Peru: The Snake, The Puma, The Condor

I have just returned from spending half a month in South America. It was my boyfriend and I’s first time to the continent and we explored Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. 

First stop: Peru! We flew into Cuzco and immediately started travelling north into the Sacred Valley towards the world wonder that is Machu Picchu. 

Machu Picchu is known to be one of the most sacred places in the world. Not only is it visually jaw dropping with incredibly vast mountains that sit high within the clouds, sky and bright green earth encompass grey city ruins. But the history also contributes to the sacredness. Built around 1400 AD as a royal estate for the Incan ruler, not one slave was used to move, chisel or polish the tons of perfectly aligned granite stones. The Incan community built the site together, by hand, with love. The altitude is near 8,000 feet above sea level. Nishanth and I could hardly walk up the entrance steps without huffing and puffing due to the lack of oxygen. To think of the labor that went into building this place, at a time without technology or machinery, is unbelievable. Part of the mysteriousness. How. did. they. do. that?

Furthermore, the architecture of Machu Picchu was consciously built in perfect alignment with the cosmos in order to receive the maximum amount of spiritual energy. Many people claim to feel a powerful energetic vibration, all of which is why it has become such an alluring place to visit.

One of the first things we noticed upon our arrival was the profound respect and appreciation for the Earth that Peruvians have. The Inca people began to worship Pachamama (Mother Earth, or World Mother) as God long before Roman Catholicism was introduced by the Spanish in the 1500's. After the conquest, which forced people to the church, the figure of Virgin Mary became united with that of Pachamama. Modern day Peruvians seem to now believe deeply in Pachamama and Jesus Cristo equally and the Holy Trinity is ever present in both.

In Catholicism, the trinity is represented by Father, Son and Spirit. The correlation in Andean cosmology is hanan pacha (the world above), kay pacha (this present world),and uku pacha (the underworld).

All around Peru we kept seeing recurring images of snakes, pumas and condors. These animal images were on murals, jewelry, key chains, massive stone carvings, statues in parks and town squares, hanging above home and office entrances, on car bumper stickers - everywhere! 

After we finished hiking Machu Picchu, Nishanth and I were relaxing in the nearby thermal hot springs when I started to chat with a local shaman. Born and raised in the Andes mountains, he explained the importance of the animals in the trinity.

The snake is symbolic of the underworld, where we all come from. Just as snakes require a shedding of layers to transform and be reborn, a human, when dying is exchanging the body to a new one. The same as a snake changes its skin and thus every year becomes more mature, we too shall continuously shed our dark side in order to find answers to life's difficult questions and hence, grow wiser.  

Puma, the master of the Amazon, signifies life in this present world. The puma uses patience, courage and strength to navigate the jungle, something humans can learn from to help navigate life on Earth. To reach a state equal to a puma, we must learn to adapt to different environmental conditions, become invisible to predators, and be strong, courageous and determined. Only then are we ready to move on to the next level. To enter a new cycle. To take flight for the world above.

Condor, the worlds largest bird has a 10ft. wingspan and lives very high up on the rocks in the Andes mountains where it contemplates everything from above. It is the symbol of the upper world, associated with the sun deity which is the benefactor of all living beings. Without the sun, what could exist? This bird is the only bird strong enough to fly up to heaven, as a messenger to the gods. The condor symbolizes an air, and with wings and feathers - he flies up and up to the ultimate state of freedom. 

Throughout our time in Peru, we witnessed several despachos, or offerings, to Pachamama. Alcohol is splashed onto the ground before it is drunk, as a payment to Mother Earth. Farmers in particular highly value being on good terms with nature to ensure their crops and livestock remain healthy and protected. Cleansing rituals are performed by burning plants, wood and other items in order to scare evil spirits and bring good luck. It is believed that if you are struggling and feeling down on your luck, it is because you are taking too much from the Earth and you must give something back.

Aside from Machu Picchu, we visited several traditional towns in the Sacred Valley. Hours were spent wandering through markets, admiring the colorful textiles, eating quinoa (indigenous to the Andes!) with avocado, drinking coca tea, speaking Spanish, and of course taking photos. Cuzco city was charming and absolutely gorgeous. We stayed in an AirBNB with an 85 year old candle maker named Rosa. She spends her mornings molding and decorating the wax with colors and sequins before selling them in the Plaza De Armas in the afternoon. Dream job! We also traveled south to visit Lago Titicaca, the worlds highest elevated lake. The Uros Islands are floating villages made entirely out of reed. We stayed with a host family one night and learned about the simplicity of their lives. They took us for rides on their reed boats, dressed us up in their traditional clothing and at night we watched the sunset and admired the bright stars. If one place is the complete opposite of New York City - it is here! I told the host family about how fast paced life is in Manhattan and they thought it was hilarious...and confusing. 

