April 19, 2013
Yesterday’s video was accidentally set on private; sorry about that! It’s now public so check it out:
And here’s today’s video, Day 7:
(Check out the beautiful Italian clouds!!!)
The Three Keeps List:
1. Black Vibrams – I’ve been wearing Vibrams for three or four years now. I love them so much I can’t imagine life without them. Well, I could, but it would be really blistery. I really should be sponsored by Vibram, considering how many people I’ve prosthelytized to over the years and around the world (Argentina REALLY wants Vibrams!).
2. Inspiration book 2009 – I started making these little books in 2006. They’re part inspiring quotes and photos, part mini vision board, part life tips, part happy memories.
3. Inspiration book 2010 – Out of one of these books I read the 12 Keys to Happiness from scientist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness - These are keepers too!
1. Expressing Gratitude
2. Cultivating Optimism
3. Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison
4. Practicing Acts of Kindness
5. Nurturing Social Relationships
6. Developing Strategies for Coping
7. Learning to Forgive
8. Increasing Flow Experiences
9. Savoring Life’s Joys
10. Committing to Your Goals
11. Practicing Religion and Spirituality
12. Taking Care of Your Body: Meditation + Physical Activity + Acting Like a Happy Person
Yep. That’s pretty much it. I think I’ve got these covered! (At least, I work on them all every day. Still fine tuning, of course.) I origionally heard about Sonja’s book from Philosophers Notes, one of my favorite things ever – all the best personal growth/spirituality books summarized into 20 minute audio bites and 6-page PDFs. Highly recommended.
The Five Releases List:
1. X-mini MAX speaker - I did a TON of research when trying to find good portable travel speakers (I always obsessively research any electronics pre-purchasing) and I finally went with these guys. Not only is the sound excellent for their size, they’re not outrageously expensive, they charge via USB (no need to buy batteries) AND they run for 4-5 hours without being plugged in – perfection! I ordered these while I was living in Argentina and had a friend from the States bring them down as it’s quite difficult/expensive to get electronics with Argentina’s closed economy… they lasted for about 6 months until someone else broke one; then I used the single one for another 6 months until this one fritzed out too. Damned planned obsolescence.
2. Cannon charger – Also while in Argentina I had my friend bring me a new Cannon camera to replace the old Panasonic Lumix (which I’ve been recording most of these videos on). The Lumix stops working occasionally – ever since I took it to Burning Man and it got playa dust inside the lens – hence those spots that show up in most of my videos. Anyways, after more obsessive electronics researching, I got the Canon Powershot ELPH 300. It was my very favorite camera ever. Super compact, clear bright colors… the Lumix’s High def video and wide lens is a bit better for video but the ELPH definitely too better photos. And then, one day, I was hiking in some mountains in Patagonia, and somewhere during an off-trail 3 hour hike, my camera disappeared. Poof. I did the extremely steep 3 hour trail every day for the next 7 days, until it rained. Then I gave up. I never did find the camera. I hope some gaucho found it while he was horseback riding and was able to see the video of me and my friend Anne standing at the top of the mountain in high wind, screaming. Anyways, the camera was claimed by mother earth, and I no longer have any need for this charger. Why do I still have this charger one full year after losing that camera? No idea.
3. Art Eraser – I thought I lost my Faber-Castell eraser (oh, that name makes me feel like I’m back in art school). But then I found it. Donating this to the Academy!
4. Mystery key – I hate having old mystery keys. It torments me.
5. Brown hat – I was given this very good Wallaroo hat by a friend shortly before I left LA. I’ve worn it maybe twice in the past two years. They’re really good quality hats, but I just never wear it.
I ran across this Anais Nin quote that I love:
“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”
I feel like this challenge is slowing putting a few mosaic squares in every day… gradual change, transformation, unfolding. I’m really enjoying this challenge, but I’m not sure how I’ll still have stuff to get rid of at Day 30. We’ll see…
“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” - Paramahansa Yogananda
“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” - Eckhart Tolle
“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” -Aristotle
“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
September 25, 2012
Today I did something I’ve been wanting to do for 12 years.
I climbed to the top of the Cupola, the dome of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. 463 steps up.
For once in my life, I have no photos. I somehow forgot my camera at the Academy in Assisi, so the Radiohead concert, this week in Florence, and the Duomo climb are undocumented. Most of you know that I loooove to take photos, but it’s been a refreshing change to just be totally present for life instead of looking at everything through a 3″ screen. The world is more holistic.
