Tag Archives: Meditation

[Self Discovery] The Serenity of the Sea

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 “My life is like a stroll upon the beach, as near to the ocean’s edge as I can go”
— 
Henry David Thoreau —

Summer in SD

Ever just feel the need to get away? Not to necessarily escape from life, but to take a midweek vacation from all the humdrum stress of your vocation and whatever else might be plaguing or mentally exhausting you.  Lately, there’s been this large itch to jump in the car and not be home – maybe it’s the incredible heat waves we’ve been having in Los Angeles proper, maybe it’s the fact I’ve formally lived in Los Angeles for a decade now; irregardless, lately I’ve had this distant itch that I’ve needed to scratch from sandier locations.

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I work from home and have been working from home for the last five or so years.  It’s a wonderful life, but at the same time – it can make for some stir crazy mornings and cabin fever-esque afternoons.  Thankfully, for the last few weeks, I’ve been blessed enough to tag along while my dad goes on a few work trips down to gorgeous and sunny San Diego, and every now and again I’ve also been jumping in the car with Danny and working from anywhere that cell phone service exists along the Southern California coast.  From Santa Monica, to Long Beach, San Pedro down to Orange County and San Diego – the California Coastline down here has a bevvy of beautiful beaches, ripe and ready for adventures.

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With seventeen miles of coastline and nearly 5000 acres of land, San Diego boasts an incredible amount of beaches per capita, each with their own unique charm, from Ocean Beach to Encinatas and back to Moonlight Beach – you simply can’t go wrong as you bounce from one sandy piece of heaven to the next.  Yes, of course beaches will be crowded – have you met Summer in SoCal?! – so be sure to head there with plenty of time to spare and plenty of sun and sand to be had.

Travel up the coast a bit and you’ll hit the beautiful beaches of Orange County and Newport, including the stunning 1000 Steps Beach.  But I’ll be honest, the only version of the OC I like is the show – and it’s primarily because I can put it on mute. Anyhow, just a hop, skip and a jump up and you’ll reach shores of San Pedro and Angels Gate Park, where notorious scenes from my all time favorite movie were played out in the 90’s.  Can you name the movie? I won’t give it away!  Nestled between two coastlines in a sprawling green park that overlooks the coast, you’ll find the fabled ‘Koren Friendship Bell‘ in all of its vibrant glory and impeccable hand crafted detail.

Los Angeles itself is known as much for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as it is the menagerie of beaches against its coast.  Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Point Dume – you simply can’t go wrong.  Now, it’s definitely a personal decision, but Danny and I typically off for the off the beaten path locations with less people – the more of a tourist trap it is, the less peace, quiet and space you’ll have, you know – if you’re into that sort of thing.

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“Don’t underestimate the healing power of these three things:
music, the ocean, and the stars.” 

Hypnotically beautiful with brooding turbulence underneath, the Ocean water mimics the human condition: meeting new highs and pulsing lows, bringing rocky baggage ashore and washing herself clean of the past, pulling new ideas back undertow and ingraining them in her personality. Summer in SD

It’s as if the waters have found themselves in the midst of mindful meditation that you can’t help but immulate: with this wave – I’m breathing in, with this wave – I’m breathing out.

 

No matter the mood or emotion I bring to the water’s edge with me, it’s always washed away and I’m left feeling rooted, as the soles of my feet and tips of my toes edge their way in and around millions of grains of sand that each have thousands of years of stories to tell.  Twisting my head to and fro to see as far as the eyes can see, I’m inexplicably drawn to the cascading of blues that measure where the sky and sea are drawn together in an almost hand painted gradient.  It’s here, that I shed my snakeskin of the past to the salt and air and become again.

Where do you go when your soul needs to refresh?

 

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[LA Life] A Tranquil Trip to the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens

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The happiness of one’s own heart alone cannot satisfy the soul; one must try to include, as necessary to one’s own happiness, the happiness of others.”
– Paramahansa Yogananda

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The bumper sticker is faded, a bit roughed up and dirty – but the words “Never Stop Exploring” boldly expresses our want, or rather need, of constant discovery and wanderlust. Affectionately called the ‘Adventure Wagon‘,  what was formerly my family’s car and what I learned how to drive on back in the day has become a staple of our current lives.  Turning 20 years old this year, it’s taken us throughout the better part of the West Coast, roaming between Oregon, Southern California and Canada, and experienced it’s share of music festivals; truth be told, my favorite adventures are the ones that it takes us close to home.Untitled

