Category Archives: Self Reflection

On Coming Out and Everything that Goes with That

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On Coming Out and Everything that Goes with That

Recently, I received an email to create a casting video on my coming out story–as well as some of the struggles faced with coming out, if there was anyone I still had to come out to, and if I hoped to inspire others with my story.

In having the opportunity to sit down and talk to my camera–the way I had so many times before for the Hobby Hoarder–I felt at home. I also felt as though I was doing something I needed to do.

Within the video, I share a college story, crying in my dorm hall, my first kiss with a girl, the relief of having friends who supported me, and the sadness I have for others who may not live in a safe enough place to share their own stories, or to be exactly who they are.

With Pride month having just ended, I thought I’d share this video with you; however, I like to remember and remind people, that for many of us, Pride isn’t just a weekend, or a month, it’s a lifetime.

Consider this my first foray back into vlogging.

Love. is. Love.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): The Prologue

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Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.

An Intro

“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”

My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.

It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.

My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.

My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.

But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.

With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.

I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.

So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.

I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”

My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”

The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.

For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.

Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.

Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.

But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.

I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.

And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.

All Aboard.

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A Good Story

Sometimes all it takes to motivate us is a good story.

a good story

Good storytelling moves us–it inspires us and it enlightens us. Good storytelling motivates us. It asks us to stand up for our current beliefs or question them. Good storytelling brings people together. It make us laugh. It makes us cry. And it challenges our every day decisions. A good story can warm our hearts. It can make us angry or it can sober us up. A good story doesn’t need a happy ending. A good story invites us to take an adventure or to go on a journey. Good stories teleport us to different times and different spaces. They are one true way to escape our own realities and step into someone else’s –or a different world.

Good stories are what move us-shake us-make our hairs stand up on our skin-and drive us.

Good stories are what we come back to when we’re searching for that one quote or one paragraph or one chapter that somehow managed to encapsulate everything we couldn’t put into words ourselves.

More than anything good stories stay with us. 

These are the books filled with stories or moments  that have stuck with me–that have and continue to move me–some since childhood–some since only more recently. What’s on your bookshelf? What motivates you? What books and stories do you always go back to?

1. Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

“I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic: I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps. I was not naturally talented—I didn’t sing, dance, or act—though working around that minor detail made me inventive.

I was not self-destructive, though I almost destroyed myself. In the end, I turned away from stand-up with a tired swivel of my head and never looked back, until now. A few years ago, I began researching and recalling the details of this crucial part of my professional life—which inevitably touches upon my personal life—and was reminded why I did stand-up and why I walked away.”

2. Yes, Man, Danny Wallace

“Take the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. At least it’s done. It’s over. It’s gone. We can all learn from our mistakes and heal and move on. But it’s harder to learn or heal or move on from something that hasn’t happened; something we don’t know and is therefore indefinable; something which could very easily have been the best thing in our lives, if only we’d taken the plunge, if only we’d held our breath and stood up and done it, if only we’d said yes. // The fact is saying yes hadn’t been a pointless exercise at all. It had been pointful. It had the power to change lives and set people free… It had the power of adventure. Sometimes the little opportunities that fly at us each day can have the biggest impact.”

3. Wild, Cheryl Strayed

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

4. Bossypants, Tina Fey

“Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it. // There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”
“Am I just chasing it because it’s the hardest thing for me to get and I want to prove I can do it?”

5. On Writing, Stephen King

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life. // Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t just make speeches–Just believing is usually enough.”


6. The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin 

“It’s about living in the moment and appreciating the smallest things. Surrounding yourself with the things that inspire you and letting go of the obsessions that want to take over your mind. It is a daily struggle sometimes and hard work but happiness begins with your own attitude and how you look at the world.”

7. Siddartha, Herman Hesse

“It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”

8. Love With a Chance of Drowning. Torre DeRoche

“Dedicated to those who dream–and those who dare fall for dreamers.”


9. The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton
 

Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves – that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.

If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”

10. Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss

“Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”

The Great Escape

“The Hobby Hoarder project began as an escape from negative thoughts, from regrets, from fears, from worries, from sadness. But then my project began to teach me something I couldn’t have expected: how to live a balanced life of struggle and success. I’d like to invite you to step a little closer into my hobby year, to know a little more why this project has been so important to me, and to learn the real heartbeat of the project and myself.”

What you need to know before you read this entry is that it’s not just another hobby post. I hope you’ll stick around.

——————-

racecar

As I prepare to ride along in the racecar, I can hear cars motoring around the track.

