Category Archives: Life

Finding calm amidst the chaos

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How’s your anxiety level at the moment? With the 24-hour news cycle constantly flinging chaos through every screen in our homes, it’s tough. What do you do when each social media post seems more grim than the next? Perhaps the kids or spouse are now home for work and school and everyone is sharing the same space for an indefinite period of time. Perhaps you’re in awe of the madness of hoarding or controversially, the utter kindness of strangers. Either way, when the word pandemic is bantered around, countries literally shut boarders and flights ground – it’s often hard to find the calm amidst the chaos. What do you do when it all gets a bit too hairy?

Talk about a gratitude practice, right? When my brain spirals, I try to get there quickly, but it’s often hard. Me and my asthmatic lungs have been staying put for over a week now. It seems scary to even go to the parking garage, leave the apartment to take the rubbish down the hall or even contemplate finding a wide open space – you know, since it still seems that not everyone is in on the social distancing lockdown situation. Perspective is a wonderful thing, gratitude is imperative and both help to flip the switch from anxiety to peace – but these days it’s even harder to get there than before. I’m grateful for our studio apartment in the center of San Diego. I’ve never wanted anything bigger, love everything about it and know how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, a place to call our own and one that includes a space to get outside for that quick hit of invigorating vitamin D – trust me, I know and I’m grateful. Still, the fear and anxiety can take your brain for a wild ride. It’s a sneaky little sucker – you’re in the midst of writing, cleaning, working out – it doesn’t matter – when anxiety wants your attention it knocks loudly until it gets its way.

Breathe – just breathe. “The Harvard Medical School said in its latest health guideline that, yoga, meditation and controlled breathing are “some tried and true ways to relax“. If yoga isn’t your thing, no worries – unless of course you want to give it a try and see how it rolls. Whether you’re using one of the multiple meditation apps like Calm or Headspace, watching those spirals go in and out to focus your attention and breathing or sitting on your own cushion and letting yourself feel all the feelings – try something and know you’re not alone. I am eternally grateful for the yoga community who still manages to help us all feel connected, grounded and a little more centered – at least for those moments on the mat. We all need it now. Those staying home and those guardian angels saving the day at work. Everyone needs a way to manage the insanity of the experience that’s going on right now.

This isn’t easy for anyone. Perspective is a wonderful gift, too. There are those who are able to work from home, feed their families in a safe space and take care of their loved ones. For each person who can do all of those things, there’s someone else who cannot. There are those out there saving the world whose jobs don’t rest in the time of a pandemic. There are those who are food insecure, not in a safe space and don’t have the financial ability to sustain long periods of unemployment. If you can help someone, lift someone up, donate some knowledge, money or time – whatever you can do will have an impact. In a time that feels utterly uncertain, if we focus on the things we can control and let go of the ones we can’t – there’s a lift, a slight ease and an awareness of a little more breathing space. However we can find the ease, it’s worth it.

I don’t have all of the answers; in fact, I only have what I know works for me and faith that this is not at all the end of humanity. I’m focused on looking for those joys, finding the good in others and seeking communication with those who lift my spirits. I take comfort in Italians singing from balconies, in fitness instructors running classes in Spain for people confined to their own terraces and in those caremongering Canadians who always seem to be able to find the good. I take comfort in watching so many do their part in their small corner of the world to make someone else’s small corner that much better. If you can help, do so. Whether it’s distilleries making hand sanitizer, start ups 3D printing ventilator valves, fashion designers making masks and medical gear, artists sharing cheer through talent or the simple act of checking in on each other to be there in whatever way helps – do it.

I will always agree with Mr. Roger’s mother and her advice to ‘look for the helpers’. They’re there – they’re always there. We need more of them, we need to focus on the good, we need to do the good – that’s how the world hugs each other in a time when we quite literally can’t wrap our arms around strangers and loved ones. It’s up to each one of us to look for them and to be them. In a time of social distancing, communication isn’t lost – we only need to seek it in different ways. The world is quite literally figuring it all out together and trying, in whatever small ways we can to see the light through the darkness and the rainbow amidst the storm. Give yourself permission to step away for awhile. Take heart in knowing there are those rushing to make things better. Take heart in believing that things will get better. It’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to get us there. Amidst the chaos, there is ease – it’s a just a little harder to find these days. Perhaps its our acts of kindness towards one another that will help bring that ease to the forefront.

To every healthcare professional, first responder, emergency worker, infrastructure supporter, effective and kind leader and everyone on the front lines of this fight – the world is forever in your debt. Endless gratitude, light, love and for the moment – virtual hugs. You are the superheroes – we see you, we appreciate you. You are the angels who will save the day. We believe in you. We love you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The Evolution of a Journey

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How often do you take a minute and think about the evolution of your own journey? Sometimes it happens at the end of a year, after achieving a milestone or ticking off a bucket list adventure, but how often do you really stop and think about how you got to where you are? Think about it – if Jane Goodall had never left London, if Sir Edmond Hilary had never left New Zealand and if Rosa Parks had never taken a seat on that bus – where would their journeys have gone? We may not all be explorers or activists, but in our own way, we are each on our own journey. If Ferris Bueller taught us anything it’s that ‘Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it’. What’s the evolution of your journey?

For some of us, we might reach all the way back to childhood to remember what we were like as kids, what captured our interests in our teenage years or to that first job we ever had. For some of us, we might head to the type of childhood we had, what activities we were involved in and what we thought we’d be doing in those five or ten years after high school. Still for others, that evolution may have started in the last decade, the last years or the last few months – perhaps you’re on the verge of the shift right now. What’s the evolution of your journey?

