Baby, I’m AMAZED

Years ago, I read a famous book on spirituality. The person in the book went to a metaphysical bookstore in LA and while she was browsing, a book jumped off the shelf and into her hands. Without a creative impulse, I decided that because I was reading this, I too needed to get to the same bookstore so magic could land in my hands.

I was a copycat trying to lighten my darkness of depression, unemployment and feeling victimized by the world.

After an obstacle course in getting there, I arrive at the book store. A woman approaches me in the self-help aisle. She asks me for money. I tell her that I don’t have anything for her. I leave incensed. This was not what I came here for. I feel like I took a wrong turn. Then another. I wasn’t looking to help. I was looking to BE helped. Gawd!

As I return home and park, a homeless woman approaches me and screams how she has lost her car, her family and her job and that I NEED to help her. She is scary. But I am scarier at this point. I scream back that I don’t have anything for her and I huff away. Another wrong turn towards…well not towards what I want. Double Gawd!

Stoopid book on spirituality. Nothing magical happened. ONCE AGAIN, I am overlooked! No empathy coming my way *pout pout pout*

A few years later, a co-worker of mine (I was working at this point, but I wasn’t much happier), and I went up to the Mt. Washington home of guru Paramahansa Yogananda. It was lovely.

I had been raised around new agey-ness and meditation, but I was never really good at the sitting still with my thoughts. So although I could get on-board with the teachings and the philosophies, I couldn’t put meditation into practice effectively. Still, the location was serene and quiet.

I no longer carry that darkness with me. I know how to be happy, live in gratitude and be more empathetic towards those who are suffering. I have even learned how to meditate to a point where I can almost feel my body exude light.

That doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to negative energy. I do. But I can usually change course as it’s happening.

This past week, however, I found that I was working double-time to get back on the feel-good-train. It was exhausting. I came home Friday night and told Shaka about it. He said, “Maybe you’re not supposed to fight it so much. Employ the downstream thinking you usually practice.” He was right. But I didn’t hear him finish his sentence since I was stuffing my face with chocolate covered pretzels and then I fell dead asleep like some tired, weird, cartoon bear.

The next day, after watching a documentary on Paramahansa Yogananda, I exclaim to Shaka, (with the same desperate fervor that prompted me to go to the metaphysical bookstore many years ago), “I must take you to do the labyrinth at the Mt. Washington location. It’s beautiful and serene but there is this labyrinth that you HAVE to do! it’s really cool!”

“A maze?”

“A labyrinth. Not a maze. There are no walls or anything. I used to do this with my co-worker. We went a few times.”

“Cool!” (he’s so easygoing)

So I call the place and find out they will be open Sunday. I ask about the labyrinth.

The woman on the phone doesn’t recall there being one. I hang up, knowing there IS one, but we will have to find it on our own when we go.

After the past week of exhaustion and frustration,  I was slowly turning my weekend around 180 degrees. Life was good!

So after voting for our friend and his slate (United Progressives) as delegates for  of AD 46 (which was exciting to be a part of – and he won!),

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we got a text from Mads that there was a soft opening for Groundworks Coffee in North Hollywood.

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It’s in an old train station, right by the Metro. We loved it!

Time was running tighter than I wanted. We had reservations for an early dinner at Lucques (a generous Christmas gift from Shaka’s sister), so I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be time to go to the labyrinth. Shaka, the zen master he is, assures me that downstream thinking is our friend and we will make it on time to do it all.

The twisty-turny roads towards the SRF on Mt. Washington are more windy than I remember. Shaka is questioning whether I have actually ever been here.

“It’s been awhile,” I tell him. Which it has, but the terrain is not familiar. My co-worker drove us there before so who knows how much I was paying attention (a little not at all).

We arrive! It’s breathtaking! The sky was a clean, just-rained kind of clear that you see in movies.

We find parking pretty quickly. Then, we look for the labyrinth.

The grounds are gorgeous, but I am not seeing what I remember in my head. We come upon the sundial. “This is where it was!” I screech.

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“This is beautiful. Does it matter if we find the maze?”

“It’s a labyrinth! And it was here! Where did it go? Come on! Let’s see if it got moved.”

We walk to an open space of green, surrounded by palm trees and foliage whose look and smell lies deep in my childhood memories of Pasadena.

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We sit on a bench. My gaze darts around the open space like I am looking for a late uber driver. Shaka sits quietly.

“I am feeling something here I haven’t felt in a long time.”

“Yeah, it’s peaceful,” I say unpeacefully.

“Let’s just sit quietly. Listen to the sounds you normally wouldn’t be able to hear.”

