• Mysticism

    Realigning with My True Self – An Oracle Card Reading

    September has been emotionally difficult because every day feels like a futile fight to stay positive and to cultivate a future. It seems like a futile fight because most days I wake up already in a bad mood, and on the few days when I actually wake up excited and I work toward my goals, I end up feeling defeated and depressed by the end of the night.

    I try not to casually throw around the word, “depressed,” because I don’t want to misuse it…but I feel like after weeks of crying daily, instigating tons unnecessary fights with my mom and with my girlfriend, emotionally beating myself up, reducing myself to nothing, and wishing I could escape from reality warrants the use of the term, “depressed.”

    I have only wished I could disappear when I am struggling to cope with change, struggling to stay afloat, and struggling to thrive. Right now I’m struggling with all three, so it’s overwhelming.

    I’m not sharing this to worry anyone…I don’t want to hurt myself, I just don’t always want to deal with my life. Not because my life is bad or anything, because my life isn’t bad at all. I have food, a home, a caring family, health insurance, and I’m finally working part-time. My life is good and comfortable, which I’m grateful for and I try to remind myself of this all of the time.

    Despite acknowledging my blessings, I get caught up in my stagnancy. When I focus my energy on taking steps toward my goals so I can move forward, I doubt myself and I doubt my ability to move forward at all. It’s a toxic cycle that unfortunately has poisoned my emotional well-being as well as my relationships. I don’t want to be around anyone because I feel like poison. Isolation exacerbates my depression too.

    So…I pulled my Ganesha cards on Monday to get some insight and guidance that I can reflect upon. I’m not going to share a picture of my cards this time because most of them I have already shared on my blog.

    My Reading

    1. The first card, which represents where I am now, I pulled Positive Outlook. I was bewildered when I saw this card because as noted previously, I wouldn’t consider myself having a positive outlook at the moment. Well, the card is about how all circumstances are neutral, and it is one’s mental attitude that influences how it is perceived. It reminds me of what I have read in The Untethered Soul as well as something I had painted on a flowerpot after my grief group concluded two years ago: Your perception is your reality. I suppose I need to take a step back from judging my experiences as negative and to at least view things as neutral.
    2. Sustenance is the card that represents my next steps. The painting on the card is of Ganesha enjoying a buffet, but the card isn’t about food. It’s about how I need to acknowledge my blessings as well as acknowledge the abundance of ways to support my desires. I need to understand my needs and satiate them, even if it’s scary or unconventional.
    3. My obstacle is Cultivation, which is strongly linked to music. Music creates communities and it soothes the soul, causing music to be a method for connecting to spirits. I haven’t been listening to music too much…I either listen to podcasts or watch something on Netflix. When I’m not listening to these things, I spend my time in silence…but I suppose it’s a little too isolating right now. Perhaps replacing the silence with my yoga playlists would facilitate some more positive thinking, creativity, and a sense of belonging.
    4. My resource for overcoming my inability to cultivate is Reflection. When I saw this card, I was like “duh, I’m great at reflecting! I reflect and write weekly!” When I read the description of this card though, I was speechless. I’ll just share what it all says.

    “You have reached the point in your life’s journey where self-judgment and criticism no longer serve you. It is imperative that you understand and appreciate the distinctive persona that you bring into all situations. Each of us has our own unique path….Through reflection and visualization, get in touch with the wise person within you.” – Whispers of Lord Ganesha Oracle Cards by Angela Hartfield

    While this card is titled “Reflection,” I feel like it is about more than that…and it really resonated with me.

    5. My new outcome is “Acceptance,” which I’ve pulled multiple times because I’m always fighting with my true self. This relates back to alignment as well. Life will become easier when I accept my true self and when I accept that I don’t have to know everything. The reality that I don’t know anything about my future has been weighing on me because it’s an uncomfortable feeling. I haven’t been enjoying living in the unknown and not having all of the answers right now. My life will improve though when I look at my experiences and the world from a more spiritual perspective as well as by not placing so much value on my thoughts.

