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Radical Gratitude: A Guide to Transform Hardships

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"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie

Sitting in a coffee shop in Lincoln Road on a bright and sunny day I received a call from my aunt stating, “ Your Mom just had a seizure she is not looking well, I am scared she is not going to make it.” At that moment, everything started to feel as if it was operating in slow motion, my heart began to race, and I could barely breathe. My aunt continued, “Hurry and get here get on the first flight you can.” My mind began to race, and I immediately started to visualize the worst and thoughts began to cross my mind like wildfire such as “She is going to die,” “You won't be able to say goodbye,” “You should have been there.”

Hearing those words from my aunt I had to choose if I was going to believe in my thoughts of fear or gratitude. I knew that this was where I had to put into practice everything I have learned about gratitude. As the anxiety became prevalent in my mind and body, I started to make a shift. I began to think, “I am grateful that my mom is alive now,” “I am grateful that she is at the hospital and is being taken care of.” Shortly after changing my thoughts, I bought a ticket and started heading home to pack my bags and drive to the airport. Thinking thoughts of gratitude, of course, did not mean that I was happy or feeling good it just allowed me to see clearly and to make decisions to get me to where I needed to be. As I arrived to New York and walked in the hospital, I realized that it was a privilege for me to be able to get on a plane and get to my mother side. I felt gratitude for the fact that she had the luxury of having great doctors, nurses, and staff help her and take care of her. The same applies to everyday life; it is a privilege to have electricity, water, and food to feed our bodies. The more you practice this you will find endless things to feel grateful for.

After this experience, it has helped me feel gratitude on a deeper level than before. Life is challenging with its twist and turns, as many of us will learn. At times we focus so much on what is going wrong and what we need to change that we forget to appreciate the little things in life. Too often we spend our moments together complaining and in the thoughts of self-pity, sadness, and defeat. However, if we want to live radical lives, we must learn to focus on our blessings instead of our troubles. Of course, it’s not easy to do this especially when you experience something for the millionth time, or you’re on the verge of losing a loved one, or life feels as if everything is working against you. But life is not about making changes only if they are comfortable.

Developing the muscle of gratitude is like going to the gym it takes time and practice. As you start to make this change, you will feel uncomfortable, and your mind will struggle with this new way of thinking. How do we begin to live a life of radical gratitude? By starting our days with magnified appreciation. Some people pray and give thanks; I start my day by writing a list of at least ten things I am grateful for. However, you choose to practice gratitude is up to you and the more you do this; the more it becomes a habit. It starts to become your way of being, and you will find yourself not just doing this in the morning but also going through your day giving thanks.

Gratitude transforms your life and works as alchemy in situations of defeat. As I mentioned before, it is not easy, and it never gets easy, but you will be able to enjoy moments to the fullest because you appreciate the fact that you’re even alive. Truth is we will not be here forever, and as we know this intellectually, we must remember this in our hearts.

Years ago when I started this practice, I was experiencing heartbreak and found myself constantly complaining about it. When I read on the Internet about living with gratitude, I started to make my morning gratitude list daily.  Now, it is the way that I deal with everything in life. Start today by writing down all the blessings in your life and express appreciation to those you love while you can. Watch as your days start to feel lighter and next time you face hardship elevate your mind by thinking thoughts of appreciation.  Spend your days in radical gratitude and you’ll see how life will offer you more blessings than you could have ever imagined.

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Memento Mori: How to focus on the power of life

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Memento Mori: How to focus on the power of life

A great Stoic once said “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of our life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…”

Stoicism, for those who have not majored in philosophy, is considered a ideology of personal ethics. According to its teachings, we as social beings, can only find happiness in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain.

Stoicism incorporates the practice of logic to provoke us to use our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature's plan. By meditating on the contemplation of death the Stoics would train themselves to remain in the present moment. Back in the day, it was more than just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, it was considered more of a way of life.

I know the truth of death is an overwhelming reality for us to wrap our heads around. The fact that you are a mortal being, that will some day cease to exist? It’s hard to swallow.  Even as I write it my face cringes.

