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The Grand Finale of My Raging Twenties: Be Here

A little more than a year ago I sat on my yoga mat and set an intention for how I want to be during my 28th year on this planet. I breathed and I made a vow to myself to BE HERE for all of it. I would actively practice my state of presence no matter what. Little did I know that 28 would be the most difficult and trying year of my life so far.

Here is a top 10 list of things I was absolutely present for, and its not all but its enough for this post.

The Grand List to End All Lists: Be Here for it

1- I participated in the biggest protests Lebanon had witnessed since its inception

2- I caused an involuntary fire

3- I maintained my job (you read this again, YES it is an achievement)

4-A 2 week trip to India became 5 months of lockdown in Rishikesh

5- The slow and sad decay of my 7 year relationship, and a divorce

6-I survived the insane Beirut explosion

7-Took an unhealthy number of flights to make my way out of India, Beirut and EU. I spent too much time in airports during the worst time possible for that. (COVID anyone?)

8-I bought a one way ticket to Mexico and moved to Tulum

9-Survived my first Carribean Hurricane

10-Stopped eating meat. Full on vegetarian diet and Im still alive.

Had I known all this and more would happen, I would have still set the same intention honestly. To be here for it all. During the hardest moments I found nothing but myself to truly rely on. I learned that radical presence can allow us to withstand crazy experiences. I learned that no matter how much we try to distract ourselves, there are certain states we have to experience, especially those related to pain. There is no way out but in.

This is still a jolly birthday post don’t get me wrong. To be here right now, celebrating my existence on this realm is super exciting. I have come to realize two absolutely simple truth, and as my favorite person in the world says: Boom!

There is a huge difference between what SOUNDS good and what FEELS good. Always pay attention to the latter.

We think that just because something sounds good to us mentally then it is what we need. It doesn’t always have to be this way. Paying attention to what really feels good to us no matter how small can change our day better yet our lives. It requires listening to our bodies, and paying close attention to how we feel after we do something or after we eat it. Learn what puts us in a better place and do that. Eating a big fat burger from Mcdonalds might sound great for your hungry mind. Though usually you find that you feel shame and guilt after it. However you feel amazing after eating a pesto pasta. EAT THAT. Master level of this lesson becomes doing that with the thoughts you have, but let’s take it easy now.

Everything ends especially those bad bits, nothing lasts. So just allow the experience to take space. BE HERE for it, and then let it be.

Radical presence allows us to accept our realities regardless what they seem like. Truly experiencing the moment be it happiness, sadness, glory, shame, defeat, disgust, pride…anything at all starts with acknowledging that this is how we feel RIGHT NOW. It will end.

So I welcome 29 with a humility I had never known before. I release this year’s birthday post to you my dear readers, as I drink my morning cup of coffee and my cake is on its way. This year’s intention is to FEEL. I hope you enjoyed this and see you next year. Making it to 30 one fleeting feeling at a time.

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One Human and Her Wild Dolphins’ Chase

A fisherman’s boat never looked so intriguing. His tanned arm reached out to me like the land animal I was and helped me up on board. I felt the peeling paint beneath my feet and I started holding my breath; because today was going to be the day I swam with wild Dolphins at Bali’s Lovina coast.

The fisherman was a pacifist, he didn’t like to “push the dolphins too hard”. He had his special methods of allowing them to come to him, he speeds to catch up to them and then slows down for the land animals like myself to jump in to the water and dance along with the jolliest aquatics to ever grace the waters.

I was never a fan of dolphins in captivity, to be fair- never an advocate of any animal locked up without some major medical or existential reason. So to watch animals practice this utmost freedom so close to you is breathtaking, and to be honest rather intimidating.

I threw myself in the water and grabbed onto one of the two makeshift handles to the side of the boat. The fisherman who spoke very little english smiled at me, I signaled that I was ready- although I really wasn’t. To give you a clearer picture, in order to get to the area where dolphins are no longer feeding on tuna, and swimming freely, we needed to get really far away from shore. With that, and the visibility under water that day, while wearing overly used snorkels, you can barely see more than 20 meters ahead. Your range of vision shifts between foggy blue, sudden and momentary sights of shallow water loving creatures; and surely dolphins swimming to your right, in front of you and really down below you.

