Swan Song. … Not.

SWAN

{ except it’s not, because … }

SONG

{ I Can’t Keep Quiet I am naive. I know this. I am too nice. I know this too. People can’t take me seriously. I get it. But what I do not get is any City’s Clique Problem. Follow My Lead. }

Top 10 11 Reasons why Cliques are Destructive to Rochester

Because Ima go Wherever I Want, When I Want,
even when you Make Fun Of Me.
Ima Ask Out Whoever I Want.
Ima Say – No Thanks – Whenever I want.
because { … }
I’m not in High School Anymore.

  1. HIGH SCHOOLGrow Up Y’all. We already made it. We do NOT need to convince ourselves or anyone else that We are “making it,“. We already have. Leave High School in High School so that, as Young Adults, we can more Fully Grow. So we can Own our Accomplishments, and truly enjoy them. Actualize our Full Potential. Please – We Deserve this. Now.
  2. BE FREEHave you ever said or thought – “I can’t go there: they don’t like me?” … As an Adult?? In your own City??? … I have … { raised hand emoji }. More than once. Tragic. This is a Tragedy. We live in the Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Stop the Madness. You can go anywhere you like. Rochester is such a Beautiful City with Incredible Intellect, Culture, + Creativity … and Food! We have some of the best, most fresh / artisanal food … nello mundo. Represent. Support your Community. Go where You Want. This is True Freedom. Our World is incredibly Oppressed. We are not. Rise Up. Rise Above. Do You. Freely. Please.
  3. INFERIORITY COMPLEXThis not US. This is not Rochester. This is Trump – our President of the United States of America. Rochester – we are far better than this, and we know it. We have Nothing to Prove to Anyone. We are our Own City, with our Own Identity + Culture. We literally, #ROC On. Literally. So what’s the deal – way do we hate on each other. We can’t we say Hi to each other or join a Cause just because we want to? … The thing is: We Can. But, I have to say, in my own experiences — whenever I try, and I don’t want to join the “tribe,” the “group,” the “crew,” or the “clique,” I get shunned. Hella. It is not right. We are Complex Human Beings with a Humanity, + we Owe it to Ourselves, or Community, + our City to more Fully Realize This. Unite.
  4. CULTURAL IDENTITYDown with “The Other.” I learned this as a student of English Literature while studying at the University of Pittsburgh. I learned this while living in Manhattan as a grad student at Teachers College, Columbia. This is a rather complex thought, so bear with me. { I know you can. You smart. }
    1. First – We as a smaller – medium sized city owe it to ourselves to harness + hone our Cultural Identity. We are trying, and we’re succeeding on the one-hand.
    2. Second – as a burgeoning city, it is okay — and in fact — we do need to look toward other city’s for an exemplar: this is just how it works. { We do not need to become that city, but we do, in fact, look up to it. Truth. } 
    3. Boston + NYC – I’m not tryna hate on Boston: I love Boston + hold it dearly to my heart. But I can attest, primarily from the testimony of 2 dear friends who hail from Boston (and 1 still live there now), that Boston is a Cliquey City. Clique-y AF. Ain’t no body makin no new friends in Boston, okay. I’m not saying that New York City is any different. But I am saying that, from my perspective + personal experience, it has been. I have an equally good friend who was born / raised / lives in Brooklyn now, and I can also say that I lived on the UWS { Duke Ellington Blvd, holler } in Manhattan for 6 months. { Which doesn’t sound like long, but it’s probably longer than you – so : respect. } New York City is the Great City it is because it melts, blends, infuses, + sets the example before anyone else. 
    4. We are #Roc. – So Rochester … who are we more similar to? A city in another state. Or a city in our home state. A city where we share a similar Hipster / Cafe / Cocktail / Culinary Culture. We, in fact, are quite similar to New York City. And NYC is it’s own force. It’s own entity. It is a True Melting Pot, + I think we — Rochester, NY — deserve some Respect, too. We absolutely do. We will not get it by being Clique-y High School. We just cannot grow in the way we need, if we are separated by Groups + Business, separated Economically + Culturally. So, Rochester, let’s Grow + Fully Actualize into our Own Cultural Identity.
  5. POVERTY, SEGREGATION, + INTEGRATION – How Dare We. How. Dare. We. … Rochester, NY has the best Public Schools in the Nation, and The Worst. Rochester, NY is Incredibly Affluent, in the Top 10 most Poverty Stricken — Extreme Poverty — Urban cities in our Great Nation. ENOUGH! NO! WE CANNOT GO ON LIKE THIS! I do not apologize for all Caps, because they are warranted. “Separate, but Equal, is Inherently Unequal,” Brown v. Board of Education, 1954. Rochester, NY cannot Grow + Thrive into the Urban Cultural Center it is with our continued Disparities. How can we expect our Community to grow when the very Cultural Scene of Rochester, NY is so separated? How. 
  6. EAST V. WEST  –  I am Over It. I am an Offender of it. Not because I graduated from an “East Side” high school { which may as well be a “West Side,” so far as farer East Side school districts are concerned, even though Irondequoit High School is a paradigm of Educational Excellence, in spite of  because of its growing Urban Population … }. Namely, because of East vs. West within the Town of Irondequoit. When I am Wrong, I Call Myself Out, First: And I am wrong to Differentiate my High School Education based upon East V. West. We all need to Call Ourselves Out, more. For the Sake of our Country; For the Sake of our Humanity. Language is Power. I concede that some Rochester Suburban School Districts out-rank others. And I contest that this is primarily a concern of anyone who has children or will soon have children attending these public schools, because — if you’re not yet — who the f. wants to pay those property taxes anyway? Come-on: ENOUGH. Enough is Enough. We are One. We All make our City Great. 
  7. MEAN GIRLS‘Nough said.
  8. HEATHERS‘Nough said.
  9. GOSSPI GIRLTotal satire of the snobby, privileged, uber wealthy NYC scene. Well, Rochester, we have our own version of this scene. And for anyone who thinks Gossip Girl — the TV series, not the book series { as I’ve not read them but know that almost every youth at the LAB School for Collaborative Studies in Chelsea, Manhattan, where I student-taught in 2007, has } — is lame, you’re right: and if you don’t think it’s Satire, you are, perhaps, missing it. Whether the creators intended for it to be, or not: it is. Learn to see yourself through others’ eyes. And then laugh.
  10. CAN’T BUY ME LOVEHave we learned nothing from Pop Culture? Let alone ’80’s movies?? { See Heathers, above. } I mean really. We can’t we ever learn from our past? The time is now. Learn. Act. Grow. Do. 
  11. #SHOPLOCALI do not Shop Local to be Cool. I am not Any Cooler than You. Everyone is Equally Cool. Only Evil is Not Cool. Okay. I Shop Local because I grew up in Poverty, until my mother went back to school to become a Chemical Engineer thereby Graduating in the Top of her Class from the University of Rochester — even as she gave birth through an Emergency Caesarian to my younger brother, who then had to be operated on at 3 days old — when I was in the 4th grade. I grew up in Poverty. Do you get that. I was shunned by almost every Teacher + ever Student in the Catholic School to which I went, until we moved to the Suburbs when I was headed into the 5th grade. I was told I was stupid. My older brother, who has a near-genius-level IQ: He was told he was Stupid. He could not read until the 4th grade, and he is the most prolific reader I know — more so than my younger brother, who has a Masters in Rhetoric from Miami University of Ohio. Do you get this. I grew up in Poverty. I was bullied every single day since the day I was born until I was 10, and beat-up almost every single day in ‘Da Hood of Rochester, NY.

