Category Archives: awareness

Meditation Can Literally Rewire Your Brain

Photo: WoodlyWonderworks, Finding Balance

Photo: WoodleyWonderworks, Finding Balance

I’ve been meditating on and off for the past ten years. It wasn’t until late last year that I started getting consistent about my practice.

There are two big reasons why I made it a daily habit. First, I joined a group called The Catalyst Collective. As part of the 8-week pilot program  we were asked to do the following things daily: write, get 20 minutes of physical exercise, and meditate.

I’ve always liked meditation. In theory it’s so easy – just sit there and breathe? No problem! I quickly came to notice that dropping into a meditative state is not as simple as it seems. With personal coaching from Palomi Sheth I’ve been able to take my sessions deeper through regular practice mixed with a variety of visualization exercises.

Step 1: Calm and center the physical body. A solid technique for this is to do a body scan.

Step 2: Become aware of your mind’s activity.

 Notice, then release, the crazy parade of thoughts and feelings going through your mind. Releasing these thoughts is key and tends to be the most challenging part of meditation, for me at least.

One technique that’s worked for me is to imagine each thought as a balloon. After identifying the thought, I acknowledge it – then release the balloon from my head space.

Another successful technique is to view your thoughts as a film reel. Observe the film as it plays, then move yourself further from the screen.

These first two steps usually take me twenty minutes or more before I drop into a meditative state.

Some nights it doesn’t work at all. In the Catalyst group we talked about even doing a few minutes of deep breathing to get the habit going. And it worked! I saw results – those few minutes spent sitting and breathing helped me relax and recenter right away.

Since then, I’ve made an effort to meditate every evening right before bedtime. Many people find that mornings are equally if not more effective. Here are three ways meditation has helped me and how it can be beneficial to your lifestyle.

  1. Stress reduction.

I’ve been coping  with high levels of anxiety my entire life. In the past few years I’ve discovered new ways to manage and avoid compounding it. Some would call it a flaw, others a feature. Either way, meditation has helped me to remove myself from the craziness. It helps me to learn that the things I fret over are not worth worrying about at all.  

  1.  Promotes mindfulness.

One of my favorite exercises is to visualize a set of Jenga blocks. When I see the initial stack, the blocks are all out of order. They form a jagged tower and it’s about to tip over. As I continue to breathe, the blocks align.  This exercise is incredibly centering and  goes great after steps 1 and 2 above.

  1.  Improves focus and concentration.

It’s ironic that during meditation, I focus on nothing at all. Yet in my daily life, meditation helps me to focus on one thing at a time and give it 100% of my energy.

There are countless other benefits. Meditation has been proven to support the immune system,  increase happiness, and slow  the aging process. If you’re new to meditation don’t worry about doing the right type or having the right tools  (i.e. the latest app).

The best technique is age-old and strips everything else away: simply sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe.

8 Ways Minimalism Can Increase Your Productivity

I’ve moved a handful of times in the past few years. In order to make each transition go smoother than silk all efforts were made to donate or sell as much as humanly possible. (The word I used on repeat was “…catharsis!”)

In the end, it felt great to donate all those clothes I’d never wear again. I was initially sad to part with all the books I secretly knew I’d never read, knowing they’d find a better use in the end. The cooking supplies I’d barely use and stacks of house records I was holding onto for reasons only the vinyl gods know why — all of those things I simply didn’t need any more. They were a nice to have, but didn’t define or help me grow in any significant way within the present tense.

Change can be tough, but it has its silver linings. In the end, when I moved from New York to San Francisco my things were narrowed down to two suitcases and ten medium-to-large boxes. I could’ve pared it down even further but for some reason felt inclined to retain a shred of comfort found in the semblance of “stuff.”

After landing in San Francisco I moved into a studio apartment with only those two suitcases. I’d live there for two weeks as the boxes were in transit. On day 2, I realized that I’d packed a (mostly fabulous) wardrobe in those two suitcases but nothing more. So, I went to the store and purchased basic silverware, a cup, two plates and a french press. I then realized that if the boxes never arrived I’d be okay with that — there was something freeing about living with just the basics.

