Seva for Millennials

Seva is a Sanskrit term that means “service.” We are in a political time when we need full-on and present engagement in service. We need to be and stay woke. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, we need to practice self-care in ways that serve others. For the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the latter part of that mission statement: serve others. What are some efficient ways to serve others, mobilize fellow 20-somethings, and contribute in effective ways while still holding down the one, two, or three jobs that most millennials have (plus, you know, grad school, yoga, and other hobbies)?

Call your representatives!

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My roommate got me hooked on 5calls.org, which makes it extremely easy and user-friendly to make targeted phone calls and to log your engagement. This website runs the gamut of sociopolitical issues from legislation regarding climate change to education to immigration.

Volunteer for one organization.

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In an effort not to spread yourself too thin to the point where you quit everything, choose just one organization that is involved in a cause you’re passionate about. Maybe that’s Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or a local tutoring program. Find out where they need volunteers the most, take out your planner or log onto GoogleCal, and schedule it in. Time is change-making currency, baby! (Pun intended.)

Donate when you can’t protest!

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Recently, I made a rule for myself: for every mass protest I don’t show up for, I will donate to an organization that does the kind of work that protest is fighting for. Two weeks ago, I was unable to show up to airports to protest the ban. As I shared my guilt with my friend on the subway back from yoga, I took out my phone and donated to the ACLU. It took me less than two minutes. I am not saying that donating is the same as protesting! I am also not saying that we shouldn’t do both if we can! But, there are so many ways to be involved and engaged, and to make a contribution. Time and money are both forms of currency. I am going to try to use one when I cannot use the other.

Practice positive reinforcement: write thank-you notes.

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This is my third year of teaching elementary school. In elementary school (and many of the classes I take in graduate school as well), we talk a lot about the idea of positive reinforcement. The psychology blog Very Well defines this age-old field-tested concept,

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.

Thank the people who are doing good work. Thank them genuinely – because you really appreciate what they’re doing – but also thank them because you want to encourage them to continue doing the good work that they’re doing. Finally (as if you need more reasons to intentionally say “thank you”), it shifts everyone’s mind to the positive, which is so important…especially if you’re making a lot of phone calls or going to a lot of protests to get legislation changed. My roommate is writing thank-you letters to her representatives that stick out to her as speaking out against the administration in productive ways. I wrote an email to my principal thanking her for broadcasting immigration stories on the announcements. The possibilities are varied, and bottom line: taking this action is refueling!

Which one of these are you going to do today? Let’s get to work!

One Hundred Gratitudes

Happy Thanksgiving, all! I am sitting at my mother’s dining room table as I write this, awake before everyone else so that I can listen to Christmas carols and get a good cup of joe in before the Laughing Lotus Thanksgiving special (no, that’s not a TV show, it’s an incredibly sold-out yoga class with their founder, DTF). The theme over there at Lotus, at Harlem Yoga Studio where I teach, and on the Third Grade at the prep school I teach at, is gratitude. When I was teaching Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) to my young ones this week, I had them make gratitude lists in their Health Notebooks (this is making me realize we all should really have health notebooks). Anyways, when I taught them about the gratitude list practice, I told them that it is helpful, when generating ideas for what we are thankful for, to make it a combination of silly and serious (i.e. I am grateful both for the dress I got at Anthro this week and for my family; one is clearly more serious than the other). Without further ado, here are my 100 gratitudes this Thanksgiving. So grateful for a forum with which to share them out.