This is why I Strive to Bully No One + Advocate for Everyone.
{ This is what I do in my Career, as  Career Advisor at a local non-profit. }
Do you get that. I Shop Local because it it Sustainable + Responsible.
Integrating our City is also Sustainable + Responsible.
Do Both. As Much as you Can.

Separate, but Equal, is Inherently Unequal.

My AdviceEveryone go to Lux. This is the greatest Social Melting Pot of Rochester, I have ever seen. Then think – How many people of different Socio-Economic Statues, Races, + Cultures hang in your crew??

Let’s get With It Rochester. Let’s Be Real.
Let’s Be Free.
Let’s Be One.
For the Cultural Identity of Our Community.
For our Growth.

Because Ima go Wherever I Want, When I Want, even when you Make Fun Of Me. { . . . } I’m not in High School Anymore.

Much Love,

#standforthesilent

#integrate

#LocalLegend

{ or so I’ve been told }

#weareone

#Roc.

X.

Not Your Typical Barbara Ellen … { does YouTube?? } …

HI

{ i’m back. }

{ Trying something new. … YouTube. … TBD. :  Apparently, according to my inept uploading YT skills + a trusty Google search … I have to copy my vids from a url?? So. … That works out. Because now, I can use this baby g. again. … X. }

> > Here We Go < <

Not Your Typical Barbara Ellen: Take 1

I Woke Up Like Dis.