But my intention here is not so much to focus on the reality of our death, but instead on the power of our life.

“Memento Mori” is a Latin phrase that means “remember that you will die,” “remember that you are mortal”.  Now I understand that sounds morbid and as millennials the last thing we want is to be thinking too much about death, especially with today’s culture of youth glorification and the perpetuating consumeristic lie that you can stay young forever. The thought literally sits at odds with the comfortable narrative we have surrounded ourselves with.

However, the truth is, that it is a thought that we all need to be reminded of. The importance in this thought is not so much to focus on the end of things, but instead to focus on the NOW of life. The immense infinite now that we have each and everyday.

This phrase should force you to focus on what you can do NOW, with the life that you have at this given moment.

The HERE and NOW are the things that matter most.

You should be constantly asking yourself: How can I make the here and now really count? How am I letting fear stop me? How am I letting my past weigh me down?

Meditating and acknowledging your morality is only depressing if you miss the point.

Look at it as a way to find perspective in life. See it as a way to identify your priorities, your meaning, and what it is that you want most.

Use this idea as way to see life as a gift-- don't let yourself get lost in the trivial insignificant ordeals of the everyday human existence.

Don't let your vanity consume you.

Realize that you have a certain amount of time to live, so live life in a certain kind of way. Don’t let transient things become distractions. Don’t let drama consume you. Don’t let fear stop you and most of all to let your time escape you. The only truth you need to become conscious of is that life is precious, it is short and you have the power to make the most of it now.

Here are some ways to use “Memento Mori” to seize your life:

  1. Live life with purpose each and everyday. Do things because they are aligned with who you want to be.

  2. Stop making excuses. You never know what is or could be if you don’t try.

  3. Choose not to be a victim. Remember that you are always winning, even when you are losing you have won a new lesson or point of view that you otherwise would not have gotten.

  4. Stop comparing yourself to others, your life is your journey, no one else has to understand it and no one else can live it.

  5. Take action now in anyway, big or small steps count.

  6. Let go of the past that is weighing you down and don’t let it affect your future.

  7. Rethink what your priorities are.

  8. Mediate fully on what you want for yourself and why you want those things.

Finally, as this year comes to and end and a new one begins I invite you to think about all the new ways you can live the life you were meant to live -- today. No one has a better way of provoking this thought other than our dear Steve Jobs, when he reminds us in his famous commencement speech; "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

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Maktub

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Maktub

Maktub means “It is written” in Arabic.

Recently, I came across this word in the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and I paused in my tracks as I thought about what that actually meant. It is written -- IT IS WRITTEN! What is written I thought? My life? My history? My future? And, why? Why is it written?

What is written! 

And here I was I as read these words out loud. It is written. I finally understood. We are written. Who we are. What we will be. Who we will become. It written and it is written because as we live we are writing it. Step by step, minute by minute, moment by moment. We determine our destiny all the time every time. 

I think that is the hardest thing for people to wrap there heads around because to think that we are in full control of who we are and what we want is scary, even overwhelming. I mean seriously WE HAVE THE POWER, THE ABILITY TO DO AND BE WHAT EVER AND WHO EVER WE WANT at any moment, at any time-- all the time.

This is a huge responsibility. And as Pauolo puts it is our "Personal Legend". We are in charge of writing the story of our lives. And that takes a lot of personal will power and determination. It takes a lot of intention. It takes a lot consciousness, it takes power, it takes discipline, and amongst everything else it takes a lot of consistency. Creating and living the life that you want is not an easy job. If it was we would have a lot more happier, more inspired people in the world. Everyone would be absolutely satisfied with who they are and what they have accomplished. They would be content with their current condition. They would be above all STRIVING!  But now, correct me if I'm wrong but that is not the reality of the world. So many of us struggle with our current conditions, so many of us are unhappy with the state of our lives that we become blinded to the fact that we are actually the ones in charge. We are the one that can make the greatest difference that we seek.

By now I think that I have made my point.  Its your life, you are in control of it. You are literally the author of your the story in the process of living it. It is that simple. You have the pen in your hand and you are also the publisher. 