I’m not certain exactly how far back I’d reach to begin my story. Could I start with my childhood, upbringing, sleep away camp experience and university adventures – sure I could. While all of those pieces make up who I am and how I see the world, wherever travel enters my story is where the evolution begins. It could be Disney family holidays or Montauk beach play dates. It could be camp counselors from abroad who first brought a love of accents and culture into my world. I think they’re a part of it all – but I think a turning point is that first trip to Israel at the malleable age of 20. It was over 25 years ago, now, but I can still smell the aromas of the shuk, feel out of breath from my first ever hike, glimpse the desert stars from a Bedouin tent, taste the salt from the Dead Sea and close my eyes to experience the epic, brilliant sunrise atop Masada. And then, months after my return, I can still feel my eyes dance and the corners of my mouth upturn upon retelling the story to my Aunt at Thanksgiving. Without ever knowing it, I think that’s the beginning of my tipping point. What’s yours?

Like all journeys, there are twists and turns, stubbed toes and busted ankles, mountains to climb and rivers to cross. And at each of those crossroads, we have a choice. The Broadway show, If/Then is quite literally modeled after that choice. At a pinnacle point, life could go one way or the other and although we’d like to, rarely do we glimpse what it would have been like had we taken that other turn. When I backpacked Europe with friends after university, I couldn’t possibly imagine how much travel would impact my life’s journey. If you asked me 25 years ago if I would have become a teacher, I would have said no. If you asked me five years into teaching if I would ever leave before retirement, I would have said no. If you asked me if I saw myself leaving the state of NY, I might have hesitated and thought, maybe, but there were too many things I believed for which I had to stay. We really never know what’s around that next bend in the road or the river.

Who would have ever thought travel would shift my perspective and change my life as much as it has – not me, that’s for sure. But, once that first spark happened – the feeling was too good to ever want to put out. Travel and what comes with it has been a part of my journey for more than half of my life now. It’s opened doors I never knew existed, introduced me to people who have helped shape my life and shared experiences with me I never thought possible. Travel has ebbed my doubts and anxiety. Travel has given me hope. Travel has given me wings and travel has brought me the love of my life. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be me, without that travel attitude, that travel perspective and that travel gratitude.

It was around 20 years ago that I was fully invested in my summer camp work and began my teaching career. I loved those aspects of life, the lessons they taught me and the people they brought into my world. Fifteen years ago I traveled to the other side of the world again and again, my journey evolved. 10 years ago I was on a leave of absence from teaching, living abroad and in the middle of chasing the sun on a one-year honeymoon around the globe. 5 years ago we moved into our first apartment in San Diego and had no idea where life would take us – would we stay, for how long, would we like it here, would we make friends and all of the other ‘what if’s’ bombarded our thoughts. Today, we’ve shifted jobs (and one of us, careers) and coasts, once again love where we live and are truly happy at this point of the journey.

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Who knows where the road will lead, but, today, in this moment, in this space, I am grateful, I am hopeful and my heart is full. Wherever your journey takes you, do your best to find gratitude and joy amidst the ride.

The fullness of the moment

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Writing this feels like I’m channeling Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on Sex and the City as she gets an idea and continues on with – ‘I got to thinking’. At the yoga studio, Amy often reads from Judith Lasater’s A Year of Living Your Yoga. I liked the quotes so much, I actually got the book and am regularly impacted by its quote of the day. In Wednesday’s class she talked about the ‘wholeness of the moment’ and as we practiced on our mats, ‘I got to thinking’ – how can we embrace that wholeness of the moment feeling more often? Read the rest of this entry

Sitting with it all

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Denali National Park, Alaska - thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

Have you ever had the thoughts that were constantly spinning in your head? You know, what you think you have to over analyze and then realize that you’re really over thinking and it’s not such a good thing. Have you heard the phrase, ‘sit with it’? Whether you’re a meditation guru, have random talks with your therapist or listen to the speeches of World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe – you may have (at one point or another) heard the phrase, ‘sit with it’. Read the rest of this entry

At home on the left coast

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We made it to San Diego

Exactly four years ago we arrived in San Diego. A cross country road trip (the first of four in four years) designed to plop us here for three months to avoid a New York winter has lasted far longer than we ever expected. What we thought would be a blip on the radar turned into a chosen city and a chosen home. Even when we thought about leaving, life turned us right back around. San Diego has been a far greater gift than we could have ever imagined. Read the rest of this entry

Awareness and awakenings on the mat

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Oh my goodness!!!!! A friend (and yoga teacher) of mine hugged me today and said, ‘Congratulations, yoga teacher’…..and she was talking to me!!! I can’t believe she said that out loud!

“You are never to old to set another goal or dream a new dream” – C.S. Lewis

It’s enlightening how goals and dreams change along the way. If you asked me years ago if I was ever going to want to be a yoga instructor I would have looked at you as if you were nuts – fast forward three weeks and I’ve finished a 200-hour yoga teacher training course at my home studio. WHAT? I know; I feel the very same way!

Yoga One San Diego Summer Intensive Teacher Training Class 2018

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Root to rise – on and off the mat

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Genius, she is. Once again, after class ended and I asked Amy why she thought I couldn’t quite grasp one particular pose – she knew exactly what to say. It wasn’t the fact that every body type has different possibilities. It wasn’t about my scoliosis and it wasn’t about anyone’s talent in yoga. And sure, it’s definitely got something to do with the internal and external rotation of the hips, but that’s not the point either. She said, ‘most of the time, in yoga, if you can’t get to a pose – the key is, sit up higher’.

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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