{ … the world’s not ready for this one …}

{ … try me, loves. <3 . }

I’ll Know My Song Well Before I Start Singin’,”

{ here goes nothing, world. }

#shoplocal

#thinkglobal

#notyourtypicalbarbaraellen

X.

Live Your Best Life: How To Be You + Be Free.

{ Manhattan Square Park in Rochester, NY at Party in the Park, Thursday, 6/23. }

BE YOU

live your best life.

BE FREE.

Freedom is many things. It is an innate right, + it is incredibly oppressed. It is sought after, + it is sabotaged. It is died for, + it gives life. It is exciting, + it is terrifying. Freedom is elusive. Freedom is precious. Freedom is essential to living our best lives. Freedom should be as natural as it is innate. But Freedom, is not. Thankfully, given the right circumstances, Freedom is attainable.

Because even when we live in “lands of The Free,” our own lifestyles, emotions, thoughts, actions, relationships tear this freedom down, instead of reinforcing it. Building it up.

I’d like to share 3 tips for how I am discovering + uncovering my own freedom.

trauma can happen, + it does not have to control our freedom.

IMG_4645

Walking to Party in the Park Solo at the newly opened Inner Loop, Rochester, NY.

Helllll nah, I was not always this free. The freedom I speak of in this post? It’s been a lifetime in the making. Just recently, it’s truly spread its wings. You’re going to have to wait for the publication of my memoir{s} before fully understanding the trials + tribulations I have endured throughout my life. For now, I’m going to highlight 3 choice experiences.

The goal is to show you that trauma can happen, and it does not have to control our freedom.

1. Food By Oppression. I started counting calories around 1997, when I in the 7th grade. This evolved into carefully portioning-out my food. About 2004, the Disordered Eating manifested into an Eating Disorder my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t until 2008, when I had a major mental breakdown my 2nd semester studying graduate school at Columbia University, that I fully began to heal.

  • how does this limit freedom? Your mind, body, + soul are trapped in a set of beliefs + actions that prevent it from enjoying everything. You are riddled by guilt, shame, fear, self-hate, + a slew of other deamons that have 0 place in your heart + soul.
  • how am I doing now? Much better. I attribute this to therapy and lots + lots + lots of work on self-love. As well as the mental breakdown, because tbh y’all, my mind started itself back-up in “safe mode.” I know not all of us are lucky enough { see what I did there } to endure a mental breakdown. But for me, it truly was a beautiful thing.

2. Assaulted + Charged with Assault. April 20, 2012 I went to the Fun. concert at an establishment I will not name here, but one that has a past riddled with sketch + shade. I was with friends. Not doing drugs. I’d been drinking, but we also took a cab, + I was 27, so. Unfortunately, I’d been separated from my friends the majority of the night. Long-story-short, by the night’s end, as the concert let out, I was afraid + alone + tiny skirmishes started to break-out. That’s when a huge man came up behind me, grabbed me, + started dragging me back into the hall. I panicked. I 100% believe I was going to be raped. I struggled. Another man accosted me from the side. They beat the shit out of me. I felt excited to see the police standing before me. Until the police threw me to the ground, yanked my arms akimbo behind my back, + shoved my head through the back of a cop car. I’d been assaulted by 2 bouncers who then charged me with 3rd degree assault. I’d just been hired into a new job the day before. I lost that job. I was also per diem substitute teaching at the time. Not only did I lose those 2 teaching jobs, but apparently, when HR in education reads — 3rd Degree Assault { b/c who really knows which is worse, 1st or 3rd } — they call you up, personally, to chew-you out, as well as write you very mean letters. I spent my full-savings on a lawyer. When the DA, who was also a young woman, saw the pictures I documented of my bruises + contusions, she assured me that, under no circumstances, would I be charged. The bouncer who pressed charges never showed-up to court. The establishment refused to furnish video footage. I endured 3 separate court appearances across the next 5 months before I was cleared.

  • how does this limit freedom? It makes you feel unsafe everywhere you go. It makes you feel like you have 0 right to be anywhere. It makes you feel you will be accosted, accused, charged, fired, ridiculed, + drained of all your money, even when you do nothing wrong. It seriously tugs on those Victim strings.
  • how am I doing now? Recently, much, much better. I have transformed . { Because of the tips I promise I’m about to share! }. But I can say it still affects me. In October, 2015, I saw a Joywave concert at Anthology. I don’t consider myself to have PTSD, but for whatever reason, 3 years later, I flashed back to the old venue. My panic attacks where so severe that I could no longer recognizes people’s faces. I felt too scared + vulnerable to walk home alone or to even call a cab. That’s what fear does. It takes away all of our choices + all of our options.
    • { post-edit} … And now — today this day, over 1 year later — instead asking — Hey, were you okay? — I just get a lot of passive-aggressive, underhanded comments + side glances. { You know who you are. } That makes you look insecure + pretty ignorant, quite frankly. Not me.

