Tag Archives: stories

A Universe of Dots.

by Paul Koidis Jr.

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What do you see when you look IN?

It takes some time, I know, but you can do it. You may need to re-adjust your stance, back up, inch forward, bend your antenna, slide the exposure a little, twirl the focus, even change the camera, but you will get there, eventually and at last, and finally see it. Continue reading

The 5 Benefits of Telling Lies

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 12.04.09 AMIf you have been taught to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you might want to reevaluate this truism. A good lie has many fundamental benefits which include promoting well-being, compassion, good humor, and happiness. Remember how you enjoyed those fairy tales which were part of your bed time ritual?

Throughout the ages fiction has revealed what it means to be human by simulating challenges, how to relate to others and listen to their stories, as well as teach us to better tolerate the human condition. Everyone makes up stories about the facts. What kind of story do you create: A tragedy, comedy or romance?

Lies with benefits:

  • The role of the imagination is to transform mundane reality: Work, household chores, paying bills, homework and exams, aches and pains, arguments with loved ones, and daily stressors. For example, reading a novel or watching a movie, a work of fiction whose story describes how the hero overcomes adversity, can inspire you to become a better person – in other words, show you the way. A painting can transform trash into treasure.
  • Stress-management strategies urge you to reframe negatives into positives by creating a kinder story out of the facts in order to release all that anger and disappointment. For example, the waiter who appears to be hostile to your requests and is ruining your digestion can be reframed into this story: A hardworking person who is struggling with the responsibility of supporting a wife, children and an elderly mother and so, is a bit irritable. You can cut this person some slack, can’t you, even give him a compliment validating his busyness? You might end up with a free desert (as I have)!
  • When you are upset with someone steeped in an argument, telling this person that you believe she is coming from a good place, a kind place, will usually soften the tension and inspire her to live up to your lofty description. She can take the higher road you because you pointed out the way.
  • Acting as if usually leads to personal transformation. If you play the part long enough, you will become what you aspire to be. If you rehearse it in your imagination, you will succeed in reality. Remember when you were a child how you played in the land of make believe? Pretending was a good dress rehearsal for dealing with the problems which grown-ups face: The monsters who need to be conquered.
  • Your lies contain your truths because they are your lies, your stories. Personal lies reveal a narrative about you:  Your wishes and your buried “treasure.”  Get to know your lies and identify the pattern.

Wordplay Wednesday: The First Time

The first time that we took a road trip
Daddy organizing bags in the car
Mommy promising roller coaster rides
To make up for the times that were hard
And then the first time that I broke my curfew
I can still see that look on your face
I was kind of scared
But I liked how much you cared
I just thought the rules were meant to break

Well I’m looking back at memories
With a smile on my face
Like dandelion blossoms in the wind
They fly away

And so we gotta hold on and keep telling our stories
It’s not the same looking at pictures online
We’re wasting time
We gotta give love and soak up every moment
Because life is a train and the days roll by

The first time that I left for college
My hair was blowing with the windows down
Singing along to my favorite songs
Had the music turned up so loud
And then the first time we met it was raining
You said that we should warm up over tea
Opened the cafe door with one hand
So your umbrella was still covering me

We gotta hold on and keep telling our stories
It’s not the same looking at pictures online
We’re wasting time
We gotta give love and soak up every moment
Because life is a train and the days roll by

American flags were waving
At the time it was all we could do
Praying for the people risking lives
I slept a little closer to you
I held onto you

And the first time I looked in her eyes
I swear it felt like my heart would explode
And in that moment I knew
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do
To keep her safe and happy as she grows

We gotta hold on and keep telling our stories
It’s not the same looking at pictures online
We’re wasting time
We gotta give love and soak up every moment
Because life is a train and the days roll by
Yeah life is a train and the days roll by

* * *

dandelionHi everyone! I’m running a bit low on fresh poetry to share with you all so thought it would be fun to share a new song I wrote this week! It’s about a woman growing up in America, starting as a child and then having a child of her own, and the desire to connect in-person more and share our stories. Sorry for the poor video quality, and hope you enjoy:)

So You Wanna Be a Blogger? Six Steps to Get You Started.

