pendulum swings hard with my eating habits. When I eat poorly, I have less energy, my brain feels foggy, I’m less motivated to exercise, I’m irritable with mood swings, my skin gets really dry, I look tired, and overall, I just feel off. Now, there is one caveat here - it’s my birthday on Thursday. If I feel like having a couple of bites of birthday cake (this does not mean a huge slice), or if I want to go to Sugarfish and eat some delicious Nowaza style shrimp sushi - I’m going to. But, I promise I won’t go overboard (this is not a Tim Ferris- style cheat day).
  3. NO Phone During the First Two Hours of Waking Up - I think this one may be the most challenging for me because I’m so used to checking my phone. It’s maddening. I answer work emails and messages as quickly as humanly possible, even waking up in the middle of the night sometimes to do so! Let me also mention the cursed Candy Crush procrastination problem I’ve recently developed. FML. My plan is to turn off my phone (and my computer) well before bed and leave them off until two hours after I wake up. Simply typing this out is giving me a bit of anxiety. Amazing. 

So, yeah - these are the bad habits I’m breaking with this challenge. Please send me good vibes - I’ll need it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for reading, I can use all the support I can get.

Namaste

random acts of kindness (part 1)

Day 4 of @yoga_girl’s challenge consisted of random acts of kindness. I’m already a big fan and, at the sound of sounding sexist, I feel most women are. We tend to be nurturers - individuals who find happiness in making others feel cherished. I don’t know, it could be my middle-eastern upbringing, but random kindness was not a big challenge. Being in the desert, where it was 114 degrees yesterday and rather secluded from people, that was the challenge.

Two of my friends and I did this together, which was nice. Thanks for being supportive ladies! We cut up a bunch of pieces of paper, then wrote random notes on them with a red Sharpie (I think we had 28 in total). Some of my favorites were:

  • Smile! You’re absolutely gorgeous!! 
  • Don’t ever forget…you’re AMAZING!
  • Happy Saturday! You are beautiful!
  • Filled with GRATITUDE for all you do!

We then went to a random parking lot in Palm Springs and put them on people’s windshields. It felt really weird as people would pull in and out of parking spaces and look at us suspiciously but it turned out to be fun (so was the dinner after, which would have never happened because we wouldn’t have left the house we’re staying in if it wasn’t for this challenge - win/WIN).

It’s definitely something I would do again (must remember this!). Thanks @yoga_girl - you made at least 31 people smile today. 

Namaste.

rise & shine!

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For Day 3 of the yoga challenge, @yoga_girl wanted us to wake up an hour earlier than usual and suggested a bunch of things to potentially add to our morning rituals. I woke up at 5:30am which hurt, like a mofo, but the darkness and silence felt peaceful.

Being awake, when everyone else is still asleep, feels wonderful. During the times of day when the majority of the city is sleeping (between 3am - 5am), I find inspiration comes easier, writing flows more effortlessly, and ideas are crystal clear. Maybe it’s because I’m so sensitive to other people’s energy, that when most people are asleep, there’s less static to deal with - which creates a lot of extra space and I can hear my intuition better. I have no way of actually proving this and it sounds pretty nutty as I write it out, but it feels like the truth, for me at least. 

The extra hour this morning allowed me to chill with Max - we snuggled a bunch and he sat on my mat while I did some sun salutations. We even meditated together.Time felt slower than usual, and I didn’t feel as rushed as I do each morning. It was an awesome way to set the tone for the rest of the day. I noticed more synchronicities today and felt a quietness usually not present in my day.

Later, as we drove to the desert (where I’m spending this weekend), my friend snapped a picture I’ve wanted forever (see above)…it kinda says it all. Thanks B!

I hope today you are in the presence of the right kind of love.

Namaste. 