One of the highlights of our trip was a day hike to a place called Rainbow Mountain. A rock formation that bulges out of the ground striped with red, yellow, pink, brown and blue colors. Rainbow Mountain sits at 17,000 ft. high and due to the low levels of oxygen, the 3 hour hike was by far the most physically difficult experience of my entire life! My heart has never beat so quickly and my head has never felt so light. Walking in silence because we were too tired to talk, Nishanth and I made it to the peak feeling exhausted though very proud and accomplished. The highest point of Earth I have ever stood upon. I immediately knew the difficult hike was worth it because the view of the striped mountain was absolutely stunning and surreal. Unlike anything I have ever seen.

But then I caught my breath and I admired something above.  Travelling up, up, and away.
In flight to ultimate freedom, soaring high overhead - a condor. 

Gracias por todos, Pachamama. 

Bridal Yoga and Meditation

I am so excited to offer private bridal yoga - personalized classes for brides, grooms, couples, and Bachelorette parties!

I have loved working in the wedding industry since I first began in 2008 as a photographer with my Mom's company, Serendipity Photography. After shooting wedding after wedding, and meeting couple after couple, the need for yoga in the industry quickly became evident to me.

I mean, just think about it. You have spent countless hours planning every small detail of your wedding day. You are going through a massive life transition. Though it is an extremely exciting one (hopefully!) mental and emotional shifts are still taking place. It is so easy to get caught up in the stress of planning, or overwhelmed by the to-do list. Not to mention all of the attention focused on you. 

After 8 years in the industry, I have seen it all! Bridezillas are very real, and so is post-wedding let down. I have witnessed far too many brides suffering through panic attacks, snapping at their bridesmaids, and crying over their hair curls just seconds before walking down the aisle. I have observed grooms miss their first dance because they are arguing with the DJ or worrying about whether or not the bar is stocked with enough Stella Artois.

Every couple has the same feedback post-wedding, "We are so grateful for your photos because the day went by so fast. We missed so much, it was such a flash!"

The day will go fast, of course. That is why it is crucial to pause, slow down and focus on remaining fully present and absorbed in each and every moment.

And I absolutely want your day to go perfectly smooth. But you look so beautiful, I promise your groom will love your curls exactly how they are. Let me help you to trust your vendors to do their job. I want the DJ to get your music right, too. But more importantly, I wish for you to be entirely absorbed in the moment that all you're thinking about during your first dance is how incredibly perfect your new life partner is. 

All we have is the moment. And this moment is big. Really big.

So let me help you calm your wedding jitters so that you can center your focus entirely towards what this time in your life should truly embody - Love!


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GIVEAWAY!

Enter for a chance to win FREE TICKETS TO HOBOKEN BRIDE WEDDING FAIR where you will have the opportunity to win a COMPLIMENTARY BRIDAL PARTY YOGA CLASS!

Think Bachelorette Party. Or morning-after Bachelorette party to help kick the hangovers! 
Super nervous about walking down the aisle? Schedule a wedding-day-morning session prior to hair and makeup to help calm the nerves. 

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2. In the comments section - tag a future bride, groom, bridesmaid or groomsmen who you would love to do yoga with! 

Iceland

SURREAL. REFRESHING. MYSTICAL. OTHER-WORLDLY. CALMING.
The five words I would use to describe Iceland.

Flying from New York City's chaos, crowds of people and consumerism to Iceland's calm, untouched desolation was quite an insane experience. Though the two are only a short six hour flight apart, the differences could not be more extreme!

Iceland's entire population is less than the number of residents in Midtown Manhattan alone. 66% of Icelander's live in the adorable and colorful capital city of Reykjavik. The other 34% fascinatingly get by in the "countryside" of Iceland. "Countryside" does not seem like an accurate description, though, considering the landscape is so strange and other-worldly it truly resembles outer space more than planet Earth. The Apollo 11 actually trained in Iceland to prepare for landing on the moon because the terrain is so similar.

Iceland takes nature to a whole new level. I have always considered myself someone who loves the outdoors and this place is just the beacon of natures majesty. I spent Thanksgiving week soaking in geothermal hot springs, climbing Europe's largest glacier to get to an ice cave, wandering down a Diamond Beach, chasing too many waterfalls to count, petting wild horses, watching geyser's shoot water 100 feet into the air, and eating chocolate covered black licorice for every meal (seriously delicious!!) 

The Winter sun in Iceland does not rise until 10am and it then sets at 4pm. The trade off for waking up to complete darkness at 8am is complete darkness at night. In the Nordics this means one thing - the Northern Lights!! The starry sky dripping with green and orange lights were without a doubt the highlight of my trip. 

I have a tough time explaining Iceland because it is unlike any other place in the world that I have been.
It is stunning and indescribable, baffling and weird. And that is precisely why you should go!
The photos could never do it justice....

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Click here for my recap of the Northern Lights! Because they were so amazing they deserve their own post.

And click here to learn more about Reykjavik and the Icelandic people. Because they were so bad ass, and also deserve their own post!

Big thanks to Danielle ~ for your driving and good folk tunes.
And to Laura ~ for your map reading and Irish sense of humor.
All too good, xo.

Reykjavik,Iceland

Reykjavík.
Ray-kuh-vick? Ri-ka-vick? Ray-shuh-vik?
I will probably never know how to actually pronounce it, but that only adds to the coolness of this capital city. This "big" city by Icelandic standards, has the small town, quirky, European vibe that wins me over every time.

