The Importance Of Relationships

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Many years ago, during our graduation from UC Santa Barbara

 

I just got through visiting some of my favorite people in the world: my best friends from college, one of which just got engaged and is taking the leap of faith to open her own business in San Francisco! Woo hoo! Spending time with my friends from college always reminds me of the importance of relationships, because regardless of how much time has passed, I always feel close and connected with them. We always have things to talk about. I feel comfortable, and spending time with them feels natural. We understand each other’s personalities, nuances, neuroses, and we love one another more for them. All of my friends from college have strong personalities. We are all characters, and yet we all love and appreciate each other for that clear, strong personality. At one point in college we all lived in a house together, saw each other everyday, showered in the same shower, got ready in the same bathroom together before going out for the night, watched all of our favorite television shows together. It was great (except for times when the toilette paper ran out), and while I love having my own house, and my own space am I happier?

     In high school, I knew a couple girls who lived on a commune. Just two families, with a shared kitchen and living room. Each family had their own buildings for bedrooms and I thought this was an ideal. In college I would talk longingly about living on a commune someday with my “soulmate friends”.  Now, I don’t even live in the same town. Some of my “grown up” dreams include owning my own home someday; having a space to call my own. Isn’t this the American dream? As we make more money, we separate ourselves even more. Dorms become apartments. Apartments become homes. Homes become estates. As an individualistic society, have we forgotten about the importance of relationships? Are we not a social species, wired for human connection, wired to need to feel part of some social whole? I often walk around Costco on a Saturday and think “I hate people” as I look around weaving around an oblivious family who is moving at molasses speed, dodging the screaming child and employees pushing samples of some overly processed, finger food. But seriously, after spending a day with a group of friends, exchanging updates about our present life, talking about music, drinking wine, and trading info about common interests, I felt energized, renewed, part of the group of my favorite people in the world and proud to be included in that social circle.

In the Geography of Bliss, the author poses the argument that “about 70 percent of our happiness stems from our relationships, both quantity and quality, with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. During life’s difficult patches, camaraderie blunts our misery; during the good times, it boosts our happiness.

            So the greatest source of happiness is other people-and what does money do? It isolates us from other people. It enables us to build walls literal and figurative, around ourselves.”

Like it or not, our society appears to be heading in the direction towards further isolation where phone calls are replaced by texts, college class is replaced by online learning, and social circles are dictated by Facebook. We can’t let ourselves slip into this online, disengaged society. LOL doesn’t replace laughing until you cry. Posting a status update on Facebook does not give you the same release as venting to a friend, or sharing a special accomplishment with someone face to face, watching their excitement at learning of your accomplishments. We are hardwired to require human contact, social experiences, touch; we need to feel part of a group of people. We need to feel accepted, included, valued, and relationships are the only true way to meet these needs. Schedule in time for friends and loved ones. If 70% of our happiness truly does come from our relationships, I’d say that we greatly under prioritize social hour. Call a friend, meet up for drinks. Fit in social time any way you can. 

 

10 Things I’ve Learned About Love

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Finding Matt and falling in love has been the single most amazing thing that has happened in my 29 year-old life thus far. Having this relationship as the foundation for everything else to happen in my day to day life, has made me stronger. Every feat, challenge, or disappointment doesn’t seem so bad with the love and support that Matt gives me unconditionally. In the 8 and a half years that we’ve been together, would you believe that we’ve never gotten in a fight? It’s hard for me to believe sometimes too. Of course, I’ve had my moments where I am completely annoyed with something that he does, and I feel upset or resentful towards him, but when that happens we talk about it. We’ve never both been upset with the other at the same time. We’ve never shouted at one another, and I’ve never felt like I needed a break from him (besides the night before he proposed, but I blame his annoying behavior that night on the stress he was experiencing in anticipation of the proposal). Kahlil Gibran described love as a “quenchless thirst” and that’s how I feel about Matt. I can never get enough of him. He’s my best friend, my favorite person in the world. I respect him, I like him so much (as well as love him of course) and I’m so proud to be his partner in life. These are a few lessons I’ve learned about love along the way, and I hope to continue learning more as time goes on.

