Happy New Year! While 2020 was an incredibly hard year for the world, I am hopeful that 2021 will bring peace to those who seek it and a renewed sense of the value of joy. When the world has suffered so much, the value of joy and light in our lives is tremendous. Society tells us that with the dawn of a new year, we should create resolutions and make the changes we seek change for. However, this year, I have taken a different approach for myself and I hope others consider doing this as well. While I still have all of the goals that I have set out for myself (as I don’t need the passing of year to dictate the sequence of events for my goals… that is really where I think the problem lies for so many. People set out on these ambitious life changes and then fall short of them when the going gets challenging and decide to fall back on their usual habits etc. because January passed by etc.). Nobody’s life is easy. Be gentle to yourself and those around you. In fact, it’s disheartening to think about how much human suffering and death that occurred in 2020. People need serious help more than ever and hopefully that urgency galvanizes many people around the world to give more.
There is an incredible set of challenges the world is facing all at once and it’s often a challenge to maintain optimism in the face of what can look and feel like insurmountable challenge, especially when so many crises are layered on top of one another. However, I have started to believe that without finding hope for the future, holding onto an optimistic outlook, and experiencing a sense of joy for the simple things in life (the rose that you pass by on your daily walk), then you are not honoring the gift that life has offered to us: the beauty of nature and how we are one with it. Simply being alive is a gift. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that. My approach for 2021 includes actively seeking out joy each day, even more consciously than I usually do. I believe in the value that joy brings to our lives and improves the lives of those around us. I choose joy. Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and peaceful new year.
Quotes about Joy
“When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
“Find ecstasy in life: the mere sense of living is joy enough.”
“Joy is a decision, a really brave one about how you are going to respond to life.”
“Live fast and die young” has generated a more toxic narrative in global culture than we consciously realize. This narrative has placed a stain on the fabric of the collective global consciousness for gender equality – romanticizing a lack of reason and endowing power in the unwise behaviors of the “ever youthful.” I am mortified by how many adults well into their middle age are pretending to live like they are 20 years old on social media. It’s a real problem. Granted, we are all “kids on the inside” and we may have been profoundly impacted by our childhoods, however, that does not give way to solely focus on an eternal youth narrative in society. I think it’s a detriment to moving towards global gender equality. We don’t have time anymore to debate if gender equality is a good for the world. There is more than enough information at our disposal that shows why gender equality is necessary to ensuring we live in a sustainable world and this is a problem which is time bound. Now, let’s also move past the eternal youth narrative and move towards a more equitable world by letting go of the fantasy that eternal youth supercedes all.
I watched the film adaptation of Madame Bovary recently. The famous tale written by Gustave Flaubert is coined as “literary realism” and it stands the test of time on a number of fronts: the perils of greed, the perils of consumerism… Ultimately Madame Bovary decides to fill her unsatisfied soul with luxury purchases as a way to fill a psychological void, but this was a symptom of a larger problem she had. This story is a truly contemporary tale when you think about it. It’s perhaps a combination of two detriments which prompted her life’s end: Monsieur Boulanger’s reckless and indifferent behavior towards her coupled with the pain she already felt from her depression caused by the banality of provincial life. I’d like to focus on how her consumerism was a symptom of the pain she felt – similarly in today’s society, we naturally work towards “fitting in” to some degree to ensure our success; you cannot be an outlaw and expect full social acceptance, right? In the same way, we engage in consumerism on one front to willfully comply with the unspoken expectations of societal normalization – i.e. the paradigm which helps us achieve personal success. This is understandable to the extent that we maintain basic social values, at a minimum, but more importantly, as Robert Reich has spent the better part of his career espousing: you need a robust middle class to have a strong economy. However, engaging in consumerism to an excess is obviously not healthy.
