ready for blessings

I was caught off guard. In between finishing some paperwork for a job, doing recon for an upcoming event, catching up on articles, news and upcoming events, I saw an email that caught my eye.

Reading the subject line and without even opening the email fully, tears welled up in my eyes, and as cliché as it sounds I felt incredibly loved and filled with gratitude at that moment.

I should’ve known something like this was coming, yet I was still floored.

It’s almost as if these last few months of practicing generosity, reciting daily affirmations and listening to Chance has actually paid off. 🤔

A cabin in the woods

 

I spent the weekend with 16 incredibly hilarious and gifted humans playing games, dancing, skiing, and snowboarding. The best part about this group is that most of us had never met each other before this trip. We’re all part of a young professionals group in Baltimore (+/- a few significant others), and some of us have been to various happy hours or other events around the city, but never under one roof and all together. What we all have in common is our spontaneity and openness to not only meeting new people but having a damn good time.

We couldn’t have predicted the depth of what transpired over this weekend – the inside jokes, the cooking skills some of us have, the pure joy and release that happens when we step outside our “9-5.” My stomach still hurts from laughing so much, and what happens at the cabin, stays in the cabin. However, let this be your quarterly reminder to grab some friends and head out of town for a weekend.

It’ll be good for your soul.

I Meditated for 90 Days In a Row. Here’s What I Learned.

  1. Stay the course. There will be shitty days. Even when you meditate. What I’ve come to terms with is that every thought and feeling comes in waves. Never get too high, never get too low – just stay the course.
  2. It’s okay to be selfish. The more often that I make sure my needs are met, the better I show up in the world. Yes, this means to be selfish when it comes to self-care. If you’re not happy, chances are others around you will catch the vibe and ultimately not be in the best mood either.
  3. Push through the discomfort. Twenty minutes in silence is no longer unbearable. Granted, there are days (see: when I’m premenstrual) where I fidget, where I’m cranky and focusing on breathing is the last thing I want to do – but that feeling only lasts for a couple minutes. When I allow the discomfort to pass, the process of meditating becomes easier.
  4. Begin again. There were a few days where I rushed to get out the door and didn’t have time to meditate before getting the day started. Instead of beating myself up over waking up late, I used tools throughout the day that I learned from Andy to help set the tone for a better mood and clearer thoughts over the course of the day.
  5. Create better habits. More often than not, I look forward to meditating each morning. Over the course of the 90+ days, I’ve created better habits that have significantly decreased my anxieties and improved my overall health. Habits like drinking water first thing in the morning, reading daily affirmations aloud, writing 10 things I’m grateful for each night, and ending showers with a 5-10 second cold water shock. Still getting used to that last part.
  6. Reality is a myth…or something. The jury is still out. Meditating is a gateway drug to understanding your consciousness. The more I began to acknowledge the thoughts that arise, the more curious I became to figure out how the mind works. This led me to visits to the library where I read and checked out Life Visioning, Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change and Waking Up, as well as read dozens of articles related to religion, spirituality, and meta physics. It got weird and interesting quickly.
  7. Silence is golden. Listen intently to everything. A TV doesn’t always have to be on, music doesn’t always have to be in your headphones, driving in silence can actually be therapeutic. Absorb the silence around you and let it fill you with calmness.
  8. Listen with purpose. Conversations with friends, family and people I interview have been more constructive because I’ve learned to listen and be fully present in each convo.
  9. Speaking up, especially when you’re not okay, is key.  Prior to having a consistent meditation (and gratitude) practice I used to wallow in guilt and shame, thinking that everyone knew my thoughts, and I’d hide as a result. Now, I speak up if I’m feeling a type of way and go about my day knowing that I am not my thoughts or feelings. This comes from making a connection to what thoughts come up to what feelings arise from them, and not letting those feelings consume me.
  10. There is no rush. About two years ago, I purchased a pendant to remind myself to slow down. What I didn’t know at the time, and up until recently, is that I’d become more aware of surroundings, people and situations that came up as a result of slowing down actions and thoughts. Life has always been pretty good, but now it’s definitely more enjoyable – even in the mundane moments of silent meditation.

Bonus lesson: Pay it forward. I meditate for you. Life isn’t always easy, nor is it always fair. A lot of people are suffering all over the world and I realize that I’m fortunate enough (you are too) to be able to breathe, to write, to express my thoughts to help someone else along this journey.