Vroom.

Vroom.

Vroom.

There are a number of spectators watching their friends and family members take on car racing for the first time.

I stand off to the side. While they cheer the drivers on to their first black and white checkered flag, I get ready to head out to the track, to have that checkered flag waved for me. This new experience will mark the completion of my 100th hobby, a goal I’ve been working towards for the past 81 weeks.

Helmet – Check.

Yellow sunglasses – Check.

Motion sickness medicine – Check. Pre hobby jitters … Check

Ten minutes later, I am in the racecar buckling up and high fiving my driver Mitch. Before I know it, we are whipping around the track at what feels like 200 mph. The engine roars throughout the car. We speed up and hang tight on the bumper of another car on the track before swiftly swerving to the right and lapping him. I give the camera that’s attached to the deck a thumbs up.

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And before I know it, three short laps later, we pull back into where we started.

“That was awesome!” I exclaim to Mitch and then ask him how fast we were going, “175? 180?” He laughs at me, “No ma’am. 75 mph—but it feels much faster on a short track like this.”

My jaw drops. 75 mph!? I’ve reached that speed on the highway—but it doesn’t feel like that! I mean driving 75 on the highway isn’t exhilarating—it doesn’t feel dangerous—and it doesn’t feel thrilling. This ride around the track felt exhilarating–felt dangerous–and was definitely a thrill. Mitch gives me a congratulatory fist-pound and I exit the vehicle, still in awe.

I head over to the spectator area and patiently wait for another race of cars to begin. Ten minutes later, cars begin entering the track.

I listen as the cars accelerate and I raise my yellow sunglasses to the top of my head. I breathe in the fresh air. I decide to stick around the track and watch the other cars as they continue to race around.

I begin to think of the hobby year in laps. During each lap, a racecar driver must deal with significant elements—navigating around the other cars on the track, knowing when to accelerate, when to slow down, when to take the inside corner (or the outside), knowing when to take a break to refuel, when to have maintenance done on the car. During each of my hobby weeks, I had to understand when to slow myself down so I wouldn’t wear myself thin, I had to know when to take a breath and refuel for the next week, and I had to know when I could really press the pedal.

I get distracted from the track and I think about what it took to get me to this place—not only this racetrack—but this place in my life.

I’d like to invite you to step a little closer into my hobby year, to know a little more why this project has been so important to me, to learn the real heartbeat of the project and myself.

Because the truth is—the hobby hoarder project has saved my life.

I found myself wondering the past few weeks if it was me that was keeping the Hobby Hoarder alive – or the Hobby Hoarder that was keeping me alive. And the answer? It’s both. I’ve been keeping the Hobby Hoarder alive to keep me alive.

Only a few months before the hobbying began, I hit a tremendous low in my life…a low that eventually became a turning point.

The truth of the matter is I’ve spent years feeling depressed. Stuck. Bored. Over critical. Sad. Anxious. Nervous. Sometimes, I felt more alone when I was with people than even when I was in the comfort of my own home.

I tried to run from feelings I was having. I thought if I moved away from my college town—it’d get better, so I moved to New York. When that wasn’t working, I bought a plane ticket to Italy and said arrividerci to America. And when that didn’t work I returned to New York City full of hope that I could do better than I did the first time I was here—full of hope that the sadness wouldn’t return.

I was wrong.

Despite living in a great apartment, working in the field I wanted to work in, and enjoying the single-life in the biggest city in the world- I still felt a void. It was a sadness I couldn’t put words to. I had everything I thought I was supposed to and yet, I didn’t have the one thing that I thought all the “supposed to’s” were going to bring me: happiness.

I wish I could say this was a new feeling for me, but it wasn’t. It was a feeling that had simply escalated over time. I was depressed for nearly six years. I refused to talk to anyone about it.

I knew that on the surface, I played things off well and I seemed alright with my friends, but deep down inside, I wasn’t alright. I wasn’t even okay. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to call it quits. I was ready to disappear.

It’s taken me a long time to put this down on paper—to tell my family and friends about it, but the truth is,  I didn’t want to live.

I struggled through smiling. I found it hard to laugh. I didn’t wear yellow sunglasses to try and brighten up even cloudy days. I went through the motions of eating breakfast, boarding the train, going to work, leaving work, eating dinner, sleeping. I was stuck. The way I saw it—there was only one way out.