The streets are lined with colorful houses, street art, and inviting cafes serving fresh caught fish and strong beer. (Even though beer was illegal until 1989.) Of the countries 330k person population, 120k of them live in Reykjavik. Whenever I travel, I am always most eager to learn about the local people. 

Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and dressed in their handmade wool sweaters and hats, the Icelanders were so welcoming and always eager to chat. That is, when I could find them! The Icelandic people are so few that in recent years they have become outnumbered by visiting tourists. British and Scottish accents flood the streets, so I was particularly excited on Sunday afternoon when we found what seemed to be the local haven - Kolaportid Flea Market. An indoor market where I could observe the Icelanders in their natural habitat, purchasing local delicacies and fresh fish for the week and catching up with their friends. I bought $40 worth of insanely delicious chocolate covered black licorice and the best smoked salmon I have ever tasted. My friends decided to be brave and daringly tried the infamous 'fermented shark'. Let's just say I dodged a bullet on that one. 

Bjork, Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men are all from Reyjkavik, so I walked the streets with their music in my ears as the perfect soundtrack for the city. 

Despite the Winters cold and extreme darkness, Reykjavik remained warm, colorful, and bright. 
I will definitely be back...
xxx

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Northern Lights

It was our third night in Iceland and finally the rain and fog cleared and the sky was speckled with stars as we checked into our farmhouse cottage in Hellisholar. We asked the owner of the property what our chances of seeing the Northern Lights were. He stepped outside and said, "If you can see those stars, you will see the lights here. Go sit in the hot tub and wait until 10pm."

Umm. OK! 

Like giddy school children, my friends and I relaxed in the hot (err, more like lukewarm, but i'm not complaining because this is Iceland) tub. We laid our heads back drinking Einstok with our eyes glued upward. The stars alone were a sight to see. Never before have I seen so many glittering lights with my bare eyes.

10pm started to roll around and we were getting impatient but I remained stubborn and insistent that tonight would be the night! As we headed back to our cottage, we all stopped in our frozen tracks and gasped.

HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THE SKY DOING OVER THERE? There were bright white lights in the oddest forms floating above our little cottage. OMG, this is it, they are coming! I couldn't race back to our cottage fast enough to grab my tripod and set my Nikon's slow shutter speed.

The Northern Lights are the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. Beautiful colors fold like curtains and light jumps and dances as a result. 

I stayed outside in awe and near tears watching the mysterious green glow above the red and orange streaks. It was like someone was taking a paintbrush to the sky from above. Absolutely beautiful and I don't fully understand it but I think that only adds to the magic.

If seeing the Northern Lights is not yet at the top of your bucket list, do yourself a favor and add it now!!

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The best way out is always Through.

I would like to take a moment to thank New York City's street inspiration for always being exactly on point.

The best way out is always through. 
Or in other words, FEEL YOUR FEELINGS, my friends!
Talk through your shit in order to get through your shit! 

I learned this lesson early on as the youngest daughter in a family of three girls. Conflict arose as often as you'd imagine. Probably more. (I know, my poor dad in a house full of female energy.) Feelings would constantly get hurt and doors would slam shut so hard the entire street would shake. I can't tell you how many times I hid in my room and then tried to run away vowing to never speak to my family again. It got pretty dramatic (teen girl problems).

Fast forward fifteen years to present day. Here I am closer than ever to my parents and best friends with my sisters. How the hell did that happen?

I believe that the peace my family has is a result of always KEEPING IT REAL with each other. Sure, we screamed like hell and it was not always pretty, but it was HONEST.
Doors were slammed, yes, but there was a reason my Mom didn't put locks on them. She consistently opened those doors right back up and forced us to sit down, look in each others eyes and have the dreaded family meeting, talk-it-through, therapy sessions. 

They sucked. We hated them and didn't ever want to partake. But we had to. Because Mom said so. And I used to curse her for this but today I am thankful. I am thankful because I was taught how to handle the less-than-ideal situations in life that will inevitably arise. I am thankful because it is precisely why as adults, my family is still...well, a happy family. 

Negative situations tend to breed negative emotions and if we don't deal with our emotions, that negativity parks itself within us. Doubt, bitterness, resentment, fear and insecurity grow from this place. We can keep ignoring these feelings and emotions. We can plaster on a fake smile and pretend that everything is roses. But that, my dear ones, is pretend. That is not reality. That is not high consciousness. And that simply, does not work.

There will ALWAYS be conflicts (big and small) and things or people we don't necessary like or want to deal with in life. Painful things do not disappear by ignoring them. They go away by consciously facing them head on and with eyes wide open. Plowing through, maneuvering and solving conflict is the most vital action essential for growth within oneself and within ones relationships to others.  

Everyone has trash. There are two ways we can clean trash up.

We can sweep it under the rug. And when more trash comes, we can pile it on top. And when more trash comes after that, we can keep piling it on and eventually we create a mountain. The rug concealing the mountain might be super pretty and clean itself, but the trash is still present and rotting beneath the surface. And that is gross and far messier than when you started.