I arrived at the Duomo at 8:15am in order to avoid the crowds. I took the bus from my couchsurfing host Dario’s house, using a trick he showed me – I bought a bus ticket with my cell phone. With my cell phone!!! What you do is send a text with the letters “ataf” to 4880105. It texts you a ticket and charges 1.20 Euros to your phone. The virtual bus ticket is good for 90 minutes.
I love technology.
There is no technology at the Cupola. No new technology anyways. Ie, no elevators.
The entrance to climb the Cupola is on the left side of the cathedral when you’re facing the front, and it costs 8 Euros. There was a group of about 20 dewy-faced German girls in front of me, and a Taiwanese woman wearing heels. She exclaimed over my Vibram Fivefinger barefoot shoes, as did a few other people I met during the climb. They all agreed that my footwear was the most suitable for the occasion.
We all huffed and puffed and worked up a sweat – I consider myself to be in fairly good shape but this was a workout. Not recommended for claustrophobics. It was fascinating being inside the sides of the dome itself – you could see the walls curving overhead within arm’s reach overhead – and there are walkways that ring in interior of the dome so you can check out the details of the frescos of naked people getting their skin flayed open and being strangled by pitchfork-wielding devils and demons. There are also depictions of heaven and cherubs and god and all that, but the hell scenes are much more fun.
Construction on the dome was started in 1420 and completed in 1434, making the Cupola 578 years old. FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY EIGHT YEARS OLD!!! The Duomo (the whole cathedral) is even older, started in 1296. From the pavement to the top of the dome is almost 300 feet, about a 30 story building (no wonder we were huffing and puffing).
It wasn’t as windy as I expected at the top. The sun was still low in the east and there were few clouds in the sky. The giant shadow of the Cupola stretched west across Firenze, and I felt a bit bad for the people who lived in its shadow and probably don’t get any direct light until almost midday.
Chaotic harmony is what Firenze looks like from above. The colors are uniform – warm golds and yellows, umber and sienna and terra cotta. But the architecture is chaos. Hundreds – thousands? – of years of building on top of buildings, chopping down neighboring towers, adding on rooms and passageways. Done with skill and a strong aesthetic, but still chaotic.
I spent a long time up there, longer than the German girls or the Taiwanese woman in heels. I wasn’t taking photos, obviously, as I was without camera. I just absorbed it. I tuned into the presence of the city. I identified all the buildings I knew, and picked out the general area of the apartments I’d lived in on Via San Zanobi in 2000 and 2001. I stared at the towers on the hillsides I remember staring at and sketching in art class so many years ago. I watched the early sunlight reflecting like shining liquid silver off the Arno river. At one point my eyes filled with tears at a wave of joy and gratitude that surged within – the joy of being in Italy, the joy of this wonderful life. High up above in the center of it all, I felt love. I’ve loved Florence since I set foot in it in 1997, at age 18, and its consistent reliability, its beautiful lack of change, is reassuring, intimately familiar, calming.
And then the bells began to ring, all around me, from Santa Croce Basilica, from San Lorenzo. 9am. They rang as they have for hundreds – thousands – of years, as they will for hundreds – thousands – of years more.
August 3, 2010
For breakfast, I had a big fat cucumber, a handful of almonds, and Egyptian Licorice tea. Yesterday I had no caffeine/alcohol/refined sugar/processed food/red meat, and not planning on having any today. Feeling good!
I also went for a jog in my new Vibram Five Fingers:
I suppose I’m just trying to live a natural life. Natural food, natural feet. I wrote a post on Vibrams a year ago when I got my first pair. I’ve always hated shoes, and would go barefoot all the time if it was allowed in the workplace and in restaurants. Wearing Vibrams is a compromise, one foot in the shod world, one foot in the barefoot world.
Speaking of foot shodding, I was sitting in my car yesterday, stopped at a stop light, watching a woman at a bus stop dance. She was doing a little side-to-side shuffle step in front of a high school. It was pretty cute and funny, until I realized she was wearing two different shoes. Not just different shoes, but completely different HEIGHTS – one was a black flat:
and the other was a brown Espadril:
So it became less cute and funny, and more like a visit to crazytown. Though considering the sizeable differences in height, she was a pretty good dancer.
