Trending for Summer: Community Service!

I’m absolutely human.  Fleshly, driven by desire and whatnot.  And from time-to-time by thoughts and ideas have led me astray, off my divine path.  I’ve gotten better at discerning my emotional thoughts and impulses from my logical ones and am finding the balance between the two.  It’s an ongoing process and it may be something that one struggles with for their entire earthly life.  A little outside of this, or beyond it…I’ve learned to listen to messages from the Universe (God…what/whoever you feel comfortable and secure with).  I find that if I refuse to recognize or listen to certain messages and lessons that I am forced to continually come face to face with them.  Sometimes this is a minor issue (I don’t look good in yellow)…sometimes it’s a major one (Bad boys ain’t no good, thanks Mary).  The more I listen to this little inner voice or sometimes major outside cue, the more success and growth I seem to see in myself.  And really who is a better judge of my own personal growth than me (Universe withstanding)? 

I’ve always been somewhat of a softie at heart always loving babies and old people and wanting to fight for those who are discriminated against, bullied or otherwise oppressed in whatever unfair fashion.  This is something I’ve been peripherally aware of for most of my teen and adult years but it’s not something I’ve actively channeled.  Well, here comes the Universe.  At my last two jobs, without requesting it I’ve been appointed Community Service Volunteer Coordinator or Community Service Lead (among other responsibilities).  I’ve really enjoyed it in both places and find it a little more than coincidence in the re-occurrence.  I’ve done Special Olympics, food drives, school supply drives, women’s shelters, children’s shelters etc.  and it’s all been rewarding….but I’m realizing that I personally need to begin committing more than 2 hours a month to the array of needs in my community.  This is for so many reasons, first and foremost being to meet those needs of others and groups of others who are really so much bigger than just me alone.  Here are a few reasons, according to http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org as to how community service/ volunteering benefit you and the community:

  • You can learn or develop a new skill

               -I’m learning tricks and trades of cleaning!  Ask my mom, this is not something that comes   naturally for me, but it is an absolutely necessary evil.  Also, organizing and leading these events are teaching me organization and leadership skills!

  • Be part of your community

              -This goes along with the series I’m doing on discovering Columbia.  For so long since I moved back to Columbia I’ve complained (usually to myself at least) that I’m lonely…but I’ve been doing not much beyond the basics to make myself a part of this city!  And I’m giving back to my my community by enriching the lives of their children, women, pets, special needs community etc.  Even if it is just in the form of cleaning a kitchen….with budget cuts becoming an epidemic most organizations have a hard enough time paying enough employees to keep things running not to mention finding time to clean or money to pay someone to clean.  Again, this is such a basic need that a volunteer can help meet.

  • Motivation and Sense of Achievement

             -As a volunteer you are giving  your time freely for no other reason than the fact that you are motivated to help make your community a better place to live free and happy and safe!

  • Boost your Career Options

             -94% of employers find that volunteering can add to skills

             -73% of employers would hire a candidate with volunteer experience over one without one

                                 Boom.

  • New Experiences

              -Every time I volunteer, I encounter someone or something that broadens my mind and my perspective, sometimes just a little bit and sometimes in a major way.  Most recently, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to have a support system in my family.  For some unfortunate people, this isn’t a reality for them.  Imagine having to pick yourself up from your personal bottom with no one who loves you there to give you a boost?!  Those of us who are gifted with this are so fortunate and those who weren’t need and deserve all the love and respect they can get from this sometimes unforgiving world.

 

My most recent experience was this past Saturday at The Nurturing Center in downtown Columbia, SC.  I worked with the volunteer coordinator to deep clean and scrub the kitchen in their building (a beautiful, historic well-kept building, by the way)…a task that I have a hard time motivating myself to do in my own home was somehow no longer an inconvenience when I knew I was doing it to help, in some small way, the children who have been neglected and abused who come to this shelter and also their parents…whose stories I don’t know, couldn’t understand and won’t judge.  It touches something deep inside of you, a part that I don’t think is human and fleshly…a place of pure love that I believe to be divine.  I encourage everyone who reads this to do something that isn’t for them….no matter how small and see for yourself the unselfish gratification that goes beyond anything a new purse, car or even jet can provide.  All those things come and go, but love and the human spirit reverberate into eternity.Image

Me in all my no makeup, 9:30am on a Friday ,5 hours of sleep, rainbow turban glory.  Whether I looked it or not, I felt beautiful.