While Madame Bovary “lived beyond her means” in the 1850s French countryside, she’s a figure who illustrates a contemporary psychological issue: the fear of ageing and what comes with age when you inhabit an ageist society. What is more existential than mortality? Consumerism can rid us of this concern, if only fleetingly, with the promise of eternal youth in the products we buy! Right? Wrong. Breaking down ageist stigmas is fundamental in ensuring gender equality. Hollywood and the beauty industry excels at elevating the “permanently youthful.” Take celebrity women for example. They are constantly in the news for “looking great in a bikini at 55!” It’s wonderful they loves their bodies and are confident about it. However, the narrative being shared with the public through these tabloids indirectly tells us, “You should try and look more like that, even well into your 50s or 60’s. If you don’t, dieting and plastic surgery can be the solution.” Because frankly, a perfect body well into your 50’s and 60’s is not the norm. We are being told, indirectly, that this kind of body should be the norm – and that’s where the narrative goes wrong. The beauty of time on your body is a process which does not need to be altered by plastic surgery, which words like “enhancements” have been used to neutralize the damaging impact of plastic surgery culture. There is nothing more beautiful than the marks of life. Also, skincare is a regimen which is always a good idea. I believe in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good skincare… but believing in having eternal youth through plastic surgery? No.
It’s always good to see women succeed in whichever avenue they seek success! I can’t help but wonder, though, are we really existing in a post-feminist world that allows women to succeed however they would like to? Or do barriers still exist through problems like ageism? Ageism sadly persists. My mother experienced ageism when she was looking for work well into her 40s. You know how this would look like? You just don’t hear back from employers. That’s part of the ageist narrative. If we continue to not speak about what is at the core of the problem – when you don’t name the problem (ageism), society will never transcend it properly.
I firmly believe we are at a precipice in our global society which is awoken to the fact that we can no longer ignore problems like ageism and push false narratives to live in a fantasy world which believes it “maintains order.” The reality is this: let’s use our voice to say “no” to ageism and that begins with understanding why the idea to “live fast and die young” is so fundamentally flawed. We will only improve our outcomes if we shed ageist ideology.
The Holiday Season of 2020 is certainly like no other… while we may not have the same opportunities to celebrate as we might usually, there is still reason enough to get dolled up (for yourself at least!) and maintain some semblance of the holiday spirit. This makeup look took me less than ten minutes and I only used the products pictured in the image above. I think the ‘less is more’ approach with makeup can sometimes amplify and bring out your best features rather than being too dramatic and piling on all sorts of makeup. There is no need for eyeliner in my water line for example or a really intensely pigmented liquid eyeliner for a cat eye on the upper lash line since I have a dramatic red lip which I wanted to draw the eye to.
I opted for a softer smudged winged liner on my upper lash line, which created some depth and opened my eyes even more. Instead of focusing the apples of my cheeks with blush for this look, I decided to strategically place Benefit’s Watts Up highlighter on my cheekbones for a sparkling effect. The statement red lip was intended to be the focal point to draw the eye in and tie the look together, which I think worked well. The sparkly eyeshadow and highlighter did wonders, too. The following products are all that I used – keeping it simple but glamorous.
Nivea Creme to lightly moisturize under eyes after skincare routine
The legend of Krampus is a fascinating one… On December 5th (tonight) is Krampusnacht. Krampus is a frightening creature who comes out to roam the streets in Austria. He is a centuries old tradition which has roots back to the Norse god Hel. Krampus is believed to be Hel’s son and is depicted as half-goat, half-demon. Krampus is the sinister counterpart to Saint Nicholas (who is celebrated on December 6). On the evening before Saint Nicholas Day, Krampus comes out to spook children and visit them if they have misbehaved. Beyond spooking children, Krampus is a fascinating tradition as he is the counterpart to Saint Nicholas goodness; without evil, there is not goodness, without darkness, there is not light… They are balanced figures.
“Krampus Runs” as they are called have become increasingly popular across Austria. The tradition occurs across Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Men come together and don traditional Krampus costumes of hand carved wooden masks and suits made of sheep or goatskin with cowbells attached. Krampus usually runs through the streets with sticks and a sack. The idea is that Krampus will come to find you if you have been naughty. The more recent emergence of the Krampus tradition has merged together Krampus with the concept of “Perchten,” a Pagan festival.
