Where in the World

 

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I am writing this at an old wooden table, sitting on an old wooden chair, with the above lush landscape directly in front of me. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to cut it. Breathtaking might.

I recently realized that in the midst of the working two jobs, test-taking and friends-visiting madness of July, I haven’t made it super public that I’m spending this whole month of August out of the U.S. of A doing the things that nourish my spirit: yoga, writing, and exploring new places. So I’m using this post partly to brag about being in Italy right now facing the picturesque view and also to articulate just what it is that I am doing during a full August off, and why.

The best way to explain this is also my favorite way to plan for a yoga class: through themes. Each leg of this five-week trip has a different theme. I’m sharing them below.

Italy: Pleasure

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photo via cocceto.com

I am currently in Tuscany on a yoga retreat with the talented Francesca Bove and a dozen-plus lovely yogis. It’s only day two and so far, I went on a run / walk through the hills surrounding the villa we’re staying at, dined on a breakfast of fresh-cut prosciutto, eggs and muesli, took an hour-and-a-half-long yoga class, and sat by the pool to read and nap. The theme of this trip is pleasure because too often pleasure gets misused in the work-hard, play-hard culture New York City immerses itself in. Pleasure, in a relaxed way, means (for this trip) not only drinking a glass of wine with dinner, but going on a wine tour. It means eating slowly to taste the most subtle flavors of artisan olive oil…and attending a tasting at the vineyard it’s made at. It means practicing yoga with an abundant view of the Italian countryside, and it means putting sunglasses on during savasana and letting the sensuous sensory experiences Italy is so known for marinate so that there can be space to take it all in.

England: Literary

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photo via britishtours.com

Right after this retreat, I’m going to England to take two continuing education creative writing courses at the University of Cambridge. This year, when I took Teaching of Writing as part of my graduate program, I had a lot of feelings surrounding wanting to make sure that I am a teacher-writer / writer-teacher, and not only a teacher of writing (I’m studying to be a middle school English teacher). In other words, I want my practice as an educator and as a writer to disrupt the narrative of “those who can’t do teach” and change it to “those who can do teach.” I also have an extraordinarily hard time writing in New York City, and I’m sitting on quite a few works in progress. I would say that I need to carve out the time, except for the fact that with my working-grad school schedule, the time just simply doesn’t exist, and I’m starting to think that small geographic changes to encourage creativity can be a good thing. We can do it all…just not all at once, after all. But back to my plans for the trip! While I am spending the weekdays intensively writing and attending plenary lectures, I’ll spend the first weekend in Oxford doing a tour of the medieval literature that was born there and hopefully getting enough free time to go to the Bodleian Library for the Jane Austen exhibit! That second weekend, I’ll be in London (yay!) and plan on going to the British Library, as well as both Daunt and Persephone Books!

Finland: Design

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photo via finland.fi

I’ll be spending my last 10 days of this trip in Finland with my boyf who’s moving there for the academic year. He’s moving there to study wood architecture and I’m traveling there so that we can experience Finnish culture together before his courses begin. Finland has a magnificent history and practice of design in both broad and specific ways. Finnish society seems to set itself up for success using infrastructural and architectural design. During this trip, I want to attend some art festivals going on and explore the amazing architecture throughout. I want to focus on something that I really do believe is the backbone of how society functions: design. I want to be able to carry that knowledge with me into all that I do because it can only help when we see the world through a variety of lenses including though not limited to pleasure, literature, and design.

My #the100dayproject

One of the first blogs that I read the entire archives of was Kimberly Wilson’s Tranquility Du Jour. This month on her blog, she is stressing the importance of a passion project through pursing a #the100dayproject challenge. The idea of the challenge is simple: for 100 days, you commit yourself to doing a little something of a creative act each day. Wilson writes,

Elle Luna, author of The Crossroads of Should and Must, hosts a 100-Day Project encouraging participants to commit to 100 days of doing a creative project for 5-10 minutes. No fancy tools or training needed. Just a desire to try  and commit to something for 100 days.

unnamed-2.jpgIMG_4323.JPGI have wanted to to take this blog more seriously (in a #livelightly way, of course) for quite some time now. This #the100dayproject feels like an ideal way to commit, in a manageable way, to honing my blogging skills through consistent practice. My goal is to, for the next 99 days (I started yesterday) work on my blog for ten minutes a day. As is my belief with my yoga practice, consistency matters so much more than quantity in the formation of meaningful habits. Because I started four days after the above start date, I will end four days after it as well and will track my progress through a chart I set up in my new bullet journal (post on that forthcoming!).

