Do You Know What a Jizo Statue Is?

A few weeks ago, a package arrived in the mail from a friend. It was a small box that was surprisingly heavy. The return address on the package said it was from The Monastery Store in Mt. Tremper, New York. Hmm. I knew a friend was mailing me a package as she had told me to be expecting something…but what was this?

When I opened the box, I discovered a small cast iron Buddha looking statue. What was this thing, I thought? A Buddha to pray with?

The packaging slip included described this little guy as “3” Cast Iron Jizo.” Okaaay. Who is that? (Sounds a little naughty too, but ahem, I digress…).

Before calling my friend to thank her for her gift, I did a little research. (Didn’t want to be completely Jizo ignorant.) So, apparently a Jizo is a Bodhisattva (Japanese Buddhist god) who plays the role as a protector of children and unborn children who died before their parents.

From Jizo Statues: The Japanese Statues Giving Closure To Women Who Have Miscarried:

“The statues are believed to be protectors of children and unborn babies in traditional Japanese Buddhist teachings. It is believed that as the babies did not have the chance to build up good karma on earth, Jizo helps smuggle the children into the afterlife in the sleeves of his robe.”

Many women who have experienced miscarriages put them in their homes as a remembrance of their unborn child. (The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage.)

But Jizo is more than that. As The Monastery Store describes on their website: “Small, yet fierce as a mother protecting her child, Jizo Bodhisattva–Ksitigarbha, or “Earth Womb”–aids all those in the six worlds of existence who need relief from suffering.”

I hadn’t experienced a miscarriage, but I have had a rough year. When that package arrived in the mail, I’d been feeling lost, unsettled and uncertain of everything for awhile, on and off. My friend, so kindly, wanted to give me a little peace.

I put my Jizo on my bedside table, where she (he? I don’t know, but I like to think of her as a woman) watches over me and provides me comfort. I do feel a small sense of relief when I look over at the statue before I go to bed and wake up in the morning.



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.


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





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!


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.


Expensive Things Can Be Bought Cheaply in Your Thirties

I was laying on a loungechair at an Onsen in Japan the other day- an Onsen is a Japanese hotspring. It was a beautiful day out and I’d just come out of the Himalayan salt sauna next to me. I could feel the salt between my toes and the sun on my skin. My breathing came easily and deeply. I was about to jump into the open air hotspring in front of me. And I felt rich. And I thought “this is an amazingly expensive experience.” It was a funny thought to have because this particular beautiful onsen experience had cost me a grand total of 7 whole dollars.

Yep, the Onsen entry fee was a paltry 700 yen, which actually equates to a little less than 7 US dollars. And as I was laying there in the sun and basking in the spa-like experience, I kept thinking about how people want to have tons of money so that they could have experiences such as this, but this had cost me nearly nothing.

And this happens all the time. I sometimes have an amazing, brilliant meal somewhere that blows me away, and the whole thing has cost me a grand total of 10 dollars.


Or I’m at a beautiful lake somewhere and the whole experience costs me a grand total of zero dollars plus $2.50 train fare.


This isn’t just a Japan thing. Sometimes in America I’ll have a great super filling brunch for less than $15 complete with Bloody Mary and coffee.


Sometimes I’ll be at an amazing five dollar yoga class in Bryant Park, or I’ll get a cheap massage in Queens that’s less than forty dollars for a whole hour- not hundreds.


I’m not saying that having money isn’t important and that you don’t need a comfortable degree of money to live a happy life. Being worried about money is terrible- I know firsthand what that feels like and the stress that causes.

However, I don’t think you need to have tons of money to live the rich life you’d live if you did have tons of money. You can live it anyway at any income level- don’t equate expensive with value. Many things you’re waiting for the money to do aren’t as expensive as you think. The saying isn’t true- lots of things in life are free! Or at least pretty cheap. And they’re all around- just look for them.


You Can Actually Do That Crazy Thing In Your Thirties

One of the biggest lessons I always learn when I’m doing something “crazy ” is that although it seems nuts at first, once I do it, I find it’s actually way more normal and doable than I’d previously thought.