Because of this 90-day streak and milestone, the makers of Headspace have graciously gifted me with a free 3-month subscription, which I will generously give to a lucky reader. If you like what you’re reading, been a follower for some time, or randomly came across this blog (hi!), subscribe here to get the latest scoop on my random musings, and a chance to win 3 free months of Headspace. I’ll pick the lucky winner on Monday, January 16th. Already subscribed? Thanks, I love you. You’ll be part of the drawing as well.

exposing truths and facing reality

There’s a deep sense of somberness that I felt all day today, the day that Donald Trump has officially been elected as the next President of the United States of America.

Today, I was much more cognizant of my surroundings, the people I interacted with, the modes of transportation I took and being very intentional with truly seeing everything for what it was in the moment.

Instead of driving to the city, I decided to take the train. I wanted to be upfront and feel the presence of others around me, see their faces and read their emotions instead of focusing on being behind the wheel.

The majority of the people on the train were black, and I wondered what they felt. Some folks looked despondent, younger kids with their backpacks hung their heads with headphones in and the most engaging group of people I saw were communicating with each other through sign language. In essence, it was more silent than usual, and you could feel a sense of depletion as everyone just tried to put one foot forward and continue on with their lives.

People are just trying to survive. To make it. With any support that they have.

Maybe the fact that DT is the new President Elect hasn’t affected everyone. Maybe this was just another day for most people, and I’m a bit jealous of those with political apathy.

Watching the results come in last night with my dad was tough – as he laughed and gained excitement as the shock came over him that more states turned from yellow to blue to red, permanently. His definition of a ‘good time’ is different from mine, especially when it comes to politics, but what I’ve come to terms with is that I’m very grateful that I was able to watch this unfold with him. In a past life he was a political journalist, possibly a president, and the turn of events during every part of this election and each campaign has made this an exciting time for him. There wasn’t enough wine for us to come to terms of the reality of what transpired at 2am (or 3am? I can’t remember), but what I know to be true is that the results put a stamp on what America was built upon – greed, racism, bigotry, white supremacy.

I believe the results of this election has exposed everyone and everything. All cards are out on the table for all to see, and there’s nothing left but to fight in order to heal the wounds. The wounds exposed of the underrepresented, marginalized and unheard. It’s not easy, and compromises have to happen if the end goal is for us to be better, together – no matter what our differences are.

I’m grateful for the friends and family who’ve reached out to me – a support system is ever so needed during times like this.

So what do I want to say?

Life is hard. There are terrible people out there, and now more than ever we have to remain courageous and be resilient if we ever want to get to peace and unity for all. It may not happen in my lifetime, but it’s worth striving for – for our future generations. It’s not about us. It’s about what’s possible.

But in order for us to even get to what’s possible, we have to face what is directly in front of us. And that means facing fears, having difficult conversations, and exposing truths – whether you agree with them or not.

So what helps getting through times like this? Taking time to sit with your thoughts and feelings – and understand that these do not define you. Acknowledge the joys and pains of what’s happening when you’re silent, and know that you’re not alone in these thoughts. They’re all valid. What’s helped for me is that taking the time to sit in this silence, to disconnect from the media, to meditate (and not fighting what comes up) is ever prevalent when I go through tumultuous times. Using the tools that I know from an app like Headspace, or books like Deep Work and Waking Up, this is what it’s for. To navigate during the difficult times and being able to not only see the light ahead, but become the light for others to see themselves.

Also, action cures fear forever and always. Take the time that’s needed (#selfcare), but also use these setbacks as more drive that lights the fire within to create work that you care about, work that helps others be better people to others.

Change can be hard, but it’s the only thing that’s constant. We might as well learn how to navigate the trenches thoughtfully, by being kind to ourselves and by developing a sense of empathy so we’re able to cultivate a promising path for those to follow our lead.

a taste of space.

My nephew who lives 2,300 miles away from me is 3 years old. He’s in this phase of having meltdowns and nightmares and although him and I don’t speak often enough, I completely understand what he’s going through.

He just started school full-time, he has a baby sister on the way, and being 3 means that there are a lot of things that he can actually understand and remember – yet it may be difficult to actually articulate his feelings. It sounds stressful to be 3, and with stress at this age comes nightmares. So, to shift his mindset from scary to something more light-hearted, my brother & sis-in law have been asking him what he’d like to dream before bed.

The other day I got a text from her letting me know what he wants to dream about. My nephew said he wants me to take him to space in a rocket ship, to take the moon and bring it back home to eat. (Someone connect me with Elon Musk so I can make this happen, k thanks).

My nephew and I are tight, even telepathically. That same day, before I even received the text, I had spent 2 hours in a floatation, sensory deprivation chamber.

