Sole Success (???)

 Sole Success (???)  

Easy to spout the above sort of optimistic, aint-nothun’ gonna stop me, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar type quotations when you’re killin’ it, right?

But what about when you’re not doing so well? What about when you LITERALLY. JUST. FAILED? And you feel like shit about it?

I’d like to think of myself as spiritual enough to rise above the illusory opinions of the corporeal realm; philosophical enough to understand that, like all else, failure is merely perspective; and bold enough to get back up on the horse and journey on until I reach my desired destination.

But recently, when I learned that the publisher of my first book, Um, LikeOM: A Girl Goddesses Guide to Yoga, rejected the manuscript for my 2nd book and first work of fiction, I didn’t smile the knowing smile of an enlightened soul who is aware that ‘every moment is a chance to begin anew’ and all the other psycho-spiritual bullshit that floods my inbox, social media lists, and own personal mental chattering.   No, I didn’t take a deep breath, knowing that all would ultimately work out in my favor.  What did I do? I froze.

Paralyzed by my own inability to see “rejection as merely suggestion” as so eloquently and aptly stated by my magical spirit sister Andrea Balt, I was utterly and completely STUCK.

 Sole Success (???)

 

See, because, the thing is, although I’ve been a practicing yogi for nearly two decades now, despite a deep devotion to my spiritual center, at the end of the day, I am nothing more than a plain ole human being. Oh! And, added bonus:  I’m a girl (which means that I am, admittedly, a bit more physiologically prone to wildly fluctuating moods and emotions.  Damn hormones).  I simply do not recover as quickly as I’d like to from a blow to the ego.

I wrote and sold my first book to my dream publisher, Little, Brown and Co.  And I’m deeply grateful  for such incredible success- a veritable dream come true– and so early on in my career.  But I can’t hold on to that single achievement forever.  And I don’t believe in clinging to the past or remaining stagnant.  Like most, I want to continue to grow, to succeed, to expand in both consciousness and craft.

Thus, after hearing the rejection of what can only be described as the birth of my second child (albeit a literary one), all I could do was sit, stunned before a blank screen, wondering if ANYONE, EVER would want to publish the work I’d spent the last three years birthing at home, sans pain meds.

Intellectually, I knew that beating myself up was counterproductive, but emotionally, I felt drained. But as my beloved yoga teacher, Guru Singh always says: there is no way out; only through. So beyond simply having faith in the Universe’s larger plans for me and my work, the thing I most needed to do to cure my writers block was, ironically, enough, to sit my butt down and WRITE.

Unfortunately, somewhere between turning my computer on and logging online, I got distracted by these:

 

 Sole Success (???)

vintage tie dye cowboy kicks

Rather than dealing head and heart on with my internal demons, instead of facing the glaring, empty white screen before me, I chose more colorful pages (namely, shopbop and revolve clothingto distract me from the real work at hand, my soul’s work.   

I couldn’t help myself. With the amniotic fluid of my creative womb seemingly sucked dry by the birth of my book baby– a baby that was now resting in the precarious hands of various editors at unknown publishers, awaiting approval of its existence,  I literally felt I had nothing to offer the page.But oh, how the page had something– a lot of things– to offer me. And so I shopped. Against my better judgement, I made monetary purchases where what I really needed to be investing in was my own life’s mission.

I drooled over Jacquie Aiche and Jennifer Meyer jewels!  I nearly pressed “purchase” on new pairs of Calleen Cordero and Sam Edelman spring sandals!  With the mere click of a mouse, glorious healing malas and material masks of all kinds could be mine!

Of course, being a Spiritual Girl in a Material World, I KNEW this frivolity was not the way to free myself from the bonds of creative stagnancy.  I was well aware that shopping was pure distraction, procrastination; an attempt to fill a space that could only and would only be filled by creating and giving forth.  Thankfully, my higher consciousness (and a good dose of inspiration) won out and my shopping binge was more of the visual sort, than an actual spending frenzy. 

There is a lesson in all of this, I suppose, which is to forgive myself for a completely healthy need for distraction, for placing material goods over a greater spiritual cause.  And if you know me, then you know I sure do appreciate the artistry of the sartorial set. In other words, I love me some new clothes.  But ultimately, HAVING MORE falls way short of actually CREATING MORE.  

 

 Sole Success (???)

Perspective

 

Still, knowing what I had to do and actually doing it are two disparate things. I still felt stuck, like I had nothing to say.  Or, if I did have something to say, it had already been said a million times before.  And then I happened upon this: 31 Magic Quotes to Summon Your Creative Genius. 

It is a post curated and created by Ms. Balt whose site “Creative Rehab” was exactly where I needed to be for a nice, long stint.

I dare you to visit and not be inspired into recovery.

I still had other publishers I have yet to hear back from, so in the meantime, I was determined to get something, anything down onto the page.  And the moment I fully committed myself to reigniting the fire burning within, I happened upon this incredible work of art, a book by Stephen Cope, Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts: The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling.

There’s nothing like reading something and feeling as though it was written specifically for you. (Mr. Cope, did you write this for me?! Cause I’m pretty sure you did and I can’t wait to meet you one day in the flesh).
——–
And in one more act of synchronicity, the very evening I discovered Mr. Cope’s great tome, I  happened upon a PBS special on JD Salinger, whose iconic Cather in the Rye was said to have been turned down by several publishers before ultimately being published by, yes… Little, Brown, and Company!

 

Obviously, I’m no JD Salinger.  I mean, maybe in terms of my left-of-center spiritual beliefs and an unfortunate aversion towards the social set, but literally prowess?  Eh, not so much. Still, I took this as a sign.  Salinger had been rejected.  So had Alice Walker, Ayn Rand, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, John Grisham, F.Scott Fitzgerald, and on and on and on…  

And that’s when it hit me: I’m going to write about failing.  How we all do it.  How it feels like a pain worse than death.  But how we have to keep on keepin’ on, even so. While I wait for more “No’s” to roll on in from publishers, while I wait for that ONE enchanted “YES” (because all it takes is ONE), I’m going to blog about the pain of rejection. About how that pain becomes a block, and that block makes your life a living hell, and the only way to escape that hell is to  do the thing you think you cannot do.

