Acting On Inspiration

red kite

I watched season 2 of The Carrie Diaries yesterday after devouring season 1 a few weeks ago. A coming of age story for a group of high school friends from Castlebury, Connecticut in the mid 80s, it is a prequel to the Sex and the City television series and based on Candace Bushnell’s book of the same name.

What I most enjoyed about watching the show, perhaps even more than catching the warm and fuzzies from the theme of strong friendship or drooling over the GORGEOUS Austin Butler, was observing Carrie’s determinedness to go for her dreams of becoming a writer and to make her way in the city that has always electrified her. Like Carrie, New York City, in all its dizzying chaos and harsh extremes (rich, poor, overcrowded, intimate, uplifting, depressing), has dazzled me from a young age. Seeing her coming into her own, navigating her way from sheltered suburban kid to bold, street-smart young woman who wants what she wants badly enough to risk embarrassment and failure struck a chord with me. Carrie, just 17, was mature for her age, as I have always been. She has always seen herself doing big things in life, just as I have. I grew more and more inspired to work on my goals with each passing episode.

The thing is, it’s easy to say you’re going to commit to making things happen for yourself, changing what you know needs to change, and going for the life you feel you want and deserve while basking in the touching, beautifully blinding light of inspiration. A centering vacation, revelatory spiritual retreat, enlightening personal development book, or powerful sermon, for example, can fill us up with hope and excitement about our futures that often brings us to tears.  These moments remind us of the non-jaded, unafraid little kid inside who had big dreams that not only seemed possible, but certain. We’re rejuvenated and filled with fire…all from the comfort of our couch, a gorgeous beach, or cozy place of worship.

But what happens once we get off the plane, when we finish the book, when the sermon is through, or in my case, when the show is over? Continue reading

14 Suggestions for How to Spread a Lil’ L.O.V.E. on Valentine’s Day

hearts

February 14th doesn’t just have to be about romantic love. Frankly, the whole WORLD could use some more heart ‘n’ soul from each and every one of us. And while we should do our best to come from a loving state of mind every day, Valentine’s Day serves as a nice reminder. (And there’s roses and chocolate everywhere, so, you know…I’m pretty much all about it.)

Here are 14 doable ideas on how to dish out some much-needed compassion this VDay:

1. Volunteer (or sign up to volunteer) your time or money to a cause you believe in.
2. Smile at a stranger. (…Or 14 of’em)
3. Give at least three people a genuine, heartfelt compliment.
4. Send a “love letter” to anyone you know who could use a pick-me-up.
5. Keep your language (including the self-talk in your head) as positive as possible and try to avoid gossip.
6. Do at least one small thing that could help the planet and/or animals, both which cannot ask for help themselves.
7. Support a local business. (Perhaps one that sells chocolate, perfume, lingerie, or jewelry?!)
8. During your commute, offer up your seat to someone else if you take public transportation, or patiently let someone cut in front of you if you drive.
9. Practice listening without simultaneously thinking about your own agenda for the conversation.
10. Consider how you can share your unique skills, talents, and PASSIONS with the world–we all need what only you can bring to the table, and it would be a crime to hold that back.
11. Spread positive news that is not directly about yourself.
12. Practice empathy and allow yourself to feel whatever emotion(s) comes up for you without judgement.
13. Educate yourself by doing ten minutes of research on a far-reaching controversial topic you are unfamiliar with. (Less ignorance is the key here.)
14. Give someone a kiss, big hug, or at least a solid pat on the back while looking them in the eyes. The sensation of touch and eye contact is huge for creating trust, good vibes, and peace.

What other things can we do to bring more love to all on Valentine’s Day and every day of the year? Let me know in the comments. xo

Peace, love, and glamour…
Rika

Suga, Suga, How’d Ya Get So SICKENING?!

sugar skull and crossbones

Hey, everyone! Happy New Year! It’s been a long time..I shouldn’t’ve left you..without a dope beat to step to….  *Corrrrnyyy* 🙂

SO, as part of my New Year’s resolution to eat mostly healthy [vegan] food, I have committed myself to going sugar-free for one week of every month in 2014. For January, I chose this past week (Monday-Sunday), since I had no social obligations to attend where tempting goodies might have called my name. I should mention that at least for now, I’m not at the point in my journey where I [want to] eliminate ALL sugar, such as that found in fruit, certain condiments, etc. I’m currently just choosing to go without any kind of obvious, sugar-filled junk food. (I never add sugar to my coffee or tea anyway.) I have had a HUGE, almost insatiable sweet tooth all my life, so just eliminating cookies, cake, candy, etc. for a full seven days is a ginormous leap for me. (It’s the second time I’ve challenged myself to do this in my whole life! The first was back in November.)

