16 June 2016

What Do You Do When The World Feels Scary?


(By Danny)

Last evening we received a letter I think many can relate to this particular week:
Hi Mara & Danny, 
In light of everything that's been happening this week (and this month, this year, this decade, this lifetime), what do you do when the world feels like a scary place to live in? 
My immediate reaction is to stay at home. Lock the doors. Don't let anyone in, and don't let myself out. Stay where it's safe. But I know that's not living, and I know that's letting the darkness win. 
My heart feels so heavy, and I don't know what to do with that weight. Even though I try to be kind and bring joy to the people in my immediate circle, it doesn't seem like enough. I can't change the laws that need to be changed, I can't stop the hate that causes people to do terrible things, I can't stop every bad thing from happening. So what do I do?
Warmly,
A Reader 
Her note prompted a quick reply which I thought might be worth sharing...

Thanks for writing,

I'll admit, normally I'm quite verbose in these email exchanges.  But this time the answer came to my mind in a very short and simple phrase.

Just love the person right in front of you.

I'm not sure what else there is to do, but to be one of the distribution points of love in what at times feels like a sea of darkness or hate. Sometimes, doing that small and simple thing -- loving the person in front of you -- can still take a decent amount of work. But it's worth it.  

This week, I had one of those moments where I felt offended towards someone. Stewing in that offense felt awful, it pulled me back from things and people I care about for a few hours, even a day.  

When I pulled myself enough out of the fog, I committed to a ritual I oftentimes perform. I lit some sweet smelling incense, set it on the floor, laid a folded over blanket next to it to sit on, calmly observed the swirling smoke for a few minutes...and when my mind was sufficiently cleared of other thoughts....I started to figure out how to love again.  

What would it mean to love those that offended me? What would it mean to understand them, and replace offense with compassion? What would it mean to willingly release that overhanging feeling I'd allowed to pile up inside of me by my own stubbornness? How could I change the story I'm telling myself about the offense, so that I can move on and restore connection again?

While it was a great mental exercise, and it did indeed free me quite a bit...it was missing something. Where I'd previously withdrawn, I needed to connect. I needed to go Love who was in front of me. In this case, it meant loving Mara, and our 3 cuddly puppies. I needed to finish my mental release by actually going out and doing some authentic connecting. 

So I did. And if felt good.

So the answer, while simple, takes effort...and sometimes a little preparation to clear your head and heart of the weight that at times presses upon them.

So....go love and be present for the person in front of you, and relish in the connection that is formed in that tiny world that exists in the moment the two of you share.

If anything good is to come to this world and those we love...it will begin right there.

Best,
Danny

The last few days certainly have created a space for heaviness and contemplation.What little rituals or ideas do you use to get yourself back to a place of connection?

06 June 2016

Our Holiday in The Valley of Longevity

Last week, Ecuador was beautiful. We went on a 4-hour Ecuadorian road trip and saw a new area we haven't seen before: the small town of Vilcabamba - known as the Valley of Longevity. I'm so thankful for this week. It was good for my body & soul.


The property we stayed at had the most lush views. Out among the vegetation, they had a yoga shala! A small path led us there each morning for yoga. It was truly divine.


The sun, warmth, the views, the sound of birds, and the huge spider in the rafters were all enlivening. Of course the yoga, too. My body relished in it as it had been awhile. Moving your body is never, ever overrated.



Danny braided my hair when I discovered I forgot a hair band. Yep, that man's kindness still makes me melt. Later, an incredible masseuse worked on us, did avocado & banana hair masks, aura cleansing, clay and cucumber facials...oh my.



Around the small town, there are so many trails going up into the Andes. Hiking for a few hours before lunch seemed to purify the soul and make anything seem possible. I thought about our new website and always, always the dream of getting a property in the states where we can HOST you in our home. 



Being at the top of the world really does make you feel on top of the world. :)




A friend we were with was impressed that I was so game to go on a hike! ha. I've heard that around here, outdoor activities like hiking or camping are not as common, especially among women. Though it turns out that hiking with Danny is one of my favorite things to do. 



Healthy food is extremely difficult to come by in Ecuador. But in Vilcabamba, they have a handful of healthier places to eat, including The Juice Factory, where they make superfood smoothies. I mean, this is a rarity folks. They even had some homemade flax seed, gluten-free graham crackers and a few local items I picked up for our next retreat guests. My kind of place.


Being from New York, the simple life in Ecuador is something I'm drawn to as a tourist, but not necessarily for my place of permanent residence. I know. That may be a tricky one to understand. But this week, I relished in many simple moments...a chicken at a gas station; cows along the highway; sitting among the sounds of birds; branding from the 1950s; colorful houses; coffee beans drying on a porch; and a colorful church. It was wonderful to see so much beauty.
