My mother’s memories of Krampus in Austria as a child are similar to the first images in this blogpost and are less frightening than the current representations of Krampus… Perchten first appeared in the 16th century and the Catholic Church attempted to ban the customs. The meaning of Perchten was to ward off the bad spirits of winter; the Perchten costumes below are more reminiscent of the contemporary images of Krampus, which are more extreme than the classical images of Krampus to say the least. Contemporary Krampus has become a truly fear inducing image. There is, however, charm that comes with the tale of Krampus. For example, it is a common custom to exchange “Krampus Cards” by mail which can be kitschy in style and include images of pinup art of women. In those cards, you can express your approval or disapproval of a person in a poem like way. Krampus is not all about fear! Krampus is a reminder of the goodness in this world and to appreciate it. That is the traditional takeaway. Krampus runs have become social opportunities for men as well. While Krampus may have evolved to appear intensely scary, the Krampus tradition and Krampusnacht remains alive for a reason. Our spirits seek balance and an understanding of that balance is exemplified in the overt naughtiness of Krampus and the sincere goodness of Saint Nicholas.
Le Sirenuse is an iconic hotel located in Positano and owned by Carla and Antonio Sersale. The views from this property are some of the best of Positano… The five star hotel is absolutely beloved, as mentioned in this Vanity Fair article from this past summer. While we may not be able to travel as freely (namely it’s best to not travel unless absolutely necessary), it’s always great to learn more about which places you can dream of going next, right? The hotel was opened in 1951, by Antonio’s father, Franco and his three siblings. A celebrity frequented venue, what is likely most endearing, beyond the breathtaking views, is the “at home” feel that guests are able to experience while staying there. This at home feeling combined with the luxury of a five star hotel service is what makes coming back to Le Sirenuse is so attractive for so many guests.
Carla Sersale, Antonio’s wife, has a lifestyle brand herself: Emporio Sirenuse, which has home pieces for sale that are all Made in Italy. If you are not able to go to Le Sirenuse soon, we may as well have a piece of it for our home. There is a casual glamour that this hotel has cultivated and it certainly is underscored by how down to earth in attitude its ownership has. The owners, in collaboration with other Italian properties, raised 200,000 Euros in an effort for COVID-19 vaccine research. The adverse impacts of COVID-19 unfortunately forced Le Sirenuse’s sister property, Le Sirenuse at the Surf Club Miami, a restaurant in Miami, to close permanently in August. Unfortunately, the American counterpart of this Italian household name is no longer open here in the US, but hopefully, all of Le Sirenuse’s fans can return to Positano to visit sooner than later! After all, the hotel has a new bar open called “Don’t Worry,” and wouldn’t we all like to be free from worry?
This year, suffice to say, has been a challenge for the entire world. First and foremost, do what you can to help your family, friends and community. Small acts of kindness have a ripple effect. Kindness matters and no act of kindness is ever wasted, so do your part in helping those around you. Beyond your immediate community, consider how your broader community is doing – on the state level as well. The US, where I reside, has clearly been dealing with a tremendous challenge in navigating COVID-19 and continuing to be considerate of the needs of the broader communities which comprise your state is critical. For example, I live in California. The way in which California is impacted by COVID is shocking and not the only issue that has deeply affected this state in recent months, so being cognizant of your broader community means you are best equipped to be safe (and ensuring the safety of others) this holiday season.
California was devastated by wildfires this past summer and it goes without saying that those who lost their homes are still severely impacted by the crisis. Please contribute what you can to locally based charities which assist those who need it most. For victims of the California wildfires, the Red Cross of the Bay Area is a great place to start in providing much needed relief for those who are grappling with such significant losses. It’s tough to absorb the scale of losses when COVID has already impacted so many people’s livelihoods; it’s even more challenging for those who need this kind of immediate assistance with regard to housing instability. Furthermore, food banks are stretched to the limit as food security is nowhere near the level it should be during this time. Please consider donating to your local food bank as well.
Given what a toll this year has taken on all of us, looking inward, seeking joy in simplicity and focusing on the wellbeing of the spirit are necessary to ensuring that we all stay well. This year’s Holiday Gift Guide is focused on products which contribute some form of simple joy to your loved ones and is centered around the wellness of mind, body, and spirit. It’s as simple as having a nice brush for your hair etc. that can make a difference in your day sometimes. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that simple joys are essential for wellness.