He is in meditation with his eyes open and is quite still. I frantically look at my phone to search labyrinth, mt. washington, self-realization fellowship, where-the-f-is-it?

After a few moments, I look at Shaka. “Want to walk around?”

“I want to stay here a little longer.”

“OK.” I close my eyes and try and feel what he is sensing. But I can’t. I am chasing a memory that doesn’t exist and I am frustrated. This was not what I came here for.

At the same time, we look at each other and he agrees to walk to the Visitor Center with me.

Shaka, still in a calm state, looks around the store and is breathing in the incense as two women who work there are talking. They turn to help us. I ask about the labyrinth. I tell them I came around 12 years ago and I walked it. The one woman snarkily says, “Well, if there was one, it must have been before I was here and I have been here 41 years.”

I bristle. We thank them and walk out.

Shaka asks if I am okay.

“How did you know I was not okay with her answer?”

“I know you.”

We wander around the main house and find a path that leads to a beautiful fountain and a view of the other side of the mountain.

I sit. And all of a sudden, a wave of energy hits me.

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I tell Shaka that I am now feeling something and that I would like to sit here for a bit.

And then apparently (according to Shaka), I took a selfie.

But then….I meditated.

Like a flash, I felt the words come into my brain.

The labyrinth isn’t here (echos of Westworld ring in my head, but I digress).

And then the location of where it is, comes to me.

EUREKA!

I come out of my stillness quickly and say, “The maze isn’t here!” I grab my phone and look it up.

“I thought it was a labyrinth.”

“It is! The maz  labyrinth is at Forest Lawn. I went there with my co-worker too! Now, it’s all coming back.”

Shaka, is laughing and shaking his head at me. “You almost missed this entire experience looking for something that wasn’t here. And I am still not sure you have actually been HERE!”

I am reminded at how I was waiting for a book to jump off a shelf and missed the message that was ready to bite me, so long ago. The message that others were worse off. The message that my life was pretty good. The message of being in the moment. That message had evaded me then.

I was doing the same thing now. But why? Wasn’t I better now?

Hadn’t I improved?

Well, yeah, I mean, I guess, now I was able to laugh about it as Shaka gently makes fun of me. Fun of me for thinking that lady was dumb and mean (though I still stand by the fact, her snarky response was NOT necessary), fun of me for not recognizing the gift of finding something unexpectedly great in place of what I was seeking, fun of me for being so anti-zen even though my mission was to get my zen on in this spiritual place.

Driving to our dinner reservations, we were both still laughing about it.

I was just happy that my memory hadn’t failed me entirely.

There was a labyrinth, or rather there is one. Somewhere else.

And I can’t wait to show Shaka some time. We can go there and meditate.

Because, you know it’s just so hard to find the right place to do that if you are already in a maze where you are waiting for books to fall off shelves.

But then I remember, it’s not a maze. It’s a labyrinth.

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Slippery

This year has been an example of highs and lows.

Highs being that I am truly my most content with who I am, who I am with and what I am about.  I am planning a wedding (it’s as much a high as it is a low – ha – can you say CHILL WEDDINGS ARE STILL STRESSFUL? at least if you are moi). I am marrying my best friend and someone who makes me laugh and laugh at myself.

The lows being all the icons who are departing this plane.  David Bowie hit me hard.  So did Garry Shandling, to name a few.  So early in the year, the reaper started tending.  Last week, Shaka and I were discussing who the next big icon would be to rock our world if they were to die.  I said, Madonna and Prince.  And today, as if the Universe heard my hypothetical chat, we lost another. Prince, I didn’t think you were done with creating and rocking our world with your world.

The thing with these icons isn’t just that we are losing people who have made us think, or laugh or who inspire us, but we are truly losing magic.  We are losing people who shine a little brighter than the rest of us, as if to show us how the stars work.

It’s a little dimmer for sure in this reality, but it really showcases how we need to harness the stardust they have provided and live a life truer to our creative natures.  What moves you, should MOVE you, get it?  MOVE you to create, inspire and shine.

I went looking through old emails to find the photos I took at the Prince concert at the Forum back in 2011.  PRINCE.jpg

The treasure trove I uncovered of old writings, musings, blogs, emails, etc. was kind of like a time capsule.

This is a piece I wrote ages ago after meeting a kindred soul one night.  He and I remained friends and I forgot that I wrote it. But today, when realizing all we have is our creativity to capture our stardust, I thought I would share it.  I really like it.

Slippery

  A birthday party in March on a rainy Hollywood night.  I sat down at the empty end of the table not knowing that it would become the cool end of the table.

