26 January 2015

Happy Winter Tips From Brooklyn Women

Guys, we are hanging out in 75 degree weather over here in Ecuador. It is NUTS. Especially when we see MAJOR SNOW (NY!!!) and FREEZING TEMPS popping up everywhere on line. 

So in honor of the WINTER we are missing, 
here are some pics from our magical winter in Norway last year. AND...some HAPPY WINTER TIPS to keep you active and sane during the cold months (brought to you by a bunch of Brooklyn women who collaborated one night at a church event.) 



THE BEST INDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR WINTER:


Create a Work Coop--work with a friend/neighbor to accomplish tasks (closets, windows, painting, etc.)

Game Nights w/ friends

Tackle big projects in manageable pieces

Organize rooms

Dejunk your home

Book signing or other daily free event at bookstores, such as Strand

Movie Nights w/ friends

Get a massage in Chinatown

Talk Therapy - find a friend or family member to talk to instead of staying isolated

Read a good book or have a Read-a-thon

Take a free self-guided tour of the NY Public Library

Concert at the Met

Visit the Turkish Baths or a Korean Spa

Try new recipes

Make Fireplace or Stovetop S'mores

Poetry Slam

Go see a Broadway show

Host a 'Discussion Night' on a topic

Host an 'Article Club'

Sign up for a class

Book a hotel or cabin get-a-way

Go to a museum

Moth Story Slam

Buy new make-up and give yourself a makeover (maybe include a friend)

Visit an indoor ping pong club

Create Ambiance! -- Buy a fireplace dvd, use candles that remind your of happy times, lighting, lanterns, teas, cocoas, baking


First snow on the roof of the Oslo Opera House. 






Oslo! We found this sign right before our speaking engagement.



Unnur, one of our favorite Scandinavian women. She heard us speak in Iceland and then later arranged for us to speak in Norway.





I must say, this speaking event went so, so well and we met some incredible people. We were so grateful. People wanted to chat with us for hours after, so we didn't leave until midnight!




THE BEST OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR WINTER:

Exercise! (See what exercise does to me!)


Get a walking partner!

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge


Sledding in the park!

Walk through Central or Prospect Park after a snow (best thing ever)

Find a patch of sunlight everyday (get 15 min of sunlight a day)


Leave your office at least once or twice a day during full sun

Meet friends for lunch


Say hello to strangers while you are out 


Get thermals (my favorite), proper winter gear, and waterproof boots (my favorite)

Run to get laundry/dry cleaning

Shovel your stoop, then shovel the neighbor's stoop & watch your mood improve

Make a snowman

Find some stairs to climb

Sleigh ride in the country

Go ice skating


Join a gym

Make snow angels


Snow shoeing 


Cross country skiing at the park




The fish market in Bergen was amazing. We enjoyed peeled fresh shrimp and lemon on the harbor.





Danny enjoyed some Norwegian pancakes. And reindeer sausage!



The train ride through snowy Norway was so, so dreamy.



Our boat trip through the Fjords was a bit rainy that day. But we still saw loads of scenes like THIS...ahh!


Hope you all have a good, good winter and that it can be magical and special some how. You know you can still come to our Body + Soul Camp in February if you want the ultimate winter boost!  :) :) :) We currently have NINE people signed up. We're thrilled & amazed. But we still have room for more, if you want to book a ticket.

And now, what helps YOU to have a happier winter?? (Though of course any comment is always welcome.)

23 January 2015

One Key To Developing Compassion for the Offender


From Danny

How does one go about feeling compassion for someone who just offended, ignored, or betrayed them? The most difficult time to enter into a more loving state of being is in the moment of offense, and for that matter every moment thereafter. And yet, for healing to be fully felt and experienced, compassion must return to the wounded heart, and it is the very source of the peace that is sought.  

But how does one develop that compassion?  

I was reading an article related to stress and anxiety, and in it was a simple quote from Roy Masters about one technique he shares to help people develop compassion and reduce resentment. Roy Masters is a prolific author and radio host that teaches mindfulness meditation exercises currently used by the Army to help soldiers cope. Though the whole quote is worth commenting on, I'd rather just focus on the bolded portion, as it is what inspired this post.
"Imagine, however, that someone said or did something cruel to you, but that you did not react in any way whatsoever – you did not become upset, resentful or even ruffled. You simply observed that this person was saying or doing something cruel, as though you were calmly observing the scene in a movie. You simply would not be stressed by what would appear to others to be a highly stressful encounter. Stress and cruelty affect us as profoundly as they do only because we react to them resentfully.”
Why is it that you can watch something potentially offensive occur in a movie and not explode about it, but if it happens to you in real life, it is a big deal? 

At least one reason is your ego was involved in one situation and not the other. In one case you were just observing something that has no bearing on your identity/ego, in another you believed some part of your worth was actually on the line.  

