In Search of Spirituality

I’ve lately been exploring the difference between spirituality and religiosity. I think the two can be blended a bit but on the whole, I believe the concepts are very different. Some people will claim they’re religious while others may prefer to have things be amorphous by claiming they are ‘spiritual.’

I recently returned to church in a quest to more clearly define my “Higher Power” and to show in a symbolic way my appreciation for guidance. Some say that your Higher Power can be anything – nature, a tree, the ‘Universe’ – hell, your HP can even be the muses (OK — that’s a shameless homage to my own blog!).

I like this idea, using what you need to define your Higher Power.

There is beauty in religious ritual. Growing up, I didn’t really appreciate it though. I went through 12 years of catechism and ended up learning more about my own religion through college art history courses and travelling to Italy to explore various cathedrals, to hear the otherworldly sound of monks chanting, and to view the dusky ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Some of these experiences literally brought me to tears.

Continue reading

In protest of self-improvement – Or learning to accept yourself as is

I recently took a month-long break from working out. It was towards the end of my winter semester at school and things were just getting crazy. I felt little direction from my professor on my final project and other things had begun to spin off wildly as they pertain to various aspects of my life.

Now, I’ve been working out regularly, three times a week, for 13 years. In August, it’ll be 14 years. Some might call this an obsession. Others may call it a distraction. Still others may say what a good habit to have developed.

Anyway, it was a much needed break. It seems so much of my life is automatic, and that’s not always a bad thing per se. Routine saves your brain a lot of energy and you take control of time – it doesn’t control you. You can get a lot accomplished (oh, boy, there’s the voice of my mother!).

BUT, I get into the habit of things, even if it is good, and I forget to take a break to look around and observe things. Sometimes I get mired in the small details of life and fail to see the bigger picture.

The month off was great. I didn’t feel rushed to hurry home after work to fit in a workout. I went to the library after work to find some good books. I had dinner with friends. I unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned up. I cleaned my house, which is workout enough. I moved more towards spiritual conditioning versus physical conditioning

Continue reading

I’ll be your mirror

How many of us live life, looking into the mirrors of other people’s eyes, perceptions and opinions, trying to find the definition of our own selves within those constructs? I do this sometimes.

It’s challenging, defining yourself on your own terms. I think a lot of us live, wanting other people’s acceptance and approval. We want their applause, their smiles, and their compliments.

Mirror

Mirror Mirror on the wall

Some people are like shattered mirrors. You’ll see no reflection of yourself in their eyes. This can be frustrating, especially if you have expectations of them, however unfounded they may be.

Some people reflect something good back to you and you feel happy and content. This emotion is ephemeral though. And it speaks mostly to one’s own ego.

How might we live a life based on our own definition of self when it’s ever changing? I’ve learned that basing a sense of self on accomplishments is a feeble foundation on which to create the self. Once you accomplish one thing, it’s on to the next thing. It’s like you always have something to prove to yourself.

What if we were all human beings, not human doings?

That’s a challenging task. How do we love ourselves without input from the external world?

That’s one of my goals – being fully actualized without the need for the world’s approval or input.

I’ll let you know when I reach this goal!

A Call to Adventure

I recently returned from a quick business trip to south Florida. I love it when I get to do work in paradise!

I also love to travel alone, namely because it challenges me to get out of my comfort zone big time. I don’t mind rising at 4:30 a.m. to make an 8 a.m. flight. Plus, I kind of like talking to strangers in the airport. We always seem to find common ground when it comes to complaining about the customer service.

Two years ago in June, I traveled to New York City alone. It wasn’t the first time I had been there, but it was the first time I went on my own just for fun.

The idea came to me as I placed one of my fictional characters in the milieu of the Big Apple. It was a spark of inspiration! And, it scared me to no end, thinking of myself in the city alone. I could get mugged. I could lose my wallet. My luggage could go missing. Someone could follow me down a dark alley…. So much could go wrong.

And yet, so much of it turned out absolutely right!

