Another year is coming to a close, and boy what a year it has been! Since starting this blog in August, I’ve tried to be transparent about my own personal journey, exposing and examining challenges from my life and extrapolating lessons from those challenges in hopes of being helpful to others and further encouraging my own growth. Today, as we look back on the past year and look forward to the new year’s potential, I thought I’d share a list of fun and/or meaningful discoveries from 2015. From fashion to meditation tools, here are some things I loved that I discovered in 2015. Please share with me in the comments some of your favorite gems from this year. I look forward to discovering more things with you in the new year! May 2016 be peaceful and full of growth and discovery.
Insight Timer: This year I’ve been developing a meditation practice. For anyone who has tried meditation, you appreciate how much of a practice it really is. When life throws all it has at you, remembering and making time to meditate takes dedication and resolve. Insight Timer is an app that not only reminds you to meditate, but allows you to set an amount you’d like to meditate so you don’t have to interrupt your practice to check a clock. For those new to the practice, there are guided meditations to help you get use to the process and for those who have an established practice, you are able to identify a community (think of it as a sangha of sorts) from all over the world. This is great because you realize you are not alone in the practice and you can find a support group without leaving your home. The app itself is wonderful and it is free! However, there is another great thing about Insight Timer…their facebook page. Daily they share quotes and I have gotten in the habit of sharing many of them on my personal feed because they are so perfect and speak to challenges many of us face on a daily basis. It has become part of my morning routine to seek out Insight Timer’s daily quote. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the past year:
Boxed Wholesale: If you’re like me, there isn’t enough time in the day! Running errands for the household often gets pushed to the bottom of the to do list. You find yourself cursing the gods when you’re caught on the toilet without a precious roll of tp to save the day. Even when you get some time to handle business, the last thing you want to do is drive around a parking lot in an endless loop looking for a space or fight crowds to stock up on all your needed items. Let’s not even mention the lines that seem to stretch the length of the store. That’s where this app comes in handy. Boxed Wholesale is like having a Costco on your phone. It is amazing! Not only do I get the great deals that I can get at a Costco or Sam’s Club, but it doesn’t come with the headache. I add things to my cart and within 24 hours the goodies are waiting on my doorstep. The selection is not as wide as what you would find in a warehouse store, but after shopping at Boxed for 6 months, I see their selection growing every time I need to stock up. A much needed time saver that has certainly made my life a bit more manageable.
Zulily: I love Zulily! Just ask everyone who has run into me this Christmas. The reason they all know is because when they compliment my outfit or my jewelry and ask where I got it, I sing out the answer,”Zu-Lily!” Zulily is an e-commerce company that sells jewelry, clothing, home goods, toys, and more. They have great deals, offering up to 70% off on beautiful and unique items. In addition to the amazing sales, what I love most about Zulily is their expansive plus sized clothing selection. Having been plus sized most of my life, I never liked shopping for clothes. As a kid Lane Bryant was the only game in town and in the late 80’s and 90’s the selection wasn’t large or youthful so I ended up dressing like a guy with clothing from Structure. Now, in my thirties, while Lane Bryant does have a larger selection and sometimes more youthful looking clothing, the prices are sky high and the style doesn’t quite align with my own tastes. There’s Torrid and while sometimes I find some gems there, in general their clothes are for a much younger shopper. If I wore a majority of their clothes I’m sure I’d look like I was trying too hard to hang on to my youth. However, with Zulily, I find all kinds of great pieces! Because I’ve always hated shopping I used to be the type of buyer who would get the outfits exactly as they appeared on the mannequin, not creating a unique look by pairing items myself. Zulily, however has ushered in a new day! I actually enjoy shopping. I create my own outfits and love watching my personal style develop. Like Boxed, Zulily also eliminates all the things I hate about the shopping experience: crowds, dressing rooms, and long lines. This Christmas I also found out news that makes me love Zulily even more. My favorite jewelry company, Riada by Adair will be featured on Zulily early in the year. This is my cousin’s company and she makes beautiful items. I wear her earrings all the time and get compliments every time I do. Make sure you look for her jewelry and home goods coming to Zulily soon!
