Connecting the dots

I like themes because they’re fun and help me be intentional. Jim Henson themed party? Yes, please! Toilet themed picture series? Of course. Theme years? A must.

I turn 36 today and decided that the theme for this year is connecting the dots. Last year was personal development, which consisted of devouring all kinds of books from the library, turning the eye inward and living my purpose every day. Letting go of last year’s theme is proving more painful than I would have imagined; as if letting go means I don’t value personal development anymore. That’s not true. Letting go just means making space to focus on connecting the dots!

If every impactful person//book//speech//experience in my life is a dot, what picture is formed if I connect them all? That is what I hope to discover this year.

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Summertime

When I listen to Bryan Adams my ego screams, “Guilty pleasure!” at best and “Shame!” at worst. Sometimes when I’m in the car and “Summer of 69” comes on the radio, the inside of me rocks out and feels it, while to drivers around me who may be (but are probably not) looking at me, I’m totally cool—this song is nbd. Clearly I’m still in the process of embracing my love for mainstream music. I’ll get there.

So yeah, summer is here. The solstice earlier this week makes it official. This is the part of the year I love, so much that I wish I could slow down time. I see evidence of life emerging everywhere; the blooming cherry tree in front of my home; the

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Cherries

community garden on my block; blooming flowers everywhere. With friends too, we emerge from winter hibernation and enjoy summer together, in parks and on patios. SUMMER IS MY FAVORITE.

Surprisingly, I find staying in the moment during this season challenging. When I am enjoying something quintessentially summer, my brain cuts in with, “The days are only getting shorter from here on out!” What a buzz kill, right?

I decided to make an 80’s summer songs playlist. It emulates the feeling summer gives me and will help me practice owning the absolute love I have for some of the songs of my childhood. Neither childhood nor summer is meant to last forever, so I’ve resolved to savor the season and let it go when it’s time.

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Garden

Inspiring individual spotlight: Kristin Rand

Kristin-64Kristin Rand is a comedian, but let’s not confine her to that label, because she’s also an amazing human being who radiates a positive energy that’s intoxicating and uplifting to be around. Rand is based in LA, go see her if you’re in the area! She was kind enough to answer some questions for us:

How long have you been doing comedy?

Seven to eight years now. It wasn’t until 2011 that I started doing it every night.

Who are your professional and personal role models? What is it about each one that resonates with you?

RuPaul is my everything- a role model both professionally and personally. RuPaul is so wise, spiritually-centered, and genuine. He’s a student of life and exemplifies that when we come from a place of authenticity and curiosity and we let go of fear of judgement, we are free. He believes in magic, self expression, and self love and he promotes that message unfailingly.

Ugh, i can’t even express the love i have for him. ❤

What advice do you have for young women who want to be stand-up comedians?

Do it! The easiest part of this is the beginning. I believe if someone wants to start doing comedy, that pull toward the stage is there for a reason. In the beginning there is no bigger picture, there is no end game- performing in and of itself is the goal. It’s so pure in that way. If it’s something you end up being really good at, you’re going to have to work your ass off but hopefully you’ll be so in love with it that the effort never feels like work. I guess my only advice is to stay in your joy. That’s the important thing.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

I sleep with an eye mask on- so sometimes, i’ll try and keep the eye mask on and focus on my heart beat and on my breath. Gentleness in the morning is the sweetest thing! Structuring your morning so you can have the luxury of taking your time is priceless. Once I’m out of bed, the first thing I do is check the weather for the day and select my outfit accordingly. 🙂

What’s the last thing you do before going to sleep?

I read a meditation from a book called 99 visions by Jessica Snow. Lately I’ve been reading them to my boyfriend over the phone while he’s out of town, I think it’s a really lovely way to share something sacred.

Sometimes I’ll watch nature documentaries like Life or Planet Earth, I find them so incredibly soothing.

Do you consider yourself spiritual? If so, what do you do to encourage your own spiritual growth?

Yes. Very. I think I’m always learning what i have to do to encourage my growth, you know? I think that’s a beautiful aspect of life. That we’re always learning. Life teaches you how to live it if you pay attention. I absolutely need to be around nature, taking walks and going on hikes and going camping — communing with nature is a must. Nature is a powerful teacher. I also need time alone, the last 2-3 years, I’ve fallen so in love with stillness and quiet. There’s a lot to learn in the spaciousness of silence.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to living?