The alternative? A load of trash is dumped on you. Analyze it, inspect it, dig through it, pick it apart but don't be tempted by the rug. Brush that shit into a trash bag where it belongs. Then walk on top of the pretty rug as you take that bag out to the curb and send it away.
Wash your hands clean, you're good.

We practice this in yoga. I see it nearly every class I teach, for instance, when I put students into deep hip openers. As humans, we hold stress in our hips and this results in tightness build up. I always teach a pigeon pose variation to help release this tension. And I keep students there for several minutes - purposely. It never fails, a minute or two passes by and the class starts to fidget and look around desperate and agitated. 

BKS Iyengar first said, "The pose begins the moment you want to leave it." So I encourage my class to sit still. To observe what thoughts come up in moments of discomfort and to ask themselves - why? I ask them to keep the mind calm by focusing on the breath. I tell them to feel whatever it is they are feeling and release whatever they need to release. There is no need to run. There is no need to pretend that the pose isn't difficult. Soon it will be over and you will have grown because you will have gotten through it.

In yoga, the pose begins the moment you want to leave it.
In life, the work begins the moment you notice you want to run and hide - but you don't. 
The healing begins when you stay present and honest and focused forward no matter how ugly it looks.

The best way out is always, always, always through.

My Mom was right. And so are the NYC street signs. 

Plow through, my loves. You'll be better because of it.

My camera, My companion.

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Dusting off my lenses as I pack up my suitcase for a (very, very long overdue) trip has me feeling all the feels. 

Aside from the images it has created, simply holding this little 3 pound black Nikon with its red aztec strap, floods me with memories that bring butterflies into my belly. I bought this camera nearly a decade ago, my first big purchase ever, right after graduating from high school. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. A little bit insecure and a lot confused, I was a girl who truly understood nothing about myself or the world I lived in. I was certainly lost but with that came a burning desire inside of me to get out of my small Ohio hometown to try to find my way.

My high school friends and peers booked their college courses, paid for tuition, unpacked their dorm rooms and buried their faces into overpriced text books and booze. They studied with their roommates and spent all of their free time getting to know their new friends.
I, on the other hand, booked a few flights, paid for my passport renewal, packed up my suitcase and buried my face into the viewfinder on the back of my new toy. (Ok, so there was booze too. But can I just say that sipping Guinness and fizzy Bulmer's at the pub in Ireland is a bit more reputable than frat house jungle juice and Natty Light.) 

I didn't just choose to leave everyone and everything I knew to travel solo, I needed to. I needed to immerse myself into an entirely new environment and take time to study different cultures and languages. I needed to take time to expand my independence and most importantly rekindle my friendship with, well - my self.

"Don't you get scared and lonely going to these new places all alone?" I would often get asked by family and friends back home. The answer was no. No, because I was in the exact company I needed at that time of my life.
Just me, myself and...my camera.

My camera was the one and only companion I wanted to have join me. Every flight, every train and bus ride, she was there sitting in my lap. Through every new city I wandered, cobble stone street or dirt path I crossed, she was there, holding my hand along the way. She was the shield, hanging around my neck, that hinted at the mission I was on. It was a shield that protected the introversion I so badly needed during those few years of self discovery. Holding the camera in front of my face politely told strangers and new acquaintances, "This girl has a purpose right now. So please don't disturb. And please don't be offended by her anti-socialization."

My Nikon, she was the supportive friend who didn't talk back, didn't try to influence me, didn't judge the path I was walking down. Instead, she sat close quietly and listened. She encouraged me to zoom in closer and look past the surface level of things. She stayed patient and allowed me the time it took to analyze all that I viewed through her lens. She was my own personal art therapist, urging me to use creative expression to unveil my truth. She comforted me on every journey while I navigated life exactly as I needed to.

Through her lens, I didn't overlook the small things that I might otherwise have. I could fade away behind her, and observe the beaming sun flare hitting the horizon like magic, invisible to my human eye. I grew a new appreciation for the simple beauty of hand holding, gentle shoulder touches, forehead kisses and expressions of love between humans as I watched from a distance, in awe through my 200mm. Sometimes, I focused my macro lens towards the dirt where I could witness the strength and resilience of teeny tiny ants hauling leaves and earth particles on their backs while colony building. That is bad ass and the beauty of the world, my god, is effervescent.

This camera was without a doubt, the paramount tool that sharpened my fuzzy, confused world into clear focus. Through discovering the world, I discovered myself.
I couldn't always put my new experiences into words, but I could frame them into snapshots that both made sense and looked beautiful to me. I suddenly had thousands of photographs that translated my perceptions into tangible forms of self expression.

My photos became the way I could communicate clearly, to myself and others, all that I was seeing, doing and feeling. The photos I make reflect the way my mind works and the way in which my eyes see. 

Looking at my photos always transports me right back to the emotional connections I felt with each place I went and each moment I partook. But holding my camera (the real OG) in my hands reminds me of how far I have come in the past 8 years.

