Is Your Mind Worried About Becoming Jobless and Homeless (or What is Meditation?)

A few mornings ago I didn’t feel like meditating. So I went to Youtube, where I get some of my favorite meditation videos, and typed in ‘Meditation when you don’t feel like meditating.’

What came back were a series of videos about what meditation is. A few of them were created by monks, and were quite interesting. I always love when people talk about what meditation is and is not, because I sometimes get asked this question and I can’t think of the answer exactly- not off the top of my head .

Anyway, this Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, had a 5 minute video that really clarified a lot of things for me about meditation. I’ll summarize his video here.

First, the problem most of us have with meditation is that there are a ton of thoughts racing through our heads as we’re meditating, and we feel like we’ve ‘failed’ if we can’t quiet them.

But, as Mingyur Rinpoche says, and as many of the best meditation teachers say, meditation isn’t about forcing your ‘monkey mind’ to stop.

We are trying to block all thoughts and emotions and to think of absolutely nothing.

But meditation actually isn’t about blocking thoughts and thinking of nothing.

Or can meditation just about blissing out and being peaceful and open? Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I bliss out and be peaceful and open, dammit? What is wrong with me?!

But meditation actually isn’t about doing that anyway, so relax.

Another problem many of us have with meditating is that our minds will start telling us stuff to do during a meditation, such as “I have to call Zach, I have to buy detergent, I can’t be wasting this time- I have to put my expense report together” etc.

But meditation isn’t about following each and every demand of your monkey mind.

So what the heck IS meditation all about then? If meditation isn’t about saying ‘hey GET OUT!’ to your mind and your thoughts… And it’s not about saying ‘okay, yes sir!’ to your mind.. then..?

Meditation is about making friends with your monkey mind.

So what does your mind like and want? AND what do YOU want? These questions need to have the same answer…Because you don’t want to just give your mind what it wants while you miserably follow (i.e I have to miserably think the same depressing thoughts over and over beccause I have NO CHOICE BECAUSE THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENS UGHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYY.)

But screaming at your mind to STOP THINKING STUPID THOUGHTS GODDAMMIT  JUST STOP IT STOP IT RIGHT NOW doesn’t work either. Your mind doesn’t like being yelled at or told to go away or to stop thinking- and it will sometimes royally disobey and do the exact opposite of what you’re screaming at it about.

So what does your mind like? It likes to have a job. “Without a job your monkey mind thinks it’s jobless and will soon become homeless” -Mingyur Rinpoche

Your mind is always active and wants a job. So when you give a job to your monkey mind, it’s a win-win situation. Your monkey mind is happy because it has a job, and you’re happy because you’re the boss. Your mind is your employee and you are the employer-not the other way around. And in this way, you’re free. You liberate yourself from the monkey mind.

So what does this mean????!!!

Meditation is giving your monkey mind a part- time job.

Just tell your monkey mind, “okay mind, we’re going to meditate, let’s do a job right now, let’s watch our breath.” or “let’s repeat these mantra words.” Don’t give your mind a full-time job…a few minutes a day of meditation is enough.

Also, don’t “punish” your mind if it doesn’t follow the ‘job’ all the time…just simply bring it back to it’s job. Your brain isn’t going to stop thinking just because you’re meditating, but when you give your mind a job and step back, you’ll be able to see those thoughts clearly and let them pass by. Mingyur Rinpoche says it best: In muddy water you can’t see anything, but in still water you can see all the fish swimming around.

So get still. And slowly, slowly, your mind WILL become more peaceful and pliable. And meditation really will bring you to a place where YOU are in charge and are friends with your mind…plus you may start to see some added benefits of newfound love, compassion, and clarity.

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Are You One of the 9 to 11% of Americans Who…?

…would report feeling “daily worry and stress without a lot of happiness and enjoyment” in your life? Because according to the long-standing Gallup “U.S. Mood” Poll, 9 to 11 percent of Americans feel that way. Apparently and not surprisingly, the numbers were even higher immediately following the 2016 election, reaching a four-year high of 13.1%.

Personally, I fall into that depressing bucket now. But I’m also dealing with a lot of stress – fights with my boyfriend, anxiety about my career not moving forward fast enough (I’m 35), drinking too much to deal with the stress of uncertainty, and the general fear of Trump and losing access to Obamacare.

I used to be a lot more excited about life and my career in my twenties. The upside of the fact that I’m less happy now is that the happiness in my twenties made me somewhat dreamy and complacent, and so I wasn’t working as hard as I should have at my writing. Now, the fire is lit under my a** and I have been writing a ton more to deal with the anger at myself for not being further ahead.

While I don’t always experience daily stress and worries, because I do have amazing days where I feel recharged and refreshed, I do think I’d put myself in the 9 – 11% bucket of Americans who are struggling to find fulfillment.

So, what do you do if, like me, you realize that you would put yourself in that bucket?

Well, for me it’s all about testing variables to improve. Experimenting with your life. Making small changes and tweaks to see if you feel happier or more fulfilled from them.

Here are some things I’ve done and/or plan to do in the future:

  • Really analyzing my interactions with people to see if they uplift me
  • Trying natural anxiety relief supplements, like Omega 3 pills (heavy on the EPA and less on DHA)
  • Spending less time staring at my phone in public places
  • Writing EVERY DAY to push my career forward
  • Exercising at least once a week (wasn’t doing that before, d’oh!)

