New Year, New Focus

Birthdays and deaths always remind me of the finite life span we have. Perhaps because it was just my birthday, and because I just lost someone, I’ve been focused on how I can make the most of my time. Time’s not a renewable resource, and we never know when our clocks about to run out. Yet we spend a majority of time mentally striving, reaching, wishing, yearning for somewhere other than here.

For longer than I can remember I’ve had rules for myself about career markers and what that meant. “I’ll be happen when [fill in the blank].” But the further into my career, and no matter the marker, that blank continuously changes and I’ve struggled celebrating the small victories along the way. There are things I’ve always wanted to do, but set aside as if I needed the permission of career success to allow me to pursue those dreams that weren’t necessarily tied to financial return. These self created restraints haven’t always been helpful. Yes, they’ve created productivity. But with wins came striving for bigger wins, and I didn’t necessarily take time to sit in a space of gratitude and reward myself with one of those dreams that weren’t directly tied to career.

I’ve slowly been trying to break the cycle of constant striving. Going to India for 3 weeks in December was eye-opening in terms of how difficult it was to experience my surroundings without feeling as though I should work. As I move into the new year, I’m shifting my focus away from career wins being an equation that leads to reward. The rewards are less and less, sometimes nonexistent, the busier I get.

Therefore, I want to restructure my mental rulebook. What I’ve categorized as rewards in the past, might actually be necessary activities that lead to inspiration directly tied to career. After all, I’m a writer. A writer needs experience. Blissful experiences, though seemingly outside the box of “work,” may lead to other work, whether through inspiration, serendipitous meetings, or by the very fact they allow the mind space to marinate on ideas.

With age comes experience and through experience, hopefully wisdom. But wisdom can only be integrated into life by diving into the present, and not missing the present because of incessant striving.

Whether it’s travel, restaurants I’ve always wanted to visit, time to listen and discover new music, diving into esoteric studies, or learning some new activity, I’m hoping to integrate these things I’ve so often pushed aside in the past, into my day-to-day, to allow for the balance between striving, gratitude, growth, and presence.

My three favorite discoveries of the week:

Song: Anything is Possible

Restaurant: Daniel

Spa: Sojo Spa

Meditation & Clouds

A sequence of text messages from friends about “being present” got me thinking how that term’s thrown around often without tangible tools to help one arrive at a state in which you’re actually present and not talking about it.

If we take the “woo woo” out of the conversation and look at the practicality in our everyday lives, meditation’s an invaluable tool. Meditation provides the opportunity to clearly see the thoughts as they pass before the forefront of the mind, creating space to choose which thoughts are entertained. The majority of actions we take are determined by habits, not spontaneity or intellect. By creating space between thoughts, and choosing which thoughts to engage, we’re given time to carefully observe the thought and decide the most informed way to act.

When meditation has come up in conversation, I’ve often seen family, friends, acquaintances have tried it, it didn’t work, so they stopped. Instruction to “clear one’s head” isn’t necessarily useful. And approaching the mat with the expectation to experience something is set up to fail. The best instruction I was given was “go to the mat, practice every day and stop asking so many questions.” While questions are good, they’re often an excuse and procrastination masking itself as a question.

Go to the mat, sit in silence, watch thoughts as they pass. When you’ve found yourself latched to a thought and off on a tangent, return to the breath without judgement. “But what should happen?” Listen, if I told you the directions from my home to the Statue of Liberty – does that mean you wouldn’t go? Or would you go, probably notice different things, and have your own experience? We all arrive places a different route, with experiences shaded by the set of lens through which we perceive.

Playlist I’m currently writing to: Writing Jams.

Coffee drink I’m currently obsessed with: Mushroom Coffee.

Book I’m currently reading: The Obstacle is the Way.

Script Writing Lessons

 

I went off and got married, disappeared on a honeymoon, and haven’t blogged in forever. On the honeymoon, my wife and I had an amazing adventure in Bali. One of the days, we ventured off to visit a healer. Our driver took us to a village where we waited an hour for locals to chat with this healer, until it was finally our turn for a little divine intervention. One of the things he told me that’s chimed in my head since was – I need to make decisions and stick with them, and not get stuck in the chaos of “what ifs” and the crippling tangents our mind is so naturally inclined towards that create stagnation, and prevent action.