10% happier

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Today marks Day 2 of Instagram’s @yoga_girl 21-day yoga challenge, with the theme of meditation. I was recently given Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier and I devoured it in a couple of days. It’s the true account of an ABC news anchor’s journey with spirituality and meditation. I do well with sarcasm so I really loved Dan’s story - it’s a very positive, inspiring story peppered with just the right amount of cynicism. It definitely got me on the meditation bandwagon again. 

I’ve been meditating as long as I’ve been doing yoga - probably over 20 years now but unlike yoga, meditation has never felt good or become easier for me. It’s always a huge challenge and I never really feel like I’m doing it right. 

I’ve taken classes. I’ve tried different methods. I’ve listened to cds and been guided. I’ve even gone so far as going to a vipassana retreat - where you can’t speak for 10 days - you can’t write, read, exercise, or communicate with the outside world (or anyone, for that matter, but your teacher every couple of days) either - you just meditate.

I had a very profound moment in vipassana (only one time in 10 days), where I felt what I have heard others who meditate describe - it was a feeling of timelessness. An hour went by in what felt like minutes. The cells in my body felt different, like I was floating and not solid. There was no chatter in my brain. My body felt like rays of light. And I felt radiant and peaceful, in harmony with everything else in the universe - the feeling of separateness completely ceased. It was weird. It was amazing. I rode that high for months. And it has never happened to me again.

Even though I still feel like I’m never doing it right and the struggle is real, every single time, I still find myself trying it on the regular. I feel it makes me less reactive. Meditating creates a bit more space between moments that cause me angst and my reaction to them. It stretches out the space just enough for me to avoid knee-jerk reactions.

Meditation also tames the crazy voice in my head - the one that automatically jumps to the worst case scenario, the voice that pumps me with fear and causes an immense amount of stress and chaos in my life. This voice never completely shuts up, but with regular meditation, it’s at least recognizable - in that I can recognize it’s my monkey mind, and then there is the possibility that I am able to just ignore it. Small victories. 

As cliche as this may be - I really enjoy the Oprah and Deepak meditation challenges. They are having one right now - I think it’s day four. They don’t take much time and it’s a nice way to start off the day.

Namaste. 

yoga every damn day

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Instagram’s @yoga_girl started a 21-day yoga challenge today. Historically, I’ve never been one for social media daily posting challenges, but I’m making this the exception.

I’ve been practicing yoga since I was a teenager. First Iyengar, then hatha, next flow…exploring the different techniques one by one, figuring out which flowed best with my body. I completed YogaWork’s 200 hour teacher training in the spring of 2009 and the experience changed me forever.

We studied the sutras, Rumi, Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation in the philosophy portion of the training. Practiced asanas methodically - stretching intensely, bending and opening physically and emotionally.

I watched one of my classmate’s transform before my eyes. Samantha’s belly was tiny when started, at four months pregnant, on our first class. She was still maintaining two-hour asanas a couple times a week in her ninth month and gave birth naturally to a beautiful, healthy baby, two weeks after the program ended. I marveled at how strong and pliable the human body can be.

It was the first winter I’d spent in NYC without leaving once. No Miami heat. No Saint Martin refuge. No get away. We met every weekend so there was no relief from the snow, sleet and ice cold wind. My thin California skin had never acclimated to the east coast winter, even after seven years living in the city. I felt tested every day. 

I worked full-time in investment banking, on Park Avenue in pencil skirts and stilettos all day, then studied human anatomy and the history of yoga by night. I spent every Saturday and Sunday in a yoga studio in midtown, being consistently pushed outside of my comfort zone by our instructor, Jodie Rufty. That much yoga changes your essence.   

In order to survive the intensity of the winter and so much work and yoga, I had to become super focused. Totally dedicated. A change in lifestyle was necessary. I became vegan and didn’t drink for the entire three months. This was an immense change from my normal 65-hour work weeks, balanced by champagne-infused blurry nights, and little rest. Each week essentially melted together with the prior, no real beginning or end.