Would you put yourself in the 9-11% bucket, and if so, how do you plan to change it?

Skin Discoloration In Your 30s

Have you noticed any skin discolorations since reaching your 30s? I have, namely brown spots and patches on my face (maybe only noticeable to me at the moment). I’ve started my own personal investigation into what’s going on (by that I mean obsessive Googling!).

Strangely, the first time I noticed it wasn’t while looking in a mirror. It was while doing FaceTime on my Mac. There was a little brown patch above my lip. When I looked in the mirror, I could barely make out this brown-ish area. I guess it was something with the light on the Mac.

Soon after noticing that first discoloration above my lips, I spotted a small brown spot on my cheek, and then…oh wow…what’s that? Small brown dots on my nose. Oy.

It kind looks something like these images below:

Looking at this spots jogged something in my memory – namely, a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. She told me she has some discoloration on her skin, and said it was melasma. I figured that perhaps that could be what I had too. So I dived into some internet research, and sure enough (according to my own self-diagnosis, thanks Dr. Jane!), it seems like melasma to me.

What’s melasma, you ask? Well, according to medicinenet.com, melasma is:

A very common patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray facial skin discoloration, usually seen in women in the reproductive years. It typically appears on the upper cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin of women 20-50 years of age

And what’s it caused by? Many times it’s hormones. This is why pregnant women and those women on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) have melasma. It can also be caused by sun exposure. Personally, I only started to notice these spots in the past two years, and since I moved from NYC to LA about three and a half years ago, maybe that’s been the cause of my own discoloration.

So what can you do about it? Well, you can get a prescription for hydroquinone cream or lotion – which works by blocking the natural chemical process in your skin responsible for creating melanin, which produces dark skin pigmentation. You can also get a chemical peel or microdermabrasion.

And of course, wearing sunscreen will definitely help delay melasma outbreaks. Holistic healers also say that trying meditation and yoga can be helpful, as they can help re-balance your hormones.

I’ve yet to try any of these remedies myself, but I’m planning on making a dermatologist appointment soon.

Breathing in the Present Moment in Your Thirties

Whenever anyone talks about being centered and in the present moment, they talk about noticing your breath. I find this disconcerting sometimes, and I recently realized that my inner 12 year old is sabotaging my efforts.

I was around 12 when my family and I were on a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Now, Hershey isn’t super far from New York City, but a lot of Pennsylvania is the opposite of NYC, filled with farmland and fields. While driving to Hershey, I remember noticing how spaced out the houses were from one another and how many cornfields there were instead of houses. So. Much. Nature.

When we arrived, I remember how the air quality was different than in New York City- how it was cleaner, something we city dwellers aren’t used to. We all remarked on this “different air.” All of a sudden, after mulling this air quality thought over for a few minutes, I found it hard to breathe. When I focused on my breath, my awareness shifted to the laboriousness of breathing in and out. “It’s so much harder to breathe when you think about it than when you don’t,” I pondered. I secretly worried I was going to have an asthma attack (I don’t have asthma), or a heart attack (hopefully clean air wouldn’t give me a heart attack.) I didn’t know what to do.

Now, if you know me, you may know that I’m extremely sensitive to talk about medical conditions. I could never be a healthcare professional because hearing about what ails people makes me ill. It kind of sounds funny, but I wish I was joking. Nausea races through my body and the potential of fainting is near when I’m told about the details of someone’s insulin pump or what’s really happening when bruising starts. Conversations about surgeries or bones peeking through skin from open wounds will hasten the likelihood of me sinking into unconsciousness.

So I guess it’s no surprise that thoughts about not being able to breathe correctly, even at 12, sent panic attacks (not real ones, thankfully) through my mind and lack of breath filled up my senses.

I ended up calming myself down by shifting my thoughts AWAY from my breath. I made a conscious effort from then on to NOT to think about breathing. So when I trace back a strange dislike of concentrating on my breath, I come back to very early moments.

Luckily, consciously thinking about my breath no longer makes me feel ill or panicky. I’m just aware of how strange and new it is to WANT to concentrate on breathing. I’m able to be aware of my breath now, with my blockage from childhood fading away every day, because I’m aware that this was a choice I made once that doesn’t work for me now.

Imagine how many strange dislikes we have now that come from very early choices. Question where your ideas and preferences come from. Some choices may have been important at the time, but do they actually serve you anymore? Or do they hold you back?

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What Are Some of the Smallest Baby Step Lifestyle Changes You’ve Made in Your Thirties?

It’s amazing how habits take shape and slowly, incrementally change the structure of our lives. I feel like it’s usually not the big, sweeping ‘grand decisions’ made in bold statements that change our lives (ie most New Years Resolutions, most “I’ll never drink again!” statements, most “no more sugar for life” proclamations, etc), but actually the small changes made in private moments and repeated again and again that actually make a major long term impact.

In the past year, I’ve made a few changes- most of them arbitrarily or unpremeditated. But these particular changes have slowly but surely changed my everyday patterns of thinking and feeling. Here’s a list of the ones the made the biggest impact.

1. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone- I did this in a moment of pain and anguish on election night back in November. I mean, you get it. But I never put the app back, and that in turn has me going on Facebook a whole lot less. Which in turn frees up a lot of my time. Which also in turn really tones down a bad habit I have of comparing myself to others. I still go onto Facebook and read stuff and post things, but the amount of time I spend on the site has decreased immeasurably. Results of deleting Facebook app on my phone: I feel happier and have more time. And I still have Facebook so I don’t even feel any weird “I deleted my profile feel sorry for me” stress or Fear Of Missing Out.

2. Starting to make green smoothies full of vegetables – I’ve made green smoothies on and off for a few years now, but it’s only recently that I followed nutritionist Kimberly Snyder’s basic recipe for her diet staple: the Glowing Green Smoothie. This smoothie is made up of all vegetables with the inclusion of an apple, almond milk or water, and some stevia. She includes a bit more fruit but I’d rather eat that fruit separately. This smoothie is the equivalent of having something like three or four salads before lunch, without all that annoying chewing. The ingredients of my smoothie, if you want to try it, are a head of romaine, either a bunch of celery or a large cucumber, a handful or two of spinach leaves, a handful of cilantro, an apple, half a lemon, stevia to taste, ice, and a bunch of almond milk or water. Results: I put a TON of nutrients in my body before I have time to think about anything or eat a bunch of nonsense food. Therefore my mind feels clearer and my body feels happy.

3. Tracking my spending- I wrote about this in the post How Tracking Money is Like Weighing Yourself and then again in The Anti-Budget Budget In Your Thirties. I began using the app Goodbudget to track each and every dollar I’ve spent. I started this back in June, and it was very painful. I didn’t want to track every dollar because I felt like I knew where every dollar went already, and the whole thing felt tedious and filled me with guilt whenever I spent a penny. However, after about a month and a half it all got a lot smoother and easier. I realized exactly where my money was going each month and that small purchases really add up to way more than I thought. I swear I’ve saved a ton of money simply by writing down my expenditures- because I think about where my money’s going every time I spend it. And I feel more accountable for a purchase if I know I have to write it down and it goes into my monthly total.

All of these small activities have added up to big change in my life. Are there any small changes you’d like to start or have recently begun? Don’t worry about those big, scary changes- concentrate on a little tiny change every day, or even every other day. Don’t underestimate what seem like small tweaks- they add up.

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You Don’t Have to Go Far to Go Far

Going to Japan last year was one of the best trips of my life. I wrote about Japan a bunch in the posts Must Do’s for a Two Week Japan Trip as well as Working Easy In Your Thirties and  You Can Actually Do That Crazy Thing In Your Thirties. This year everyone asked me where I was going to go next – like I don’t travel enough for work… but they meant travel for fun. I’d love to go on another insane (good insane) major international trip like Japan, but this year I’ve decided to stay in my home city. This is mainly because I travel so much for work and I feel like I need a thorough spring and summer in New york this year. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t have some of the same sensational experiences I had in Japan.

I went to Japan solo, and that was part of the magic of the trip- I really got to spend time with myself and explore all the places I wanted to see. Walking for 12 hours a day? I have no problem with that- but other people might. Skipping lunch and eating a beautiful, fancy vegan dinner every night? That wouldn’t fly for everyone but that’s how I scheduled almost every day of my Japan trip. Meeting cool strangers at Airbnbs in Tokyo and Kyoto? I excitedly researched each place I stayed at and ended up loving all of my hosts.

So when I booked work in Boston this week, I decided to make the work trip more fun by applying a bit of my Japan attitude to a city I’m extremely familiar with. I’d never been to Japan before my last trip but I’ve been to Boston countless times. So I decided to go somewhere in Boston that I’d never been before- The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s the site of the most famous art heist in the world.

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The Gardner museum is also a simply gorgeous museum. I had no idea how incredible it was until I saw it for myself.

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Wondering the halls of the museum solo, I felt the same wonderment and solitude that I felt in Japan. I remembered the Edo Museum I’d gone to in Tokyo, as well as multiple temples in Kyoto and Koyasan I’d been inside that filled me with reverence and awe. I came into Boston extra early the day before work in order to have this time to myself and it was time well spent.

And both nights I was in Boston I took myself out to luxurious vegan meals (extra opulent for me because I really only eat dinner out alone on special occasions – like when I’m traveling for fun. Neither of the meals were very expensive- they were at traditional Indian and modern Chinese food restaurants- but to me they were indulgent and lovely. I could have been traveling solo in an unexplored asian country and I might have had similar moments of solitary contemplation.

I also stayed at a fantastic Boston Airbnb with a wonderful Ukranian host who had spent the last 8 months in India, living in an ashram and teaching autistic children yoga. She practiced hour-plus-long meditations, and told me incredible stories about her last 10 day vows of silence, the guru (teacher) she had in India, and various meditation retreats she’d been to and wanted to go to. She taught me some breath work she learned in India that helped with her meditations, and shared her vegan yogurt with me (she’s a vegetarian as well). I really feel like I met a kindred!

