Touched by a stranger

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These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. The world’s been spinning on it’s axis at regular speed but it’s felt like warped speed to me. Since the start of July – we haven’t stopped. East coast road trips, New York visits and returning to San Diego with immediate guests, the invasion of Comic-Con and more guests on the way – needless to say it’s been a bit busy. But busy doesn’t prevent perspective nor impede wisdom from those you truly wish to ‘see’.

Sunset LBNY

At the same time of the first world ‘busy’ and joyful choice of travel and visiting with loved ones, news of another kind entered our world. The teacher of one of my wisest yoga instructors passed away suddenly, shaking an international community to its core. This man of wisdom, talent and grace who has touched my life through writings, meditation apps and Sarah’s teachings – this man who helped so many thousands find their own way, himself struggled with mental illness. Michael Stone shared his knowledge of psychotherapy, yoga and Buddhism and fostered a world-wide community of followers he met and ones he never will. All of a sudden, the world seemed quieter.

“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world” -Dr. Seuss

Loss is difficult on all levels. Trying to explain how someone you never met impacted your life often seems to fall on a spectrum of ‘how can you be sad’ or ‘you never even knew him’. Unfortunately, I am like millions of others who have dealt with loss of loved ones and those close to them and although losing this ‘stranger’ is on a completely different plane, it’s not any less real. Loss hurts. Sadness happens. Hearts break for loved ones going through massive, tragic changes and for those around them who want to do something yet know there’s nothing that can make this moment hurt any less. The pain is palpable.

sunset San Diego

And then there was Ari. The courageous, witty, brave, spunky, vivacious warrior I never met who put a smile on my face whenever his name crossed my screen. This child of a university friend touched the lives of thousands across the globe. His arrival into the world wasn’t easy, was fraught with danger and life through him curve balls even before he was smacking them out of the park as one of the biggest baseball fans around. He was the pinnacle of a fighter. Somehow, this kid whose heart needed replacing actually had a spirit that was larger than all of ours combined. This tough as nails Red Sox fan filled with courage, wit, wisdom, grace and fierce love for his family and teams – this little stranger changed lives. His and his family’s struggle with waiting for a heart for over 200 days (spending 180+ in the hospital), losing their house to mold and having insurance give them NOTHING for it, finally getting a new heart (while fully acknowledging the loss and gift of the family who would help theirs) and the thrill of going home was shared the world over. He met some of his biggest idols, played in the yard, hugged his siblings, went to the golf course with dad and loved his family fiercely – and after stealing hearts around the globe, he took a turn for the worse and in the words of his parents’ social media posting ‘passed away peacefully…listening to the Red Sox’.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” – Piglet

This tiny person who I never met reminded me of that elusive perspective, growth, journey and struggle. From stories of his parents, friends and those who loved him, the world knew he dreamed big, loved fiercely and had the courage of the bravest warriors. In his short time, he made a huge impact. His optimism, fighting spirit, zest for life and calm demeanor reminds us all of the important things in life. His struggles were real from the get go but they didn’t stop him nor his parents from helping him to live his best life, shine with the brightest of lights, share his whole heart and soul and find tenacity of strength when much seemed lost.

Thankful

I’ve been on a journey of searching for perspective for quite some time. Call it growth, seeking or whatever you will, but I’ve found myself interacting with people, writings and things I never would have before – the universe seems to be doing her thing and smacking me in the face with whatever she feels necessary. I’ve always believed that people come into our lives for a reason, even if the reason is one we never know.

“We touch other people’s lives simply by existing” – JK Rowling

This weekend, San Diego swelled with passionate people doing their Comic-Con thing and being present in the moment. This last month I got the opportunity to hang with close friends, see new things and hug family. Yet these two individuals (whose constant struggle never seemed to divert their spirit), these two individuals I never got the pleasure of meeting, tugged at my heart in ways I never expected. Seeking never gets old. Trying to be the you you’d like to be today is a journey that has twists, turns, stops, starts, crashes, weaving winding madness and always seems to change direction. I am devastated for the families and close circles of these two lives cut short. Since learning of their stories, they have been on my mind (and the minds of many) constantly. Michael and Ari have taught me lessons filled with grit, heart and wisdom. If only for a short time, I couldn’t be happier to have ‘known’ them.