So thankful for all of these unique experiences.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be preparing for our July trip: our U.S. Tour in Pennsylvania, Portland, Mesa, and Austin. Please do come!! We'd love to meet you.

Love,

Mara

P.S. The October Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador only has 3 spots left! Many people are hustling for them. And don't miss what people have said about the retreats. This is why we do what we do.  :) :)






19 May 2016

Supporting Some Favorite Women

I can't help myself.

I so want to support women out there doing something huge, using their talents, using their voice.

Having this blog does let me indulge in things near to my heart...

So, may I introduce to you (7) incredible women I'd love to support:

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Erin Loechner, Design for Mankind

The lovely blogger/writer, Erin Loechner, has written a book! And it's available on Amazon for pre-order. (It will be coming out January 2017.) I loved reading the book description, including this: "Through a series of steep climbs—her husband's brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, and public criticism—Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all, and to veer right into grace."   Oh, I love this woman and her writing is always straight from the heart - I'm sure this book will be a must read. (The cover is beautiful, too. Spot on typography!)


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Aubry Bennion, Hello Maypole

Aubry is a make-it-happen kind of woman and we were lucky enough to meet her because of the blog & retreats. She has THE COOLEST BUSINESS selling felt balls in loads of colors. I would be happy draping felt balls pretty much everywhere for holidays and parties. When we return to NY, we'll have to buy all new Christmas decor (because we sold everything before moving). So...I see some felt balls in my future. (Also, her darling instagram feed is full of ideas.)


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Zina Bennion, Mom's Stuff

Zina is a powerhouse of creativity, generosity, community, feminism, and spirit. We met Zina in NYC once (because of the blog) and have been honored to stay connected with her ever since. She recently joined her mother, Lee, in a family business called Mom's Stuff, where they sell the most glorious salve you could ever find. It's all hand made, hand poured, all natural, and shared with lots of care. Cool branding, too. For years, Danny has used the salve literally every single day (to style his hair) - and I go nuts over the delicious woodsy, piney, manly scent. I also use it to soften my hands at night. And yes, we brought large jars of it with us to Ecuador. That says a lot. :) Follow Mom's Stuff here.


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Kami Larsen, Cleanse Your Life

We met Kami at our retreat and we have loved watching her career online. She is giving her all as a health coach, essential oil consultant, and an aura personality consultant. She LOVES her clients and brings a lot of warmth and care to what she does. Her own family has transformed the way they eat and live (due to food intolerances, allergies, skin, and gut issues)- and she later became certified to be a health coach to teach others how to do the same. She sells an online healing program. She teaches free classes monthly. She sells essential oils. It would be worth it to follow her to see what she's offering next.


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Hilary Rushford, Dean Street Society

Hilary is a savvy entrepreneur we know in Brooklyn. We've connected with her at some conferences over the years as she was a blogger. Since then she's created this insanely successful online course called, "Double Your Instagram Following." She has seriously cracked the code with this online entrepreneur world and selling this course was huge for her. Her tips + tricks are helping so many to be financially successful on Instagram with their brands and businesses. She's a delightful soul and a very good teacher. The class is available periodically, so follow her to get in on the next class.


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Sara Owens, BK17 Bakery

Sara is a baker we met in Brooklyn as she once sold gorgeous sourdough loaves to our CSA. She just launched a recipe book for her breads called SOURDOUGH, which makes me delighted as I want all her secrets. Here's what she does: "Baking with whole and sprouted grains, making the most of the seasonal harvest, and healing the body through naturally fermented food." Sounds up my alley, I'll tell you that. For this gluten free gal, I've actually had the treat of indulging in her bread (!) Her fermentation process is so intense that the gluten is actually broken down. (Have you heard of this?) She is also one of the kindest, most lovely women you'd ever meet, she coincidentally does sabbaticals in Ecuador, hosts bread making workshops in Brooklyn and nationwide, and shares her love of sourdough with anyone interested. No doubt I'll be hunting down her loaves when we return to B-town.



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Laurie White, Great Artist Program

Danny's own sister has the most creative business and Youtube channel. She's a die hard, passion-filled art teacher for kids and she now sells her K-6 volunteer-based art program to PTAs in 150 schools. Get more info. if you'd like the program in your own school. AND...check out her Youtube channel where she teaches free drawing classes. Your kids will LOVE it! Hello summer!!!

 (Artwork by a 4th Grader: Cezanne)

(Artwork by a 1st Grader: Moulin Rouge, Henri Toulouse Lautrec)

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Feeling inspired?