So I end with this: “F  you, Failure!” You’re not going to stop me. I’m going back to listening to all my psycho-spiritual, create-your-own-destiny, visionary self-talk.  And I will succeed.

(And so will you.).

 Sole Success (???)

 

OH, and ps. I returned all the crap I bought online, except for the tie dyed boots. I’m on a sole mission, after all. icon wink Sole Success (???)

 

phoenix lg1 239x300 Sole Success (???)

By ndesign-studio.com
Phoenix Rising, baby. Phoenix Rising.

 

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Belonging(s)

Breathe for YOU. -Ana Forrest

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Ana Forrest, yoga instructor & spirit guide

This may quite possibly be my most important post yet.

I’ll tell you why:  I think it very well may apply to literally every single human being on the face of the earth.

Everyone seeks to BELONG. Everyone needs to connect.

But to who? And to what? And how?

And when we feel as though we don’t belong, how to do we deal with those feelings of loneliness or the perception of being on the outside?  The recently minted experience of “FOMO” (or rather, fear of missing out) touches on this idea.  But I’m not talking about being excluded from a single social event or experience (although being “left out” socially can, indeed, have larger personal implications); I’m talking about a broader, more generalized sense of belonging.  I’m talking about the intrinsic human NEED to be embraced and accepted by other like-minded beings. After all, no (wo)man is an island.  And try as we may, no soul is truly solitary.

Still, the concept that “we are all connected” can be hard to grasp when you literally feel as though you do not “fit in.”

If you’re lucky, as I am, you’ll have someone or something to reach out to, to call home. I have both. First, my beloved best friend and husband who is nothing like me, yet accepts me entirely and second, my spiritual practice: yoga.

These are the things to which I, personally, belong.

And yet, I’m also a human being who, despite my many valiant efforts to remain detached, is undeniably affected by my environment. If I were, in fact, immune to the human desire for acceptance, I wouldn’t be bleeding out from my fingertips and onto the page this very moment.

So how do I, personally, deal with these feelings?  When I refuse to hit the mat, when I turn away from the love of my loved ones, when I rage against all the self-help bullshit swirling in my mind?

Well, I window shop. I look at shiny new shoes and sparkly jewelry and sweaters and bags, falsely believing that maybe if I have this or that, I will magically FEEL BETTER.

Fortunately, after much experimentation, I know without question that  NOTHING I CAN BUY WILL FILL THIS ACHING NEED TO BELONG.

The truth is, all that can ever really satiate the starving soul is found INSIDE of oneself. And it is up to us to learn to tap into those inner gems that live in the deepest recesses of our hearts. As one of my long-time spirit guides, Ana Forrest, recently instructed during a weekend yoga workshop, we must learn to “sparkle up” from the inside.

We must stop accumulating STUFF and start building SPIRIT.  Because, if you haven’t already discovered this for yourself, you can have all the belongings in the world, but they aren’t going to help you BELONG anymore than you already do.

Sometimes the ownership of things is really just a temporary salve on the wound of disconnection. And before you know it, it’s time to buy something newer, more shiny, more in line with the times.

 Belonging(s)

“Hmmm… maybe if I buy some black duck fur, they’ll let me in.”

 On the flip side, I’m all for using the gifts of this material world as a means of self expression. Go ahead and  Express Yourself, as Madonna famously sung, if that’s what fashion is for you. The world renowned and seemingly gravity-defying yoga instructor Kathryn Budig often instagrams her outfits with the hastags #fashionjunkie and #nostretchypants, and it’s quite obvious that her fascination with fashion is purely that: a love of style and creative communication.  If there is one leader out there in the wellness community who epitomizes what I believe to be “a spiritual girl in a material world,” I’d say it’s Kathryn. She is playful and genuine, and truly appears to be fearless (#loveoverfear is another of her favorites).  An avid sky-diver, she does not seem to feel the need to fit in to any one place or time.  I can all but assume that her fearlessness in the face of free-fall comes from a deep inner knowing that she BELONGS anywhere, anytime.
                                                                                                                                                                         ################
As if it wasn’t already obvious, I love my collection of new and old soles, but they are merely earthly examples of my aesthetic preferences rather than products pasted on to advertise my worth– which, of course, is invaluable and does not have a price tag.  And as my beautiful daughter begins to show signs of having inherited her mother’s love of shoes, I must remind her that they are but objects of affection and no more secure for us a sense of  acceptance in the world than eating a piece of toast does. (even the gluten free kind)

 

photo 5 500x500 Belonging(s)

Emerson’s sparkly soles (Thank you, Sam Edelman)

 

After all, it’s what glows on the inside and not the outside that ultimately guides us all to where we each belong.

The poet/philosopher David Whyte said:

“To feel as if you belong is one of the great triumphs of human existence … No matter how far away you are from yourself, no matter how exiled you feel from your contribution to the rest of the world or to society … all you have to do is innumerate the way you don’t feel at home in the world… and the moment you’ve uttered the exact dimensionality of your exile, you’re already taking the path back to where you should be. You’re already on your way home.

Your first step?   It is simple: Breathe for YOU.

 

“When you walk into any room, make it your home. Then help every one in the room to feel at home. Remember, you are uniquely you and you have every right to be exactly that. Do not try to fit in, you fit perfectly in you.” -Guru Singh

 

 

 

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Seva Soul

     ”What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela

 

In recent weeks, I have become consumed with the concept of SEVA, which is simply the yogic term for Selfless Service.

The question: How May I Serve the World? has recently become central to my thinking. I’d like to think I’ve always been a generous person, but the overwhelming urge to GIVE has taken on a different quality of late. It’s less head-oriented and more heart-centered. It’s less about what the giving will do for me and how it will affect my own life and more about a true relinquishing of what I have been given and gifted to those who have not been as fortunate.

Alright, alright, before all of you think I’ve either simply

A). maxed out my Amex  or B) lost my mind in some kind of blissful yogic trance

…let me assure you: it is neither.

