Feb 17, 2015

LGA to ORD: A Meditation on Happiness

One of the biggest challenges in coming back from India is trying to figure out how to hold on to the peace, the love and the light that I found within myself there. How do I maintain this in day-to-day life? How do I continue to find compassion for people when they are rude, inconsiderate and grating? Case in point.

I flew from LaGuardia airport this morning to Chicago's O'Hare. It was another snowy morning, so I expected delays, especially since it's LaGuardia, the bus stop of airports. As is common in the winter, especially in the snow, the plane needed to be de-iced. This, after boarding maybe 35 minutes late. In the grand scheme of things, not a huge deal. And I, for one, am a fan of de-icing the plane. It's this wonderful task that keeps us from not plummeting to our deaths from up in the sky, or from perhaps crashing during takeoff. (I'm not really sure at which point ice effs up your world on a plane, I just know that it does, and therefore, I'd prefer to not have any on my steel tube of flying magic.) Take as long as you need good de-icing sirs, please and thank you. 

We were further delayed because the runway needed to be salted. Again, another standard winter safety precaution to keep us from sliding into the icy East River instead of ascending safely into the morning sky. So, you too salt trucks, take as long as you need. 

Unfortunately, the family of four in the row behind me didn't feel the same way. They were angry that we were delayed, angry that they took time to de-ice the plane, angry that they were salting the runway. "But all of the Southwest planes have left! Why are we still here? This is ridiculous! This airline is terrible!" Followed by sighs, rants of agreement from his two daughters and his wife. The rants were accompanied by the daughter doing god knows what to my seat—playing patty cake perhaps—all before take off. 

I'm pretty sensitive to the energy around me. But pretty much anyone within a ten row radius of this overly aggravated man was likely affected by his vitriol. I could have easily mustered the New Jersey rage inside me and yelled, "Hey fucktard, would you rather your family plummet to their deaths because the plane was not properly de-iced? Were those 20 minutes so important to you that you'd throw safety to the wind?"

I didn't so that, obviously (or maybe not obviously if you've seen me on my bad days). But even thinking of saying those things is a huge disruption of my internal stillness. It's irritation, it's judgement and it's certainly a lack of compassion. So I ask again, how do I hold on to the light and the love I felt for everyone when I was in India? We asked that same question while we were still over there. How do we take what we are learning and how we are feeling back home with us; back home to the tri-state area of all places, land of rage, land of short tempers, land of ruthlessness? 

How do we love when it's easier to hate? How do we stay open when it's quieter, and at times certainly easier, to shut down? How do we find grace and patience when the world is constantly in your face?

I certainly do not have all the answers. So I try to breathe. I try to meditate. I try to remember that feeling of pure love that's deep down inside, that's always accessible if I can just tap into it. I practice. I stay connected to the people who inspire me and understand me and who can guide me—because we're all in this crazy ride together, airplane or otherwise. So let's just get there happily and in one peace, shall we?

Feb 15, 2015

India: Spanning the Human Emotions

During my two weeks in India on a journey of self-discovery, I felt like I must have gone through every possible emotion. Which got me wondering, if I did, in fact, go through the entire spectrum of human emotion. I asked a therapist friend if there was a standard list of human emotions, but she never answered. So, I did what anyone would do, I asked Google.  I found a few websites that listed the below as the rainbow of human emotions…therefore it must be true, right? Either way seems like a good place to start.

Here’s my [long] alphabetical journey through emotional highs, lows and everything in between from Mumbai to Udaipur to Vrindavan.

Acceptance: A lot of this trip (as I’ll mention throughout) was spent working through the loss of Grams and what death really means. There was a lot of searching. There still is a lot of searching. There may always be a lot of searching. But for a moment, in Vrindavan, I accepted what was.

Vrindavan was the last of our stops. They say that if you hug a tree there, whatever you wish for will come true. So after two weeks of praying, hoping and grieving for things surrounding Grams, I hugged a tree and wished more than anything that I could know if she’s okay. A voice inside me said, “You can never know that.” And in that moment, I knew deep down that this was the truth, I accepted it and was at peace with it.

Affection: This one was instant. As soon as I met my fellow travelers, I loved them. I met the first two ladies in JFK, and because of them, I had buddies to spend the night with in Dubai. By the third day of the trip, I felt like I had known these people forever. Each and every one of them will always hold a special place in my heart.

