Wild Beasts: One last time

Saturday evening my husband and I were lucky enough to snag tickets for Wild Beasts’ final concert. We’ve seen this British band several times over the years, and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting them at a record signing last year. Wild Beasts have become popular among the local festival scene over the past 15 years. They have crafted to also become one of my husband’s favorite modern bands…and sadly they are breaking up.

Attending the concert was a celebration of the work they’ve achieved over the years. The concert went on for two hours and even included an intermission, in addition to the encore. As each song played, my husband was in awe of how great they were. He mentioned , “they are Michelin-star caliber,” if there was a comparable rating star of bands as there is to fine cuisine. This the highest compliment my husband can offer , as a fancy chef. The four members of Wild Beasts group hugged during one of the encore performances, and held hands as they bowed, just as they do during theater curtain calls. I wish I captured that via photo, but I captured it internally.

Although I have only met them once, i felt honored to be in the audience for something so special to them. We were witnesses to the end of them as a band. After the show, a drunk dude asked us how our evening was. We talked about how great the show was, but he continued to add it was a bit sad. I didn’t see any tears shed in audience members, as it may have been for a final boy band show. But it still was bittersweet.

In prepping for the final show, I chose to wear three different items I had grown attached to one last time as well… a purse from Florence, a backpack from Turkey, and these beloved knee high boots. All items were about to be donated to a thrift store, but I had grown attached. I didn’t want to let them go. But I knew it was time. As Maria Kondo started, verbalize appreciation for how these things have served you and then let them go.

I find it’s easy for me to grow attached to things, friends, and even bands. They become familiar, and interwoven into the fabric of your life. It seems that just when the level of comfort has set in, its time to say goodbye.

We are frequently reminded that everything is impermanent . Our suffering lies in the attachment to these things and people. Can we loosen our grip and allow ourselves to let go? Can we allow ourselves to hear and appreciate the swan song of the band?

How tough it is to say goodbye to someone or something

with joy and celebration, when sadness exists simultaneously. The effect of being able to hold this in our hearts, recognize all emotions that arise, and simply be in the moment is quite a beautiful thing.

Thanks Wild Beasts for sharing your time and talent with your fans, we appreciate and will continue to live in your music.

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The Wanderlust Itch Returns

“Travel is like adultery; one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one’s own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live…in our wanderlust, we are lovers looking for consummation.” – Anatole Broyard

“Where’s you ur next trip?” , a colleague asked the other day.

“I have none planned.” I am not sure when was the last time I responded in this manner. There are numerous reasons there are no current trips this year:necessity to update visas, passports, save money, my husband’s lack of leave, uncertainty of my work future, and an excess of traveling last year all combined to a reason why there are no trips.

I have been trying to become comfortable with spending more time at home this year. I am trying to engage in more hygge, partake in local activities, and simply staycation.

But as I am sitting on my couch on this rainy British day, the wanderlust itch began again. An idea popped up….new countries: Bulgaria and Norway. Why not both? Automatically, the desire ignited with lightning speed. I began researching online listening to Rick Steves travel interviews, looking potential excursions on viator, and flights online. Why not?

Although I have lived overseas for 4 1/2 years and travelled extensively, there are moments I may take this for granted. I have visited much of Europe over the years, and many times repeatedly. I believe I am at a dozen trips to Spain. But when the threat of my time ending here arises, so does my wanderlust.

As I reflect on the past 18 months of travels, it’s been a dream: carnivale in Venice, the northern lights in Iceland, Boulangeries in Paris, flamenco in Spain, Finnish spas, the Edinburgh tattoo, exploring Estonia and Latvia countries I never imagined if visiting, tasting desserts in Luxembourg, soaking in the Dead Sea, staying next to the wall in Palestine , finally soaking in the sun on the Amalfi coast, lingering in my a hamam in my heart’s hometown of Malaga, buying cozy furry clothes in Romania, getting fitted for sandals in Athens, and capturing the leaning tower of Pisa during sunset. The reality is there are so many more trips than was listed here.

I don’t even realize the multitude of trips I’ve taken until I have no trips on the current horizon. It’s the old adage, you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone. I peak back through my phone’s photos and am reminded. How grateful I am, and how lucky we are to live with access to the world.

When the wanderlust kicks in, it really serves as an addiction. It’s as if I need to fill this fix immediately. or at least book something even if I can’t travel until later. There’s this urgency for my heart and innate curiosity to be renewed, and most probably I will book these trips today.

Parallel to this wanderlust returning is this concept that exists in Buddhism, where you reflect on your own death five times per day. It is not to be fatalistic, but in reality to remind you that life and everything in it is impermanent. In focusing on this, we can truly appreciate what each day has to offer. I had been encouraged to download an app called “we croak “, where 5x per day you are reminded you will die, and then an inspirational quote appears.

