Monthly Archives: February 2015

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 10– #ThinkingThoughts

Last weekend a friend of mine explained how much he relished long car rides because they give him so much time to think about things. He explained he likes to pick a subject and take it as far as he can go by asking questions, hypothesizing answers, and usually generating some more questions.

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And so I tried it and I learned something really interesting about myself.

I learned that I always think about the same few things. Notably spirituality, travel and work or some variant of the three. It was actually hard for me to come up with a topic that I wouldn’t try to relate back to one of those three subjects and I was a little disappointed when I realized that my life could be summed up in three hashtags. But it was a cool exercise for my brain to see how far I could expand my perception of the world around me, and it furthered my belief that I am the sum of all of my experiences. I will naturally continue to view life through a series of a few different lenses, and project them outwardly onto the people and places I come into contact with… because that is comfortable.

But it also raises the question, what happens when I try to think about things I can’t relate to? Video games for example.  I can’t relate to them in the slightest. So if I can’t relate to something, how am I supposed to perceive it? If I can’t force one of my lenses to comprehend video games and what they mean to me, does that make video games bad or void of meaning? I would probably cast a negative judgement on video games, but is it because I am trying to understand something that to me is incomprehensible? So this brings me to judgment, a  negatively charged thought resulting from the discomfort of the unknown, different, or confusing.

[Insert thought about applying this theory to identity, race, religion, sexuality, politics etc. here].

So anyway, you get it. This is how the game goes–you take a topic and run with it and see where it brings you. This one brought me to judgment, which I could have taken in many different directions, but I would at some point inevitably try to relate back to one of my favorite topics. However, I’m going to stop there and just say thanks for the good think.

I am grateful to this new practice. I think it will be highly beneficial for me to break down and analyze some of my patterns, try something a little uncomfortable and see how long it takes me to eventually come back around to what is familiar. Hopefully when I do come full circle I’ll have some fresh perspective or at least a few new unanswered questions to ponder for the next think session.

Happy Friday, friends!

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 9–The Beat

In the middle of this cold winter, New York City’s concrete streets insulate the cold and the tall building make a tunnel for the wind to whip through. Keeping warm and keeping your spirits high are crucial to surviving a New York winter.

How are you supposed to do that? Dance.

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Today I took a West African dance class at the Alvin Ailey Extension studio on 55th St. West African is one of my favorite forms of dance because the movements are so earthy, so grounded, so energetic. The dancer and the drums work together to paint a beautiful story through movement. The dancer stays low to the ground, heaving their chest up and down, bobbing their head back and forth, swinging their arms wide and drawing them back inward. The drums call to the dancer, letting them know it’s time to change their repetition, to move on to the next step driving forth the dance from beginning to end and allowing for fellow dancers to move alongside them in tandem,

Today I am grateful that I got to shake it like a polaroid picture. When I dance my spirit comes into alignment, I ground myself and allow for a smile to stretch from ear to ear as I move to the beat of the drums. What more could I ask for?

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 8–Opportunities

I caught the travel bug when I was 15 years old on my first international jaunt to Geneva, Switzerland. The experience was so exhilarating and magical that I vowed to myself I would make it my priority to appreciate the far flung corners of this beautiful earth as much as I possibly could. Since that trip I have managed to touch my feet on the soil of 16 different countries and 4 continents, and have called two of these countries my ” home away from home.”

Traveling provides priceless growth opportunities. Opportunities to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, meet new people, learn a new language, eat different foods and invites time for self-reflection.

When I chose to study International Relations in college it all boiled down to that feeling I felt the first I traveled–the exhilaration, curiosity, confusion, magic. Those who study the workings of the world can attest that the reason is due to a genuine desire to call it our home. We want to make it accessible. We want to break down the barriers of language, culture and geography. We want to impact the world and leave our marks on it.

And so when I would get the question, what do you want to do with your studies? my answer my answer was pretty generic. “I would like to find a job that would allow for me to travel.” (Unless I was talking to my dad..then, of course, it was because I wanted to be some high profile diplomat, yielding immunity to traffic tickets and paying off my student debt…)

Today, as I booked my first international work trip to Poland, I thought to myself, “ya done good, kid!” Not only am I doing a job that is fulfilling my need to learn and grow, but I get to travel too!