 

1. Love Begins Internally. The perfectly matched couple will F**** it up if they haven’t first addressed their own issues. Rumi said not to seek love, but rather to first address your internal barriers to love. You need to be deserve a true love before you can expect to find one. Insecurities, jealousy, personal voids will all push away the most supportive partner. You have to address your own issues and work on yourself before you can expect to nurture a relationship. This is probably why Alcoholics Anonymous suggests people don’t start relationships in the first year of sobriety. Matt was sober for 4 years before we met, and had already had that time to deal with his own issues. I had made my share of mistakes in relationships prior, and thankfully, learned from them. Of course, we weren’t perfect when we met, and I still continue to work on myself, but our major issues had been worked out for the most part.

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The Importance of Setting Intention

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I was in final savasana the other day at yoga, laying on the floor, legs and arms resting, palms up to receive, when the teacher discussed setting your goals for class. He explained that not everyone will have the same goal, and that our goals can change from class to class. Some people come to yoga to get in shape, some to relax, some to connect their mind and their body, some come to heal physically and/or emotionally. Of course, yoga will give you gifts that you may have never hoped for, but it is always good to have an intention, or a goal, and remember what that goal is so that you don’t get discouraged when comparing yourself with others. You may have a different goal than the person next to you.

Matt and I have also recently gotten into the show Scandal, for those of you who don’t know this show, it is basically about a group of lawyers, working for the main character (who is also a lawyer) Olivia Pope. They call themselves gladiators in suits, and “fix” problems that need fixing (mainly hired by politicians and other power players that reside in Washington. Olivia always asks her clients what their “end game” is, meaning, what are their goals. What is best-case scenario for the end result of their work together? What Olivia is really doing is setting an intention and a goal to shoot for.

This concept of goal and intention setting is so important for life as well. What is your end-game for your day, or your job, or your yoga class, or your conversation with your husband? Setting your intentions can be such a powerful step to take prior to entering into an experience, because it gives you something to aim for. This simple step of setting your intention/goal, can also prevent you from becoming side-tracked, or disappointed with the end results. For example, I recently competed in the Yoga Asana Regional Championship, and my goals while training were focused on my postures. My intention for the competition was to provide a graceful, strong demonstration of the postures that I could perform. It was to perform my postures to the best of my abilities. There was no strategizing to score points, or maximize my overall score. However, when I checked the results of the points, I found myself disappointed with my overall point score, and feeling discouraged as I compared myself to all the other amazing yogis’ points. Timeout. My postures were awesome, and I had left the competition feeling inspired, proud, and as if I had conquered something major. My “end-game”, my intentions and goals revolved around my postures, and I had reached my goal. Reminding myself of my original goal, helped to re-frame the entire experience for me, and reminded me of what a powerful tool intention-setting can be.

Remember this very simple concept before you begin something (even something as simple as a yoga class). Some days, my goal for yoga class is to really push myself, to conquer the monkey mind that tells me “I can’t do anymore”. Some days my goal for yoga class is to have compassion for myself because I am prone to believe that I have to do everything perfectly. I often put a lot of pressure on myself in life, a byproduct of which is pain and suffering, so some days, allowing myself to sit down and rest for a posture is my goal. Some days, when my life is crazy or I’ve had a particularly negative thought process for the day, my goal is simply to be in the moment, and to connect my body with my mind. The point is, that your goals can change, and simply by setting an intention prior to beginning, gives you a purpose.

The Yoga Regional Asana Championship!

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This Saturday was the Yoga Regional Asana Championship for California, and it was my first year competing. I’ve only been practicing Bikram for a little over 2 years, and I’ve never watched a yoga competition before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was scared shitless. However, I reminded myself of a lesson I learned in yoga “if you feel uncomfortable in a posture, that’s good. It means you’re changing your body. Sharp pain means back off”. Discomfort in a posture is often a sign of stretching or strengthening. In life discomfort is often a sign that you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and growing. Competing was definitely out of my comfort zone. In yoga class, when I would demonstrate my routine, my heart would beat wildly and my entire body would shake from nervousness. It’s scary.