Well, maybe the word ‘normal’ is an exaggeration, but the crazy things are definitely doable- a lot of times even easy! And there are others out there who are actually doing the same crazy things and will recognize you as kindred spirits.

My example right now is solo travel. People sometimes say to me, “you’re traveling alone?! That’s scary!” Or “are you lonely?” Or even, and especially back in the states, “why would you travel alone?”

But then I meet other solo travelers while I’m traveling, and I realize that that thing I’m doing that many people consider ‘crazy’ is actually nothing compared to how crazy it can get- I meet people doing 5 months of solo travel as opposed to my two weeks. I meet people doing world travel to indonesia, Berlin, Sri Lanka, America, and Japan, as opposed to my simple Japan trip.


Very sweet German girl I met in Okunoshima who’s traveling around the world.


I saw an article on Facebook over a year ago about a random place called Rabbit Island. It seemed like the coolest place ever, but there are so many cool places in articles on Facebook that I didn’t really think much of it. Plus it was far- all the way in JAPAN.

Then when I started actually planning my ‘crazy’ Japan trip I remembered this rabbit island. But still, when I looked it up, it was super remote. Even the local Japanese barely knew of it. It seemed that almost no one had heard of this island and it was far from any well known area in super duper far.

But you know what? I kept thinking about that island. It wouldn’t stop flitting across my mind. I love bunnies. Love love love them. And I thought about how much closer I’d be to that island once I was Japan than I’d ever be in America. So I made up my mind to do what it takes- what if I actually took the crazy long all day trip to go to this island?

And go I did. 8 hours of trains later I was in a heavenly fairytale of bunnies. And it was worth everything.

And people may look at you funny when you do things that they consider crazy, but keep going anyway. You’re probably not even being that crazy. And if you are actually doing something super duper outlandishly different, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, who cares? Good for you. There’s not much new under the sun anyway.


People from around the world who I met at the bunny island! 

Working Easy In Your Thirties

Working Easy In Your Thirties

Everyone talks about working hard, but wouldn’t it be better to work easy?

I hate the idea that anything worth doing is hard to do- I think it puts us in the wrong state of mind to get great things done. The hard work mindset is based in tension and negativity. When I do ‘hard work’ I tense up and ‘buckle down.’ The anxiety that comes from this kind of work hard mindset is palpable.

Sometimes, when I allow myself to stay loose and take it easy, I actually get the most done. Occasionally, I will take a day off from my to do list, and plan nothing. It took effort to let go of my tension filled mile long to do list, but I managed somehow. I was talking to Jane about this a little while back and I remember telling her, “It’s crazy. On these ‘days off’ where I’ve made no plans except to relax, I end up getting a ridiculous amount done anyway. It’s weird- it’s almost effortless.” She then asked me how that happened and I didn’t know at the time.

But I know now.

It’s “working easy” – starting from a relaxed place and allowing things instead of forcing them.

Don’t get me wrong, “working hard” will also produce results. That’s why the idea of hard work is so prevalent. We feel we need to stress out and tense up and do difficult work in order to get things done. But what if we could get all the same things done anyway while not working hard at all? Wouldn’t that be nice?

It’s not just nice, it’s doable. We don’t have to stress out and exert so much painful effort in order to get things done. I promise. Start from an easy place. Let go of hard work. Go from there. And magic will occur.

I’m practicing this in Japan right now. I barely have an itinerary- I’ve just decided to relax and see what I see. And I’ve seen so much more than I could have planned, without much effort. I could be anxious and still see things, but it’s not necessary to stress out in order to see the world. It even works with this blog- I’m blissfully writing on the train from Kyoto to Osaka right now. It’s pretty chill. But it could have also been a tension filled item to check off my list.

Give it a try. Work easy. And see what happens.

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How to Travel Into the Unknown World In Your Thirties

I’m writing this from Tokyo. It’s officially 2:30 am here.