This simple fact brings an interesting thought. When watching a movie or television series, have you ever been able to have compassion for the “bad character”, because you’d been shown their backstory and the reasons for all their pain? 

I think the TV series Lost did a great job at this (any other Lost fans out there?). The underlying theme of the show was redemption, both individual and collective. Through flashbacks, the show helped you truly understand why it was that each of these individuals acted in dysfunctional ways. As a result, instead of despising the deeply flawed characters, you actually had compassion for them and each of their unique kinds of weaknesses and human frailties. This is because you understood that when they hurt another character you liked, it was often because they themselves had been hurt. Instead of being offended by their actions, you found yourself rooting for them to overcome their challenges -- you wanted them to find the happiness and wholeness they were seeking.  

What if you could do the same thing with the people in your life? You may think you know your spouse, or children, or friends. But there will always be a great deal that you do NOT know about them. The shame that each individual faces in life often causes them to hide the ugliest parts of their lives for fear of not being accepted as they are. Though you might think you know someone, what you know is really just the part that they feel comfortable revealing to the world.  

What if you could treat their weaknesses like you treat those of some flawed character in a movie or TV show you watch? What if you truly knew the root of their pain and the reasons they act out against you or others? What if you knew all their insecurities, fears, shames, guilts? What if you knew their past pain, anguish, etc?  

Do you think that your compassion for them would increase and be more of an automatic response? Would you be able to forgive more easily? Would you root for them, even in their weakness? 

This is what those in your life need you to be able to do! This is the beginning of compassion, and therefore the beginning of healing.

22 January 2015

Sexy Small Breasts Explained


I love this question from a reader, and decided to turn it into a post:
"Hi Mara, I would love to hear the WHY and HOW behind your decision to not care about having the extra "help" (with your breasts). I'm small busted and of course feel the pressure not to be. It seems it is only acceptable to be small if you're a six-foot runway model or a twelve-year-old (yes, I live in LA). This mindset has affected me to varying degrees throughout my life. When I worry about it, I feel like I don't really qualify as a woman and intimacy becomes a psychological trial. When I can forget about the pressure, of course I feel great and life (and sex) is so much better. 
The problem is how often the pressure and worry resurface. A boob job is so not me. It feels like a betrayal of myself, something I'd never want my own daughter to feel like she needed. But I completely understand why women do it. And I find myself thinking about it a lot.  
Basically, I want someone to talk me out of it; some support (no pun intended. ha!) from the small chested crowd; some advice as to how you learned to drown out the relentless "expectations" and still feel like a real, acceptable, complete woman. Thanks."
Thanks for asking this and putting yourself out there like this. I am sure there are MANY that feel just the way you do. It's so awful to feel pressure regarding your appearance and I'm so sorry you've been going through this. Your questions definitely made me think and ponder about how I've been cured of worrying or thinking negatively about my smaller breast size. OK, here goes...


HOW I'm OK with Smaller Breasts. 


Script.

I learned this the very hard way, but I learned that I AM IN CHARGE OF THE SCRIPT IN MY HEAD. I do not need to adopt the script that another person or my spouse or a culture might have for me (whether it be the culture of family, religion, neighborhood, marriage, region, workplace, school, city, country, etc.) I KNOW THAT I GET TO DECIDE FOR MYSELF WHAT I WANT TO TELL MYSELF OR BELIEVE. And I do my best to live by that. To me, this is perhaps the most important/hardest thing we need to learn in life! At times in my adulthood, living by my own script has been easier to do just because I'm quite independent by nature and don't worry what people think most of the time. BUT, in my former marriage, somehow I became a victim to my husband's script related to my appearance. At the time I did not have enough self worth to resist it. And eventually it was as though I had to learn FROM SCRATCH how to create my own script again and think of myself in a more positive way. And let me tell you, I had to hold onto that script for dear life. But it worked. Changing my script changed my life and helped me to take back my own worth, confidence and light again. If you'd like to start down this path, I recommend watching the film, "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay.

Practice.

Deep down, I certainly know that physical beauty - or just our body parts - don't define us. And so I DO MY BEST TO ACT LIKE ITSo yes, I practice, practice, and practice. And in this case regarding the size of my breasts, I PRACTICE FEELING GOOD IN MY OWN SKIN. So instead of being embarrassed of myself or ashamed or hating myself or comparing myself to others or wishing I looked different, it's more like, "I am so thankful for this healthy/functioning body. And not only that, I think I look pretty dang good!" It's also no secret that a woman's breasts play an important role in intimacy and sensuality. And certainly those intimate moments could be tainted by negative thoughts and self criticism. So instead I often think to myself, "I'm so dang lucky that I enjoy that part of myself, and that my husband does, too!" And because it can be an important expression of a healthy sexual connection, I think, "How nice that there is just one very thin piece of fabric between us instead of a bunch of padding." :) Haha. There you have it (yes, all of it. haha). I share this to show that your thoughts change things, trust me. They change the way you feel. They change the way you act. So, put into practice feeling beautiful and enough as you are.

