Secrets to Unlocking Mindfulness in { Not So } Secret Urban Gardens.

{ RMSC Gardens. Clockwise from Left: Tulips that smell of juicy-juice. Primrose herb. Lungwort herb. The RMSC Herb Garden is my favorite secret getaway in Rochester. }

BREATHE IN.

The RMSC Herb Garden

BREATHE OUT.

No science. No stats. No scholarly articles. While documented proof exists, I have none to offer to substantiate this post. Which is exactly proof enough for why mindfulness works! { See that logic trip I took you on. } This mindful-gurus, I’m sure, you already know. Mindfulness — living within the present moment + practicing sustained awareness of our senses, feelings, thoughts, + sensations { my definition } — is an ancient art, lifestyle, + method of healing that increases quality of life.

Guaranteed.

By me. I guarantee it. My personal testimony??

  • The Illest. I have at least 3, arguably 4, chronic illnesses.
    • 1 is incredibly highly stigmatized, + while I do talk about it, I won’t name it here because of its misunderstood qualities.
    • 3 others are: migraine, hypothyroid, and anxiety { if you want to separate it from the above }
    • 2 food allergies: gluten + a corn. { I miss you, popcorn. }
  • The Memoir. To know the rest? Read my memoirs. They will be published. ‘Til then…
    • 2008: Had to drop out of grad school at Columbia, for which I had a scholarship, due to severe chronic illness.
    • 2011: Decided not to be a teacher { identity crisis! }, snubbed a $50+G education, + found a way to rebrand myself.
    • 2012: Got physically assaulted … and then I got in { big } trouble for it … before I didn’t.
    • 2014: Worst year of my life. 2 lay-offs was the least of it.
    • 2015: Hospitalized due to chronic illness.

This timeline doesn’t include life’s “regular” ups-and-downs, like changes in friends, relationship woes, money, apartment life, moving, and spending $1,000s on doctors and healthcare { which, okay, I guess isn’t totally “regular,” }. Prescriptions, M.D.s, G.P.s, therapy, yoga, acupuncture, exercise, eating healthy, vitamins, supplements. There is a lot I do to maintain my physical, mental, emotional, + spiritual health, and because of that, I lead a { somewhat } “normal” life.

  • Career Woman. I’m a Lady Boss who gives advice to other Lady & Men Bosses!
    • Over the past 4 years, in spite of the above, I’ve gained success as a Career Advisor in the government, non-profit, and corporate sectors … even though I deceptively looking 18.
  • Writer About Town.  Projects, risk-taking, humility, + learning-on the go.
  • Financially Independent. This might sound simple but recall …
    • I spend $1,000s/year { in addition to the most expensive health insurance I can buy } on doctors + healthcare.
    • And I have crazy grad school loans with a job that doesn’t require a graduate degree { put 2+ 2 together }.
    • Plus, with the # of chronic illnesses I’ve incurred, financial independence is { a huge f-ing struggle } pretty remarkable.

Trust me. Mindfulness works.

Without Mindfulness, I wouldn’t be Me. The bright, bubbly, resilient, innovative, silly, effervescent, energetic Barbara Ellen that you know. Without Mindfulness, I’d be a shell. And probably a Victim. By adding Mindfulness to my health repertoire and lifestyle, I’ve become even healthier despite the past few turbulent years. Take a look:

Always On the Mend. My health, though chronic, has vastly improved:

  • 3-day all-out, debilitating migraines that happened 1/month for 4 straight years have all but ceased { woohoo!!! }.
  • 4-6 regular Rx medicines have decreased by about 50%.
  • 15 lbs lost over the past 2 years.

Mindfulness is an-all-in-1 spa, gym, + detox
for your mind, body, + soul. 

Mindfulness requires commitment, don’t get me wrong. Commitment in terms of minutes { you will have to consciously + constantly redirect yourself } as well as days + months. Just like resume writing + interviewing, no one is naturally good at Mindfulness; Mindfulness is a skill, + it requires regular practice. Which is good news! Because — Phew! — pressure’s off. With Mindfulness, you never, ever, ever, ever have to be … perfect. { 4 letter word. }

Here’s how it works!

You can practice Mindfulness all day, erry’day. To get started, pick-up Buddhist Monk + Nobel Peace Prize nominee Tich Nhat Hanh’s collection “Peace Begins Here,”. This was my 1st introduction to + practice with Mindfulness { thanks to a solidly progressive Creative Writing course my senior year at Pitt }. Until then … Here is what you do.