I could remember trying new activities as a child. I drove my parents insane asking them if I could try them all: kayaking, sailing, basketball, ballet, clarinet, baseball, field hockey. Gosh, I can still remember the first time I held a field hockey stick—the way it turned in my hands, the awkwardness of having to roll it from side to side to dribble down the field. I can remember the rattle of my thin wooden stick as I’d go to drive the ball down the field the first time and the excitement I felt the first time I dodged a teammate during practice.

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I wanted to feel that joy, that excitement again. I wanted to be passionate about trying new things the way I had as a kid. I needed to feel that curiosity–that desire to know everything, to learn anything. It wasn’t so much that I stopped wanting to, but I stopped getting as excited, I stopped looking for the opportunities, I stopped doing what I loved to do.

And I was angry about it. And the anger drove my depression even deeper. I didn’t want to be like this. I WANTED to be excited about waking up each day. I wanted to feel motivated enough to go out and do things. I wanted to enjoying being alive.

I battled my depression as best I could, slipping back and forth between wanting to see tomorrow and not being sure it was worth the struggle, until I met someone who took me under his wing and who sat with me for endless hours in coffee shops and taught me the craft of stand up comedy. He reminded me how good it felt to laugh and how good it felt to make others laugh as well.

For the first time in years, I had tried something new and given myself up to it, completely and fully. I hit a turning point, and started to find clarity at last.

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I took up drawing and acting along with the comedy. As I stimulated my mind, the negative aspects of my life started to seemingly fade away because I had started to focus my energies on much more positives ways of living. I was focusing my attention on the physical world outside, and allowing myself the chance to see past the dark insecurities and thoughts that raced through my mind.

The Hobby Hoarder project began as an escape from the negative thoughts – an escape from regrets – from fears- from worries – from sadness. But then my project began to teach me something I couldn’t have expected–how to live a balanced life.

After a handful of hobbies, I began to see these new experiences as much more than gimmicky adventures. I started to take on a new frame of a mind. As the Hobby Hoarder I began to understand that we don’t have to run from our problems. Instead, we can face them head on. Though the hobbies started as an escape, the project actually gave me safe a way to face the very real issues I would normally feel strangled by each day: body image, confidence, sexuality, self- love.

I was finally able to recognize and admit to myself how I truly felt about my body by spinning around a pole at a pole dancing class and by taking on group fitness classes—something I once ran terrified from. I gained confidence by giving myself permission to take lessons in activities that once seemed impossible. And I began to love myself more each and every day as I conquered—and struggled through–an assortment of activities that ranged from birdhouse making with my mother to piloting a plane around Manhattan at sunset. I learned what it meant to take off, accept the struggles, to re-balance after severe turbulence—and what it meant to let myself land every once in a while and refuel—because we don’t HAVE to be on the go all the time. Life’s a balance between the struggle and the success.

And because I gave myself permission to struggle in controlled environments week after week, because I raised the stakes, because I gave myself opportunities, because I refused to quit, I experienced 81 weeks of life that I never would have, if I had given up when I wanted to—when I had planned to.

And even though for five of the hobby months I was working 60-hour workweeks, I didn’t care. Because I knew at the end of the day—or the week, I’d be rewarding myself with something that felt productive towards living a healthy and balanced life—and because I knew at the end of the day or the week that I was going to have my chance to really live the life I wanted to live after sacrificing hours to pay the bills.

After returning from my cross-country road trip in March, the 52nd hobby on my list, I feared the feelings of restriction and depression might come back after having so much freedom on the open road—after having no obligations for fifty days. And at first they did—not necessarily to the same extreme as two years ago—but I felt bubbles of sadness boiling through me. I lacked energy. I lounged on the couch and questioned how I’d ever get back into the groove of things in New York.

And then, as I’ve written about before, I started finding a respect for what was happening. I started to accept my sadness as part of a cycle—that sometimes our sadness is a result of something that made us incredibly happy. In this case it was a road trip. In someone else’s case it could be getting to see a good friend for the first time in years but also having to say goodbye again.

I thought I’d end the hobby hoarder project after the trip, but instead of ending the project– I continued it. I treated the trip like a landing—and took off again, because I recognized that I found great happiness through new experiences—that the activities I jumped into gave me a chance to learn not only the lessons at hand, but life lessons too. And like a racecar going around a track—I continued on my journey.

BUT that doesn’t mean the hobby year and the hobbies cured me of all feelings of anxiety—or sadness—loneliness—or depression. I’m not immune to these feelings at all. But I now have a better handle, for myself, on how to control them—and take them with stride.

