Ode to a Wanderlust’s Favorite

                                                            Ode to a Wanderlust’s Favorite

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            my favorite part of a city is sunday mornings,

or any morning

where people aren’t busy about their days yet,

the world is asleep.

and I am alone.

my serene to keep.

 

the best souvenir is the city just exists for me

or so it seems

and the early dog walkers or joggers.

we mutually nod.

as we walk our prayers.

silence transforms to god.

 

 

reservations for these moments

can be purchased daily

and yet time reminds

via constantly ticking

an ice cream cone can soothe

or sadly melts unless we’re licking.

 

Ukulele Spirituality

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After seven years of being in a case, I decided to pick up my ukulele again.  I began to re-familiarize myself with several major and minor chords, as my fingers were reminded of the nylon strings being pressed tightly against them and the calluses that sometimes form.  I attempted to follow along with a Youtube learning channel: Andy Guitar.  As I progressed to the third lesson, Andy encouraged me that knowing only four chords could be an entryway for numerous songs: C Major, G Major, A Minor, F Major.  I rehearsed and found empowerment in that with several particular strumming patterns. And then we landed onto The Beatles’ Let It Be.

 

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

 

As I sang these words and strummed my ukulele, I could not help but have tears form.  Perhaps it was the beauty of the words sung, and the reminder of sacredness that can exist within a song.  It could also be the power of finding musicality within oneself.  I have always reserved the creation and exploration of music for artists.  I could let them entertain me and suffice to find joy in that.  But to hear the lyrics and sounds emanate from myself was shockingly touching.   I know that my voice and skills on the ukulele are pure beginner, but that didn’t manner.

 

When I played these four chords, something unlocked within me.  The sounds were a transportation to a spiritual place. I began to cry in the act of engaging in this artistic endeavor.  I didn’t write the song lyrics or note progression, but I was participating in playing in it.  I cried for the years that had passed in which I had never afforded myself the freedom and latitude to immerse myself in music.  I had always compared myself to others who were better, played music for longer, or could do it as a career.  I used to think why should I make time to play or improve?  Why even start?  And now I was crying for the fact that I never allowed it to flourish.  Yet, here I was finding beauty in the simplicity of song.  Temporarily I was being the song, even if I was the only witness to this.

 

During this time of Covid, perhaps you are in the same place.  Being locked down or staycationed in, we have nothing but time to engage in our artistic bucket list items.  It’s time to pick up that musical instrument collecting dust in the corner, pull out the paint brushes, start the book you’ve been putting off writing, craft your first poem since high school, or learn that tik tok video.  Whatever it is, whatever your age, it’s not too late to start.

 

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

From Sea to Shining Sea

Watching America literally on fire from afar creates this uneasy internal feeling within me, which is a mixture of nausea, fear, and dread.  I am an American living overseas for the past 7 years, and as I see updates from cities across the U.S., these questions spontaneously arise:

 

  • Is this really where I am from?

 

  • Is this what our founding fathers fought for?

 

  • Is this the place my family members struggled to be part of, leaving behind everything they knew?

 

  • As a multiracial individual, would I be welcome back as a resident in the country?

 

  • For a country founded on freedom, who actually is free?

 

Each time I return to America, the disparity is more and more evident.  Last year, almost each of the five cities I visited were bursting with increasing numbers in homelessness. The racial divide is prominent.  Amidst the coronavirus millions have lost their jobs and health insurance.  I know I am not alone in wondering what I can do.

 

Looking at your home country become an internal war zone is devastating.  We are our own worst enemies. Our national militaries are not being called upon to fight “the bad guys” overseas, but protesters and looters in our own states.  A different type of civil war is emerging, and it isn’t a matter of fighting between the North and the South, but more about the haves and have nots.  What will it take to realize that injustice for one race is injustice for all of us? Although looting, rioting, and setting buildings on fire throughout America is not the answer, will anyone hear the call for help that’s been pleading for years?