Aggression: Okay, so maybe I didn’t cover each of the emotions, but I think in this case, that’s a good thing.

Ambivalence: There were honestly a couple of times I could have gone either way on visiting another temple. But in the end, I was always happy with the excursions and all that they offered.

Apathy: There were one or two mornings when, exhausted from travel, I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to practice yoga or sit through satsang. Luckily, more often than not, this was not the case.

Anxiety: Right before I left for India, my boyfriend was reading an article about airlines that don’t meet FAA regulations, making them (obviously) airlines you’d want to avoid. Air India was at the top of the list. So flying from Mumbai to Udaipur on an Air India jet was not the most fun two hours for me.

Boredom:
Our long bus rides were pretty fun. We talked, we sang, we had satsang. But after several days of long bus rides, the long stretches could get a little boring. Much like apathy, luckily, more often than not, this was not the case.

Compassion: Compassion was another one of those feelings that pretty much was a constant throughout the trip. I felt compassion for any of the struggles anyone in our group was going through. I felt compassion for the poor children who begged us for rupies. I felt compassion for all of the puppies whose ribs were showing through their fur. I felt compassion for my sick roommate. I felt compassion for all of the children who don’t have enough to eat. When you’re practicing bhakti and putting others first, compassion is something that is just part of the territory.

Confusion: There was generally always some level of confusion. Where are we going? What did he say? What day is it? Is Vishnu eternal or not eternal? Where did I put my sunglasses? Can I drink that? Can I eat that? Is that really a bathroom?

Contempt:
Much like aggression, this isn’t something I came across in my two weeks in India.

Depression: I don’t take the word depression lightly. So, I’ll say there were moments of sadness. Wait, is sadness on the list? Nope, okay, so I can leave it here. I was definitely sad on the morning on January 30th, remembering that two years ago that day I watched Grams pass from this world. I was sad seeing my new friends cry as they opened their hearts to the group. But the saddest I was during the trip was when I had to say my goodbyes. These people became my family for two weeks and somehow, even though there was an end date, I didn’t feel like it would ever really end. I know that most of the people I’ll keep in touch with, so in that sense, it never will end. But disbanding our little traveling group of bhaktis was sad to see. 

Doubt: Looking back, there was more doubt than I realized. Part of me thought I would find God on this trip. Seeing how devoted people are to their deities, temples, traditions and beliefs was awe-inspiring. It made me wonder if I have that in me. Have I not found which version of God speaks to me, or will I not be able to find God? Do I believe in it, but just have a hard time giving it a name?

It’s said that Vrindavan, one of the holy cities in India, has to let you in. Being there, I wondered if I should I be. Was I worthy? Did I deserve to be there? Was this strange feeling I had in my chest the town trying to push me out?

I also doubted if I could ever be a could teacher; if I could memorize Sanskrit; if I could be as good of a friend to the people I met there as they were to me. But I think the thing about doubt is, if you can look at it head on, it makes you dig deeper, try harder and explore more.

Empathy:
Everyone I met had their own stories and their own struggles. I felt for each and every one of them.

Envy: This is not something I should have felt on the trip, and I don’t even know that I’d go so far as to say I felt envy, but there were moments when I wished I had been able to dress better like others, or had the grace of others, or had the skill of others. But the good thing, I think, is that all of those moments were constructive. Seeing qualities in others that I liked, made me want to be a better version of myself, be more dedicated to my practice, more patient, more well-rounded. Life is all about growing and learning, right?

Embarrassment:  I guess I really didn’t encounter this one either, but one instance that came close was when I used a shower as a bathroom on the side of the road because I thought it was just a really bad toilet system.

Ecstasy/Euphoria: It was our second day at Govardhan Eco Village. It was also the second anniversary of Grandma’s passing. I had dedicated the day to her.  The still-in-progress yoga room is nestled at the bottom of the mountains and is lined with windows, so I could watch the sun rise over the mountains during the morning practice.

As the sun began to rise, I was the most present I had been in a long time. I breathed in, taking in that I was in India and that, at the moment, all was right in my life. Grams had led me on this journey, to that place, and I was surrounded by nothing but good energy and love. And it became completely overwhelming. I likened to it the same feeling you get if you’ve ever taken ecstasy; that moment when you feel every cell in your body light up, come alive and become bathed in love and happiness. I looked at my surroundings, my new friends and I cried tears of absolute pure joy.