When we are reminded of the impermanence of life, it causes us to take action. This could be the length of being at a certain job or city, or even the totality of our own lives.

How do we want to live?

What are we waiting for?

My Favourite Tube Stop

Once or twice a week I take the trek to London for my Jivamukti and flamenco classes. I have really come to embrace this tube stop. Each day, including weekends, a quote is shared. Perhaps people are too busy to glance at it, but I look forward to reading what unique thought is shared to the locals by Tube staff. Today I noticed another traveller smiled as she passed by this obscure quote.

As you exit the tube station veering left and turn down a side street,this inspirational phrase lines the sides of a building : Do what you love, Love what you do. I feel compelled to take a photo each time. It’s as if life is a piece of artwork as you watch people pass this sign. Are they doing what they love? Do they love what they do? Am I?

As I re-entered the tube today, a man was playing an ethnic celebratory song. I am not sure what country it was from, but it brought joy to others. A man yelled “Ole’” and offered him a pound as he did a quick snap of the fingers with the music. I had to return to film the musician, as I did a group of three girls strutted their stuff to his song.

Cities can be draining , especially after a long work day and minimal

personal space on public transportation. But there are moments where musicians try to unite people with their gifts, or tube workers try to encourage reflection. We may spend our time thinking these moments are simply moments in between our life occurrences. The space between what matters most. We stick to our own zone, blocking others out through looking at our smart phones, listening to podcasts , or reading the newspaper. Some peopIe even take naps. We avert our eyes. We don’t want to catch a stranger’s gaze. To avoid is the industry standard.

But the older I get , I recognize there is importance in simply noticing. Noticing these moments we take for granted, that we may be “alone” but traveling with strangers. Recent research has stated the number of friends people have is decreasing , as we increase friends on social media. There’s an increase in loneliness .

But there’s potential to connect if we simply are present to the moment and observe what’s happening around us. We can connect as humans, as Londoners , or people who are simply passengers on the same mode of transportation .

My challenge for you is to take notice:

Observe the love of strangers offering up their seats.

Observe fellow passengers looking over another’s shoulder to watch what’s playing on their smart phone.

Observe the incessant spirit and talent musicians have as they play for change

Observe someone struggling with their suitcases up the stairs, and offer help. Wouldn’t you want the same?

In these moments of transition, the space in between, there is power. We can transform drudgery to smiles, and inspiration. We can connect and get energised by the small daily miracles of life. It’s always available to you, all you have to do is look.

Catch love when you can

Every year I vacillate on my connection to Valentine’s Day. When I was younger it felt monumental , whether I was committed or not. As an adolescent so much is placed on this one day, to share your feelings toward that special someone. If I was dating someone it was expected that gifts would be exchanged and a special date would occur. If I was single, the pain in my heart would be exacerbated and I would spend my time watching romantic comedies, hoping next hear would be different .

But as I got older , I realised that love should not just be expressed on holidays , but everyday.

There is also so many types of love , as I had written about in a previous post. My friend had mentioned this past week, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have a commitment ceremony with our friends : a friend-trimony to celebrate the beauty of one’s closest buddies?

Above our two small stranger love acts I witnessed after getting off my tube stop at Angel this evening. A special quote which changes daily by this particular tube stop and a small heart by the barista working solo tonight.

There are so many other things I witnessed as love today, if you actually look. Gal pals watching their friend try on a wedding dress. A woman’s puppy offering lavish kisses to a stranger , despite her warning to the dog he was naughty. Another train passenger 10 yrs old traveling alone laughing at the dog’s antics, being told off. A woman informing me I had dropped my Oyster card, which I had just loaded with 30£. And of course the fellow dancers in my beginner flamenco classes , offering our gratitude and attention to the instructor as we try new moves with apprehensive passion (we will get there)! If I actually opened my eyes I could witness love acts everywhere .

For some people Valentine’s Day holds such power, but tomorrow the chocolate hearts, teddy bears, and greet cards will be 50% off. Love is a daily choice to give , see, and feel.

Embrace the type of love that’s been offered to you today. Share love with others.

My valentine to you is a loving kindness meditation for you to try.

https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditation-loving-kindness/

The Hamilton Hangover

Two days post watching Hamilton in the West End, and I admit I have a hangover.  It’s not the headache, stomach twisting, “what did I do?” hangover.  It’s more of an emotional hangover.  I am a little late to the Hamilton game, but scored tickets one year ago for a performance this past week.