May 21, 2010
I’ve been wearing Vibram FiveFingers (ie, Barefoot Shoes) for about a year now. And I love them. Ever since I can remember, I’ve hated shoes and socks. HATED. One of my earliest memories is a feeling of frustration and rage welling up within me at having to put on some extremely uncomfortable shoes, around the age of 4. I hated feeling like my feet were bound up and restricted. Maybe it’s because my feet grew so fast (I’m a size 10 at 5’7, ugh) and my shoes were just always too small for me. Anyways I pretty much only wore Birkenstocks and flip flops growing up, year-round (you can get away with that in Southern California). I also have genetic issues with my feet, and in high school had to have bunion and arch surgery. Not cool. Anyways, I used to love Birkenstocks, but they got really stinky. And now I love Vibrams, and unfortunately, they get stinky too. Not cool. So I did some research, along with some personal experimentation, and I’m gonna tell you what has stopped the stank for me.
First off, the stank is from bacteria. It’s like B.O. The bacteria feeds on dirt and the dead skin cells that build up inside the bottom of the shoes, since you’re not wearing socks. If your Vibrams are stankin’, I’ll bet the inside of your shoe is brown or black. And I bet you can scrape off some of the dirt/gunk with your fingernail.
That stuff has gotta go, or the funk will remain firmly in your FiveFingers. One guy online suggested you just shower with your Vibrams on, scrub your toes around inside with a tiny amount of soap, and let the running water rinse them out. His recommendation is to do this about once/twice a week, and let them air dry.
This is a great tip. It’ll save the wear’n’tear that occurs when you throw VFF’s in the washing machine, and it’s probably more effective since your feet are doing some scrubbing. But you should really use a brush to scrub the inside of the soles and get all of that gunk out. So I’d recommend wearing them in the shower once a week, squirting some soap in there and squishing it around, and then taking them off and scrubbing the insides. This might sound time-consuming, but I wear my Vibrams every day (to work, to concerts, to bars, running, hiking, etc) and it’s worth it not to have a horrendous stank.
I also have a natural salt spray deodorant from Whole Foods that I’ll spray in there, and/or on my feet. I believe it’s just water and salt, and that the salt interrupts the bacterial growth. I don’t think this would be effective without washing the shoes out first, but hopefully it’ll slow down the return of the stank.
So that’s my advice.
Other suggestions on various Vibram discussion boards include:
• Distilled white vinegar. This was the most popular solution. Clean the shoes, soak them in vinegar anywhere from one hour to overnight (can use 25% vinegar to 75% water ratio, but the more vinegar the better), let them dry, and then wash them again. The second wash is to get rid of the vinegar smell. This kills the bacteria and keeps the smell from coming back quickly. People who tried this said after rinsing the vinegar smell was negligible unless you actually put your nose to them, and even so, it’s a much more tolerable smell than “The Vibram Funk.”
• “Trader Joe’s Cedarwood and Sage All-Purpose Cleaner” and “Earth Day Products’ Everyday Stain & Odor Remover” (the recommendation was to use one spray, let it sit, then rinse and repeat with the second spray.
• Antimicrobial Febreeze
• Menthol-based foot powder
• Gold bond powder
• Bleach (Colorsafe??)
• Chlorine (throw them in a swimming pool overnight; smell is gone in the morning)
• Win Laundry Detergent
• Out Multi-cat Urine Odor Destroyer
Of course, your other option is socks. If you want to wear Injiji socks (which I’ve been using for about 4 years and wear any time I’m forced to wear “normal” shoes), you can do that too. I’ve heard from an inside source that Smartwool will soon be making toe socks also. But even wearing socks inside my VFF’s makes my toes feel squeezed, so I don’t like to wear them anymore.
Good luck with the funk, and happy bare-ishfooting!
May 5, 2010
Today I saw a rattlesnake. I also saw Ghandi.
I got the day off of work since we didn’t get home from San Francisco until 2am…
(five hours each way…not bad).
So, per my usual, I took full advantage of the day off.
First up was a hike in Pacific Palisades. When you turn off of Sunset, if you go aaaall the way up, there’s a little parking lot & an entrance to the Temescal Hike.
I think Topanga joins around there too…anyways, the trail takes you to these rocks that I love called Skull Rock. Perfect for a bit of rock climbing/bouldering. Me on top of the rock (you can’t tell but there’s a 40 ft drop to my right):
Skull Rock has a little cave in it. After meditating on top of the rock for about 20 minutes, I climbed into the cave and found a notebook.