 You showed up late and sat across from me.  You had friendly eyes and your rapier wit was able to keep up with my repartee.  You had my attention.

 I was nursing a bruised knee with some ice.  Earlier, I had slipped on Hollywood Blvd., outside Musso and Frank’s.  You asked me which star I had fallen on.  I couldn’t recall since at the time, I was more concerned with regaining my footing in front of the audience of pimps, winos and hookers.  I told you I would go back and look when the rain stopped.  I never did.

 You seemed embarrassed that you were the only one at the table who smoked but repeatedly departed to alleviate your craving.  I drank to alleviate the pain in my knee.

 Something in your humility outshined your confidence and something in your confidence cast a shadow on your humility.  I doubt I was really aware of the duality at the time.  You made me laugh.  Really laugh.  Not the polite-I-want-you-to-like-me-so-I-will-laugh-so-you-think-I-get-you-sort of laugh, but really laugh.  You had a clever way of wording things.  You made me think.

 We left as a group and the air outside brushed our faces with a reprieve of rain and a brief breeze.  We walked as a group down the streets of Hollywood to a bar.  We entered as a group and stood as a group and tried to converse and figure out what the next plan of action was.  Were we staying?  Going?  Going somewhere else?  We stayed as a group who was losing its excitement.  The night was wearing thin and voices were raised and ears were deafening in the din of the music behind where we stood.  We exited as a group back into the night air, now ripe with the scent of rain, exhaust, and endings.

 And like a train dropping off passengers at their cars, we fell off in the groups we had come with.  We looked up at an abandoned building and said to Mark who was being forced to move, “Hey Mark, if you lived here, you’d be home right now.”  I think we laughed.  Who knows, it was funny.  Who cares?

We dropped you off at your car.  The rain started again and I wondered if I would take another spill on the sidewalk.    This time, however, I looked forward to seeing which star I would land on.

I Blued Myself

I was born a blonde.  I didn’t stay a blonde naturally.  But that didn’t stop me from continuing from being one.

My hair grows very fast, so keeping up with the maintenance meant I needed to go out often.  My checkbook couldn’t take it.
Then I found ways to go in for “Apprentice nights” where I pay next to nothing to have a student at fancy salons work on my hair.  The time commitment was too much (most of those salons were across town) and you would be in the chair for awhile.

I LOVED the people who have worked on my hair!  But I needed to at least try to color my hair myself.

A year and a half ago, I found the youtube channel of Ellebangs!  She is awesome!  And her tips and advice gave me the confidence to go at it on my own.

It’s been great for the most part.  I color, I highlight and I tone.  I use a toning shampoo when I don’t want to use developers.

The one I was using was great but when I heard about a new one that was more pigmented, I couldn’t wait to try it.

I tried it.  My hair felt fantastic, and oh yeah, it was blue.

Here is my vlog about how I color corrected my gunmetal grey to become a fabulous blonde with household items.

Hope this helps, and even if you don’t need the help, hope it entertains!

The Challengers

On the walls of the day
In the shade of the sun
We wrote down
Another vision of us
We were the challengers of
The unknown     (lyrics from “The Challengers”)

I have been on vacation for two weeks.  Though it’s not the first time I have taken such an extended time off (people asked at work, “What are you?  French???” If only! Mais oui!), It feels like it might as well be since the change in me is profound.

The first week was spent with my sister visiting from Europe along with her kids and husband.  We rented a beach house near Ventura and Shaka and my dad joined as well.  Normally family vacations though well-intended can feel like a pressure-cooker of past grievances.  But it was such an enjoyable time (aside from my sister almost choking on rice and me panic-stricken in the ocean way past my depth trying to rescue my nephew, but I digress) and I even worked on my video projects.  First one is soon to come!  It was awesome to see dolphins and sea lions every day, as we surfed and chatted and fell down and laughed.  The sunsets seemed more vibrant while not having a rush-hour steering wheel clenched in my fists.

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As if time with the family wasn’t enough of an identity reminder, the next week, as Shaka went back to work, my dad went back home and my sis and fam headed back across the pond, I found myself in a staycation of the best sort.  I converted my old audio cassettes to mp3s and I got another shot in the arm of my past (I also realized how annoying I was in these old recordings – but bygones : )

And it comes out to this… I like where I came from (I never thought I would say that).  I like where I am today even more.  I feel more empowered by excavating my memories and putting them in appropriate mental files (as well as actual Windows files – ha).

So with all this blissed-out, love-fest, vacation-girl time, I wondered why I still felt a sense of panic.  A feeling that the other shoe was going to drop.  The internal dialogue sometimes sounded like an external dialogue of theatrical proportions as I was driving around town, working out my worries.