So today I am grateful for the feelings of excitement I get when I start to plan a new voyage. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and explore a new part of the world, to my company, Education First Cultural Care Au Pair, for encouraging it, and I’m grateful for all the roads that lead me to my home.

“May your trails be crooked and dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” Edward Abbey

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 7–Dream Team

Today I will be brief. Not due to a lack of time, due to a lack of words. I do not think there are possibly enough to describe how lucky I am to work with such an amazing group of women. Today I am most grateful to my team… my posse…my clique. I am grateful for their creative ideas, their support, their humor and most of all their commitment.

I have learned so much from them this past year, and I continue to learn from them each and every day.

We push each other. Why? Because we’re pushers.We push people.

Brittany has taught me how to be calm in the midst of chaos. Kristin has taught me to ask questions until the answer becomes clear. Maura has taught me care for the whole being.

Today I am grateful for my dream team of pushers and the lasting impact we are having on our au pairs and the future of the Training School.

Where ma dawgz at?

WOof!

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 6–Therapeutic Pain

I was raised in a household that mostly followed alternative medicinal practices. We were never rushed to the doctor for a sore throat or a fever. We were made to gargle with salt water and sweat it out. You have an earache? Pulsatilla. Hormonal? Ink of squid. Flu? Oscillococcinum. Naturally, as I aged I had an ingrained sense of distrust in any western medicine and pretty much avoid going to the doctor at all costs.

Luckily, I am young, fit and healthy. Over the last few years, however, I’ve developed chronic pains in my neck and shoulders, knees and ankles. I’m a total oxymoron of a yogi, tight as hell in some places and loose and limber in others. While everything is connected, the problems with my knees and ankles stem from a lack of muscle strength, while my neck and shoulders are the opposite, overly tight (some would say strong) muscles. When you add stress to this mixture, it can tip the scales from manageable body pains to downright terrifying pain.

This summer I suffered a bout of stress and my neck and shoulders seized up so tight that I could not turn my head. I left the chiropractor after my bi-weekly routine session and got into the car and cried my eyes out wondering why my body just wouldn’t function the way it was meant to. During that particular session, my chiropractor said to me, “you’re so stressed out, what on earth is wrong?” Before I could say anything, she prescribed me a bottle of wine and said, “you need to drink more.”

Now I know she was kidding, but it was a particularly low moment for my physical well being to be told by a doctor that my only relief would be the bottle.

A few weeks later a friend of mine recommended a massage therapist in Sayville, Pete. He runs a business called Massage Rx, and he has been changing lives with his hands for decades. Pete. Changed. My. Life.

I went in to see Pete for the first time crippled in pain and even more skeptical than ever that someone could help me out. He sized me up from the moment I walked in the door and called me out for my pelvic tilt, my protruding head and my clenched jaw. He could see the physical raise of my left shoulder that was keeping from turning my head, and he told me that he could help.

I layed down on the table, and and hour and a half of curse words and tears later I had my body aligned properly for the first time in months. Over the course of the next few weeks and months I began to make seeing Pete a part of my personal maintenance regime.

So today as I layed on his table, I fully surrendered to the pain. At one point I said to him, “It feels so good, and it hurts so bad.” Which is when he told me about therapeutic pain. That thought stuck in my head for the rest of the session as he nearly broke my jaw off in his hand massaging out years of clenching. The pain was searing hot, but I knew that it would be worth it for the ability to chew a bagel tomorrow.

What’s more, I really like the idea of therapeutic pain on a grander scale. We often run from things because we fear the pain they will bring to us. That bottle of wine prescribed by my chiropractor is such an example. Health, whether it be physical, mental or emotional health, has a price and it is usually painful–the kind that hurts so good, not the kind that creates scar tissue and further trauma. We have to face the things that we know are going to be tough head on because our health is our true wealth.

Today I am eternally grateful for my massage with Pete at Massage Rx. It is the perfect way to reset my body so that I can continue forth on my journey, and it is a wonderful reminder of the benefits that self-care can have on our overall health.

I encourage everyone to find some form of therapeutic pain today. It might be a meditation that brings up a lot of emotional blocks needing to be released or a massage to reduce stress. It could be a session with a therapist or a particularly sweaty thigh burning session on the dance floor. It does not matter. Whatever it is that helps you through your day with more ease, do it now. Do not wait! And always remember, that it must hurt so good!