Forgiveness:
Part of the trip was learning to say you’re sorry when you should and to ask for forgiveness. So, more than me coming to any sort of epiphany on the trip about something I should forgive, I focused on my actions towards others. And took steps to apologize for things that I shouldn’t have done, or even impressions I may have given.

Frustration:
Sure there are things you can get frustrated about in India. But you have to learn to roll with it. I distinctly remember being frustrated on two occasions. I’m sure there were more, it is me, after all, but here are a couple. One was ending up in a department store in Mumbai trying to find clothes for the flower festival. Just leaving a few days on a farm and being planted in a busy city shopping in a department store playing American music was a quick way to kill the pilgrimage vibe. Especially after trying several things on and none of them fitting and local women cutting me in line for the fitting room. But my friends came to the rescue, found something my size and saved the day.

A second moment was at the end of the beautiful flower festival. The flower festival was unlike anything I have ever been to. It was filled with love, fun and the excitement of being a child playing in the fall leaves. Towards the end, though, I started to feel like I was at a rock show and was getting tossed around and pushed out of the way so that a few people could take pictures or snap a selfie. All that is fine, but there could have been a bit more “excuse me’s” and less pushing. But hey, things can get a little chaotic when you’re playing in several tons of flower petals.

Gratitude: Every moment of this trip was filled with gratitude. I was so grateful for the opportunity to take this trip that it spilled over into everything else. I was grateful for literally every one I met, from my fellow travelers to the Hare Krishnas to the children to the bus drivers. I was grateful for the food. I was grateful for hot water and drinking water. I was grateful for my friends back home who supported me and encouraged me to take the trip. I was grateful for the cows that carried us dinner. I was grateful for rooftop yoga, sunrises and moonrises. I’m grateful I got to see how happy Eryk was at the flower festival, that I got to hear Jo sing on the bus one last time, that I got to take a class led by Linda. Just…everything.

Grief:
I discovered mid-journey that I’m still very much dealing with the loss of Grams— that I’m still looking for her, for a way to connect with her. So there were some definitely moments of grief. We had a ceremony on Lake Pushkar in which I tried to reach out to her, with grief weighing heavy on my heart.

Guilt: As part of the “forgiveness” practice, I identified moments in which I could have maybe been a better friend, a better daughter, a better girlfriend. Those moments carry guilt with them, which is exactly why we seek forgiveness.

Hatred: Not an ounce of this existed in my world.

Hope: Two of the big question marks in my life are, where am I going to work and where am I going to live? Getting some 8,000 miles of distance allowed me to get a lot of clarity on where I see myself ending up. And with that clarity brought hope.
 
Horror:
Okay, this wasn’t horror, but it’s the closest on the list to “invasion of personal space.” In India, if you’re not Indian, you’re going to stand out. That we did. Everywhere we went people wanted to take pictures with us, which was strange, but mostly fine. We were, after all, taking pictures of them, so it seemed fair. But one day, a man asked to take a picture with me and at the last moment grabbed my waist, pulled me in close and pressed his cheek against mine for the photo. Aside from just generally being inappropriate, I’ve had issues with personal space in the past and this quickly brought that need for a protective bubble back. It lingered with me for a few days, which bothered me, and even made me feel a little na├»ve for not knowing better or saying no or waiting for someone else to be around. So going forward, I politely declined all requests for photos.

Hostility: Another big negative emotion that didn’t exist during my two weeks in India.

Homesickness: Going into the trip, one of my biggest fears was that I’d get there and feel homesick. I never did. I missed being able to use tap water or go to a bathroom and know that there would be toilet paper, but those were minor things that I quickly became used to and adjusted for.

Standard Indian lunch
Hunger: I didn’t realize hunger was an emotion. But this list says it is; so it shall be. I ate a lot in India. Like, a lot. I think it was part excitement, part the food being so amazing and part completely vegetarian diet leaving me wanting food every few hours. I was never hungry, but I always felt, “Hey, I could eat.”

Hysteria:
Probably the closest I came to hysteria was when I got to JFK to leave for the trip. I had been nervous about going to India for weeks. But there I was, leaving a day early to try to beat a blizzard, alone, about to embark on the biggest trip of my life and was pretty much freaking out. Plus I hate flying. And I really hate flying in bad weather. As I sat on a bench just past security watching the weather grow increasingly worse, I cried my eyes out trying to wrap my head around what I was about to embark on. It reminded me of the time my dad dropped me off at Girl Scouts and at the last minute I didn’t want to go, so I stood in the doorway crying my eyes out, yelling for him to come back and get me, but it was too late, he didn’t hear me and there I was stuck. So, there I was, stuck at JFK, trying to find the strength to collect myself and make myself get on that airplane. Thank you to my two angels Jen and Laura who, without, I’m not sure I could have gotten on that plane.

