27 April 2016

Random Thoughts of the Day


Dearest readers,

Hope you all are doing great and having a fulfilling or meaningful week so far!

Here are few things I've been thinking about...

1. 
Being vulnerable with loved ones and showing our true selves is an ACT OF LOVE. Yessss! And yet, too often we don't want to show our weakness. We hide away. We pretend we have everything together. We don't want anyone to know that we are imperfect. And it's so untruthful. And so our loved ones or colleagues will continue to wonder THIS unnecessary bull crap : "Is everything okay?" "Did I do or say something wrong?" "Why isn't she/he connecting with me?" "Am I not lovable?" And then a story gets started in their heads...one that is often not based on truth because they are left to wonder in the dark. And the ping pong of dishing out dysfunction to each other begins. Anybody with me here? All along, truth could have been shared. And two people could have embraced in human connection, understanding, and love.

2.
We just finished hosting our 14th retreat last week!! I must say, it feels incredibly triumphant for us. To think that we've put something out there - and it has been received. Um - that feels incredible. And I'm feeling deeply grateful for Danny. This guy! Oh, he is a superstar at our retreats. He truly is in his element with the management and logistics. It's been really great for us to find the ways in which we can contribute the most to this endeavor. We've come a long way with this and we've been learning a TON together!

3. 
Adoption still isn't something we've made plans to pursue. I must say, all of this shocks even me! But, the timing just doesn't feel possible at the moment. We are still living in a foreign country, we are trying to keep up with our retreats and mentoring so that we can make a living doing something we love. So the energy and ability to start the massive adoption process - under our current circumstances - has not been there. In the meantime, we're getting older and older and I wish that wasn't the case. It's an unusual place to be in and admittedly, I wish I could stay young forever. At the same time, I'm sooo grateful that life has felt incredibly meaningful. That is a miracle to me and I don't take it for granted one bit. We will continue to try and make the most of our lives as best we can, even though our lives look different than we ever could have imagined. I know that if I can continue to do that, all will be well. And, if the opportunity to adopt does come along somehow in the future, we will embrace that wholeheartedly as well.

4. 
We're a little late on this, but we watched Making of a Murderer (made by Netflix) and O.M.G. it's one of the most gut wrenching stories I've ever seen. We just watched with our jaws on the floor. Have you seen it? Also, I served on a grand jury once in Brooklyn for an extended time. I can say that the experience was VERY disturbing, in regards to the thought processes and reasoning that the jury members would have. It also seemed like whomever spoke the loudest would sway the decisions the most. While the idea of a jury is great, I actually don't think enough random people are capable of absorbing all the details and making good decisions in a jury without "groupthink", preconceived ideas, outside influences, and judgements. And on top of that, the majority of the jurors DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE and were barely present! All the while, lives, families, justice and society were on the line! Anyway, I really, really wish there was a better way. What has your experience with jury duty been like?



5. 
Do you know that pizza is the most beloved food on earth? Haha. That's just my humble opinion. But trust me on this one, if you were dairy-free and gluten-free, chances are there would be NO OTHER FOOD that would pique your cravings more than pizza. (Anyone with me on that?) Here in Cuenca, being the apparent New Yorker food snobs that we are, there are not a lot of restaurants that we enjoy. But, there is a really good pizza place here, and it tortures me so. How I want to eat that pizza!

6.
Has anyone seen these articles suggesting high altitudes might be related to depression? Researchers have been studying the rampant depression in the Rocky Mountain states. I'm curious if anyone out there has experienced anything unusual mood-wise while living at a high altitude. I currently live at a MASSIVELY high altitude of 9,000 feet! And the truth is: I actually feel sluggish and not myself every time we come back from a trip. While in the States, I feel INCREDIBLE. Just full of energy and creativity galore! I've experienced this "switch" so many times now and it's so obvious. So I'm wondering if I could actually be someone who is affected by the high altitude. I'm personally excited to live at sea level again. :)

7. 
Because of this, I'm in the market for new underwear and I'll just leave it at that. Do you have some favorite underwear? :) :)



As always, we'd love to hear any of your thoughts. 