Phone Home
The blogosphere is blowing up these days. If you’re reading this, you are a part of the movement! Blogging is gaining serious momentum as a social media tool and is lighting a fire to the idea of connection to ignite business and relationships. Ever wondered if you too could be a blogger? You can. Here are six things I have learned from my own experience as a blogger to get you started:

  1. Seek inspiration. Don’t think you have anything to write about? You do! If you are breathing and alive, you do. There is inspiration under every stone, with every glance and with every heartbeat and interaction. Be alert and awake to your own life enough to see that there is a spiritual lesson around every corner. And remember a blog piece doesn’t have to be spiritual. You can blog a “how-to” on new ways to get into handstand…or innovative ways to use coconut oil…or interesting ideas for kid’s lunches to get out of the less than stellar PB&J rut. If you think it, you can write it.
  2. Let other writers inspire you. I received this advice a few years ago, and it has changed my writing. I thought I had to blaze a new writing trail and do it all on my own. It was a huge relief to know I could allow myself to be inspired! Relentlessly read posts and books by authors you admire. Let their style soak into you. Then, make it yours.
  3. Write as though nobody will read it. My most moving and influential posts are the ones I wrote as therapy, and then eventually sent to be published. When you write for an audience, without realizing it you fall into “what will they think?” and you start to hold back. Don’t hold back. What the world wants to see is real, raw passion. Not the cleaned up edited version of reality. Let words move through you to your fingers, edit for grammar and spelling, and set it free.
  4. The piece that makes you want to puke when you think about sharing it is the one that most needs to be posted. Every single time I have wanted to puke before hitting SEND but sent anyway, the results have been liberating to say the least. The things that move us, the things that we’re afraid of and the things that inspire us cause us to feel deep down in our bellies. The topics and subjects people deeply connect on are those that we most are afraid to speak on. Liberate not only yourself, but others, through this connection.
  5. Be prepared to be turned down. For every enthusiastic “YES we’d love to post your work,” there can be several “no thank yous.” That’s OK. It could mean a few things. One, try a different blog site. Maybe your piece isn’t quite what they are reporting on right now. Two, have a friend read your piece and ask for constructive criticism. Be open to their reply. Three, write something new. I have boatloads of essays I have written that I won’t ever submit to a blog. They stay on my personal blog indefinitely. Lastly, do not attach your self-worth to how your writing is received. We are infinitely more than our stories.
  6. Be prepared to be amazed. The universe doesn’t smile on hesitation. Life isn’t handed to you wrapped up in a perfectly square box tied with a stunning gold bow. It just isn’t. Put yourself out there. Research each blog to find out how to submit new writing. Don’t wait for someone to ask. Over and over, again and again, share a piece of yourself. The rest is up to the universe to decide how your blog is received. You may just be amazed at the results. I have been, time and time again. The posts you think will be judged harshly are actually setting you free, one word and one reader at a time.

Shine on, new blogger, shine on.

 

Photo credit: Flickr

V is for Vāsanā: Finding Your True Self Through Yoga

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See the sun?
See what it is telling you?
What did it say to you this morning when your eyes met it for the first time on this new day?
A hundred people can look at the same sun and see a hundred different stories written in it.

In Ancient Buddhism and Vedanta – and in Yoga – this is attributed to Vasana.
A Vasana is a an impression upon the mind that generates a conditioned response.
A memory of behavior that is threaded into the fabric of our being.
A tendency rooted in our consciousness that shapes our inclinations and behaviors.

We all have them.
Several of them.
Several hundreds of them.
Collectively within us they form the basis of our individual world view, our reactions to what we see in the world, our behavior in the world. Our vasanas will drive us to form the opinions we will, take the sides we will, push for the action that we want – be that positive or negative.