 

What can we offer during this time to our fellow Americans? Prayers, peaceful protests, donations, registering to vote, learning and unlearning about our privilege, creating conversations in our communities, families, and with our children.  How can we step up as a country versus step out? Can we transform our anger and disgust as a trigger to collectively transform?  There may not be one specific answer at this moment, but perhaps we can live our lives through the questions together.  We can continually ask ourselves, how can we as our country move forward and not leave anyone behind?   It is possible to win as a society versus win as an individual.  This is a call to put the collective good in front of our individual goals.  When we begin to realize there is greater power of interdependent achievement versus independent wealth we will become a progressive society once more from sea to shining sea.

 

Observing and empathizing the outcries and strife of our fellow citizens, most of us are filled with frustration, sadness, anger, and a stirring within to revolt.  It’s easy to complain, blame, or passively watch this happen before us.  Escaping and becoming a resident of another country is a fleeting possibility that has emerged in many of our thoughts.  Part of me recognizes it’s easy to leave (or for me stay an expat), watch from afar, and think that the country’s turmoil is no longer my problem.   Why return to an America that’s burning to the ground?  Yet the United States doesn’t need her countrymen to flee the fire, she needs us to stand tall and together in the midst of it all.  My hope from this blazing fire a new united phoenix will emerge.

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This moment has been brewing and bubbling up for years.  It’s time for an inclusive revolution.  I challenge us to follow the words of JFK in his inaugural speech: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Power of 5

One theory that has always stuck with me is the power of five.  Motivational speaker and coach Jim Rohn once said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Here’s a question for you to reflect on: who are these five people for you at this moment?   During the time of Covid-19 and living overseas we may think that this is limited to the people that are physically in our homes or work spaces.  Yet I want to encourage you to reflect on the following questions deeper.

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Who do you have zoom calls or face time sessions with? How do you fill the free time in your life? What are the shows you binge watch on Netflix?  What are the podcasts you listen, music you stream, or books you read?  Are you doing these activities with intention?  Are you aware of the impact they have on your life?

 

As you reflect on the five people who are the most prominent in your physical and virtual atmosphere, how would you describe them?  They could be inspirational, complainers, entrepreneurs, jokesters, drama kings or queens, calm, content, distrusting, loyal, competent, spontaneous, health conscious, spiritual, philosophical, loving, fearful, athletic, artistic, and adventurers.  The list is endless, and may not all be positive or negative attributes.  They are a combination of all these characteristics, as are we.   I encourage you to really take the time to dissect who influences you and your environment.  What are the themes that begin to emerge of these people that are part of your life?

 

It’s important to note how these individuals impact your mood and the choices you make in your life.  We have heard that negativity is contagious, but so are other emotions such as positivity, presence, and joy.  Research has even shown that our peers’ eating habits can impact our choices of caloric intake, with some studies even noting that weight gain can be contagious. Despite all this, there is a silver lining.  We do not have to mindlessly be a product of who we surround ourselves with.  Take intentional action.  What values are most important to you and are these influencers exemplifying this?  If not, who can you begin to surround your world with?  This is the time to curate your power of five.

 

 

Emergency Brake

Covid-19 has been described by some as the Sacred Pause, but it is actually more of an emergency brake.  Our lives were moving at an exponential pace on the highway of life.  It’s as if we were on cruise control, not needing to pay attention to much of what was around us.  The driving was being done for us, including the route we were on.  And then an accident was sighted ahead of us.   This sudden halt demanded our attention, as our tires screeched along the way.  It was a shock to our system. The mindless driving ended, and now fear took control of the driver’s seat.  What the heck just happened?

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Pre-covid our lives were headed towards destinations that were pre-determined from societal norms.  The speed at which we were going was set to 70 mph.  You had to drive at that pace or be honked at and left behind.  70 mph was the norm, and so it became the value you inherited.  Our lives were so full of busy-ness.  When others asked you “how are you doing?”, the rote response became “busy.”  This was generally greeted with a nod of comradery. Productivity became our human industry standard.