Rather, what has gone down is nothing short of one of those rare lifetime epiphanies that (we pray) might just change our lives forever. I can’t say at exactly what moment it happened; actually, it probably wasn’t a single moment at all, but a lifetime of instances and experiences all leading up to a deeply visceral shift in my consciousness.  (And again, no, I haven’t fallen off my rocker and I still love shoes).  The shift has simply been from wondering how to make my life better to how can I make the lives of others better.

Oddly enough, I feel better already. (It’s that universal law of giving is receiving again. Amazeballs).

Emerson (the philosopher, and not my 5 year old daughter) once said:

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To know me is to know that my first true awakening came when my 10th grade English teacher and soul poet, James Todd King (may he rest in peace with his beloved Prufrock), introduced me to the American Transcendentalists: Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman… And the above quote of Emerson’s, while not yet fully internalized within my perfectionist, over achieving self, serves as a reminder that I HAVE, IN FACT, ALREADY SUCCEEDED in life simply by the small acts I perform on the daily.

And yet, somehow, the idea of having helped just one person  does not satisfy.  It simply doesn’t feel like enough. In retrospect, this is exactly why I wrote my first book Um, Like…OM:  A Girl Goddesses’s Guide to Yoga.  To HELP. To share with others (specifically, tween and teenage girls) the tools for contentedness and self esteem I wish I had when I was their age.  But that was years ago.  So now what? Beyond my daily routine of mothering, meditation, and writing, I  so often wonder: what next? And this aching need to share, to uplift, to contribute to the world outside of my own swirling self-indentifications, rears its beautiful but pain-inducing head into my heart. I ask myself, while I patiently (or not so patiently, if you ask my husband) await word on the sale of my second book, HOW CAN I BE OF SERVICE?  WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

And suddenly, that instantly recognizable sinister sinking sensation takes hold : I begin to feel helpless and useless and all too small… I implore myself not to let the sadness of the swamps overtake me (if you get this reference, we are indeed soul mates).  And I immediately know that I must do yoga or meditate or do something meaningful  STAT  if I intend  to save my soul.

And then I find something like this:

Screen Shot 2013 11 15 at 8.41.44 AM 500x595 Seva Soul

“…evan cooper has always been such a huge inspiration to me…” UM, LIKE, WOWZA!!

 

A gift from the Universe.  And I realize, suddenly, that I am helping.  I have always been helping.  And while I may have other daily, worldly activities to attend to, there is something to be said for the trail we leave as we walk this life.  Do something good for another and it won’t just last a moment; it might just possibly last a lifetime.

Even when you are not actively giving each and every moment, even when you  feels as though you’ve done too little, too late, remember: as Emerson so eloquently said, by helping another, even just a single soul, you have, indeed, succeeded.

And doesn’t that make you want to help even more? It sure makes me want to.

   

                          “That’s what you are here for. You are here to serve, here to lift, here to grace, here to give hope and action, here to give the very     deep love of your soul to all those who need.”  Yogi Bhajan

 

 A few causes close to my heart…

www.everymothercounts.com

www.soles4souls.org

www.girlup.org

www.shantiuganda.org

www.redcross.org

 

 Seva Soul

never let the sadness of the swamp overtake you

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Sole Surrender

 

blkboots 500x500 Sole Surrender

the only kicks I really need

I’m a boots girl.  Always have been and I’m pretty certain, always will be. There’s something about a nice pair of sturdy soled moto kicks that pair equally well with worn in blues as they do with a silk maxi dress that I just can’t resist.

That said, as I travel this journey inward and onward, it has come to my attention that a love of SOLE does not have to mean a lack of SOUL.  And by that, I mean: it is okay  to love and appreciate the many treasures of our indubitably corporeal realm, to lust after the latest fashionable trend, to set aside a fund strictly meant for sandals and stilettos…The problem appears when one’s love of STUFF becomes greater than one’s love of SELF.

We see it all the flippin’ time: in ourselves (I know when I need to check myself when I catch myself spending too much time on shopbop and not enough time on my yoga mat); in others (that neighbor who receives multiple visits from the UPS man weekly. Can you say online shopping addiction??); in the world around us (self-proclaimed spiritual “guides” posting selfies of themselves in the act of mass material consumption.( I won’t name names, but  feel free to go ahead and take a wild guess).

The constant and all too cacophonous message being: If you wear this, you’ll look cool.  If you own this, you’ll be happier.  If you travel here, you’ll experience Nirvana.  And so on and so on and so on.

Let me reiterate: in no way am I saying that stuff (having it, buying it, owning it) is BAD.  It’s not.  In fact, it’s both necessary and enjoyable.

What I am saying is that there is a MIDDLE WAY;  a way we have seemingly forgotten or, for some, unapologetically opted not to travel.  It’s the path that appreciates fashion as art, but does not insist we create an identity based off of that art.  It’s the path wherein one recognizes that if they never owned a designer bag in their life, that their WORTH AS A HUMAN would remain in tact. It’s the path where you save up and buy those booties you’ve been lusting after, but on the same day, donate your old ones to someone in need.

It’s the path of GIVING, not merely GETTING. It’s the path whereupon consumerism intersects with humanity;  it’s the path of (need I say it?) being a SPIRITUAL GIRL IN A MATERIAL WORLD.

Shopping is fun and wearing the fruits of your hunt is even more fun.  But take heed: no amount of STUFF is going to fill that aching void that exists within us all.  Because it’s a void that can only be filled with the energy of service, of offering, of GIVING.

Toms does this.  As does the company Sketchers with their BOBS line (talk about imitation! but hey, it’s for a good cause, right?) and many others are following.  And while that’s a beautiful thing and a sure sign that our collective consciousness may be on the path to saving ourselves from utter implosion, it still has little to do with how we each, individually choose to fill our selves up.

The idea of soulful giving, rather than SOLEly consuming, continues to appear and reappear in my world. A few examples?

Check out Carly Bornstein, an old childhood acquaintance of mine, and the honorable work she has done for Sole4Souls, a charity that donates shoes to those in need.  It is, indeed, somethin’ wonderful. For her work spearheading the collection of over 17,500 pairs (wha?!!!) of shoes to donate to the cause, Carly has been honored (click here to read more). And after the typhoon in the Philippines, our contributions to the cause are needed more now than ever.