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The gorgeous cat, Lunca, at my Boston Airbnb

So although I’m obviously a big fan of travel, I don’t think it’s necessary to go very far to experience the intoxicating high of traveling. You don’t have to spend much money or even leave your neighborhood to travel away from your normal routine. If you can’t travel right now, try something new you haven’t tried before instead. Take yourself to a new place for dinner or explore a different area. Talk to someone you’ve never talked to before. Investigate a new museum and see how you feel when you’re alone with just your thoughts and your spirit.

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How to Exercise More Easily in Your Thirties (Or The Things That Don’t Have Labels)

I was never that into exercise classes, or into any kind of collaborative workouts, really. But yoga classes and Pilates classes and Urban Rebounding (aka trampoline classes) sound so cool. Theoretically, workout classes seem like a great idea to me, but I never actually go. Well, it’s rare. Even when classes sound cool, it’s super rare that I can commit to being at a specific class at a specific time. Maybe it’s that certain rebellious streak running through me. Honestly, when I exercise, I just want to be alone.

Running and strength training became two of my favorite exercises around sophomore year of college, when I realized that I really liked the gym when I had headphones on. Before college, the idea of avoiding sports at all costs very much appealed to me, and I had lumped the gym in with ESPN and dodgeball. But running is a solitary sport, and no one can hold me accountable if I don’t run more than a mile (except self-critical me). And strength training is another loner activity most of the time, where I can lift as heavy or as light as I want and people mainly leave me alone save for the occasional ” here’s how to lift better!”

Both running and strength training are very mainstream, acceptable forms of exercises to do, even if not at the gym. But sometimes I don’t feel like going outside and running, or outside to the gym (my gym is 11 blocks away), so I do a “home workout.” These workouts usually consist of body weight strength training exercises (i.e lunges, squats, pushups) and the equivalent of half an hour of jumping jacks spaced out in intervals. When I get into a conversation with someone about working out, and I tell them I didn’t go to the gym today but instead did a “home workout, which includes a lot of jumping jacks,” people usually kind of snicker. Jumping jacks seem to be a weirdly unacceptable exercise to do. They are part of an unlabeled and non-mainstream exercise program that I made up. But that’s okay- it works for me.

Sometimes I feel too tired or too pressed for time to even do my home workout. For awhile, during one or two of the most exhausting auto shows I worked, where I was standing on a hard floor for 9 hours in heels all day, I would solely do my ‘5 minute workout’ every night before bed. All this workout consisted of was a bunch of different ab exercises (sit up variations), and a bunch of push-ups. Sometimes on super-motivated nights, I’d actually do this workout for 10 minutes instead of 5. This may sound like only a little bit of time, but the differences were notable to me. I felt better. And then eventually I’d go back to the gym and run and do hour long home workouts and get back to my irregularly scheduled program.

I guess the main thing about exercise in your thirties, or anytime really, is to do what works for you. I prioritize wanting to go back and work out again, and be consistent with exercising multiple times, so it’s important for me not to hate my workouts and feel like they’re too hard. They just need to be hard enough…or sometimes they just need to be easy. I try to stay kind to myself.

Once I’m actually working out, I find it easier to continue working out. The hardest part is usually starting- which is, coincidentally, the hardest part of doing anything.

And some days I just stretch…I put on music and stretch everything that hurts, and then I make up stretches that have no labels and that I have never done before, or maybe I have once but I’ve forgotten them. All I know is that it helps to let your preferences lead the way. Tell your body: ‘Remember, this is good- this is your favorite. This will be an easy one. We’ve got this.’

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Would You Hire a Life Coach?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories from friends who hired life coaches or executive coaches to either get out of a rut or find a new perspective on moving forward in their career/personal life. In fact, I just hired a screenwriting coach to help me push my career forward. I was on the fence about it for awhile before I actually pulled the trigger – I kept asking myself, “Can’t I just motivate myself?” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had nothing to lose but money, and even if I gained just a little bit of new knowledge about the industry I’m trying to break into, then it would be worth it.

Also, when I asked my dad for advice on whether I should pay for the coaching services or not, he gave me some great advice. He said that an investment in myself is always money well spent.

I’ve met with the coach twice so far, and it’s been pretty great. She re-energizes and focuses me. She keeps me accountable to my goals. (Granted, we’re only two weeks in and I’ve had no real deliverables, so we will see what happens going forward. But I’m confident that I won’t want to let her down.)

I think what’s great about coaching is that your coach allows you to see the big picture. They give you the Grand Canyon vantage point. Are the small issues you’re fretting about or spending time on really adding value to your life or getting you closer to your goals?

If you’re interested in coaching, the first step is figuring out what kind of coach you would want. They are usually bucketed into two categories: 1) Personal or life coaches, or 2) Business or professional.

Next, you want to make sure your coach is highly vetted. Recommendations from family or friends seem to be best. And you should make sure your coach is certified by the International Coach Federation.

If you don’t know someone who can give you a personal recommendation, a thoughtful Google search may direct you to the websites of coaches who deal in issues you might want to tackle (like, transitioning careers, new motherhood, etc.). These websites will give you a good feel of the coach and their methodology. They will often have free reading material which is also helpful.