               –

 

Body Worlds Vital: South Carolina State Museum Exhibit (now past)

In our efforts to explore Columbia and simultaneously expand our minds and horizons, my brother Solomon and I took a trip to the South Carolina State Museum to see the much talked about Body Worlds Vital exhibit.  Before I delve into the exhibit itself, I want to hi-light a few things about the museum as an entirety.  Our state catches a lot of bad press (admittedly from myself occasionally) for our education system, economy, still existing social norms etc. but one thing no one can diss on is our museum!  It’s housed in a four story former textile mill.  The mill itself was a first back in the day (when it opening in 1894 it was the first totally electric textile mill in the WORLD…cool) and it was recently voted one of the three best museums in the Southeast along with the High Museum in Atlanta and the Smithsonian Institution.  Impressive.  Perhaps most promising is the fact that the museum just opened in 1988, this makes it a quite young museum with an already large amount of artifacts and room to add many more as the years go by.  I advise not only going to see their limited time special exhibits, but definitely touring the whole museum if you’ve never been.

ImageSouth Carolina State Museum

On to the exhibit.  This is one that was not for the weak of heart or stomach!  The entire exhibit consisted of…dead bodies that have been skinned, preserved, posed and in some cases, carved up all for the sake of education (and art?).  The body’s were all donated to science and they really were immaculately preserved!  You could see the muscles, veins, bones, fat etc. in tact and up close and personal.  Most bodies were encased in glass but a few were in open air…trust me I didn’t touch them and no, there wasn’t a posthumous stench in the air although it did take me back to high school biology dissection. 

ImageThese are two of the bodies that were on display outside of a glass case; they’re dancers!  They were also two of the most in shape bodies on display.  By viewing the exhibit we got to see first hand a lot of the things we learned about in biology about the infrastructure of the human body, but what struck home most with me were the lessons taught about the importance of nutrition, exercise, avoiding toxins and avoiding stress.  All throughout the exhibit were factoids about the above mentioned elements of health and I personally was relieved and encouraged to see an emphasis on red wine in moderation ( I consider 2 glasses moderate…right?).  There were cross-sections of a thin persons thigh next to the thigh of an obese person (both resembled prosciutto); this was a pretty startling visual.  The obese thigh was three times larger in circumference and you could see how thick the layer of fat was around the bone and muscle!  There was a healthy lung next to a smokers coal black lung…social smoking be damned!  I’ve made some resolutions.

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This guy was a little scary but comical too.  His body was fanned out on either side of his skeleton…the hat was added for humor in order to cut back on the grotesqueness of the body.  You can really see the structure of the muscles and rib-cage in this one.

The exhibition was a definite hit for Solomon and I.  We are both already somewhat health conscious but this reaffirmed our quest and taught us many new facets concerning the anatomy and upkeep of the human body.  The exhibit is not closed (we went on the last weekend) but will continue to tour around the country.  Inspired by what we had learned, after we left the museum we went to Lamb’s Bread Vegan Cafe on Main St. Columbia to get some healthy smoothies.  I had the ivy moss smoothie which tasted…healthy.  The cafe’s decor was really cool and the menu looked delicious!  We weren’t hungry enough to eat a meal at the time (maybe it had something to do with the body viewings) but definitely plan on going back to check out the local vegan fare.  I’ll make sure to post when I do.  Peace!

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Amsa Yoga

I find myself attracted to many things ancient, all things mystical and most things trendy; yoga is a practice that manages to encompass all three of these qualities.  I am not what you would call a fan of many “traditional” exercise routines…I know it’s incredibly important for my health, longevity, vitality, appearance etc. but it is also crude and inconvenient.  And therefore, I’ve always relied upon my high metabolism to remain thin, albeit somewhat flabby.  But, in the last few years, the many layers of my own personal onion have been peeling back at a much more rapid (and God knows, at times painful) pace; consequently I find myself more and more unhappy with most aspects of my previous state of being.  This, inconvenient as it may be for my hedonistic bent, includes the afore mentioned lack of exercise.