So now how do we write a great F%$# story is the question. I think this is the hardest part because we can all easily identify the things that we do not like, or that we do not want, but can we identify the ones that we do? That is the first step to writting litterally the story of your life. 

 

1. Identify/ Define what it is that you want.

Its a lot easier said then done, but yes you need to do get to know yourself sweetheart. You need to sit alone on the beach and think about who you are. What you like? Why you like it? What you want? Why you want it? What does it mean to you to have it? What does it mean to you to not have it? Once you have identified the things you want and why you are ready for the next step.

 

2. Become motivated.

This step should naturally happen if you have properly identified the latter. Once you know what you want and WHY you really want it, you will become intrinsically motivated towards it.  The 'WHY' here is the key. You have to get down deep, down to the deeper why of WHY you want something. It can't be based on extrinsic representations. For example you can;t want to lose weight to look good. Or you can't want to want to be successful to travel.  You have to go deeper. Why do you want to look good? What does looking good mean to you? What does that feel like? Why do you want to travel? Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? What does seeing that mean to you?

 

3. Work it.

This is the hardest step because you literally got to move yourself to do something. You need to get out there and do what it is that you need to do to get what it is that you need get. It is that simple. Stop thinking about what others think just do, do, DO! Do you every day. Be selfish. Tell others "Hey sorry I got plans" even if you dont. Personally I make appointments with myself to get things done. That's just how I work. If I've penciled myself in for myself-- "I'm booked. Sorry, Bye!" Making appointments, plans, setting goals are the key here. You need to make a plan, any plan. Even if you have to plan to make the plan --do that! Doing one thing everyday in the directions of what you have identified in step 1 is the key to creating the life that you want. You can even plan a lazy day or "I'm gonna go out drinking day" the point is to plan it all. Make an agenda and then..........

 

4. STICK TO IT

This is the most important step of them all. Consistency is Key. We can want and do a lot of things in life but if we are not consistent we will never get anything at all. We will be writing a really dull confusing story. You need to be consistent. Make it work, over, and over again. And if you ever get lost go back to step 1. Without consistency I'm sorry but your not anything at all. Consistency literally defines who you are, how your known, how you are remembered, and what you ultimately achieve.

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Visiting the beach can change your brain in an incredible way

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Visiting the beach can change your brain in an incredible way

We all know that spending time outdoors is good for you on both a physical and mental level, but the benefits of spending time specifically at the beach have just been revealed.

That incredible feeling of peace and calmness that you experience at the beach is now being referred to as “blue space.” That’s what scientists have dubbed the effect that the combination of soothing smells and sounds of water have on your brain. The blue space is enough to make you feel at ease in a hypnotic sort of way.

When you notice how relaxed you feel at the beach, it’s not just all in your head. Science says that it’s a change in the way your brain reacts to its environment leaving you feeling happy, relaxed and reenergized.

Overall, this blue space effects you in four different ways.

1. Going to the beach reduces stress.

Water is nature’s cure to life’s stressors. It’s full of naturally occurring positive ions that are known for having the ability to make you feel at ease. So whether you jump in for a swim or simply dip your toes in the water, you’re sure to experience a feeling of relaxation. That’s one instant mood booster we could all use from time to time!

2. The beach boosts your creativity.

Feeling like you’re in a creative rut? Well, scientists now believe that the solution to this is the beach. Being in blue space allows you to clear your head and approach problems or projects in a more creative way. Much like meditation, the beach triggers a feeling of calmness that allows you to tune everything else out and reflect on what it is you’ve been needing to focus on.

3. Going to the beach can help reduce feelings of depression

Much like the effects that the beach has on feelings of stress and creative ruts, the beach also provides some relief to feelings of depression. The hypnotic sound of the waves in combination with the sight and smells of the beach can put you into a meditative space. In turn, you can clear your mind and reflect on life in a safe space away from the chaos of your daily life.

4. Overall, spending time at the beach will change your perspective on life.

And that perspective is going to change for the better! Nature in general has always been a factor in healthy happy lives, but the beach in particular is so good for the soul.

