Make Groceries Make Community

Jumping on my soapbox… Let me just say, “What’s the deal with grocery stores and New Orleans?” I know that on every corner there is a place to get food. Sometimes the place is fancy, sometimes it’s a dive; and other times you just aren’t sure what it is, but it works because it’s New Orleans.PATH

During weekends of Soul School, I found myself in a grocery dilemma.

Where can I go? What’s open? How far is it?

I have a feeling locals run through these questions in their heads so quickly that they forget they are asking them.

Each Sunday during Soul School, we had a satsang and potluck. Side note, why are potlucks so incredible, and why am I not invited to more of them? Will work on changing that! Also, invite me to your potluck. I’ll make something delicious or just bring some Hail Merry pies. I digress.

So, my first weekend, I didn’t really need to purchase food because my host graciously roasted vegetables for me. With the potluck dinner fast approaching, I picked up some hot chocolate and vegan marshmallows from the “economical” Whole Foods on Broad. Yes, I brought hot chocolate to a potluck. I’m classy like that.

SPOONFUL

The next weekend I needed more food because Kathleen was with me and in an effort to not buy all our meals at Lost Love and the Co-op, we set out in search of a grocery store. Now, the only options I knew about were the Co-op, Whole Foods and the Rouses across town…but thank you Google for showing me that there was another Rouses not too far from Tupelo St.

Now, I must admit my spoiled grocery attitude is very much a Baton Rouge thing. We take for granted the plethora of options. There are stores everywhere. In all actuality, we purposely selected our townhouse because of its location to I10 and I12. This is what people do when they commute to work and part of that commute means quality time in Baton Rouge traffic. So, near us (within 5 miles) there are approximately 3 full service grocery stores, 2 of which we can walk to if we so choose – to risk our lives in Baton Rouge traffic because of the streets necessary for crossing to access the store, but nonetheless, need be we can walk. Back to Nola…

GROCERYSo, we headed to Rouses and paid way too much for blueberries and other economical food items. Ranking in close to $100 bucks, I started to rethink my plan for how much food the moolah could have gotten us at Lost Love or the Co-op.

BILLIs this why people eat out in Nola? I was so confused one Saturday as I returned to my host’s home. I walked in with 2 full bags from the “economical” Whole Foods and asked, “Why are the stores so all-over-the-place and inaccessible in this area of town?”

I mean, it seemed like every corner store held the “necessities”: milk, bread, meat, liquor, and the obligatory basket of over ripe fruit near the register. But what if you want greens or a gluten free frozen pizza, where do you go?

I know this seems a bit overboard because in the grand scheme of things, there’s food everywhere in New Orleans. But I definitely believe on a level of community health, there must be a better distribution of fruits, vegetables and special diet foods.

This same argument is taking place in Baton Rouge, and with great strides, food options are being made more readily available; and we are seeing change. Community gardens contribute as well.

In the 9th Ward you have young people becoming beekeepers and making a sustainable wage from the harvest of honey. Changes like this impact the neighborhood and ripple through the community.

HONEY

I must add too that St. Roch Market is now open–contributing to food options in the Bywater. However, I am not sure of the price point or accessibility to the community.

Nola, I love you but it’s difficult for me to cook for you. How about you keep cooking for me? Otherwise, let me know when you’re fixin’ to make groceries!

Have you stopped being a student?

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Do you consider yourself a student, or have you at one point decided you are no longer a student and that you are a master? OK, maybe not master, but you know what I mean. You’re done with school or university or whatever certification you were last working on and you’ve entered into the territory of ‘subject expert’–at least on paper.

Why did you want to complete your term as student? Now that you no longer consider yourself a student, are you still learning? Are you challenging yourself? Are you questioning, still observing? Yes? Then, my friend, you are very much a student.

Once the composition books and Jansport book-sacks are shoved to the back of the closet or discarded (minimalists I am speaking to you too), its easy to imagine that you’re officially liberated from the title ‘student’. This separation of title may be vital for you because you simply can’t fathom another night with only 4.2 hours of sleep or reading countless chapters and passages only to forget them all the next week. You’re tired and need a break, a sabbatical.

As the years pass on, we find ourselves (if we are lucky) delving into a new hobby, skill, or career change. We take on and tackle various home projects becoming weekend warriors because of DIY tips learned from YouTube and the like. This is the critical moment for many of us where we choose (and not always consciously) to become tuned in or tuned out of our life, our surroundings and our minds.

I recently read a post from Elizabeth Gilbert where she discussed this topic and said to write “student” on your hand as a personal reminder. This simple gesture gives you permission to be vulnerable. Through this vulnerability we can allow our authentic self to shine and delve into the knowledge of where we are. Life learning is not rote memorization. Life learning is a practice one must engage in from many angles. I am a huge believer in Bhakti yoga.