A Room with a View

A Room with a View

My trip to New York City was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, anywhere, and I’ve taken some pretty great trips — albeit always with a companion.

It was my objective to hit the major art museums while there – the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and a side trip to the Frick Museum, housed in the beautiful Gilded Era mansion on Fifth Avenue.

I also wanted to visit the Neue Galerie at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, a museum that features many of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s work – including his famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (the subject of the recent film Woman in Gold) — but the museum was closed on the day I was up in those parts on the East Side. Damn! And no sachertorte at Café Sabarsky, for which I had been salivating. (Hint: The museum is closed on Tuesdays.)

Continue reading

Developing a taste for fire

Tags

Back in July 2014, I endeavored to cut out a lot of sugar from my diet – things like cold cereal, sugar in my tea, cookies, cakes, pastry, etc.

One thing I haven’t given up is chocolate. No way. No day. I’m a veritable chocoholic. Some of you will probably call me a food snob, but I’ve cultivated a taste for organic dark chocolate, around 70-72 percent cocoa content. Go any higher and I think the chocolate starts to taste chalky and kind of like eating a teaspoon-full of baking chocolate. Blech.

Go any lower and chocolate becomes sweet enough to kick me into overdrive with how much I want to consume.

Along with my abiding jones for chocolate, I’ve developed an affinity for chocolate with chili. Chocolate w/ chili started getting popular a few years back – though don’t quote me on the exact time frame (although I distinctly recall a scene in the 2000 film Chocolat when Vianne, played by French actress Juliet Binoche, added chili to her chocolate to woo Roux, played by Johnny Depp, and cast a spell over the townsfolk of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain).

Doing some online research, I found pairing chocolate with chili is a centuries-old tradition of the Mayans and Aztecs. Plus, those who enjoy mole’ sauce may be aware it’s made with chocolate too. Well, it’s online research – take it for what it’s worth, folks.

I’ve tried to do my own unscientific research on the best chocolate chili bars. I typically have one or two pieces in the afternoon, paired with unsweetened Earl Grey tea. The bergamot in the EG tea seems to enhance the taste of chocolate and the heat of the tea matches the heat of the chili and allows the chocolate to spread beautifully over the tongue, deepening its flavor.

My passion was first fired when I ate a Trader Joe’s chili cinnamon chocolate bar that was part of holiday chocolate flight gift. I saved it for last since I thought it was going to be dreadful, like its counterpart, chocolate with potato chip shards, salt and pepper. That was truly nasty. There’s only so far you can take gourmet, I think.

But TJ’s chili cinnamon bar was by far the best bar in the package, in my opinion. The chili was delicious and the cinnamon seemed an essential part of what made it delectable. I’ve longed for another bar since December and they’re just not something TJ’s carries off-season. Guess I’ll have to wait until next Xmas.

So here’s my opinion about the chili chocolate bars I’ve been able to find (by no means exhaustive – rather a delightful work in progress):

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Chili & Cinnamon

Continue reading

The Thing about Will

As a follow-up to my blog on ending my school semester and the freedom that gives me to pursue my personal goals this spring and summer, I thought it would be interesting to explore the concept of free will, or the ability to choose how to act, not controlled by fate or God (according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary – a resource I use constantly to understand the nuances of words. It’s a weird source of fun for this wordsmith!).

I’ve written on this blog about getting out of my comfort zone and facing my fears. That’s scary, exhilarating and fun. Unencumbered by fears, hesitation or inhibition, I’ve grown enamored of the concept of my own free will. I’ve become a sort of dare devil, pushing myself to do things that scare me.

In some ways, we’re only constrained by the barriers we put in front of ourselves when we want to do something. I’m powerless over others but I’m powerful over myself … (sometimes). I can choose my actions in any given situation. It, however, is up to me to deal with the consequences of those actions.

Getting out of your comfort zone is wonderful. I have to be mindful though of when I inflict my own self will on others.

Free Will(y)!

Free Will(y)!

This usually happens when I want something to happen and I’m impatient, waiting for results. I sometimes have a lot riding on something and it usually has to do with my ego – wanting what I want when I want it.