Today begins a week where I’m allowing myself to have junk-sugar (in moderation) again. Now, most nutritionists would NOT recommend rewarding oneself with the thing she is trying to avoid or have less of, but uh…EFF THAT! This afternoon I went to Fairway and got about 6 regular-sized cookies (white chocolate macadamia, double chocolate chip, chocolate chip, and granola), as well as a soy mocha cappuccino because I’ve been meaning to treat myself to coffee from Fairway since I moved to Harlem and began doing my grocery shopping there. I was planning to have about three cookies today and then save the rest for later this week. Continue reading

How to Feel the Magic of the Holiday Season as an Adult

lit tree in woodsFor some more drastically than others, the holiday season can seem to lose a bit of its luster as we get older. Decorating, baking cookies, and exchanging presents are still fun, but not as fun or fulfilling as they used to be back when we weren’t ruminating on our financial woes and checking email every five seconds while passive-aggressively being pissed off at several people in our families. 🙂

For those who generally like the holidays, but just wish they could feel a bit more of the magic they did as kids, it’s surprisingly pretty easy to get that old-fashioned joy back without much more than an open mind.

I don’t need to tell you how great traditions are—you likely already know this and have activities you enjoy participating in this time of year. Furthermore, I don’t believe we get the full experience of doing those festive things anyway without giving some thought to the following:

In my opinion, there are three main components that affect how we experience this time of year.

1) Mindset and Use of Time
2) Relationships
3) Belief in the Inexplicable

Mindset and Use of Time:

  • Give yourself a break from some responsibilities for a few weeks and spend more time enjoying holiday-specific activities or volunteering for those less fortunate.
  • Surround yourself with more positivity than usual, possibly in part by switching up your media intake until after the new year.
  • Commit to a playful, lighthearted attitude and let loose!

Relationships:

  • Accept family and friends for who they are and who they are not.
  • Forgive those who have hurt you for your own peace of mind.
  • Remain unaffected by negative or jaded people.
  • Check in with yourself here and there through journaling or meditation, for example.

Belief in the Inexplicable

  • Feel grateful for who you are and what you have.
  • Try to remember some of the times you felt the universe/God/whatever saved your butt or brought you some kind of miracle.
  • Rule out anything as being impossible.
  • Acknowledge love itself.

Do you have any more categories or tips you’d add to this list? How do you feel about this time of year overall?

How I Did on My First (Sort Of) Sugar Detox!

no sugar I'm sweet enough

YOWZA–long time no post!

Sorry y’all. I’m not even gonna give you an excuse–frankly, I’ve just been slacking. Want to strive for that to happen less. We’re here together now, though, so that’s what’s important. 🙂

I wanted to update you on how my sugar detox went! I’m proud to say that I did the unthinkable for me: one whole week without any kind of junk food sweet. No chocolate, no candy, no ice cream, no cake, no cookies, no cherry-flavored wallpaper a la Willy Wonka–nunna that. It tripped me out when I realized that the last time I went a week without sweets was VERY likely before I could chew food! (My mom has always been a sweet-a-holic, and I inherited that, thanks to all the goodies that have always been in our house. Thank God she and I are such busy ladies running around all the time, or else we wouldn’t be able to fit through a door…seriously.)

I think what really helped me get through this was telling myself that Continue reading

My First Attempt to (Sort Of) Sugar Detox

sugar cubes

Give mama some suga? No ma’am–not for a week!

Lately, I’ve been falling back into some unhealthy old habits, and have been totally overdoing it on the sweet stuff. Fortunately, it’s more so out of laziness than the strong pull of addiction, which I experienced when I was in the throes of Binge Eating Disorder a little over five years ago. (I’ll get into that in another post.) I know I have the tools to make better choices, but a bit too often I’m just like, “Fuck it. I could get off my ass and take a walk or grab coffee with a friend, but that takes effort, and I’m tired. That triple chocolate cake that’s in the fridge right now sounds fantastic though, and it’s RIGHT THERE, so whatever.”

While my binges are nowhere near as frequent or as large as they used to be, they occur enough to sabotage my productivity (excess sugar makes me EXHAUSTED) and potentially jeopardize my health over time. I’ve heard over and over again that sugar is the devil (haven’t we all?), but I think I’m finally ready to start listening.

Generally, I’m all for everything in moderation, but at this point I’m not sure if sugar is something I can only have a little of. I’m okay when I’m at work and enjoy one chocolate kiss or cookie, but if junk sweets are in the house? FUHGETTABOUTIT. Game over.