I had been listening to the soundtrack for six months, in preparation for the viewing.  I need to listen to rap repeatedly, to take in the lyrics.  I wanted to know and be present for all that would be happening in front of me.  For those who don’t know, Hamilton is an innovative hip hop play of America’s founding fathers.  The majority of the cast are ethnic minorities, which I appreciate.  It’s always been hard to connect to our American history as a multiracial individual, and now to see people who look like me onstage is exciting and relatable.  Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius.  He created this opera after reading Ron Chenrow’s 800 page biography on Alexander Hamilton

https://youtu.be/fNQBs9sP7-w

For me, writing about the play Hamilton seems to cheapen the experience of it.  It’s as if there are no words to describe it.  Brilliance. Movement. Reflection. Connection. Inspiration.

But why do I have a Hamilton Hangover?

I listened to the soundtrack en route to work yesterday, pre-workout and post-workout.  I arrived at work fired up!  I was feisty and ready to change the world!  My world.  I felt fury for injustice, but there were minimal outlets to express this.  I wanted to advocate for myself.   Emails, interactions with others, or small actions to be taken to stand up for myself. I am not sure that those who were the victims of my emotional hangover knew where my fury was coming from.

“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”

On my drive home, I reflected on my stirred up, unexplained emotions.  What was the impetus of them?  I actually woke up in a pleasant mood, happy to bring in the day.  There was no answer other than Hamilton.  It was the musical, the lyrics and stirrings stayed with me.  I shared this with my husband and my mother.  Both of them delicately said, “maybe you shouldn’t listen to Hamilton before work.”

But this is what great works of art does! It remains with you.  Whether it is an amazing meal, film, sculpture, poem, or musical.  They haunt your soul, impact your emotions, and sometimes shift your actions.

Certain artistic creations, particularly musicals encourage me to want my change courses in my life in some way.  The longing within is ignited, sometimes for love, creation, travel, connection, and this time a desire to advocate.

I notice this arising, now the question remains, what do I do with this?

Being in the audience of Hamilton reminded me of the meaning of INSPIRATION.  The word comes from breathing in divinity.  It has been said that a higher power or God moves through an individual when they are inspired.  In a previous post, I had shared a Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert who talked about this aspect. When professional dancers in North Africa danced to sacred music for hours, the audience would shout Allah.  “And all of a sudden, he would no longer appear to be merely human. He would be lit from within, and lit from below and all lit up on fire with divinity.” This later transformed to “Ole,” by the Spaniards when bullfighters or flamenco dancers would perform something miraculous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA

Ole’ to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the entire cast of Hamilton.  Ole’ to artists of all types who create art that moves themselves and even the masses.  And Ole’ to you to notice moments of inspiration and allow divinity to flow through you in whatever capacity that may be today.

I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation
So listen to my declaration:

[ELIZA/ANGELICA/PEGGY]
“We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal”

[ANGELICA]
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson

[COMPANY]
Unh!

[ANGELICA]
I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!”

https://youtu.be/75RUpLIDKmU

10,000 hours

10,000 hrs to become an Expert

My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.

Charles Dickens

This video above I have become mesmerized by. I showed my husband, as I was in pure awe. Automatically thoughts go to how beautiful this dancer maintains control and tells a story utilizing the childhood toy of a hula hoop. I expected my husband to say something similar, how astounding she was. What instead he says to me, “Practice Practice and You can do it!”

This was not what I was expecting. Although I admire her, I automatically placed this performance out of my realm of potential. And perhaps that’s what separates me from him. He is working in one of the world’s best restaurants, taking a job that’s way below his pay grade. Why? To work with the best and strive to be a Michelin starred chef.

I am not a perfectionist, I haven’t strived to be the best. And I admit I have half-assed many things throughout my life. Yes, I have attained a lot at a young age, but I was not competitive to be the best? I assumed I wouldn’t be, and therefore do not put effort to try. Semi-successful seemed to suit me fine.

Serendipitously I began reading this book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. The book explores the top performers in their field, and how they have attained their peaks. Is it nature or nurture?

The book begins with a story of Mozart, who had perfect pitch. We know to this day, 1 in 10,000 people have perfect pitch. It has been assumed that individuals who have been exposed to music at a young age and are from countries with tonal languages are more likely to develop this skill. But a recent study in Japan, took 24 children from age 2-6 and gave them daily lessons in music for over a span of a year. With that practice and daily encouragement, all developed perfect pitch!

There is so much more to the book, which I have only partially stepped into. Many of us may develop a skill, but do not become excellent in it. The reason is we may practice, but not engage in intentional practice. We are satisfied with our results and our practice remains in the comfort zone. The only way we grow is if we continually strive past levels of comfort each time we practice .

Discomfort=growth. Perhaps this is why many of us don’t engage in it. It’s hard work, and the daily payoffs aren’t always seen.

We have the potential to develop these super human qualities…from chess playing, athletic strength, perfect pitch, and perhaps even hula hoop dancing.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything. I’ve been reflecting on this thought.

