Soul Searching Rec: Mindbodygreen

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mbgYou may have caught on to this by now: I am a personal growth junkie. I love learning and exploring new things, particularly resources that are informative, inspirational, and fun. And if said resources just so happen to improve happiness and well-being, all the better!

So, in the spirit of promoting such resources, I’d like to recommend one of my favorite daily e-newsletters (stemming from a great website): Mindbodygreen. I look forward to this gem in my inbox every single day. Here’s a blurb from the Mindbodygreen website about the mission behind the brand:

mindbodygreen is a lifestyle media brand dedicated to inspiring you to live your best life.

To that end, we want to give you everything that’s great for you: mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and environmentally — because we believe these pillars of wellness are vital and interconnected. Hence mindbodygreen (one word, not three).

Mindbodygreen splits their content into these categories: eat, move, live, breathe, and love. Revitalize is another subcategory that is based off of an annual event hosted by Mindbodygreen that gathers wellness leaders and other inspirational individuals who shape the world.

The content on the website and in the e-newsletters is truly inspirational. Each e-newsletter issue is filled with a number of articles and recommendations that are impactful and thought provoking. Topics range from astrology and clean eating to fitness and relationships. Even the articles I wouldn’t necessarily seek out have often been enjoyable and enlightening.

If you’re looking for a daily dose of inspiration, I highly recommend subscribing to the Mindbodygreen newsletter!

Meditation

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meditateI’ve been meditating for about five years, and although I’ve gone through periods where it was a devout daily practice of mine, I’ve not been very good at making it stick lately. The annoying thing is that I know how much it improves my life – it gives me clarity, a way to relieve stress, and it lends to a marked and overall improvement to my mental health. I thought that perhaps by blogging about meditation, it would inspire me to make it a daily habit once more.

I’m rather flexible when it comes to my meditation practices, because I like to learn about and experience new things. I’ve tried many different types of meditation: guided meditation, meditation accompanied by sound (my preference is ocean waves), binaural beats, breath-focused meditation, and just plain old silent meditation. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite type, but I tend to practice silent meditation or guided meditation the most. My favorite guided meditation is Blissful Deep Relaxation. The first time I used this meditation, I fell into the deepest meditation I’ve achieved to date. It was trance-like, and once I finished, I wasn’t even aware of my body. It was awesome.

I also have some meditation apps that I like to use:

  • Brainwave: The Brainwave app is a good option if you’re into binaural beats. Brainwave has a handy timer feature, ranging from five minutes to eight hours (if you use one of the sleep beats), and it also has background sound options (like “Beach Surf”). The actual binaural beats options include programs such as “Power Nap,” “Morning Coffee,” “Critical Thinking,” and “Creativity Boost.” I definitely like all of the options, but I’m not sure binaural beats are for me. I never seem to get anything out of this app, try as I might.
  • Breathe: Breathe is one of my favorite meditation apps. It provides a meditation guide for newbies, a list of meditations–some of which are free, and some that you must purchase–and it even tracks your meditation progress. My favorite Breathe meditations include “Mindful Meditation,” “Gratitude,” and “Great Compassion.”
  • Calm: Calm may be tied with Insight Timer as my favorite meditation app. The interface is super nice, and there are a ton of options. Calm offers daily meditations and various meditation programs, such as “7 Days of Calm,” “7 Days of Sleep,” and “7 Days of Self-Esteem.” Both unguided (timed vs. open-ended meditations) and guided (“Body Scan,” “Calming Anxiety,” etc.) meditations are available, although many of the latter need to be purchased. Calm also has a scenes feature, which allows you to choose from an array of moving images to focus on while you meditate, if you so choose. They have everything from a beach sunset to a horizon scene.
  • Headspace: Headspace is perhaps one of the most popular meditation apps. It’s a really great resource for newbies and promises to teach and promote daily meditation in just 10 minutes a day. Like Calm, it has a really nice interface, although as someone who has meditated for years,  I found Headspace to be a bit too meditation for dummies.
  • Insight Timer: This one is my most recent find, and it has quickly climbed to the top of my list. It’s free, and it’s basically an online database of meditations for all different purposes: sleep, relaxation, reducing anxiety, balancing your chakras, etc. You can search for whatever you want, and they also keep lists of the current top 20 meditations, newest meditations, etc. I really like that there’s a bookmark feature, so you can keep track of your favorites, and there’s also a rating feature, which always helps me decide which meditation to choose.
  • Simply Being:  Simply Being is a guided meditation app, but you can mute the voice so you can focus on your chosen sound instead. I favor “Moderate Surf,” (with the voice muted) but there are other options, such as various music, “Light Rain” and “Evening Lake Birds.” I also like the timer option on this app – you can set your meditation for 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes.