Those years of travel shaped me into a strong and confident human being with a clear understanding of my place in this world. I have since settled into a comfortable life in New York City, where the time seems to slip away faster than anywhere else I've ever been. It has somehow been two years since I have traveled abroad and I am only now realizing that I have pretty much abandoned my dearest companion all this time. Maybe it is because I have been too busy and uninspired by my day-to-day routine. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because I simply haven't needed her in the desperate way I used to. And that kind of makes me want to cry big, fat, happy tears.

But today, I am finally dusting off my old friend. She still has sand stuck behind her lens cap from the beaches in Bali, Honduras, and Spain. She has dents and scratches along her sides from the Grand Canyon rocks and Australian cliff edges that I used as makeshift tripods. She even still has a few sticky spots from the Italian wine and gelato I spilled on her.

Unlike 8 years ago, this time I am not travelling because I need to figure out who I am (I am ever changing) nor because I have forgotten my place in this world (it's everywhere). This trip is simply because the world is beautiful and exploring it has become an essential part of who I am.

I feel much different now than I did 8 years ago, but my camera, she will always feel the same to me. Next week, we will break our 2 year travel hiatus and I so can't wait to see what magic she pulls out of me. I might need to invest in a body warmer for her though, as we are on route to: ICELAND!  

For the first time, we won't be alone - we will be sharing the journey and trekking along with two of our loveliest friends. I hope you are ready, Danielle and Laura! 

 

Has anyone else felt this sort of companionship with their camera? Certainly I can't be the only one having this small love affair. 

Also - I am so, so excited to visit the Nordics for the first time. Have any of you been to Iceland? The fresh air, bubbling hot springs, ice caves, geysers and Northern Lights await!

Stay tuned for my trip recap once I return!

Xoxo

Proud to be a...citizen of the world


Throughout processing this weeks shock ,confusion, and disappointment, I continue to remind myself of the Dalai Lama's wise words.
"If we ourselves remain angry and then sing world peace, it has little meaning.
First, our individual self must learn peace. This we can practice. Then we can teach the rest of the world."

It does not come easy, especially for my generally outspoken self, but I do believe that this is the way. Which is why on Wednesday morning, I woke up at 6AM and walked in silence through my Hispanic neighborhood to the studio where I teach my sunrise yoga class. Myself and ten strong yogis, all from different originating countries, joined together in one room and rolled our mats out through the heaviness. We sat in stillness and started the morning creating a safe space both around us and within us. We meditated out of our racing minds so that we could remember the truth of who we are. We started to move our physical bodies and salute the sun even though the sky was gray and lashing rain. We bent our spine backwards because it keeps the heart center shining forward. We put our physical bodies into postures that challenge us to stay focused and calm despite the tremor in our bones. We realized that this tremble is transient and we are tough enough to handle it. We held planks and balanced on our two arms that are strong enough to tear down any walls that might be built against humanity. We stood in Tadasana and then tree pose and by rooting our feet into the Earth, we grew tall, steady and strong, unwavering despite the flux and chaos around us. Unwavering because the peace grounds us from within. We sweat and we used the exhale to release any ounce of anger we woke up with. We laid on our backs and sent breath of fire into our bellies to transmute the last bits of frustration into inspiration for meaningful action. Meaningful action that encourages us to march on hand in hand as peaceful warriors. 

My grief has really not been about an individual candidates win or loss, the stakes were much higher than that. My grief has been for what feels like a massive blow to basic human decency and morale. This blow that caught me by surprise because I have created a life for myself that encompasses positive, open minded, intelligent and worldly human beings, all of whom have mourned this week with me. Needless to say this has been a wake up call for all of us, a sad one that validates the fear and angst so many people are living in. Such fear and angst that people felt willing to cast a vote in support of a candidate that the KKK endorses, for fuck sake. It saddens me that so many spoiled Americans are unaware of how privileged we are that they walked blindly in to cast a vote in support of a bully who straight up tricked them into thinking where they live is not great or safe. It saddens me that people I know, who have never left my small Ohio hometown, have such misconstrued doubt and anxiety about the world that they are sitting in their country homes celebrating with their guns locked and loaded, just in case.

But then I remember that I know better, and that the sadness, anger and fear does not belong to me.
I remember that I am and always will be, the author of my own reality. Which is why I will carry on as usual and then some.