 

People were not getting enough sleep, but would seek assistance through the forms of Ambien, alcohol or numbing ourselves with the lullaby of Netflix that played quietly in the background.  Many people were stuck in jobs to support lifestyles they couldn’t afford.  They were commuting hours every week to a job that lacked satisfaction, but paid the bills. They were surviving but not thriving.  We were living a muted existence, filled with stuff, chores, activities, and stress.  Sometimes we were able to travel during our allotted two weeks per year.  This is freedom.  Although some of us may have questioned the type of existence we had stumbled into, we didn’t take actions to change the speed we were on.

 

As I described this article I am writing to my friend Isabella, I shared that it was as if our lives were as monotonous widgets on a conveyor belt.  She responded that what I was describing were the beginning scenes of the Disney cartoon Wall-E.  In the cartoon, humans became overweight, zombie like while staring at screens, indulging themselves with fast food, on these solo conveyor belt highways. Consumption without question.  We were under a spell, because there was no reason to question our convenience.  Life was easy because it didn’t have to be challenged.

 

All began to look the same.  We wore the same clothes, strived for similar goals that were fed to us as the American dream.  Get a college degree, a respectable job, get married, buy a home, luxury car, renovate that home, and spend the next thirty years paying off the debt you have accumulated.  Buy, consume, work, sleep, repeat.  Everyone complained about stress, dissatisfaction, and lack of sleep, but many of us assumed this was the all inclusive trip to adulthood we had pre-purchased.  We accepted it and played our parts half-heartedly but without a fight.  And then it came to a screeching halt.

 

Did we want to arrive at the predetermined destination that we were on autopilot towards? Were these the lives we once dreamed of?  Did joy exist?  What happened to the dreams we had set out for?  Were we living the lives we wanted or those that were what our society told us we should have?  We were filling our existence with stuff and couldn’t stop consuming. We stayed busy, and therefore there was no time to reflect.  Productivity was the commodity we were selling, but we lacked the invaluable resource of time to appreciate the rewards.

 

Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for us to question our lives. After the emergency brakes were pushed for us, we had no choice but to sit with the looming dissatisfaction and question if we were exemplifying the lives that we once set for ourselves.  How did we want to move forward? We are currently sitting in the traffic jam, looking at the accident ahead.  Will we stay on the path we were headed or can we take an alternate route?  There is still time.

 

The gift of Covid-19 is that it forced us to face our own mortality. Time is not abundant.  As humans we are subject to financial instability, illness, and death. The spell that we were under can be lifted.   We could have been the ones that were killed in the accident ahead, but we still have another chance.

 

Mary Oliver wondered in her poem The Summer Day:

 

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

 

The emergency brakes forced upon us now can be a gift.  Will you continue on the road paved ahead for you, or opt for a different route?  What will you do now with your one wild and precious life now knowing there is more than one path and 70 mph is optional?

Top 10 Mental Health Benefits of Covid-19

Top 10 Mental Health Benefits of Covid-19

 

For the past month, we have been inundated with stories and news briefings of how this pandemic has impacted our world like no other. It’s killed thousands of individuals, ruined global finances, and severely slashed millions of jobs.  Could there be benefits to this catastrophe, particularly in regards to our mental health?

 

  1. Our connection to our loved ones have deepened.

 

Most of us are limited to the confines of our home, and no longer have the daily interactions of our co-workers and friends. People have developed a longing to converse with family members or old friends outside written form, and have actually picked up the phone, facetime, or zoom meetings.   Prior to this, it seemed as if conversing aloud appeared antiquated.  Only our fingers have been communicating.  But we are yearning to hear each other’s voices, and therefore conversations have become more textured and layered.

 

  1. We are allowed to be bored and therefore are reconnecting with our hobbies and creativity.

When have you had this much free time that was not full of activities or holiday chores and obligations?  After binge watching on television shows and films, some of us are flourishing in our cooking and baking skills.  Others are finding creativity in crafting masks for themselves and those in need. We also are pushing our physical and mental limitations by learning the latest tik tok choreography.