Truth be told, this past year was a monster unlike any other for me – and as it seems, for most of us.  Between some of the highest highs and the lowest lows, we traveled a lot less than ever this past year, especially as we slowly dissolved ourselves from the festival scene. Recently, these little country cats have turned into city kitties and we’ve fallen in love with the Museum of Modern Art in Downtown Los Angeles, the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room‘s at The Broad and simply roaming the streets of downtown in search of amazing architecture and technicolor street art. Instead of gallivanting to new states, we found ourselves in a slow state of finally appreciating our surroundings within Los Angeles proper, and it was absolutely wonderful. Between the beaches in Malibu and Venice, hiking trails in Hollywood, desert landscapes of the Antelope Valley and Salton Sea, the Griffith Park Observatory, and the Angeles National Forest, it’s been nice to finally marinate in the beauty of what’s in our backyard. With the year drawing to a close and no holiday vacation on tap, the last few weeks of light work turned into the perfect reason to get one last round of exploration in for the year, and I couldn’t think of a better way to look ahead into 2018 than a tranquil trip through the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens in Mount Washington, featuring sprawling lawns perfect for stretching, yoga, and ample seating while you take in the salacious views of Downtown Los Angeles and marinate in the wonderful pockets of nature..

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The Self Realization Foundation itself was founded back in 1920 by yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda as he first came to America. Considered far and wide the father of Yoga in the West, Paramahansa Yogananda is attributed with introducing his practices of Kriya Yoga and meditation to both Indians as well as Westerners.   After coming to the United States, he lectured and traveled along the East Coast, gaining notable followers from Mark Twain‘s daughter Clara Gabrilowitsch to soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, leading him to establishing the Self Realization Center in Los Angeles.  As the first Hindu teacher to truly live in the West, over time and even surpassing his death, Paramahansa continued to influence key movers and shakers across the board with his essentially self titled autobiography “Autobiography of a Yogi“, from Steve Jobs to George Harrison and Elvis Presley.   Since then, the Self Realization Fellowship has been dedicated to carrying on the ethos and humanitarian work of their founder.  The foundation themselves reaches worldwide, with a goal of fostering “a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse peoples and religions of our global family, and to help those of all cultures and nationalities to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit.”

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Enjoy a panoramic view of the city by the sundial, or relax in the luscious lawn with lovely little flowers and well groomed trees in vibrant shades of green. Following the paths through the gardens, dip into the ferns and marinate in the calmness of the small waterfall and pond in the center.  When you continue, you’ll find various benches hidden between bushes and off the beaten paths, and a set of stone chairs and table perfect for an afternoon picnic.

The paths at the SRF are open to visitors from 9am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday and from 1-5pm on Sundays. For more photos from the gardens, head to my Flickr – and keep in mind, I’m really just learning the Canon 6D – so more to come from that in a bit! For more on the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens, head to their socials or pay them a leisurely visit.

Website | Instagram | Yelp | Facebook

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[Self Discovery] Marinate In Your Mindfulness

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As I’ve reveled in recent experiences, both on a personal level and a global level, I’ve recognized the need in myself to be mindful – to be aware of the present moment, less anxious about the past and unfazed by future worries.  When you truly wrap your head around the ephemeral nature of life, you’ll realize how many moments you’ve wasted by mentally occupying other temporal space. Though daydreaming is nice every once in a while, the perpetual wish to  be in another place, have another job, or be surrounded by different people constantly disengages the mind from your current reality, taking you out of the actual moment at hand.

 

As defined by both yogis and psychologists – the state of mindfulness involves an active focus on the present with purposeful attention to the moment at hand.  Living in the space of mindfulness means our mind is open to being in the now, while feelings and thoughts are processed impartially as nonjudgmental experiences. By engaging in mindful behavior, we’re actively raising our personal vibration and the vibration of the global, collective consciousness.

 

 

Mindfulness is a simple recognition that there is something greater than us that dwells within each and every conscious being.  There’s a light that we all carry inside our hearts, a light that pours into others and collectively illuminates the world – or a light that can be extinguished by others if misused or misplaced.  To me, the light that is in each and every one of us is our Spirit Molecule, our God Particle. God isn’t something beside is, outside of us or separate from us – God is within all of us, God is the spark of consciousness that acknowledges the world in all of it’s forms, God is the catalyst for us to live with respect, love and honor – for not only ourselves, but the world that we inhabit and the greater, global consciousness that we all play a role in.