I decided I was going to put old fears in a suitcase that gets lost in a transatlantic flight.  And then dropped in a fire pit.  And doused with forget-me-nots…uh, I wanted it gone.

Progress was underway.  I was driving around, not realizing how hot it was getting and how exhausted I was.  That night, Shaka came home and noticed I seemed listless.  I had a headache and neck ache and felt like I had lost all strength.  Then, right after dinner (with black rice – sooo healthy – sooo hard to find), I threw up.  Shaka looked up signs of a female heart attack – I had most of them.  I scoffed.  It was just hot.  It was just a tiring day.  But I promised him that the next day, I would call the doctor.

I awoke very refreshed but keeping my promise, I called.  The on call nurse wanted me to come into the ER.  WHAT?

Now I was nervous and started to imagine that I was having a heart attack right THEN.

6 hours later, EKGs, Xrays, all kinds of lab work and consultations and a Dr. Oz episode with a segment of women under 55 who have heart attacks (naturally I assumed this was a sign that I was never leaving that hospital bed) – it turns out, I had just experienced a vacation-induced Panic Attack.  Drama much?  If my old cassettes had proven anything, I hadn’t changed all that much.

hospital me

A clean slate feels pretty good (see happy face above – No Pain)

This weekend, Shaka and I headed to our friends’ place in Corona to celebrate birthdays, anniversary, last days of summer (tell that to the weather) and to ground ourselves with a meditation.

Plus there was wine and lots of it.; yummy food, good friends and pool time.  We all felt a bit like we had been tumble-dried this summer with life events.  Many of us had been awakened by physical problems to shift our thinking.  It was very comforting to know that we were not alone with some of what we had been experiencing.  I mean, just turn on the news or sports and you’ll know – the world is crazy lately!

What a balm, a salve, a healing, a …you get it.  It was good.

I made a mixed cd for the hostess.  One of the songs was an older one from the New Pornographers called, The Challengers.

I love the tune. But there is something even more powerful about the lyrics – like we are cutting a swath through this strange plain of existence.

In the end, all these details, all these emotions don’t really matter.  We only have to exist from cradle to grave and experience it all – for good or bad.  But I am grateful for my family, for my relationship, for my friends, for the adventures of the past two weeks.  Grateful for the challenges of what it means to be human and for all these emotions and all these details because they are what make us unique in our common experience.  To be challenged is natural.  How we handle it, is how we learn.

“Until I see you around
Until we clear the accounts
Leave it there
Leave it to us
We are the challengers of
The unknown”

Zensday Wednesday – Passwords to change it all around

Good afternoon, my Lovelies!  Hope your Zensday Wednesday is looking better than my hair looked this morning.  I can’t be held entirely responsible:  I hung out with Jazzy last night. She made the yummiest salad and a pizza that went perfectly with the wine we heartily drank  sampled.  It was a perfect evening, replete with a gorgeous sunset, some chatting on her balcony and lots of catch-up in her cozy, gorgeous digs as french musique played in the background.  This morning looked a little less picturesque.  My puffy eyes and my pillow head made sure I remembered I don’t live in a movie or a French cafe.  Oy.  

Back to hoping your day is going better than my appearance this morning.  

I read an article recently about a guy who started to make his passwords goals he wanted to accomplish.  Whether it was forgiveness or trip-planning, he began to notice that his perspective on things started to change.  Here is the link to the article.

Password Changed His Life

I started to think that if I did that, not only would I remember my passwords (I recently changed them all and I feel like I have temporary dementia every time I log in to something), but maybe, like the guy in the article, I would start to see my life a little differently.  Sort of a mind game to remember gratitude or will power or strategy or goals.  I have started doing it.  It is going well.  Sort of.  I keep forgetting EXACTLY what my goals are and EXACTLY what I want to bring in to my life (maybe that is the bigger problem, no?).  Funny thing about passwords…they like exactness.

It’s all a process anyway (life, love, this password experiment).  I just want to get better at remembering so that I can start to live with a bit more intention (and also so that I don’t get locked out from too many false attempts at guessing).

Maybe my password should be: iwillsorememberThistime123 – like hastags.  

I will let you know how it goes, unless I can’t remember how to log in here.

#Fingerscrossed456

ZENsday Wednesday – Abstaining from Complaining

I forgot to post yesterday for Zensday Wednesday, but thought it could help a little with all the tension everyone is feeling with all the bad news in the world recently.

Try going 24 hours without complaining even once (even in your head). Start now…okay now. Well, whenever you start it, replace gratitude where a complaint would be. Even if you only last a half a day or an hour…it’s a start.