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 5–Sunshine

In yoga savasana is considered one of the hardest postures because it is requires you to relax our ultimate body part, the brain. It is also one of the most loved postures, because we relish the rarity of giving ourselves 15 minutes of total relaxation. In our culture it is frowned upon to slow down. Slowing down costs time and money, and in a society where we are always searching for more of both, it can seem utterly impossible to pump the brakes.

Winter is the savasana of the seasons. It is a time to rest, absorb and repair.

Which is why, for many of us, winter is the ultimate test.Can we think of it as a time to rest and relax, or is our monkey mind already on to the following season? With these past few days of record breaking cold, I’ve felt particularly exasperated by my inability to move my body. I’ve been cranky and emotional and bored and uncomfortable. So when the snow last night threw a wrench into my plans, I felt betrayed for the umpteenth time this month by mother nature.

As in a yoga class, there are many times when forces outside of your control make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe your balance isn’t perfect that day or you have a particular thought that is dominating your mind and keeping you from concentrating on your breath. The feeling of imperfection in a yoga class is comparable to the feelings I’ve been experiencing these last few weeks. A judgment of sorts of how I like it best or how it should be.

Today, though, was a different story. I woke up and it felt like spring was in the air. It was a balmy 45 degrees outside and the sun was shining. It was literally a breath of fresh air and a reward for struggling through the last few weeks. Not wanting to miss any of it, I put on my snow pants and coat and walked through a field of calf-deep snow out to the ocean. It felt so so so good to walk and even better to bask in the sun.

So today I am grateful to the sun, for providing me with a healthy dose of vitamin D and for the nice nature walk to ground and center me. It reminded me that I can be both still and active, and that finding a proper balance of the two is truly the only way to be.

Salute to the sun!

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Attitude of Gratitude–day 4–Mood changers

Today is going to be brief because I’m running out the door to avoid driving too late in this snowfall.

Today I am grateful for the things that take me from negative to positive. A healthy night’s sleep, a good conversation, a badass workout, and some happy tunes to name a few. All of these things remind me that I have the capacity to choose my mood, to live positively, to see the glass half full and the sunshine behind the clouds.

(In my best Long Island accent) Go get auntie Lizzie a wine coolah and she’ll let you play with her mood ring.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 3–Productivity

With all of the winter weather we’ve been experiencing these past few weeks, it has felt impossible to accomplish anything. This week was the first week we haven’t had a disruptive snowstorm to throw a wrench in my workweek since the end of January. It took me a week to catch my breath from the full throttle around the clock work schedule I have been working for nearly a month, but today was one of those days where I planted myself at my desk and got some actual work done.

There is nothing as satisfying for me than the feeling of being productive. The last few weeks have taken a toll on my emotional health, and I was about to throw my hands in the air, and say to hell with this. But things moved forward today in a manner that I can truly be grateful for, and I am glad to feel some relief from the emotional havoc and fatigue caused by the massive disruptions to my routine.

Today I am grateful to my laundry list of things I’ve been wanting to get around to, and even more grateful to say that I have made some good headway into them. I can thoroughly enjoy the weekend with a light heart!

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 2 — Soul people

I’ve always thought myself lucky to know so many good people. I have a family that extends far beyond my blood’s limits, to whom I can always count on for a genuine affirmation, a listening ear, a love-filled hug. From one corner of the globe to the other, I can reach out at any time and tap into my network of soul mates.

When someone hears the term soul mate, they automatically think in terms of a romantic life partner. In my experience, however, my soul mates are people, both men and women, wise with age and ripe with youth, that have connected with me on a molecular level. People with whom, when we’ve looked into each other’s eyes have recognized ourselves within.

This recognition is more than just our commonalities. Of course we share interests, but what I am trying to describe goes beyond that. They are the kind of people you feel you knew in a past life, and who, with no explanation, understand and accept your entire being.

Tonight I am grateful to have had the privilege of spending time with James and his wonderful girlfriend, Anne — fellow beautiful soul people. Mr. James Birney came into my life a few years ago, and our soul connection was evident from our first conversation. James told me soon after we had met each other that we were going to know each other for a very long time. I, however, knew we had already known each other for an eternity.