I will carry on by keeping it in perspective. I am a first world white girl whose "problems" are laughable and truly fictitious in the grand scheme of things.
I will carry on in company with intelligent and like minded humans who reflect the type of person I want to be. Not because I disrespect conflicting opinions and freedom of speech, but because energy is absolutely contagious and there are too many positive people out there to waste time with the negative. 
I will continue to cheer on strong and fearless women. With an extra appreciation for the three super nasty ones who raised me. Because of them, I have never underestimated my potential and never will.
I will carry on teaching my nieces that they are not only gorgeous and adorable but awesome and smart and limitless and worthy of the utmost respect only.
I will carry on standing up for what is right, opposing bullies and using my voice to tell them when they are indeed, being assholes.
I will continue to reevaluate and question myself and my beliefs because as the world and humanity evolve and modernize, so should I.
I will continue to stay open minded and nonjudgmental towards anyone I see walking out of a women's clinic or transgender bathroom. I will continue offering smiles because we never know the full story, nor do we need to in the name of kindness and compassion.
I was born into a supportive, stable and educated immediate family which is why I have never needed to seek an outside support organization. I know that not everyone is that fortunate, and because I wish they were, I will continue to donate what I can to Planned Parenthood and the like.
I will continue to welcome foreigners into my  country and my home with open arms, because they are my friends, and that is what friends do.
I will continue to drink tea, talk holistic health and make oreshki with my Russian Muslim friend. I will continue to speak Spanish and learn how to perfect baked plantains from my Cuban and Dominican vecinos. I will keep spending my Saturday nights sitting on the floor by candlelight in a room full of Indians singing Kirtan because that is my church and the music gives me chills in a good way and I walk out feeling connected to a higher source every damn time. I will continue to teach yoga to a room full of students who might not understand my English commands, but they show up anyways and we smile, laugh and breathe and leave feeling better so how important is language, really?

I will continue to wake up every single morning and go to sleep every single night next to a brown immigrant who was born and raised on the opposite side of the world from me. I will keep kissing him and hugging him because no, he is not a "terrorist", "rapist" or a "very bad people" - he is the love of my life.
The peace is within me, namaste, but you can bet my yogi ass that for a hot minute my boxing gloves were on and I was ready to swing at every single person who cast a vote in support of the bully who spread that racism and hatred. But I didn't. I didn't because my foreigner always shows me how to be the bigger person. He is too smart, too hardworking, too focused and rational to allow someone so vile and absurd to disrupt his path. So as usual, his smile calmed me and his confidence and determination gave me strength. "Focus on your work, Taylor. I will keep doing what I need to do. It is not worth getting upset over," he said as he peeled off my gloves.
I will continue to stand by his side as we battle the extremely complicated, insanely expensive, seemingly never ending  USCIS process. I'd like to go out on a limb and say that every person who cast a vote for the xenophobe have clearly never had to step foot into an immigration office. I hope they all reflect on how privileged they are to be able to sit home in oblivion with their American birth certificate shouting "do it legally, do it the right way" despite not having a fucking clue what that entails.
I will continue to love and when my immigrant gets his green card, I will throw a big party and everyone will be invited so they can see for themselves how foreigners make this country a far more desirable place to be.

I will stay conscious and aware that what I consume is directly affecting this planet. I will continue to eat vegetables and not animals because it is certainly the most simple action I can take to minimize water, grain and land waste. I will continue to stand by the scientists who have dedicated their lives to research. I trust that I can contribute to healing the planet and will take their suggestions seriously because why. wouldn't. I???

I will continue to travel the world for as long as I can because frankly, nothing is more fascinating or enriching or life changing.

I will continue to pride myself, as I always have - not as an American. But as a citizen of the world. 

A world that is much, much, much larger than 50 states. A world we all share, that is bright and colorful with beautiful people of varying shades who speak different languages and cook different foods, but feel the same pain and more importantly, the same love, as I do. A world that is a spinning ball of blue oceans, beaches, mountains, green forests, and jungles chock-full of animals that are pure magic and ought to be respected as such. 

I will continue to say thank you every day.
I will carry on using gratitude as the mean to humble me.
Gratitude as the mean to keep the peace within while marching on and sharing it with the world I belong to.

May God not just bless America.
May, whichever, God(s) you believe in bless all of mankind. All of humanity. All of existence.

Creative Comeback: A Blog is Born

The outpouring of love, support, well wishes and positive vibes that I received in regards to my first post about how I intend to use my Grandfathers death as a source of inspiration to live my life more fully was so heartwarming and encouraging. Thank you.  

I spoke about how the aftermath of losing someone we love usually comes with a big, fat reminder of life's fragility. This can effect our grief in one of two ways. We can become terrified and crippled, consumed by the sadness that accompanies the inevitability of death. Or we can reflect on just that - the inevitability. And we can use that realization to inspire us to evolve and be better humans. To encourage us to value the time we do have and maybe start using it a bit more wisely.

I feel fortunate to be experiencing real loss for the first time as a 26 year old adult who has the ability to process the meaning of death. (Or at least attempt to.) Losing both of my Grandparents within the past two years comes at an already transitional time in life. My mid-twenties have been constant contemplation; starting in new directions, changing paths shortly after, always analyzing how I want to spend my days. This loss has served as a large wake up call.  What is the purpose of all of this? What are we really supposed to be doing with this life?
My grief has been singing to me, "There is no concrete answer! It's all a mystery. So just do more of what you love, with the people you love. Stop analyzing, be present. Do what you want and do it now."

I believe in spirit and whispers from the universe and psychics and tarot and and all the mysterious little signs we receive. I have had too many personal experiences that were too perfectly aligned to be simply coincidental.
In 1990, when my mother was pregnant with me, she was walking on the famously eclectic boardwalk in Venice Beach, California. A psychic randomly approached her and said, "I must let you know, you have a very strong willed baby. Good luck with her!!"
That woman's warning was fair and accurate.  