UPDATE:  I started this around 8:30am today and I must say that it’s like when you put a rubberband on your wrist that you snap whenever you have a craving for whatever you’re trying to abstain from.  Every time I wanted to complain, SNAP, I remembered to be grateful.  Okay, I remembered to not complain and THEN I tried to slip in gratitude.

It’s a work in progress, but I think I may have already changed my aura…wait, that might just be light reflecting off my glasses…whatevs, I will take it!  OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Let me know how your results turn out

Katification of Me

It started at the beginning of this year.   I was at a dinner party where I ran into a friend of a friend.

Her name is Kat.  She is beautiful, thin, young and incredibly vapid.

She is of that generation that came out of learning to brand themselves for social networking and have parlayed that into marketing, PR and Networking careers.

I have never had a strong opinion of Kat, other than she was 3 degrees of separation.  And she always says, “hello” to me in a very fabricated, genuine way.

After having one of the longest conversations I had ever experienced with her (10 minutes) at the dinner party, I realized that she isn’t all bad.  But she IS a lot of bad.  Bad for me, anyway.  Bad for my soul (wait?  Too dramatic).  Well, you get it.  Bad in a way that left me feeling like there was still a residue from our conversation. A sentence without a period.

What was gnawing at me?  It wasn’t jealousy (though for the low hanging fruit pickers, that would be obvi but untrue).  I didn’t want to BE her because I like more parts to my personality than she has hair on her head (she has beautiful, brown flowing locks). There was nothing about her that I found particularly interesting, funny or creative. And yet, one day, out of sheer boredom on facebook,  I wound up at her page.

I noticed that on a recent trip to NY, she had posted a photo of the contents (carefully art-designed, naturally) of her carry-on bag.

Among the various items of makeup, scarves, lotions, her phone and her camera, was a pair of headphones.  They jumped out at me on the page.  Was it my insatiable consumeristic nature?  Was it the part of me that loves those “What’s in Your Bag” features of many beauty haul blogs on youtube?  Or was it the ACTUAL beauty of these headphones (sometimes headphones are, afterall, just  headphones)?

It WAS the headphones.  But it was so much more.  It was that with very little effort (or so it appeared), she had so many things at her fingertips which were a struggle for me to achieve.

The headphones represented the disparities in our lives. It was quite literally, a snapshot into her easy life.

There, I guess it WAS more than the headphones and a little jealousy.

Kat’s appeal; her mystery, was that she felt like everything that happened to her, came to her, fell into her lap, was HERS.  She willed it.  Or wanted it, then willed it.

Either way, I found that although, yes, she came from privilege, she wasn’t a brat.

She was just entitled.

The world gave her a lot when she was born.  But she continued to expect a lot – with a smile.

And she got it.

These headphones had been a gift.  Probably swag.  Everything in that photo was simple, but purposeful. Her knowledge of branding was to be envied.  She had created a cult of the anti-personality.  And it was working! Everything was working for her!

I looked in the mirror that morning.

Were things working for me? And if not, why not?

What could I do differently?

If I could take one ounce of the Kat Koolaid and apply it to my own life, how differently would things turn out?

I was going to make this year:  The Katification of Me!

I had never been too materialistic, save for perfume and hair products.

I didn’t want to become like Kat, I only wanted to create a a playing field where I wouldn’t just secretly covet things or lifestyles of others, but rather, I would find a way to have them or create them for myself, while still being me.

It’s strange when you change the narrative of your own story.

Once I started creating a list of things I wanted, I realized that some items weren’t really that important to me.

A dupe might work here, or the real thing there.

I found that craving some materialistic objects made me happy and made me buy a lot less crap.  Like when you eat really good gelato rather than light ice cream.  It does the satiation trick.

Some things fell of the list really fast, like wouldn’t you know it – the headphones which had started this whole thing!  I ended up getting a pair I love for a fraction of the cost.

Some items are still on the list because I still WANT them even after months and months of deliberating if I NEED them.

I wasn’t coveting anything or anyone else’s life anymore.

Funny thing was…I hadn’t even known that I HAD been until it stopped. Weird.

Who knew that a casual acquaintance would help me start to truly love my life and be grateful? Be grateful for what I already have, be grateful for what I want to have, even if it never reaches me.

Be grateful I live in a time and place where for me, this is possible.  And also, not to be so quick to judge someone’s place in my life.  The lesson was quite loud.

I have run into Kat a few times since then.  She has no idea.  I doubt she would care about the impact this experiment had on me, if I were to tell her.

But who knows? She might surprise me. The power of Katification has shown me that anything is possible!