Going for an AHA Moment: From Manolos to Meditation

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Going for an AHA Moment: From Manolos to Meditation
When I decided I wanted to learn how to meditate, I went on a search to find the perfect place to do it. What I found was that it was not as easy as I thought it would be. Learning to meditate the right way was expensive; time-consuming (often two-hour time slots or six- to eight-week programs); and inconvenient (late-night classes). I wondered why there was no drop-in meditation studio for people like me with young children, jobs and limited time resources. Talk about an AHA moment! Suddenly, I could think of nothing else. In one split second — goodbye, fashion editor. Hello, spiritual entrepreneur.

The meditation studio I wanted to create would be clean, modern, secular and effortless to attend, with inspirational and user-friendly teachers. It would be a happy, friendly environment for both those who had never before meditated and those who understood it well, but still wanted to learn more. Never mind that I was hardly a yogi — or that my previous career had been as a fashion editor at Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, and Glamour magazines. True to my optimistic nature, I figured, if I wanted such a place, so would everyone else.

I was on a mission to not only learn to meditate for myself, but to create the perfect place for others as well. Research was the best part. I took a four-day intensive Vedic meditation course, a six-week mindfulness course at UCLA, did four of Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditation series and took classes anywhere I could. I did one-on-one sessions with superior teachers like Steve Ross and Will Dalton, and consumed every book, blog and podcast I could find.

My meditation went something like this: breathe, focus, let go, fantasize (about how to make the classes better, shorter, more powerful), then back to my focus point.

So, with a limited budget, I gave myself a year to make this happen. I used my career as currency. In exchange for invaluable advice and services from my talented friends, I offered everything from hours of free media training to closet makeovers. Meetings about opening a new business are always stressful, but I sandwiched them in between interviews with prospective meditation instructors (the benefit being free, guided meditation for me). I’m sure I had the equivalent of two MBA degrees and a master’s in construction, but it was all worth it.

Unplug Meditation is the tangible result of a whirlwind year of planning and working to make an “AHA Moment” a reality. But the intangible results are immeasurable. I am much calmer than I ever was in my previous fashion life and far more passionate about what I am doing. And even though another side effect from meditation has been a lessening of my desire to shop, I can’t deny that I still appreciate a pretty pair of Manolo’s.

Unplug meditation studio opens next month. Check it out at unplugmeditation.com.

Seeing Depression in the Wrong Light
Depression affects one out of five Americans and is poised to become the biggest source of worldwide disability. Why is depression reaching such epidemic proportions?

One important, and overlooked, factor: the dreadful effects of modern lighting conditions.

Our capacity for mood evolved in the context of a rotating Earth, with its predictable 24-hour cycle of light and dark phases. Our species is diurnal. As hunter-gatherers, we spent hundreds of thousands of years being active during the daylight hours. Why? Because the best chance of finding sustenance and other rewards was in the light phase. Just try to find edible berries by moonlight! As a result, we’re configured with a strong 24-hour biorhythm. This rhythm, driven by cues of light and dark, enables us to be alert during the day and sleepy at night.

About 10,000 years ago we abandoned our nomadic hunter-gatherer ways and took to permanent dwellings. Village living by itself did not change our lightscape. But in the last 150 years, as we increasingly traded the outside lifestyle of the farmer for the inside lifestyle of the urbanite, we began to get less and less daylight.

Recent data show dramatic light deprivations, even in very sunny places. When small devices that measure light exposure and duration were attached to adults in San Diego, it was discovered that the average person received only 58 minutes of sunlight a day. What’s more, those San Diegans who received less light exposure during their daily routines reported more symptoms of depression. But what about the light we receive from light bulbs? It’s no substitute for the sun; artificial light is fainter and provides fewer mood benefits. Our new-found reliance on indoor light has effectively turned most people into cave dwellers.

Not only are we not getting enough light during the day, but we’re getting too much at night. For this we can blame Thomas Edison and, more recently, Steve Jobs. For millions of people, consumer electronics — particularly laptops, smartphones and iPads– are shining light into our eyes until just moments before we doze off. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or an electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed. The light exposure from light bulbs, TVs, iPads, and phone screens is enough to fool the brain, tricking our our 24-hour biological clock and delaying sleep. Plus, the games, shows, texts, and emails on these devices often provide intense stimulation just when we should be winding down. Is it a big surprise when survey data show that the average American sleeps 1.5 hours less now than in 1900?

Modern lighting conditions are out of sync with how our moods evolved. We’re getting light in all the wrong places and times. Rather than feeling alert during the day and sleepy at night, millions feel like the walking dead, insufficiently alert during the day, and insufficiently tired at night.