And yet, Yoga teaches that the vasanas are not a real representation of our true Self.
The vasanas are actually a disturbance to who we really are.
Yoga teaches us that the vasanas create modifications to our true consciousness that we need to undo to experience and manifest our true Self. Until they are released, those of us who are not enlightened souls, are all imperfect and ignorant, not knowing who or what we really are.

And this is the purpose of Yoga itself – as written by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

‘Yogaś citta-vritti- nirodhaḥ’  (Chapter 1. verse ii)
‘Yoga is the cessation of the turbulence of the mind’

The practice of yoga takes us back the true Self by weakening the vasanas until they fall away and the Self is revealed.
Yoga teaches us that when we know the true Self, we will be in a space of deep silence, a space of complete unity and a place of non action – because when we see the world from the true Self, we experience that suffering is itself an illusion; we will not see any other as separate from our Self; we will see that what we say of the Other we say of our Self. Because when we know the Self, we know that there is no separation between us and the world we live in: We are One part of One interconnected beating cosmos. We are One.

It is a process. And we will fail many times on the way.
We will fail, and fail and fail.
But with practice, eventually says Vedanta – the Self will shine forth.
I fail several times every day.
I live and breathe in the world. I react to it. I call for action in it. I believe in the need for change.
I try to keep my awareness with my Self.
Sometimes I feel that the the Self is closer.
Sometimes I feel I am far away from it.
Sometimes I see my vasanas get the better of me.
But I always to promise to try again – and let my failures fail at holding me back.
I make my yoga.
I practice.
I always practice.
And I will keep practicing until the Self shines forth.

And You?

 

Photo credit: lululemon athletica

How One Man Is Changing The World Through Story-Telling

The Strangers Project is the creation of Brandon Doman, a New Yorker who collects anonymous stories from strangers.

It began in 2009, as he was people-watching from a coffee shop. On a whim he placed a sign that said, “Hi There! Please stop by and share your story!

To his surprise, dozens of people agreed to write their stories in his notebook. His only requirement was that it had to be true. Four years later he’s collected over 5,000 anonymous stories from strangers around the country.

From notebook to website, The Strangers Project is a forum that invites people to share their stories anonymously and takes people-watching to a new level. All the stories he’s collected are available on the site.

This is where it gets interesting. The stories are categorized into Handwritten, Typed, or Themes. There is also a collection called TeacherSpeak, where teachers can share their front-line experiences and together create a collective voice.

To give you a sense of the power of what people share, here is a transcript of one of the most recent stories Brandon collected:

I was born in Colombia to a prostitute and a drug addict. I don’t know how old I was when I entered the foster care system but I stayed in it until i was 6. Throughout those 6 years I was sexually abused and drugged by my biological father. I was adopted by a beautiful family in the US who I love dearly. I’m beyond blessed and with their help I have achieved far beyond my dreams. Interestingly, what this experience and many others have taught me is that there is no way to move forward without forgiving. Forgive yourself for all your mistakes, they make up a part of who you are; forgive those who harmed you for they too were integral to your growing into who you are. Let the light in. Don’t let your past fears hold you back, I refuse to let mine.

The Strangers Project effectively takes single strands of life, in the form of stories, and weaves them beautifully into what we know as the fabric of our lives.
By providing a virtual listening ear and allowing people to speak their truth anonymously, he’s placing a stethoscope onto the heart of humanity, allowing us all to hear loud and clear our collective heartbeat.

Every one of us has a story. Many of us have more than one. The Strangers Project is a place to get that story off your chest. A place to see the beauty of who you are reflected back to you in the words of people you’ve never met.

Story-telling is not about being a good writer or even having a good story. It’s about giving voice to the human experience.

