18 Feb

Khalsa Way in LA

Last month, I spent a week in LA studying prenatal yoga with Gurmukh. In recent years, I’ve made a practice of signing up for more intense yoga experiences in January, to re-ground myself in something that I know is vital to my own holistic health – the combination of full-time work and school, along with living in a place where Kundalini yoga isn’t as plentiful and convenient as in other cities I’ve called home, means its easier for me to “forget” to fill my own well. Like many of you, I see the new year as a good time to rebalance.

Golden Bridge Santa Monica

I’ve been wanting to write about my time there, but something has been holding me back. The nine days I spent in Los Angeles were truly transformative, and it was an incredible vacation for me – and my efforts to capture it perfectly on the page have kept me from writing anything at all.

I suppose one of the things I fear in writing about this publicly is that I think my idea of a good vacation is different from a lot of other people’s expectations. When I return from a trip, I tend to tell my friends and family all about it – fun, beautiful, challenging, strange, sad, annoying, exciting, hilarious… it’s all there. And it tends to catch me off guard when, later, these same friends and family will talk to me about that same trip, under the impression that I had a terrible time. That’s not generally the case. In fact, it’s the “bad” experiences that make travel worthwhile for me, probably as much as the “good” ones. For me, good travel involves seeing new parts of the world, and meeting challenges in a way that helps me see new parts of myself.

Spending the week in a sunny, spiritually alive, traffic-filled, sometimes-superficial city; staying with family who I love; building community with 30 female strangers (a third of whom were pregnant); being pushed to think critically about my own views on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, circumcision, vaccination, and what constitutes a healthy diet; rising at 5AM, wearing comfy clothes, and doing yoga every day – for me, these were all elements of a great vacation.

Santa Monica Pier 2

 

There were days when I felt angry and frustrated – both by the traffic, and by the content of our lectures. There were times when I felt inspired and truly loved. I made true, deep, fast friendships (and let’s be honest: there were people I didn’t like). I fell for the city of LA, and I can’t wait to get back. And I’m so grateful for the (too-little!) time I was able to spend with my family. Embracing that whole package is part of the experience. In fact, it is the experience.

This year, I chose this training because I felt a need to hold and nurture my feminine self. I knew that would be hard – healing and growth often are. And in the end, it was so worth it (healing and growth often are). Of course, I don’t know what the future holds, but I have a strong sense that my work as a therapist will focus on women and women’s issues, and spending this time in LA felt like a very important step toward that work. I came home refreshed and revitalized, and excited to share these teachings with women in all stages of life. I’m looking forward to what’s next on that path…

Khalsa Way 2014

14 Jun

San Jose

Wow.  This move is still a bit surreal.  I can’t say I ever pictured myself as a California girl.  For reasons that seem to require a long explanation, though, here I am.  And now that I’m here, well, I’m starting to get it.  I’ve moved into a sweet little neighborhood filled with cozy old houses, well-tended gardens, and dog lovers.  The weather is fine and the people are friendly.  And it feels like a very fresh start.

I promised my mom some photos, so…

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One of my neighbors has a very funky, all-cactus garden…

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…complete with notations on the names of plants…

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… and some not-so-native critters.

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Most of the gardens look more like this:

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(I haven’t seen any bears yet, but this lawn has some awesome grapevines.)

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There are palm trees, though not as many as you might expect.

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I know this is a pile of yard trash.  I am amused by the presence of two perfectly edible lemons in the heap.  I also found about 10 avocados on the sidewalk up the block, and if they hadn’t each been nibbled on by the neighborhood blackbirds, I would have taken them home with me.

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Bagel took his first trip on an airplane (by himself!), and he arrived without incident.  He’s a world traveler now.  (I can tell he wants me to keep those stickers on, because they make him look like a badass.)

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At this point, he’s pretty much settled in.

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10 Oct

Picker Uppers

A little over a week ago, something bad happened. And you know, I don’t really want to get into the details of it over here, but still, I felt like saying something.  Just to get it out, I guess.  It feels like kind of a big deal.  Not a someone’s-dying-of-cancer big deal or anything, it’s nothing like that.  It’s just… well, it was just something shitty.

So.  I did some things that I thought would make me feel better.  Like reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants in one sitting.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

And curling up to watch The Five-Year Engagement.

The Five-Year Engagement

 And taking a trip to Italy with some really awesome friends.

 

 

 

 

Man, did that movie  ever cheer me up!

;)

In all seriousness, if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, I can highly recommend all of the above for turning things around.  Painting in that countryside did sort of take it up another notch, though, if I’m being honest.  More to come…

 

07 Sep

Weekend Work

My writing today was prompted by this LifeHacker article.  If this piques your interest, I suggest checking it out for more science behind this topic.