Here’s a couple of life coaches websites, so you can get a feel for the different styles out there:

http://yourkickasslife.com/coaching/

http://erikadolnackova.com/life-coaching-for-women/

 

To Have Resolutions or Not?

Happy New Year, everyone! Are you still feeling that spark of fresh excitement at the prospect of new possibilities? I am. While I had a rough January 1st, the days since have been really good. I feel refreshed and stronger.

During the final weeks of 2016, I was having a ridiculous amount of anxiety which culminated in my first full-blown panic attack. I thought I’d had panic attacks before, but this was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I got weak, my eyesight started blurring, and my heart raced. I thought I was going to pass out. I ended up going to urgent care that day because I didn’t want to pass out alone in my studio apartment. It was terrifying and scary, and I realized I never wanted to go back to that place again.

Over the holidays, I realized that I needed to make changes in my life. Specifically, I needed to carve out more alone time and spend more time writing my scripts (the process of which I’ve now termed “taking my medicine”). Since 2017 started, I’ve spent time writing every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. But that consistency is powerful. I will keep it up.

So, while I didn’t really make official ‘resolutions’ this year, I did realize that something had to change from the path I had been on. I had to lower my anxiety by focusing on my work – my writing. The anxiety was telling me that I was wasting away when I wasn’t writing.

In lieu of resolutions, I really like the idea of simply having a word or mantra for the year. For me, in 2017, my word is “warrior.” Warrior for myself and for my needs. Because the most important relationship that any of us will ever have is with ourselves.

To a beautiful New Year.

The Feeling of Being In Your Body In Your Thirties

Maybe it’s the meditation. I’ve been practicing for almost two years now so perhaps changes are happening that I don’t even realize. But sometimes, suddenly, in the middle of the day, or late at night, I’m suddenly very aware of the way I’m holding my stomach. My breathe is so shallow it barely reaches below my shoulders, and I’m walking around with an extreme amount of tension. And sometimes, suddenly, I let it all out. Do you ever feel like that?

Do you ever feel, suddenly, amazed to be in your body? I feel like this especially after recovering from being ill or from being hurt in some way- that’s the easiest time to feel it. If you’ve ever had a headache for forever, you might know the grateful feeling after the pain is gone. If you’ve twisted an ankle, or injured your knee, the sudden happiness that comes over you when you start to walk and feel better can be akin to nirvana.

But sometimes I feel this way randomly, without warning. I feel the walls of my apartment- bumpy on my fingertips, the wood floor underneath my feet-cold and indented.  Sometimes when I’m outside I feel a nervous pang as I let my stomach go, realizing I’ve been holding it in for awhile. And then I feel my breathe rush deeply into my entire ribcage.

It’s kind of fascinating and strangely new to feel my body, even though it’s always been there. I’ve already had 32 years with my warm shoulders, my darting eyes, my bony feet. Yet it’s taken this long to scratch the surface of unfurling my numb senses and letting myself be.

Does any of this sound familiar to you guys? Do you also feel you’ve just scratched the surface of “being aware of what your body feels like” or does that not sound familiar? Are these sensations important to you? Have you been working on becoming aware of how you feel in the moment? It’s one of those things that was never a priority for me before, so I’m wondering how others feel about it. Do you feel like awareness is something that’s come to the surface more in your thirties? I definitely do…I wonder if it’s because in our twenties we’re way more consumed outward appearances to others and not nearly as concerned with how we feel within ourselves…

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Aceso Calm Supplement Review (A relaxing hemp drink)

When I come home from work, it’s hard to relax. And not because work is particularly stressful, because it’s not. At all. I research media information and then enter that data into an online database. I’m lucky my job isn’t stressful. Because it gives me time/mental space to write. Here’s the thing though. I’m stressed after work – because I know I should be working on my writing. But I also want a social life and I need to take care of life things – groceries, cleaning, etc. So it’s this mental debate between what I should do and what I want to do and I don’t know where to begin. I feel restless. Can anyone relate to that feeling?

So, I’m always looking for new ways to relax. And about two months ago, I stumbled upon a review for a product called Aceso Calm, a non-sedative relaxation formula made out of hemp and their naturally occurring constituents, cannabinoids. Aceso Calm comes in two forms – powder packets or spray for your mouth. While you may hear the word ‘cannabinoids’ and think illegal, this is a completely natural and legal product.

I knew I’d have to try it, considering my main forms of relaxation are the limited wine and TV (ha!). I thought I should expand my repertoire in a natural way. I don’t smoke pot, but I liked the idea of a legal supplement that could potentially relax me. I emailed the kind folks at Aceso and asked for a sample to review for our site. So read on for my review!

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The Verdict:

So, after a long plane ride and being stressed about the upcoming holidays, I decided to try one of my powder packet samples. And if you’ve ever taken those Emergen-C things when you feel a cold coming on, these packets are kinda like that. You put one into 4-6 oz of water and let the yellow powder dissolve. It’s $10 for a pack of 5.

It tastes a little like lavender, so that was nice. It didn’t taste overly sugary or sweet, so that was also good. I drank a cup of the supplement and waited. After about a half hour or so, I felt a little more relaxed. I didn’t feel super blissed out or anything. But I did feel subtly and gently relaxed. While I expected a more intense feeling, this was still nice. Aceso also makes a spray, so I wondered if perhaps that form is more potent.