Good writing flows from a place of truth, conviction, and vulnerability. It is not about phrasing, symmetry, or subject. It is not about writing what we think people want to hear. A 7-year-old’s rhyme, a dying man’s last words, or a love sonnet are all poetry because we hear the truth in them.

The unedited, open-hearted truth.

What is your truth? What is your story?

Speak it, sing it, write it, paint it, create it. The world needs your contribution.

The world needs you.

Photo credit: The Strangers Project

 

My First Week in Yoga Teacher Training

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I’ve embarked on an 8-week Yoga Teacher Training course. Yes, embarked, as in it will be a great voyage.

I hope to share my experiences with you as I travel this new and fascinating path. It’s a bit uncomfortable for me, as I usually prefer writing about my experiences after the fact. After I’ve got it all figured out and compartmentalized and ready to share.

In the spirit of stepping into the unknown, into the possible, and into the wonderful space of learning and practicing what I preach, I’m sharing a few of my thoughts and experiences from my first week of training while I’m still in the first week of training.

THE STORIES

It’s a fairly large group of yogis (about 20 or so) participating in this training. On our first day we were asked to share our story. Why we were there, what brought us to yoga.

I’ve had my own experience with the healing powers of yoga and have read about how it can cure everything from heartache to backache, but I’ve never heard a real person, sitting a few feet away from me, express how yoga had kept them alive or healed their body or become their “religion.”

Everyone had a different story. Some had been practicing for years, others not so long. As everyone told their story, we all felt there was something we could relate to in it. It was all human and all heart, and that is one strong common thread.

Listening to the stories reinforced to me the power of listening and the power of being heard.

Has anyone ever asked you for your story?

The How did you become who you are story. The Where do you want to go story.

The one where you spill your guts and free your mind.

Have you ever asked someone for their story?

While holding on to our stories can trap us, releasing our stories can free us. Releasing takes many forms, but I believe a healing component is to feel heard and to feel seen.

We cannot always fix someone’s problem or make them feel better, but we can listen to them and we can see them, as we would love to be seen and heard. When we do, we honor both the human and the being in them, and we tap into both aspects in ourselves as well.

THE PRACTICE

We all learn basic alignment from our yoga classes. The longer we practice, the more we start to think we’ve got it down pretty good. We know our yoga, we know our body.

The detail I’ve learned in just a few days has already improved my practice. Concepts that I thought I had a good grasp on before are being broken down in all their intricacies, allowing me to see their many parts in sharp relief.

They say the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. I guess that’s the process I’m going through here. Learning how to put what I feel in my body into words serves to highlight subtleties and nuances I had overlooked before.

THE PROCESS

Now that I’ve started this journey, I can’t believe I ever contemplated not starting this journey. It’s that amazing, informative, mind-blowing, and completely worthwhile.

It’s an intense but invigorating process. As we dive deeper into all aspects of yoga, external and internal, I expect to face my own mental walls, tight spots, stubborn areas, and fears. I hope to experience a breaking down of old patterns and a breaking through to what awaits me on the other side of this journey.

I Am, Therefore I Think

The challenge of a human life is to live truly free. When you realize that you are not your name, you are not any function, you are not your gender, and in truth you are not anything you can think yourself to be, you recognize the spaciousness of who you truly are. You recognize this spacious consciousness to be already free, regardless of any thought that may appear in consciousness. I am — beingness — is primary spaciousness in form. In our human form I think follows being. To discover that by stopping thinking (while remaining conscious) for only a moment is to discover yourself independent of any thought of yourself.

Thinking is natural to human creatures. Thinking is wondrous and not the problem. The problem is the conviction that who we are is who we think we are. As long as we are attached to the belief that I am who I think I am, we are attached to something that is ephemeral and subject to change, that we can actually forget. If you are willing to not think yourself, who are you? What is left when you don’t believe the thought of who you are? What if you take this moment and actually not know who you are?

In not knowing, just for a moment, you can directly discover yourself. This discovery does not arrive by thought, but by your own immediate direct experience. What is here, before every thought, after every thought and during every thought?