  1. Find a { Not So } Secret Garden. Big cities. Small Cities. Non-cities. They. Are. Everywhere. Promise. When I lived in Manhattan, both Central + Riverside Parks where very not-so-secret, but they also had idyllic secret nooks once you explored. Rochester has a ton! Here are 3 within 2 miles:
    • First Unitarian Church of Rochester. 220 S. Winton Rd., Rochester, NY 14610. They have gardens + meditative walking mazes, + anyone can enjoy them.
    • Rochester Museum & Science Center Herb Garden. 657 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14607. Herbs, tulips, rose bushes, flowering trees, benches, side gardens, + lots of green grass for walking, picnicking, sports playing, dog walking, jogging, meditating, + relaxing.
    • Historic Gardens at Eastman Museum. 900 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14607. Almost right across the street from RMSC, Eastman Museum has gardens for passersby, tours for those who want history, + Garden Vibes summer concerts 1 Wednesday each month, June-August.
  2. Just Breathe. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Repeat. Since you have to breathe anyway — might as well hone + harness it. Instead of just oxygenating your lungs, think about the idea of oxygenating every single cell in your entire body. 2 simple steps:
    • Pause. As soon as you arrive to a comfortable spot within the garden, plant your feet. Look around. Notice the color of the sky. Feel the air. Smell nature. Pause and breathe normally. Say to yourself, At this moment in this time, all I have to do is breathe. And then, when you breathe as per usual with your normal breath, feel proud that you have accomplished all you need to accomplish. Feel proud that you have nothing more to do in this very moment.
    • Slow Down. Once you have enjoyed a few regular breaths, let your breath slow down. Do not force your mind or body to slow. Allow your slowed breath to be a natural guide for the rest of your body. Slow your breath in whatever way feels most comfortable. I like to start by inhaling a bit slower + deeper and pausing at the top of the inhale; and then exhaling with the goal of releasing more slowly than I inhaled, and pausing again at the bottom of my exhale.
  3. Let Go. Release your thoughts. Stay present in this moment. Easily the most intimidating part of “mindfulness,” as this part starts to invoke meditation. But both are actually very easy + natural once you try:
    • No Pressure. The goal of letting go, and so meditation, is not to be free of thoughts. It is to be free of the burden of thoughts. Practicing letting go, and therefore meditation, is actually quite freeing because all you’re doing is granting yourself permission to … let go. To say no. To say, Thought, I see you, and I hear you, and I say goodbye to you. Let thoughts come into your mind. In fact, welcome thoughts to do so. The more thoughts that enter, the more practice you have saying good bye.
    • Visualize. Most of us will vastly struggle with letting go of thoughts, at first. A happy bridge to full-meditation is the prop of visualization and/or mantras: both will help you say goodbye to thoughts. What do you visualize? Nothing. Because you visualize your breath. Focus on the air, the space between. Focus on a part of your body that needs more breath. Breathe to this space. If this doesn’t work, try a mantra. What do you say? Something very simple. Positive. Truthful. I am safe + secure. Flowers are beautiful, just like me. Sunshine feels happy. I believe in my values, + I believe in me. Say the same phrase over + over + over, again. Promise, you won’t be thinking 1 thing.

According to Tich Nhat Hanh, this is called Walking Meditation. You can do it anywhere. A room in your apartment. The pavement on the street. Halls at work. Aisles of the grocery store. Walking Meditation, + so Mindfulness, can be achieved anywhere we step foot.

I hope you enjoy trying. Let me know what you think!

#mindfulness

#bepresent

#belocal.

Shop Like an Urban Local: Farmer’s Market Tips You Don’t Know … Yet.

{ What are your Saturday plans?! Check out your local Public Market + come back with a haul like this. Shout out to Heather Saffer + her frosting empire, better known as Dollop Frosting! }

FARMER’S MARKETS

The Rochester. Public. Market.

AND EVERYTHING YOU DON’T KNOW.

I think by now — in this age of Farm-to-Table, Save Money, + Organic/Local Eating — we all know:

It’s the whole: haggle, baggle { bring your own tote }, shop around, find a tomato-guy spiel. Done + done. So whether you’re an O.G. of the underground or a Late Bloomer, I’m going to share some tips you might not know.

The pay-off?
Guaranteed, you will have more fun + find more value.
You will become 1 with the experience of your local Public and/or Farmer’s Market
.

Last Saturday, I walked to the Rochester Public Market. I bought over 1 lb of locally raised ground beef, 1 dozen locally raised free range eggs, 5 lemons, 1 bunch of kale, 1 pint of cherries, 4 sweet potatoes, 1 eggplant, + I had a free tasting of locally made O’Begley’s whiskey … all for $23. Best part? I made friends + had an adventure doing it. Here’s how:

  1. Off the Beaten Path. Take the Road Less Traveled. Urban living, or not, chances are most of us live within walking distance to our local farmer’s markets. If so, don’t just walk — Explore.
    • Live a Little. I live in the NOTA section of Rochester, which means I’m probably .5 miles away from at least 5 ways to get to the Rochester Public Market. Taking the straight-and-narrow is just too damn bland.
    • Free Stuff. Last Saturday, I discovered 2 different Little Free Libraries on 2 different side streets. I even took a book!
    • Pretty Sites. I also imbibed the sites of quirky houses, colorful gardens, + cute cobblestone paths.
  2. Don’t be a Wallflower. Be Part of the Community. At the Public Market, you are family. Shoppers, farmers, sellers, buyers: it’s one big family festival of sights + sounds, tastes + smells.
    • Step Out. Crowds can overwhelm me, so last Saturday I was very guarded at first. Which is just fine! But so many cool things happened once I opened my face to the sun.
    • Talk to Strangers. I complimented a young lady on her gorgeous locks. As I walked away, she shouted to back to compliment my crazy curls! We both felt thrilled. Right after, another passerby chimed-in — That was really nice! — when she saw me pick up a stray piece of litter that swooped in front of my feet. Talk about friendly.
    • Support our Troops + Community. On the way out, I met a Vet who was giving away paper Poppy’s in request for a donation. He was sweet, funny, + he served our country. What can be more fulfilling than that?
  3. Be Curious, Not Cheap. You Don’t Always Have to HaggleThat is right. You don’t. Especially if you don’t feel comfortable, and especially if prices are already super low. Instead …
    • No Middle Man. Ask questions. Did you know that the woman who supplies all of Wegmans with their eggs has a stand at the Public Market?? Yup. She and her 700,000 { ! } chickens sell lots of eggs, including free-range, for near-half the price you’d find at the super market.
    • Local Meat. Same story for local meat from local farms. After asking some questions on quality, locality, and prices from the people at Heiden Valley Farms, I left with 1 fresh package of never-frozen, locally raised 80/20 ground beef. At these prices, it should be the only type of meat I eat. { Life goals. }
    • Seasonal Produce. Not every single last fruit + veg at your local public/farmer’s market will be from your surrounding area. And that’s okay! But, if you ask the right questions — you’ll discover that this California Kale will soon { 1 month } be replaced by locally grown NYS kale that was recently planted.
  4. Enjoy Yourself. Make Grocery Shopping Fun. The Rochester Public Market can do this. And yours can too. In fact, most public markets are more like festivals than they are chores. That’s because:
    • Brunch. You can grab gourmet, fresh coffee along with breakfast sandwiches and other brunch dishes for quick + for cheap.
    • Dine Solo. It’s super easy to still have a meal and some downtime, even when you are alone. Last Saturday, I grabbed a latte + a chair so I could sit + read before beginning my shopping spree.
    • Free Tastings. If your market is anything like ours’ here in Rochester, there’s going to be wine + liquor, and it’s going to be free. This past Saturday I tasted O’Begley’s locally made Poitin + Whiskey for the 1st time. It was great. And it was cool to learn about the product from the distiller, himself!

If you’re going to Shop Local, might as well do it like a Local. Which means laying down roots, having fun even if there’s no sun, falling in love with your City and Community, + saving a ton of green.

#RochesterPublicMarket.

#shoplocal.

The Call of Shop Local Seduces.

{ City View at the Strathallan … on my 31st birthday! }

HEY FRANDS

shop.local.

HOW I’VE MISSED YOU

The call of Shop Local is something like the Call of the Sirens — all of the intoxicating, none of the danger: and at the end of the journey — you just can’t stay away. 

BESL has been on sabbatical for over 1 year! Shop Local, on the other hand: anything but. Since I’ve been absent, beautiful, bountiful, + incredible Buy Local Shop Small Support Local blogs, initiatives, events, businesses, camaraderies  — you name it — have abounded.

here are just a few:

*(585) Mag

*Sir Rocha Says

*Explore Rochester

*Exploring Upstate

*Harts Local Grocers

*HypeBooth

*IRocPolkaDots

*RocGirlGang

*The Rochesteriat

*Transit Apparel

*Yelp Rochester

Why did BESL cease? For many reasons. But, quite frankly, while BESL absolutely did { and will continue to } promote Shop Local — BESL truly focused on Barbara Ellen’s Shop Local. Not Rochester’s. It’s true! No shame. No worries. And so, as we Take 2, BESL will stay true to her roots by honing the true spirit behind her namesake.

Our newest chapter explores just that:

Barbara Ellen’s Adventures with Everything Shop Local

So let’s get down to business. And let me be completely transparent. { Because Barbara Ellen don’t got pasty, pale skin for nothing … } . Here is the plan:

Structure: Post once/week. { To start. Hey — gotta start somewhere. }

Promotions: Instagram + Twitter, for now. { Let’s have some fun! Follow me: @babsiell. }

Content: 2 main themes —

  1. Adventures of Barbara Ellen Shopping Local. { Yas. }
  2. And Barbara Ellen’s Spiritual Journies. { Because, above all else, this is the heart + soul of it. }

Goal: BESL has the same exact goals as the tenants of Shop Local. To:

  • Share
  • Explore
  • Express
  • Sustain

Can’t wait to take some wild + fancy free Adventures with all of you.

To the SIrens.

To #Roc.

To #shoplocal.