I am thankful for…

  1. a few days off to focus on gratitude, slow down, and decompress,
  2. having strategies for stress-relief built into my life,
  3. my job as a teacher of little kids, being able to see growth,
  4. my job as a yoga teacher, being able to see growth in adults who maybe thought they were done growing,
  5. the Union Square Holiday Market,
  6. the makeup case my sister got me for my birthday that says, “I AM FUELED BY A STRONG DESIRE TO SUCCEED AND WAY TOO MUCH CAFFEINE.” #truedat,
  7. my dad who is a lifelong learner,
  8. my stepmom who continues to be a professional mentor for me,
  9. my mom whose generosity of spirit and heart never ceases to amaze me,
  10. my sister E who I’ve watched grow into a beautiful young woman and my best friend,
  11. my much younger sister E who never ceases to make me laugh and who I get to watch grow up,
  12. holiday music,
  13. the feeling of safety I get in all my homes,
  14. my move to West Harlem earlier this year,
  15. the turbulent year I had in Portland last year, which taught me so much,
  16. EB, the school I served at with AmeriCorps, which is a space that embodies my values (and we all need that!),
  17. Laughing Lotus,
  18. Harlem Yoga Studio,
  19. Metta Lovingkindness Meditation,
  20. a moral compass,
  21. pressing up into my first free-standing forearm stand post-injury,
  22. my healing team in Portland,
  23. dear friends in PDX that I get to see next weekend,
  24. the kiddos I have the privilege of teaching + who I learn so much from,
  25. texts that say “I love you!,”
  26. exclamation points, question marks, commas, parentheticals,
  27. enthusiasm,
  28. travel,
  29. the family I saw walking the streets of the upper east side this morning, talking about Harry Potter,
  30. friends’ families that have become like second families to me,
  31. holiday season,
  32. my alma mater – all I learned there + all the people I met,
  33. glitter,
  34. programs that emphasize spirituality in a very DIY way,
  35. Three Sisters Yoga, where I first learned how to teach,
  36. A + J, my Portland roommates + family,
  37. young adult literature,
  38. excitement for graduate school,
  39. the book Sweat Your Prayers and how I really want to read it,
  40. the new pants / leggings I bought at Athleta,
  41. my current roommates,
  42. coffeeshops,
  43. therapy,
  44. physical therapy + all I learned from it as a yoga teacher,
  45. subways,
  46. New York City,
  47. all the places I’ve traveled to,
  48. all the places I’ve yet to go,
  49. Pinterest,
  50. Tumblr,
  51. creative writing,
  52. museums,
  53. feminist theory,
  54. coconut water,
  55. kombucha,
  56. Jivamuktea spicy tempeh,
  57. my dining room table,
  58. beautiful clothes,
  59. the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,
  60. people who honestly work on making themselves more connected to the world around them,
  61. the holiday season,
  62. gratitude email groups,
  63. lesson planning,
  64. parents who teach their kids about philanthropy + important causes,
  65. good graphic design,
  66. various articles + magazines,
  67. knowing what I need to relax,
  68. sleeping in,
  69. big plush comforters,
  70. a comfortable bed,
  71. spotify + yoga class playlists,
  72. all the yoga students I’ve ever had,
  73. all the yoga teachers I’ve ever had, including
  74. Alanna Kaivalya,
  75. Sheri Celantano,
  76. Keith Borden, and
  77. Jasmine Tarkeshi,
  78. digging my teeth into a good book to read,
  79. blogs + bloggers,
  80. a desire to go out to a cafe to continue working on this list,
  81. traditions,
  82. OM,
  83. the chakra system,
  84. people who are working a Recovery,
  85. indie Christmas music,
  86. West Harlem,
  87. Union Square,
  88. studentship, and how that is always part of embracing the path of the teacher,
  89. e-courses,
  90. feminism,
  91. BITCH magazine,
  92. BUST magazine,
  93. my legs!,
  94. movement practices,
  95. Lotus Flow,
  96. Ashtanga,
  97. a clear blue sky,
  98. Central Park,
  99. readers of this blog,
  100. this day, may I use it well in love + service!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

July Link Love

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view from the hawthorne bridge while exploring portland for these last few weeks of living here…what july has been about!

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.

The caption to the above photo pretty much details what July was about for me: living and loving in Portland for a few more weeks, and soaking it all up (plus, I had out of town visitors in the form of elementary school and college friends to make sure that happened!). Here are some of the truly amazing articles I read this month.

Teaching With a Mountain View provides suggestions for preparing for the new school year (Eep! I can’t believe it’s coming up so soon!).

I recently visited Nourish NW, a beautiful holistic nutrition institution in Portland, and fell head over heels in love with their approach to nutrition and celebrating the Abundance that is food.

HerCampus reveals the 7 types of people you become after college.

I am so sad I am just finding out now about Mikdash, an intentional Jewish social justice community in Portland. Meh! Makin’ me want to stay. Thank goodness for Romemu.

Gala Darling answers 10 questions about life, rapid-fire. In her “Whatever Forever” blog post, Gala Darling writes on why to not “play it cool” on the interwebz. I shared my favorite quote about it on my Tumblr.

I am trying like heck to scheme my vacation time to be able to attend the Penning in Paris 2016 retreat with Kimberly Wilson! #dreamingsohard #makeithappenuniverse

Glamour suggests some easy summer work outfits.

Macy Gray wrote a love song to her vibrator.