 

  1. Minimizing the busy have forced us to sit with ourselves, and befriend the person in the mirror.

Many times we avoid the darkness in our hearts or stay busy to distance us from the dissatisfactions with life.  The noise keeps us from hearing what is really there. Now the distractions have decreased, we can tune into who we really are. Initially we may have sat with the depression and anxiety that was there, but with time those clouds may have passed. Some of us have been able to forgive and heal old wounds and accept where we are in our lives.

 

  1. Consumerism as a form of distraction has decreased, reminding us what is essential in our lives.

Due to the inability to leave our homes or the fact that our paychecks are constricted, we are buying less stuff.  We are also finally home long enough to use the stuff that is in our homes, and see what is necessary in our lives is minimal.

 

  1. Gratitude is prominent for the smallest daily bits of wonder that have entered our lives.

-We get bursts of joy to feel the sun shine on our faces through the windows or belly filled laughter after sharing a memory or old photo with a friend. We find contentment in being able to pet our dogs or cats as they snuggle next to us or actually find pleasure in a comforting dessert we have prepared.

 

  1. Being given the permission to do nothing has freed us from the guilt of producing, consuming, or eliminating FOMO.

The weight of social comparison has been limited. Nobody is going on expensive vacations, socializing at amazing parties, or taking selfies in front of jaw-dropping backdrops.  We are all socially isolating and quarantining ourselves at home.  Wishing to be somewhere other than where you currently are is futile, and we understand this.

 

  1. We have been given the space to think about what we truly value and how we want to live the remainder of our lives.

-There is an understanding this will end, the simple question is when.  Many of us have been given telework options, and are navigating how we can negotiate this with our bosses when this is over.  Perhaps there is deep dissatisfaction in your field, now is the time to explore a different type of job, or even the city you live. We may desire to live closer to our friends and family, or give up the dream of living in the big city to spend our money more strategically.

 

  1. We have witnessed the ways we are dependent on each other and developed an appreciation for all forms of profession.

Never have I seen people so grateful for those in the medical world, grocery store clerks, or teachers.   People have verbalized their praise for these everyday heroes, who are now getting recognized with applause, songs, and artwork. It has been beautiful to see the smiles of appreciation and words of affirmation for all of us at this time.

 

  1. There has been a universal experience we have undergone simultaneously, which has the potential to always connect us.

Covid-19 have known no boundaries.  It has hit all countries, level of class, age and we are in this together.  We will all have the ability to look at this adversity we collectively experience, and find solidarity in our struggle.  We have one joint enemy in the coronavirus, and it’s ideally uniting us.

 

  1. We have found that even in isolation we can be free.

Confinement or freedom is found in our minds. You have the key to unlock the prison doors.   By not having to be a typical consumer, busy-body, or one upper, you have the time, space, and potential to begin to craft the life you want post Covid-19.

 

Upon curating this top 10 list, I couldn’t help but notice that many of the benefits listed are similar to realizations we may have upon attending a silent retreat. When distractions are removed, there is no option but to sit with ourselves and take stock of our lives.  There is no escaping you and the time limited container you are put under. Through stillness we can begin to explore, develop, and refine the essentials in our lives.  We can find gratitude and joy in the tiny moments that weave in and out of our days, and much of what we have been endlessly seeking already exists within the confines of our home and ourselves.shutterstock_1679393290

Tik Tok Our Covid Lindy Hop

Swing dance boomed onto the Harlem dance floors in the 1930s and 1940s.  In the midst of the Depression, this joyous dance was born. People needed an escape from their lives, and swing dance, particularly the lindy hop, was the cure.  This is what I learned from re-watching the documentary Alive and Kicking recently. I began to question is Tik Tok today’s version of the lindy hop?