We all experience depression and sadness in different ways—and it’s important that we take time to recognize how and when we are affected—and reach for help when it’s needed.

It’s also important that we discover healthy habits and methods for coping—and that we retain those tools for later.

So the next time you feel like you’ve had enough—when you think there’s no more out there and when you think there’s only one way out, I invite you to take a walk around the block and photograph at least one thing that grabs your attention. I invite you to go to the gym and give yourself 15 minutes to see how your energy and mood has changed. I invite you to turn off the lights and meditate for one, two, or ten minutes. I invite you to write down five things you are grateful for and I invite you to make a list of all the things you can do—all the things you WANT to do. And just try ONE.

And I invite you to share your stories and progress with me. As always, you can find me @ thehobbyhoarder@gmail.com, Twitter, and Facebook. I’d love the chance to know more about you, what fears you have, and how you’re able to move through them.

___

Please remember:

When you think you’ve had enough, when you think you can’t go on,  you can. Know that you are capable, and above all, know that you can live. 

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Believe in the Possible

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Later this week, I’ll be posting an update about my 99th hobby–an evening of paint your own pottery. And in less than two weeks I’ll be writing up the experience of trying 100 new things–in less than 100 weeks. This “project” started out as simply that–a project–a quest to try 52 new things in 52 weeks. But had I known how the challenge  would expand my life, I may have set the hurdle of completing that many hobbies a little bit higher to begin with. Maybe I would have said 75 hobbies–or maybe I would have started out with 100 hobbies. But that’s the best part about challenges–we can’t predict what their outcome will be–what they will truly mean to us at the end–or what lessons they will present–or hardships–or triumphs.  

Would I tell EVERYONE that they should try 100 new things in 100 weeks–or less? No. But would I tell EVERYONE to challenge themselves? To set out on a goal–and to watch themselves exceed that goal? Absolutely. Maybe you don’t want to try 52 new things in 52 weeks–or 100 in less than 100 weeks–that’s COOL--It’s a kind of a crazy goal–(and crazy goals are good too), but maybe you want to try one new thing this month–or even just this year. Maybe you want to dedicate time to reading one new book every few weeks–or exercising three times a week as opposed to simply one or two. Maybe you want to train for that marathon you’ve always talked about. Or maybe you want to start that photography business or take a photo of the sunrise every morning. Maybe you want to travel the world–or meet every person who is still alive. Maybe you want to try a new dance class each day of the week or maybe you want to write the next best screenplay or enter that 48 Hour Film Project and win it. Maybe you want to produce a web series or write six new jokes for your stand up comedy gig. Maybe you want to take the baby steps toward jump starting your first business (a salon? a restaurant? a tour guide company?) Or maybe you want to just start saying yes a little bit more. GREAT. Whatever it is-Go Do It. Get out of your comfort zone and believe in yourself. This “project,” though gimmicky, maybe at first, was never about me trying  52 or 100 new things–it was about challenging myself and then inspiring you to want to challenge yourself, to refuse the word no–to break out of your shell–to believe that you could step up to the plate against Randy Johnson, and smash the ball out of the park.

When it comes to the challenges you want to take on–full force–don’t doubt yourself. Never doubt yourself. Because the truth is–no one else is. And if for some reason they are, step up and prove them wrong because no matter WHAT they say–you are capable of anything.

And I mean that. I mean that more than anything in the world. No matter what your challenge is–you are capable of exceeding your expectations of that challenge, and no matter what your dreams are–you are capable of achieving them.

SURE sometimes your dreams may seem out of reach- or “too big” or  too”impossible” to conquer. It may feel like EVERYTHING is working against you. BUT when the walls are closing in – when gravity is pulling you down – you’ve gotta fight to believe- to believe in all you’ve worked for – to believe in those dreams you’ve been reaching for so brilliantly- to believe in yourself – and to believe in the possible. Because it’s easy to say that anything is possible -to preach it to someone who is struggling or to internally tell yourself that “you can do anything”- but to BELIEVE it – and I mean to REALLY believe that anything is possible -well that – that takes a special person -that takes someone who will push those walls back – who will defy gravity and who will prove to you that indeed- ANYTHING is possible. So whether or not today is your day – or this week is your week – this month your month or this year your year – don’t get down. Do not let your dreams go. Keep your head up. Believe in the possible.

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The Hobby Hoarder Sits Still: Meditation

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“You were so still. I couldn’t believe it. My first time, I was allll over the place,” – Meditation Participant.