David Brooks from the New York Times writes about the (economic) structure of gratitude. Interesting read not to be taken at first value. Also from the Times, Jennifer Weiner exposes her daughter’s desperate texts from camp (my mom sent that one to me because, well, it rang true for this New Yorker). And finally (on a very different note), the Times magazine necessarily details what happens when people leave prison, and what options are available to them for moving forward.

During the last month of my AmeriCorps service, OPB came to my school to film the amazing class of 2025 that make me tear up with gratitude daily.

According to The Chalkboard, this is what what happens when yoga, therapy, and, yes, bootcamp, have babies.

This essay on what it means to go through a gender transition in an ashram, and so much more, from a fellow yoga teacher and former colleague, made my heart swoon and ooze. A must read.

Meet 2 millennials helping to educate girls around the world! Oh, hay, She’s the First, nice to see you on the Today Show!

This news of people stabbed at the Israeli gay pride parade is just too heartbreaking for words. And beyond, beyond, beyond unacceptable. Let freedom reign…everywhere. Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.

A teacher of mine, Francesca Bove, shares a totally gorgeous article on SONIMA about how the sequence of a yoga class affects your body, by brilliantly providing readers with an analogy that links sequencing to how we move through our days in the most optimal ways possible!

If you were to close your eyes and visualize an ideal day in your life—a day that combined work and play, effort and grace—what would it look like? In the yogic tradition we think of an ideal day as one that is all about fulfilling our dharma, or lawful duty. When one finds his or her dharma, work does indeed begin to feel like play. Work and play intertwine and unite, and balance becomes progressively easier to create. A well-sequenced yoga class is just like that: the quintessential analogue of a day well lived.

An elementary school friend of mine made it big in the poetry scene when we were in high school…and she keeps going!

Women’s Running Magazine had a “plus-size model” on the cover. Progress, but we still need more of it!

Alexandra Franzen provides advice for the predicament of how to charge for something usually done for free. Helpful for me as I start to teach yoga privates!

written from starbucks on hawthorne

The Holistic 20-Something on a Budget’s Winter Gift Guide

My junior year of college my friends and I created a tradition: order in Indian food and watch Love Actually the week before Christmas. Luckily, I am living with one of my friends from college and we are continuing the tradition across the country.

So there’s that and…I freaking love Christmas. And I refuse to miss out on any of the joy just because I have a broken leg. Which leaves me a lot of time to check my email, peruse other blogs and go cray cray on Pinterest. Because of this, I have been researching holiday gift guides like it’s my day job.

Here are some great ones:

Well & Good

YogaDork

Be You Media Group Books for Writers

MY OWN COMPILATION

However, some of the gifts in these guides I adore are on the expensive side. My list is a compilation of the cheapest gifts in those guides, combined with my own finds and personal preferences/ideas. I’m doing the budgeting work for you. Now, enjoy the holiday merriment with these Spotify playlists as you shop.

And without further adieu, here is my holiday gift guide for the holistic 20-something on a budget!

Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living

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I would be remiss if I did not include my own e-book on this guide, but for real: the holidays are coming up real soon and this book is an inexpensive buy that gives immediate delivery. And that’s only one aspect of the practicality of it. My ex’s mom bought this book two years ago for her daughter for Christmas (I know, the relationships in that sentence are complicated), printed it out, and had it bound. All in one day. Remember that no matter how much you pay, there is nothing cheap about giving the gift of yoga!

Holiday Princess by Meg Cabot

I essentially swear by everything Meg Cabot writes. And this is a gem of a book filled with humor that describes what to do and when to go through the holiday season feeling like a princess rather than burnt out. Read a really helpful excerpt here.

Agent Cali Yoga Tank

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Fellow yoga teacher Maxine Kozler Koven’s awesome teenage stepson founded Agent Cali, a brand debuting their yoga tanks! You can even pick out the gift based on the recipient’s favorite pose!

Gratitude Journal

Create or buy a small journal (and even decorate it!). Provide instructions for how to use it and use the first page to tell the person how grateful you are for them!

Goddess Cards

These cards, gifted to me at the end of a yoga teacher training, have been a major game changer for my practice and my life. Plus, they make the best gift to wrap because they’re already pretty and come in a box and won’t cost more than $20. Here’s my favorite type.

Candles

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Candles are simple, inexpensive, can be DIY or purchased, and ignite spiritual fire.

Glitter

image via pinterest via laughing lotus nyc glitter bar

image via pinterest via laughing lotus nyc glitter bar

Buy an assortment of glitter – maybe even body glitter. The holidays are a great time to shine!