Interest:
This was constant. Being surrounded by so many new people, new settings, new colors, new smells, new sounds, new animals, new traffic patterns, new religions…how could you not spend even one moment being interested in what’s around you.

Loneliness:
I spent 16 days surrounded by people. My dad and my brother picked me up from the airport after the trip and brought me home. Boyfriend was away for work, which I thought would be a good opportunity for me to take a couple of days to decompress and process the trip. But when my dad shut my front door behind him and the quiet set in, I realized, for the first time in weeks, I was completely alone. And boy, did I not like it.

Love:
Just like interest, compassion, and gratitude, love is something that I was constantly feeling and always surrounded by. How many people can say that they’ve had that for even a few days—constant love and support? I was blessed enough to have it for 16 days.

Paranoia:
Who knows what kind of creatures live in India. My first few days were spent at the Eco Village. After our first night, Linda told a story about an encounter with a hissing creature of some sort that she had to free from her garbage can in the middle of the night. So there was always a question as to what would be waiting for us in our rooms. The last night there, I was awaken but a buzzing that came super close to my ear causing me to sit up in a panic thinking some sort of flying whatnot was about to try to eat my face. Turning on the light, I couldn’t see anything, so I thought maybe it was a dream and laid back down. But the buzzing came back. With the lights back on, I still didn’t see anything. So I laid down again. Then I thought maybe it was coming from outside. Then I remembered the movie “Brokedown Palace” and thought maybe the bug was in my ear. After confirming for myself I didn’t have a bug in my ear, I gave up and accepted that I was just awake now at 3 a.m. Eventually I saw the bug. It was a tiny gnat. Then I was just impressed that the tiny little guy could make so much noise.

Pity:
See compassion.

Pleasure: There were so many things on this trip that caused me pleasure, lots of big life-changing things and lots of little things. So let me share one of the smaller, non-living changing things. Towards the end of the trip after eating nothing but India food (which was delicious) for nearly two weeks, we had a chance to order Mexican, Italian, or American food. All that is just fine, but what gave me immense pleasure at that meal was the dessert. I had chocolate pie that night and it made me very, very, happy.

Pride: I had a moment of pride when after telling myself, “I WILL learn these Sanskrit versions,” I finally memorized two of them.

Rage:
Not on this trip. Though definitely on my Turks & Caicos trip.

Regret: Yet another negative emotion I didn’t really come across. Hooray for not having negative emotions!

Remorse:
I touched base with home when I could while I was away. One of the last days my boyfriend informed me that his boss put “No Parking” stickers on my windshield when he brought my car to work with him and that while he got the sticker off a lot of glue remained. I got off the phone, told the story to my lovely roommate and ended with, “Ugh I hate people.” To which she said, “Aw, come on now.” And she was right. I regretted letting the words escape my mouth, because it’s not true. It was a moment of frustration for something I’d have to deal with when I got home and nothing more.
 
Shame:
We were surrounded by so much love and support for two weeks, there wasn’t room for the type of behavior that would cause me to feel shame.

Suffering:
The only suffering I endured was at the airport in JFK. The self-imposed suffering for letting my mind run a muck. But so much suffering is caused by the mind, isn’t it?

Sympathy:
see compassion.


Jan 22, 2015

Today's Good, Bad and Uncouth

I'm leaving for India Tuesday and I'm fairly anxious about it. I've been fairly anxious about it for awhile. I'm also excited. But I'm a planner and there a lot of unknowns right now. Unknowns and long flights. Am I packing the right things, have I packed enough things, can I get a roll of toilet paper in my bag, will I need the Cipro the doctor gave me for "digestive issues" and also, will there even be toilets? Sorry, I like a toilet. I've experienced bathroom situations all over the world, so while I don't expect a toilet, it'd certainly be nice. 

Anyway, my point being, I've been a bit preoccupied and I'm leaving for India on Tuesday. I ran out to CVS today during work because I had the brainstorm of, "Hey, I should be granola bars to India!" They had a bulk pack, I had a $10 coupon...all-in-all, good trip to CVS. Then I strolled over to Rejuice-a-nation to get some soup. Soup and granola in hand, I walked back to the office. 