    All of these cards address connecting with who I really am…thus, that may be the key to transforming my perspective and my life. It will take some time and patience to realign with my true self via these suggestions from my Ganesha cards. My meditation practice, although not daily (yet), will help me get there too.

    Also…while I feel like I have been stagnant, that isn’t necessarily true. As I’ve mentioned previously, I am now working a part-time job. I am also almost done with the hiring process to teach a regular yoga class in my town. I doubted I was going to be able to teach yoga this year and if I hadn’t nailed the audition, I was going to postpone my teaching dreams…but the universe surprised me. Lastly, after avoiding and debating with myself for several months, I finally booked a GRE test date!

    So…things are moving. I’m progressing, contrary to what I believe.

    If you would like an oracle card reading, please comment below or email me at hello@unziptheselips.com.

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Remembering

    Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my cousin.

    It had actually slipped my mind that this anniversary was approaching because my sister was preparing to move back to school so I was spending a majority of my time with her and my mom. What caused me to remember the anniversary was that I started thinking about my cousin more than I usually do.

    I always think about her…but this was different. She was at the forefront of my mind when I woke up and thoughts of her were affecting my mood more strongly than usual. It wasn’t until a couple days of this that I remembered the anniversary of her death was approaching.

    I’ve been practicing strengthening my intuition by simply using it more, so intuitively, I felt that she was reaching out to me. Perhaps she wanted some attention or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to actively remember her, or both. So, I decided to start talking to her.

    It may seem a little unusual, it’s a little unusual to talk about it honestly….but it feels right to me.

    I talk to her when I’m driving, which is usually to my girlfriend’s house because I don’t really drive anywhere else. The drive is about an hour, thus it’s a decent amount of time to talk to my cousin about what I’ve been up to, thoughts/feelings that I have, and I also ask her some questions. Sometimes she asks me questions.

    My cousin was like an older sister to me, so allowing myself to communicate with her is…comforting and familiar. I used to call her frequently and she was always there to provide the insight that only an older sister can offer. I don’t have an older sister, in fact, I am the older sister to my sister, so the relationship I had with my cousin was and still is really special.

    Another way that I’ve been remembering and honoring my cousin is by rewatching Freaks and Geeks, which is a show she had told me to watch during my sophomore year of college, and we had talked frequently about it. It’s a perfect show to watch as autumn approaches too.

    At the end of the day, the little things I’ve been doing to remember my cousin are more focused on who she was to me when she was alive on Earth rather than focusing on how devastating it is that she is gone and feeling solemn that she isn’t growing with our family anymore.

    To me, it’s more important to remember the life one had as well as acknowledging their spirit. It reminds me of some of the African spiritual practices I’ve read about in Jambalaya, which I haven’t finished yet but I highly recommend it. So many cultures have traditions for their ancestors…I want to make my own for my cousin as well as my other ancestors. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but I will let y’all know what I decide to do!

    Please provide me with inspiration! How do you remember and honor your ancestors?

    xx Vic

     

  • Short Stories

    A Conclusion

    My reflection is dark and difficult to see in my glass. It’s a passionate red mixed with the heaviness of black, of nothingness. Or it’s blood that is bled slowly. Painfully.

    I frown, and so does my reflection. This annoys me. What does she have to frown about? I bet her life on the other side of the wine glass is fantastic, I mean, she gets to swim in wine all of the time!

    I may sound a little jealous of her, but I’m not. My life isn’t not fantastic, it’s just difficult right now. Wine-glass women probably don’t deal with any of life’s challenges, whereas normal people, like me, do.

    I swirl the merlot around and I guess my reflection gets scared by the sudden tsunami because it disappears. Finally, I’m alone at last, lone for the screeching crickets on the other side of my front porch.

    My knees begin to pinch so I uncross them from underneath me and rest them on the small foldable side table in front of me. A mosquito must’ve smelled my freshly exposed legs because it immediately begins to fly around them, so I swat it away. I should head back inside soon. First I want to finish my last glass of wine.

    I take a meager sip and the bitterness of the fermented juice bites the tip of my tongue. Then I take a gulp and it burns my throat, but not as much as it did with the first glass. Still, I relish the slight pain and the way the wine causes my balance to swirl.