Not Waiting for People or Circumstances to Change.

It helps that I don't have a husband who oogles and gawks at large breasted women or makes it clear that he prefers women of a certain size. He's extremely respectful that way. This gives me the space to practice feeling like I'm ENOUGH because I don't have his expectations breathing down my back. HOWEVER, I'd say that a pressure-free environment like this is NOT a requirement for you tapping into your own power. I know that from experience. I didn't learn how to do this with Danny. And I can say it's possible to change your script and learn to feel like enough on the inside, no matter what circumstance you are in, no matter what expectations people or your spouse have for you, no matter what cultural pressure you feel, no matter if your husband is addicted to porn or is unkind enough to let you know that he is especially attracted to women who don't look like you. As women, we cannot rely on others for our worth. We MUST cultivate it ourselves. Even if we have a loving environment, it is not enough. We must still do the work for ourselves. For loads of my posts about self worth, please see the side bar. 


WHY I'm OK with smaller breasts. 

Culture.

For me, I'm guessing culture is a big reason. While many may feel cultural pressure to get a surgery, I would say I feel zero cultural pressure to do so. Like I mentioned, after 14 years, I don't know one single woman on the east coast that has had breast surgery. Not one! In my experience, it just doesn't seem like people really care. AND I LOVE THAT. (In my experiences abroad in Europe and South America, I also haven't encountered an overall feeling that people really value large breasted women - enough that women are getting breast enlargements in droves. Though I'd love for other readers to chime in here, too, as I know there are different pockets of sub cultures pretty much every where you go.) 

It is worth noting that while there may be less pressure in Brooklyn to get breast surgery, certainly there are other unique expectations which have the potential to cause just as much comparison, self doubt, and anxiety as anything else (for example, uniqueness is valued, independent thinking is valued, creativity is valued, accomplishments and professions are valued.) And giving into those expectations can be just as expensive and just as superficial and shortsighted of a solution to the quest for personal worth as anything else.  

One cultural type of pressure is not inherently better or worse than any other kind. All of them represent an external influence suggesting to you how you should judge yourself and others, or what parts of your body or personality or intellect are acceptable or not. In the end, I say we have to rise above that and choose for ourselves what we want to value- whatever it may be. 

Values.

So why do I think small breasts can be sexy and beautiful? Because breast size is not a determinant of beauty or sex appeal for me. I value women spending their time and thoughts DOING smart, creative, innovative, charitable things - it doesn't matter to me how one looks or how big their breasts are or how "attractive" they are as they do them. In my book, Smart is beautiful. Natural is beautiful. Creativity is beautiful. Confidence is beautiful. Hard work is beautiful. Healthy living is beautiful. Happiness is beautiful. Caring for others is beautiful. Wisdom is beautiful. Function is beautiful. Being a mother is beautiful. Minimalism is beautiful. Ambition is beautiful. Changing the world is beautiful. And perhaps most importantly, Owning Your Inherent Worth is beautiful.

I think the key is to just find out what truly feels beautiful to you and embrace it. And if your culture tells you something different, tell them to pound sand (this was Danny's suggestion for nicer language. :)


With lots of love to all of you - no matter what shape or size you are -with real or fake breasts. You are all amazing women with SO MUCH BEAUTY to offer the world. And it is a great hope of mine that we as women can tap into our greatest power and gifts and worth- regardless of what we look like. 

Mara


P.S. In case it might seem I am perfect at this at all times, I am not. These photos were taken while Danny and I backpacked Europe. I took one pair of tennis shoes for 5 weeks. They were so, so ugly. I had no hair products or make up at all. We brought very few clothes and I was so sick of wearing them. I specifically remember not feeling so cute while Danny took these photos there on the Champ de Mars. I clearly needed this post on that day.

As always, please chime in with your thoughts! Your comments and discussions here are what make this blog. Any other advice for someone feeling cultural pressure to get a breast enlargement (when she prefers not to)? 

21 January 2015

My Search For A New Watch


For nearly 10 years or so, I have not been wearing a watch. Danny wears one. And I found myself asking him the time way too often. So I decided a watch would be good for my Christmas present. :) :)


Since I'd been out of the game for so long, I didn't realize that SOO many watches these days have just MASSIVE watch faces! I couldn't believe it. It's not my personal style, so I had to look hard to find ones that were smaller.