I get upstairs, put down my stuff, exclaim how happy I am about the free granola when I realize...my wallet is gone. Fuck. I take a moment and realize that I know I've been stressing and I'm probably just being a spaz and it's likely right in my hand. But it wasn't. It also wasn't in the CVS bag, the soup bag or my pockets, despite me checking them over and over. So I did what anyone would do. I yelled, "FUCK!" and ran outside to retrace my steps. 

I had only traveled two blocks, so I didn't have far to go. But there was nothing. Back in the juice shop they told me I hadn't left it there, but the owner awesomely offered to review the security footage and tell me what I did with it. Strangely (and here's where I need to start paying attention to my intuition), my mind was going a mile a minute trying to figure out how I could cancel all of my cards and get new cards by Monday since I am leaving the country for two weeks, but I didn't have that sense of panic in my chest. So I paused, took a breath, and thought, "Well maybe it is going to be ok. Maybe this is the universe telling me to just chill out and I will find it."

But as usual, the brain took over. After several minutes of waiting for the owner to come out, I left my number and proceeded to pace back and forth on the sidewalk. I even called the office to have THEM check the CVS bag in case I overlooked it. Sadly, no. The juice shop owner called and said I put it in my right pocket and then left. I checked my pocket again and then laughed at myself for doing so. I sighed and walked to the police station planning the order of my card-cancelling phone calls. I walked in, told the officer I lost my wallet and like a tiny miracle, he told me someone had just brought in a wallet and that it may be mine. 

And it was. I wanted to cry I was so happy. I wouldn't have to make frantic phone calls. I wouldn't have to cancel my appointment with my wonderful massage therapist. I wouldn't have to try to figure out how to access my money. The officer says to me, "I just have to verify your identity. I mean, it looks like you on your license. But you look A LOT younger in the picture."

I realized after he had left the window I had just been called old looking. Or at least not-as-young-as-your-license looking. Whatever. The other woman at the station also noticed his comment and then told me she was called a cunt earlier in the day when trying to park. Lovely.

But, my license was there and that was awesome. I didn't even care if my cash was gone. Well, I mean, I did CARE, but it was a minor point. But then, when I was handed back my wallet, it was 100% intact. I thanked the sky a hundred times on the walk back to the office. And thank YOU kind stranger who returned my wallet, didn't take anything and saved the day. 


Jan 5, 2015

The Things I Get Myself Into: A Tale from 30,000 Feet

This morning I was flying to San Francisco for work on a project. I woke up at 4:45 a.m., not from my alarm clock, but from nerves. I had to be out of the door by 5:30 a.m. anyway, but oh how anxious I get when I have to fly. I get to the airport, make it to my gate with twenty minutes to spare, pop a Xanax and get on the plane. 

The plan was to sleep for as much of the flight as possible to compensate for the long hours ahead with a nice layer of jet lag. I made it halfway. Despite my best efforts to go back to sleep, I was awake. "Ok," I thought, "let me dig into my email and see what I can start working on." 

I pull out my laptop and it's covered in...well, goo. Exhausted and sedated for the flight, I'm just utterly confused. But to be fair, if the same thing had occurred at home I'd be just as confused. I smell my hand, which is also covered in goo to find a teriyaki-ish, somewhat sour, something's-definitely-wrong-here kind of smell. That couldn't be good. 

Lucky for this particular situation, I had been sick for a small eternity so I had a lot tissues in my pocket. I began wiping down the laptop wondering what the hell was going on. Once I got the laptop all squared away, I stuck my hand in the computer pouch and encountered more goo. I try to find some sort of explanation. 

The bag had been sitting near the garbage for a week since I had been off. Maybe, somehow, some thai got dumped in it on the way to the garbage. Which would suck. Really, any answer here would suck, because there was some sort of rank goo in my bag. I clean up what I thought, well hoped, was all of it, but figured I'd best make sure. As I shoved my hand into the bottom of the computer pouch, I encountered a handful of the rancid smelling goo. What. The. Fuck. What was possibly going to be in my hand when I pulled it out. And then what? What am I supposed to do with this from an airplane, in a window seat, in the dark. (For whatever reason, not one person on this flight opened their window shade. So the entire flight was lit by some weird 90's pink neon lights, which I guess Virgin finds posh.) 