That fresh aliveness — that consciousness — is already here, although it may be veiled by many layers of identification with thought. Consciousness can discover itself and know itself, without needing to think itself. Then false identity is cut, and you recognize yourself to be free.

The cognitive power to create identities is important. It is the way we make sense of reality as human beings. We collect identities based on the narratives we construct around our inward and outward experiences. These collections of identities form our story of who we think we are. Stories are wonderful. But in firm allegiance to our story we lose sight of spacious open mind, uncreated by any story.

By the time I met my teacher I had a well-developed story. I was an acupuncturist and a feminist. I thought of myself as an enlightened person who could see what was true and what was real. Underneath this story of success I hadn’t found the lasting happiness I was really seeking. And so my story continued to be a story seeking an identity that would give me permanent happiness. I was seeking a happy identity through different versions (stories) of myself.

In the willingness to consciously recognize my story and stop telling it for a moment of deep contemplation, I could see that this life force, this wonder of life, the simple joy of being that was present when I was a young child, was still present! It was available for discovery because it is always here. It is the silent core that all stories radiate from.

How can you make that same discovery? First there must be a willingness to overhear the ongoing narrative that defines you. We are aware of the end result of our narratives: I am a happy person, or I am a sad person; I am a success, or I am a failure. But often we are unaware that daily, hourly, we generate and live our own narrative. The narrative may seem simply like a commentary on reality. But actually it is an interpretation of reality, a version of reality. Without making that narrative right or wrong, we can discover what is closer than the narrative.

Before we are storytellers or thinkers we are conscious beings. We are aware that I am. And that awareness is underneath all stories.

In the discovery that life is aware of itself as consciousness, you are naked to yourself, not fooled by the cloaking devices of your narrative. You recognize the truth of yourself. Then, if it is appropriate that you act a certain way, or you repress or express a certain emotion, that is the play of life. You are not fooling yourself. In truth, you are naked, awake consciousness. You are. I am.

Gangaji’s newest book, Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, was published by Penguin Tarcher in 2011, and is now available in paperback. Gangaji has been awarded the 2012 Best in Print Award for Auto/Biographical Writing by COVR (the Coalition of Visionary Resources).

Gangaji’s new radio show, A Conversation with Gangaji, was launched on Oct. 12. Each month, for 30 minutes, Gangaji and radio show host Hillary Larson will address subjects like addiction, chronic pain, intimacy, depression, anxiety, enlightenment, integrity, death and many others, offering the possibility to listeners across the globe to find freedom in their everyday challenges, and live free and fulfilled lives.

photo by: Atilla1000

The Pregnancy Scare – How I Found My Voice to Demand Respect

There is nothing quite like a trip to the laundry room at 2 AM. Especially if you are tripping barefoot through dewy grass, under guava trees, past a tire swing. Especially if you are burning between the legs and carrying reeking sheets in a massive, infuriating bundle. You will never forget this one, sister.

For two months I thought I was pregnant. “Thought” is too subtle. I dreamt in horrifying wakefulness, every passing minute a sharp reminder. I’m too young. I have no idea how to be a mom. Have a child with that brute? Dear God, no. The days tore through me as I wandered around, disembodied. My belly, my legs, my beating heart – they became possessed, first in my mind and later in the heavy discomfort that literally weighed me down. It was a long, bloodless summer.

I have never been raped. But they say one in four women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. This fear has called on me. First when my beloved clutched my neck and showed me just how strong those muscles were. I forced his arm away and held my tongue until…a more appropriate moment. “I’m sorry,” he later said, sheepishly. “I thought you wanted that.” I was left to comfort and assure him all was well. Next time I want to be surprise-strangled in the midst of tender love, I’ll make my desires known loud and clear. Asshole.

