Category Archives: Around the World

2009-2010 World Adventure

Be the change

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When I was little, I had a friend who lived around the corner. I can remember building forts out of couch cushions in her basement, creating chalk drawings on the driveway and playing spud on that lawn. But more importantly, I remember her grandparents. They had the most wonderful accents, the most genuine hearts and they were the first people I ever met with numbers tattooed on their arms. This Nana and Pop-Pop who adored a stranger from around the corner were the first Holocaust survivors I ever met. To this day, those adopted grandparents hold a very special place in my heart.

Conversation with Edie Eger

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting another Holocaust survivor. Seated in a southern Californian living room, this spritely 90 year old captured my attention for over two hours and shared her perspective, approach to life and ability to find kindness in even the ugliest of places, Auschwitz. Standing eye level to me, this former Hungarian gymnast turned clinical psychologist and internationally acclaimed author captivated her listeners with stories of hope, healing, dealing with impermanence and her ability to choose to build a beautiful life after unthinkable trauma.

The choice

Just shy of 90, Dr. Edith Eger took her years of training, early decades of trauma and healing ways and wrote The Choice: Embrace the Possible. The brightly clad elegant woman in front of me was pure joy. Her story encompasses atrocities at Auschwitz, countless levels of awful, includes interactions with the horror of Josef Mengele and deals with decades of PTSD from the experience of the Holocaust. While in its entirety this is more than a person could bear, this is not her story. Her story begins with liberation. The life she talks about weaves stories of her sister, kindness from a guard who could have killed her and mental toughness to work, struggle and strive to build a life of possibilities, healing and the desire to always reach for love.

“Be the change you wish to see in this world” – Mahatma Gandhi

She exudes courage and zest for life in every sentence. Today, a nonagenarian, Dr. Edie Eger still holds a thriving clinical practice in La Jolla, has a faculty appointment at UCSD – San Diego and is a PTSD and resiliency training consultant for both the US Army and US Navy. She escaped what we know as one of the worst genocides of recent history and today she spends every waking hour teaching others to lift themselves up, work through adversity, live in the present, let go of trauma, choose possibility, radiate kindness and to always reach for love.

The stone of perspective

From past to present

I minored in Near Eastern Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, have visited many of the world’s Holocaust museums and in 2009 spent a tear-filled Yom Kippur at Auschwitz. On that memorable visit, a story was passed along (initially from an Auschwitz survivor) to remind us that whatever problem we’re facing, however bad a day we’re having, however insurmountable the odds feel – that it’s never truly impossible. We were all given the opportunity to pick up a small stone from outside the gates of Auschwitz and to keep it with us. The idea is that whenever we’re having a bad day, dealing with a problem or struggling with what seems like a never-ending pile of poo, put your hand around that small stone, remember where it comes from, what was endured there and squeeze hard. This action stimulates the brain and is designed to remind the holder of the stone that no matter how large the struggle seems, it truly is only the size of that tiny stone. Embrace the possible within and you too can overcome anything. Nearly a decade later, that stone comes with me everywhere and has been part of my story ever since I picked it up that afternoon.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” – Nelson Mandela

Dr. Eger told of the time (when in her fifties) she finally decided to revisit Auschwitz. Decades after her liberation, she was able to go back and face that fear head on. After years and years of struggle and trying to heal, it was on that visit that she was finally able to forgive herself and fully heal. After one woman shared her story that involved domestic difficulties, trauma, a struggle to rebuild and her experience of finally feeling fully free from the grasp of it all, Edie reminded us that no matter the struggle, if we can ‘walk into the lion’s den and laugh’, that healing, forgiveness and freedom will follow. It’s then that you get to say, ‘now what’. It’s then that you continue to reach for the possible, find a new goal, create a new story, and become the you you want to be.

What’s next?