First of all, dolphins are HUGE. I have only felt so small a couple of times before; and none were as humbling as that experience was. Second of all, you can hear them communicate under water; and they sound so soothing. The trick however is to quiet your mind, quiet your fear, and especially your overly enthusiastic heart beat. What is left beyond the exhilaration is a feeling of foreignness. Which explains this third point. Experiencing dolphins swimming in open water makes you feel somewhat out of place, you feel as though you shouldn’t be there, as though the boat shouldn’t be there, as though you are too close to what’s real; to what’s natural and untouched by humans.

Then you get stung by a tiny jelly fish so you never forget that lesson.

One thing about feeling foreign against wilder animals is not that you feel unwelcome; it is that you become insignificant to the majesty and the magnitude that is their journey underwater. They swim in packs, in families, in twos and threes. They swim and they twirl underwater and that my friends is the most amazing thing I never expected to see so close. They start to swim in a wide circle below my bird eye view. My eyes grow bigger and I have to remember to latch my lips tighter over the snorkel’s air pipe if I wanted to remain a calm spectator not swallowing bigger amounts of salt water. I steady myself and the performance continues regardless. The circle becomes more intricate, and dolphins pirrouette underwater in an acrobatic masterpiece.

In hindsight, we are the major producers of our experiences. We are the ones who zoom into certain scenes; and discard others. We choose to tell our story in one way vs the other.

The experience in real time was blowing my mind away. Now that the salt on my skin is long washed off, I regain the ability to use words to try and express to you just how precious our interactions with animals might be. Perhaps we can grow kinder to them because they dance despite us and around us. Not everything must play out for our entertainment. The point is to join the wonder that exists; there really is no need to recreate it.

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The Planet’s Lungs Are Burning and Why We Don’t Care

I remember being in class during my NYU Master’s program and thinking to myself, almost everything I am learning about environmental policy is relative to where one lives.

That was 5 years ago, and today the Amazon burns and my opinion hasn’t changed. We all like to think that logical theories and practical solutions can be blanketed over the globe’s different populations. We want to believe that what works in the US will work in Europe and might even work in India or a Middle Eastern country. The policies protecting our planet can be global and those feel so good to hear about. Yet, when one looks at their own local government and finds that little is being done, the macro picture stops mattering as much; not because of its reduced effect but on the contrary due to the clear lack of accountability people feel towards the pieces of earth they inhabit.

This post is not about arguing for global warming or about what industrialized countries have contributed and where each country finds itself at fault.

This post is about the human factor in all of this. This is about doing something out of love and not out of fear of extinction and desertification.

Surely, I can understand that people’s lifestyles and relationships to nature differ immensely and sometimes even in unrecognizable ways from one neighborhood to another. Except compassion must find its way back into our lives even if in the smallest incidents.

Then again, sometimes it seems that compassion and kindness towards the earth are really big asks. We work endless years until we annihilate ourselves, and we simultaneously lose consciousness of anything that surrounds us. We self sabotage, and we put so much effort into becoming kinder to ourselves, and still we struggle. Perhaps we must first understand that one big challenge to the environmental problem is not that we don’t care about earth and nature, but it is that we don’t care about ourselves.

The Earth’s lungs are burning, but so are our lungs; so where does that leave us? If nature is a representation of our spirits, then the abandonment of our spirits is the problem.

So reconnection is essential. Rebuilding a relationship with one’s direct environment is important, because if you don’t care about watering the tree in front of your house, then you wont care about the bigger problem; and it is immensely bothersome to force you.

That is where local policies come in place, that is where parents come into action and people with any kind of authority become the little workers for a much bigger cause. It surely requires more than just second thoughts, but it requires some dwelling on the subject, some education and wide awareness about our parts in nature. Logic seems to help in creating solutions, but logic has rarely convinced anyone to do something differently.