Bhakti yoga is the language of the heart mixed with expression of the soul and is practiced through devotional service. I love that. I love that we can practice Bhakti in all we do. As I write “student” on my hand and sit with the stress and angst I place upon my own shoulders, I realize that if I am ever to learn anything, I must first love myself. If I am ever to love anyone, I am first to love myself. If I am ever to impact the world, I must start with me. Bhakti yoga is the catalyst. Living in devotional service–in pure love–impacts everything and changes who we are by removing the masks we wear. Essentially, we must lift our hearts so that we see and know everything through love and know that our most authentic self is a vulnerable self.

So, this is where I applaud those of you have not given up on being a student yet. It’s also where I ask some of you to deeply consider opening the closet and finding the old composition notebooks. Minimalists, you have a USB drive somewhere. You know who you are. It’s a journey if there ever was one. Join us.

Set yourself up for success…

I’m an over-doer, recovering multi-tasker, unrelenting hustler, and a damn hard worker. The problem: I work myself into failure. I overcommit myself out of success. As soon as an opportunity arises, especially if I’ve worked particualary hard at getting the universe to work with me and make some magical collision of time and resource, that’s when I’m my own worst enemy. I’m learning so much about myself lately. So much of what doesn’t work for me serve me. Here’s what I’ve learned most over the past 8 months (dare I say 33 years) but especially this week:

1. I dream in technicolor and astrological size – My dad refers to this as building sky castles.

2. I can overwork myself out of a goal or success.

3. I let my hot-headedness (Cajun side) dictate conversations and decisions over my educated and rational self.

4. I tend to run solely on emotion. It is my fuel.

5. The surest way to break the cycle is to look at myself each day (or frequently throughout the day) and tell myself the following:

  • I am forgiven.
  • I am a caring and loving parent, partner, daughter and friend.
  • I am able to share my passions with others and affect change in the world.
  • I am loved beyond measure.
  • All my needs are met and I have all that I need.
  • I am here, now.

I am statements are powerful. There are infinite “I am” statements, and I have a little stack of daily affirmations that I printed and cut into little 2×3 rectangles that I keep on my desk and a dozen or so more I keep in the front pocket of my purse. This way I can riffle through the stack if I am particularly stuck (stubborn) at the message of the day. At one point in 2010 I was going through a particularly rough breakup and was in the midst of a deep depression (though I was great at denying it was depression at the time), and my friend Lacey made me 2 stacks of Post-It note affirmations. Each sheet of the entire 2 pads read: YOU ROCK! She wrote it in all the colors of the rainbow and occasionally added a star or squiggly, but the message stated the same and became my mantra. Another girlfriend altered the message once she saw the Post-Its everywhere and would sweetly often tell me, “YOU FUCKING ROCK!” The emphasis helped–especially on the long, dreary days when I was unclear of why I was doing anything if nothing was working.

After daily use of my new mantra and immersing myself into fitness classes and activities I was able to rise from the depression and reclaim my life. This scenario has repeated itself in my life in various forms over the past decades. And though I likely will not be immune to such intense periods in my future, I am confident in knowing that I have many tools in my belt that will be of use, and I will use the tools as often as possible because it is much easier to repair things as needed than to fully remodel and replace.

This week proved to be one of those intense times. Since embarking on the journey of Soul School, my vulnerability level skyrocketed. Brene Brown would smile at my current level of human connection. I feel like there are a million extra nerve endings added to my body since October because my sense of feeling: physical, emotional and mental, has increased exponentially. This must be what it feels like to be alive.

We have been working hard on opening Kids Yoga Lab (www.kidsyogalab.com {shameless plug}), and we really thought we considered every scenario to include in plan development. But, Kathleen’s company announced they are closing their doors. So, mid-week we discovered that her position dissolved. Just like that, over night. One part of me was so happy for her because I know she wants to do something she enjoys each day and fulfills her and contributes to the world. But another part of me was crushed and went into freakout mode and immediately created a list of all the additional things I need to do and how things will be set back, etc. Yesterday, I shared this worry and pain with her and to my surprise much of my pain, worry and freakoutness was not needed and definitely not necessary because my freakout/panic mode only hinders success.

Do what fears you. I hear this mantra in my mind often. Run to what fears you. Run to that which your heart gravitates, and you will do what you love. Be 100% authentic in your intent, development and action, and everything else will fall into place. This is the method of the universe. This is the way we shape our lives. Dwelling–fixated on the errors, pains and mishaps–only reveals to us more of the same. Stepping out and standing in gratitude completely flips the script. We drove to the studio last night to drop off some items, and when I walked in the doors my heart began to swell. Inside at my deepest self, my soul–the language that we know most dearly, the language of love–was buzzing. I raced through each room and then back through each room standing and soaking up the energy within the space. My eyes filled with tears as my heart began to fill with love, and my entire being was recharged and renewed. My truest truth was revealed. You are exactly where you need to be. All is as it should be, and the time is now.

Caution: Dream following may be coupled with bouts of temporary insanity….

Paddling

Bonus: Beach Meditation at end of post. xoxo

YOLO
YOLO. But seriously, we have two lives. The one we are born into and the one we begin living when we realize that this is our one life.