There were moments where I knew I fell asleep for what felt like an eternity but in reality was probably about 20 minutes; and there were moments where I knew I was awake and literally did not feel a thing.

Quick backstory. I’ve had back pain for over a year and am currently in physical therapy for it. There hasn’t been a day in over a year where I didn’t feel pain and aches throughout my body or tingling and numbness in my hands & feet.

Since time didn’t really exist while I was floating in this chamber, for the first time in what felt like forever, I legitimately did not feel a thing. I didn’t feel the water around me or any tension in my body for the majority of the session. I felt as if I were floating through space, defying gravity as each second passed by.

Floatation therapy is considered safe (still check with you primary care physician first) and I do feel that anyone could and should experience this, however I don’t recommend trying this if you haven’t spent time alone in your thoughts in the comfort of your home.

I have therapists, both physical and mental; I’ve been practicing yoga & meditation consistently for over a year and as a result, I have a great grasp on my body awareness. I feel everything and know how to articulate and pinpoint where the majority of these feelings stem from. I’ve channeled my depression & anxiety through these practices alongside Reiki, CrossFit, eating farm-raised and/or organic produce 80% of the week, and taking supplements & vitamins that enhance my focus & health.

Even with all of this “practice” I still entered the chamber with anxiety. I immediately tensed up and felt my upper back and neck tighten, the same areas where I’ve had pain for as long as I can remember.  However, what I’ve learned over the course of the year is that during moments of this intensity, I need to breathe through it. As in, focus on what I know is true to be constant for as long as I live – my breath. The moment I can channel my anxiety to the one thing that that I can control, is when I become more relaxed. The tension becomes less intense, and lying down in complete darkness and silence feels less daunting and more comforting.

I don’t think that I would’ve lasted 2 hours in this chamber had I not practiced meditating or therapy on my own. During my CrossFit days when I felt everything should be intensified x 1000, the thought of relaxing would’ve felt foreign and uncomfortable. There were moments during the session where I did panic and wanted to get out (nothing locked me in this space, by the way; the door is easily accessible and I could’ve gotten out whenever I wanted). And again, in the moments where my “fight or flight” sensors went off, I recognized this is the exact time where I not only needed to face this tension and acknowledge it, but to focus on breathing through it.

Floatation therapy is an incredibly useful method to navigate the spaces within your body and mind. I felt like I unlocked a dimension within my body, which even days later I’m still processing what I experienced and more thoughts are coming up from this session.

I find it interesting to only assume that my nephew already understands this feeling – of channeling his stress into imagining and tasting a place (that he has yet to see first hand, yet knows it exists) that’s free of the gravity of the world to alleviate the stresses of his physical existence.

my voice matters.

A few weeks ago, I started recording my thoughts through the voice memo app on my iPhone.

It honestly feels archaic to share this, but I’ve found voice memos to be the perfect app to allow me to brain dump in the middle of driving, heading from one place to another or just when pen & paper weren’t near by.

voicememo

I travel a lot for work.

By travel I mean, I sit in traffic and feel the need to pass the time to be productive since I  have zero control over my surroundings.

I listen to podcasts when I want to feel like I’m kickin’ it with my fam & the juiciest news stories that CNN won’t talk about, on morning edition.

92Q to remind me where I live & come from, and every other NPR show to expand my thinking.

I pay for a Spotify membership each month, but yet in these moments where I’m literally solo & retaining all the information from listening & tap-dancing on each platform, I feel the need to verbalize what I’m thinking and learning from these outlets.

Maybe this stems from my fear of getting alzheimer’s, or the notion that I’m exposed & aware of so many things, more so than I can handle that I feel the need to record everything possible.

Sometimes learning feels like a double-edged-sword.

As I’m navigating ways that I process information, I’m breaching the edge of a visual learner to auditory, depending on the topic that I want to focus on in a particular moment.  This comes at a cost when I attempt to formalize my experiences on platforms like this.

I’m in tune with almost every aspect of my life & surroundings, that I could pick 10 things in the span of an hour that peaked my interest, or inspired me in some fashion and come up with a story on how I was meant to experience this particular topic.

Perhaps I make it difficult for myself to not just listen to what’s on the radio, or hit up spotify, and just take whatever I see or listen to as is, but as an overly dedicated person to analyzing and questioning everything, more often than not, I feel that I need to hear the stuff that I’m actually thinking.

And this is coming from my personal experience of only knowing that pen to paper could clear my thoughts, to having the dopest therapist [#realtalk], to finding that I have so-many-things-in-my-head that if I don’t get them out I’ll feel like I’ll implode.