Hope your week is full of LOVE in big and small ways,

Mara


ANNOUNCEMENTS:
  • I put a feeler out on Facebook to see if people wanted one more Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador before we move back to the States. The answer was YES!! So we are working to narrow down the date, likely in mid-October, 2016. We should launch that next week.
  • Are we connected on Facebook yet? It's fun to stay in touch with you there.


25 April 2016

Fasting for Ecuador


This coming Sunday (May 1), we are going to join in a fast with thousands of people in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia who will be forgoing food for a day and donating their savings to the relief effort in Ecuador, as they just experienced a catastrophic earthquake on the coast. It will be a day of united compassion and prayer.

If you'd like to join in with us, please do! We'll be joined with you in spirit, and with thousands of people coming together to support those in need.

Thanks for your love,

Mara

P.S. My designer friends told me about these posters being sold for $20 by an ad agency called Wieden+Kennedy. They are raising money for Ecuador. An Ecuadorian from their firm designed the posters.

If you're looking for other ways to support the recovery effort:

  • Ecuador Cares, the orphanage non-profit here that we know personally, has been raising money to directly help individual families and children affected by the earthquake. We love and trust this organization explicitly. They have direct contacts and family members in the hardest hit areas and are providing baby formula, diapers, water, milk, canned tuna and beans, baby bottles, toilet paper, feminine products, hygiene supplies, flashlights, batteries, cooking utensils, blankets, and tarps. If you'd like to join in, you can make a donation HERE and write in that it's for the Earthquake Relief Fund. We donated a portion of the proceeds from our Body+Soul Camp that took place in Ecuador last week. 


Strong Ecuador!

17 April 2016

Our Update From Ecuador


Dear friends,

We are feeling so lucky right now to say we are safe and sound. A massively destructive earthquake occurred on the northern coast of Ecuador last night. We were in Cuenca at the time, which is much further south, though we did feel some rumbles in the cab while we were on the way to the airport.

And why were we heading to the airport?

Our next Body+Soul Camp begins TODAY. What timing! In fact, our guests are now in Ecuador and making their way from Quito to Otavalo. We are so relieved that everyone is safe. Though it must be a bit unnerving for them to be traveling right now and we hope they are feeling some peace.

Our hearts are aching for so many people who have been affected. At the moment, we're feeling helpless and wish we could do something. Some of our dear friends live right at the epicenter, near Esmeraldas. We have not yet from them and we keep checking our phones and calling them. The husband and wife are part of this community and the husband even attended our first retreat in Ecuador. They have 3 young, darling boys - and we just pray for their well being.

Thanks for all the love and concern you have for so many.

May all your families and loved ones be safe.

We send you all our love and gratitude,

Mara & Danny

P.S. The photo is our view right now at the retreat. It's so strange that everything is so peaceful and quiet here, yet there is so much destruction 4 hours away.  :(

UPDATE: We were able to find out that our friends survived with no injuries! We got in touch with someone who lives across the street from them and we were told that their home was unaffected. We are sooo relieved. 

12 April 2016

Questions Our Church Friends Ask Us


Q: How do I navigate tricky church/faith issues while raising kids?
Danny: I’d talk to them honestly about the concept of idolatry.  

We were recently listening to an On Being podcast where Dr. Louis Newman was being interviewed on the practice of repentance. He had this very concise and insightful comment that really stuck with me for a time: "Idolatry is pretending that something is divine and worthy of our devotion when in fact it is not. Repentance is all about choosing truth over deception."

I’d explain to my children that it is human nature to want to look to things/circumstances for safety; whether it is family, money, health, popularity, education....and yes, even your church institution and its leaders. We pretend things are a Rock, when in reality they are just ever shifting sand.

I'd attempt to normalize that by saying, "I'm going to do that, and you're going to do that, and everyone around you is going to do that. It's part of life, it's part of the human struggle...we are all prone to look for safety from the 'outside-in'. BUT, one thing this family is going to try to focus on,  the only place this family is going to try to look to for safety or worth, is from the 'inside-out' and from above."