So grab the SPF and pack a picnic, because it’s time to head to the beach!

http://shareably.net/visiting-the-beach/

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THE POWER OF LETTING THINGS GO

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THE POWER OF LETTING THINGS GO

http://apchan.deviantart.com/art/Flying-Away-348827268

http://apchan.deviantart.com/art/Flying-Away-348827268

How many of you cling to your feelings? Maybe you hold a grudge or always remember an embarrassing situation? Why do you do it? Why? Does reminding yourself of the unpleasant past do anything for your future? Does it foster any good to your present now? 

The answer is NO! In fact, it actually debilitates you even more. Believe it or not, holding on to the things from your past--hold you back. Never truly being able to close the doors of your past, prevent ones from fully opening. If you constantly remind yourself of that asshole who broke your heart, or that argument you had with your mom, or that time  you tried something and failed-- you will never allow yourself the time to heal. Its like getting a cut on the tip of your finger.  If you constantly rub it or bump it into stuff it will never get better. Instead, it actually makes doing anything in the present moment really difficult and vexatious. Like this cut, your past experiences, affect the things your able to accomplish in the now.

They become part of you and part of how you see and experience everything. The negative thing you chose to hold on to from your past become part of your story and before you know it, you begin to internalize those thoughts and feelings. Do you ever wonder why you always tend to have the same kind of relationships with the opposite sex? Do you tend to make the same assumptions or jump to the same conclusions? Maybe your always the one to be on the defense when you talk with your mother? Do you hold yourself back from trying new things because the last time you did you failed? The past that you cling to becomes the present that create.

Instead of welcoming new and exciting possibilities, lets say you become somewhat jaded. Yes, the things you chose to cling to mold the reality you come to live in.  Eventually without even realizing it you even start using your past experience as justifications for your current situation. The things that you cling to hold you accountable to those experiences, and instead of seeing the world anew ---you come to see the world with a little less light. And that dimmed out view of the world in turn comes to affects how you interact with the world and ultimately becomes your justification for how things turn out. What you don't realize in the greater scheme of things, is that, had you not held on to the past, the present would be full of light and therefore how you interact with it would be different and what you received wouldn't be the same! That is why letting go of anything negative must go! Like it never even happened! Allow yourself some amnesia from the negatives in your past. There is no need to haul around all those bad experiences if they don't serve you, don't allow them to linger on.

Letting go is not as hard as it may seem. Bad things happen to everyone. And as far as I know, we can't change them, we can't travel back in time, so why continue to perpetuate them?  Just accept the things that have happened to you in their entirety and accept that there is nothing you can do  to change them and then choose to let them go. Once you’re able to move on and close old doors, new doors will open up, better opportunities will arise, and, most of all, you’ll have a better story to tell. A story that instead of holding you back, is pushing you forwards!

Your mind can be your biggest enemy or your best friend.  Learn how to let go of things that hold you back through writing in my blog post "Free yourself Write". 

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DRESS ABSTRACT: A Fashion Statement That Matters

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DRESS ABSTRACT: A Fashion Statement That Matters

Did you know that 14 million tons of clothes per year end up in US landfills or incinerators? Yes, that's 14 million tons of unwanted clothes that people no longer need or want just tossed away. That's about 80 pounds per person, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  However, unlike banana peels, old clothes don't compost, even if they are made out of natural fibers. Most clothes go through many different processes before they become the clothes you wear on your back. They are bleached, dyed and printed on using many chemicals. Once they reach our landfills they may threaten the groundwater and if they are incinerated they release toxins into the air. Who would have thought that keeping up with the latest trends could be so toxic.