The comedy Crazy Ex Girlfriend’s protagonist also wonders about this thought, as she ends a relationship. We may spend 10,000 hours obsessing about relationships and crushes, is that time really worth it? Couldn’t we spend our time in a more productive way? To better the world or ourselves?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl30RJPDUv8

I write this before I take my fourth flamenco class in my late 30s. I feel I am far from performance worthy, but why set barriers? Set goals, stick to them, practice past my level of comfort, and perfect it!

The older I get the more I respect those top performers. I am learning to still set additional peaks for myself, and not put barriers on dreams that may pop up, even in my Facebook feed 😉

Character is just another word for having a perfectly disciplined and educated will. A person can make his own character by blending these elements with an intense desire to achieve excellence. Everyone is different in what I will call magnitude, but the capacity to achieve character is still the same.” –Vince Lombardi

For more information on the music study, see below.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0305735612463948

The Urge To Have

“Just because something belongs to you doesn’t mean you should keep it for the rest of your life. Things are meant to be transitory.”
Susan Wright

I wouldn’t say I have a shopping addiction, but I do have a shopping gene.  My mom is a self-confessed shopaholic, unable to wear everything she purchases.  I get her leftovers, or unused items.  My grandmother has an endless supply of stuff (Bath & Bodywork soaps, purses, jewelry, clothes) to give to her 100 plus co-workers for their birthdays and holiday gifts.  I don’t really want more stuff, I know I have more than enough, but I can’t help but be tempted.

This is why I choose to only shop when I am in dire need of an item or when I am on holiday.  I don’t want to get sucked into the endless of abyss of wanting things.

But then there is the advent of the internet.  The whole world is a mall that fits in your hand.  Generally I am good at blocking it out, but when a sale arises, I can’t help myself.  Today the Cambridge Satchel Company emailed that their sale of up to 70% off is on now and ending.  I immediately logged onto the site, and started to put things in my cart.  I noticed numerous items had already been sold out.  This further heightened my anxiety to beat out other who may be purchasing items in the online ether simultaneously. Sales seem to ignite this competitive fire in me.  I am like Veruca Salt who wants it now! Things I did not even need, I was willing to buy simply because they were on sale.  What if I want them later, will I want to spend twice as much?  Aren’t I just saving my future self money?  But then I put my addiction on hold, and cleaned out the purses in my closet.

 

I began to rearrange them, and realize I have so many designer purses already that I do not get enough use of.  Do I really need two more purses because they were on sale?  I have gotten better at stuff.  Using the Konmari method (Book: Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up), I have begun to let go of things that no longer inspire joy in me.  Reorganizing my closet, I let go of two more purses today.  This does not mean, I must immediately replace them.  Let them go.

I don’t know where this urge to have and accumulate comes from. Hereditary, due to my mother and grandmother’s shopping addictions? Cultural, because the fashion magazine and advertisers encourage us to want the newest and best? Is it because I’m a woman and societal expectations of me, and I care too much about my exterior?  Perhaps I am just bored, or am hopeful that the next item I purchase will bring me a momentary glimpse of excitement, compliments, or happiness.

I began to sort through my phone for images of stuff I wanted to purchase the past several weeks during my recent trips to Israel and Italy…

Thank goodness for smart phones, I was able to take photos of things I wanted versus actually buying them.  This helped my urge in some way.  I was able to capture it, attain it in pixel format.  It was mine, even though only virtually.  But why do I need to have?  Can’t I simply appreciate that exists in the world?

I’m perhaps even writing this blog piece now to postpone pushing “purchase” on that electronic cart.  I know deep down, these things won’t make me happy, they are only things.  And like everything else, I will become bored with them, and search for the next thing.

I realize this is a reoccurring thing with me (re: Dec 27th’s post).  But it’s something that I think many of us struggle with.  Do I need to fill my life with more stuff?  An excess of things, that I begin to forget what I have?

And so, I will practice my mindfulness at this moment.  I will see this urge to buy is temporary.  It will pass.  Notice the initiation of the urge to buy arise, the peak, and the cessation.  In Buddhism, it’s discussed that everything in life has a birth, peak, and death.  This includes our breath, thoughts, feelings, sensations, and even our lives.  If I wait this out enough, it will pass.

The biggest thing in all this is to notice the fluctuations as an observer, and allow it to pass.  Question where this urge to want is coming from.  Distinguish what is a need versus a want. And act accordingly.

“This is the definition of clutter: things that exist in your outer life to distract you from the inner things that you’re avoiding. If you avoid something, it grows…. The great thing is, the reverse is also true: when you honestly look at something, it shrinks. When you see the situation for what it is, bypassing the emotional layers that coloured it and made it into a clutter monster, it becomes simple. That’s how peaceful clutter busting is. You’re honestly looking at each layer of distraction, questioning the thing, letting it go, and realizing what’s underneath. Looking directly at something has the power of a magnifying glass in the sun. The sun is you; the glass, your attention”
Brooks Palmer

 

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