I should mention that I’m not trying to cut out all sugar— Continue reading

Forgiving Myself After Succumbing to My Ego

forgiveness

I came home (to my parents’ house in Jersey) this weekend for a close friend’s wedding, taking Monday and Tuesday off as well to really soak up the quality time at home. I was excited to see close friends, hang out with family, spend a little time in nature, and leisurely write and research my career interests over the four days. I saved today (Tuesday) for the latter part, knowing I’d have some quiet time with both my parents being at work.

I woke up this morning in a sad, grumpy mood. I often used to feel this way on Sundays (the day before work) at home, and sometimes still do at my new apartment. It’s like I’m counting down the hours I have to be completely free and do whatever I want before having to head into the weekly rat race again, and it depresses me. (Sound familiar?) There’s also the pressure of having to be productive and use those precious hours wisely.

Because I’m really trying more than ever to work on curbing my ego to advance myself towards my dreams, I said, “No, Erica. Don’t start this again. Nothing bad has happened. You have no reason to be sad or grumpy. Let’s just go make the best of this beautiful day.” I was happy that I had at least convinced myself into a five minute meditation, but this positive mindset didn’t last for long. I was irritable with my mother and we got into the kind of argument that we haven’t had since I moved out. I didn’t feel like exercising, even though I felt gross from eating lots of junk the night before. I was just feeling annoyed with a tinge of hopelessness.

Long story short, I ended up watching The Wendy Williams Show, Bethenny, and Wendy Williams’ aftershows and hot topics videos ALL. DAY. LONG. in my lavender bathrobe, something I used to do often, just wallowing around in my grumpiness and giving up on my plan to be productive. (Or the idea of running a comb through my hair, evidently, which ends up looking like quite the welcoming nest for a family of sparrows after a long day of lounging around sulking.) Continue reading

Powerful Contemplation on Happiness and Being Carefree

self-meditation

Sometime early on in college, I picked up a cute little book by Barbara Ann Kipfer entitled Self-meditation: 3299 Mantras, Tips, Quotes, and Koans* for Peace and Serenity near the checkout line at Barnes & Noble. I don’t remember being drawn to the cover (pastels are not normally my thing), but I imagine the idea of having so many bite-sized nuggets of positive, spiritual wisdom at my fingertips sold me on the purchase. (Sometimes the new-agey folk can be a bit longwinded. :))  It’s cool to be able to open to any page (since the tips, quotes, and meditations are in no particular order) and gain a little insight right before I leave the house or before bed. (Some of them can be a bit too thought-provoking pre-snooze session though, so I need to be careful or else I end up contemplating existential theories at two in the morning on a work night. Lol.)

Here’s one of the exercises in there that I came across yesterday, which I think could be quite revelatory. I’ll have to add the page number later, as I don’t have the book with me now.

Take in these three parts, noticing (without judging) what you think and how you feel upon doing so.

1) Imagine what it may be like to have no fear, no worry, no stress, no confusion, no one to be angry at, no pressing matters, and nothing to wish or wait for.

2) Invoke an image of yourself as a baby–innocent and carefree.

3) Bring that image and feeling into your life. Look at your life and the people in it without any worry.

Keep in mind, this is merely a contemplation. I don’t believe it’s realistic to think we will never be fearful or stressed.  BUT, at the same time, if you have the ability to ENVISION a carefree, happy you, that means you have the potential within you to be this way. I do believe in the Law of Attraction, which to paraphrase, means “what you think about, you bring about.” So while our lives will never be peachy-keen at every moment, I believe we can skew the ratio in our favor by reframing the way we view life.

We don’t HAVE to become jaded as we get older.

We don’t HAVE to look at life as unfair.

We don’t HAVE to be uptight and stressed out all the time.

These are all choices we make.

Just somethin’ to think about. Too deep for a Friday? 😉

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Peace, love, and glamour,
Rika

*In case you’re wondering what the heck a koan is, Dictionary.com provides a solid definition: “a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning to provoke enlightenment”.

Train-ing Myself to Have Some Patience!

crowded train

I’ve always loved riding the New York City subway. It’s just classic New York. I like the grittiness of it, the ample people watching, listening to people playing music on the subway platforms, and the time it gives me to zone out and think. But before I actually moved to the city this August, I only rode the train occasionally, maybe twice a week at most when I went to college in the Bronx. Now I take it twice a day Monday through Friday, and sometimes on the weekends.

And it ain’t so cute anymore.