Lying in stark contrast to the generosity of souls like Carly, was the near collapse of the world wide interweb caused by rabid fashionistas logging on line, credit cards in hand, when Isabel Marant pour H&M went on sale last week.  First off, let me be the first to say that, from an aesthetic point of view, I love both the affordable stylish wares of H&M as well as the drool-worthy apparel of French designer Isabel Marant.   And the fact that they partnered up to create a line of wallet-friendly ware for those who simply can’t afford or who refuse to spend $1000 on a pair of boots, was incredibly exciting. The problem is not in the  purchase of such pleasantries; it’s in the mindset behind it.   It’s in the idea that, in order to be accepted, or even-gasp!- admired, that you must have IT (whatever ‘it’ may be at that moment in time).   I’ll admit, I myself went online to see what was available an hour after it went on sale and guess what? H&M’s website had basically crashed as a result of what can only be described as sartorial pandemonium.

So I ask you this: Do you REALLY want to be part of the masses? Part of the consumer culture that wreaks havoc on our hearts and souls leading us to believe that more is more?  Do you really believe in your heart that if you have the “it” item or object or sweater that you will somehow be happier, healthier, or holier? Because if  you do, if you truly believe that owning stuff will bring any sort of lasting satisfaction, then you’ve got it all wrong. I liked it when I read yoga teacher Tara Stiles say in a recent blog post:  ”My mission is to help others. Helping feels better than shopping…Spending resources on things to decorate myself has always been a silly game in my book.”

Okay, so I personally wouldn’t necessarily say it’s “silly” to decorate oneself– I mean, whatever makes you feel good about yourself, whatever you love in life, yeah, sure, do that. I’m the first person to admit to a life-long appreciation of fashion. That’s how this whole Spirit & Sole thing started, non?  But I’m also the first person to bail when the crowd lines up to conform, to grasp wildly at the illusion of fulfillment in the form of some fabric.  That’s when I immediately want out. It’s also when I remember that strange law of the universe wherein it is only in the giving that one can truly receive.

And anyhow, I like my boots best broken it, like they’ve lived a little, supported me on a few of my life’s travels.  The scuffs on the worn-in black leather are merely signs of just how far I’ve come.  And any desire to replace them? A sign of just how much further I have to go.

 

 Sole Surrender

 

***This Thanksgiving season, let us not simply give thanks for what we’ve been given, but give to those who have not been as fortunate as ourselves. If you’d like to reach out, here are a few links to help you get started:

soles4souls

red cross

children’s defense fund

St. Jude Children’s hospital

toys for tots

 

 

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Naked Shaky Rebellion

For the past week and a half, I have been doing some serious soul searching (minus, can you f’n believe it, the SOLE searching!!  I mean, I literally haven’t even looked once! Okay, maybe once…).

Post-plagiarism incident, I have been contemplating the more larger issues of:

1)SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH at whatever cost.

2) A culture that has turned yoga,a sacred and ancient practice, into a secular and highly commercialized popularity contest.

3)Our cultural elevation of the celebrity as hero. (Or, in other words, our culture’s obsession with FAME. Hello, KimYe).

And these are just a FEW things I’ve been pondering between kindergarten drop-off and kid birthday parties.  Not exactly light mental fare.

While I sort out these thoughts and attempt to arrange them into some sort of meaningful and sensical written order (order? what’s that?!), please take a look at the blog post that has resonated most deeply with me this past week.  It is a piece written by the beautiful and highly gifted co-creator of Rebelle Society (the only “society” to which I’m proud to belong), Andrea Balt, on Ken Wilber, the speaker, author, and founder of the Integral Institute.

Where I have temporarily lost my voice (no, really, I came down with a serious case of laryngitis three days ago.  Ironic, right?), she has all the right words.

http://www.rebellesociety.com/2013/11/11/ken-wilber-on-speaking-your-truth-in-whatever-way-you-can/

Rebellion, as such, is the constant and consistent alienation from any concept, belief system, person or institution that imprisons our freedom and personal power. A daily unsettlement. It honors change and our flowing nature. Rebellion is our blood while revolution is an occasional blood transfusion. (Andrea Balt)

And it’s my guess that until we all become “comfortable with uncertainty” (Pema Chodren), until we learn that REBELLION of the status quo is the only way to PEACE OF MIND, we’ll always remain, well, unsettled.

But, man, it’s not easy.  For anyone.  And such is the plight of a spiritual girl living in a material world.

 Naked Shaky Rebellion

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Let’s Get Naked & Bare Our Soles

shel silverstein photo1 159x300 Lets Get Naked & Bare Our Soles

Shel Silverstein knew what was UP

It’s quite difficult to begin a post after two days of no sleep.  But sometimes we must pick ourselves up by our boot straps (hopefully, of the Sam Edelman or classic Frye Boot variety), and get on with life. Of course, this post is more about kicking off the boots, shedding the SOLE, to reveal pure SPIRIT.

For a moment (and I mean literally a moment, because my morning ritual still includes checking Shopbop for their daily Lookbook update), I want to drop the fashion chat and be naked.  In other words, I want to drop the MASK.

Who am I?  Who are you?  Who are the people we admire, respect, call our leaders and our Gurus and our guides?  I know who mine are.  And I know that, even at their very best, they are all HUMAN BEINGS JUST LIKE MYSELF. No one is better or greater than anyone else.  Sure some may have more “power” in terms of their socio-economic status, political position, media platform, or, lets face it, plain ole appearances.  But at the end of the day, as my beloved and revered teacher, Guru Singh said, “If your extra sensory perception makes you feel better than others, it will disappear.”  And I believe this sentiment is the cause of so many of our personal falterings.  We begin to think we are better than others in some way, some how.

He also said: The ultimate intention is not to run away from pain, it is to learn its lesson.

So here I am, standing naked before you (oh, don’t you wish!), in pain.  Actually, I WAS in pain.  Now I’m in PROCESS. And it’s the process of forgiveness for having felt robbed of something that was mine.  For all of you who read my previous post about my blog title being “borrowed” without consent, the ISSUE WAS RESOLVED.  FOR A SINGLE DAY, I was publicly acknowledged and given credit for my work.  Then- in a move that should not have surprised me, but ultimately did– the attribution (and link) to my work was erased.