Yoga Sequence

This year, I am making my mom a personalized yoga sequence for her Hanukkah gift. Because I know her well and know her practice well, I am – diagrams and all – creating a gift for her that suits her body and her yogic desires.

DIY Packet

This holiday gift requires a gift to Rite Aid. Pick up a beautiful bag, tissue paper, washi tape, stickers, construction paper and markers. This is for the creative person on your list!

Homemade Granola

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Use this formula to create delicious granola. Bake. Put in mason jar. Tie a ribbon or two around it. A great gift for coworkers!

Kind or Lara Bar Holiday Gift Packs

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I adore these two food companies and their products. Kind has holiday packaging with a do-good message and Lara has holiday flavors. I know that at least I would love to receive this for Christmas and I’d bet many others would too!

Yoga Class Gift Card

Buy a friend one yoga class. Just one. But that hour, as you’d know if you’ve taken a yoga class, can mean so much.

The Injury

I did not think I would blog about this. When I think of myself on the internet, versus myself in reality, I tend to reserve the internet for expressing the broad positives of my life, as they would apply to others. I am wary of narcissism while blogging, of thinking that my life ultimately applies to everyone else’s. I am also an intensely private person…which is odd at times seeing as I am selectively private as well, sharing liberally about that which I deem can be public knowledge.

But enough jargon or preface. This post is about the decision I am making to share with you some private information.

Last Monday, I got hit by a car while biking home from the elementary school I am doing my AmeriCorps service at. I took a bike route I do not normally take and while I stayed in the bike lane the whole time, there was a dangerous intersection involved and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground in the middle of the street, police officers on one side, the fire department on the other and an ambulance pulling up within sight.

photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate

photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate

When I came to, I was a whole lot of emotions (as my sister and I say, all of the feels), but the sentiment that overwhelms me the most while going through a complicated trauma with an outcome that is challenging, but by far the best one possible is this:

I AM GRATEFUL.

I am grateful for years of chataranga. My recovery involves a lot of physical therapy. A lot of moving around on one leg on a walker and lifting my whole body up through isolating muscles. The doctors at the hospital assured me that I would’ve been there a whole lot longer had my arms – specifically my triceps – not been as strong. When I inform my physical and occupational therapists hat I am a yoga teacher, understanding dawns on their faces and I am grateful for the ways in which learning to move my able body has prepared me for these moments when my body is less able.

I am grateful for friends and housemates and the families we choose. This is an understatement. No matter how I write this gratitude, it will always be an understatement. I currently live with my best friend from college; we decided to move to Portland together to pursue our passions (me in education and her in architecture). She is my rock, my North Star, the person who reminds me of who I was the last four years, a touchstone for who I am now, in a new city, across the country, without the stability of a college identity and with all the adventure to forge an identity of my own. She is also my emergency contact and the person the police called as the paramedics wheeled me into the ambulance and shot me up with pain medicine. She was at the hospital before I arrived there, withstood the gore of my dislocated leg more than I did, and did not leave until our other housemate – another AmeriCorps member – arrived with a packed hospital bag and stayed the night. Both got less than three hours of sleep that night. Both were there the following morning as the surgical team prepped me for the operating room, holding each of my hands, as I braced myself (pun intended) to have a metal rod inserted inside my bone). When you live in a new city and the closest family is three hours away minimum, the families we choose become hOMe, the ones that are there for us in the most unconditional way possible. All these gratitudes lead me back to them, to you J and A. Thank you.

saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital

saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital

I am grateful for that packed hospital bag. Speaking of the amazing-ness of my housemates (my dad now prefaces their names with “Saint” every time I tell them a new act of kindness they perform), the hospital bag that A made for me included the following:

  • my spiritual gangster yoga top – In order to leave the hospital, I had to pass lots of “tests” for my physical and occupational therapists, to show that I could take care of my basic needs without putting weight on the injured leg. The first test was my “dressing test;” could I dress myself? A packed my Spiritual Gangster tank top, which made me feel at once sexy and strong. Putting that on after wearing a hospital gown for four days that made me feel anything but was nothing short of a sheer miracle. I felt the blood rush to my face again. I felt like myself. Empowered. Like I could do thisThis being recover from a traumatic incident, provide space and loving time and patience for my body to heal. It takes strength – it takes being a spiritual gangster – to ask for help, sometimes.
  • snacks – Not gonna lie, I was in a great Level One Trauma Center hospital where the food was actually delicious. But there is nothing like one’s own food…especially during a time when pain medicines are high and cravings are particular. She packed my favorites: Bear Naked granola protein packs. a NuGo Dark bar, roasted seaweed and much more goodness all in my Craft Coffee box from the subscription service’s last delivery, a good reminder of how much I love coffee during a time when the narcotics outweighed any desire for extra stimulants or depressants.
  • magazines
  • a book – Word to the wise: there is no better book to read while lying in a hospital bed than Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. First off, holding that book in my hands as I lay horizontal reminded me to say “yes, please” to the nurses repeatedly; when in pain, it can be all-too-easy to forget simple manners and positive etiquette, but never is there a more crucial time than when so many people team up on your behalf. I felt like myself when I was polite with my recovery team and like an unfamiliar person when my pain overshadowed my ability to be so. It also does not hurt to read a book by one of the best comedians and empowering feminists while lying in a hospital bed after surviving a trauma.

