Exploring Cultures of Rest: Aperitivo

Series Description: This new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. 

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As far as people go, I’m fairly low-maintenance. Scratch that; I would more readily refer to myself as middle-maintenance. But high-maintenance? I’m often too independent to a fault for that. That said, the one thing I get fairly high-maintenance about is being brought drinks. This refers to all sorts of drinks: coffee, tea, wine, beer, seltzer, you name it. I took a 5 Love Languages (Dr. Chapman) quiz about a year ago and one of the five – one I deeply appreciate – is “Acts of Service.”

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

When I am brought a beverage, either in the morning or before dinner time (especially by a lover), I feel overwhelmed with a sense of deep ease. The ritual of coffee tells me that the day is beginning and there’s goodness to come, and the ritual of sitting down with a glass of wine or seltzer with some grapefruit juice squeezed in tells me that the day is over and there’s not much more I have to do except relax. That feeling – especially after a busy day – is a truly amazing one. The fact that it’s before dinner and the only expectation is to sit around and watch the sunset is and feels beautiful. That is aperitivo, the culture of rest we’re exploring today.

This article from HuffPo explains it phenomenally.

Aperitivo originates from the Latin verb aperire which means ‘to open’; the idea being that the drink opens (or stimulates) your appetite.

I have loved resting into the aperitivo ritual while in Tuscany. At 7:45pm every evening, we all pour ourselves a drink – alcoholic or non-alcoholic (it REALLY doesn’t matter!), sit around the sunset and enjoy one another’s company. It’s a daily ritual for slowing down nested into another ritual (dinner), which I so appreciate.

So pour yourself a drink, or demand that your partner does as an act of service. Lean back in a chair. And rest.

Exploring Cultures of Rest: Riposo

Series DescriptionThis new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 1.34.26 PM.png

 

 

 

A riposo, like a siesta, is Italy’s midday nap. I witnessed how it affects society yesterday while in Pienza, a lovely medieval Tuscan town. When we arrived at 2pm, most clothing stores had signs that said they were closed until 3:30. They were closed because, like in many areas around the world – especially regions that get very hot in the middle of the day (yesterday it was over 100 degrees by that time), businesses shut down so that the body can carry out its natural rhythm of sleeping through the hottest parts of the day.

riposo is usually taken after lunch as a way of digesting what for many is the main meal of the day. Waking up from a riposo feels luxurious and rejuvenating. It also just makes sense in my body and it allows for the day to be and feel expansive – almos to feel as if there are two days in one. So what are you waiting for? (You certainly don’t have to be in Italia to take one.) Eat a delicious and nourishing lunch. Find a place to lie down. Close your eyes. Rest.

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.

The Art of Doing Nothing

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The Art of Doing Nothing

The Art of Doing Nothing

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writing from venice, italy

Being a tourist in Italy feels a tad ironic sometimes. Here we are, running around cities like Rome, Florence and Venice, crossing monuments off a checklist and seeing it all. We wake up early and then are on the move, pausing for coffee, wine and yoga (I know, my kind of trip!). The irony lies in the fact that we’re in Italy, a place where local people sit in piazzas for hours, doing absolutely nothing.

The other day, we went on a Walkabout Florence tour of Siena, the Tuscan wine country and Pisa. At our four-course meal at an organic farm, we talked to a lovely woman who writes her own travel blog and was traveling here from Mumbai. As travelers meeting upon circumstance tend to do, we discussed what we loved about this culture we were exploring firsthand for the first time.

“The Italians have truly mastered the Art of Doing Nothing,” our friend from Mumbai said.

Through yoga, I have learned about the Art of Doing Nothing. Yoga, an artistic and creative practice in itself that focuses on the process rather than the end goal…the journey rather than the destination, is a form of this art. Yet I find myself, especially when I think of my life in New York and when I was at school, continuously asking myself How??? How can people just do nothing? How can we cultivate the beauty of not being busy like the awesome-looking enjoying-life people do?

During my time in Italy, I have observed some answers to that stressed-out question:

  1. Seek out and appreciate beauty. The world is a beautiful place and all of it can be hOMe. That said, it is easy to forget the beauty of our surroundings when also in the midst of chaos and the overshadowing ugliness of pollution and destruction. That is why beauty has to be sought and found, even if we find it by stumbling upon it. See a beautiful willow tree? Pause and look up. Spot a statue that seems otherworldly? Go up to it and look closer. Go to the Peggy Guggenheim museum and see a bunch of Italian five-year-olds on a field trip? Smile and say “Bonjourno!”
  2. Sit down and become an observer. There is a Sanskrit word called mauna, which means, essentially “vow of silence.” Being an observer requires a bit of a mauna practice. Sometimes we exhale so much we forget to breathe in. We find time and space to inhale by simply Being and watching the world take shape around us and it is in that practice that we can…
  3. See smallness in the midst of grandeur. The world is not only beautiful; it is huge. Yes, we all have a vital role to play in it, but when we think we are at its center, we get stressed out. Instead, practice being one of many. Go to a market (and not a crowded supermarket; a specialty market!) and lose yourself in the crowd only to find a more peaceful version of you later.
  4. Find a public space. This last step is vital to the facilitation of Doing Nothing. Public spaces allow us to simply Be without consuming. They are the vantage points from which we can be observers and see our smallness. From public spaces – such as community gardens and the piazzas and fountains that are in abundance here, beauty can be sought out and appreciated.

Now, tell me: How will you practice the Art of Doing Nothing today? Comment, please!

Bonjourno! Check out the rest of my experience at this studio on GrowingUpOnOM.wordpress.com!

It’s Yoga Firenze

Bonjourno from Italy where I managed to find Ashtanga yoga in the middle of Florence!

Traveling takes a lot out of people. While I had been doing my own Ashtanga-Vinyasa practice for the days previous to finding this sheer haven, being told what to do and simply falling onto the mat was incredibly comforting. This experience was the perfect combination of when I found yoga in Buenos Aires, Argentina (the linguistic component) and when I found yoga in Bloomington, Indiana (the Ashtanga while in an unfamiliar place component).

It’s Yoga Firenze is the perfect metaphor for Florence as a city. A studio which specializes in the styles of Ashtanga and Rocket Yoga, it merges the traditional and keeps it untouched with the ways it has been modernized and transformed (yes, I’m saying that Ashtanga is similar to Michelangelo’s David and these ancient piazzas I find myself surrounded by). Like Florence, the studio is small and manageable yet bustling and loving. Like Florence, the classes are gorgeously bilingual – or trilingual if you include Sanskrit. For example, the first Sun Salutation A was taught in Italian while the second was taught in English. Walking around Florence – a student city – I hear English just as much as I hear Italian. And, like Florence, the studio is abundantly relaxed, but also serious (my kind of pace!). I rushed along the Arno River to arrive at It’s Yoga five minutes before the class began. I heard rumors that in Europe, all studios were membership only so I arrived, panicked and in desperate need of some yoga, to It’s Yoga’s lax front desk, was greeted by the loveliest teacher who essentially told me to calm down and it was all going to be okay (in the midst of travel chaos I actually believed her), and handed over 15 euros for a phenomenal Modified Primary Series class. When she told me to come back the following day for Rocket 3 (their most advanced option), I made sure I was there again, the following day, at 6pm, and was greeted just as warmly. I left with sore arms, well-used legs, a much-needed break in the nonstop travel and a reminder of what yoga (and Florence) are for: providing the space to simply Be while moving, to get lost in the breath, and to practice the art of stilling the mind.