It’s never wise to ignore eons of evolution. So we are paying the price for disregarding our natural cycles of light and dark. The cost: Millions are chronically experiencing low mood, which is not only an unpleasant feeling but a state that primes people for more serious depression. The wrong light sets the stage for darkness. For many, all it will take is one more blow from the environment — a romantic breakup, a pink slip, or the death of a loved one — to set in motion a full downward spiral.

Why We Don’t Always Get What We Want
What I’ve learned through the years of coaching people through what I call Expectation Hangovers is that they hit us where we are most vulnerable. We tend to experience repeat disappointment in our most tender areas. Ouch.

This isn’t because the Universe is mean and wants to punish us. It’s because we are stubborn and often it takes getting hit where it hurts the most to wake up. Most people don’t come to me for help because everything in their life is going great. They come because their Expectation Hangover has brought them to their knees and they are finally open to surrender (a key lesson we are all here to learn).

Surrender is one of those spiritually sexy words that is a pain in the you-know-what to practice when we are not getting what we want.

We don’t like it when the universe seems to miss the memo on how we think things should be – in fact it’s the very thing that challenges our faith the most. But the truth is the Universe doesn’t miss anything. Your Higher Power knows exactly how to get your attention so you go in and go up rather than looking to any external source for happiness, love or worthiness.

I am not saying that if you “shouldn’t” long for love or a career that lights your fire. Those things are awesome. I’m also not saying that you’re supposed to just sit around in surrender and never take action in your life. What I am saying is that the universe may be giving you an advanced course in surrender right now to deepen your own personal connection to whatever you call your Higher Power.

Everything you desire is within you. It’s like the big cosmic joke. God places the things we most desire closest to us because it’s the last place we look! Whatever you call your Higher Power, wants you to be happy, feel loved, and know you are worthy and deserving no matter what. This is one of those soul lessons we often learn the hard way but it’s so worth it.

My encouragement to you if you feel like you keep experiencing heartache and disappointment, is to go in and go up. Surrender. Make this a time to deepen your spiritual connection and find the truest source of Love and Meaning there is.

Much love and many blessings,


You’re Not Who You Used to Be (It’s a Good Thing!)
I’ve had the amazing opportunity to learn more about the technical side of websites these past several months. I’ve learned how to code (aka “build” websites) in new ways, make websites responsive (as in: look pretty on all modern devices like smart phones and tablets!) and am learning more of the “languages” used for coding. I love learning new things… so this is all very exciting and interesting to me.

I often think back to where my journey with building websites began. A very basic level of HTML instruction in college. My third design job out of school where the senior designer taught me how to create websites and email templates straight from my art files. Those early days of learning how to build custom WordPress websites one “I wonder what this will do” tweak at a time (I broke many, many client websites in those days). The random micro lessons from developers that had become friends over the years.

So when my development mentor started referring to me as a “front end engineer” I had to chuckle. Quite honestly, I felt like an impostor because I always believed I’m simply “a designer who knows how to code.” I found myself saying things like, “I don’t actually know what I’m doing…”

But the truth is, I do know what I’m doing and I’m doing it really well.

My understanding of languages and fancy development trickery has increased tremendously (even if I still often refer to it as “fancy development trickery”). By choosing to believe I’m still who I once was, just a designer who knows how to code, I’ve been limiting my ability to step into my new skill set as a designer and front end engineer. To be who I am now, rather than who I’ve been for years.


I share this as an example of how easy it is to box ourselves in and set ourselves up to get stuck.

Believing you’re who you once were, no matter how recent, is planting the seeds for limiting beliefs that will hold you back for years to come.

You’re not who you once were.
You’re not the kid who couldn’t color inside the lines.
You’re not the teenager who made bad choices on the regular.
You’re not the college student who drank too much and got bad grades.
You’re not the guy or gal who broke that sweet person’s heart.
You’re not even the same person who rolled out of bed in a funk last week.

You’re also not the basketball champ you were in high school.
You’re not the award winning professional (from last week or five years ago).
You’re not the awesome girlfriend you were two days ago.

You’re you, in this moment right here.

The person who’s learned and grown from each win and epic failure in your life. The person who’s also learned and grown from every moment, interaction, challenge and experience you’ve had this week. This very day.

You have to let go of who you once were in order to be who you are today, fully and completely. Sometimes that version is far better, more advanced and wiser than the past models. Sometimes that version is starting over, a little raw, and in need of some new wins. Whatever the version, you’re amazing, perfect, and exactly where you need to be to build the life, relationships, career or business you want to build.

Release your attachment to the versions, mistakes, titles, successes and failures of your past. They were awesome and awful, and they’re absolutely a part of your story… but they don’t define you in this moment. The only thing that defines you is who you choose to be and the actions you choose to take right now.

So if you want to be better, to change your story up, or if you want to try something new, just do it. You have the power to create a new you, life, career, relationship and reality from the choices you make in this moment, your past be damned!

Nothing defines you unless you let it.