 

Lindy Hop brought communities together during the war. Racial segregation was still predominant throughout the world in the 1930s, but the Savoy Club in Harlem allowed both blacks and whites to literally and metaphorically enter through the same door.  The popularity of jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong ignited numerous people to want to take up this dance.  Hollywood films began featuring explosions of this new way of expressing joy, as one dancer would throw and catch his dance partner with glee. Watching clips of these old films is exhilarating, and you could not help but want to emulate the moves of Frank Manning or Norma Miller.

 

Parallel to this is Tik Tok, although it was created in 2017, it’s having a monumental boost in 2020 with Covid-19.  We are stuck in our homes socially isolated and quarantining ourselves for weeks at a time.  Thousands of us are feeling sadness for those lost or ill, worry for our health and that of our family’s, fear for our financial situations, and panic for toilet paper.  Our ways to cope are limited due to confinement and limited funds.  Some people are mindlessly binge watching old episodes of The Office or the new addiction of Tiger King.  We want to escape our realities. We scroll through Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram but now there’s Tik Tok.  Fifteen seconds capture comedic reliefs, impersonations, and dance challenges.  This short capacity of fifteen seconds is just long enough for us to hold our limited attention span.  We watch people around the world partake in a contagious form of play.  After watching enough Tik Tok videos, and having nothing but free time, one can’t help but ask “Why not?”

 

And with that thought, the challenge is accepted. Before you know it, you are making your first tik tok video.  It may seem silly to try to deconstruct the choreography of Savage, Ahi, or Oh Nanana, but everything seems silly right now.  We are facing an unprecedented global pandemic and yet cannot escape our homes to seek solace.  Tik Tok has given permission to play, dance, and mesmerize each other in a virtual way. Parents and caregivers who may never have time for their children due to the busy-ness of work, may opt to tik tok their love out with the Grandpa Challenge.  An entire family may learn the moves to The Weekend’s Blinding Light to satisfy the dream of one member’s aspiration of seconds of fame.

 

 

The avenue of tik tok is temporarily connecting us, as we watch in our homes, focus on learning dance routines with others, and share them with the world.  We are not creating these videos to try to be the best.  There is no prize to be won.  We are creating videos to spark joy in ourselves and others.

 

When was the last time you learned a choreographed piece to be performed? For many of us it was a grade school talent show.  Immersing and repeating new moves within our body fires up our brain in a different way.  It stimulates new neural pathways, as we repeat each movement over and over again, maybe for days as we knock down that killer routine.  The monotony of our days of vegging out on the couch are broken.  We are embarking on a new adventure. We may not be able to travel to distant lands, but our bodies can take the shape of new landscapes.  And we are doing this collectively.

 

Just like people observed the basics of lindy hop that were being formed in the 1930s, they added their own new twists.  The basic moves offer the foundation, but the expression in each of our bodies is so unique.  The contagion of dance overtook their souls and right now it’s overtaking ours.

 

Beauty can be born in the time of great despair. The question to ask ourselves is that when the world returns to normal, and we enter our offices, shops, and restaurants again will we remember these bursts of creativity that were born out of boredom?  Can we sustain the momentary joy that was felt?

 

Joseph Campbell once said “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”  We don’t know when this will end, but in the meantime why not find solace in tik tok? May you and your loved ones dance out your fears, worries, and tears.  And may we remember to dance collectively after the isolation ends.

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Good News for a Change

 

“We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”-Joseph Campbell

What a crazy world we are all living in today, but it’s a collective craziness.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the non-stop news updates of the status of the coronavirus in the world, country, or our hometown.  As we continue to self-isolate and quarantine, it’s a sigh of relief to get a boost of good news. I love this and had to share 🙂 Stay well.