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Here is what I would like to accomplish through this project (because writing it down is the first step in making it happen in my book):

  • I want to develop my photography skills on social media and through incorporating original photographs into blog posts.
  • I want to curate content that inspires people to lead meaningful lives. I want to blend in all aspects of my own life into the posts.
  • I want to grow my readership…by a lot, if possible, and start to form virtual relationships with this blog’s audience.
  • I want to update the overall look, style, and layout of Growing Up On OM as a brand for 20-somethings who are trying to lead balanced, nourishing, holistic and sustainable lives with yoga in mind.

Do you have an idea for a passion project you can do consistently for one hundred days, for only 5-10 minutes each day? 

Reigniting the Mini Practice

The starting position is your home base and you are setting out to see how far you can travel from home. … You’re following your impulses, letting your mind and body provide you with the answers. – Twyla Tharpe, The Creative Habit

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We have all heard the old adage “big things come in small packages” (says the 5’2″ girl). Yet when we approach yoga, we don’t always see the big gains in the small actions at first. Many of us begin by taking 90-minute-long classes. It is only when the practice gets more subtle, when we take time to integrate it into our daily lives, that less becomes more. The physical practice has the capacity to shrink and simultaneously grow in strength to make room for the other benefits of yoga.

Not to sound like a broken record but…I have a broken leg. Throughout the healing process, I have, bit by bit, come back to the physical asana practice. There is nothing like certain poses – be it downward facing dog or extended side angle – to allow the body the spaciousness to feel Breath in the joints. And, as a yoga teacher, one of my arts is that of sequencing. My body – in whatever state it is in in the present mOMent – is my muse. I wholeheartedly agree with Twyla Tharpe – limitations are our friends. Especially when it comes to creativity. My mini practices give me long-lasting fuel. They are a testament to the piece of advice that all yoga teachers – in my humble opinion – should give to beginners: it is not frequency or length, but consistency that matters. Why? We want our practice – our fuel for the rest of life – to be sustainable, achievable. As a yoga teacher friend of mine says, we want to set ourselves up to win.

Here are some steps you can take to cultivate a mini practice.

1. Find a space where you can spread out undisturbed.

2. Don’t plan.

3. Breathe.

4. Target a body part you would like to open.

5. Begin the practice like one would a freewrite: don’t pick up the pen, let each word flow into the other; let each pose lead beautifully, unexpectedly, into the next.

Namaste.

Want more mini practices from yours truly? Check out the Yoga U E-Book!

January Link Love: Selma, Style + Safe Sex

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Introduction to the monthly Link Love column: One of my favorite blogs (and a total blogger role model of mine) is Gala Darling. Every month, Gala Darling publishes a link roundup in a narrative form of what she’s been reading. Lounging in bed on lazy Friday mornings (when I was in college) or Sunday mornings (now that I’m a working lady), I open up the links Gala posts like presents on Chanukah evenings. I want to create a similar experience for my readers…with the added bonus of documenting these reading gems so I no longer have 17 tabs open on Google Chrome. So, without further adieu, thank you Gala for the inspiration. Here is a delightful (Central Park) link carousel of my own.

January has been another month of lots of reading…but this time, mostly reading on the go, which has been a pleasant change from December’s broken-legged stationary ways. Reading on the go has been aided largely by my (relatively new…at least in terms of use) Twitter account, Pinterest and The Skimm, my daily news email. The above image, created (also on the go) with the app Kanvas, has to do with a large fraction of the articles I mention in this Link Love column: articles from the New York Times Styles section, which I devoured like the ritual devouring the New York Times is when paired with tea and a couch one Saturday afternoon. Taking the time and spaciousness to read large portions of a newspaper…even on an iPad…has the potential to be a profound act of ritualizing life, something all us busy souls could use a bit more of in our days, weeks + months.