*WARNING: RANT UP AHEAD*

First off, the 1 train is ALWAYS crowded, no matter what time of day it is. People walk into the car and just stand by the doors. UM HELLO?!–MOVE IN SO OTHER PEOPLE BESIDES YOU, THE QUEEN OF MOTHEREFFING SHEBA, CAN GET ON! Men sit down before offering their seat to a woman. People blast their music loudly. You’re wearing headphones. WHY do I still hear your music through MY headphones?!

People lean against the pole so that NO ONE ELSE can hold onto it. Men take up two seats because they simply MUST have their legs open at AT LEAST a 120 degree angle. Young women wearing flats sit down in the last available seat even though they see another young woman (ahem, me) wearing heels, completely breaking sisterhood code #73. When getting off the NJ Path train in Hoboken, these Hobokenites don’t have the common sense to WAIT for the people currently ON the train to get OFF of it. They just barrel on in.

Oooooh. My blood boils just thinking about this.

“F*$!ing idiots!” I say in my head, rolling my eyes and clearly expressing irritation.

Not very “peace and love” of me, huh? HA. I know. Continue reading

Channeling Overwhelming Excitement When Beginning New Endeavors

starting line

My passionate nature is one of the things I like most about myself. When I’m interested in something, I soak it up like a sponge, studying it to death, reading about it, tweeting about it, listening to it, talking to people about it, dreaming about it, etc. etc. etc. I love this fire in me.

The only downside is how much it really DOES feel like a FIRE in me. When I care about something wholeheartedly, when something excites the heck out of me and ignites my soul, when I have a project I’m working on that really speaks to me, this feeling of dizzy, overpowering joy punches me right in the gut. My throat and chest tense up, my heart races, and the butterflies in my stomach are something RIDICULOUS, often bringing on a lovely case of nausea.

While I’m psyched about whatever it is I want to embark upon, I get overwhelmed by determining where to start, how to build and maintain a routine to make progress, who the right people to talk to are, and how to balance this project with my fulltime job, errands, personal development routines, and having at least a tiny morsel of a social life so that I do not become a hermit.

I know that much of this stems from perfectionist thinking of mine that things must be done a certain way, in a certain order, at a certain time. This can be paralyzing due to fear of making the “wrong” move. So instead of making progress, I end up researching the hell out of something only to burn out and end up more confused due to the various (often conflicting) sources of information out there. This can leave me feeling defeated and deflated before I’ve even done anything! Research is good, but if you don’t jump in and just do SOMETHING after a certain point, you’re not getting anywhere.

In addition to causing me to get stuck, this overwhelming feeling often makes me want to distract myself (with food, with Facebook, with a sudden, odd obsession with cleaning out my entire wardrobe), which further puts a delay on my development.

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Here are a few things that help me center and calm myself when I feel my mind spinning out of control at the start of a new endeavor:

  • I imagine myself trying to find my way out of a dark tunnel. No matter how far I shine my flashlight, it would be impossible to see all the way to the end. It makes more sense to focus on shining it a mere three feet in front of me (i.e., breaking goals down into bite-size chunks, working with what I know now) and going from there. This idea is comforting because it takes the pressure off trying to figure everything out now.
  • Closing my eyes and taking 10 slow, deep breaths helps put my body at ease. My muscles loosen up and my heart rate to slow down a little.
  • Exercise helps me channel all my happy slash nervous slash excited slash confused energy. I can beat the shit out of a punching bag or go for a run and come back feeling so much mentally lighter and clearer.
  • I ask myself “How will I feel when I go to sleep tonight?” Life shouldn’t just be about doing and accomplishing, but making sure that I’ve done at least one small thing a day to advance myself towards my goals makes me feel like it was a day well-spent.
  • I plan on tracking my steps on a calendar so I can actually look back and see what I’ve been doing to turn dreams into realities. This is to keep me accountable as well as give myself credit for what I’ve done so far.

Beneficial Affirmations and Reminders:

  • Just go! (As well as Just Do It—thanks, Nike!)
  • This is not a dress rehearsal. Your life is happening now. Stop dwelling.
  • Make it happen.
  • It’s not that serious. (Reminds me to loosen up and not take myself or my life TOO seriously.)
  • I’m going to have fun today!
  • I have everything I need to start now.
  • I’m ready.
  • Bring it on.
  • GO!
  • My energy is calm and focused.
  • Everything I do comes from the heart.
  • Just start somewhere.

Do you experience the same feeling of giddy nervousness about taking on something you’re passionate about? How do you control this energy instead of letting yourself run away with it?

Peace, love, and glamour,
Rika