It contained about two months of people’s notes – one couple got engaged up there. Another girl had recently seen her soul mate die and had moved to LA. Another had missed his flight back to Hong Kong so had gone for a hike with his cousin. I liked this one, written by some hiker on my birthday.
Most people commented on how beautiful and peaceful it was up there – which it was. I saw only one person for the first hour and a half, and they didn’t see me since I was on top of the rock. If I was a mountain lion I totally could’ve pounced on their head and eaten them.
One thing I can assure you of is that we’re not having that missing-bee problem in the Palisades. Part of the hike takes you through a narrow path with tons of bushes and wildflowers on either side. And swarms of buzzing bees. It was a bit disconcerting, and I had to focus on staying calm, cuz I didn’t want the bees to smell my fear or pick up on my vibrations or…whatever it is that bees can do. So that part wasn’t very relaxing. The second thing that wasn’t very relaxing was that I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I was walking around the backside of Skull Rock, intent on climbing another rock formation, when a fatty lizard, doing push-ups on a rock to my left almost at eye level, made a quick movement that caught my eye. I stopped and looked at him for a second. As I was stepping forward to continue on my way I looked down at the trail ahead of me just as a rattlesnake started buzzing his tail. Luckily he was a foot or two ahead and facing away from me; I froze immediately as he was already slithering away. No more rock climbing for me!!! Back through the bees and to the car!!!
On the way back I found this cool high-tech lookin’ dandelion; each seed had what looked like an airplane propeller on top.
So after the rattlesnake incident, I decided to stop at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine to calm down a bit. And to say hi to Gandhi. Apparently he was buddies with Paramahansa Yogananda and a portion of his ashes are interred there.
“Life is an aspiration. Its mission is to strive after perfection, which is self-realization. The ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses or imperfections.” - G-dhawg
I love the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. It’s like Disneyland for meditation. Or spirituality, or whatever. It’s just gorgeous and lush and peaceful. There are deities and shrines for five world religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam). So it doesn’t matter what religion you are, or if you’re any religion at all (which I’m not).
Here’s the Christian rep (Joseph? St. Frances? I dunno who this is):
And Buddha, of course:
Me and some dancing, jazz-flute-playing god (Hindu?):
Some of the biggest mofoin’ koi fish I have ever seen in my life (and swan):
And the Windmill (which doubles as a temple):
After enjoying some more peace and greenery, I went to Ritual Adornments and bought beads for some of the Tibetan Prayer Wheel necklaces I’m making. Then I went to write for the iPhone app project; then grocery shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s before coming home to cook some veggies for dinner. I’m on day 5 of no alcohol, and day 3 of no caffeine or processed foods or refined sugars. Been a bit tired without the caffeine or sugar (and now I’m up late writing this post, so I’ll probably be a bit tired tomorrow), but so far so good!
January 6, 2010
I succeeded in not buying anything on Day 1 of my challenge—and I even bartered my way out of paying for pre-existing dinner plans!
Friends at Catalyst Art Collective downtown are doing a fun little experiment in which you can come over for five days of nommy homemade vegetarian dinners at $5 a pop, or buy individual meals for $7. I’d already committed to Tuesday (Pesto Calzones) and Thursday (The Legendary Peace Patties) before starting the Consumer Fast. So I had my $7 ready last night. Fortuitously, one of my friends jokingly offered to pay me $5 to perform what he considers a loathsome chore—folding laundry. I bargained up to $7 and viola—free dinner! Woohoo for archaic nonmonetary exchange systems!
This morning, I planned to get up early and do some reading for a project I’m working on. Whenever I get up early, especially to read or write, I always want coffee. I love coffee but have cut back considerably, since I’m pretty sure it contributes to my psoriasis flare-ups. On Day 1 of the CFC, I brewed my own coffee at home in my French press. But…it didn’t taste very good. It wasn’t…fulfilling. That might be because the bag of Peet’s I have has been sitting in my cupboard for a very long time. So I didn’t want to brew at home this morning. I decided (rationalized) that since I’d saved $7 the night before, it would be ok for me to spend two of those dollars on a cup of coffee on Day 2. But I was torn…was I already breaking the fast after only 24 hours?!?