If you’re interested in meditation, you should definitely try one (or some!) of the apps listed above. Of course now that I’ve published this post, I’ll be sure to take my own advice and get back into the habit of meditating 😉 I find that for me meditating at night just before I go to bed is a great way to unwind after a long day and fall asleep faster, which is always appreciated.

Team INFJ

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infjI’ve always been introverted with a side of social anxiety, but lately I’ve felt as though my anxiety has significantly increased. To combat this and better understand myself, I’ve been doing a lot of research about introversion and social anxiety. My hope is to better educate myself on these traits as well as possible coping mechanisms and personal growth opportunities that would work best for me. I first took the Myers-Briggs personality test years ago but decided to take it again to really dig deep into my wiring. I found a great version of the assessment at 16 Personalities, and they have, by far, the most in-depth free report that I’ve seen on this type of assessment. (Note that I also took about five other versions of this type of test to make sure that my result was accurate.)

Unsurprisingly, now that I’ve read up on it, I am an INFJ. INFJ equates to Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging. This personality type is the rarest of the 16 and makes up less than 1% of the population. That’s one in every 100 people. Between 16 Personalities and the other assessment results I received, it was literally pages and pages of information on being an INFJ. Rather than just copy and paste all of that information, I want to touch on the facts that really struck me, and just generally use this post as a way to organize and reflect on this data. And what better way to do this than…::dramatic whisper:: bullet points.

  • The INFJ personality type can be referred to as “The Advocate” or “The Counselor.” The role of this person is diplomat, and their strategy in life is constant improvement. This actually made me chuckle because it’s very spot on for me. People often seek me out for advice or to vent, I really despise confrontation so I try to be very diplomatic, and I am a personal growth junkie.
  • INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life. They need to know that what they are doing has meaning, helps people, leads to personal growth and, all the while, is in line with their values, principles, and beliefs. This is something that has become very apparent to me the last couple of years. It’s one thing to be good at your job, and another to love your job. And I realize that I truly desire work that is not only creative but impactful. I like knowing that I am working for a purpose, even if that purpose is to make people laugh and be happy.
  • INFJs crave creativity too. They often pursue expressive careers such as writing, elegant communicators that they are, and author many popular blogs, stories, and screenplays. Well, here’s hoping 🙂
  • Though soft-spoken, INFJs have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain. This is me to a T. I’m fairly quiet in most situations, as I prefer to observe and think before acting/speaking, but woo boy do I have strong opinions. I will make sure to share them, especially if I feel as though there is inequity or injustice going on (especially to others, not just myself).
  • INFJs need time alone to decompress and recharge. lolololol uh, yeah. Most weekends find me hiding at home, alone, so I can shed the stress and social interaction cache from the work week and recharge before getting back to it on Monday morning.
  • When INFJs come to believe that something is important, they pursue that goal with a conviction and energy that can catch even their friends and loved ones off guard. Yeah, pretty much. #sorrynotsorry
  • INFJs yearn for authenticity and sincerity – in their activities, their romantic relationships, and their friendships. They are unlikely to go for friendships of circumstance, like workplace social circles or chatting up their local baristas, where the only thing they really have in common is a day-to-day familiarity. Rather, INFJs seek out people who share their passions, interests and ideologies, people with whom they can explore philosophies and subjects that they believe are truly meaningful. Yessss! I am really sick of needing to defend the fact that I cringe at small talk, despise work happy hours, and generally dread “just because” functions. It’s not because I’m an asshole or standoffish, it’s because these type of social interactions (and the anxiety that I feel leading up to them) are painful and, in my eyes, pointless.