To recognize and acknowledge this light within others, that’s what yoga practitioners refer to as namaste; for anyone who’s frequented the festival circuit or rave scene, it’s been passionately referred to as PLUR and for those simply meandering the world, you might just think of them as vibes; however you refer to them, they’re a collective call to the common good and a reminder that we’re all part of something greater than us.

In small ways,  we can practice mindfulness every day.  When your creative and mental juices are flowing, there’s no choice but to be fully immersed within the present moment: you’re drawn to the now.  Whether it’s a visual art like painting, pottery or graphic design, dance, flow arts, singing, practicing yoga, creating music, or delving into a hobby like crocheting, gardening, photography, writing, baking or cooking – you’re building upon what has been created while evolving the craft carefully; sometimes with expert timing but always with an artistic vision and passionate drive.  Life itself isn’t very different.

Activate With Exercise

Whether you fancy a hearty run, a solid workout or a flow yoga class – by engaging your mind and body in synchronicity, you’re actively engaging in mindful behavior. C.S. Lewis famously said “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Whatever your personal thoughts are on the issue of mind-body duality, you can’t deny that in this lifetime we’re only allotted one physical body.  Our parents, gym teachers, athletic coaches and doctors have implored that our body is a temple and we should treat it as such.  But as we reach adulthood, more often than not that advice falls by the wayside while schedules climb into the far reaching corners of our calendar: we tell ourselves we can’t find the time, but the reality is we just don’t want to.  Somewhere, in our misaligned, personalized version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – whether it’s because of the stress of a demanding job, an overbearing social schedule, or potentially even anxiety or depression – our physical health has ceased to be a priority.  The good news is that now is the perfect time to change our attitude about how active our lifestyles are.

Exercise like strength training in the gym or running can eliminate any sort of stress or anxiety through the release of endorphins; hormones the body naturally releases as opioid activators that work simultaneously to enhance mood and reduce anxiety.  While engaging in weekly yoga and meditation practices have been proven to improve creative thinking and concentration while decreasing stress by calming the center of the nervous system.

Get Up and Give Back

Love is boundless energy, and one of the only emotions that we can physically, mentally and emotionally both give and receive.  When we’re peace with our own love and able to love ourselves with every fiber of our beings, we’ll be in a prime position to both receive and give love to the world around us. Once you become aware of what you can give back to the world, it’s wonderful to realize that there are multiple ways to physically, emotionally and mentally give back to your immediate community – including neighborhood groups, community service and volunteer organizations. By actively opening your heart for altruistic activities and engaging yourself by assisting those who are less fortunate, you become an important cog in the wheel of life and an integral reason the loving world keeps turning and turning.

Websites like Volunteer Match and Create the Good will link volunteers up with a menagerie of local organizations that are constantly seeking volunteers; if you already have a hunch how you want to help,  a simple search for more prominent, national programs for the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the American SPCA will turn up cause specific opportunities at a local level.

Expand Your Mind

When I was younger, I could charge through a book in a under a week – sometimes even a day if I really fell down the literary rabbit hole.  Over the last three years as this blog has blossomed, I’ve found that the more I entertain the writing process – the less and less I’ve been reading.  So lately, I’ve taken it upon myself to really carve out some time in my day to sit and enjoy some good reads. Yes, books transport you to another location, whether antiquated or fantastical – but when you read, you’re fully immersing yourself in a moment, a moment that you can share with other book lovers and curated by the author.  Instead of rushing to the last page like the finish line of a sprint, consider yourself in for a long walk in the park – remember, the goal is to enhance mindfulness – not just your page count.

Not only are these books incredible on an individual level – it so happens that they all tie into each other very nicely.  Truth be told, I would recommend any book by any of these authors – but these five are my first picks.

Whether you’re reading, meditating or getting yourself into a lovely yoga groove, I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite music to philosophize, relax and marinate in my mindfulness to, including the likes of Emancipator, Bonobo, Major Lazer’s Robot Heart Sunrise Set, Random RabAeroplane, The Human Experience and more. As a pro-tip: anything labeled a ‘sunrise set’ is bound to be extra vibey, so strap in and let loose- as you set off on a blissful, audio adventure.