More recently, I ran into a spirit guide in Brooklyn. She laid out a deck of tarot cards in front me, read my palm and sighed.
"Taylor, you have a very big problem. You have been suppressing your creativity for far too long and that needs to change now."
Also, a very fair and accurate claim. I told her that I didn't need to visit her to be told that. I had been fully aware of the suppression for the last two years. In fact, I can trace it back to the time I started working full time in Corporate America. (How ironic? Not!)

I come from a family of creatives. My parents are both entrepreneurs who started their own successful businesses from nothing. They truly don't know how to sit still, always seeking out the next project. What others might view as disastrous or headache inducing, my parents view as potential and excitement. Which is why I grew up moving in to old and outdated houses that my parents bought to reconstruct because "there is just so much original charm!" They have both the eye and the talent to find disheveled houses and untamed landscapes and turn them into pristine, magazine-cover worthy homes. My eldest sister is a teacher and an amazing gardener whose suburban backyard is a colorful oasis of homegrown flowers, fruits and delicious vegetables. My other sister is a photographer by profession but should really also be a professional party planner or interior designer as she puts Pinterest to shame. My family are makers and doers so it is only natural that creative desires are a prominent part of who I am and should be. As I have grown older, I realize that any anxiousness I feel typically starts brewing any time I veer away from this.

In her book , Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert makes the following statement,
"If I am not actively creating something, then chances are, I am probably actively destroying something - myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind." She also says that "Inspiration is always available and flying around us - waiting to be reached out and grabbed. But most of their lives, people just walk around saying No, No, No, No. But then again, some day, you just might say - Yes."

I (and apparently my Brooklyn spirit guide) can't deny that I have been choosing to say no for the past few years. I have essentially been turning my back on my own self. But why?
"I just moved to a big city, I am adjusting, I am busy, I work a full time job, I am always tired, there is no time, this is just the way adulthood is."
I have been living and surviving well, yes. But boredom, unhappiness, and a lack of purpose and motivation have been too present to deny and it is because I have been falling for the above excuses.

Yoga is my deep love. Travel is my greatest inspiration. Photo and video creation make me want to sleep less and get outside more. Being in an intercultural relationship has enriched my life in ways I could've never imagined. I spend many hours of my day cooking vegetarian meals and experimenting with super foods. 
It is time to feed all of these passions and give them the (internet) space to grow. For no reason other than because they bring me joy and I want to share it with the world in hopes of it inspiring others to do the same.

Too many times lately, I have been reminded that life is precious and life is short. I finally have gotten the hint.
So in the name of manifestation, because life is too short, and in the spirit of saying Yes....
A blog is born.

I hope you stick around.
If there is anything specific you would like me to post about relating to

  • yoga
  • travel
  • photo and video
  • intercultural relationships
  • healthy cooking

comment below and I will post in your honor!!!

    This is Paradise: A eulogy for my Grandpa

    This is Paradise.

    The definition of paradise is; heaven, as the final abode of the righteous.
    It is a perfect place of peace and the state of supreme happiness, bliss and tranquility.
    It is utopia. It is nirvana. It is the highest sanctuary of love.
    It is our natural state and it is the word used to designate mankind’s first and final home.

    When I was a young girl, I asked my Grandpa, the eldest and wisest person I knew,
    “What do you think Heaven is like?”
    He answered me honestly,
    “I don’t know, honey. But I kind of feel like I am in Heaven already. Here with my family and all of you beautiful grandkids. How can it get any better? This is paradise.
    He smiled, took a sip of his vodka on the rocks, and gave me a double wink.

    Even as a curious young girl, there was no need to question him further. I believed his words because I felt him live out their truth. He so obviously loved this life and all of the people in it.

    I believe that most humans share this common desire to live a happy and blissful life. Only for most, it’s not that easy. Emotions, outside influences, troubles and stress all get in the way and cause bad moments or days. My Grandpa, however, as I knew him, was completely immune to all of that. He is the one person in my life that I never once saw angry. I never once heard him speak ill of another. I never once saw him manipulate or lie. I did often see him cry, though they were never even tears of sadness. They were tears of complete love and gratitude.

    His mantra will stick with me forever.
    “Every day is a good day. No lousy excuses, Taylor. So if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, ROLL OVER!”

    I have been drawn to his positive, comforting spirit and genuine warmth since I was a small girl. A visit, family gathering or holiday could never properly begin until I found Grandpa first and foremost to exchange a kiss and a hug so big it cracked my back. He was so goofy and always loved making my cousins and I laugh. He would sing his infamous song as many times as we asked. “She has freckles on her butt she is nice.”
    One of my favorite childhood memories was when we were on a cruise in the Caribbean. We easily convinced Grandpa to join a ship wide Hairy Chest Contest. He didn’t win, but he did successfully convince the judges to acknowledge that his chest was, indeed, the softest. He loved to have fun. As simple as that.