After getting some answers about the product from the hemp product manager at Aceso, Kurt Forstmann, the gentle effects I experienced made more sense. Here’s what Kurt wrote:

How does the spray differ from the packets that you put in water? Is one product stronger than the other?

The spray is generally stronger, containing 7.5mg of active cannabinoids versus the powder which contains 5.0mg of active cannabinoids. Also, as discussed before, the route of administration also dictates outcome. Since the spray is absorbed in the oral mucosa (under the tongue) it penetrates the brain-blood barrier rapidly and has a fast acting effect. While the powder is ingested into the GI which takes time before cells absorb the active and customers begin to notice an outcome.

How would you recommend someone use the Aceso Calm product? As needed or more on a daily basis like a vitamin?

It can be used both ways. Our sprays, since they’re applied like a homeopathic tincture (under the tongue, let sit for 90 seconds, then swallow) are good for “knock down” use or as-needed, such as when you need to calm down, ie stress attack, sleep issues, etc…  Our powders are designed more as a daily use regimen, as the route of absorption is thru the GI and it takes longer for the actives to become absorbed by the body and take effect. However, we have heard of customers that experience an immediate outcome when using the powder.

Would I use it again? I think I would use the spray but I probably wouldn’t buy the powder, because I’d like a stronger effect quicker.

Check out all of Aceso’s products here.

That Funny Horrible Feeling In Your Thirties

I know I’m not supposed to write this- I’ve been on an extreme fast from negative information that’ll get me down lately. The negativity has been hard to avoid, but I’ve fastidiously stayed away from news sources and Facebook for the last 3 days. So I don’t really want to contribute to the negative information. I don’t really want to rant here. And I definitely don’t want to fight with anyone. But I’m writing. Something about it.

The other night was awful. Tuesday night. November 8th. It was a shocker that filled me with dread and terror. And disbelief. It’s hard to forget that moment of total disbelief.  I couldn’t really sleep Wednesday night, even though I went through my stages of grief during the day- anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance?- and felt on and off better and talked to good people and went for a nice run and meditated for a lot of the day and listened to some of my favorite positive sources like Esther Hicks talks. I read wonderful, helpful articles like It’s Going To Be Okay by Tim Urban of Wait But Why. I attempted to understand the almost 50 percent of Americans who don’t see things the way I do- well, don’t see this outcome the way I do. In reality, there are definitely way more than 50 percent of Americans who don’t see things the way I do. But I’d always felt like that was okay because it didn’t affect me. This does.

What can I do? I don’t know exactly. I attempt even harder to have compassion for everyone. To find anything I can that is good. I continue to seek goodness where it may be- which I know, deep down, is all over. And to do this, right now I know I must stay centered. Even if I have to close my eyes to do so. Right now, anyway.

I read an article once by Danielle LaPorte, where she was writing about how she went to India to meet the Dalai Lama. Right before she got some monks were brutally murdered…by other monks. It was just an awful tragedy- horrible. She was shaken by it and offered the Dalai Lama her condolences when she got there. What she wrote about his reply and how she felt about it still sticks with me. I think of it now:

“Ah, yes, thank you for your thoughts,” he said. “This is why we practice, for times like these when compassion is so necessary.” He didn’t nod in mutual disdain. He didn’t show any drama. He was soft and…practical.

This is why we practice.

For times like these.

You don’t need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don’t need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don’t need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you’ve used up everything else.

When we’re healthy and happy we make sure to dance, we hit the court, we pick up the phone to check in, we drop by with something in hand…

We keep standing up to make our art even when we could be predictable pedestrians.

Because the day will most certainly come…that you will be struck down or ground down by life. It can come in tiny tearing heartbreaks five times a day, just walking through your neighborhood. It could come in the name of tragedy that could only happen once in a lifetime.

And you will need to withdraw the insights that you put into your heart’s escrow. And you will need to call on your people— the unseen and the ones right in front of you — to help you meet the day.

You will be interrupted.

You will be called on to expand. 

You will be asked who you are and why you are here.”

So I look for the insights in my hearts escrow. I continue to search for answers. I continue to not know. I continue to hold compassion. And, every day, I continue to practice.

 

 

Will Male Birth Control Become a Thing In Your Thirties?

Let’s face it- the thirties are a time when we think about babies. If you haven’t had babies yet and want some, you might be thinking, ‘hmm, how old is too old to have babies?’ or ‘when can we get started?’ or ‘when will I find someone to get started with me?’ If you don’t want babies, you may be thinking, ‘wow, all my friends are having babies- how do I hide everyone I know on Facebook?’ or ‘what would happen if I accidentally had a baby? Would it ruin me financially?’ or ‘what’s the best way to stop from ever possibly having a baby? (Besides abstinence, duh).’

Whether you’re female or male, and whether you want kids or not, babies seem to pop up all around you during your thirties. I bet you have at least one friend who recently had a baby and at least 5 Facebook friends who are posting pictures of their little ones right now (I probably have at least 30 proud new parent Facebook friends…and no, I don’t mind. If any of you are reading this, I like it, seriously, post away).