Why I became this woman’s focus during this time for self-reflection, I am still trying to figure out. But what she should know is that both my feet painfully fell asleep and I couldn’t have moved abruptly even if I wanted to.

Meditation.

I chose to do meditation this week because on Sunday, April 15, I will be running a half-marathon, and as someone who has often webMD’ed herself into a coma, due to clumsy experiences, I believed that any physical activity outside of walking and running would be a terrible–awful–no good idea. Sitting still is normally not an option for me–my friends in Pennsylvania often tell me that it makes sense that I ended up in NYC, because I never rest. And when I told my mom I was doing something calm, her response was: “Well that’s not like you.”

But after this week, I think that calmness should definitely be added into my life on a more frequent basis–and conquering calmness as well–because it is clearly difficult for me–seeing as my feet fell asleep only minutes after beginning the first meditation. Our guide had even told us that the first thing we need to get right is our seat. Sigh. Fail.  Pins and needles flowed through my toes.

“Stay calm,” I cautioned myself. “You don’t want to ruin the ambience, the stillness of the room. Don’t move an inch.” And so I sat the way I would when I was a child so my parents wouldn’t know I was awake which means I held my breath. My focus was no longer on the beaming light or diamond that our guide was telling us to breathe into. My focus was now on the fact that I couldn’t move. As I maneuvered my feet quietly and carefully, I fell back into the guide’s voice. Calmness returned as I focused on a bright beam of light shooting out of my head and then a tiny diamond directly in front of my closed eyes.

After then being asked to see someone who annoys us–and have compassion for that person–we were told to open our eyes for a brief moment, reflect on what just happened and then go back into meditation.

Soon, the other students and myself were told to envision a mentor of ours, someone we look up to, someone who’s guidance leads us. Someone who’s wisdom motivates us. I instantly chose someone to see–to speak to–to listen to. And not before long I was spreading that guidance to people all around me–imagined people all around me: Telling them to attack whatever life brings them full on. Telling them that making mistakes was okay–that sometimes the things we think we are doing most wrong–are actually being done extremely well. Through meditation, I told the world that we could do whatever we wanted to do–like one big cliche. But it felt great.

I became lost in my mind–my thoughts far, far away from me. Now it was just me–no thoughts, no worries–no moments of necessary clarity. I lost sensations in my body parts and I floated. I disappeared–in the best way possible.

I became the sky, the sun, the moon, and Mother Nature, and I embraced the world. And I held her tight…and I kissed her, and I breathed her in, and felt at peace–if even just for a moment. And then I returned to the chaotic room that was filled with noises of construction outside the window, the aroma of burning candles, and the warm feeling of an accepting place. I had escaped–I took a quick short vacation, a brief leave from the world. I spent time sitting still in a moment of ultimate calmness. What one could consider a thing of beauty.

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I did my meditation at The Three Jewels in Manhattan, New York, where they have volunteers come in and lead guided meditation from 8am to 9am each weekday, and on 7:00pm on Fridays, Venerable Phuntsok provides guided meditation.  There is no fee associated with the guided meditations, but donations are suggested.

Mats, pillows, and seating is provided, and comfortable clothing is absolutely encouraged.

According to The Three Jewels “Meditation” website, “Meditation sessions are based on several types of Tibetan meditation practice. These forms of meditation above all include Ton Len. Many of these meditations emphasize the importance of giving love and needs and taking others suffering. other meditation practices that are taught include Mahamudra and Heart Sutra meditations, which examine the nature of mind and objects.”

From one newbie meditator to another, it’s pretty amazing. Check it out for yourself:

The Three Jewels
61 4th Ave.
New York, NY
 

The Hobby Hoarder Feels the Rhythm & the Rhyme: Steel Pan Drumming

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“Why do you want to play the steel pan drums?” Freddie Harris II asks me.

I look at him, and I think to myself, “Why not?” Then I take a moment, and I say, “Because I want to culturally diversify myself–I want to take a stab at something new–and well because I was asked to leave the school band in the 4th grade, because I squeaked too loudly on the clarinet.”

::Laughs::

“Good enough for me,” he says.

Freddie Harris II is Freddy Harris III’s father. And he’s an awesome teacher. They both took me–a complete novice to the steel pan drum—and taught me how to play a scale, harmonize, and “march.” Together, we all had a great time.

 

Hmm… Maybe steel pan drumming is my future… or … maybe not–with bloopers like this one:

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Make sure you check out the true professional:

Freddy Harris III 


(From Freddy Harris III’s Youtube site)

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