We are emotional creatures driven by some loathing a lot of hope, so what can we do with that? How does this mix bring forth something good?

Hope is good, but the loathing needs to end. Eventually, those among us who manage to drop the loathing suddenly find immense power in spirit and a connection to the environment.

I end with the beginning; what kind of loathing exists locally around you, and whom or what is it directed towards? That is the distraction, that is where we begin to care.

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That Bear Necessity and Where to Get It

If you are chemically inclined, this should oil up your gears nicely. No actually, if you are a human AND you love animals, this will make you love them with more scientific reason. If you do not love animals, this might make you slightly curious.

Are you baffled by people who leave their fortunes to their dog after they die? Or why a town might elect a feline mayor to handle business? Do these things have any explanation besides humans being rather odd at so many different occasions?

Well, there might be a scientific reason why when we love our pet, we tend to treat it better than people (sometimes gladly).

OXYTOCIN, a hormone released upon cuddling or bonding with others; is the love hormone or commonly referred to as such.

Studies, (here is one study picked at random; since there are many) have shown that positive interaction between humans and their pets, namely dogs and cats tends to help us release oxytocin and decrease stress levels. That is why, therapy animals play such huge parts in helping people with mental illnesses that vary in severity and symptoms.

Although sometimes it feels good to go around in circles analyzing how we feel, why feel it and return again to self serving conclusions; our emotional wellbeing could be better handled by realizing that our hormones at different times play a huge part in said emotions, reactions and thought processes.

That is why it feels so natural to gaze into a dog or a cat’s eyes and feel a sense of bonding, of release of pressure inside our minds and feel automatically lighter for some reason. We sometimes, find it difficult to do the same with the people close to us due to some transparent borders that we have set for ourselves and others. Bonding, and feeling that closeness, intimate and gentle safety with others is natural to us; but we unfortunately give that up the more we withstand pains emanating from said closeness. That brings us back to the moments we share with animals, moments that are so natural to us as human beings made of flesh and bone and gentle love hungry hearts. The beautiful thing about this, is that animals can feel that bonding too; they too release oxytocin.

It helps to know that no matter what, we are never alone in our aliveness, in our bodies and our worlds. Sometimes it is difficult to bond with other people due to countless reasons, which is why our pets come to us with no baggage and no material needs; they come to us and share their lives willingly and generously; making us feel so much better, as though we belong no matter what.

We have so much to learn and so much to give. When we attempt to view those who love us with the eyes of a giver, a spirit of abundance and a smile to show our true colors, bonding might become easier; and we could then all become healthier individuals capable of loving everything.

We can be humans that interact positively with each other and with our animals; spreading metaphorical oxytocin fairy dust everywhere.

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PLASTIC, Thanks but No Thanks.

Let’s talk about PLASTIC.

Three things that are incredibly easy to try:

  1. Make better choices when buying regular supermarket items, they don’t have to be plastic.

2. Lose the straws in your drinks, they give us wrinkles around our beautiful lips, and get stuck in sea animals. Let’s use those lips to sip our beverages and say kinder words.

3. Find your favorite tote bag, it is reusable and so much more handsome than regular plastic bags.

PSA over. We needed to get that out of the way.

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I Asked the Seminyak Waves for Advice and They Didn’t Hold Back

How many times have you felt as though life is gushing at you with force like a series of Seminyak waves crashing at your feet? You look at the events of your life and stand still, perhaps for a second, perhaps for a year, floating between two options;

Run away as fast as you can; because maybe just maybe one Tsunami is going to cut right past you and carry you with it to oblivion. OR Stay there and wait for the right moment to take a nice cold swim, get hit by a few waves, and trust in your ability to face what comes to you when necessary.

The struggle is difficult, remaining calm and composed when you feel like the world is going to eat you whole is an act of courage. Then again, you see a pigeon taking its funny little steps at the shore beside you not giving a care about the ocean or the waves. It is focused and content; it accepts the gushing waves and moves when it must; but it by no means avoids the ocean.