3. Creep Factor. I cannot even begin to describe to you the number of creeps I’ve encountered. What’s more, these 3 experiences pale in comparison to other stuff I’ve endured. Here we go: 1) My 1st semester in NYC 2007, I went on a date with this guy who very seriously engaged me in intimidation tactics. He even carried a duffle bag that he said was filled with batting practice equipment. When I told him he could not come back to my apartment, he followed me into the subway and yelled at me the whole time as if we were long-lost lovers. 2) Around 2012, a UR PhD student took me on a date one summer. I wasn’t feeling the vibe, but one night he still insisted on walking me home. When I refused to let him in, he pressured me by reminding me how nice it was he walked me home in the 90 degree heat + insisted I owe him a glass of water: that I must let him inside. He did not get a glass of water. 3) Most recently, I walked down Goodman Street one weekend night about 1 month ago. I was nearing Monroe Ave between Park + Monroe. A younger guy crossed the street. We made eye-contact + said a simple hi. He walked-on, only to double-back, slap / grab my ass, thereby hiking-up the hemline to my underwear. He then ran away.

  • how does this limit freedom? Feeling unsafe everywhere, at every time of day. Not being able to do what you want or go where you want when you want to. Having to be resilient enough to shrug-off people’s judgements when they make horribly base assumptions, which really reinforces their ignorance, about what you were wearing + what you said, etc.
  • how am I doing now? Almost 0 fear. In a responsible way. { See how I had to qualify that. } How was I a few months back? A mess. I work with the public day-in, day-out. It used to be that 1 wrong look from a client sent me shame spiraling. Well, no more.

be well. be free.
trust yourself. trust your life.

I truly am living the best life I know, right now, in this moment. This past week I socialized with friends, I went to a bar by myself to watch the Copa game — unafraid + uncaring of others’ judgements — and I even let myself shoot a few hoops at 1AM { gasp! } on a Wednesday as I walked back to my apartment from Good Luck. My point? I finally, finally, have the framework + infrastructure to do what I want, when I want. I trust myself. I trust my life. That is freedom. Here’s how to do it:

IMG_4640

Playing hoops solo at the Merriman St. Playground around 1AM on Wednesday.

I finally have the framework + infrastructure to do what I want, when I want.

1. No Judgement. At the root of all of this — we have to stop judging ourselves. Why? Because only when we self-love { which means being judgement-free }, can we make the best, most pure choices for ourselves.

  • counterpoint: Should every woman walk alone to a bar or Party in the Park or shoot hoops at a city park at 1AM? No. Duh. Absolutely not. Just as every woman shouldn’t get married or have babies or backpack the world alone.
  • point: We have to be comfortable + confident making our best decisions given each moment + circumstance. We are capable of this.
  • recommendation: Read The 4 Agreements. Practice it as you read. And then read the Companion Book. Practice that, too. Really, truly practice it. Live it.

feed your feelings healthy “foods” / thoughts.

2. Practice Every Damn Day. People go to the gym regularly. People make it a habit to eat healthy. No one questions this. People talk about this every single day, all of the time. So practice doing these same healthy, holistic habits with your mind + soul. Some of my favorites:

  • recommendations:
    • Sing in the car. Unabashedly! Loudly! Freely! If you cannot express yourself freely while driving in your own, separate vessel … then when can you be free. Anyone else who is near you is driving by, anyway. They are gone from your lives forever. Be free. Sing.
    • Journal. It is not a 4-letter word, frands. Quite literally. It is a very simple practice.
      • Make lists.
      • Draw pictures.
      • Vent.
      • At the very least, practice gratitude.

Really pissed about something? Make a Gratitude List. It does not mean that you are not allowed to be pissed or upset! Yes, you are. Feel. Feel everything. Feel your full range of emotions. What it does mean is you still get to feed yourself positivity, even when you are negative.

  • Toast Yourself. Fill your cup with milk, or whatever, Cheers to you. Acknowledge what you have accomplished. Celebrate it. Big or small.
  • Smile at Yourself. Step 1) Look in the mirror. Step 2) Smile. Optional) Put your hands on your hips, breathe deep, peel those lips. Smile. Recommended) Do a butt-wiggle. Bonus points?? Compliment yourself.