Soul mates are people who unite you with Source. They are human reminders of the divinity that lives within us all, that which unites us all together as one.

Tonight was a night filled full with soul. Just a few truly good people sitting together around a table, blessed with good food and a healthy conversation.

I am especially grateful for this connection and to all of my soul mates past, present and future.

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Amen, right on shalom, salaam, namaste!

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Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return — 40 days of gratitude, a renewed lenten promise

Today marks the beginning of the Lenten season in the Christian faith. A common tradition for this time of fasting is to give up one (or many) of your vices as a reminder of your humility and devotion to God.

Fact: I was born and raised Catholic. I was baptized in the Catholic faith, I received First Holy Communion and was EVEN confirmed in the Catholic church. I have given up everything from chocolate and candy bars to Facebook for Lent, and yet somehow I know next to nothing about the significance behind this important Catholic tradition. What I was doing during my 16 years of Sunday School is beyond me… I was mildly interested, and that’s a generous statement. But in the latter part of my life, I can say in all honesty that I have have struggled to claim this part of my identity that I was brought up with.

So today, as the priest on our campus offered the traditional blessing, the marking of palm ashes in the shape of a small cross on one’s forehead, I hesitated. I felt a mix of Catholic guilt and my new agey beliefs overwhelming my decision making processes. Was it possible to reconcile my Catholic identity with my spirituality? Part of me feels that I can have a relationship with God without having to smear a big black cross on my forehead as a symbol of my devotion. Yet another part of me felt particularly uncomfortable not receiving the ashes.

I waited until the very last minute and dashed forward to say that I would like to have mine. All the while I was making excuses to myself and those around me as to why I hadn’t come forth earlier. The priest marked my forehead and I mumbled an unconvincing “Amen,” not sure if I was supposed to even say that or not. And then I stood there in the middle of the school cafeteria with my big-black-smudged up forehead, feeling a mix of humility and shame. I felt humbled by my ego and ashamed that I had no clue as to why receiving ashes was even a tradition.

So, like any unknowing fool, I promptly wikipedia’d the significance of the Ash Wednesday.

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My search quickly unveiled most of the uncertainties I had about the significance of Ash Wednesday and left me with this tidbit that my new age spirituality could really vibe with:

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

It struck me in a very non-denominational way, and cut straight to the point.

To me this read: you, human being, are made of the universe — hydrogen, helium and other trace elements. You were created in this form to live a human experience, and when you die, your body will return to where it came from.

I found this elegantly simple and in line with the natural cycles we experience all the time. It is as if to say that the daily rising and setting of the sun or the 28 day moon cycle or the turning of the seasons is as much an innate part of our experience as our life cycle–ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

As I began to reflect on the cyclical nature of life, I found myself contemplating the renewal of a cycle I began last year during Lent. Last year I made a commitment to my writing and to an attitude of gratitude, and I wrote for 40 days, each day outlining what I was most grateful for during that day. It was one of the most rewarding challenges I ever set for myself, and it genuinely changed the way I perceived my daily level of happiness. Not every day was perfect, but I was so focused on what I was going to be grateful for that day, that I learned how to transform my hardships into lessons, my lessons into gratitude, and my gratitude into happiness. Things such as loneliness and heartbreak became positives, and I learned of my capacity to turn the smallest moments of my day into powerfully meaningful blessings.

There have been scientific studies demonstrating the power that gratitude can have on a person’s happiness, and I truly believe that it is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.

And so, I recommit myself to this cycle. Another Lenten season, another 40 days of gratitude.

Today I am grateful for my kickboxing class. Not only do I leave feeling the benefits of a good workout, but I am also able to interact on a social level with members of my community. It is a time of day where I can focus all of my attention into the present moment, to dance around a punching bag, to inhale and exhale, and to focus on my form. I get to be serious and to laugh at the same time and to allow all of my external worries melt away.

I am grateful for this channel of expression that allows me to tune into the present moment. Instead of being an escape, it is an hour and a half of complete awareness. Thus, I would like to offer up my gratitude today to the confidence, power and energy that I receive from this class, and to the people with whom I share those sacred 90 minutes.

#attitudeofgratitude

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