I grab the plastic case my tissues were in (you know those little travel plastic wrappers) and proceed to pull out a handful of awfulness to put in my tiny makeshift garbage bag. And that's when the goo revealed itself. A completely disintegrated banana. It must have been sitting there since the last time I worked, which was exactly a week ago, and the fruit was in questionable shape then.

I now have a travel tissue pack full of rancid banana and I'm still stuck in my seat because now the seatbelt light is on and some really decent turbulence is starting. Ah, but wait! My one quart bag! I dumped out all of my liquids containers into the middle section of the backpack, and put the mess in the quart bag and sealed it. (Clearly, not checking my bag was the correct choice this morning.) 

Now I have a quart bag full of rancid banana, a backpack that smells like week old garbage and sticky, smelly banana hands. Luckily a stewardess was walking by so I handed her the mess and was later able to get a plastic bag to wrap my computer in. Upon examination in the airport bathroom, I found had removed all the goo and only the smell remained. Small victory. The morning was redeemed, however, when I stopped to get a double double from In 'N Out burger on my way to the hotel. 

So the moral of the story? When life gives you rancid bananas, go get In 'N Out. Or maybe it's something like, don't check your bags when traveling, you never know when you'll need a one quart plastic bag. Or perhaps I just need to remember to check my bag for fruit at the end of each day. 

Dec 31, 2014

2014: A Quick Look Back

It's New Year's Eve and like everyone else, I'm thinking about the year behind me, the year ahead of me and the person I am right now. So where have I been, where I am going and what have I learned?

January 2014 marked one year since we lost Grams. I learned that with that kind of loss, life is never quite the same. We live with memories that conjure up smiles and laughs but also an ache that will never go away, one that I'm learning to live with. Now that we're coming up on almost two years since she left, I can hardly believe it's been that long. But, I realize each day how much of her is a part of me and how strong I am because of her.

February, the month of love, I fell more for Rich and happier every day that he is in my life...though March took him away for three months (#englandstolemyboyfriend). During those three months, with yoga teacher training nearing its end, I found I had become part of a small family I am eternally grateful for. All that I've learned from my months of training and through my friendships with those eight people is irreplaceable. Not sure what I would have done without them.

April brought me to England, where for the first time in my international travels, I found myself with a deep affinity for America. (You'd think squatting over a hole in Beijing would have inspired that same emotion, but not so much.) There were times walking around Leeds I nearly went up to other tourist-looking people to ask if they were from the states. I managed to refrain from quizzing strangers, and continued to wander around with not so much homesickness, but a feeling of disconnect.

A few days after coming home, I, for the first time in my life, was laid off. Which, like many people said to me at the time, may have been the best thing that's ever happened to me. My life veered off course and the road less traveled has been a really great, albeit sometimes extremely stressful, one. With a lot more time on my hands, I got to focus on yoga and finishing up teacher training strong. I felt, for the first time since graduating college, that I truly owned my life and my time.

By July, I was freelancing and finding that I could get by on my own. I took time to figure out what I "really wanted to do when I grew up" and found that it's what I've always loved doing—writing. Though money-wise it wasn't quite enough, I started making a small living writing and designing. I was, though, working from my kitchen table, casting aside years of a hellish commute, which was fantastic. I dabbled more in the "do things that scare you" arena and found the payoffs to be huge.

August brought me new clients and a bit of a breather from worrying about money and bills. I made some amazing new friends through my new gigs that I am inspired by and look up to. But just as quickly as I felt I had started moving in the right direction, I did fall off course for a bit, which brought with it health problems and headaches (not to mention BILLS — thank you overpriced and lackluster health insurance plan). But that too was a gift.

In November, I made the decision to go to India for 14 days. Still not working full-time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go since I didn't have to ask anyone but myself for the time off. I struggled with the decision for awhile because, well, it scared the crap out of me. Despite having been all over the world, this was out of my comfort zone. I'm going with strangers, it's the longest trip I've ever taken, and hell, I don't have a full-time job so handing over that credit card wasn't easy! I so wanted to be the girl that could just pick up and go to India. But then I realized...I could. So I am.

This year I learned that I need to listen to my gut. Not I should...I need. I learned that my intuition is pretty spot on, I just need to learn how to trust that feeling better...and breathe. Even for the little things like that voice in my head that said, "I think you may have dropped your glasses on the bus," that I ignored, when, in fact, I had dropped my glasses on the bus.