Mystical Myss Experience

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a Caroline Myss workshop for the second time in ten years.  She’s a Medical Intuitive Healer, Mystic, NY Times Bestselling Author, and change agent.  When you attend events like these with living sages, it’s expected the audience will have an endless amount of questions.  They are not about personal inquisitions on her life, or her body of work, but they are specific ones how the individual seeking answers can navigate this particular phase of their life.  They desperately were seeking her advice, and not wanting to let go of the microphone until they felt solace in the response.  Themes ranged from wanting a romantic partnership, life purpose, burnout, to vacillating with having the feeling of vengeance and wanting to transcend to a higher level of being, the ego, identity or soul struggle of one wanting to undergo a sexual transition, and the dilemma of whether to protest or how to hold being political frustration with grace.

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Although her talk was an all day workshop, the numerous questions kept her from revealing the work I was craving to be divulged.  I noticed an inner annoyance burning when the questions continued.   There wasn’t enough time to hear the depth of Myss’ wisdom.  But I gently reminded myself that the questions that were asked would hopefully serve as wealth for the entire audience.  We were leaning on each word she said, as we eagerly took notes. (Note the man in the image included here).  At times tiredness ensued, because of the vast wealth of information needed to be digested.  She is a living yoda.  So many of us wish this wisdom existed within the layers of our family.  We want to seek answers from those in our familial lineage, but at times this isn’t available.  These individuals may no longer exist on this plane, or never sought the depths of spiritual wisdom this woman in front of us contains.  Who doesn’t want guidance from a American Yoda?

 

One aspect that was repeated throughout the talk was the recognition of our interconnectivity.  She stated that our bodies were microearths.  What affects one cell, affects them all.  And so is us for humanity.  As one individual grows, so do us all. We are co-creating our lives, not just with God/Universal Energy, but all of us are impacting each other.

 

Epidemics are examples of us co-creating the world together. Myss gave an example that polio developed and aroise in America post the Great Depression.  “We said we were economically crippled and elected a president in a wheelchair.    Post World War II things shifted.  There was an economic boom, and “we were on our feet again.”  The coronavirus was mentioned as well.  This “collective illness” is a response of our “shadow” nature, exemplifying the fear we have in each other and the boundaries we have felt are needed.  The worst of ourselves that have been arising with wanting to promote nationalism through Brexit or the USA/Mexican wall, and other various examples has resulted in this. Now how are we dealing with the coronavirus?  People are further having to isolate and quarantine themselves.  “The virus is the last great effort to create boundaries, but the reality is there are no more boundaries.  The disease is airbourne.”  It was suggested that we need to understand that as a society that we are part of one living breathing creature. We are one body and must begin seeking to treat each other in this way. “No nation has sovereign rights, every nation must be treated equal, as an essential part of the whole.”

 

Hearing this stirred the audience up.  We were hungry for answers that we try to find in water cooler conversations or from news outlets.  People are hyping up the fear factor, but what about the deeper meaning behind the development of this.  Instead of viewing how to further travel or infected individuals, why not explore how we can grow as a society from this illness?

 

Hearing the wisdom from Caroline Myss was comforting.   It further validated the spiritual growth and awakening that is arising globally.  She also reminded the audience to eliminate our ego driven striving for success, knowledge, improvement.  Know that what you are choosing to learn about health and healing is not for your benefit, but for the benefit of all.

 

 

One small way we can begin to become more aware of our co-creativity is to be mindful of the words and phrases we say to ourselves.  Know that every thought is a prayer.  “Don’t ever say this is making me sick” or wake up and repeat “what a miserable day it appears to be.  Seek gratitude, appreciation, and curiosity in the small wonders of the world.  Choose to see a miracle everyday.  Know that you are never alone.  In moments of struggle, seek guidance from the assistance of grace.  It’s always within reach if one is willing to surrender to this.

What do you do and other conversations

I wanted to share a recent episode from my new podcast.  We always seem to ask each other upon meeting, “what do you do?”  But how do you really want to respond?  Wouldn’t it be great if we opted to respond with all the things we take joy in today?  For me this today would be: Dance, cuddle with my dogs, drink lattes slowly, soak in conversations about spirituality and archetypes, binge on inspirational podcasts and books, and wanderlust. how do you respond?

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