I’m in the middle of a rewrite on a script I’m developing with a company. While digesting the notes, I see my main character, my protagonist, doesn’t really know what she’s doing in all the scenes. Yes, the scenes and dialogue are funny. But she doesn’t always have a clear objective. She’s lacking the decisiveness I sometimes struggle with in my own life.

Story structure is a wonderful reminder that we’re all the hero of our own journey, and have the option to choose the narrative we want to tell. The problem is, we often find ourselves reactionary – life happens at us, and then we react, instead of us creating the space for life to happen, giving ourselves a moment to observe, and then actively choosing our next step on the narrative we long to tell. I loved choose-your-own-adventure-books as a child. It’s a mystery why I so often forget to choose my own adventure.

My biggest regret in life would be to be on my death bed and look back at my life as if it were a script and realize my protagonist didn’t always know her objective and didn’t always make clear decisions that would lead her on the journey she wanted to embark upon.

Instead of getting stuck in the stagnation of the world happening around us, lets gently reminder one another that habitually reacting to the chaos doesn’t give us the space and opportunity to give meaning to the chaos, and decisively choose our next step, in a way that helps us actively create the story we’d like to tell on this adventure of life.

Reflective Run

Definitely the happiest runner at the #NYCHalfMarathon Go @jennalaurenzo !

A photo posted by Aine O’ Dwyer (@aineod8) on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:11am PDT

It’s March! How did that happen? I’m going to write about running again…

After the Philadelphia half marathon, my fiancé entered us into the lottery for NYC’s half marathon.  Well, I got picked. Solo. Running through Times Square was an amazing experience. The lights, the cheering people – it’s all a bundle of inspiration that ignites the spirit to push further.  I hope to do a full marathon one day.

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With the solo time I was able to go into deep reflection over the past year.   January marked the ten year anniversary of wave day:

I can’t help celebrating life recalling that memory.  While the experience was scary, I wouldn’t trade having faced fear head on.  The reality is, we create so much drama for ourselves.  But having been on a ship that near capsized, it helps keep the “drama” in perspective.  Thank you Semester at Sea for teaching me what “high stakes” really means.  I try to keep life grounded, and bring the high stakes to my writing.  It’s a worthwhile challenge.

Within the year I got engaged, bought a condo, met Radhanath Swami a handful of times, studied with my yoga teacher, lived in a LA for a few months, developed a stint of Alopecia (what?!), grew that hair back, blamed LA for the hair loss, got over that, wrote a ton, and ran two half marathons with a lot to reflect on.  The second of which I never stopped running.  Those neon pink shoes kept a continuous pace pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles.  It was a personal victory.  As all trial, tribulation, success and triumph should be.  We all have our own mountain to climb.  Fulfillment lies in the ability to bring our personal peak performance inspired by experiences and people who teach us along the way.

#NYCHalfMarathon inspiration from @aineod8 #SavasanaTime.

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I couldn’t help but smile through the race.  Gratitude inspired each step.  It’s been a hell of a year and I knew pancakes awaited me after the finish line.

Book of Life

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My inspiration for writing used to come largely out of volatile relationships and their drama — which I’d spin into comedy.  After being in a three year relationship thats led to engagement, I’ve had to look elsewhere to throw the wrench into the wheel for inspiration that comes from places outside my endless love (which people don’t need me to go on and on about).

Thankfully side tour, groupon, and all those other e-mails that assault my inbox sometimes provide an idea for an interesting activity that’s out-of-the-box and sparks my imagination.

This past weekend my fiancé and I attended a workshop in which our cards were read by your average playing cards.  I’m stressing “average playing cards” since tarot cards are so often linked with readings.  Alexander Dunlop was the host and card reader who’s traveled the world and playfully jokes how he’s spent time in India meditating for 8 hours a day, studied with Shamanic healers, went to school at Harvard, yet found the meaning of life at a party in Brooklyn through a deck of cards.