It was perfect.

I am also grateful for my family of originWhile my family I choose was there for me pre-op, my aunt and mother (from different sides of a divorced family, which, for some reason, makes my heart swell even more at the anesthetized memory) were there wiping my forehead and handing me water. They were there each time I woke up during a day of confused recurrent sleep. My mom was on the first flight out of New York City and my aunt started driving to PDX from Seattle at five in the morning.

I am grateful for nurses. I am also grateful for my surgical team, but it is easier to be grateful for the faces I saw often, the faces who comforted me and told me that everything was healing on the right timeline, the faces who had unbounded patience in the face of my impatience.

I am grateful for my job and life in Portland, for all the people I’ve met these short few months. Outside of my families of choice and origin, my supervisors were the first to visit me after surgery (literally the night after I was operated on). The amount of care and thoughtfulness and appreciation that my AmeriCorps service has offered me is truly amazing. I am beginning to think that they – my supervisors, my fellow AmeriCorps members, the parents and students I work with at the elementary school – are part of my families of choice as well.

I am grateful my broken leg and for my helmet. Thank you for breaking my fall. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for giving me the chance to heal fully. Thank you for protecting my back and neck. Thank you thank you thank you.

When it comes down to it, I know that injuries are great teachers. I know that I am lucky. Years ago, before yoga, before embracing a lifestyle rich with spirituality, I would have reacted by getting caught up in my own victimization. Instead, as the I woke up from the anesthesia and loved ones came in one by one, I cried out of gratitude for my life. I am sure that this recovery process will be long and challenging. So I wanted to write this post as a reminder when I am still in the thick of the drama of it. A reminder to myself and to all those who have helped and are helping, thank you.

5 Practical Ways to Express Gratitude this Thanksgiving

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Disclaimer: I am going to start this blog post off on a pessimistic note…but I PROMISE it’s about to get way more positive. 

Because of everything that has been going on in this country, celebrating a national holiday doesn’t feel so great on my heart. That said, a holiday where everyone simultaneously expresses what they are grateful for is pretty great. So, I will temporarily overcome my internal conflict to bring you this blog post on ways to express gratitude in tangible ways.

1. Start/join an email gratitude chain. For the past five years, I have been part of an email gratitude chain where daily, people share lists of what they are grateful for and email them out to the whole Google group. It is like being grateful oneself and multiplying it by ten, because reading what other people are grateful for and seeing their lives through the lens of gratitude is more than half the fun.

2. Write thank-you notes. I have this vivid memory of being five-years old and my mother kneeling down to talk to me to share two pieces of life wisdom: one, it’s not what you know it’s who you know and two, always, always write thank you notes. I am writing this from my aunt’s kitchen where I learned that even if you think people don’t pay attention of you write them a thank-you note or not, THEY DO.

3. Gratitude Journals. Last Monday, I had my students make their own very mini gratitude journals and presented it to them as a challenge to write three things they were grateful for until thanksgiving day and then they would share them. It gives them both the satisfaction of filling up an entire book and seeing it through from start to finish and learning the power of gratitude. I suggested they do their “three things” each night before they go to bed and I had one fourth-grade girl come up to me today to tell me that she finds it works best for her to do first thing in the morning. It kinda made my day.

4. Do/teach a gratitude yoga practice. Make a playlist by searching Spotify with words like “gratitude” and “thank you.” Choose a little nugget of a gratitude story to inspire the asanas and pranayama and…go for it!

5. Send thank-you texts to everyone you’ve ever lived with. Relationships between roommates are something fiercely precious. And hilarious. This morning, I woke up to texts from all my roommates from the past four years and am currently having Thanksgiving with my current ones. Share how grateful you are for them…with them…to get back in touch and start a conversation.