And now that 2014 is coming down to its last hours, I'm excited for the new year and what it holds for me. One of the most valuable lessons for me this year has been learning how to be grateful. Even in those moments when it feels like everything is falling apart, to try to find the purpose in them and be grateful. I'm grateful I had the time I had in teacher training; I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned in losing my job and perceived security; I'm grateful I've been able to earn a living doing things that make me happy; I'm beyond grateful for the people in my life; I'm grateful that for the times I took one step forward only to take two back, that I was given the chance to do so.

I'm not saying I've by any means mastered this, because if you know me, you know I can be quite the little stress ball, but it's something I'm going to continue to work on in 2015 and beyond. One of my yoga teachers posted this earlier today and I think it sums up the year (and all years) beautifully:

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful - Gautama Buddha

So cheers to what we've learned, have yet to learn and what we can teach each other. Happy 2015.

Nov 12, 2014

Green Week, Day 4

But Jen, it's only Wednesday. Yes, I know. I started "Green Week" on Sunday, so today is day four. So far, I've seen a bigger improvement than on any of the antacids I've taken, double strength or otherwise. 

I've been starting the day with a shot of wheatgrass and a green juice. The wheatgrass isn't getting any easier to get down. In fact, yesterday it wasn't all juice, there were still pieces of grass. Blech. But, if it works, I'm in. The green juice isn't so bad...except for yesterday when I was convinced to throw a shot of wheatgrass in it. Otherwise, I'm pretty down with spirulina.

I've also been looking at alkaline versus acidic foods and following (as close as possible) an 80/20 diet (80% alkaline/20% acidic). It's only been four days, but the difference is noticeable. The prescriptions didn't make a dent. Food really is the answer. 

That and managing stress. I'm becoming more tuned into when I become anxious, even when it's just a tiny bit. My body responds right away which allows me to notice and react and necessary steps to not let it grow. I'm able to ask myself, "Why am I feeling this way? Is it a real issue or imagined? What can I do right now to alleviate some of the stress?"

This is four days in. I'm excited to see what a week, two weeks and even a month of 80/20 eating does for me!

Nov 10, 2014

Dr. Jen is Taking Charge

People have asked me my whole life how I stay so skinny. I always joked and answered, "Malnutrition." But really, I may not have been completely wrong in that statement. After dealing with years of stomach problems that my doctor feels can only be solved by taking a pill that may cause me to have "involuntary tongue movements," I'm taking a good look at what I'm putting into my body. 

I've eaten like a five-year-old pretty much until I was 31. I didn't want to try anything new and if it was green, dear god, get it away from me. When I started suffering from agonizing stomach pains due to stress, I started making some changes. But once my belly was better, my old eating habits came back quickly. 

Over the next few years, I slowly got more and more into yoga and more aware of the food I was eating. I started trying things—even salad! I thought I had been doing well at balancing my food intake, with the exception of the ridiculous amount of ice cream I ate. But hey, I was working out a lot, so it was okay right?

Well, sprinkle in a lot of stress over a short amount of time and I found myself battling heartburn. Every day. Every day for three months. I tried every over-the-counter remedy. Nothing was helping. So I started experimenting. I cut out dairy. Overall I felt better, I was even able to run some because the inflammation in my knees was going down. Great! But my stomach was still pissed. And it was only getting worse. 

After an endoscopy and no real issues, my doctor landed on telling me to double both of the meds he prescribed me for a week. If that didn't work, he'd put me on a med that would help regulate the muscles in my esophagus and potentially cause several muscle spasms, including uncontrollable tongue movements. I don't want that. 

I spent the weekend watching documentaries about juicing and reading about proper body pH, alkaline and acidic foods, and planning how I was going to eat as best I could for one week. That would include daily wheatgrass shots and focusing on alkaline foods to try to help balance my stomach...and my body. 

What bothers me is that my doctor doesn't seem to be interested in the root cause. He didn't recommend foods to eat, or ask deeper questions about my diet other than, "Do you drink coffee?" He just offered prescriptions—prescriptions that have side effects that I'd likely need to take more prescriptions for. 

So I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks spending some more time experimenting with food and taking in as much green as I can to see if it makes a difference. A shot of wheatgrass everyday certainly seems like a better option than having a spastic tongue. Let's see how it goes.