Because "outside-in" mentality isn’t healthy in the long run, and will result in a lot of disappointment. Every one of those things is subject to change, to imperfection, to inherent instability. The security you may get in one ideal moment could just as easily be lost in the next, and that is where the rollercoaster ride of despair comes from, and possible faith crisis.

In this sense, whether the object of our trust appears to be religious or not, we all engage in a kind of Idolatry. And it is destructive - to our relationships, to our faith, to our happiness, to our ability to Love. We look for security where it can't be found.

You owe it to your children to teach them this whether in or out of a church. It isn’t just your church that is suggesting that people get their worth from a certain checklist of observances, from a certain way of life or creed or belief system, from a list of circumstances or ideal behaviors or relationships…the entire world is telling them this: "Value and worth and happiness is found from the outside-in.

You won’t escape the duty to teach them to avoid this mentality simply because you decide to no longer attend church, or because you jump into church community with both feet. 

This mentality will surround your children especially in their teenage years when they are trying to fit in, when they seek to join a "tribe" that accepts them, or when they have their first explorations (and disappointments) with social media.

This outside-in mentality will follow them into college, and will define much of their 20s, and will likely influence how they choose their boyfriends or girlfriends, or possibly their spouse. I don’t think most people begin to escape this need for outside-in fulfillment until they get a little older (perhaps much older), and become secure enough in their own decisions to stand against the crowd when needed, or to stand for principles they believe in. They finally see their worth from the inside-out.

You, in your duty as a parent, and in your own development as a human being, MUST learn this for yourself, and you must teach it to them, whether you do it in our out of a church. 

So get busy. 

If you decide to remain in a church community, then use that community as the vehicle for teaching that real happiness, real worth and security, will only be found from the inside-out and from the topside-down.

This is one of the MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS you'll ever teach them. Most likely, your church won't do it for you. Don't expect them to. This is what great parenting is all about, and is something you can't afford to outsource to church, school, friends, or life.

Weightlifting or exercise requires resistance in order to build strength and muscle memory and proficiency. So make your church (and its checklists, and observances, and the false securities it might offer) your place to practice. Or do it outside of church, that’s up to you.

Whether in or out, you still have to practice if you hope to develop your own healthy spirituality and to encourage the same in your children.

What about you? How do you navigate attending church with children if you don't always agree with what is being taught? Let's discuss...see you in the comments!

P.S. We were interviewed in a podcast a few months ago and explored some of these concepts in much greater detail. See here for a listen. It is one thing to read, and another to listen to someone speak. A lot can be lost in translation.  

11 April 2016

How I Went from Feeling Dead (for Years) to Feeling Alive


Oh man, the title of this post gets me.

To think that I used to feel dead...

And now to know that there was a way out.

Oh my heart. 

THIS is why I started this blog.

I figured someone out there might feel stuck, too.

And I wanted to give people hope that there was a way out - and by that I mean a way out of your misery, even if your circumstances didn't or couldn't change.

The key to feeling alive was this:

I had to make peace with pain.

I had to...

Own it (instead of blaming it on something, someone).

Let it surround me.

Realize that it didn't define me.

Stop resisting it.

Accept it.

Be grateful for it.

And let it move on.

Because pain in this life will never, ever, ever stop coming our way. 

We will ALWAYS have something in life that we desperately wish we could change.

Until we learn to have a different relationship with pain, it will continue and continue and continue to weigh us down.

I love this quote by Carl Jung: "What you resist, persists." So true, right?

Here is an example:

Infertility. Pain up the wazoo on that one. That pain was never going to end until I had a baby. Oh me oh my. I resisted and resisted that infertility. Didn't want anything to do with it. Feared it. Hated it. Pitied myself. It was my worst nightmare coming true.

But I finally realized that having a child would NOT be the end to my pain. There would always be something else, and then something else. My cycle of resistance to things that weren't going exactly as I had planned would never end unless I made some internal changes. And here I was trying to bring some kids into this!