Heart Mission Beach

Tears have flowed around the world and although I know the world will continue to spin on it’s axis, for awhile, it feels like that axis is off kilter and won’t be the same again. It’s painful to realize that nothing’s guaranteed; but, we can do our best to be present, be awake and seek that silver lining. Young and old we can all make a difference. These strangers have taught me lessons of which I will keep always. Their presence is felt and their lessons and love live on in all they’ve touched. We may not be family, we may not have ever met, but I will never forget them.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same” – Flavia Weedin

Lessons from significant strangers

Cheer for your teams with immense passion

Love fiercely

Have courage of the bravest warriors

Keep the faith

Cherish family and friends

Spread positivity

Smile wide

Practice kindness

Help others

Laugh often

Remember to be a kid

Any opportunity you get to play – take it!

Share your story

Ask for help

Try to keep a calm demeanor

Treat people equally

Be flexible

Listen closely

Be present

Look towards the future

Live in the moment

Share your sparkle

Dream big

Be the light

The public social media pages of each of these special people have further information on how to help. If you choose – send words of love, monetary donations or acts of kindness. The little boy with the giant spirit was helped by the most generous gift of organ donation – if it’s a way you’d like to help someone else – please do so. Above all, remember their lessons, perspective, choice, attitude and light – you can never know someone else’s battles, but you can always, always be kind.

Thank you for the lessons. I will remember you – always.

 

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Different inside, same outside

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We talk a lot about traveling to some place, planning a journey, going on an adventure and experiencing something new – but, we don’t spend a lot of time on the re-entry. Sure, we all mention it as the jet-lag from a cross-country journey or the ‘back to work’ exhaustion after a fabulous trip, but re-entry is something altogether different. Somehow, after a life-changing experience, you return to the place you live, the job you have, the friends you’ve made and the day to day thoughts and activities of old, but something is very different. You think others have changed. Actions seem different and something, you don’t quite know what, is amiss. Eventually, you figure out, the different is you. You’re still the same person on the outside, but you are inherently changed.

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Sometimes, we have this same experience without leaving the post code, state or country. Whether by force or by choice, many venture on a journey of discovery that involves more the use of an internal passport than a tangible one. A girlfriend takes up running and it becomes a force in her life that completely changes her thought patterns. Dad takes up cycling and has a crew to ride with regularly. You take a class that changes your thinking or read a book on philosophy and meditation that sends you on a journey searching for new amidst the old.

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A friend of mine (who happens to be a therapist) believes in the ‘coke machine’ theory. When our actions and reactions become different, those close to us don’t know why. Perhaps our newfound perspective develops over time. Perhaps we don’t even have the reasons for it yet or fully understand the changes involved. Perhaps our world view becomes bigger, we’re finding more balance, learning new things and changing our attitudes. When those on the outside can visually see the changes, it’s one story. New puppy, new family, new house, a move, a shift, a crisis – those milestones and moments are visible to the others in our lives. But what happens when you can’t outwardly see the changes? It’s almost as if that travel re-entry is taking place at home. Same person, different outlook. Now what? Does your old tribe still fit? Can you find a way to meld the new you with your old?

“Life is only as good as your mindset” – unknown

Your journey takes you in different directions, introduces you to new people, various mindsets, divergent viewpoints and other ways of life. That re-entry happens daily as you find ways to work your old tribe into the new, figure out the twists and turns of this new path and cultivate the new your without losing the parts of the old you’d like to keep. Somehow, the experience that takes you out of your comfort zone feels awful and exhilarating at the same time. This organic growth process changes your brain, frustrates you and livens your spirit simultaneously.

“No matter where you are in your journey, you are exactly where you need to be” -Oprah Winfrey

For some of us the adventure continues over months, years and even decades. For others, who follow more of the ‘rip off the bandaid’ method, it’s quick. No matter whether the road you’re on takes you across oceans and continents or you remain within your same four walls, you’re taking a trip and the re-entry process is real. Whether you’re diving into yoga, taking up robotics, learning to paint, becoming more active, trying acupuncture, taking on a new sport, writing poetry or have decided to quit your job and travel the world – you’re on your way, you’re changing, you’re growing and somewhere, along the way, you’re bound to figure out what’s important to the you of today, what makes your spirit soar and how this present version of you chooses to see the world. The journey isn’t easy – but it’s definitely worth it!

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

Where has your journey taken you? I’d love to hear your story.

Oh the Places You’ll Go! – by Dr. Seuss

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Returning to bliss

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I’ve been travel dreaming my entire life. At an early age, I didn’t yet know it, but it was definitely there. I adored the family beach holidays and trips to Disney and loved the feeling of full-fledged freedom each brought with them. I guess, at the time, that feeling meant no homework, not having to wake up early to rush to get to school and the possibility of having ice cream three times a day. As the years progressed and I was the one choosing the destination, footing the bill and deciding the length of time and distance of the journey, the feeling of freedom was the same but the meaning, different. It started with something special to look forward to, to do during those educational holidays (while in university or teaching) and has grown into a desire to have that freedom feeling of travel dreaming joy all the time.