Well…here goes!

* Last weekend, I saw Selma, which broke my heart in dozens of ways. Here is what Common Dreams says you should know about the historical event…that feels all too current.

* Which made me think about Solutions Journalism and the importance of all of us – especially writers – to never stop imagining political possibilities (in fact, possibilities should be inherent in the word political).

* Glamour Magazine shares 7 ways to be happier right now and 5 signs of happy, healthy relationships.

* Now that I live in Portland, I really, really want to go to the World Domination Summit!

* The Left Brain Buddha shares 40 ways to bring mindfulness into your life!

* From my entire afternoon of devouring the NYT:

Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.

I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be.

We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.

Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

* Thank goodness Glamour recapped the Golden Globes because I was too busy watching the GIRLS premiere.

* Forbes’ 30 Under 30 came out…lovin the young people power. These young entrepreneurs started businesses like Bloglovin + The Toast.

* Remember when I wrote a novel in a month? NaNoWriMo calls what comes after the Now What months and here’s how to bump up that manuscript.

* My dear, dear friend and former roommate EmK is truly gifted at making GIFs of our most beloved president.

* Yes, January was the start of the New Year, but it was also the 15th anniversary of The Princess Diaries! And at this point, the Link Love column has got to know how much I adore Mia Thermopolis as a fabulous role model of a three-dimensional female character.

* Gala Darling’s Blogcademy went online!!! And I’ve been devouring the free videos on bettering blogs with style!

* Peppermint Mag interviewed Gala Darling on being a business babe + radical self-love.

* I really need to re-read this. Fellow Lotus Flow teacher, based in Austin, wrote this article about finding your focus as a yoga teacher.

* Speaking of Austin, they’re having a TV festival!

* My high school writing mentor and her hubby who’s also a YA author (if that wasn’t cute enough, they got married on the roof of Scholastic HQ) started a podcast: Writing in Real Life.

* This Is What A Yogi Looks Like tees!!! Can you say Wish List ten times fast?

* Right now, what a yogi looks like for me is being broken-legged and attending yoga classes anyway. That means I have to pay particular attention to my alignment and integrate physical therapy into my asana practice.

* Be You Media Group asks a yoga and Ayurveda teacher some intelligent questions.

* The Guardian brilliantly does an expose on exploitation in the wellness industry. A must-read for wellness professionals.

* BUST Magazine bows down to the last-living women of the 1800s. BUST has also been busy reviewing Tina Fey’s new Netflix show starring Ellie Kemper of The Mindy Project. BUST also interviewed the GIRLS girls on life, love + that amazing show of theirs.

* In looking to revive my thesis, I’m loving HuffPo’s thesis project.

* Brene Brown was interviewed on NPR’s On Being podcast on (you guessed it!) vulnerability.

* The monthly newsletter The Balance has a list of new PDX healthy food companies.

* Yet again, fellow FGSS major Ella rocked it with writing about writing the Other Love and safe sex in hookup culture and erotica.

* As an avid journaler, I am grateful to the NYT blog Well for advocating writing as a path to happiness.

* Gretchen Rubin explains happiness using the best literary example ever…Little Women!

It’s Meg’s wedding day, and she and Laurie start talking about drinking wine. Laurie explains, “I don’t care for it; but when a pretty girl offers it, one doesn’t like to refuse, you see.”

Meg answers, “But you will, for the sake of others, if not for your own. Come, Laurie, promise, and give me one more reason to call this the happiest day of my life.”

The Last Weekend of June

June has been an intense month. Transitioning out of graduating college…spontaneously surprising friends in Chicagotraveling to Italy with my family…beginning two teaching jobs…a romantic beach trip in Nantucket…

It seems only appropriate that it would end in an intense way. 

Yoga is, and has been for quite some time now, my buffer. My constant in a sea of change. In the transition out of school, out of relationships that have become my backbone, and my impending transition out of New York City, my need for this practice has only grown. I’ve had to find organic ways to comfort myself, newness in a practice I have gotten to know almost too well. Yoga and I, well, we’re like a couple that’s recently celebrated our 6-year anniversary. We started out dating slowly, then more intensely, and then the intensity became the norm. We have gone on honeymoons (yoga teacher training) and we have fought (about finances). We’ve met one another’s friends, loving some and disliking others. It’s as if we have almost gotten too comfortable.