Admittedly, this was the first time I have ever so boldly and publicly stood up for myself.  Pretty ironic, really, in light of the fact that I have written about using yoga and meditation to overcome bullying.  As I said in my previous post: Do no Harm; but Take no Shit.  I still think its the perfect mantra for a world where people are too afraid to stick up for themselves, for fear that something worse or more painful will then occur.  Well, ladies (and gents), this may very well be the case, but in the end: it is only you and YOUR SPIRIT who will suffer.  Because, ultimately, OUR SPIRIT EXPANDS IN DIRECT PROPORTION TO OUR MASTERY OF FEAR.

photo 224x300 Lets Get Naked & Bare Our Soles

LEAN IN – Sheryl Sandberg

 

And trust me, when I put myself out there and stood up for myself, I was SCARED.  Scared I would be trampled by someone “bigger” or “more powerful” than me.  But as Pema Chodron says: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” And I believe, by standing up for myself and defending my heart’s work, I have indeed been reminded of that indestructible part of myself.

I encourage you, now that Halloween is past, to DROP THE MASK.  And whether you think you wear one or not, take a closer look at the ways in which you present yourself to the world.  Neitzsche said “people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed” and I believe this is true for us all.  The real test of a true leader is whether, once that bubble has been popped, once those illusions destroyed, will they SHOW THEIR TRUE SELVES?  Some yes, some no.  The real question is, who is REAL person behind the mask?  Is it the one who apologizes and makes amendments or is it the one who garners thousands around them who believe the costume?  I don’t know.  And I don’t know if I WANT to know.

In fact, sometimes I believe that nearly everything we see or hear in the media is just one big illusion— which, of course, it is. (Don’t forget, there was a time that I worked at US WEEKLY).

 

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What I do know is this: Today, I’m dropping the mask.  I’m going naked and barefoot. I’m not pretending to be anyone other than a mother, a wife, a writer and a yogi who wakes up, does some pranayama, a few Sun Salutations, has a coffee, takes her kid to school, then sits down at her desk to write.

Thank you to so many friends and family who came out in support of me; it has meant the world to me. (My Rebelle Society community, the artful and gifted (and brilliant writer!!) Julian Marc Walker, the always inspirational and happy-inducing Dave “Yeah Dave” Romenelli, fellow writers and yoga teachers and yogis, and of course, my friends and family).

I leave you with this: No matter what you choose to wear in life, BE YOU FULLY.  And don’t let anyone ever take that away from you.

 

 Lets Get Naked & Bare Our Soles

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Lesson for A Spiritual Girl in a Material World

 “Imitation is suicide.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In fashion, we all copy each other; it’s how a trend becomes well, a trend. In art and creative endeavors, everything is derivative.  (Have you seen The Fashion Police on E!  Can you say “Bitch Stole my Look?!).  Often, we’re inspired by others so we take that and make it our own. Except when we don’t. And that’s called STEALING.

Today, the title of my blog (and ultimately the thematic content behind it) was, let’s say “borrowed” for the nth time by a prominent and respected figure in the spiritual community.  This time, however, it wasn’t just a mention in a random article, but used as the title of her own blog (or rather, vlog) post.   And here’s the thing: I’m all for sharing ideas and I’m even more for being the source of inspiration for someone else’s great work, but I am not for being ripped off. I do my best on the daily to practice the 8 limbs of yoga, and non-stealing  or ASTEYA is central to that effort.  Of course, typically, this one isn’t a challenge for me (unless I’m roaming around my BFF’s closet, and then I really have to practice non-stealing).

The Urban Dictionary defines the word “junkie” as a person who is consumed by addiction.  I suspect this “spirit junkie” whom I have previously written about in the most celebratory of lights and once highly admired, is simply addicted to the attention given to her as a “spiritual leader”.  Attention is an opiate- especially for those who have made careers of being in the public eye. I mean, why else would she appropriate someone else’s good idea for herself and not give credit where credit is due?  And how could someone who is revered for helping others live their most authentic life be so inauthentic in her own life?  Then again, I guess this wouldn’t be the first time in the history of the world that this has been the case.

While the concept behind my blog is certainly not original, the articulation of it, in terms of my slogan and my expression of it, most definitely is.  Spirit & Sole:  A SPIRITUAL GIRL IN A MATERIAL WORLD was born from the deepest parts of myself and I cannot just stand by and watch my baby taken from me and given a new last name.  And this is exactly what began to happen shortly after a twitter exchange wherein said spirit junkie acknowledged her love of my blog. Look, I’m not trying to create enemies, and the last thing I want to do is make a bigger deal of this than it is.  But I’m upset.  And I think, rightfully so.

The use and promotion of my blog’s concept by a more prominent and already established public figure could potentially derail the sale of the book I am currently writing based on this very idea of being a spiritual girl in a material world. And that just ain’t cool. At all.

A yogi friend recently said this to me: “cause no harm, but take no shit.” And this is exactly how I feel about this situation. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that true spiritual leaders forge connections, build bridges, spread peace… they don’t steal.

This post is not meant to cause harm (AHIMSA); it is merely meant to shine a light on the issue of our culture revering someone who is not wholly authentic.  Or, at least, the fact that we are all human, no matter how high up we hold our “gurus” (whether they be celebrities, politicians, authors, journalists, etc) on that invisible pedestal of our psyches.

In a lot of ways, this woman is like the star of the documentary KUMARE; revered simply as a result of her ability to help others realize their own gifts.  And I think that’s truly a beautiful thing; something to be admired.  But please, give credit where credit is due.  Do not borrow without asking and in the same breath call yourself a guru.   Or hell, call yourself whatever you want to, just not a “spiritual girl in a material world.” Cause I got that shit trademarked. *

 

*nearly.

 

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Me & my Emerson (a poem unto herself)

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Spirit & Sole On Retreat

Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.” - E.M. Forster

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My peaceful practice

 

I admit it, I can be somewhat of a hermit, preferring the quiet hum of Spotify in my private office/yoga studio to the loud, strong sound of social interaction.