    I down the rest of the glass. The rest of the expensive wine is gone at last. Thus, any remnants of him are gone too. I set the glass down on the table, next to my feet. Don’t drunkenly knock it down when I get up, I stress to myself.

    Leaning back in my rocking chair, I close my eyes and succumb to the deafening screeching of the crickets. I reflect. I feel good…not great, but good. I feel different than how I was expecting to feel though. I thought that finally being done warranted a celebration, but instead it just feels a little empty. Not necessarily in a bad way. There’s just more room in my heart for other people.

    Satisfied with this conclusion of a chapter in my life, I rock forward and pull my feet off of the table, and my feet gracefully knock the wine glass to the ground. Shit.

     

    © 2018 Vic Romero

    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  • Speaking My Mind

    Steadfastness

    Be focused on your purpose and know that your effort isn’t futile. Don’t give up.

    This card from my Ganesha oracle deck makes me emotional every time I pull it, despite how often I’ve pulled it (which is a lot). This card feels extremely applicable to my life at the current moment because I have been struggling with questions of my purpose and prosperity again, which make me feel like giving up. I’ve been crying about how futile anything I do seems, but…whenever I get this card, I remember I have to refocus and shift my perspective. As one of my new yoga teachers has said, “like attracts like.” If I’m applying for jobs and thinking “what’s the point? I’m not even gonna get an interview,” I’m definitely not going to get an interview with my attitude.

    It seems so obvious but it’s sooo hard for me to actually do. It’s hard for my girlfriend too, who is constantly grounding me when I get too caught up in my head with my pessimism.

    In fact, my girlfriend helped motivate me to actually accomplish some of my seemingly daunting goals! I made a list of eight graduate school programs I want to research more and plan to apply to. I also researched yoga studios local to me to contact to try to get a yoga job.

    I felt pretty excited with these small accomplishments because I suddenly felt like my big dreams were feasible. I have a ton of more work to do but I’ve made some small steps in the right direction.

    I am excited to continue practicing steadfastness and to make more progress toward my goals! I’m definitely going to make the theme of the community yoga class I’m teaching in August about steadfastness…and whenever I get to audition for a studio, I will use that class as well! It’d help ground me and inspire me while I teach because I feel so connected with the concept.

    What does steadfastness mean to you? How can you apply steadfastness in your life? Please share below!

    xx Vic

  • Mysticism

    I Am Where I Need to Be (An Oracle Card Reading)

    A couple of months ago, when I was at the beginning of my yoga journey, I had asked in the yoga Facebook group I’m part of about tarot cards. I was interested in learning more about them and possibly integrating them into my practice. As someone who is not particularly spiritual, I wanted to learn about different spiritual practices. The members of the group responded that in order to get tarot cards, it is recommended that you go in person and that you purchase the cards that call to you. Well, I don’t frequent spiritual shops, in fact, I’ve never been to one, so I looked on Amazon for a couple of days to see what types of decks are available, but then I forgot about it and moved on…

    Until I was in the back of the cluttered East Meets West with my girlfriend, looking at crystals and books. It was then when I came across an amazing deck of cards that seemingly chose me. The cards honor the Hindu god, Ganesha, who has the body of a man but he has an elephant head.

    Whispers of Lord Ganesha Oracle Cards by Angela Hartfield
    Whispers of Lord Ganesha Oracle Cards by Angela Hartfield

    I was drawn to these particular cards because I had learned about Lord Ganesha in my yoga training. I found the tales about him and how he got his elephant head rather amusing thus, I was very attracted to this deck. I checked on Amazon to see if the cards were cheaper there, which they weren’t. The cards were actually the same price, and out of 103 ratings, it had 5 stars. Then I immediately purchased the deck.

    When I returned home, I eagerly opened the cards up and read the manual (which I believe is rather thorough and well-written). I became more excited about the deck when I read that Ganesha is revered for removing obstacles to allow people to achieve success. He is also a god of cleverness, learning, and intelligence. I did not know this beforehand but it made me feel like I needed this deck because of where I currently am at in my life AKA a recent college graduate who is still figuring out what to do now that I’ve graduated.