The Wet Brush Pro Seriesis an adult oriented hair brush with Disney Princess art on them. These are certainly cute in design and are high performing brushes at an affordable price tag (think the Mason Pearson brush without the Mason Pearson price tag). You can find this limited edition Disney version of The Wet Brush at Ulta.
Pearl Bath Bombs has a dual pack of bath bomb products named “Poppin’ Bubbles in the Tub” which makes a fun gift for your friend or family member. Each bath bomb has a nice cocktail ring (pick the right ring size!) and a chance at winning a real diamond ring; each ring comes with a code to check on the website if you won.
Besame Cosmetics limited edition Cold Creamis the newest product to wow the Besame brand’s fan base! For the vintage history lover, all of the products created by this fabulous beauty brand based out of Los Angeles are historically accurate. Besame is well known for their lipsticks, rated by Vogue and Real Simple this year as the best red lipstick (all of their lipstick shades are exact matches to the decade you love; for example, the exact shade of red that Marilyn Monroe wore in the 1950s). Now you can take off that red lipstick using Besame’s fantastic cold cream!
Aveda has a BCRF edition of their classic hand relief Cherry Almond Hand Creamwhich is a cult favorite and it will keep your hands smelling nice and super moisturized. The proceeds also go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation which makes this product a wise choice.
Raw Crystals for decoration and good spirit by KORA Organics in Clear Quartz and Rose Quartz are a wonderful edition to any room. These are great for decoration, but you can also actively integrate these crystals into your meditation practice! You can sit with a particular crystal and think about how that energy is representative of your meditation’s intention (for example, the pink glow to the rose quartz evokes an intention of love and gratitude).
West Elm’s Faux Fur Cascade Throws are exactly what can get you in the holiday mood! “Santa Baby, just slip a sable under the tree for me!” is exactly the vibe these throws give off. Make sure to get this throw before they run out – they are on sale!
CB2 has a pillow that is based off of the famous Herve Leger bandage dress… and it’s called the Leger pillow. If you want to indulge, this pillow has a fun texture to it and it’s also a good reminder that maybe someday we might fit back into our Leger style dresses for those events in the future…
Last but not least… a simple, yet classic complementary gift that might be for your office’s Secret Santa gift exchange (obviously by mail this year!) and you aren’t quite sure what to get to complement another gift to tie it all together, you can’t go wrong with Punch Studio’s Winter Greens Boxed Soap, only $6.50.
The Flower of Life is an ancient symbol which is hailed in ‘sacred geometry’ and has origins in the Sumerian culture. This symbol, which is revered as being the origin symbol which appears in all geometry (the form essence of all life itself) is intended to display the infinite nature of life, and has been studied for centuries. Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of Southern Mesopotamia (now Southern Iraq), between the sixth and fifth millennium BC. This was about 2,600 years ago. Also noteworthy is the worship of the Sumerian goddess, Ishtar, who is revered as the goddess of love and fertility from Sumerian culture — note, that the pronounciation of the word “Ishtar” sounds very similar to the Christian holiday, “Easter,” which the word is originally derived from. It’s certainly ironic and interesting to consider that Easter has a connection to the worship of a female goddess who represents love and fertility: life itself.
Even more enticing to consider is how the Sumerian worship of the goddess Ishtar enabled the ideals of a matriarchy, which allowed for a much healthier, harmonious, and much less oppressive relationship to women in society versus the oppressive and toxic nature that a patriarchy can have. The world’s earliest culture seemed to have had the ‘right model’ for civilization and perhaps we can learn from Sumerian civilization — treat women fairly and moreover, appreciate and revere women for the life creators that they are. Aphrodite, the world’s most famous Goddess of Love, was based on Ishtar… The story of Aphrodite and Adonis was based on the Mesopotamian myth of “Inanna and Dumuzid.” Inanna is also a name that Ishtar was referred to by.