The frantic pace of life, the constant technological advances, and an ever increasing pressure to perform on social media, often leads me (and most certainly others) to want to retreat– to delve down deeply into the quiet space within; to renunciate my place in the world and spend my days seeking higher levels of consciousness.

So this past week, I decided that I would, in fact, Retreat, but with a capital “R.”

When I heard that renowned yoga instructor, author of the incomparably beautiful yoga manual The Art of Attention, and dear friend Elena Brower would be leading a retreat at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, AZ, I decided that NOW was the time to finally break away from the varied splendid and not so splendid duties of running a household and being a wife and mommy and take some “me” time, for the first time in five years. I imagined a good deal of time spent  in silent meditation, intense asana, and focused writing.

But as we all know, nothing ever really goes as planned.  And for me, this was a good thing.

Sometimes, all you need in life is a little synchronicity to re-inspire you and remind you of your purpose.  Or, in my case, SAMchronicity.

 Samchronicity: when your spiritual life and your sole life blissfully collide. 

Or, more specifically, when you go on a yoga retreat to spend some quality time alone, but instead find yourself mat-to-mat with Libby Edelman, of Sam & Libby shoes, and the now ubiquitous Sam Edelman shoe (and soon accessory and clothing!!) line.

Umm….Basically, I literally manifested SPIRIT & SOLE. Whaaa?!!!

As it happened, rather than just doing yoga and meditating, rather than retreating, I was engaging, having fun, fantastical conversations about my favorite shoes and being inspired to follow my bliss, commit to my blog, and have the courage to live my dreams.  This is what human connection can do; it can change you, make you better, and insist that life not be lived in one dimension, but rather as expansively as possible.

Certainly, it is imperative to look within for contentedness, but real human connection — that kind that reaches deeply into your soul and makes life worth living– can only truly be found without. (Most preferably at a fancy spa with delicious food and beautifully, big hearted fellow yoginis).

E.M. Forster famously wrote the line: “Only connect” and I truly now understand why.  We are all already deeply connected, but there is a genuine beauty in courageously stepping out into the world and discovering this for yourself.  And what I discovered was a vital and visceral connection to a group of strong, spiritual, dynamic women– like the luminous Libby Edelman.

And Donna Lennard, the renowned restaurateur, and owner of Il Buco in NYC and the newly opened Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria in Greenwich Village/NYC (Coincidentally, I couldn’t get a table there when I was in NYC last month because the place was booked straight through the long weekend. Tho I’m thinkin’ I may have an inside connection now.  Just sayin’). Donna has these incredible eyes, whose brilliant blue irises are wider and rounder than any I’ve ever seen before, imbuing her with an almost mystical gaze. And she is funny as shit. I mean, really awesome funny.  I literally  laughed out loud mid-asana at the stuff she’d say. She has an authenticity and sincerity about her that feels so rare and special in the world these days.

And last, but most certainly not least, was the blessing of meeting a true soul sister, one of the most humble women I have ever met, the indisputably talented photographer, media expert, and mommy Bonnie Edelman. (For the record, Libby and Bonnie are sisters-in-law). At 6’2”, with a model-esque build any girl would envy, Bonnie stands a full foot taller than me; but we seemed to view the world from the same vantage point. We also seemed to see eye-to-eye on everything, from marriage and motherhood, to art and fashion, to style and spirituality.  For me, Bonnie is one of those people you meet in your life who you know you have been forever changed by, simply because they reminded you that, no matter your life circumstance, you are never truly alone in the world.

I suppose the great meaning of my three days away with these beautiful women was never more apparent than when we decided to do a walking meditation on the property’s labyrinth.

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The Labyrinth, duh.

One by one, we began to walk the circular path. And as I steadily made my way along, noticing the various footprints in the dirt, it occurred to me that, I am but one in a long lineage of women whose aim is to better ourselves and our world. Memories of my Nanny, Sylvia Cooper, who left this earthly realm just a few months earlier at the age of 97 came to me, as did visions  my sweet daughter Emerson and what she would one day contribute to this blessed succession of women. I watched as my fellow yoginis slowly, purposefully planted one foot in front of the other and wondered what each was one was thinking and feeling in those moments. But what struck me most intensely was when I noticed our sneaker clad soles cross paths within the labyrinth. This silent passing of one another reminded me that life may seem like a maze, but if we walk with grace and intention, we will always meet with like-minded hearts in the middle.  I was reminded that life is a fascinating labyrinth of switchbacks, turns, and straight-aways that always lead you back to your one TRUE SELF.

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Crossing paths

Of course, I am still reeling at the fact that I went on this trip for purely spiritually-oriented reasons, and I found myself amongst one of my most revered shoe goddesses.  Rather than simply marvel endlessly at the samchronicity of it all,I decided to write about it, since it is only in walking the path (which, for me means, among other things, maintaining my blog fearlessly and faithfully) that we can actually get anywhere. And much as I’d often like to renounce it all and join Pema Chodron in a Buddhist monastery, my worldly desires find me time and time again.  And that’s perfectly okay. For, as long as we live in this physical world– with its photography and fashion, blissful spas and platform sandals–it is our right to enjoy it all.  As the master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan said: Happiness is Our Birthright.  So as long as I’m alive and kickin’, I think I’m going to keep on meditating in the material world.

Another of my beloved and revered teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, says that “Peace is Every Step”.  And I second that.  I just prefer to do it in my Louis booties.

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My beloved Sam Edelman Louis booties!

 

A special thank you to Elena, for being our guide through the postures and poses of this weekend, and for being a catalyst in bringing us each closer to our SELF and to One another.

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Call me [???] … Maybe?

 

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When I was 18 years old, I was introduced to one of the world’s great spiritual leaders: The Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan. 

I had been practicing Kundalini yoga for one year under the guidance of my forever teacher Guru Singh, and, while a student at UCLA, I began working at Yoga West, the original home of kundalini yoga in Los Angeles.  And I’d been anxiously looking forward to Yogi Bhajan’s visit for months.