    While I have only fond memories of my Grandpa as a child, he did impact me most during my adult life. I loved visiting him at his condo in Florida so much that it inspired me to attend college there. That first major life transition of mine, moving away from home to a different state, Grandpa was there. He was there as I said goodbye to my parents when they got in the car to drive 1,000 miles back up north. I was crying and nervous about all of the change, but with a big smile, and his vodka in hand, Grandpa comforted me with his words. 
    "What the hell are you crying about, baby? We are going to have fun down here. This is paradise."

    And he was right.

    Mornings in Florida were spent walking around the lakes at Lexington. The birds singing in the background, we would stop to observe the gators, turtles and fish. Strangers and friends would stroll by and with a nod and a wave Grandpa would greet them, “Good morning, just another day in paradise!

    After walking, we would grab our pool noodles and spend the rest of the day floating around in the sun. Bud, ever the social butterfly, never wanted to go to the private pool, he could always be found at the club where his many friends gathered. Everyone at the pool knew him and by 3pm the bartender girls would specially deliver a chocolate mudslide to his noodle. He would take a sip, look at me and wink, “Look at this life, This is just paradise.”

    By 5pm, cocktail hour was in full swing. Vodka on the rocks with two olives, that he always selflessly shared. We would leisurely walk over to the club for dinner, admiring the colorful sky behind the palm tree silhouettes on the golf course. The club for dinner was a big party and Grandpa thrived. Here is where the snowbirds all bragged about their families back north.
    “So how many Grandkids do you have?” they would compare. And let’s be honest, no one loved this question more than Grandpa. He usually would sit back grinning and allow the others to answer first. He would then chirp up last, “10 grandkids? Oh, is that all?? I’ve got you all beat. 24 grandkids, 26 great and I don’t know how many on the way!” He was so proud.

    After dinner, it was back to the condo for a night cap and a chocolate almond ice cream cone. This time of night was always my favorite. Relaxed on the couch, he would answer all of my many questions about what it was like growing up in Youngstown, which decade was his favorite, how he met Grandma, and what it was like raising 8 kids.

    I especially loved when he told me stories about his parents. He had such a profound respect and admiration for them that it gave me tears and made me wish I knew them. He expressed how he looked forward to being reunited with them someday, and that has given me great comfort these past 2 weeks. Despite not growing up with a father himself, Grandpa knew how to parent. I know this because I was the luckiest one who got to be raised by his son, my dad, who is utter proof of his success.

    Grandpas favorite decade was the 1950’s. He met Grandma during that time. He had originally been going out with her sister Beverly, but decided to ditch her one night to take Grandma, the one with the beautiful long red hair, to the burger joint instead. He always said that was the best decision he made. Grandpa also told me that raising 8 kids was really easy. He told me that they were all well behaved and never fought. Actually, I think that was the one time I ever accused him of lying.

    Grandpa would finish the nights in Florida by turning on The Five. I loved my Grandpa so much that he is the one and only person I would ever be willing to watch Fox news for. He was passionate about both politics and financial investing. He was the only republican I would ever debate with because I knew he could never send me into a fury. Our debates would always end with laughter and a kiss and he’d say, “I still love you, even though you’re one of them damn liberals.”

    I respected him as a conservative. He grew up without being handed anything. He provided for 8 kids of his own that grew into an immediate family with more than 70 people. As if that wasn’t big enough, he still had enough space in his heart to provide for those in greater need. He sponsored children in Central America and loved showing me the photos and thank you letters from his Guatemalan kids. He started a successful business that he so proudly never officially retired from. He owned a gorgeous second home in Florida and spent the last decade of his life reaping the benefits of all that he had sowed. To say he was successful would be an understatement.

    “It’s been easy,” he would say. “Work hard and be smart with investing your money and you can have this life by the time you’re 60!” My 401K will forever be in his honor.

    Just by being himself, he taught me far more that year in Florida than any of my university courses did.

    Even as he was dying, Grandpa was showing me how to live. The jokes, sometimes inappropriate, never stopped. The kisses and strong hugs, never stopped. The enjoyment of the little things; vodka, dove heart shaped chocolates, and Chicago popcorn, never stopped. His appreciation for the sun shining on the back hill and the fluffy white clouds floating in the blue sky, never stopped.
    The last morning I saw him, I asked him “how are you feeling today Grandpa?” His response, “Every day is a good day.”

    While his eyes became heavier and his breath more shallow, I felt Grandpas heart continue to grow strong with love and gratitude. Though the physical body expires, that spirit and love is everlasting.

    I will always feel the loss of my Grandpa. But this feeling of loss and grief is a direct reflection of an even greater love.

    8 years ago, Grandpa wrote this word in his handwriting on my left wrist. It is the spot I touch to focus inward and observe the sound of my own heartbeat.
    It is an Irish Gaelic word that means to trust and to believe.

    So while I will forever miss my Grandpa in his physical form, I trust that his spirit lives on and is always with me. I believe that he is in a better place. And whenever I start to become overwhelmed with worry, I can, in fact, hear his voice reassuring me.
    He is saying,
    “What the hell are you crying about, baby? Don’t worry about me. This is Paradise.

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    (Video updated on October 21, 2016)