Excuses come to mind…. I’m not a prude. It was an honest mistake. He felt really, really bad. And then I marvel at my eagerness to explain his behavior away. It must, after all, be my fault. Part of me still believes this. What wretched girlfriend would so mindlessly mislead her man and cause him the pain of embarrassment? My neck aside, curse the woman who would ever wound a man’s pride. And, to be honest, I’ve kept my mouth shut through worse.

Fear came knocking next on the indigo latch door of a hut in rural New Zealand where was I staying during a 3-month solo backpacking trip. The pillow from which I awoke daily to falling guava pits now accommodated two heads. Months had passed in the span of days, and I reluctantly welcomed an unlikely companion into my fairy house. I had vacillated between disgust and intrigue. His eager, forward advances, flowers on my door, accentuated brushes past one another in the kitchen. The whole seduction at once nauseated and thrilled me.

In truth, I saw it coming. The festive air of night, the dancing, the liquor, my own brilliant and sensual self-awareness. When I finally closed the door of my little hut, I knew it wouldn’t stay shut for long. He came to me like a fugitive, calling gently at first, then stealing in eagerly.

Events spiraled in a wild, painful frenzy. I lost my footing on some astral ledge and slipped through the next minutes in terrifying confusion, trying to keep up. He didn’t notice. He did exactly what he had come to the fairy hut to do. For a sliver of time I existed only as an enveloping cosmic hole. A vessel into which the frantic lover might dump all his longing, his rage, his memories, his guilt, his sensitivity, his insecurity and his hunger. And it was my responsibility to let him do so.

I lay still for a moment, used up. In the past I might have turned to my side and fallen numbly asleep. But rage slowly devoured me. I sat up and faced him, as I had never done a sweetheart before. Words fell like poison from my dry mouth: How dare you? You miserable, pathetic excuse of a man. How dare you abuse me in this way. His shame sickened me. The panic in his eyes, the clammy palms, the hasty retreat.

The crisp night was a welcome relief from my hut, once so lovely and solitary and girlish. My arms laden with sheets, at least I was free. Back to sweet solitude. Back to the night and me. Who knew what the morning would bring? But for the next few dark hours I was free in my fiery, impassioned rage. Free and fierce and licking my own wounds.

In the end, I wasn’t pregnant. But there also wasn’t any blood for the rest of the summer. And my body didn’t feel like my own for nearly a year after the fact.  At least it would never be his again. We agreed to forget the night. As though I could forget, as though I would want to forget. How, after all, could I then raise my future daughters to know the power they hold within their bodies, and the great and terrible responsibility it is to be a woman?

That night will always exist in my archives. And the fear I have tasted, the rage and shame, too. Sixteen and twenty are fond memories, but I would shrink from visiting those eras again. That girl has mountains and friends and new ideas to comfort her now. She knows that her mind and her beauty and her soul are nothing short of holy, and should be treated as such.

By sharing our memories with the intent to inspire and not to frighten, the girls of our past selves and of the future heal and reclaim their power. After all, there is so much to look forward to. The air is still sweet and fresh after dark, and I still welcome the hope of new love. Somewhere beyond the moss and vines, true freedom awaits. And it will find a fierce, warm, and intoxicating home in my arms.

A Five Point Plan for Maximum Impact

Photo credit: Lili Rahmati
Photo credit: Lili Rahmati

Thanks to the brilliant campaign sponsored by the generous folks at Gold Peak Tea, one lucky individual stands to win $100,000 so that they can take a year off to do whatever they wish – pretty amazing stuff and definitely the opportunity of a lifetime!  As a response to Mallika’s recent call to fellow Intent-ers to share their ideas assuming someone from the community might be lucky enough to win, I’ve been fantasizing about what this scenario would look, taste and feel like for me.  At first, so many things rushed through my mind that the exercise became quite overwhelming. But after allowing the thoughts to simmer down a bit, I’ve identified five distinct opportunities for allocating the winnings (both time and money) in a way which would create huge impact and fulfillment.