It was evening, and the single, moderately sized yoga studio at Yoga West held at least a hundred American Sikhs and a sprinkling of those of us who valued the lifestyle and teachings of the Sikh philosophy. Mind you, this was a good decade before “namaste” became a part of our daily lexicon; before ladies lunched in Lululemon and politicians performed asanas between conventions.  For better or for worse, I became a yogini back when devotion to the yoga tribe was considered a CULT rather than the CULTURE.

I knew that on this night, surrounded by yogis draped in white flowing robes and mala beads, and the soothing hum of mantras wafting from the modest speakers that sat on the small stage at the front of the room, I would have the opportunity to meet Yogi Bhajan and, if all went as planned, receive a “spiritual name” from the Master of Kundalini Yoga himself.

As I knelt before him, nervously fidgeting with the silk scarf around my neck, he surveyed me with an intensity I’d only ever experienced a handful of times in my life. I was a combination of thrilled, anxious, and enamored. I had no idea what he was going to say to me.  I mean, after all, as much as I thought I knew about life, I was just a kid in college, who loved Pearl Jam, lived for Ralph Waldo Emerson, and worked at a yoga studio. Needless to say, I was in awe; at once intimidated and yet, somehow, utterly at home in his presence.  And it was seriously important to me in that moment to come across as calm, wise, and meditative.  Honestly, I think I secretly hoped he’d see me as some kind of especially enlightened being; you know, like, somehow more ‘in tune’ than most (uh, yeah… right!  Ah, naiveté!).

He looked straight into my eyes and then surveyed my entire being. I’m certain- absolutely certain- he could see straight through me.  My boss at the time, the Manager of Yoga West and the woman who I’d come to regard as my very own guardian angel, Sat Kirin Kaur Khalsa, introduced me to Yogiji. Then, softly, through a heavy Indian accent, he spoke:

 

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Yogi Bhajan

     “Evan?  Your name is Evan? I now give you the spiritual name Ardas Kaur. It means Princess of prayer.  Prayer is your greatest tool.  Or it can be your greatest weakness if you do not use it.  Also, you must clean up your diet. It is a mess. Eat grapefruit with toasted almond slivers on top for one month straight and nothing else.”

 And with that encounter, I had a new name.

Okay, so I am well aware this whole incident may sound strange to some. (My parents are somewhere cringing and my husband is laughing).  But the truth is, I knew from an early age, my path was not going to be conventional. And, honestly, before being blessed with such a beautiful other-worldly moniker, it’s not exactly as though my birth-name was all that commonplace.

As a girl with the name Evan, life had not been entirely uncomplicated. Substitute teachers always expected a boy to appear at my desk, my Seventeen Mag was addressed to some guy named MR. Evan Cooper, and being asked “wow, isn’t that a boy’s name” occurred almost as frequently as I napped (daily). Ultimately, I only went by the name Ardas at Yoga West and strictly with my Yoga West family, but it was an identity I readily embraced.

As we all well know, post-college life is about finding yourself…. even, perhaps, MAKING NAME FOR YOURSELF.  At least, that’s what it became for me.

Eventually, I graduated college (Go Bruins!), began teaching yoga, and, after a few years, began writing professionally.  My life was and remains a constant teeter-tottering between the “real world” and the world in which sometimes I wish I could just disappear entirely into– the spiritual realm.  Don’t get me wrong– or immediately call my shrink- who is the absolute best, btw)– I’m not ready to leave THIS world yet or anything!  I just really really really LOVE the way I feel when I’m immersed in my spiritual practice.  Because it is truly only then that I am not thinking about worldly success and how to attain it.  I can’t help it. No amount of meditation is going to change the fact that I have the genetics of two wildly intellectual, type A, high-achieving individuals.  Neither that nor the naturally curly hair escaped me. And lately, the pressure to create a “name” for myself in the world has been intense.

A few years back, I sold my first book.  That helped. Suddenly, I felt, I had a NAME.  And hey, maybe other people would come to KNOW that name?!  I’m not talking about that combination of syllables to which one automatically responds.  I’m talking about a recognizable designation that, when spoken, resonated with images of someone the general public- and not just one’s mother- valued and admired.  And, to my delight, for a while, girls across the country (and a few across the pond even!) KNEW MY NAME.  I was “Evan Cooper!  Girl Goddess Guru!”  And it was fun.  And fulfilling. And it’s who I wanted to be.

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Having the world know my name was validating.  To me, it meant I was more than just another person, I was SOMEONE.  Of course, even THEN, I knew that the pleasure I experienced surrounding my little piece of stardom was pure EGO taking over.  After all, I wrote a book on yoga for girls and taught yoga to girls not for fame (and certainly not fortune!), but out of SERVICE.  To help and share what I had been gifted and taught myself.

 

A few years passed. I got married and a new last name was tacked on. (Officially rendering me ‘Evan Elizabeth Cooper Cohen’). And through it all, I’ve been on a perpetual quest to get to the bottom of, well, ME.  My soul searching has never slowed and my quest to know myself fully and deeply  continues.

As I now work dutifully on a second, and in my opinion, long over-due book, I’ve struggled with notions of worldly success and what it means to me.  Particularly since my subject matter is all about putting the ego in it’s proper place, not letting it take over! (trust me, the irony has not been lost on me!) Lately, I’ve been thinking about NAMES again and how they give shape to what is an otherwise an elusive, spiritual entity.

With twitter and facebook and blogs and social media, it seems like everyone is trying to do more than just have a name; they are trying to BE a name.  But really, aren’t we more than just our worldly moniker?  What if no one ever learns our name? Does that mean we don’t exist or aren’t important or special?

Okay, so, for example… Over the past year or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about two extraordinarily lovely ladies– both roughly the same age as myself- but on vastly different paths than one another. The unifying element and the fact which draws me to both so strongly is the success each has achieved in THIS world. More specifically, each has made a recognizable NAME for herself.