If you’re female and don’t want to have kids- at least at the moment, there are many types of birth control options, including a pill that you annoyingly have to remember to take at the same time every day. This pill, a popular form of birth control, puts the responsibility of avoiding pregnancy squarely on the woman. The same can be said of BC options such as IUDs and Nuvarings, and patches and the like. But soon there might be another option.

I was reading an article just yesterday about a male birth control study done with human males (as opposed to mice males in the past), that used a new form of male birth control in the form of an injection. The injection was given to the males at set 8 week intervals for a certain amount of time, and after a few months, couples relied solely on the injections for birth control. The subjects were followed for about a year, and in that time about 2 in 100 women got pregnant. With regular, correct and careful use of condoms, about 3-5 out of 100 women will get pregnant, so the male birth control injections in this study have proven to be more effective birth control than condoms.

The problems the researchers are still dealing with are the side effects of the injections- some males complained of acne and mild depression…although female birth control methods like the pill can also have side effects- including crazy mood swings and weight gain- and those are out on the market anyway! 75% of the males in the study said they’d continue to use the method despite the side effects, so that’s promising, at least. And it’s nice to know the guys are into it.

As of now, there are bound to be many more studies before this form of male birth control will actually be out and useable. So maybe we won’t all still be in our thirties by then. But technology moves fast and I’m optimistic- so who knows?

If you’re a male reading this, would you take male birth control? Why or why not? If you’re female, do you feel like the burden of birth control rests too squarely on the woman? Or are you perfectly happy to be in charge of birth control?

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How Do I Get Renters Insurance For My Apartment in my Thirties?

Today I stared at a to do list item that has been on my list for many years, but has never before been checked off. That item is: Get Renters Insurance. And believe it or not, you guys, after all these years, I am now the proud owner of a year-long renters insurance policy!

Here’s why this achievement is important to me: this is the first time I’ve had a full apartment to call my own. I now live in a studio in queens. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m super happy with it and I love it very much. If something were to happen to it such as a fire or burglary, I’d be extremely upset. But I’d be even more upset if I then went into crazy bankrupting debt re-buying all my possessions, such as my bed and my couch and my desk and my computer and my clothing. I have more stuff than I think I have- a lesson I always learn again each time I move.

Getting renters insurance was both easier and harder than I thought. The hard part was that I had no idea where to start. I didn’t have a clue what company to go with, or even what companies were out there. I had no idea how much I should be paying per month nor how much I should be insured for nor what my deductible should be.

So I did what I always do when I’m not sure which direction to go: I googled. At first I just googled ‘get renters insurance’ but I just came up with a list of insurance companies touting how great they are, so I moved on to adding my favorite (mostly financial) bloggers to the keywords to see if they had any articles on the best of renters insurance, such as ‘best renters insurance ramit sethi’ or best renters insurance paula pant.’ Finally I tried ‘best renters insurance NYC’ and that brought up some good articles from websites I knew such as The Simple Dollar and Nerdwallet.

From these articles I got an idea of how much renters insurance should cost a month – IT’S USUALLY ONLY $12-$15 DOLLARS A MONTH! Not bad at all 

I also got an idea of about how much I should be insured for – around $25,000. That may sound high, but when you tally everything you own (bed, couch, desk, dresser, other furniture, tv, kitchen items, clothing, electronics, etc) plus possible cost of moving (yep, there’s all types of insurance and some even cover temporary stays if something happens to your permanent home), $25,000 is the recommended amount on average.

Then I got an idea of how high my deducible should be to keep my premiums low- the recommended amount is $500-$1000. I picked $1000.

Then I found a few websites that listed the best companies of 2016 for renters insurance- they all recommended different ones, but I looked up the companies that kept repeating on various websites: Allstate, State Farm, and Nationwide. I also checked Gotham Brokerage, specific to NYC.

Then I went to all four of those companies’ websites, and got quotes from all of them. I ultimately picked State Farm, which gives me the most coverage with the lowest premium, and I paid for it then and there- a grand total of $11 a month for $25,000 worth of coverage. This is not an advertisement for state farm though, or any of the above companies- I think rates and coverage are different for everybody.

But a major item on my to do list that has hung over my head for years was accomplished in about 40 minutes, including all the research and quotes and payment. Now imagine if I’d put renters insurance off longer and something had happened? I would’ve been pretty angry at myself.

So if you’re putting off getting renters insurance, I’d highly recommend going for it! It won’t take long and it’s cheap and will put your mind at ease. Here are some sites to get you started:

http://www.reviews.com/homeowners-insurance/renters/

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-renters-insurance/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/find-best-renters-insurance/

http://www.toptenreviews.com/services/insurance/best-renters-insurance/

https://www.creditsesame.com/blog/insurance/best-renters-insurance/

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When Self-Care Doesn’t Work

Last week for about the whole week, I had really, really bad anxiety. Like ‘a bubble bath and bottle of wine’ isn’t gonna help this kind of anxiety. It was strong and I didn’t feel like myself – this icky feeling possessed my brain (not Exorcist style in my body though, thank God!) in what felt like an unshakeable way. I’m not sure exactly what sparked it, but probably lots of little things that kind of exploded into a ball of overwhelm.