I think it’s really important to note that “introverted” does not necessarily mean “shy.” To me, being an introvert means that I just prefer to be quiet and observe. It means that I am highly sensitive to external stimuli – noise, light, crowds of people, scents, etc. These are things that I zero in on and am affected by physically. It means that I get my energy from being by myself and enjoying solitary activities like reading and writing. It means that social situations and gatherings take a lot out of me, and that I don’t always hate them, but I will more than likely dread the lead up to them. I just find all of this information really fascinating and comforting. Most of the time, I feel like an awkward socially anxious freak of nature, so to see what I feel and how I act documented in various ways by various sources makes me feel a little less misunderstood and lonely.

This is Not Okay

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statue-of-liberty-267948_640Never in my life have I felt so torn. On the one hand, I find myself often needing to just turn away from social media and the news, because every time I check, there is yet another disturbing and horrific headline. But then again, I need to be informed. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand. I will not fall in line, sit back, and normalize what is happening in America.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve not always been politically savvy. I didn’t really pay much attention to politics until it was time to vote for Barack Obama, and I was excited to do so. I remember staying up late on Election Day in 2008, watching history being made, and feeling so proud to be an American, so proud to be part of this type of progressive achievement. And now when I wake up every day, it’s like I’m living in some kind of regressive, soon to be apocalyptic, nightmare.

In just two weeks, Donald Trump has signed off on some of the most oppressive and disgusting Executive Orders in the history of our country. A woman’s right to choose what is best for her health and her body should not be dismissed and trampled on by a room full of conservative white men. Moving forward to build a toxic pipeline through the sacred lands and waters of the true natives of this country should not be a decision made by a greedy billionaire and his wealthy cabinet of cronies. Singling out groups of people and denying them refuge from war or the long sought after American dream because of their faith and ethnicity is repugnant.  

This is wrong. This is moving backwards. This is not my America. It’s heartbreaking to witness this type of regression and hatred. Yes, hatred. That’s exactly what it is. Racism. Sexism. Islamophobia. Homophobia. It all comes down to the same thing – hatred for those who are different.

All of this is so profoundly divisive, and I’ve experienced that first hand. I recently lost one of my best friends over all of this. We’d known each other for a decade, but after the election, I was so shaken and upset by the result. So naive in my white privilege. I desperately wanted to try and understand why this happened. I sought out conversation with my former friend who had a history of being a conservative Republican. I just wanted to understand the other side from someone I loved and trusted, and you know what happened? She couldn’t even have a conversation about it.

The more questions I asked, the more silent and defensive she became. And I realized that I thought I knew this person so well, but we hadn’t ever really talked about this stuff. Important stuff. About our core values and beliefs. About diversity and inclusivity. About basic human decency. And as I began to replay past conversations in my head, where I’d brought up my loved ones who are gay, or wanting to write diverse characters in my stories, I remembered that she never really participated in any of it. I began to realize that maybe we didn’t actually have the same values and beliefs. But rather than have a conversation about this, my former friend abruptly ended our friendship and told me I was being used by Satan. I wanted to talk about equality and justice, and she couldn’t even dip a toe in the conversation, but I was the one possessed by evil? And really, when you can’t even have a respectful adult conversation about these things, when you are so shaken by mere questioning about them, I can only conclude that at the core of what you think, feel, and believe is shame.