A student of history, I enjoyed watching The West Wing. While there were countless episodes I loved, one of my favorite takeaways was the tag line the president taught his staff. Through an endless array of difficult decisions, horrible occurrences, political mishugas (craziness) and day to day minutiae, regardless of the level of fight, there was always, ‘what’s next’. It’s that what’s next that matters. It’s the choices we get to make, the opportunities we create out of the obstacles, the way we choose to view the situation, the goals we set and for which we reach and the kindness we show to others and ourselves that matter. Dr. Eger gave me the gift of her presence and wisdom yesterday. She reaffirmed my belief in choosing happy, building a life you love, to strive to learn and grow, choosing you and to always look for the light. Her unstoppable spirit is a testament to her strength. Her past could have been her story, but as she says, ‘I don’t live there anymore’. She turned the unspeakable horror she endured into a life of healing, helping and a positive force for change.

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good” – Wicked

This nonagenarian dances, speaks, works, lectures, helps, writes, guides, loves food and embraces the positive and the possible. She decided early on in life, even in the face of vile and repugnance, that she would not be a victim and every day since that decision she believed and embraced that choice. A survivor in the truest sense of the word, Dr. Eger embraces life, love, freedom, wellness, joy, kindness and humanity. Read her book, spread kindness, believe in your own worth, help others, do good works, believe in self-care and choose to love yourself – this is how we change the world. Everyday this woman laughs in the face of those who strove to permanently break her spirit. She lives, she strives and she embodies positivity and perspective. With every breath and every person she touches, she is that change for good.

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Connections in movement and mindfulness – an interview with a passionate performance artist

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My best friend in high school wanted to be a dancer. I remember countless nights practicing with friends as she choreographed our performance for the Senior Show. When she majored in modern dance in college, I went to visit her and see all of her years of work come to fruition. This week it seems another part of life has come full circle. Read the rest of this entry

14 year old wisdom

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“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The other day I spoke to my favorite 14-year old. In perfect teenage fashion, she was lounging in her room, babysitting her brother and detailing her excitement for the end of the school year. We did social studies homework, found frustration with end of school year insanity, dreamed about travel and talked of the utter joy she gets from her passion for horses. And then, unknowingly, she paid me the best compliment ever. She called me ‘earthy’ and seemed to light up at the thought of taking time out of the day to go to yoga and find an ease. She has no idea how big my heart smiled at that very instant. Read the rest of this entry

Dropping in – on and off the mat

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sand dollars on Coronaado

When I hear the phrase ‘dropping in’ I often think of surfers grabbing their best wave, but when Zaquia mentioned it in her yoga class it seemed to have a different meaning all the same. Then @yogagirl wrote about how yoga is so much more than an on the mat practice and that hit home, too. Then I had a chat with a friend who maintains a plan to move houses every decade to try out a new space and be as present as possible in her new community and that landed the trilogy. Seems the universe wanted me to see that ‘dropping in’ is far more than finding the sweet spot atop the ocean. Read the rest of this entry

Choosing you

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Sometimes it’s hard to choose you. For some reason, so many of us have grown up thinking that putting ourselves first or on the same playing field as others is selfish. Somehow we’ve been indoctrinated into the belief that everyone else matters more than we do, that work relationships mean we ‘should’ suffer, that we must ‘bend’ to what others need and that we put our feelings aside to make others feel better. Why on earth were we ever taught to think we matter any less than anyone else? Read the rest of this entry

Seeking home

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Home. For some it’s the beach, the mountain or the smell of a clean sheet. For some it’s a meadow, a valley or the smell of the leaves after the rain. For some it’s traditions, the aroma of baking bread or the sound of family waking up underneath the same roof. For some it’s a place, while for others it’s a feeling. Home is an interesting concept. As a child – home was my nuclear family, the house in which I grew up, the only street on which I lived and the town to which I was associated. Home was a short walk from the high school, down the block from the youth group, twenty minutes from the beach and about an hour from sleep away camp. Home was the people, an address, an abode, a town and a state to which I referred when introducing myself. Damn, a lot has changed. Read the rest of this entry

Finding healing spaces along a bumpy road

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Since the early days of December – it’s seemed as if the world has been spinning on its axis and we definitely feel as if it’s about to fling us off to a bumpy stop or crash landing on direct impact. If I could raise my hand and ask the ride conductor to slow it down and let me off, I would – but I’m not sure that’s how this ride goes. So, we’re taking a chance, standing on the ledge and going to make the jump before we get spit out and have no idea how many bumps, bruises and broken everything we’ll have along the way. I’m trusting that in one way or another a net will appear – but with or without the security – we’re leaping. Read the rest of this entry