Every single time you look in that mirror, say something nice. You said something critical, too? No worries. Let that go. Follow-it-up by saying something nice. 

if you cannot express yourself freely, while driving in your own separate vessel … then when can you be free?

3. Root Yourself. This is a bit higher level, + that’s why it’s #3. Progression. What is Rooting Yourself?? It is taking ourselves from all of the assumptions + what-if’s. It is coming back to our minds, our bodies, our true light, + our present moment. Rooting Yourself is placing yourself within the present moment.

  • recommendations:
    • Practice Mindfulness. I talk about it here. You can start by reading it here. Very simple. Very solid. Very whole.
    • Practice Chakra Healing. This has been 1 of the most transformational elements of my life these past few months. I really enjoy the affirmations + information on this website. When I am stressed or fearful, questioning or critical, I quiet that destruction + replace it with the wholesome “food” of chakra affirmations.
    • Affirmations. Chakras not your thing? Come up with your own phrases to say over + over + over again. Re-hone and refocus. Quiet + heal.
    • Be a Kid. Walk barefoot in the grass. This is very healing + rooting. If you practice chakra healing, you know this balances the Root { grounding } + the Heart { childlike spirit + connection with nature } Chakras. By being a kid, we honor + practice our most root freedom.

Swing on a swing. Play a sport. Go to a park. Do bounce ball soccer or trampoline exercises. Climb a rock wall or play some volleyball. In Rochester, alone, there are a million ways to honor your inner-kid.

IMG_4682

Swimming in Lake Ontario at Charlotte Beach, 1 of my favorite places to get away + go alone.

Thank you for taking the time to read with me + about my experiences today. I’d love to continue this conversation + hear what you guys have to say! My thanks for your energy.

#bewell.

#belocal.

#befree.

.

Instagram: Instafun! How to Be in the Know, Be Present, + Be Local.

SUMMERTIME IS

Instagram.

HERE.

You might say Social Media is the Antithesis / Antichrist of all things … Social. Like: Being Present, Being Active, Living your Real Life, just to name a few. Au Contraire. Social Media, when used responsibly, enhances all things Social. I’m going to provide 3 Simple Guidelines { because who like Rules } + use Rochester, NY to tell you how! Because, after all, #YOLO.

Vibe With Your Community

How does one strike that delicate balance between SM junkie + SM savvy?? Listen here:

1. Be Discreet. Only check Instagram when on the toilet.

  • Insta picture junkie, I am + I admit. I have a very narrow filter for when I do + don’t post pics because, well … Instant. { However, anything that requires major editing, I wait. }
  • Scrolling / Liking / Commenting junkie, on the other hand, I abstain. I save the big-read for very private, alone times. Such as when I first wake-up. Or when I pee and … Just kidding! But you get what I mean. { And also, don’t do that. That’s gross. }

Why is this important? We don’t want SM to consume our actual social lives. Talk to your friends. Listen to their conversations. It’s fun. Promise — real socializing is pretty great.

2. Be Free. Let Instagram reflect the most pure you.

  • No one’s judging. Unlike Twitter, Instagram has no lists. Give yourself permission to be select with who you do + don’t follow! It’s okay to Unfollow. It’s also okay to Follow individuals who post incredible content, even if you don’t know them.
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s also okay to Like! Tap that heart, baby. Leave comments when inspired. Don’t be shy. This is what SM is for.

It’s for getting to know your fellow community.

{ And for anyone — me! — who is confused about Post Notifications + the new Inst-algorithim-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or Understood, … read here. }

Why is this important? For several reasons. The biggest being: Social Media should enhance our identity + individuality. You have control over that. Harness SM to hone You. 

3. Follow Local. Restaurants, Organizations, Stores, Events, Local Bloggers — follow, follow, follow!

Why is this important? Because the more you know, the more you grow. The more you share + interact, the more your community grows.

So get on it! 
Follow your community on Instagram.

And Follow Me! Because Child, there’s even more than that happening in the Roc this week!

  1. South Wedge Sip & Shop: This Thursday!! And every 3rd Thursday until October. { Thank you Thread for this Insta. }
  2. South Wedge Third Thursday Concerts: Also this Thursday + every 3rd until October. { Thank you South Wedge + Star Alley Park … next to Lux. }
  3. Lux Lounge Events: Always a Party! Game Nights, Dance Parties, PB+J, B Movie Wednesdays. { If you’re bored, you’re boring because Lux + Chill. }

So … Go Out, Get Out, Insta-Responsibly, Be Present. And, always, Be Local.

#YOLO.

#bepresent.

#belocal.

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.