Love is the answer. ❤

Say yes to everything. Try everything once (or twice). Fuck up. Make mistakes. I’ve done so many stupid things I don’t regret a single one of them. Life is light and shadow dancing together. Shamelessly nurture your well-being, explore every curiosity, be TRULY open to learning. I think life is about learning how to love ourselves.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to dying?

I believe energy changes forms but it’s still there. My mom feels her mother every time she finds a penny.

Sometimes, there is something about the breeze that feels like presence.

Describe the last time you felt inspired.

I mean, Beyonce’s Lemonade was phenomenal. What a stunning testament to the power of artistic collaboration. The poems of Warsan Shire were my favorite part. And Ali Wong’s comedy special Baby Cobra on Netflix is so great. She’s 7 months pregnant in a tight little dress and flats and she’s talking about pooping in public and she’s humping the ground and it’s hysterical. I can’t wait to see what she does next, I think being a mom will inspire her next special. Both of these examples, I want Beyonce and Ali’s children to look back at their moms and see how f*cking powerful they are.

What are you grateful for these days?

I’ve been seeing so many butterflies and hummingbirds lately. grateful that i get to witness such delicate things.

Grateful for my family, for my beloved, for my friendships.

For smoked gouda and crackers and grapes. For the fact that i have a cozy bed. This can go on forever. Not to brag, but I’m very good at gratitude.

What are you working on letting go of these days?

What others want from/for me. I can’t please everyone. I want to be able to stay true to myself and let go of whatever “expectations” exist.

What funny book do you recommend?

Sober Stick Figure by my friend Amber Tozer. She’s an amazing writer and its a really great and funny book.

What funny movie do you recommend?

I really don’t like movies with guns, but Nice Guys did make me laugh. Ryan Gosling was really great.

Is there anything else you’d like people you’ve never met to know about you?

One of my passions is reading tarot cards. I like to read people’s cards to empower them and help lower any walls of resistance toward love. If you want a reading from me, find me on facebook and let me know! I can even do readings over the phone.

Also I love french bulldogs if anyone has a spare dog sitting around, I’ll take it off your hands. 🙂

Find Kristin:13086791_1122795321105129_116865546819352339_o

@krandomthoughts on Twitter

@krandemonium on Instagram

www.kristinrand.com

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Compassion is the answer

I know trauma has been normalized because I don’t remember the moment—excuse me—moments, when I heard about Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Virginia Tech. In a few years, I probably won’t remember that I heard about Orlando upon returning from a camping trip. However, I can remember the morning of September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. Mass trauma was harder to come by back then. Even though it had only been about two years since Columbine, I remember experiencing shock when I heard what happened to the Twin Towers. I was in college and I remember going to class and everyone on campus was moving through space in a dreamlike state. My professor recapped what had happened in New York City and dismissed us early. I wandered around, not knowing exactly how to process what was happening in our country.

15 years later and I still struggle with processing the news of such violent acts. Unfortunately, I no longer experience shock when I hear about mass killings. This is a big deal. We are living in a state of ongoing trauma. And when there is trauma, there tends to be fear. And fear has the exquisite ability to disguise itself as anger and hate, begetting more violent acts. We are stuck in a cycle. It’s like we’re on the playground wheel that spins around; we want to get off because we’re starting to feel sick, but the thought of releasing our grasp from the bar summons a scary sensation.

On the wheel, we think in “us vs. them” terms; we are paralyzed by fear and stop going out; we don’t feel safe at our workplace or schools; we are filled with righteous indignation; the blame game is prevalent. So,why do we insist on staying on the wheel? Is it because the wheel is what we know? As nauseating as it may be, it’s familiar to us.

Getting everyone to jump off the wheel at once is probably impossible, so here’s what I propose: one by one, we muster up the courage to take the leap. For me, this means continuing to go out to public events, even though the possibility of a mass shooting exists. It means embracing the compassion that rises up in me after an event like Orlando and carrying it forward with me. Sogyal Rinpoche talks about what we can do when we are exposed to the suffering of the world through news outlets. I feel his advice is very much relevant to us now:

Any one of these sights could open the eyes of your heart to the fact of vast suffering in the world. Let it. Don’t waste the love and grief it arouses; in the moment you feel compassion welling up in you, don’t brush it aside, don’t shrug it off and try quickly to return to “normal,” don’t be afraid of your feeling or embarrassed by it, don’t allow yourself to be distracted from it or let it run aground in apathy. Be vulnerable: use that quick, bright uprush of compassion; focus on it, go deep into your heart and meditate on it, develop it, enhance, and deepen it. By doing this you will realize how blind you have been to suffering, how the pain that you are experiencing or seeing now is only a tiny fraction of the pain of the world. All beings, everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them all in spontaneous and immeasurable compassion, and direct that compassion, along with the blessing of all the Buddhas, to the alleviation of suffering everywhere. Compassion is a far greater and nobler thing than pity.