All of this has my head spinning. To live in a world where there is talk of a wall being built between countries. Where we are turning away refugees seeking safety and peace. Where we are vilifying the press. Where the man sitting in the highest office in our nation chooses to spend his time lying about easily vetted things, insulting foreign countries, making his wallet and the wallets of his friends fatter, and using every possible moment of screen time to deepen the divide of America…all of it is just really and truly terrible.

I feel sick and lost and scared. And the sad thing is that I know I’ve only felt this way for a few months while marginalized people have felt this way their entire lives. So shame on me. I suppose the best I can do for now is: 1) continue to be informed by concrete sources, 2) be vocal and steadfast in my denouncement of these disgusting injustices, 3) continue to sign petitions, contact my representatives, and donate to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and 4) reiterate that I am an ally, I am not okay with any of this, and I will continue to support and advocate for all of those being negatively impacted by this new administration.

New Book Idea

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img_4900For the past few years, all of my spare time has been focused on screenwriting with my writing partner, Jess. Prior to this partnership, I had always wanted to be a novelist, an aspiration that goes way back to my preteen years. But when Jess approached me with a story idea that I couldn’t resist, our partnership was born, and it eventually evolved into a comedy screenwriting adventure that I love more than words can do justice. It was how I spent all of my free time, and my own novel writing endeavors were moved to the back burner.

Until now.

Not only have I learned how to juggle a full-time job and various writing endeavors, but I finally, gleefully, blessedly was struck by a new book idea over the holidays. For months, I felt ready for a new idea. All of my past novel concepts were Young Adult fiction–supernatural and fantasy–and although I love that genre and hope to revel in it one day, I just wanted something different. Something grown up. And I got it:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Think Eat, Pray, Love meets On the Road. But this idea goes beyond wishy washy chick lit, because ::shivers in disgust:: I would never. This is about a journey from day-to-day misery to tragic loss to an urgency to live to doing just that. As an aspiring writer, I’ve heard one bit of advice over and over again: write what you know. Obviously, I didn’t know YA supernatural and/or fantasy lifestyles, but I could imagine them. But for this new idea, I can pull from my own experiences and also write about what I’d like to experience.

Another facet of this idea that I am super excited about is diversity. My cast of characters will be all over the map: white, black, hispanic, straight, gay, and transgender. I want to represent all different types of people. I want to show love and friendship across different scopes and challenges.

I am SO STOKED for this book. I was able to completely outline it and develop my cast in two days. So now, now the fun part begins – I can start to write this story. And, although it’s only a working title, I’ve decided to call it Destination Happiness. Simple and–I hope–relatable.

Daily Soul Searching

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lotusSoul searching is a daily practice of mine, not because something is missing from my life and I’m trying to find it, but because I love personal growth and self-discovery. I love peeling back the layers of the most authentic version of myself and uncovering what truly lights me up as well as the areas in my life that I could change, strengthen, or improve.

My soul searching journey began over five years ago when I reconnected with an old work acquaintance. We were both struggling with painful personal issues, and began to lean on each other for support and inspiration. From there, what had only been a friendly work relationship blossomed into a beautiful friendship that is still thriving and changing my life for the better every single day. Daily lunches turned into weekend girl nights, where we began to experiment with tarot cards and meditation. These activities combined with just being together created a bond and a sense of peace and happiness that we both desperately needed.

We practiced meditation consistently, even when apart, and we also began to collect various tarot card decks to share. We were curious about any form of spiritual practice and soul work that we could get our hands on, and this interest eventually led my friend to The Secret and The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. Both books revolve around the concept of the Law of Attraction (like attracts like), but The Magic was more of an activity book – a 30-day daily practice of gratitude. For me, The Magic  was…well, magical. That book changed my life and catapulted me to a completely different level of soul searching and self-discovery.