This grey and rose gold beauty is the one that I ended up getting. It's from an Australian watch company called The Horse. (Thanks to our amazing wedding photographer, Rachel Thurston, for telling me about the company.)  I've been so, so happy with it.

After the jump, see the other watches I was considering. Including the first two GORGEOUS suggestions by designer and Book/Shop owner, Erik Heywood. I thought I'd share in case you're in the market for a watch this year...

20 January 2015

The VERY BEST Day of the Week For A Date Night



You know how Friday and Saturday night are usually designated for dates, city outings, dinners out, movies, gatherings with friends, etc.?

And then Monday comes and the weekend never feels long enough.

Well, I've got a plan for you and I think it's pretty brilliant.

Have your date night on THURSDAY NIGHT.

Dress up. Meet someplace out of the house. Make a hot date happen with your significant other or with friends. This way, you wake up and you still have a fun Friday and Saturday ahead (which are automatically just fun because they exist).

And your weekend will feel like it goes on and on and ON. . . . . . .

Trust me. Thursday night date nights are game changers.

TRY IT.

-Mara



P.S. In Cuenca, our date nights usually consist of going to the symphony, opera, guitar concert (like above), or a flamenco concert. The cultural events are FREE here and often take place in amazing colonial cathedrals, which is pretty fantastic. There are very few restaurants that we like here (food snobs, I know) so Danny usually cooks our meals. Sometimes we go to one of the big soccer games or the movies (they show several movies in English each month.) Sometimes we go to our favorite hot spring spa for a 3 hour spa experience (with steam baths, 3 different mud baths, sauna hot boxes, and hydrotherapy- all for $15!) And for our hottest date nights, Danny builds a fire...and well, we quite enjoy being together in the firelight. :)

What are you doing for date nights these days? Is it hard to pull them off in your current phase of life? 

P.P.S. Today at NOON you can register for the NYC 5 Boro Bike Ride, which will take place on May 3, 2015. COOLEST EXPERIENCE EVER!!! I cannot recommend it enough. I wrote a post about our experience here - including some good tips, if I do say so myself.

19 January 2015

A Life Changing Documentary


Ok, here we go. Two movie recommendations in a row.

This documentary here - Hungry for Change - just might motivate you to change your life. Like - really, really. I thought it was SO dead on with good information about HOW to be healthy. It seriously made me feel more committed than ever to eating green juice and a mostly plant based diet. (Even though Danny and I have been juicing for about 10 months now - and we feel amazing - it is still so nice to have an extra boost of motivation. And this totally did it for us!!!) 

A big thanks to Megan, one of the women who attended our last retreat, for recommending the film. And if you're on the fence about attending the Feb. Body + Soul Camp, WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY. :) :)

Love to all, 

Mara

P.S. I have been meaning to tell you...

TWO people from our last retreat decided to move to Ecuador!!! We couldn't believe it. 

-One of the women returned a few months ago to continue working with our raw food chef, Tony, and our spiritual healer and psychologist, Alexandra (because they are both that good). She has been eating a raw food diet, juicing, doing meditation, yoga, and all kinds of healing work. We are AMAZED!! And she looks INCREDIBLE!! She is truly transforming her life. 

-And one of the other attendees has been working on making the move ever since the retreat. He will arrive with his wife and three young children any day now. They have decided to settle in Ecuador for a while and will be working on a new business. Wow, right?

16 January 2015

If You Haven't Already, Go See Selma!


From Danny

Yesterday marks the 86th year since the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Monday, the United States will observe a national holiday to celebrate and honor his life and contributions to the civil rights movement and the dignity of all human beings.

Over the years I have read about his life, admired and identified with his non-violent approach to protesting, read and considered the wisdom of his words, felt the power of his speeches, and seen a few movies portraying him or the approach he took towards seeking justice. Each "contact" I have had with the man leaves me deeply impressed and always desiring to know more.


Watching the movie "Selma" with Mara was no different. Sometimes I am awestruck considering what a single human being is able to do with what seems like a very short life. In his case, he used his 39 years to change an entire nation, and he did it motivated by the power of Love.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, please take advantage of this 3-day weekend that honors him, go to the theater with your family, and see a movie portraying the events that led to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.  See what happens when one man motivated by Love inspires others to live a life motivated by Love, and with that changes the course of history and begins to heal a nation.

The movie was truly beautiful, I hope everybody will see.

A few questions for the comment section: 1) Have you seen the movie, and if so what did you think?  2) If any readers lived during those years, would you share a thought or impression that most sticks in your memory?  3) Does anyone that is well read on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have a favorite book recommendation for someone anxious to know more about his life?  

I'll leave you with a few MLK quotes I've gathered over the years that seem particularly relevant to what we aspire to share on this blog:
- Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.  
- Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.  
- So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?  
- Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.  
- We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.  
- Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.  
- Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.  
- Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.  
- Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.
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