How’s your brain holding up? Your emotional health? Your stash of chocolates? Your relationships – especially the ones with your loved ones at home? If you have a moment of concern or lapse of presence at the mere thought of these questions in regard to areas of your life and you are currently in full dream follow mode, you may be on the brink or riding close to temporary insanity. I say this in a jovial tone but also with extreme caution. Caution because sleeping is pertinent for success. Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger has convinced many young people that when you do decide to sleep, be cautious because someone else is working hard while you are sleeping. Current music lyrics like “I got six jobs! I don’t git tired!” are other ways we convince ourselves that it’s okay not to sleep. It’s okay to just go, go, go and be busy, busy, busy. It’s all in the sake of a goal, so it must be good, right?

Well, in all we do, the ultimate goal is balance. It isn’t simply to have all highs and no lows, it’s more to ride in the valley so we don’t lunge off the crest. I liken many things to surfing, which surprises some, and even me, because I have actually never been surfing. I say ‘actually’ in front of ‘never’ because I feel like I’ve surfed. I feel it in my body. When I’m at the beach, I have this cosmic chemistry shift in my cells. The cellular language takes a different tone, and my body becomes a receptor for what the ocean is offering.

They say that we are water beings and find the natural connection to the ocean. “I am not the drop in the ocean but I am the ocean in the drop.” We feel small when we stand beside the ocean. We feel rooted, unless you are extremely afraid of the ocean or dislike sand, etc…if this is you, I am not sure how to make this connection for you, I digress. Sometimes going with the wave of your dreams may mean that you are heading toward dangerous rocks or that you must cross an intense swell before catching the ride you waited all day, all year, all life for.

Right now, I feel like I am paddling. I am in the sweet spot, but I’m a kook. I stop paddling every once in a while and pop up for a headstand or jump off the board and dunk my entire self in the ocean. Then, I jump back on. Me, my board, the ocean and an infinite will. We are quite the team.

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I’m not picky when it comes to water, lakes work too.

Juggling life as we know it, dreams, successful relationships and being the resourceful, intellectual humans that we like to think we are is a tall order. And the tallest part of the order is that we often are our toughest critics. We overlook all the successes and focus on a failure, a hitch in our giddy up. We can look at these hitches and wrenches in our plans as sure signs of failure or just as the speedbumps that they are and acknowledge that we do need to slow down and enjoy the ride because that’s what we are here for. Or in my case, the wave.

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Fort Morgan, Alabama

How to Remember the Climb

A Guide to Climbing, Experiencing & Cherishing the Waterslide

  1. Climb to the top and teeter on the edge.
  2. Then, go down.
  3. Cherish this.

Or, is this too simple? When we get to the top of our metaphorical waterslides, we realize a few things: First, it is much higher than we ever imagined, panic sets in, and the kids behind us begin to roar. We, however, are not always so ready to release our primal toe grip.

Now, the thing about overthinking is that nothing extraordinary ever comes from it. The places we can think our ways into and out of are amazing and even more so that ultimately we never go anywhere.

Then, there are those times we find ourselves at the bottom of our waterslide. In part, we know we must have climbed the steep steps to the top. We must have felt something of ourselves for having climbed so high, must have relished in the knowing of the ride to come. But then, we realize that we scarcely remember the climb or the way down. It happens. And in the end, we are where we are.

How does this happen? The footage reel of the  climb is stolen by Depression. Yep, D hitches a ride on our already heavy-laden backs and robs us of experience, replaces in us fear that–fed constantly–begins to consume us. We see others that are perky and cheerful, and we want what they have. Thus, feeding the fear, we lose site of gratitude.

Year after year we torment ourselves trying to break the cycle with the next great thing. We become runners and more social. We listen to motivational talks and soak up everything self-help, life-affirming and life-changing. We go back to school, change careers and jump in and out of all the wrong relationships. In time, the novelty from each attempt fades, and as the law of attraction forces us to admit, we are focused so squarely on the negative that we continue to notice it everywhere. In effect, all that we do seems to be less than enough, but life happens when we are busy comparing. Life happens when we are busy making plans. Life happens when we are busy.

So, how do we become unbusy? How do we remember the climb or at best realize our presence during the climb? Mindfulness. It starts with eliminating the asinine practice of mult-tasking. All my life I’ve prided myself on being a great multi-tasker. I’ve stated it as one of my best qualities, touted it in job interviews and thought if everyone just multitasked like me, we would be all good. My, how I was wrong!

It is when we eliminate excess and concentrate on one thing that we gain awareness, presence and gratitude; and here’s the kicker: we become more productive. Ironically, my personal catalyst in becoming unbusy was busying myself with yoga. Yoga pulled me up out of the clenches of forgetfulness.

My mat is a trusty old friend, worn and weathered, and no matter how much I clean it, it’s coated with the essence of me. Blood, sweat and tears. I’ve practiced on this particular mat for 3 years now. Through yoga I gained strength and courage to stand on my own two feet, literally. I also gained visibility to see the steps–steep as they may be–,the tactile grip to feel the steps and the awareness of knowing that each moment is the best moment of life. Truly better to do more of what you love than to miserably work your way through life ‘shoulding’ all over yourself.

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” –Tina Fey