Paint Nite: Around the summer months I started seeing friends on my Facebook feed posing with paintings and sharing what a great time they had creating a piece of art over the course of an evening while sipping on cocktails. I also had a good friend who was getting married who listed Paint Nite on her registry. As a crafty person, I wanted to know more and just last month I took my not-so-willing wife to paint a tree at dusk. We both had a ball! It was such a fun change to our usual date night and we both found out we had some skill. It didn’t hurt that we discovered a new restaurant nor that we bought in fully to Paint Nite’s slogan, “Drink Creatively!” We had so much fun that we did another Paint Nite just a couple of weeks ago with our good friends, The Flowers. It proved to be just as fun as a group outing! Granted, all four of our painting are sitting in our foyer (I tried to convince my wife that they would be heartfelt Christmas gifts, but I was quickly shot down) but it doesn’t really matter what happens to your works of art afterwards. For me, it is about the process and the fun we had creating together and with friends. I look forward to the paintings we will do in this new year. Perhaps by this time next year my wife will find our art work worthy to be on others’ walls (or at least our own)!
Spirit Rock Meditation Center: In July I had the life changing experience of attending a week long silent retreat at Spirit Rock in Northern California. My very first entry on this blog talks about the transformative experience I had there. My time at Spirit Rock seems to pop up in many entries because the fact is, what happened that week continues to impact my daily experiences. I decided that despite how challenging that week was, I would make going to the People of Color Retreat at Spirit Rock a yearly pilgrimage. I still have a lot to discover about myself and life and I feel like this retreat holds the key to opening many doors to new understandings and shifting many old perspectives that no longer serve me. When I tell people about my time there I seldom find the words to explain how wonderful and terrible, how empowering and humbling, how comforting and challenging it really was. If anything, this year has finally proven to me that a majority of our existence is a paradox. As someone who lived in a strictly black and white world, this fact has been important for me to embrace as I continue on my journey forward. There is so much to share from my time to Spirit Rock, but I like the idea of the stories coming to the surface as we discover life together through this blog. So, for now, I will hold back. However, I do want to share for those of you interested in the People of Color Retreat the dates for 2016. I recommend you reserve your spot early. I was on the waiting list last year, biting my nails hoping a spot would open up. The retreat this year is from June 30th – July 4th. This years retreat is called, Finding Freedom: a Silent Vipassana Retreat for People of Color and registration opens March 1st. Maybe I’ll see you there.
I’d like to close this entry with a poem that I heard at Spirit Rock that moved me to the core. So much so, that upon returning I read it at my friend’s gallery, On the Ground Floor. The gallery was hosting a reading inspired by the show that was running at that time entitled, Roots. I had just returned from attending The People of Color Retreat at Spirit Rock a few days prior and knew I had to overcome my stage fright to share the words below. It seemed like the perfect reading, as I had just planted new ideas and ways of looking at the world that I wanted to take hold in my life. Change is always challenging. We need things that encourage us along the way to creating a better and more meaningful life. This poem certainly reminds me of what I’m striving to achieve.
A time comes in your life when you finally get it. When in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice in you head cries out, “Enough!” Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on. Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.
This is your awakening.
You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change or for happiness, safety, and security to magically appear over the next horizon.
You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. In the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.
You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate, or approve of who or what you are…and that’s okay. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.
You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.
You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.
You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you. Everything isn’t always about you.
So, you learn to stand on your own and take care of yourself and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.
You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are. You start to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties. In the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.
You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.
You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown or should never have bought into, to begin with.
You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing, and you stop maneuvering though life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.
You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.
You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world, and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.
Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.
You stop trying to control people, situations, and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries. You learn to say, “No.”
You stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over, and ignoring your needs.
You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take time to exercise.
You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So, you take more time to laugh and to play.
You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.
More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline, and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone and it’s okay to risk asking for help.
You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.
You learn to fight for your life and not squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.
You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve, and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people. And you learn to not take it personally.
You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and build bridges instead of walls.
You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy, and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.
You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.
Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself nor settle for less than your heart’s desire.
You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.
You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.
Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, take a deep breath, and begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.