So stop letting it define you and start choosing to be the person that you want to be. Start choosing to build the life you want to live and to fulfill all your wildest dreams.

It’s 100 percent up to you… so what will you choose right now?

Stephenie Zamora is the founder of www.stepheniezamora.com, a full-service, life-purpose development, design and branding boutique. Through her Mastery program, she merges the worlds of personal development and branding to help men and women build passion-based lives and businesses they love. Click here to access her free Foundations for Unshakable Joy™ video training series and learn the unexpected trick to transforming your life with one single question!

Connect with Stephenie on Facebook and Twitter!

For more by Stephenie Zamora, click here.

How to Find a Quiet Place to Relax in a Crowded Foreign City
Do you often come back from a trip and feel like you need a “vacation to recover from your vacation?” You’re not alone.

Many people feel this way because they didn’t let themselves decompress at any time while they were away. Given the greater emotional and physical energy exerted during a trip, it’s easy to feel drained or overstimulated during and after travel. Finding a tranquil place to relax and regroup during your trip is one of the most obvious ways to prevent mental or emotional burnout — and keep every day of your vacation feeling (almost) like the first day you arrived.

Unfortunately, traditional “quiet” places may turn into anything but if everyone else decides to go there for their own relaxation. Think of oceanside cafés that get so loud you can’t hear the waves washing up; well-known churches that sound like malls inside; and parks that put you in the path of an impromptu tag game — hardly anyone’s idea of peace. Don’t think you have to return to your hotel room mid-day, or wander into an isolated (and potentially dangerous) area in order to “get away from it all.” Here are a few universal, but often overlooked, places to unwind.

Botanical gardens. These can sound like a bore to those not interested in plants, but botanical gardens have all of the relaxing characteristics of parks, but because of the (usually) small entrance fee, attract a different crowd — your chances of encountering skateboarding teenagers, drunks or soccer practice are slim to none. There is usually no shortage of places to sit down, and you can generally stay as long as you want after paying the day’s admission.

Universities. Many universities have the look and feel of self-sustaining villages, and you’d have a hard time finding one without some green areas and benches (and often a pond and some wildlife). Frat and sorority houses are less common outside North America, and while there’s obviously going to be plenty of activity on the main thoroughfares on weekdays, the overall atmosphere — especially on weekends — is subdued. Another plus is that many universities are easily accessed within metropolitan areas, and even the grounds of most private universities are open to anyone.

Zoos. You’d be hard pressed to find a zoo without an attractive, natural setting — and interacting with (or just watching) animals can quickly pull you out of your head and back into the moment. About half of all major world cities have a zoo within three miles of tourist areas. Try visiting on a weekday evening, or mid-afternoon after school groups have cleared out.

Embassy areas. These neighborhoods are particularly prominent in capital cities, and are often in easily accessible areas. Although there aren’t many places to sit down, they are certainly a great place for a quiet stroll. Embassy neighborhoods are rarely crowded, aesthetically pleasing, and you can let your guard down because security is second to none.

Stationed trains. Particularly in European cities, long-distance trains pull into a station well before departure — by an hour, and sometimes more (especially if your city is the route terminus). A parked train can be a very peaceful alternative to trying to rest your mind and feet in the chaotic main station hallway. I’ve done it many times and not been bothered by attendants or conductors (unlike airplanes, which are usually swept and cleaned after every flight, the usual train is only serviced at the end of the day).

Obviously, you need to make sure the train doesn’t roll away taking you someplace you don’t want to go, but the chances of this happening are minimal as you’ll notice people start trickling in about ten minutes before departure.

Off-hours and hideaways in hotels. After the maids have come through, and before the next round of guests check in, is an ideal time to get some peace in your hotel room, especially if it’s anything but tranquil in the evening and early morning. The ideal time window is usually between noon and 3 p.m.

If you’ve already checked out of a hotel, don’t feel bad about relaxing in the lobby a few hours after giving up your key. It’s unlikely that any hotel employee will ask you to leave just because you’re done and paid for. After all, they want you to come back on your next trip, and write a nice online review about your stay.

Finally, a surprising number of hotels — particularly in Europe — have rooftop terraces. These are often underutilized, because 1) guests aren’t aware of them, or 2) they simply forget to head up there. The terrace can be a great escape when everyone else on your floor seems to be checking in, or coming in and out of their rooms, at the same time. An added benefit is that you get to see the city from a bird’s-eye view, which can make it look less intimidating and give you a better perspective of where you are.

Airport quiet spots. For some peace and space, many people know to head to the waiting area of a deserted gate. Less commonly sought, but equally quiet places include interdenominational chapels (many international airports have one, and you don’t have to pray in order to use the room), and the lobbies of pre check-in areas. Most people automatically rush to the check-in counter and through security when they arrive at the airport, passing by many empty waiting areas adjacent to the airline ticket counters.

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