The change felt amazing. By April, I was ready to leave my job and soon after I gradually phased myself out of New York City, as well (I still miss it FYI). I maintained a very regular yoga practice until last year, when I’m not sure what exactly changed. All I know, for certain, is yoga started feeling like an obligation. My mind was reeling against me while holding Warrior II. Anything involving balance was beyond challenging. And I found myself making a lot of excuses to miss class. 

This challenge came at the perfect time. My body is craving yoga and my monkey-mind needs to be tamed. Thank you @yoga_girl for giving me the perfect excuse to bring yoga into my daily life again. Namaste. 

Free the boobies. @freethenipplelives #freethenipple

Free the boobies. @freethenipplelives #freethenipple

Starve all my fears. #ilovethis #regram

Starve all my fears. #ilovethis #regram

My version of patriotic. #murika

My version of patriotic. #murika

scar tissue

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~Rumi

Cutters. People who use their skin as ashtrays. Self-mutilators. I see you, now. I get it.

My worst fear came true a few days ago. That thing.

The fear that pops up quietly but suddenly grips your core. The thought that makes your heart pound in your ears. Your stomach churn. The one you try and shush but comes back swinging. Hard.

That feeling of total and utter panic. Anxiety at it’s finest. Robbing your heart, of peace. Your brain, of sense. Sweeping away all that is good, and leaving utter devastation, and total confusion in it’s wake.

It happened. 

Everything went dark, like thick, opaque curtains blocking the rising sun. Then, the light disappeared completely.

We all have one such fear, I think, or 100 (depending…I had two). Some are just better at silencing theirs - starving Adora, the lizard that lives in the brain. So much for evolution. You’d think by now human beings would have shed that little bitch - we’re not being chased by lions in the brush any longer. It’s been a few years. 

Two days later, my other fear manifested. Back-to-back (clearly, I’m a very powerful manifester, you’d think I’d learn to control my thoughts, and focus on better things, by now). This second blow was different. Worse. Deeper. One of those pattern fears that rears it’s ugly head every few years. A lesson I’m clearly missing that desperately wants to be learned. 

And then, just like that, I understood the idea of self-mutilation. It breaks you down to your most vulnerable, fragile state. It’s an anecdote to the ego. The ultimate silencer. Everything goes calm. Kinda like being under water.  

For the past few days I’ve been somewhere between here and someplace else. A feeling of floating in space trying so hard to grasp at something to ground me. The harder I reach, the farther I float away. It’s fucking scary. 

In this space, you make stupid mistakes, constantly. Lose keys. Turn the house upside down looking for your iPhone when you’re holding it in your hand. Forget concert tickets. And people you were supposed to meet. And you accidentally burn the shit out of yourself taking something out of the toaster oven.

3rd degree burn. Searing pain. Definitely an ugly scar. Mind numbing. 

For the next hour or so, I felt grounded. Present. Writhing in physical pain that was so intense, I was unable to access the past or the future - remaining in that place every spiritual book, meditation, speaker, whatever - talks about. The power of being in the now. Because the now was so loud. There was no room for emotional pain. In a lot of ways, that burn, was total relief.

I’m not condoning self-mutilation, FYI. There are plenty of socially acceptable and less harmful ways to bring physical pain upon oneself, if you’re so inclined to do so. Most people do it in some way - tattoos, running long distances (just try a half-marathon for starters), back-to-back SoulCycle classes, the Master Cleanse, piercings, CrossFit, extreme sports…pick your poison. Don’t cut.

Lucky, or maybe unlucky, for me (the jury is still out)…I could never burn or cut myself on purpose. I’m too shallow (scars) and too afraid of being crazy, to go there. But I get it now. No more judgement. Just total empathy. It is a relief.

All that aside…I think the edges of another truth started forming in the aftermath of the burn. It was a total surrender to my fragility. There was no other choice, the pain made me completely helpless and vulnerable.

Maybe that is where the comfort lies. Giving into who I am instead of fighting myself so hard. 

I’ve always been super sensitive. Thin-skinned. I was just born that way, literally (I was such a premi, I spent weeks in the hospital in an incubator with translucent skin).