    One of the suggested spreads called, Ganesha’s Horseshoe Spread, is precisely about discerning what your next step is and what obstacles are in your way, so I did that one. Interestingly, the cards I pulled were topics I write about on my blog all of the time.

    Whispers of Lord Ganesha Oracle Cards Horseshoe Spread
    Whispers of Lord Ganesha Oracle Cards Horseshoe Spread

    (Underneath is my wooden picture of Baymax from Big Hero 6, so don’t mind that. Aren’t these cards beautiful though?!)

    The first card, which for me is “Positive Outlook,” represents where I am in my life now. While I always struggle with maintaining a positive outlook similarly to everyone else, I believe that I have made great strides in achieving this as a more permanent state of mind. I’ve been working on quieting my negative outlook by meditating and/or using breathing techniques. By changing my outlook on life, I’ve also been inspiring others to change their outlook. A recent example is when my dad was complaining about a meeting he had the next day, and he was already saying it was going to be horrible. I suggested that he change his perspective because if he went in with that mindset, it definitely would be horrible. I didn’t think he would heed my advice at all, but the next day he surprised me and told me he tried what I had said and his meeting actually went well! It was a cool and inspiring moment.

    The second card that I pulled is what my next step or task is, which is “Perseverance.” This resonated with me because my mind has been so focused on my previous “failures,” which makes me want to give up entirely.

    Despite applying to at least thirty jobs this summer, I have not even had an invitation for a phone interview. Why bother applying to jobs then? What’s the point of this yoga teacher training if I’m not part of a local yoga community? Is it just another avenue for interminable failure? Is it just another degree where I still won’t be able to get a job?

    It is important for me to maintain my positive outlook so I can continue to persevere, which would look something like this…

    Okay, so I haven’t had any job interviews yet. SO WHAT? When this training is over, I’ll buckle down and keep applying. I will apply to jobs I actually want to do. I will get a yoga teaching job too. I will go to different yoga studios and try out their classes and find my place somewhere. It is an accomplishment and a blessing to be able to have my Bachelor’s as well as a yoga teaching license. They will provide me with opportunities I will otherwise not have. I will keep going because I have all of these skills and so much knowledge, and it’d be a waste to not share it with others!

    The third card represents an obstacle I have to overcome, which for me is “Nurture.” When I first flipped this card over, I thought that it meant I needed to overcome my family. To me, this could mean that I need to worry less about how they perceive me and that I need to have difficult conversations with them when/if necessary to be visible. When I read the instruction manual’s description of what the card meant though, I realized the card could be referring to an obstacle that is greater than my family. The card represents taking care of yourself before taking care of others and being more resourceful and practical. I feel like this description is applicable to my life as well as how I interpreted the card because I have been rather exhausted lately with the intensive yoga training. While I have had some alone time…it hasn’t been sufficient because when I’m not doing yoga, I want to spend time with my family or with my girlfriend. So…I will work more on nurturing myself which means to prioritize myself, and that can be expressed by overcoming obstacles I encounter with my family.

    The fourth card indicates that my strength and resource for overcoming obstacles and for discerning my next step is “Cultivation.” Without reading the meaning of the card in the manual, I thought that this card was about how I need to focus more on what I want to cultivate in my life than on what I cannot do, which relates to the previous cards I described. The manual gave an interesting description of this card though, which I think is valuable to me as well. The manual describes this card as indicating how music can heal, encourage, and nurture the soul. The manual recommends listening to soothing music to inspire me and to gain more clarity about what I am creating in my life. For anyone who has read my blog and has seen the music I include with poems and stories and/or knows me, my taste in music is not calming. It is the complete opposite. I’m just a sucker for gravel-y voices, screaming, emotional lyrics, and heavy drums, what can I say?

    Regardless, it may be beneficial to integrate calming music into my daily routine. We’ll see what happens!

    The last card tells me what my new focus or outcome is, and mine is “Acceptance.” This kinda surprised me because while this is something that is certainly important to me, considering it is a major theme of my blog and in my life, I thought I had achieved it. But…upon a second reflection, maybe I haven’t.