The only way to really see what life can do for you is to accept that it can really do whatever it wants to you.

So the best way to learn that is to spend some time close to nature. Nature in its jungles, winds, animals, insects, oceans and rivers has so much to say. It is a performer that doesn’t see you. Nature in all its mastery is a dancer that dances for no one but itself. It sings and hits, it sways and flies not for the sake of the beholder but for its own sake. So assuming that life has any concern for us is ridiculous. However, when we do decide to do as it does, wonderful things happen. When we let ourselves live and love and just do what we truly feel in our hearts we must do; life flows around us. We no longer become little blocks in its way. We become one with it, we reside in its care, and we get treated as it treats its most loved creatures.

So when you feel afraid of life, think about what you truly are afraid of. Perhaps the fear you feel is not of the event itself, but of the possible loss of control that you suddenly come too close to. A fish has no control of the ocean but it swims in it regardless. A tree has no control over the seasons but it works its way around it.

Perhaps we complicate life, and we possibly take it too hard when we don’t get exactly what we wanted. What if we take a step back and relinquish some control as a start, what would happen then?

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How Do You Know If You Live in a Chicken Society?

For those of you who have never been exposed to living chickens, welcome to this post. I must add a necessary disclaimer here because if you believe in equality, this post is not for you. If you believe in gender balance this post is not for you, and if you believe in little hierarchy this post will bother you.

The disclaimer above, is only there to avert the faint hearted from the harsh world of chicken social norms and rules. See we are more like chickens than we know, and if we were to compare many parts of traditional social and corporate norms, well we might as well start growing feathers and holding onto our eggs. Chickens are assumed to be stupid creatures but scientists are out there studying the intelligence and emotional responses of chicken to prove that we might be widely mistaken. So do not lose heart in the comparison but keep an open mind.

The animal kingdom regardless how far we think we are from it, is filled with wonderful and eccentric rules. Somehow a balance is maintained in order to make sure that reproduction is optimized and survival sustained. That balance is especially interesting in chicken societies. From ranking systems to what we have come to know as the pecking order, our feathery friends have very peculiar life styles, not to mention the immense powers of the patriarch rooster.

One rooster per flock, and the then the hen hierarchy begins. Reminds you of something? Perhaps not so long ago, this was absolutely normal in our societies and is still extremely real in many human communities around the world.

Modern westernized culture has deemed this system outdated. Hierarchy based on patriarchy enhances sexism, the loss of rights and the reduction in efficiency. In chicken world however, this is what brings you your fried eggs and better yet, the billions of chickens on earth.

Put a rooster in a suit and he can go corporate. Put a chicken in a skirt and she can still go nowhere.

In our modern world, we can notice that many of the previously intensely corporate systems which were marked by their love for roosters, are moving away from the pecking order and into fairer grounds.

How you ask?

The rooster of the firm gets some privileges removed and the underdog hens get a few boosts to their positions. That way superiority based on loyalty and old timer status gets rebutted and then the newly introduced or the youngest might even get the chance to make a difference in the grander scheme.

What happens to those who wish to hold on to their chicken societies?

Well then if we were perfect reflections of our chicken friends, then fighting among the hens would prevail, opportunism and scheming become normalized and rewarded; as per the pecking order, the winning hen gets to move up the rank, and the losing one returns to lower standing.

Although quite bleak and unimaginative, you may think to yourself, this social system appears to be instinctual to chickens, but is it innate to us?

Good question, so why is any of this important?

We have been growing ever more disconnected from other living things. Peering into the world of animals, better yet, many people’s favorite food: CHICKEN, gives us insight into how we live and what we do about it. We find out eventually that we are not so different, we did not invent much, and many of the norms we believe to be ours have actually been learned. Much can be unlearned and improved. Our evolutionary advantage in having advanced cognation and psychology allows us to grow.

The bottom line is that: Humanity is not better, but it ought to be good.