What are you going to do this weekend?  Are you looking forward to it?  How do you think you’ll feel when it’s all over?

Okay, here’s another one for you:

Imagine your ideal vacation.  Where is it?  What are you doing (or not doing) while you’re there?  And how will you feel when you get back?

If you’re anything like me, the answers to these questions inevitably involve some combination of sleeping and drinking.  It’s vacation/the weekend!  I’m tired and stressed from a week at work.  I want to unwind, relax.  And while the goal is to feel rested and refreshed at the end, if I’m honest about sleeping in on Saturday and then following it up with a nice long nap, or spending a few days drinking margaritas on the beach, I’m probably not going to feel that peppy come Monday morning.

Do I learn?  Heck, no!  Next weekend, I’ll still be thinking about happy hour and vegging out in front of a movie.  And why is that?  Well,

… we are drawn—powerfully, magnetically—to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia. Active leisure is more enjoyable, but it almost always requires more initial effort-getting the bike out of the garage, driving to the museum, tuning the guitar, and so on. (via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work)

So, I still have my weaknesses – especially when I’m tired on Friday and haven’t planned for the weekend – but I guess I’m not alone.  I have gotten better with my vacations, though, and that’s actually a big part of what motivates my vision for Retreat Austin.  Several years ago, I began to recognize that my vacations were a lot more fun – and left me feeling truly rejuvenated – if I planned them around some kind of active learning.  All the better if they also included spending time with a group of like-minded people.  Now, I’ve never been an adventure-sports type, so surfing vacations and mountain-biking weekends were out.  But a writing retreat?  Well.  That hits the spot.

Need more encouragement?  Listen to this:

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours. (via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It)

Do something that makes you feel good this weekend.  Put down that beer, get off the couch, and get to “work”. :)

30 Apr

Notes on the Affordable Care Act (which have nothing to do with my trip to Europe)

For whatever reason, even without the May 1 holiday, I have been doing more mundane, home-life things here in Paris, like grocery shopping, sleeping in, and reading email.  I almost turned on the TV last night.  Maybe it’s the switch from pension to flat, maybe it’s just that my energy for the constant sight-seeing of travel is waning.  In any case, I took some time this morning to catch up on my Sandy Leeds reading, and his piece on the Affordable Care Act made me want to share.

Sandy was one of my favorite instructors at UT, and I read his blog because I think he does an excellent job of finding and summarizing the most relevant economic articles of the day, and making hard-to-digest concepts very palatable (ha, now you know I’m in Paris).  I also agree with his politics, which tend toward socially-liberal ideas supported by well-reasoned economic analysis (and a hearty frustration with partisanship).

I’m sharing the article for the same reasons I like Sandy’s writing in general – it’s an overview of what the Act entails, and a simple analysis of its pros and cons, along with thoughts that support my own frustration with the attitude about it in America (is the attitude still the same as it was a month ago?  I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit out of the loop, see my last few blog posts.)

Beyond the deplorable state of health care for the poor in this country, I also find this issue particularly important as an entrepreneur.  Take a moment to think of how many smart, capable people would make different choices about how they contribute in the world if they weren’t tied to their employers by a need for health insurance.

Pardon the interruption – this is neither a finance nor political blog – we will return to macarons and monuments tomorrow…

 

26 Apr

Granada – The Alhambra

I have not had much time for writing this week – my days in Barcelona are flying by!  I have a lot that I want to say about my time in Granada, but I think the pictures of the Alhambra can stand on their own without much commentary.

I went early on Saturday – the air was crisp and the sun was shining.  I am reading a novel that takes place in Spain, and at one point, the narrator travels to Granada and makes the comment that he’s the only American in history to visit the city and not see the Alhambra.  Point being, it’s what people do there.  Yes, it was crowded, but there were plenty of quiet corners where one could just take in the space and reflect.  Also – and this was by far my favorite part of seeing this site – water runs through every part of it.  Flowing down little channels on the sides of the streets, rushing from unexpected waterfalls, pouring out of constantly-running fountains, trickling down stairway banisters.

The first picture is one that I shot from the Albaicin the night before my visit; the rest are from the site itself.

 

 

 

 

View of the Albaicin

 

Charles V Palace

 

Alcazaba

 

 

 

Palacios Nazaries

 

 

 

 

Patio de los Leones – under renovation

 

This is a ceiling in the Palace.

 

 

Washington Irving wrote “Tales of the Alhambra” in this room.

 

 

More views of the Albaicin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alhambra view from my hostal