So, as any good couples therapist would suggest for a relationship like ours, we’re mixing it up. Going on new dates. Trying new places. And all in a rapid succession before I start work full time and me and Yoga start seeing one another just a little bit less.

This weekend, we’ve gone on dates galore. They have been exhilarating, fun, and we’ve learned so many new things about one another. 

(And okay, now my yoga personification will terminate as I move into a description of our weekend-long revisiting of our honeymoon.)

Friday

Harlem Shakes

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I had, as per usual, a fantastic time subbing Harlem Yoga Shakes on Friday. But what made it even more fantastic was the emphasis on Pride and Love that the upcoming weekend allowed for. Being in NYC during Pride, while not as happy, joyous and free as it would be if I were in San Francisco…is still pretty freaking happy, joyous and free. The playlist emphasized that sense of unabashed love that this holiday brings about. The icing on the cake, however, was the Poetry. Picking up a book of translated poems by Rumi from the little HYS boutique in the lobby, I read two poems by one of the best Lovers I’ve read.

Kirtan

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Honestly, my plans for after teaching were to go home, eat Chinese takeout with my mom and watch OITNB. But as my class ended, the Kirtan artists introduced themselves to me at the HYS lobby and as the incense, candles, blankets, altar and drums got set up in the room I taught in 15 minutes prior, I simply could not bring myself to leave; I felt viscerally compelled to stay. That night, I did not need Chinese takeout. I needed divine human connection of voices and of souls. I have had experiences in Kirtans where I haven’t been able to stop smiling even if I tried and this Kirtan, where we chanted Interfaith melodies and words (including to Yemayá, reminding me of my spiritual experiences in Cuba!), was certainly no exception. 

Saturday

Vinyasa

In what seemed like a few hours later, I was back on 125th Street for a full day at HYS. I began by opening up the studio at 9am and taught another Pride-themed class. I was reminded yet again of the transformative power of teaching and the ways in which it is a Practice in and of itself. After I left Nantucket I felt sad, but I am oh-so-aware that the one true remedy for sadness is to GTFO my head and into Service. 

Yoga, Sewing + Creativity

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After a quick lunch and walk around Harlem, I returned to HYS for Tara’s fantastic workshop. We began with an introduction of ourselves, why and when we started yoga, and our creative practices other than yoga. I was reminded that so many of us come to yoga after we have been Awakened by something else as well. For me, that something else (that constant in a sea of change) was – and is still – writing. In high school, I was part of the most nourishing writing group: Girls Write Now. Yoga is most certainly not the be-all and end-all for me; it, rather, nourishes all else that I do. At this workshop, we channeled the Second Chakra (the theme of the weekend and I suppose of my life lately) and the Goddess Saraswati of Creativity and Learning. Tara led us through a gorgeous Second Chakra-themed yoga sequence and deep, deep guided meditation. These practices infused me with the patience I later needed in order to learn how to use a sewing machine for the first time and create my own yoga mat back (which is still a WIP). 

Sunday

Lotus Live at the Rubin Museum

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Image via http://rolfgross.dreamhosters.com/Thanka-Web/Thanka-Web.htm and the Rubin Museum

It is no secret that Sheri and Ali are two of my fave teachers at Laughing Lotus. I did FLY Skool with Sheri as my first 50-hours of my 500-hour training and Ayurveda Skool with Ali as my most recent. Their energy combined is grounding, healing, but most of all, CREATIVE. It also felt like coming full-circle: during my 200-hour teacher training with Three Sisters Yoga, we took a very memorable field trip to Chelsea’s Rubin Museum of Asian Art, which frequently features exhibits on the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern traditions. The class itself channeled the Goddess Tara. After the class, we went on a guided tour of the exhibit and saw three different sculptural iterations of Tara, the Goddess of Compassion.

(There are more yoga + museum tours at the Rubin during this exhibit – check them out here

While I ended the weekend feeling a bit exhausted, I also closed it by feeling yogically fulfilled, temporarily satiating my ever-present desire to learn more.