The Psychoanalyst Nancy Qualls-Corbett writes in her book, The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine regarding how sacred prostitutes (this remains a contested topic amongst academic researchers, but there is enough ancient resources to suggest that this was an ancient practice) is a way to understand worshipping Ishtar: “In her temple, men and women came to find life and all that it had to offer in sensual pleasure and delight. But with the change in cultural values and the institutionalization of monotheism and patriarchy, the individual came to the House of God to prepare for death.” Ultimately, when one ‘flips the script’ of our life stories and our perceived commitments to monotheistic standards, we may consider how worshipping the beauty of life is actually rooted in the matriarchy rather than the patriarchy… Perhaps we’d all do better if we spent more time pondering the good tidings of Ishtar and ruminate on how life is actually best represented in the concept of it being a never ending matriarchal continuum beyond death. Mother Earth… The Flower of Life… Sumerian culture… Ishtar…
So often, it seems that we can be so unsure (and also widely philosophize) what the grander “why” is to our lives. What is our life’s purpose? People sometimes dive deep into their religious faiths as a result of trying to answer this question or perhaps they turn to a more nihilistic view that life itself has no purpose, it is ‘just life.’ I think this is obviously a highly complex topic since the life experience we all have weaves together the idea of our personal autonomy (the individual’s choice to decide what their ‘purpose’ may be) with a broader discourse related to the science of space consciousness and how this ties into the realm of the personal, microcosm experience of the universe that we have within ourselves. Our purpose is quite simple to understand once you awaken to space consciousness.
I recently started reading Eckhart Tolle and came to understand this concept of ‘awakening’ that he references for humanity. On an individual level of the spiritual awakening we may have and then on a collective large scale global consciousness (which he speaks of how it’s already happening to humans on our planet). Eckhart references this collective awakening as a consciousness which transcends our personal form in order to understand the space that consciousness allows us to connect with on a collective plane and hence connects us with our personal experience of ‘purpose.’
Our life’s purpose is being one with the collective consciousness of Being. It goes beyond thought, you are aware of your consciousness, you find deep inner peace this way, and thus are capable of spreading joy to others. This is life’s purpose and there is a technique to share your space consciousness awakening with others. You may think the concept of ‘purpose’ is highly individual, but in reality, the concept of purpose is this, for all of us, always:
Your life’s purpose is to merge together your awareness of space consciousness which does not include thinking, it is BEING (breathing…. breath… ATMAN… one with God…) by merging your being together with your form and bodily experience, the outer, everyday experiences that you have. Once merged by your awakening, you then generate a deep sense of peace and therefore can spread joy in the lives of others by accepting the reality that our form is not the entirety of our life. We can spiritually dissociate from all of the trappings of ourselves and therefore we can achieve deep inner peace.
When this change happens within you, you are spiritually awakened and you will no longer feel confined to the restrictions our immediate experience can hold over us. If you believe in the teachings of Christ, you will understand that Christ lived a life which was not ‘of his own’ because he connected with a community of many souls to be one with it.
When we solely connect only to our form and our ego, we are creating spiritual blindness in ourselves – we are not recognizing the deep inner power that space consciousness provides us in connecting with the purpose of BEING.
I Am. I Am. I Am.
You are. You are. You are.
We are. We are. We are.
We are one. We are one. We are one.
In this way, when you speak these words, you recognize that the ego is a fabrication of the mind. We are all one spirit. We are all together on this Earth. We are all part of the human race. We are all a connected, living entity. We are conscious. We are consciousness. Now, our purpose: awaken and awaken others to this. Like a rose that is in bloom, open to your life’s purpose and share this beauty with others.
No one writer has had a more profound impact on me than William Blake. William Blake lived a life in obscurity in England during the 1700s, largely misunderstood and some even considered ‘mad.’ Though, disputed, William Blake’s art and poetry can be considered utter and pure genius.
He was known for getting into brawls and even leading the life of a nudist, William Blake led a life of great intrigue for someone who had to abide by the norms of an oppressive and ‘proper’ society. His ideas were so out of the box at his time, it is only in our contemporary days can we fully appreciate the complete and vivid beauty of his art and poetry combined, without the judgement that people of his time held against him.
He married the love of his life, but the marriage did not bear children. It is said that his wife, Catherine, is the reason that they did not sink into complete poverty… she kept track of their finances and oversaw his art. She would occasionally present her husband with an empty dinner plate to ensure that he had the right appetite for producing great art… A bit extreme, but William Blake’s life was nothing but an extreme presentation of the meaning of life itself.