See another post here, where I highlighted (7) women.

And, do list in the comments if you or any woman you know is out there making something happen. It's always so, so inspiring to hear!

XOXO,

Mara

P.S.

Don't miss our 2016 events:

3-Day Body+Soul Camp in PA (July 8-10) - $847
1-Day Love Boot Camps in Portland, Mesa, and Austin (July 16, 23, & 30) - $395
7-Day Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador (Oct. 9-15) - $2,750 (book by July 15 for $500 off)

And you must try our Love Mentoring by Skype or phone. 
Buy one session ($150), get one free until June 15th!

In case you're curious- see what people are saying. :) :)

17 May 2016

Cusco Love & One Romantic Hotel


Our stay in Cusco will go down in history for us.

We're talking one of our favorite South American cities with charm, cobblestone, and architecture...

AND, we got to stay in one of the most romantic properties we've ever stayed in - a former 16th century mansion, which is now a 5-star hotel called Inkaterra La CasonaOh my.







One of our dear retreat guests highly recommended that we stay there. And we felt so spoiled to be able to do so, thanks to the generosity of the hotel.

Our room was so, so luxurious. It's the type of place with heated wooden floors throughout, marble showers, the biggest free standing tub I've seen in my life, double sinks fit for a queen, a stone fireplace, handmade toiletries, and a bed that was so huge and comfortable we felt way too fancy for our own good.



(Yes, we came in with our backpacks and felt a little out of place in our hiking pants. Oh jeez. Normally we'd be at some hostel before hitting the Inca Trail. Luckily other hikers were staying there, too.)



"The mini fridge in your room is full of complementary snacks and drinks," said the attentive staff.

"Give us a ring when you'd like us to light the fireplace or run the bath." 

haha.

OK, alrighty then. We'll get right on that. :) Just after we check out the original hand-painted mural ceilings.

Next thing we knew, the huge bath tub was filling with bubbles and surrounded by candles. The fireplace was roaring.

We were sipping sparkling water and eating mandarin oranges.

It's an understatement to say I was IN HEAVEN.

Also, this bathtub was just exceptionally large - definitely spacious enough for two. :) And it's especially lovely to indulge in if there's a torrential Andean rainstorm outside. :) We stayed in that tub as long as possible.







And here we have THE DOOR TO OUR ROOM! Just a hand carved door from the 16th century...









Breakfast was fit for a king.

Smoked trout. Eggs Benedict.

An American couple sat nearby, celebrating their 25th Anniversary. They set aside some money and stayed in the most fantastic place they could find. No doubt, this place was unforgettable.











We finally had to break ourselves away to see the town and sights in Cusco.

And then... oh my - during our walking tour, the guide actually took the group to show us none other than the Inkaterra La Casona, where we were staying!! The guide stopped outside and raved about the luxury of this place and said, "This is where all the celebrities stay. Katy Perry just stayed here last week." ha. Danny and I felt a little sheepish as we stood there on the street below our room and quietly connected to our wifi signal.



You would think going to Cusco is all about just getting to Machu Picchu. But ohhh nooo. There is SO much to see in and around this vibrant, ancient city (which feels like you're in Europe.) After all, it's the former capital of the Incan Empire. So the city is SURROUNDED by mind blowing ruins and beautiful indigenous people. We would definitely recommend Cusco as one of the "must sees" we've experienced so far in South America.




And a bonus: there are some fantastic restaurants in Cusco. One of our favorites (which we went to twice) is Green Point. It's vegan! Though even if you're not vegan, trust me you would LOVE the food at this place. Every traveler we met already knew about this place as word gets around. After a particularly soaking rain storm in which we were drenched to the bone, I was especially delighted to tuck inside their cozy, warm place and drink some hot cocoa (with homemade almond milk! And no sugar. Just how I like it.)







And...Cusco's ruins. I mean, what on earth? I'm not even sure how you MOVE stones that size, let alone form them into a giant lightening pattern.








Cusco, we loved you. Though be warned, those darling little llamas might poo on you.

OK friends, how do you feel about staying in nice hotels? Is it worth the money to you? Would you rather stay someplace cheap and use your money to explore even more? 

For me: I love the idea of staying some place nice from time to time, just for the experience of truly indulging, relaxing, and spending time at the hotel. Sometimes I'd even choose more time in the hotel vs. being out and about every possible second. Though I'm also okay staying in less expensive places as well - especially during long trips with lots of stops. We've definitely stayed in our fair share of hostels. Though I suppose they're often less fun to write about. :) 

P.S. See our Machu Picchu tips here. And Lima, too.


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