So, with this shedding of old and unveiling of new self underway, I found myself in the shop of a local spiritual healer who adamantly prescribed some yoga classes for my journey.  According to him, the spiritual benefits will outweigh the physical, which will be plentiful on their own.  I took his advice to heart and googled yoga studios in Columbia.  The two biggest hits I got were Amsa Yoga and City Yoga.  The reviews on Amsa appealed to me most and I went to a class the very next day.

Amsa Yoga, located in a shopping plaza, is a small, one room studio with a partition separating the front desk and lobby area from the workout studio itself.  The décor is welcoming, simple, warm and clean; perfectly fitting for a yoga studio.

Amsa’s Lobby

 I arrived about 2 minutes late (per usual, but I’m working on it) and the instructor, Anne greeted me at the door.  She sweetly shushed my apologies for tardiness, led me to the studio and introduced me to the class as a newcomer to Amsa and to yoga.  The class members were very welcoming, especially the woman directly to my right, Helen, who reassured me that everyone, including herself, had a first time at Amsa.  An obvious, but comforting point.

Yoga commenced.

Amsa’s studio

Class that morning was titled “Yin and Flow Yoga.” This is a mixture of Yin Yoga (uber relaxing…poses are often held for minutes at a time…meditation is encouraged…Anne read poetry aloud) and Power Flow Yoga (a much faster paced and higher intensity style of yoga…more of a workout).  We took deep rhythmic breaths, we downward-dogged, Anjali-Mudra-ed, tree-posed; we planked so much I can’t believe I didn’t crash on my face and most challenging of all… I tried not to kick or fall on the people to either side of me.

The poses were actually pretty universal in that they could be altered for any skill level; I kept my moves pretty basic while the owner of the studio (who was a student this particular morning) looked like a blonde Twizzler on her mat.  It was impressive without being intimidating.  I never felt like I was being judged as the novice that I am and thankfully I went pretty much unnoticed during class.  This freed my inhibitions, allowing me to put forth my best effort and not be too embarrassed when I faltered.

The instructor Anne was great.  She had a really soothing voice and touch, occasionally coming around to unobtrusively adjust our poses to perfection.  At the end of the class, we used whatever props we wanted to relax and just lay on our mats for about 5 minutes while we unwound from our workout and prepared ourselves to step back out into cruel reality.  I being a shy newbie, simply used an eye-pillow, but others around me put pillows under their legs, blankets over their bodies…Anne even offered to tuck us in (a little much, if you ask me).  After the class, I honestly felt high…a pure, natural, happy high.  Even a little dazed.  Everyone else must have been right there along with me because we all just sat on our mats for a few moments smiling like fools and saying things like “That was so nice” and “I can’t even remember my to-do list.  The regulars milled around chatting with each other while I thanked the Anne and Kimberly and told my new friend Helen goodbye.  I was in a strangely peaceful and open-to-the-possibilities type of mood for the remainder of the day.  I was inspired to try something else new and unusual in my own personal world:  Indian food.  But that’s the next Columbia adventures post.  First things first:  If you are interested in trying out Amsa Yoga, I’d highly recommend it!  The first class is free and the prices after that are very reasonable compared to some of the others I’ve seen listed in the Columbia area.  I will probably be returning to Amsa, but plan on trying a few more studios before making my way back around.

Amsa Yoga Contact Info:

Website:  www.amsayoga.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/AmsaYogaSC

Phone:  803-348-3387

Email:  amsayogasc@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

Perceptions of Columbia and Self

ImageI often find myself lamenting that I reside in Columbia, South Carolina.  There are many reasons I’ve created and rehearsed to justify this arrogant disapproval:  There isn’t a large population of young professionals…many SC college graduates move to larger cities in nearby states, i.e. Atlanta and Charlotte.  This is problematic for a few reasons, not least of which and most mentionable being a stunted dating pool.  Next, Columbia is quite the conservative city.  There is copious old white money and embarrassing white politicians (Joe Wilson the verbose Congressman and Thomas Ravenel the coke-dealer ). 