William Blake’s flair for the eccentric was focused on living “larger than life” day to day. If one could say someone breathed life into an object, this would be the sum total of all of his art and poetry. His work was his legacy. A unique and stunning combination of his writings with his art display an interest in transcending the solemnity of words by combining the spirit of his words with the imagery he wanted to associate with it. This, to me, is where I have become most enamored with his work.
Being an English major, I had never seen something so unique before: a writer who needed to express his poetry by painting. The poetry doesn’t feel the same without the painting associated to it – this is where the spirit transcends form and that is the space where William Blake’s genius inhabits.William Blake transcended the intellectual limits of his time and became limitless this way. While he may have been a 17th century writer, his messages were timeless. His writings reflect the complex multiplicities of the human mind.
The value in his art and poetry is invaluable. Most of his writings are available to the public at the Tate Museum in London. I came across a rare copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience at City Lights in San Francisco, which was a book published by the Tate. I took the book to show to my English professor in college to inquire how rare the book is. He informed me that it is indeed a rare copy of his works and that my professor was well aware of the program at the Tate which organizes the William Blake archives. The original works by William Blake are precious and should continue being treasured, but on display for public access. There is so much to learn and love about the works of William Blake. I will always learn something new each time I pick up his books.
As we continue to navigate the ongoing challenges of this pandemic, there is more reason than ever to create routines (if not established already!) where you take time each day to reflect for yourself and your wellbeing – this can be done in a number of ways and no one way is the ‘right way,’ this is all dependent on how your schedule looks like and what you believe suits your schedule and lifestyle best.
Recently, I came across a series of guided meditations on YouTube that integrates affirmations into the guided meditation. I have found this to be especially centering for freeing the mind for me. I focus on the mantra that I am saying and nothing else. By doing this, I am able to enter into a deeper meditative state and have been able to achieve a lot of progress in how long and how deeply I can meditate for.
Meditation, for just 5 or 10 minutes per day can greatly reduce stress levels and also help clear a ‘cluttered mind’ that may feel distracted. During this time, given all that’s happening in the world, it’s only normal to feel stress from everything and I think we are too quick to be hard on ourselves about this. I think even before the pandemic, society, globally, was not going at a healthy pace. If this has given you an opportunity to slow down in some way and reflect on what lifestyle changes you can make in you and your family’s life in some way, then be grateful for this privilege and live into those mini changes – the little things can make a big difference!
I believe that wellness practices are for everyone – it’s not a luxury spa that’s exclusive to a any one group who can afford it – wellness practices are simple and easy to integrate into your everyday routine and you will feel and see the benefits! Each morning, I try to start with a 10 minute morning stretch on my yoga mat that is conditioning and warming up my body and letting energy flow into the body. There are a number of stretches that you can do to wake up, but stretching on a yoga mat is wonderful!
Once I am all ready and feel organized to tackle my day, I do some work and then take a break around 11am and do a 10 minute guided meditation, either on YouTube or I listen to Kundalini chants (Sat Nam) and use a timer for it for 10-15 minutes. Below you will find a few videos that I love to use for meditation and some words of affirmation that I believe are soothing and allow you be kind to yourself. We all need to see more of that in the world.
Words are powerful. I say affirmations like the following during my meditation everyday:
My body is a miracle. I visualize love flowing from my heart, washing and cleansing my mind, body, soul and spirit. I am healthy and full of energy.
I approve of who I am, what I stand for and what I believe in. I am my own best friend and I love being me.
I believe in myself and my abilities. I have unlimited potential when I trust in the universe and believe in me.
Holding on to past situations inhibits my growth. I choose to let go of past hurts. Each day is a new beginning and an opportunity to grow.
As I wake, I breathe in the opportunity of each new day and I am grateful for the energy I have. I am enlivened by life itself.
I choose how I feel inside and how I react at all times. I am worthy of anything I ask for from life. I believe in me. I don’t let negativity get to me; I am happy, calm and peaceful inside.
I appreciate and accept that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Criticism is just that: nothing more, nothing less. I choose powerfully and with love how or whether I react.