Sort of.

My point is that voice memos have actually helped me in more ways than one to:

1. get over the fear of hearing my own [awkward] voice
2. brain dump
3. revisit and actually listen to what I’m saying, even if it’s days or weeks later

It’s a pause in time.

Ever since I began diving deeper into my own practice of self-care and what I define that as, I’ve learned to live with my own thoughts.

Replaying what I said a few weeks ago feels ancient, yet it taps me back into the feeling I had when I initially voiced my sentiments.

Most of what’s shown on social media platforms are instant gratification “think pieces” on stories that have literally just been announced.

I often find myself thinking, ‘did these people even try to sit with their thoughts before writing this?’  A lot of what we read and consume hasn’t been sifted through and/or massaged.

Yes, massaged.

Often, there are instances where a particular topic is brewing, and someone immediately responds for reasons unrelated to building substance.

But what if instead of reacting immediately, you just sat there with the feeling, let it pass…and revisit it later when you’re, a bit more clear headed & have facts to back up your assumption?

Patience should be prioritized, and I know firsthand, there’s a fine-line between deadlines and getting a message across.

Voice memos allow me to dig deeper into the actual feeling I had when I initially hit record, and it gives me space to forget about that particular moment, to absorb everything else that I need in order to revisit and come back with a more complete, comprehensive assessment.

Memories come and go. Attachments to feelings can come and go as well. But what trips me out, and what I’ve found time & again, is that my voice matters & it’s here to stay.

 

The 6 best moments of year 30.

Why 6? Well, mainly because it’s my second favorite number and writing about 22 moments just sounds tiresome.

Anyways. This year was a blur!

It’s as if everything happened all within the span of a few months, but clearly, a year has passed. If it weren’t for my own personal documentation, bits and pieces shared with the world through various methods of venting , I would’ve forgotten some major milestones.

This was the year of questioning everything and everyone ranging  from my peers, to the content of whatever article or book I read, to my family and myself. It was the year of understanding what it actually felt like to dig deep within and not being afraid of what comes up as a result.

Through this, I became increasingly curious on how my world works and why I cared, and continue to care so much about everything I experienced and everyone I met.

The 6 best moments that happened this past year were: 

  • Getting hired to work for with ivivva
  • Attending Ruckusmakers
  • Writing an e-book
  • Taking vacations (yes, plural)
  • Hiring a therapist
  • Getting my first  tattoo: “l’union fait la force” meaning strength in unity

Each moment listed was an almost direct result of the former experience. Funny how that works.

Major takeaways from each:

  • Create the environment you want to live in. Working truly as a team and not only knowing you’re being supported, but actually feeling it makes every task less daunting and more meaningful.
  • Keep investing in yourself to create value. Always. No amount of money is ever too large or too little to know your worth.
  • Share your story and be honest & vulnerable in the process.
    Related…
  • Know when to disconnect.  If I were to do the whole “hey I’m going to write a book!” process again, I’d carve out the day after it’s published to do nothing but sleep…for several days.
  • Answers to questions most often come from within. My therapist has managed to ask the questions I haven’t been asking myself. It’s magic, really.
  • Five years ago I swore I would never get a tattoo. Yet, this year, I have never felt so grounded in my life.  The work and experiences that I went through leading up to August 2015 validated what I know to be true.  Know your roots. Can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you came from been.

What has managed to stick throughout the course of this year is constantly challenging myself to be better than I was yesterday. The only way to see this through is to reflect on what I’ve done.

30 was good to me.  Looking forward to what this next year will bring.

conversations with a cop.

Understanding my mindset is pretty simple.  I live a good life filled with yoga, joyful kids, a supportive family & set of friends, all of which is the basic recipe for being stress-free.  I’m a mediator, a libra, a feminist and an empath, and it may appear that there’s not too much I could ever be angry or worried about, but I still do at times because I care.

I care about a lot of topics that encompass social justice, human rights, mental health, physical health, health in general, biohacking, sports and whatever #blacktwitter is discussing. I care about people who’ve had their voices stifled, those who’ve lost hope,  those who’ve managed to use blinders to protect themselves from the light that can save them.

My abilities to have unusual conversations, anything not related to the weather, what you do or who you’re dating; but everything related to how you feel,  who do you want to be and who do you want to help & how, are at the forefront of discussion. I’m an INFP.  I take pride in knowing that I’ve fostered a sense of encouragement that leads to growth and progress of those I care about.

My squad consists of social entrepreneurs, physicians, teachers, pharmacists and cops.  Actually, just one cop.