Compassion is not easy, but it’s necessary. And I think that paired with courage, it’s our ticket off this nightmare of a spinning wheel we’re on. 

Hard habit to break

For the past 10 days I’ve limited my time on Instagram and Facebook to 10 minutes total each day; I literally set an alarm and close everything out when it goes off. Limiting my time online is something I’m doing as part of the creativity challenge I’m participating in this month—the idea is that in order to make space for creativity to bloom, my day needs to be free of distractions (which abound online) and habits that eat up time that could be used creating. For the first few days of my self-inflicted limit, 10 minutes flew by and I found myself habitually reaching for my phone to check-in on what each of the apps’ feeds had to offer me.

IMG_9069My awareness of the reach made me able to stop it; almost like I was able to watch my hand reach for my phone in slow motion, and my brain redirected my hand, reminding it, “We’re replacing phone time with reflection or creation, remember?!”

I started thinking about habits in general—how pervasive and powerful they are, which makes sense because they work on a neurological level. I’ve been in awe of our human brains for as long as I can remember; I posted the John Milton quote on my bedroom door when I was in high school, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” It’s so expansive and complex! The reptilian part of our brain is mighty and essential—it keeps us alive, but can also hijack our thoughts, causing us to fear the simple act of being separated from our loved ones (catastrophe thoughts, anyone?). The basal ganglia is a part of the reptilian brain and stores habits. This small golf ball sized oval of cells is where my habit of reaching for my phone is stored, along with other automatic behaviors I don’t have to think about (tying my shoes, brushing my teeth, pouring water from a pitcher, etc.). I suppose I’m working on dismantling some old habits and forming new ones this month. Sure, habits are powerful, but they can also be reshaped. And I’m a firm believer that any habit that isn’t serving you is a habit worth changing.

A key to changing a habit is identifying the trigger or cue that initiates it. In the case of me reaching for my phone, the cue is a lull in activity or a transition from one activity to another. Next, replacing the habit with a more desirable behavior is needed. Instead of reaching for my phone, I reach for my journal and spend a few minutes jotting ideas down or reflecting. Lastly, the replacement activity must be satisfying to me, I must identify the benefit and view it as a reward, for the new habit to stick.

So much of our lives are made up of habits! By definition, a habit is something we don’t have to think about when we do it. What habitual thoughts or behaviors of yours are no longer serving you?

Clients: Do you have a specific habit you’d like to change? If so, bring it up during our next call or email connect.

Small talk

While the nation shakes its collective fist at TSA for failing to get passengers through security in a timely fashion, I found myself staring down one TSA man in particular during my most recent travel. In what was most likely an attempt to seem charming and personal, this TSA worker was greeting travelers as they waited for their IDs and boarding passes to be checked. “Where are you headed?” was his opener, and then small talk ensued, based on the traveler’s answer.

He asked a little girl in front of me where she was going, and when she said “Florida,” he replied, “Well then you should be smiling.” Okay, so this response might seem innocent and like no big deal (it’s just small talk, right?), but I happen to believe that nobody has the right to tell another how they SHOULD be feeling or expressing themselves.

A potential lesson the little girl learned from this interaction filled with subtle shaming (any time “should” is used, there’s a degree of shame involved):

How you actually feel doesn’t matter, it’s important to appear happy and pleasant.

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The small talk we choose can make the skies friendly for young people to soar

Many of us might be guilty of saying something similar to a young person; “Smile!”; “This is fun, stop taking yourself so seriously!”; “This is not the end of the world, get over it.”; “When I was your age, I loved making new friends,” and so on. The thing is, what seems like small talk to us has the potential to make a lasting impression on a young person. I propose we stop being lazy small talkers and take the time and energy to really see and listen to the young people in our lives. I’m confident that if we do this, it will benefit their mental health and sense of self.