Two weeks before competition, the reality of it all hit me and I got scared. Then I got injured. I’ve written about this in recent blog posts. Then, I got over it and lived my life for the last week. The day before competition I was scared again, worried of falling out of postures, but when I arrived day of and met with all of the other competitors I felt relieved. Everyone is so nice, and gracious. Everyone is rooting for you to nail your postures. It doesn’t feel like a competition based on the attitudes and actions of the yogis. I think of it as one big celebration of yoga, everyone who takes part is demonstrating what they have been working towards for months/years. We all just want to do our best, not necessarily with the goal of doing better than the other yogi.

The entire experience is so inspiring. Every competitor was amazing. Every competitor was beautiful and graceful, and the event was a true celebration of yoga. There were 3 masters (55years +), 10 men, and 30 women in total. What’s amazing to think of is that I was one of these 30 women in the entire state of CA to be a competitor. That’s an honor. I returned home feeling like I had been part of the yoga community, like I had been part of something great. I feel inspired to see how much better I can get in another year, and inspired by all of the amazing yogis I was able to watch during the competition.

Also, I conquered my fear and I am stronger for it. I am more confident in my abilities to compete again next year. I am more confident in my abilities to perform those 7 postures, and I learned a lot about strategy. In Bikram yoga, we do 2 sets of each posture. I’ve heard it said that the first set is your diagnostic set. It’s like when you walk into a room and take measurements, get a feel for the lighting and the layout. The second set, is the set that you own. The second set in a posture is when you walk back into that room and you’re rearranging furniture, fluffing throw pillows and kicking your shoes off. That’s how I hope next year’s competition is. This year was the diagnostic experience. Next year, I’d like to rearrange furniture.

Don’t Take Things Personally

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In my last post I mentioned the injury that occurred while I was practicing my headstand. I went to the chiropractor and, thankfully, I’m better now, but the injury put me into my own head. It phased me. I thought to myself “why me” and “why now” so close to the yoga competition. I got into a place where I wasn’t in the moment for a few days after the injury and I felt this weight on my mood and my mind. Then I listened to a podcast where Oprah interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man credited for bringing mindfulness to America. He discusses the concepts of mindfulness, which he defines as “paying attention, in the present moment, on purpose, and non-judgmentally”. While I had the awareness part right, the piece I had been missing was the non-judgmental aspect of mindfulness. I had the awareness that I felt fear and anxiety about the competition, fear about my injury, and some resentment as well towards the injury. I knew I wasn’t living in the present moment, and so while I was experiencing these thoughts and feelings, I was also experiencing dismay by these thoughts and feelings. The dismay was caused by my judgment that these thoughts and feelings were bad, wrong, unwanted. Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists, and what you fight, you strengthen”. By fighting my feelings and emotions, I was actually making them stronger. Part of being in the present moment is accepting whatever is your reality at the time and one of the core components of mindfulness is that when you simply notice a negative thought or emotion, the thought/emotion will fall away naturally. I stopped resisting and moved to a place where I simply noticed negative thoughts and negative feelings. The thoughts/feelings fell away (seemingly magically).

The second component of the interview was Kabat-Zinn’s description of our tendency to “take things personally” (not just actions from other people, but also, with experiences). I often get this concept in social situations, however I had never thought about the concept of “not taking it personally” in life situations. For example, I was taking my injury personally asking myself “why me” and feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t personal. Shit happens. The better question is to ask “why not me”. Eckhart Tolle talks about how the situation is always neutral but that our thoughts and reactions to the situation are what make us deem the situation either good or bad. Accordingly, our emotions are affected by our thoughts on the situation. We cause ourselves so much more suffering by taking it personally.