And so, I decided that infertility would be the reason I would learn how to heal from pain. Because I had the hope that I could teach my kids how to do the same one day. I decided that infertility would be my practice.

I began by stopping to blame infertility - as if I was justified in moping about for months and years on end. I took ownership for my reaction TO infertility. I couldn't control whether or not I had a baby, but I could control how I reacted to it.

I realized that everybody has something they wish they could change. Why continue to pity myself and say woe is me and hide myself away? Perhaps this pain could lead to something. Perhaps it could connect me with others. It was no longer something to be avoided.

I decided that infertility didn't have to be the end of me. Failure or disappointment in this area didn't have to define me or hold me back from living a very joyful life. There were other parts of life that were dang beautiful. I could embrace my life just as it was.

And yes, I even became grateful for the infertility. Like wouldn't-trade-it-for-anything kind of grateful. Because it made me who I am today. It was the reason I learned to be okay with pain. It set me on an extraordinary path. It was the beginning of understanding happiness from the inside-out. It is the reason for every bit of peace I now experience, it's the reason I experience a beautiful life.

2016 is quite a year for me. It marks the ten-year anniversary of my awakening, the anniversary of changing my relationship to pain. And because of it, for the last ten years, I have felt alive.

How are things for you? What is some pain you're experiencing right now? Could you imagine becoming at peace with it exactly as it is?

Sending lots of love to all,

Mara

P.S. Our retreat in Ecuador takes place in one week!!!! Our hearts are full to the max as we think of some hopeful people getting on a plane and coming to embrace more LOVE for themselves, for others, and for life. If any are able to come last minute, we'd take you in a second. Flights right now are in the low $400s - the cheapest we've ever seen (at least out of NYC). Register HERE. See what many people have written about the retreats HERE.

06 April 2016

Our Roadtrip of a Lifetime in the Southwest


Our trip to Southern Utah and Northern AZ has gone down as one of our top lifetime travel highlights. It's a National Park HEAVEN. It was on our bucket list to visit, and now I want to visit again and again as there is just SO much to see. You just drive and drive and drive with your jaw dropped nearly the entire time. 

Here are a few tips...

1. Find hotels in little towns with hot tubs under the Milky Way!!! You will be impressed with those stars above the vast desert. And, hello, talk about romantic. :) 


2. Eat a Navajo Taco in Monument Valley. These are legendary in my family and we made them at every family get together. 


3. Stop at all the Indian jewelry road stops on the highway and enjoy speaking with the Navajos. (Their accent is so nostalgic for me as my uncles and Dad grew up on the Navajo Reservation.)



4. If you want to buy very, very nice turquoise jewelry, the gift shop at Monument Valley is off-the-charts. Bring a lot of money! I have a few pieces on a wish list in honor of my Grandmother, whose wrists and hands were covered in turquoise jewelry. 



5. Give in to all the red dust...it will cover everything and remind you how nice it is to be dirty. Hiking boots are recommended. I finally replaced my boots that I've been wearing since I was 19 years old. I got these from REI and I'm loving them!




6. Listen to On-Being podcasts by NPR - often about spirituality. It's the perfect setting to do so. Here are some excellent ones we listened to on the scenic drives: James Doty - The Magic Shop of the Brain; BJ Miller - Reframing Our Relationship to That We Don't Control; Adam Grant - Successful Givers, Toxic Takers, and the Life We Spend at Work.




7. Do.Not.Miss: Zion National Park, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, the scenic Route 12, and the Grand Canyon. Of course, there are just loads and loads of parks and canyons and hikes in between, but these are must-sees for sure. Moab and the Arches National Park are also spectacular. 





8. Take loads of road trip snacks and picnic food. Our favorites: Mixed nuts, rice crackers, hummus, baby carrots, homemade peanut butter balls, dried fruit, bananas, clementines, jerky, hard boiled eggs, smoothies in a thermos. There are also plenty of old school road stop cafes.



9. Do a River Ceremony if you find a river or stream. 



10. Cherish every second of this beautiful planet.







And now for a little something that still has us smiling from ear to ear...