I say “officially” because I just came in on a flight (two flights) from New York, and in my mind it’s 1:30 pm, so things are a little messed up right now. I was able to sleep on the flight for 8 hours (amazingly), but I can probably still sleep again now, even though my body thinks it’s the afternoon. I’m pretty adaptable like that.

So I’ll keep this brief.

This trip is something I’ve been planning for a few months now, and I kind of can’t believe I’m here. Literally, my mind doesn’t feel like my body is here. It’s a flaw that I have that when good things happen to me, I sometimes can’t accept them. I’m working on that. Also, technology is so advanced now that I can connect to anyone through my computer in milliseconds and not be so far away. Well, I am far away, but it doesn’t FEEL like it. Of course, there’s that whole language barrier thing, but I didn’t have to deal with it much at the airport today- I’ll encounter that way more tomorrow when I journey outside into the unknown in daylight- so it doesn’t yet feel like language is an issue. The flight to Tokyo from Chicago was 13 hours, so I know I’m not in Kansas anymore, but sleeping through most of the trip made Tokyo feel like a hop, skip and jump away.

I spent the past few months kind of unsure about getting here. I’ve never been to Asia, and I haven’t gone on a big international trip for more than 6 years. And I certainly haven’t gone on a solo international trip before. It’s funny, the whole point of this trip was to go to this completely foreign country all alone and explore with no plan, and be free. But then, a bit before I left, I began to feel anxious about going alone and having no particular plan. I mean, I know where I’m staying and have a trip outline, and I’m meeting some people here and there, but I haven’t filled my days full of manic activity- I just kind of want to be solo in a foreign world.

However, even though I fly more than 50 times a year and I still felt mildly anxious leading up to this particular trip- so I know travel fear can happen to anyone. I think this kind of fear stems from fear of the unknown. I like feeling prepared, and my plan to let go of things and remain less planned out caused me anxiety. Worries popped up in my head about about not bringing the right items and forgetting something Very Important and not knowing the language and missing some Very Important Sightseeing Places. I worried about feeling judged for not seeing things that were Absolute Must Sees.

But you know what? None of that matters. I’m here. I made it. I took a 13 hour flight, plus a 2 hour one plus a layover. And no one who matters is judging me…except for myself- the harshest judge of all, of course. And all that ever mattered to me was to stay open and loving and in flow. I just wanted to let go and let life come in. So I’m damn well going to do that as best I can. And of course I’ll probably feel afraid again, and things might be weird and foreign sometimes. But I have to remember that it’s not about the plans or the places. It’s not about the Perfect Itinerary or the Perfect Day. It’s not about the Must Sees or Must Dos. It’s about being in this very different place at this very particular point in my life right this second. It’s about breathing the foreign Tokyo air into my lungs and seeing how it feels. It’s about going. It’s about staying. It’s about the new. It’s about this moment.

So don’t be afraid to travel. Don’t be afraid at all.  You may feel fear but it’s okay. Go anyway. Grab the moment. And let go of everything else.



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I have no idea what this subway sign means. But I like it.

Yakudoshi – Or, Is Your 33rd Year Unlucky?

I’m in my 33rd year of life, and I can say it’s been one of the rougher years I’ve had in awhile. There’s been a lot of upheaval and transition in my personal life. The bright side is that I feel better equipped to handle these changes now that I’m in my 30s; nothing seems quite as dramatic as it did in my 20s. I’ve accepted that we all have u-turns in life, and I’m sure I’ll have more of them in the future. Strangely, they probably won’t be any less shocking when they happen.

So. Let me get to the point. I learned something fascinating this weekend. Apparently, in Japan, the 33rd year of a woman’s life is considered to be one of the most unlucky. This comes from something called Yakudoshi, which is a set of believed “unlucky” years (in a person’s life). For women, the unlucky years are 19, 33, and 37, with 33 being the most unlucky. For men, the numbers are 25, 42, and 61.