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Which leads me to my next grievance:  A lack of diversity.  Don’t get me wrong, the diversity is there…we’re just all segregated from each other into our own little neighborhoods, bars, malls, clubs, sections of town, churches, restaurants etc.  And if that line is crossed, be prepared to be stared at or stared at and then condescendingly smiled at…depending on which way you cross.  The music and art scenes are miniscule and the list goes on and on.  Ironically the hated Gamecock community (I’m a Tiger through and through, orange blood and all) is the only place where almost all of these complaints can be dispelled, but what does that leave for those of us that aren’t USC students and don’t necessarily want to be immersed in the college scene of Five Points and the Vista?  Well that’s a question I’ve decided to challenge myself to answer as a sort of personal quest.  But first things first, a look in the mirror….

ImageIn the last few years I’ve continued to run into the idea that happiness and contentment are dependent upon our perceptions of reality and our perceptions of self.  When obvious truths keep slapping me in the face, I usually take them as messages from the Universe to wake up and listen.  And so, this particular truth calls for self reflection. After reflecting upon the previous paragraph, I can conclude: I’m really tired of all the whining and ungratefulness that goes on in the world, especially my own.  I have so much to be grateful for but somehow I am never satisfied, nothing is ever enough.  Would I really reach the ultimate place of joy and contentment if I moved to New York and had all the restaurants, art galleries, Broadway plays and lectures in the world to attend?  I don’t think so…I’d still wish my boobs were bigger.  So what if I got a boob job, that wouldn’t solve anything because I’d still be single.  But then I’d find 100 things wrong with my man which would in essence mirror the 100 things I still don’t like about myself. 

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If I got that farm in Costa Rica and escaped the American Capitalistic Rat Race, I’d continue to wake up every morning in the same body, see the same face in the mirror and fight the same internal battles day after day until I resolved to revolutionize the most powerful weapon of all: My thoughts and therefore my mentality and perception of self, everything and everyone.  Instead of finding everything miniscule thing that’s “wrong” with me and my life, instead of looking for and focusing on my short-comings I’d recognize them for what they are…make steps to improve them and then start focusing on what is right in my life and what is right with me!  Instead of wishing for bigger boobs, I should love my curvy hips and workout more to increase my health, improve my appearance and prove to myself that I love Katie enough to do good things for her even when they hurt…even when they’re inconvenient to this American Capitalist Rat Race grind I’ve sold out to (for now).  I’d meditate, practice being.  Enjoy the stillness and simplicity of sitting quietly, doing nothing, thinking of nothing and finding it to be beautiful. 

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And back to Columbia…I’ve decided that while I’m here I’m going to explore, enjoy and appreciate what our capital city has to offer.  And even though there is and will always be so many issues I butt heads with in this deep southern culture, South Carolina can’t be so bad if it’s the birthplace of my wonderful family, my friends…and myself.  And I can’t be the only 20-something resident of Columbia with diverse interests, tastes and dreams…so here’s to getting over oneself and getting outside and living.  Where you are, who you are…happily and open minded.  First two adventures:  Amsa Yoga and Bombay Indian Grill.

Rihanna Covers May 2012 Elle and is Back2Black (Thank God)

Rihanna’s cover for May 2012 Elle, due out on stands later this month.  Very #rockstar.

And….much to my viewing pleasure, Rihanna has gone back to basic black.  I enjoyed her as a redhead, hated her as a outgrown roots blonde, but I think I prefer her in basic black.  It compliments her beautifully envious skin soo well.  She’s gorgeous.

Then: Sit yo azz down Rihanna! In the stylist's chair.

Better: It's extreme, but it fits her fiery persona and compliments her skin.

@ the Battleship premiere:  Best! I could do without the Cassie-swag shaved side, but whatever.