On one of the hiking trails in Zion, we passed a group of hikers and then one of them called out: "Are you from A Blog About Love?" YES! "I attended your event in Norway!" she said. "You changed my life! I think of you all the time!"

ahh...we couldn't believe it. Such a miracle we crossed paths.

This life is too beautiful.

XOXO



05 April 2016

Highlights From Our March Retreats



Dearest friends,

We are back in Cuenca.

We are getting ourselves back in gear after a very busy March in the states. Sometimes I go through a slump when we return to Ecuador. Blah. Things are beautiful and good here, but it's a drastic transition every time to leave family, friends, and familiarity. I've been making my way back to our routine here.

You know I've been thinking about this blog and feel excited to get back to it...  :)

For today, a few highlights and photos from the (3) Love Boot Camps we just hosted in the U.S...

LOVE BOOT CAMP,
BROOKLYN


  • Nearly 75% of our attendees at all the retreats came via RECOMMENDATIONS from past guests!!! I'd say we're getting somewhere! That was hugely exciting for us! 



  • Here we were just after the Brooklyn retreat. We looked like this ^ but actually felt like this cute couple sitting across from us on the subway...




  • I wondered if the one-day retreats would still be top-notch, compared to our two-day events last year. I mean, could we teach everyone enough to make them feel it was still worth it and "life changing"?! Would everyone feel a similar feeling of community and hope? The answer is YES. The 1-day experiment totally worked. We got crazy good feedback like we did with the 2-day events. Also, it allowed more people to come due to work and childcare. We will likely not go back to the 2-day retreat.


  • One professional therapist who attended told us we HAVE to get our curriculum ready to be taught to other therapists. She said she does her thing, but that we have something so amazing to add and she would LOVE to incorporate it into her practice. We have had many others request the same thing. We are actually super excited about the possibility of doing this.



LOVE BOOT CAMP, 
LAS VEGAS



 (Here we got to gather in a lovely atrium in Las Vegas.)
  • 5 retreats in 2016 have been/will be in the homes of readers/supporters/alumni! That is A DREAM to us to join forces with these good souls who have become a part of this movement. It also saves us substantially on our costs, which helps this effort to continue. So THANK YOU X A MILLION to those who have been able to help! 
  • Some people that came on heavy recommendations from friends or spouses were SKEPTICAL. I think really skeptical, in fact. But, during and after the retreat, they just couldn't stop raving about their experience. They told us again and again and AGAIN that it was EXACTLY what they needed. And that they had no idea how good it was going to be. Heck yeah. I love hearing that.


LOVE BOOT CAMP,  
SALT LAKE CITY



  • A 22 year-old guy (in college) came to our retreat in Salt Lake. He has read the blog for years and wants to be on a loving path. Um. Amazing!!! We were all so dang inspired by him. I wish I had a match maker as part of this blog because to put any two of you together on this path - as friends or partners -would be just about the best thing on earth.

  • Our voices survived this tour, unlike in the past. We drank our favorite homemade tea non-stop with SLICED LEMON + SLICED GINGER + HOT WATER. Oh my goodness. That drink is the most comforting bit of heaven to me. You have to try it. (We like these thermoses that keep liquids hot for 12 hours.)


  • And, here are some words we've received from our guests. We're so grateful...
"It was one of the most beautiful weekends of my life. Love you all! Thanks for inspiring me."
"Thank you for sharing your beautiful work with love. My experience this weekend was life changing." 
"I don't have words about the impact you've made on me. This day was life changing. I'm feeling so empowered to share this light and love." 
"An amazing, uplifting, inspiring weekend. I loved every second." 
"Through mentoring with you and coming to this retreat, you have saved my life." 
"You have blessed my life 100%." 
"Such a beautiful day with you all. I'm still floating ❤" 
"LOVE...you taught me Love. A new way, more hope." 
"I have been filled with new hope and purpose today." 
"You've changed everything for me in the most wonderful of ways and I can't express in words what that has done for me."
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