If you find yourself stuck in a negative rut like the one I just described, where you realize that you are not living in the present moment. Stop. Take a few deep breaths and just observe. Let yourself stop judging or fighting whatever it is that you are thinking or feeling and just notice. Observe. Whatever you are feeling or thinking is okay. If you do this, you will truly be in the present moment, and I bet, you will begin to feel better, lighter, and freer.

Simple Pleasure-A Peaceful Morning

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On Labor Day the weather was beautiful. In the morning I opened the door to see what it felt like outside, only to discover that it was a perfect morning. Have you ever noticed how special morning is? There’s something wonderfully still and quiet about this time of day. The light is prettier, the earth is quieter and stiller (especially on a weekend morning) and your mind is fresh, still warming up after the night’s hibernation. There was something about this particular morning that gave me the urge to go outside. I filled up my cup of coffee and walked down to Lover’s Point (a point on the Pacific Grove, Ca coast). I sat there, on the wall with my coffee and just enjoyed the sound of the ocean, the solitude, and the stillness of this time of day. I felt a calm come over me. I watched the ocean ebb and flow along the sand and it was definitely a simple pleasure.

Simple Pleasure-Farmers Markets

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The farmer’s market is something that I look forward to every week. It has not only become a simple pleasure, but also a necessity for me; something that I rely on for procuring my weekly fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers. When you are gluten free and vegetarian, vegetables are a necessity! Reading “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan was the catalyst that began my diet transformation. In this book, he argues that how we eat determines, not only our health, but also how we want the world to be. The typical American eats at least 3 times/day and is therefore spending money on food at least 3 times per day, per person, on average. How we buy our food matters and the fact that we spend money on food daily gives us an enormous amount of power in determining how we want our food produced. The increase of gluten free options and organic selections are evidence that consumers have power to change the system and selection of food available. Michael Pollan explains that every dollar we spend as consumers counts a a vote for how we want the world to be. The more we spend money on organic produce, the more the industry will put into producing food organically. Simple supply and demand. The more we support local, organic farmers, the more likely these farmers are to stay in business. What we spend our money on matters!

Michael Pollan also argues that transparency is crucial in transforming the food industry. In a standard supermarket, the farmer is left out of the interaction, and thus transparency is impossible. Accountability is also much less likely to be present in the interaction between you and the corporate grocery store. However, when you take the middle man out and have a real face-to-face interaction with the farmer who grew the produce you’re buying, you can ask questions like “do you use pesticides on your produce” “how do I cook this squash”, “how do I know when a peach is ripe” “what is this odd looking edible plant” (because you will surely see produce at a farmer’s market that you’ve never seen in a grocery store before. You are able to give your money directly to the person/farm that grew your produce and they are able to put a face to their customers, increasing the farmer’s sense of accountability. At a farmers market, suddenly, food gets personal. It becomes an aesthetic, sensory, personal experience. You are able to smell the produce, speak to, and ask questions of the farmers, listen to the local blue grass band that plays live during the market, and give your money to the person who actually grows your produce. It’s romantic, idealistic, and reconnects you with the process of buying food for you and your family. This process is something that our culture has become disconnected with.

Matt and I have built relationships with some of the farmers. We have our favorite stands/farms and often, vendors will remember if we’ve missed the week before. We have learned how to cook new produce like acorn squash and how to tell if a peach is ripe thanks to the farmers sharing their knowledge with us. Also, it’s just a great place to get kick-ass deals! We can buy organic produce for half of what it would cost us at Whole Foods and have a good time while doing it. The produce is local, and therefore seasonal, picked when at its peak, and very high-quality. I couldn’t imagine buying my flowers anywhere else, and I feel good knowing that I am spending my money supporting a philosophy that I believe in! Often the markets will include ready-made food stands from local restaurants, or coffee. I love to get a bag of kettle corn for dessert or a cup of coffee at the morning markets.