As I mentioned, I had been struggling with deeply negative and painful personal issues at the time, and practicing daily gratitude and learning more about and believing in the Law of Attraction greatly shifted my attitude and perspective. I began to see inspiration and joy in small, everyday things. I was able to acknowledge that although my life wasn’t perfect (who’s is?!), I had so much for which to be grateful. From there, my life significantly changed. I was able to distance myself from my personal struggles in a healthy way. I moved into a new apartment that I loved. I was able to quit a job that made me deeply unhappy and move on to a new position that offered more money. I accepted and celebrated my writing talent and began to actually aspire to hone it and share it with others. I am not exaggerating when I say that it felt like good thing after good thing just kept falling into my lap.

This shift was so uplifting and life changing that it prompted me to continue to seek out things, people, places, and whatever else affected me on a spiritual level. This practice of daily soul searching stuck with me, and I still, to this day, seek out experiences that touch my soul and leave a lasting impression. External things and possessions can be great and fun, but when you are impacted on an internal level, when you feel something in the core of your very being, those are the types of things that can change your life. Those are the moments that inspire you to be better, do more, and share your experiences with others who need inspiration or motivation.

Every single day, I find something that lights me up. It’s often something small and inconsequential – reconnecting with a friend, seeing a quote on social media that moves me, having some time to write and just getting absolutely lost in the flow of creativity. Daily soul searching has just become a part of who I am. I enjoy learning and personal development, and more so, conversation about all of the above. I enjoy sharing my experiences, and–hardly shocking, I’m sure–sharing my story and seeking the stories of others. I think that to some, soul searching may seem like an overwhelming, complicated (or never-ending?), or spiritually froo froo task, but I believe that at its core, soul searching is rather simple – it’s about connection. Connection with yourself, connection with others, and connection with new ideas that light you up from the inside out. 

When I Knew I Wanted to be a Writer

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img_4913I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact moment or thing that ignited this desire until recently. My favorite book is Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It’s been one of my favorites since I was twelve, and that’s saying a lot because I am and always have been an avid reader. In fact, in middle school I was notorious for having a new book to read nearly every day. We had daily Sustained Silent Reading in English class, and I would be in the library a couple of times a week looking for a new book to read.

My parents were not big readers, but they did encourage my passion for it. When I was twelve, they both had just finished reading Swan Song and were raving about it. Although it was an adult book (it’s postapocalyptic with traces of horror, supernatural, and fantasy as well as a whole lot of adult content), they still encouraged me to read it, so I did. I remember struggling with the first 60 pages or so, as they are very political and not the least bit interesting to a preteen, but I powered through. Then I was hooked.

After that, I read Swan Song annually. That is until college, when classes and part-time work took precedence over leisurely reading. Then adulthood happened, and I was in the real world, which boasted a lot of 9-5 parameters and even less time for reading for fun. Still, I spoke of the book often, and it was my go to reading recommendation to any and everyone.

Last year around New Year’s, I decided that one of my resolutions would be to read more in 2016, and I wanted to start off with a reread of Swan Song. So that’s how I spent my spare time the first couple of weeks in January. Any moment I had to myself, I was reading McCammon’s book. I spent the last 50 pages of the book silently crying as I read, because I was so overwhelmed by McCammon’s brilliance. His story is a masterpiece, a beautiful masterpiece. But more so than that, it made me remember. And realize.

This was the book that turned me from reader to aspiring writer.

This is the story that swept me away so ardently, that I knew I needed to try my hand at creating my own story and characters. I wanted to do what McCammon did. I wanted to write something that would impact others the way his writing impacted me. Swan Song reminded me of who I was, who I am now, and who I want to become. An aspiring writer, a determined writer, a successful writer.

When I finally put down the book, still overwhelmed with emotions and this realization, I looked up Robert McCammon on Twitter and tweeted to him about my love and awe for the book. And, do you know what happened moments later? He retweeted my message.

I don’t believe in coincidences, so I took this as a sign (albeit silly to some) and a weighty validation. This was the universe’s way of telling me that my realization and the passion and new-found drive to succeed that it inspired is not only real but encouraged. Writing really is my path, and I would be foolish not to pursue it.

So, here we are. Pursuing 🙂