I tried everything. Watching my shows on Netflix, eating ridiculous amounts of pizza, drinking wine, reading cheesy magazines and books, taking walks – but nothing worked. My brain kept circling the same thoughts over and over again. Why didn’t I have more plans on Labor Day weekend? Am I going to live in this tiny studio apartment my whole life? Will I get get married and have kids? 

Those thoughts just kept repeating and repeating in my head, and I couldn’t shut them down.

I started getting angry at the idea of ‘self-care’ because it sure didn’t seem to be working for me.

So what do you do in these situations? Obviously, there’s medication, which I believe can be very helpful if you need it. But aside from that, what’s the biggest way to deal with moments like this? Now that I’m a little out of the anxiety fugue state, there’s one thing I know that works.

Riding it out. Accept that your (anxiety/loneliness/depression/fear/anger) may be PART of your life experience, but it’s not ALL of your life experience. It will pass.

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Sometimes You Don’t Realize Your Confidence Is Low Until You See Someone With a High Level of Confidence

Today I read an article by the comedian and author Sara Benincasa, who was responding to a very pointed question from a fan. The question was: Why did you gain so much weight?

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It’s a question that would’ve destroyed my confidence if I was already feeling bad about myself- as I think it would have secretly destroyed many women. And I’m not fat by any standards. I’m actually pretty small if you’re going by some kind of American average. But it doesn’t matter- I always knew from society and all the magazines I’ve ever read that I was kind of worthless unless I was losing weight or thin.

What’s crazy about the thought pattern of ‘I’m only worth something if I’m thin’ is how built into my belief system it is- and I know that I’m not the only one. I work in an industry where being thin is prized, but I also live in a society that’s weight loss crazed…and always has been.

The article today shocked me with the confidence and bravado it presented- the woman who wrote it is successful and funny and talented and also bigger than what Hollywood, or society at large (whatever that means), deems ‘acceptable,’ but she’s confident anyway. How is this possible? Are you allowed to be confident if you’re a woman who’s not ‘acceptably’ thin or striving to lose weight? I ask this question as sort of a joke, but it’s not a joke. I truly care about healthy food and about being healthy, but there’s definitely a major part of me that cares only about being thin, so that I can feel good about myself and move on. This weight pressure is not something that only hits women in their teens and twenties and goes away…it continues well into our thirties and likely until the day we die. Weight pressure is built into the fabric of how women live. Every woman is pressured to be ‘acceptably thin’ and can’t feel good about herself unless she is so. Or so I thought.

“…here’s the shocker: in addition to my family and real friends still loving me, I kept getting work! Comedy, acting, and publishing 5 books from February 2012 to July 2016! It’s almost like I still had worth and value beyond the number on the scale…!”

She did? Women can? Especially in entertainment..or fashion…or hell, just being a respected woman? How can you respect yourself if you’re not ‘acceptably thin?’ How can anyone respect you? You should use all your time and energy to get onto a weight loss plan, right? But the successful comedian and author who had ‘gained some weight’ confidently continued:

“Let me tell you about some of the things that I did between when I started gaining weight (2011) and now (2016). I published that first book, “Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom.”I adapted it as a TV pilot. Diablo Cody is the executive producer. Have you heard of her? She’s very talented… Anyway, she wanted to work with me and never brought up the fact that I wasn’t skinny. Can you imagine? It’s so strange. I talked to her yesterday and she still did not say anything about me being so fucking fat. Is she just being nice? She’s from the Midwest and those people are sweet. And Ben Stiller’s company, Red Hour, worked with me too. None of them told me I was fat. Ben Stiller didn’t tell me I was fat!”

And this breathtaking woman didn’t even feel unlovable when she was fat! It’s crazy:

“Now during this time I began to think about weight. Not mine! I saw how women were criticized on the Internet and elsewhere for gaining weight. This intrigued me. I didn’t feel fat or unlovable. Should I? Hmm. I considered this and decided instead to make fantastic art instead, because I’m amazing at it.”

Wow, how dare she make art instead of getting her weight under control?! How could she even do that? Isn’t it better to spend your entire life getting your weight under control before you do anything else? I don’t understand it!

I gained all that weight because I was so busy working and growing as a person, a writer, an actor, a comedian, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, an activist (hi Emily’s List and Humanity for Hillary and Los Angeles LGBT Center!), a thinker, and a cook (ironic, right?!?) that I didn’t have time to pursue what I really, really want to do: spend my precious spare moments making anonymous comments on the blogs of successful, beautiful, hardworking women in a failed attempt to undermine them in order to give me some sense of power as I marinate in my own inadequacy, stuck in the knowledge that no one will ever pay me to write my poorly-crafted thoughts down on paper, to be translated into book or film or television form, and that beyond money (which of course doesn’t lend my thoughts any inherent value) or any degree of fame (which is pointless and wholly unnecessary to a happy and fulfilling existence) no one will ever really want to hear what I have to say at all, because I am essentially worthless and of no value to the world at large. That’s what I really want to do.

Wow. What a response. Read Sara Benincasa’s full, beautiful response here.

I’m truly moved and shaken by Sara’s amazing statement because I feel like I not only wouldn’t have the confidence to respond that way, but I wouldn’t have the confidence to FEEL that way.

Imagine if we could actually, truly feel so confident no matter what?

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