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The joy of ‘slowing down’

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Embrace a slower pace

You know those radio advertisements where at the end someone talks a million miles a minute to get in all the horrible side effects or that important stuff in ‘the fine print’? My students used to tell me that I should do that on the side since they couldn’t believe how quickly I spoke. Although I was completely game for the opportunity, I always told them I thought speaking fast kept them engaged since if they daydreamed for a minute they’d miss half the lesson. Although neither travel nor a westward move has removed my ability to string words together at warp speed, I no longer feel the need to do it on a regular basis. It’s weird to even think those words, and then even nuttier to write them to live forever in the digital world. I never thought this New Yorker would find joy in slowing down…but I have. Read the rest of this entry

February findings

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My first year teaching was nearly twenty years ago. That first February break, I went on a trip to Jamaica. I remember returning from that journey rested, rejuvenated and ready to get back to work. Perhaps it was the much needed February infusion of vitamin D into my sun deprived skin. Perhaps it was a week away with a girlfriend complete with waterfalls, giggles and afternoons on the sand. Perhaps it was the anticipation of travel that although coupled with sunburn and a funky reaction to some new fangled sunscreen those positive endorphins flowed and happy hormones increased. Whichever way you looked at it, that February trip was certainly something.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” – Mae West Read the rest of this entry

Hugs and a serotonin shift

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The world has been shrinking due to the fabulous power of things like travel and the Internet. It seems only yesterday when snail mail was the focus and cell phones were things you saved for emergencies. Today snail mail is held for IRS notifications and the once in a blue moon actual birthday card and most of life’s communications are made from the tiny computers in the palm of our hands. If you’ve ever been to Disneyworld® and watched the Carousel of Progress go from the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder to that of George Jetson, it’s easy to understand how nutty it is that I can tap a button while at the beach in San Diego, California and can video conference with my godson while he’s on the rugby field in Hong Kong. While technology broadens our global relationships, there’s still a feeling of separate in a world of connection. Read the rest of this entry

Grassroots Game Changers

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Have you ever been a part of something bigger than yourself that took moments, hours, days, months and even years to process? After this weekend’s events, I’ve needed to take a little time to reflect, rejuvenate and remind myself how incredibly lucky I’ve been to feel such waves of gratitude and encouraging interactions with the universe. Three different Novembers, three different cities, and three different mediums for change have affected and influenced my life. Each has catapulted me in different directions of inner thought, social activism, and sent me on a path of working to make the world a more hopeful, positive, kind and equal place. Read the rest of this entry

In search of that open door

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At the end of last year, a yoga teacher whose class I had grown accustomed to found herself in a bind. Most of her classes at the studio were being cut from the schedule and, like so may of us, she found herself dangling on that precipice of one door closing with the ever burning question of ‘would another open’? Yet, unlike the first thoughts that might have popped into my or many of our heads, she was heading in search of that open door on the other side. You know, the one so many of us try to get to but the one that often seems stuck, locked or out of reach? What’s your perspective? Are you a witness to the ‘door slamming’ or a seeker of that ‘open door’? Read the rest of this entry

New year, new opportunities

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We’ve turned the page on the calendar, made it to 2017, managed amidst the food frenzy of December and have gotten to the next rotation of the earth around the sun. How do you feel? Amidst the barrage of sale emails, cleanse products, impending inauguration, weight loss programs, gym freebies and resolution insanity – we’re here. With one foot in front of the other – we’ve made it to January…now what? Read the rest of this entry

January to December to January

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2016 is ending. Through what seemed like a constant supply of gut punches and salt-filled tears, the world said goodbye to more cultural icons than we can count, sat stunned in the wake of political insanity and stood gobsmacked as the world seemingly continued to fall apart around us all. Being a global citizen isn’t always easy. Finding your smile isn’t always easy. The year ticks away from season to season and somehow turning the pages or clicking ‘next’ on our calendars is meant to change things. But there was good, there always is, it only often gets overshadowed by the surrounding and much louder ick. Syrian children are fighting for their lives. Refugees are trudging through awful to wonder if they’ll gain entry somewhere with the promise of a welcoming community and better life. There is a homeless epidemic. I got a yoga wheel for the holidays and promptly busted a rib. I found a new yoga teacher I liked, her class is getting cancelled. I voted for the first time in California and wound up in the fetal position on the couch the next morning. Ugh. The universe feels like it’s spinning out of control…but, is that really the whole story? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Read the rest of this entry