Fast fashion and cheap clothes are imposing new and unforeseen problems not only to the world, but also to our health. What if instead of buying clothes that wear and tear, you could buy a timeless piece that would never need to be thrown away and that would transcend all fashion trends for generations to come? Not a bad idea right? Well thats exactly what professional artist Nima Veiseh had in mind when he designed his new brand Dress Abstract in 2014. As a former doctoral researcher in Design and Sustainable Economics, it became clear to Nima during his studies that there were two important opportunities to help sustainability in the clothing industry.

http://magazine.ivy.com/2015/12/nima-veiseh/

http://magazine.ivy.com/2015/12/nima-veiseh/

Firstly, he would design clothes that would never need to be thrown away. Secondly, he would do that by employing neglected refugee talent within the US. Nima believes that immigrants are the foundation of America and to ignore them and their talents would be counter productive for a sustainable future. Therefore, when you Dress Abstract, you're actually helping displaced artists and hard-working refugees build a life in America. Since then, Dress Abstract has become the brand where art meets fashion in a new stylish sustainable way.

"Clothes is just another canvas," Nima claims.

Each piece is actually a fabulous work of art that has been carefully transformed into clothing. Then they are numbered, inspected, signed and given a Certificate to guarantee their authenticity. And, if you ever get tired of an item and feel the need to throw it away, they will send you a free shipping label to return it for a gift certificate towards your next purchase. Now that's a fashion statement I think anyone can work with! 

If your interested in viewing some items by Dress Abstract visit our Boutique where we have carefully selected timeless sustainable products for you. Shop now and dress like it Matters!

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Meditation as a Tool

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Meditation as a Tool

Meditation is spending time in quiet thought for relaxation or religious purposes according to the dictionary. The history of mediation is rich and it's many forms vast. It's also one of the tools needed to maintain wellness. 


You only need to search the web and find what type or types fit your needs and lifestyle. I practice several different styles of meditation because different needs require it. Meditation seems like the buzz word of the moment but I first encountered it's benefits while in high school many years ago. I grew up in New York and attended high school in the West Village of New York City.  They offered a course in Yoga and I signed up immediately. At the beginning and end of every class we meditated. At the time I didn't have a clue as to it's benefits nor it's absolute necessity. 


Over time I've developed what is called a meditation practice. Meaning, I meditate twice daily morning and night everyday for a half hour each time. My goal is to be able to mediate for up to an hour each time. I also, when the need arises practice mini meditations throughout the day. Mini meditations are focused breathing and mantra techniques that can be done anywhere. For example breathing in for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of seven and finally exhaling for a count of eight. It reduces your stress level almost immediately by allowing for the blood to flow to every part of our body. With a mini mantra meditation,  I usually repeat a mantra while being conscious of my breath; I breathe "in love and peace and I breathe out anxiety and fear". I will do each of these mini meditations for approximately three to five minutes, just repeating the meditations till I am mindful of the actual moment and the stress level has been reduced. 


In my previous post I mentioned how I experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks. I overcame them through meditation. There are many types of meditation but what I found was practicing "I Am" meditation and "Guided" meditations allowed for me to gain control back over my life. With "I am" meditations I could do it anywhere and anytime as needed. I wrote down a list of "I am's"; I am healthy, I am strong, I am loved, I am not alone, etc and committed it to memory but when I couldn't focus I just opened my journal and I read it out loud over and over again. "I am", meditation would stop the attack. With "Guided Meditation" I needed to be home and lying down. It helped me immensely to be taken away via a calm and assuring voice to focus on a specific scenario. That scenario for me is always a beach scene and the crashing of the waves on the surf. "Guided" meditation recharged me so I would get my strength and energy back. With panic attacks, everything begins to race, your breathing becomes shallow,  flight or fight kicks and before you know it you're completely wiped out and that's hoping you didn't rush yourself to the hospital because you thought you were dying. In my case the episodes were so severe I would hyperventilate which has a list of it's own horrific ailments. 

My meditation time is something I absolutely rely on to keep me going throughout the day. It's also something that grows continually. It's not easy to quiet the mind when it's filled with to do lists, time constraints, sleepiness and all of life's noises good and bad. We all need to recharge, recuperate and regroup. Meditation re-charges your battery so when life comes at you, you're capable of being resilient. 


I meditate because I need to clear my mind.  I need to shut down so I can rebuild my mind in a healthy and authentic way daily.  It takes time and I am still learning and I pray I always will be. In order to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul connection meditation is key. 
 

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