My plan was to walk down to Organics To Go (makers of the best cuppa coffee in Los Angeles, according to me), take my coffee and my Kindle to Hancock Park (home of the La Brea Tarpits), find a sunny spot on a bench, and read for a few hours. Still feeling guilty about spending $2 on coffee on the second day of my fast, I dug around in my wallet to see if I had any “frequent drinker” coffee cards from Organics To Go. You know, the ones where you get 10 punches and the 11th cup is free. Well guess what—I did. I had a card with 10 punches. WIN! I got free dinner the night before, and I could get free coffee this morning!!!!!! I was ecstatic!!! I pulled on my Vibram FiveFinger shoes (see prior blogs) and strolled down to Organics…but…the tables weren’t set out in front. Maybe the barista had gotten to work late…well, at least the doors are open…but…where is the coffee station? Where is the salad bar that was built into the wall? NOOOO! OUT OF BUSINESS!!! GONE! FAIL!
So that sums up my morning: pride (bartering the night before), guilt (wanting to buy a $2 cup of coffee), elation (surprise free coffee card in wallet), redemption (not spending the $2 and sticking to the fast), devastation (favorite coffee shop in Los Angeles is closed. No coffee).
So I went back home, made a cup of plain Irish Breakfast Tea, which wasn’t bad or good…but had a little bit of caffeine in it, I suppose.
I was also going through old emails last night and, oddly enough, ran across this DailyOm from Dec 31st:
Filling Imaginary Voids – DailyOm.com
“Consuming To Heal: In our culture today, we are constantly encouraged to consume. This includes food as well as purchasing ever newer items that we may not need, often using money that we may not actually have. It could be that we are trying to fill a void we feel within ourselves, but if we take the time to examine it, we know deep inside that this is not the solution. We may notice how quickly the joy fades after our purchase or once the food we’ve enjoyed is gone, and how soon we feel the urge to do so again. This is a symptom of disconnection from our true selves, so the first step toward balance is connection to our center.
When we connect to our center, we access the fullness of who we are as an individual spirit. We also connect to the energy source of the universe, from which nothing can be lacking. It could be that we have been energetically starving ourselves but trying to feed the need physically, outwardly. Once we make the decision to reconnect, we have the ability to examine the behavior from a higher place within ourselves. We can look, without judgment, at the thoughts and feelings that occur before and after our indulgences to find a pattern. We may want to keep track of these observations in a journal so that we can go back if we lose our way.
Often boredom is the main cause for the desire to eat or shop. But when we connect to our center, our intuition can more clearly guide us to the places where our energy can best be used. We can replace the boredom with a meditation practice, a class, a project, seeking a new job, or getting involved in a charity. We may even want to begin planning an adventurous trip. Whatever inspires us tells us the direction we should go. When we find the place we are meant to be, we become so consumed by its constant creation that the frivolous filling of an imaginary void becomes a thing of the past.” – www.DailyOm.com
I didn’t actually read the email above until after I’d started the Fast, but this is exactly why I’m doing it. Getting more connected with the Whys of what I do by breaking habits and patterns and modes of thought that aren’t the best for me. Instead of drinking coffee, maybe I need to let go of the belief that coffee will help me focus, thus making me a better writer/reader/whatever. Maybe I just need to listen to my body more and get more sleep so I don’t feel the need for it, or energize myself through healthier ways, like exercise and apples.
Something else that popped into my mind was an article about how humans like rituals. Going to your coffee shop to buy your cuppa and then pouring in your specific amounts of creamer and sugar are definitely ritualistic. The article mentioned that this is probably why Corona beer is so popular—the lime ritual. Maybe it’s time to form rituals that don’t include some kind of intoxicant…caffeine, alcohol, nicotine? Smoking is definitely ritualistic. And people always say it’s the simple habit of having that smoke after dinner that’s the hardest part to change. In our science-based society, where magical or shamanic rituals are no longer accepted, and even religious rituals are falling by the wayside, all we’ve got left is sugaring our Starbucks, liming our Coronas, lighting our Marlboros. Rituals of consumption… How sad.
In addition to my 30 Day Consumer Fast, I’m also forming two new rituals—20 minutes of meditation per day, and 10 minutes of writing (which, as you can tell from this post, tends to turn into way more than 10 minutes). What kind of rituals do you want in your life?
By the way, if you don’t subscribe to DailyOm.com, I highly recommend you do. You will only ever see me use the phrase “highly recommend” when I’m referring to something excellent, so trust me. DailyOm sends out insightful and sometimes jarringly relevant emails Monday-Friday. Hey, new ritual?