I have to admit that I found this exercise to be a little bit alarming, but also very enlightening. Instinctively, most of my initial thoughts about how to use the prize resources had little to do with myself and instead were almost completely focused on how to support others whether they were causes, organizations, individuals, etc.  Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I did become aware that I was perpetuating an all too familiar pattern of female behavior which is based upon always playing the role of dedicated nurturer, caretaker, and being the one who provides comfort and succor, etc.

It’s part of our biology to know how to readily give to others, but when it comes to ourselves, we often don’t know how to receive (from ourselves or from others). I can only speak for myself, and I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations. I’m sure there are many women who can be classified as outliers compared to this typical model of behavior. That said, I think that the conversations that we have with one another — whether in person or online –tend to lend support to the fact that women need to learn how to take better care of themselves so they can be better equipped to care for or give to others.

Once I allowed myself to become more comfortable with the concept of including myself as a recipient of the winnings, I was able to craft a solid vision of what life would look like and the impact and fulfillment which could result, both for me directly as well as for those who I want to help/support.

1) Self-care: This is an area of my life that needs a lot of attention. I’m lucky to have a thriving business (which gives me immense personal and professional satisfaction), but being an entrepreneur is hard work and I often am left feeling physically, emotionally and mentally spent. I realize that it is essential to allocate time and money to incorporate regular self-care rituals into my life. These involve yoga, meditation, nature hikes/walks as well as massages and other wellness practices.

2)  Photography: In recent years I’ve discovered the creative passion in my life which is photography. I usually shoot on film and print in the traditional darkroom, but recently I’ve incorporated digital photography into my repertoire as well. I would love to create the space for my own darkroom (or pre-pay for an entire year’s worth of rental darkroom time). I’d also use the additional resources to upgrade my camera equipment and bump up my inventory of film cartridges, media cards, etc.

3) Social Interaction/Quality Time: I score pretty high when it comes to spending quality time with my immediate family and a few close friends, but there’s a gaping hole in my life when it comes to spending time with my other friends, relatives and colleagues (even though we don’t live that far from one another). Putting forth the effort to have quality interactions with people we already know is not only fulfilling but also a huge component of our emotional wellness.

4) Travel:  Throughout my life travel has been a natural part of my existence, so much so that as an adult I truly identify myself as a world citizen. Every opportunity to travel is a chance to learn something new, and as a result my life is enriched in ways which I could never have anticipated. I often travel for pleasure, but if I had a year off and $100,000, the travel would be more purpose-driven. I envision incorporating my photography with my travels in a way that would tell stories of where I’ve been, who I’ve met and what I’ve learned. Or perhaps it would enable me to give a much needed voice to those who otherwise may not have one. Whether domestic or international, the opportunities for connecting with others in meaningful and impactful ways are endless and I would seize upon as many as I could.

5) Philanthropy: I’ve always felt the need to have a clear sense of purpose in terms of my place in the world. Although I haven’t always been connected with exactly what that meant, the older and more experienced I become, the more I’ve been able to craft a precise vision of how I want to affect positive change.

Philanthropy is an essential part of my current life and within the context of a life-changing event such as the Gold Peak Tea campaign, the opportunities for philanthropic giving and being of service would be hugely magnified. Aside from having the time to volunteer for causes near and dear to my heart, the ability to make direct targeted contributions to causes, social enterprises and traditional non-profits would be at the top of my agenda. Whether it’s through providing a scholarship to a girl in a US high school who plans to study math/finance or business in University or supporting a crowd-funding campaign for a non-profit which addresses the basic health and hygiene needs of girls and women (in developing countries) so that they can pursue their education, undoubtedly there are numerous ways to make a meaningful, sustainable and life-altering impact. From my perspective, being philanthropic and cause-driven is immeasurably meaningful and rewarding, and I look forward to a lifetime of service and philanthropic giving.

What would you do if you had $100,000 to take a year off?

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