The 1.5 hour side tour event provided individual readings that were just long enough to dip your toe in the pool of knowledge he’s able to tap into via the cards, and it definitely leaves you wanting more time to converse — well done Alexander and side tour — but the overall experience was richly rewarding in that it was a beautiful reminder in the wealth of information that’s often right in front of you, and perhaps sitting in your game drawer at home?

Alexander refers to the deck of cards as the “book of life.”  The numbers, symbols, and interplay of the cards provide incite to your energetic make up you carry into the world and the implications of such.  Having that information unlocks the game you’re personally playing — which perhaps leads to a more playful approach to the game of life.  With knowledge comes power, right?  Being able to stand steady and sturdy in your energetic make up allows you to meet the world from an informed place giving deliberate direction to what may have been previously considered chaos.

A deck of cards will never be just a deck of cards again!  Then again, the mysteries of life are always swirling around us.  If an entire tree of potentiality is capable of growing from a tiny acorn, where else are we missing seeds of potentiality and the wisdom to water them into fruition?

Fall Detox

Head in the clouds.

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As the fall leaves make their descent to the ground, the trees shed the old to prep for the winter months of solitude, before the spring cycles back around and new growth occurs.

During this time of transition, I’ve thrown myself into a detox under the guidance of Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum, while picking up proper Ayurvedic cooking tips from a teacher of mine, Divya Altar, who runs Bhagavat Life in NYC.

Divya’s attention to the details throughout the cooking process is inspiring.  Details are the building blocks, and yet we so often overlook them.  We’re so prone to being in a rush that we miss the details – missing the journey.  And then we wonder why our health is a chaotic mess.

Taking a moment to mindfully participate in a detox allows the time and space to carefully care for oneself, extracting toxins and making room for cellular intelligence to return to the body. Following the steps and details of a detox opens the door to the building blocks necessary for health.  Health and happiness are some of life’s greatest building blocks that allow one to dive into the details of life and sip in the richness of each experience, moment by moment.

The transitional months of fall gracefully remind us to shed all that’s no longer serving us so we may enter the cold winter months with a healthy spirit, ready to receive the warmth of the light within.

Ride the Wave

 

SURFvenice_Jul202014_3665During a yoga class, recently, I found myself asking why the hell I was putting myself through anguish after we had been holding a posture for what felt like eternity.  “Why did I willingly show up for this hell?!”  But once the drama in my head calmed down, a thought bubbled up to the surface: Because it’s good for you.  That same weekend a friend of mine took me surfing for the first time.  It was a whole lot of falling before I finally stood up.  When exhaustion set in and a giant wave smacked me in the face, again I asked myself “What the hell am I doing!?”  But after regrouping and sitting on the board looking out into the ocean I thought, “This is a learning experience.  I’m game to play with the waves.”

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Often enough we relish in the drama.  Our patience is tested, our minds start to yell, and then our emotions join the party.  Before we know it we’re distracting ourselves with so many fantastically developed narratives about what’s going on instead of sitting in what’s actually going on.  Sitting in a posture for a extended period of time allows us to confront ourselves, head on.  Once the muscles start aching and sweats falling in the eyes, we come face to face with our threshold and are given a choice.  Do I flee from the posture by either jumping out of the pose and/or distracting myself with a novel worth of thoughts?  Or do I hold steady and allow the sensation to keep me engaged in the present moment to explore and find a way to find ease within that moment?

I was forced to write 7 drafts of a single script within a week.  My patience was tested and I literally wanted to punch someone.  But my mom said something pretty wise: “Sweetie, at least with each new draft it gets better.”  It was true.  The story and comedy came to life in a more focused and specific way with each new draft.  And now the final script is exactly what it should be [of course there will always be tweaking]. The excessive rewriting gave me the opportunity to stick with the process through the frustration and eliminate all that didn’t best serve the execution of telling the story.

Each day we have the opportunity to practice staying present through the waves of sensation we find ourselves riding.  Through the waves we’re given an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and then we can move on, hopefully a little lighter, slowly removing those storylines and tangents that don’t best serve the story we’re trying to tell.

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Don’t flee from the wave.  Ride it! Maybe even fall a little.  Every time you stand back up you’re bringing newfound knowledge.  When fatigue’s set in, remember beneath the wave there’s an all pervading calm we can always return to.

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