Anyway, our conversations generally get deep, insightful, humorous and provocative as we each not only share thoughts but ask why.    With friends like these, you have a higher purpose – a mission that’s bigger than the self.  And you know it, they know it, we all feel it and we show up more powerful in the world we live because of this discourse.

Understanding and sensing how people think and feel is pretty much my forte.  I can sense if you’re bluffing (outside of poker) and I can sense if you need to dig deeper into your work or move on to the next thing.  Having a diverse set of friends provides me with a wide range of perspective and enormous amounts of empathy.

Recently, I caught up with a friend who’s black, who’s a male and who’s a cop in America.  Which isn’t the toughest job in this country, but I digress.

Navigating what my cop friend sees by provoking the why’s – that I graciously adopted from my 2.5 year old nephew who asks “why” after I say anything – allowed me to dig up enough fuel to help him see what I see.

He recently posted a picture, defending his peers for what they’re doing “right” which made me slightly disturbed.  Protecting and highlighting those who “safely” arrest people by not choking them to death or shooting someone in the leg instead of their 12-year-old chest, isn’t the point.

Highlighting (or blaming) the 1% of cops who aren’t trained properly to do their job isn’t the point either, but it’s the start at scratching the surface of unraveling what is so deeply rooted in our history.

I’m not a full-time activist, psychologist, analyst or history buff.  However, I am a concerned human who understands the importance of basic human rights, and will dig deep into how I can use my strengths to fight for justice.

He asked me to write up some inspirational mojo/carpe diem type stuff after we linked up, so I did – but I got very real with him and didn’t sugar coat much.  It’d be safe to tell him “yolo, keep doing what you’re doing!” but I didn’t.  I was blunt, honest and direct because I care.

It’s difficult following a path if you’re trying to change the culture of an environment that you’re not even passionate or concerned about.  If you don’t even enjoy who you’re surrounding yourself with, why try to change them? It’s more important to build a new tribe of those you enjoy being around, those who you want to help.  If you’re in a position of power, use your skills and knowledge constructively, to teach and show others what you see.  It could save a life and create a better environment for future generations.

 

bridge the gap.

There’s an opportunity for you to expand and evolve into something greater than what is right now. Seeing what’s missing (in your life, your community, your job) and even that feeling that you know you can do more, is the core of what you need to uncover and dig up.

What can you improve on? How can you make what you do best, better? This really is about you – and what you can unfold and share with the world. The only way to do so is to do the inner work. Navigate what’s holding you back, why certain things you see or people you interact with trigger a particular emotion.

A few weeks ago, I went to hear Brandon Stanton (the “Humans of New York” guy) speak at Johns Hopkins. He’s not the greatest speaker, nor is he the greatest photographer. My intention wasn’t to hear about how he takes pictures. My intention was to learn and take away one thing that is different about him as a photographer, that no one else has really mastered yet.

He’s mastered the art of talking to strangers, and more importantly, getting over the fear of rejection and approaching them. To some, he may be at the peak of his “career,” but he’s just getting started. He acknowledged that he has accomplished fame or success rather quickly, but that was never his goal. With each picture, story and caption he’s captured, he’s always looking to make his art better. Not for us, for the media or for the fame – but for himself.

Whatever it is you do, keep building, brick by brick for you. Only you know what’s keeping you from success, from being the best version of you – which in essence, is the greatest art you can share with the world.

doing good.

There are people that come in to your life, those you share every part of your life with and those who don’t. In each moment, each project, each phase of your life, you left a footprint whether you realized it or not. Some may have been smaller than others, but the point is that you made your mark.

I recently caught up with a friend about things you typically talk about: what are you up to now, what have you done since we last spoke, where do you live, etc. and shared with him my anxiety about catching up with people I haven’t seen or spoke to in years.

Anxiety may not be the right word to use in this case since it stems from a feeling of fear, as I wasn’t afraid to catch up, just unsure of what questions I was going to be asked and how much I should mention/respond or how in depth into the question should I answer with.

There are a million things I’ve done since I’ve last seen those I was visiting, so when I was mentally preparing for my response to “what are you doing now” and “how are you” I tensed up and thought, where do I even begin with this?

My friend’s feedback was so simple and effective: when someone asks you how you’re doing and immediately asks “good?” without me even having a chance to respond, just leave it at that. “Yes, I’m doing good.” In those few seconds, I recognize and sense the person’s feigned enthusiasm and move on.

Those who care will ask deeper questions that go below the surface level. Luckily for me, I have more people that care than not.

Disclaimer for the grammar police: doing good instead of doing well was intentional.