Through daily attention to yoga, meditation, literature, music and community service, I’ve rediscovered myself on my pursuit of mindfulness while finding ways to expand my mind, body and soul and better give back to the world around me.This is how I choose to spread my light – how do you choose to honor and spread yours? What are your favorite ways to practice mindfulness and inhabit the present moment? Let me know in the comments below.  To close, I’d like to leave you with some quotes from my favorite reads on mindfulness:

“Cultivate solidity. You are somebody; you are something. You are a positive factor for your family, for society, for the world. You have to recover yourself, to be yourself. You have to become solid again. You can practice solidity in everyday life. Every step, every breath you take should help you become more solid. When you have solidity, freedom is there too.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”
Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

“Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”
Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“Do you really want to be happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.”
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

“For every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree. To manifest individuality, every branch must have a sensitive connection with the tree, just as our independently moving and differentiated fingers must have a sensitive connection with the whole body. The point, which can hardly be repeated too often, is that differentiation is not separation.”
Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Namaste.

[Self Discovery] Revel in Your Personal Rituals

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In the few years after I moved to Los Angeles, I’ll admit that my mornings would be ridiculously unproductive. I would roll out of bed, play with the cats, entertain the idea of going to the gym while jumping in the shower and haphazardly set on my way through the monotony of the work week: Eat, Work, Sleep, Cats, Repeat. Though my weekly charade got me to the weekend in one piece, I can’t say that my mind, body and soul were in harmonic balance.   Rudimentary routine escaped me and I most certainly hadn’t even entertained creating any sort of personal ritual.  Leave it to my first yoga class in 2012 to set my mind right. What struck me so succinctly was the necessity to practice with intention – not just yoga, but every little facet of life.  Ever since, I’ve developed a few small practices, and I encourage you to do the same because when I permeate the present with purpose, I’m not only proud of the work that I do – but I find I get more done and am happier to to it.

Whether its a daily, weekly or monthly pursuit – the development of sacred rituals and mantras allows one to hone in on their personal potential while infusing the moment with positive intention.  Whether personal and private or social and shared, a ritual has importance beyond the moment and has a heavier grasp on our psyche, playing a vital role in regulating our mental and emotional statesBy routinely focusing our internal energy and calming down the external world around us to a whisper, rituals reduce stress, depression and anxiety while simultaneously increasing our self discipline, enhancing our creativity and adding to our general sense of self and well being; by purely focusing on the moment, we allow ourselves to truly be present. Though in a traditional sense ‘ritual’ is related to a religious pursuit, to me – a ritual is a repeated tradition seeped in personal significance.

When it comes to the every day, simple rituals like a hot pot of coffee paired with 20 minutes of a good book can set the morning on the right foot; at night, rinse and repeat but replace your beverage with some calming tea.  Realistically, rituals can range from skincare regimens and stretching routines to mid day siestas and late night rune readings.  A tried and true night owl –  I enjoy implementing a morning ritual to set my intentions and ramp up my day; but for you it might be something that helps you wind down and out, allowing you to process your waking moments.

Your ritual can be as simple as setting a daily intention, or a morning mantra, or it can be cathartically complex; either way, it should invoke calmness and tranquility throughout the day. Translated from Sanskrit and part of the Hindu and Buddhist practice, a mantra is a phrase, sound or word repeated over and over to increase concentration and awareness; some personal favorites are  – ‘I will be fully present in the moment’, ‘seek the good’, ‘the grass is greener where you water it’, and’find comfort in the chaos’.

When it comes to rituals, my personal favorites include journaling, reading, music, meditation, road trips, arranging and cleaning crystals, playing with my cats and dancing.  To you they might sound like hobbies, but for me there’s something simple yet sacred about all of those pursuits and combined, my heart truly sings when engaged in those activities. For those that enjoy being more physical like myself active pursuits like yoga, a trip to the gym or an enjoyably long walk with your dog, a friend or significant other will set off the day or night in a positive light.

On a larger scope, weekly rituals like a set gym or yoga schedule and standing date night with your significant other or social circle give you something to look forward to on a weekly basis and strengthen your support system at the same time.  I’ve also taken fondly to monthly rituals like writing out my monthly intentions, engaging in full moon tarot readings and adventuring to a new nature infused landscape.  Lastly but certainly not least, avoid becoming stuck in a rut with your rituals – remember -they should let you breathe new life into your day, not bog you down with unneeded responsibility.

What are your favorite ways to break in the days, weeks and month? Do you have any rituals that you hold dear to your heart? 

Let me know in the comments below!