Yes, it is a superstition of sorts – based on no real hard facts. Wikipedia suggests that perhaps: “For women, rearing children and living a life of housework could cause unseen accidents and illness which again is proposed evidence for this theory.” Clearly, this stems from dated information. But still. I read that if you pronounce the number 3 (san) and 3 (san), it sounds like the Japanese word for misery (sanzan). With my own tumultuous year happening as I type this, I can’t help but wonder…Is there some nugget of truth here?

Perhaps. But, fear not if you’re still under 33! Aside from cleansing rituals and visiting a Buddhist shrine in advance of your 33rd year for blessings, the key seems to be to move slowly, don’t make any rash life decisions, and also…be grateful. As this article on Wow! Japan suggests, “Stop resisting your destiny. Leave your fate in the hands of deities. Just enjoy your troubles.”

And if there are indeed troubles, from the research I’ve done, it appears there’s a beautiful yin/yang quality to the idea of Yakudoshi. Yes, there are ‘unlucky’ years but they are balanced by great years of your life. And isn’t that the case in life, generally? There is no light without darkness. Happiness can’t exist without it’s counterweight of sadness, otherwise, what would it be but our natural status quo?


Playing Dress-Up In Your Thirties

My good friend and coworker, Natasha, is checking on the status of her new dresses as I type. But these aren’t just any pretty  dresses- they are Lolita. And, at 32 years old, Natasha rocks out Lolita fashion.

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This is Natasha as a Lolita.

Playing dress up isn’t just for kids. It never has been. But I never understood just how much dressing up is for adults too… until now.

Natasha is in her thirties and works tradeshows and autoshows with me. She’s always been great with makeup. She puts on false eyelashes perfectly before work in barely a minute- I’ve watched her in awe. She’s an amazing make-up artist- brilliant with shadows and all sorts of contouring.

Natasha sans special makeup:

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Natasha travels to a tradeshow

Natasha’s makeup masterpieces:




Way too real latex makeup work…


Natasha is top right

I knew Natasha had recently gotten into Lolita dresses, but I never understood what that meant until very recently.

Lolita is a Japanese street fashion–  an alternative fashion subculture that originated in Japan and is now all over the world. The original Lolita shaped dress is knee length or slightly above the knee and is A-Line, cupcake or bell shaped with petticoats. These dresses are usually worn with OTKS (Over The Knee Socks) or tights. The dresses are extremely modest and the whole Lolita culture is actually based around femininity and modesty.

Since Natasha has always enjoyed playing with really fun make-up, I just thought she’d gotten into playing with fun dresses as well. I didn’t understand that there’s a whole Lolita culture actually based around rebellion. Yes, these cute little dresses are actually a Japanese fashion trend that says ‘screw the way I’m expected to dress. I wear what I want.’ It’s about wearing a pretty dress because you feel like it. Lolita culture doesn’t care what other people think.

Natasha says that sometimes she wears the dresses out to Lolita meetups and on the way people ask her what the special occasion is. Her sweet reply is basically that she felt like wearing a really pretty dress. Because why not? It’s awesome! And she’s awesome!

Lolita fashion says you don’t have to dress to attract anyone. So many times I’ve felt I need to dress the way I feel a man will like…whether I’m single or in a relationship. A lot of my women friends agree- we end up feeling the need to dress for men all the time. With Lolita, you dress to impress yourself. It’s freeing and powerful. One Lolita said:

“We certainly do not do this for the attention of men. Frequently, female sexuality is portrayed in a way that is palatable and accessible to men, and anything outside of that is intimidating. Something so unabashedly female is ultimately kind of scary – in fact, I consider it to be pretty confrontational. Dressing this way takes a certain kind of ownership of one’s own sexuality that wearing expected or regular things just does not.”

Lolita is about having fun and feeling pretty – not for others, but for you.

Lolita is creative and wild and it gives zero fucks. Kind of like the thirties, right? 🙂

So thanks, Natasha, for introducing me to the fascinating world of Lolita. And for being amazing, bold, passionate and just so very YOU!


1669808_890319297656593_6854195036141353387_oYou’re awesome!

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