It was then I made the decision to bring new things into the apartment only when absolutely necessary. If something new was acquired, something old had to go. A year later, I’ve managed to keep my studio apartment fairly clean and relatively clutter free even after the boxes finally did arrive. This approach has done wonders for my head space too.

Here are eight ways that living a minimalist lifestyle has helped me to become better organized, slightly more focused and increasingly productive. I hope it helps you in some ways, too!

1. Your priorities are in clearer view.

When my space is very simple I am better able to focus on what needs to be accomplished in the present moment. Focusing on only the essential in the physical realm has helped me do the same in business. I pick two to three targets and use them as “bullseyes” to hit for the day. Like “stuff,” the challenge then becomes re-prioritizing the rest of the incoming noise trying to get in.

2. Less physical clutter = less mental cutter.

This sounds like a no-brainer but is truly revelatory when put into regular practice. You’ll be able to focus more when there’s less around you to visually and mentally take in.

3. You’ll spend less energy decision-making.

My diet is mostly vegan — on busier weeks I’ll order from a service like Hungry Root and other weeks cook simple dishes with slight variations at home. My closet consists of a  basic color palette of all neutral colors (black, white, gray, navy blue). I have go-to outfits for board meetings and other events for when it’s necessary to step it up a notch. Having quality pieces ready to go removes my mind from the details of getting ready, and instead puts me in the mindset of whatever it is I’m preparing for for the day.

4. Quality becomes a priority.

Back when I was buying things to satisfy a temporary need it was perfectly fine to buy cheap, throw-away items. Clothing that would fall apart in the wash, poorly made furniture, rickety kitchen appliances. I look at things now as more of an investment to buy only once.

5.  You’ll save tons of time.

I’ve been able to dedicate more time to the important things like investing in personal projects or in meaningful relationships with others. You’ll save time on housekeeping to-dos like cleaning and maintenance. Not to mention, the urge to “shop” or “run errands” completely goes away. All kinds of extra time opens up for the things that matter most to you.

6. Your pocketbook will thank you.

‘Nuff said!

7. There is literally nothing holding you back.

I have a home but don’t feel tied to it. I can comfortably travel, spend the weekend at my S/O’s, and feel happy and content knowing that if I need to move again at a moment’s notice — or have the opportunity to travel the world! —  I can easily do so. A tie no longer exists to  physical things that restrict me from moving around the world with ease.

8You will find yourself living a simpler, more conscious lifestyle with more intention and clarity than ever before. That’s the goal, at least! : )

Are Plastic Water Bottles Finished?


I practice yoga, running, and cycling several times a week (mainly to stay sane). For my yoga practice, I typically visit the TruYoga studios because it’s convenient – they’re downstairs from my office – and the roster of rotating teachers is incredible. Lately, I’ve been branching out a bit by taking advantage of Groupons and other deals in an effort to try new styles and mix it up a bit.

I noticed in tonight’s class over at Core Power Yoga that the studio offered bottled water to drink – but it was in glass containers, not plastic. It’s such a simple idea that makes so much sense. We already know that plastic bottles are not only toxic but wasteful.  It was great to see a little system in place where glass bottles were implemented. There was definitely some style happening there, too!

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Why a Falling Whistle?

I wear a whistle around my neck that Andy gave me.  I receive compliments on it all the time. It’s a great companion piece because it gives me a chance to tell a story about something important (It’s not like someone compliments me and I give them this long-winded story – well, that only happened once. Sorry, Brock!).

Falling Whistles is a non-profit organization that’s campaigning for peace in the Congo. The sale of their whistles raises money for education, advocacy, and the rehabilitation of war-affected people there.

Learn the full story

This fall marks a historic year because for the first time in a generation, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have the chance to vote in a free and fair election.

See more, and learn what you can do to help:

Learn more
Support the cause, buy a whistle