Funny, because it just so happens, one of these ladies could readily epitomize my love of the material, while the other, easily embodies my commitment to the spiritual: The former, downtown romantic fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff; the later, life coach and self-proclaimed “Spirit Junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein.  I am pretty darn obsessed with the savvy stylings of Mrs. Minkoff (if you don’t own one of her cross-body bags, you MUST!) and my life path seems to mirror Gabby’s in so many ways, I feel as though we are sisters on some other-worldly plane.  I love these women.  They are strong, successful, determined, talented and tenacious. And I so admire them for their commitment to make the world more beautiful, each in her own way. It is women like these two who remind me again and again that ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible, if only you put your heart and soul into your life’s work.

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Gabrielle Bernstein

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Rebecca Minkoff

In light of the worldly success of those I admire, I continually make the choice to remind myself  that even if no one ever knew my name, MY purpose here on earth is to give what I have, teach what I learn, and  simply and exactly be who I AM.

(FYI: The amazing Marie Forleo just posted on how to deal with jealousy, which feels apropos right about here… check it out!)

Okay, okay….So then, the question becomes who am I?

Ardas?  Evan? Mommy? Minkette?  Spirit Junkie?  Mrs. Cohen, the doctor’s wife? Or Evan Cooper, the writer &  yogini?

I suppose the answer is simple: All of the above. Because no one is just one thing.  And it’s each of our jobs to figure out for ourselves who we are and who we want to be.  It’s like the new awesome FUN. song “Some Nights” where he asks “What do I stand for?  Who am I?”  Some nights, we don’t know.  Some nights we don’t even care.  But most nights, we do.  Most nights we want to know that people care about us; that our lives are of value.  And you know the way to be VALUABLE?  It’s to be of SERVICE to others.  In whatever form that may take for you.  It doesn’t have to be some huge gesture or donation; you don’t have to be the next great fashion designer or spiritual leader or pen the next great American novel.  You just have to be YOU.  By whatever name you go by.

And personally, I think the best NAMES are the ones that do more than simply signify one’s persona or reputation; the best names are the ones that represent our TRUEST  SELF.

And my truest self? Well, I’m sticking to mommy,  wife,  writer, and  yogini.  Maybe someday you will hear of me.  If not, you can always just ask for me by name.

 

 

“If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.” 

-Yogi Bhajan

 

 

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Me & my Emerson

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Which Way ‘The Way’?

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I’ve been on a hiatus from my blog, doing a bit of soul (and, admittedly, sole) searching…

Most recently, I took a road trip  up the coast from LA on heavenly Highway 1 for a highly anticipated vacay to Big Sur and Monterey with my hubs.

[Insert Deep Exhale here]

It was a much needed escape from what had been a few hard months of life and loss (love you, poppy!!! 1912-2012), ups and downs, and all arounds.  But what struck me most profoundly about our little excursion out of the desert– beyond the awe-inspiring, breath-taking panorama of Pacific that lay directly to our left– was the idea that we were living in a moment that had been looked forward to, anticipated, and finally, achieved.  And suddenly, there we were.  At our destination… and I still felt somewhat unsettled.

Wasn’t everything supposed to be “okay” once I got “there?”

Over the course of the first 24 hours at the incredibly luxe, modern “rustic” Post Ranch Inn (we weren’t exactly roughing it), I finally allowed my stress to begin to slip away, to inhale the salty ocean air, and to exhale the deceptive airs of my  perfectionist self.  I finally began to RELAX.

Then, on the third day, we rented some mountain bikes and headed out on the windy road known, famously, as The 17 Mile Drive, that lines the coast from Pebble Beach down through Carmel and back around.  The day was foggy, the ocean roaring, waves crashing down to our right, cars passing us by on our left, as we rode through the mist.  And for the very first time in months, I felt at peace.  I thought about the manuscript I had just submitted to my lit agent; of the wonderful legacy my grandfather had just left behind as his spirit moved from the earth to more heavenly planes; of my 97 year old grandmother who continued to sculpt and create and inspire, as she looked forward to the day she’d join her beloved again; I thought about my own gorgeous, incredible, wise-beyond-her-years three year old daughter whose life has given mine its every ounce of meaning; I thought about the expansive nature of the ocean that accompanied me on my ride.

The road was long, the air was chilly, and the angle of the path at an incline.  But there was no place at that moment that I would have rather been.  Then, as if someone knocked on the door to my daydream, a man on a bike coming from the opposite direction yelled out to me and my husband: “You’ve got a long way to go!”

To go where? I thought…  Isn’t THIS “IT?”  Isn’t the ride the whole thing?  I mean, as far as I knew, we weren’t riding to get somewhere; we were just in it for the ride.

And then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me.  Duh.  Could the Universe have been anymore transparent at that moment?  This was a metaphor for my life.

We are all constantly trying to get “There” so that then, we will at long last, be happy.  I honestly don’t know a single person who doesn’t or hasn’t thought or felt this way at some point in her life, if not all of her life (um, that’s me).   It’s human nature, really.  But if we are ever to enjoy our lives, to be “happy in the moment”, then the ride has to be THE WAY.  There can’t be a destination.  THE NOW is the destination.  THE RIDE is the destination.  Because, like the man said, “there’s a long way to go before you get there” and who knows if you ever will.  So might as well make the ride the there.  

“Living in the moment” is a practice and an art.  Its not something you can do all the time, every  second of every day.  After all, you have to make the toast and get the kid off to school.  You can’t be marveling at their every waking move and your every audible breath.  But if we stop– every now and then– and really take pleasure in the RIDE, really relax into the only moment that exists, then I do believe we have truly ARRIVED.***

*** Note: The above post is, admittedly, FULL of a concept we have heard over and over again in our lives.  Cliche, even.  I’m practically annoyed with myself.  And yet, it bears repeating, doesn’t it?   I think so.

 

 

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  • Words of Wisdom

    When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life." - John Lennon

    "The secret of life was Breath. That was what I always wanted my words to do, to Breathe. -Anais Nin

    "Writers are taught to 'write what you know about.' The same advice applies to the quest for the power of the soul: be good at what you're good at. Many of us spend time and energy trying to be something that we are not. But this is a move against the soul, because individuality rises out of the soul as water rises out of the depths of the earth. We are who we are because of a special mix that makes up our soul." -Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore

    To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. -Friedrich Nietzsche

    If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. --Meister Eckhart

    Nothing is worth more than this day. -Johann Wolfgang Goethe

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