I pride myself on being a person that makes things happen. When they don’t go my way, that’s when I get impatient.

I learned recently too that when you impose your will on others, things can get messy. It’s great to makes things happen but not when you step all over another person’s boundaries.

Lesson learned.

I’ve been trying to locate my own boundaries and sometimes, I find myself stepping on other people’s boundaries inadvertently in the process.

There’s an interesting phrase for it, turned by “Inner Child” expert John Bradshaw: Self-will run riot.

I’ve also written about letting go and letting the universe take over on certain things. That’s a really hard thing for me to do. I make my intentions, execute my plans and then I want to control the outcome. That’s where I get into trouble.

Some people call it being Zen, just letting things unfold as they will. That’s been one of the hardest things for me to learn: Putting intentions into action and then letting go of the results.

I take every day as it comes. I delight in the things that I can control, one of which is (only) myself, and try as best as I can to leave the rest up to what the universe decides will be.

Ready to exhale …

And I’m exhaling.

This past week, I finished up on the fourth semester of my master’s degree program in Public Relations and Organizational Communications at WSU. It seemed to be a particularly challenging semester for me. There was an enormous amount of reading to do each week, tons of class presentations, and expectations that weren’t clear with the final project — which is never great for someone like me who likes a little direction with things, just so I deliver what’s expected.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of relief one gets, having turned in that final project and completed the final oral presentation. The ride into work the morning after, I feel close to euphoric.

And now, it’s on to four months of freedom!

No more reading 100+ pages of academic articles each week, with terms like ANOVA (analysis of variance, for anyone actually interested!), t tests and control groups knocking about in my head.

It’s an amazing sense of accomplishment after the blood, sweat and tears that go into completing the final research paper, usually about 20 pages … though mine came to 33 pages this time around.

And so, I’ve set my goals and intentions for the summer.

Continue reading

What’s behind that smile?

Tags

“Smile. It’ll make people wonder what you’re up to” – I have no idea who said this.

It’s been said that you can gain insight into yourself by noting the characteristics you most deplore in other people. That’s an interesting concept and one in which you can utilize if you’re really honest with yourself.

In the past, I’ve observed how a smile can be my default facial setting when it comes to approaching life. I’ve known people who go around with both middle fingers raised and that doesn’t seem to curry them much favor with others.

Alternately, sometimes it’s exhausting, having to put a smile on your face when your inner feelings don’t align.

Let's get happy!

Let’s get happy!

I was sparked with the idea about smiling as an act of dishonesty by my fellow blogger Better Not Broken. When is having a smile on your face a disingenuous act?

Continue reading

Making that Connection

Tags

,

“Only connect” – British novelist E.M. Forster

How often do you put yourself out there to connect to others? This is something that I’ve been working on for the last several years. My tendency is to keep the friends I have and not reach out to others to make new friends or to meet new people. I tend to procrastinate on things. I set intentions to reach out and then spend time mulling things over, wondering how people might react.

Hands

As I’ve moved out of my comfort zone, such as going back to school or seeking sources of personal support, I’ve made a lot of new friends who have quickly become lifelines of a sort. They emerged by my reaching out and in my own way, asking for help. It was a scary move but one that has paid off richly. I’ve forged relationships with people with whom I can call at almost any time. We bounce ideas off each other. We support each other in times of crisis. We work through things. We hash things out. My friends are sources of wisdom and insight. They are my chosen family. Continue reading

Therapy through music

Tags

,

I was recently published in the Detroit Jewish News, March 26 edition. I wrote about the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center’s Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program, which takes place at Karmanos’ main hospital and its Farmington Hills facility. The article features a husband of a patient, our talented music therapist Sayako Head and our wonderful oncology social worker Kathleen Hardy.

The program ends in June and Karmanos is looking for different funding sources to keep the program up and running. Since it was established last summer, it has helped approximately 150 patients and their families.

Music is definitely one of the ways I find comfort. I just put on Emmylou Harris and something about her voice soothes me.

Read the article here.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all of my friends and readers!