Getting to next

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What we expected to be three months turned into three years. San Diego became more than a spot to wait out the New York winter, it became our home. Three years ago we were bitching about the impending winter and hoping that someone would come through with a work visa for the United Kingdom and that that would be our ‘next’. Why wait in the cold when we could experience something new, we thought. We packed the car, drove west and found a home in San Diego.

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In those three years we’ve grown more than I could have imagined. We’ve done exactly what we wanted to and fully embraced the outdoor year ’round lifestyle. We’ve added hikes to our routine, elevated our yoga and gym days, come to love fish tacos and have without question come to favor a more holistic approach to life. Our daily life includes making time for self-care, being sure to find time for mindfulness activities and learning that health and wellness matter more than we ever thought before. We’ve gotten rid of those toxic relationships, become more aware of what makes our happiness flow and have decided that it’s more than okay to put that happiness first. No matter where we roam, these things are now ingrained in us and I hope, will continue no matter the post code.

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The two of us our lucky to have many places around the globe that we call ‘home’. Between the both of us, there has been life in New York, Melbourne, London and San Diego. When we headed west, we made the official decision to work contract and freelance so we wouldn’t be tied down and would be be able to jump at opportunities when and if they came along. Since the husband got an offer that was literally too ‘good to refuse’, our journey continues as we head back to New York for a little while. But we’ve made a decision that we didn’t make when we returned from our first ’round the world trip and this is the game changer.

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Experiences change us and those internal changes aren’t visible on the outside. Upon that first re-entry, it was almost impossible for others to see the changes and we felt as if these newly square pegs were supposed to fit back into our previous round holes. Needless to say, we felt squished, frustrated, agitated and struggled with the ideas of not wanting to push those life-changing experiences aside to fit back into the people we were before – well, not this time. After two ’round the world trips, two (with an impending third) cross country road trips and a three year stint living in a place we adore the changes are evident. Our attitudes, lifestyle choices, and views on health and wellness have shifted and those shifts are here to stay.

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After countless conversations, ‘getting to next’ has appeared more often than I can count. The ideas of planning for the time when your teeth might fall out more easily, where and how your heart is happiest and what makes your spirits soar are categories of chats that regularly appear around our picnic table. How to get the opportunity to spend the day to day in a space you adore while having the expendable cash to jet off on a moment’s notice and not have to worry about ‘taking time off’ – these are only some of our beach walk and hiking conversations. For now, we’ve added San Diego as a place we call home and would happily do so again. Who knows exactly what the full definition of ‘getting to next’ will entail, but for the moment, ‘next’ is bringing us to the land where the boys in pinstripes play, bagels reign supreme, and the Atlantic crashes on the shore.

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You’ll find us wearing newly purchased base layers, searching for new adventures, playing outside, wiggling our feet in the sand, seeking out proper fish taco shops and chowing down on those flagels that never seem to make it west of the five boroughs. We’re headed out in a few weeks and will fill you in on the road trip spots along the way. We’ll land in early January and are always open to new ideas, new experiences, new opportunities and new places to play. Join us along the way and come say hi when we hit the Atlantic. Wherever the journey takes us, we hope you’ll be a part of it all…here’s to ‘getting to next’.

Nature – where we’re meant to be

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Iron Mountain, San Diego, CA

A few weekends ago we hiked San Diego’s Iron Mountain. To my peak chasing friends, this one is doable in their sleep, but for us, it was only the second time around. It took less time to make it to the top, the wind didn’t blow us over the edge, and my asthmatic little lungs made it without the assistance of an inhaler. The path took us on a winding journey through nature’s beauty and continued to entice us all the way to the top. Up there, where the air is clear, the horizon endless and the birds close enough to touch – up there is where we stopped for a moment of contemplation, refreshment and pure joy. Read the rest of this entry

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

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