When I was a kid, my parents mission was to toughen me up - don’t be such a baby, it’s only blood, that’s nothing to be upset about, if someone picks on you, ignore them, there’s no point in talking about your feelings, life is hard, so you’re not going to get through it being so sensitive, calm down, deal with it, life isn’t fair, toughen up, blahblahblah

There was little empathy for my emotional fragility - it was so overwhelming for my parents to deal with, it felt like I was just an annoyance somehow. They detached when they felt my pain. I was something that had to be dealt with. Sensitivity was like profanity in our house (I’ve only seen my parents cry over death) and instead of comforting me when I was hurting, which is all I wanted, they withdrew their attention. I was accused of being irrational and ridiculous, instead.

They were trying to help, I realize this, but they made me worse. The more they withdrew, the sterner they became, the less they empathized with me, the more intense my discomfort became. The more sensitive I became.

Whatever. They were just doing their best. I know they adore me. No finger pointing. That’s not the point. Everyone, is just doing their best in life. It’s not personal. 

It’s ironic that as I’m writing this now I can so clearly see my relationship patterns. What happened the other day. The nightmare I can’t seem to wake up from. The same drama playing itself out in my most intimate relationship. It’s tied to my deepest fears.

I’m still looking for someone to make me better. Someone to comfort me. Someone who is willing to handle my emotions. I’m still just waiting for someone to accept me the way I am and just love me instead of rejecting my fragility. And I’m still drawing in those who can’t/won’t/refuse to support me in that way.

And in my desperation, I hurt those I love the most. I overwhelm, confound, corner, smother, and trap. Without intention. With no ill will. With zero malice. I shut down. I reach blindly for comfort in the most damaging way possible. I make my presence deafening and intrusive. I push. And I push.

I’m wired to feel this is the necessary behavior to be loved. To be seen. To be comforted. Without even the slightest recognition of what I’m doing, until I’ve pushed too far. And only after I’ve finished doing the exact opposite of what my intent was, I realize what I’ve done, and how much pain I’ve caused. Then the guilt sets in… 

I’m tired. It’s exhausting.  

I would like to get to the point of vulnerability and surrender that that burn inflicted, without the physical pain. I would love to accept my fragility. I think the road to this is figuring out how to stop fighting myself. I am who I am and this is who I have always been. Hating that fragile part of me, going against my nature, and judging myself for it, perpetuates a pattern that needs to be resolved. I have no idea where to begin.

Maybe just being hurt instead of trying to be tough is a start. Maybe instead of trying to control and rationalize emotional pain, I need to just succumb to its discomfort. Maybe instead of lashing out like a destructive ball of fire, trying to self-soothe, which has NEVER worked, I need to withdraw, surrender, feel what I’m feeling - without feeling like I’m failing somehow.

Maybe I need to learn to ask for comfort from a place of vulnerability instead of attack. Actually open my mouth and say the words: I’m hurting, please make it better, without feeling I’m wrong and weak. And then, actually trusting that the comfort will show up.

Maybe not that exact second. Maybe not in the exact way I’d hoped (because everyone has their own patterns they’re dealing with). But just having faith in someone will make the difference - not always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not always expecting to be let down. Maybe then, the pattern will be broken. 

It’s time to bury the hatchet, with myself. I’m going to take some time and mourn the death of the person I thought I needed to be. The Neelou with a high tolerance for pain needs to be buried. I am not tough. And I have no desire to be. That’s done now.

Death breeds rebirth and in time, I need to embrace the me I’ve always rejected. How can anyone love me for who I really am, if I won’t love myself for it? As long as I continue to judge and reject myself, someone else will too. 

So, it’s time to transform into someone new, shapeshift - integrate all of my parts into a whole, more balanced, true self. Someone who can just accept what is with grace and integrity. One who can accept love without a need to control because faith and trust flow freely in her heart. 

Wish me luck.