Life is a process, so you may as well enjoy every part you can. My simple pleasure for the week is the farmers market because it allows me to get great deals, make my dollar stand for something that I believe in, and enjoy the process of buying fruit, herbs, veggies and flowers for the week.

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Simple Pleasure-Loving Where You Live

Pacific Grove, Ca

Pacific Grove, Ca

Matt and I met in Santa Barbara, Ca when I was in college and he was in a band. After I graduated and Matt left his band, we moved to Santa Cruz, Ca (my hometown), however when we visited the Monterey Peninsula, we really fell in love with the area. We both felt connected, in some way, to the area and drove the 45 minutes almost every weekend to spend a day there. The more we discovered about the area, the more we loved it, and we felt like we had finally found a town/place that we loved in a similar way to the way we loved each other. It was unconditional, always growing, and felt natural. I’ve read a quote by Oprah where she described the way she felt when she first visited Chicago. She said she felt like she had gown roots and maybe that’s what happened to Matt and I when we visited Carmel and Pacific Grove. We finally moved to Pacific Grove, Ca in August almost one year ago and I feel like we continue to build our community here. It’s wonderful to walk half a block and have the view pictured above.

In “The Geography Of Bliss”, Eric Weiner explains that “The late British-born philosopher Alan Watts, in one of his wonderful lectures on eastern philosophy, used this analogy: “If I draw a circle, most people, when asked what I have drawn, will say I have drawn a circle or a disc, or a ball. Very few people will say I’ve drawn a hole in the wall, because most people think of the inside first, rather than thinking of the outside. But actually these two sides go together–you cannot have what is ‘in here’ unless you have what is out there.’ ”
In other words, where we are is vital to who we are.” 

Where we are is vital to who we are. We can not separate ourselves from where we live and we are constantly interconnected with our environment exchanging, simultaneously, information and energy. Matt and I found that we are slightly different people, living here, in a place that we love. We reach out to others, we are friendlier, happier. We feel motivated to build a social community around ourselves rather than isolate from the rest of the world. We feel comfortable, natural, like we belong, like we have grown roots. When you find the right person to spend your life with, you can be happy doing nothing with that person. That is the way we feel about the Monterey Peninsula. We are happy doing nothing here. I mean we are happy doing something as well but we don’t NEED to have something specific to do. It is a full day just to go for a walk with Matt along the beach or go out for coffee, or window shop in Carmel. Of course, just like specific people fit or don’t fit, specific places resonate with specific people. Not everyone would love this area like we do, but what is important is to find the right place for you. It is possible to have a soul-mate home. Eric Weiner says that the easiest way to determine where your true home is, is to ask yourself where you want to die. Matt has always said “I could die here” when we visit Carmel, and so I feel like that may be our true home, the place where we will raise children, and build a home, a life. But to end this point, my simple pleasure of the week is that I love where I live!

 

Simple Pleasure- Fresh Flowers!

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From top left clockwise: A single stem placed on our kitchen table, star gazer lilies left on a long stem low and next to our fireplace, on our coffee table in a drinking glass used as a vase

So, I’m thinking that this topic will be a weekly post: whatever is my main simple pleasure for the week ( could be a song, food product, experience, etc). This week I wanted to post about fresh flowers in the home. You can buy flowers really inexpensively at the farmer’s market. I paid $3 and $4 for the bunches featured in this picture and they usually last about 2 weeks. I love fresh flowers and you can separate the stems into single glasses ( I love using stemless wine glasses for displaying a single stem) and place them around your house (on your kitchen table, coffee table, bathroom counter, nightstand, etc.) In The Botany of Desire” Michael Pollan explains how our love of flowers shows how beauty plays an important role in our lives (I mean the tulip was responsible for the crash of the Dutch economic market). This book was also made into a documentary which I found fascinating and it’s available on Netflix instant play. I also feel like fresh flowers just add that special touch to a home and show that someone has taken the time to display something that serves no other purpose but to add beauty, and make a home feel more loved. Flowers= simple, beautiful, cheap, and my simple pleasure for the week : )