    I’ve been primarily focused on what I don’t have when comparing myself to everyone else: I don’t have a job opportunity, I don’t have any interviews, I haven’t taken the GRE’s, I don’t have a clue what I want to study for grad school, if I even want to go to grad school…I don’t live on my own, I don’t have a car, I don’t have a clean room. I’m not hanging out with my friends in my spare time and I’m not doing the summer activities I want to do, while everyone else is. I don’t have any answers to questions anyone asks me about my aspirations!

    Or at least I don’t think I do.

    I’ve tried to refrain from social media to reduce the comparison trap, but lately, I’ve been spending my spare time on social media. How does that make sense?? Of course I’d be complaining about what I don’t have and how I don’t have any answers to my life when all I’m doing in my spare time is mindlessly scrolling through what everyone else is doing.

    So, I need to stop. I need to focus on accepting where I am now, and only focus on myself. That’s how I’m going to get to wherever I need to be. Plus, it’ll make me happier overall.

    Even though it may feel bleak when I wonder how I will achieve success, and what that success will even look like, it’s only bleak because I’m not practicing the most yogic lifestyle. I will heed the advice from my card reading as I make these changes.

    I decided that instead of looking at Instagram first thing when I will wake up, I will pull one card and gain some insight into what I should focus on for that day. I will make that card my daily intention. Then, whenever it feels right to do a horseshoe spread again, I will do it and I will write about my experience.

    What obstacles do you feel like you need to overcome to achieve a new outcome? Please let me know in the comments below!

    If you are interested in a card reading, comment below or email me at yoga@unziptheselips.com!

    xx Vic

     

     

     

  • Picture of a rearview mirror reflecting the road behind the car
    Short Stories

    Demanding Visibility

    The door slammed behind me, muffling his roar.  Maybe I could no longer hear him at that moment, but I would probably hear him later because it was certainly not the last time we were going to have this conversation, if you could even call it that.  Most conversations I have do not include faces red with fury, the slamming of hands on the walls and tables, spit from angrily enunciating words while shouting, and only one person vocalizing their thoughts while the other shrinks into their seat. Most conversations do not look like this, except for the conversations I have been having with him lately.

    “Where are you going?” my sister asked from the stairwell as I powered down the hall.

    “Out,” I replied tersely, grabbing my car keys and slamming the front door behind me.

    No amount of doors slammed could quell the rage that I had to suppress while he had verbally torn me apart.

    Tobacco and spearmint lingered on my tongue, and I touched my lips, smiling as I remembered why.  With my other hand, I twisted the key in the lock and opened the front door. I froze in fear when I saw a figure standing in the stairwell, but then I realized who it was and relaxed, although annoyance quickly replaced that feeling.

    “It’s past 11.  Where have you been?”

    “Out,” I stated.

    “An eleven PM curfew means you have to be here at eleven, not leave where you are at eleven,” she explained, irritated.

    “I lost track of time.”

    “Who were you with?”

    “My friends.”

    “Which friends?”

    Exasperated, I threw my hands up in the air.  “I already told you!”

    “Don’t raise your voice at me. Remind me.”

    “Marisa…the usual,” I explained, struggling to level my voice.

    “Where did you go?” she inquired.

    “Out.”

    “Out where?”

    “Dunkin, Starbucks, whatever was open.”

    “Those places close at ten.  What did you do for an hour?”

    I narrowed my eyes at her.  “I’m going to my room,” I replied, shrugging past her and heading up the stairs.

    “Answer my question!” she yelled after me.

    “We were outside.  I’ll make you an itinerary next time,” I said, slamming my bedroom door behind me.

    My bedroom door burst open and she stormed in, leering down at me as I lay in bed.

    “Good morning,” I sarcastically greeted her, sitting up.

    “What does this mean?!” she asked, desperation evident in her voice as she threw papers onto my lap.

    I briskly shuffled through them and then calmly met her watery stare.  “Where did you find these?”

    “Online.”

    “Well, I don’t know what they mean,” I replied, handing them back to her.

    “Is this who you are?” she asked shrilly.

    “No.  I don’t know.”

    “What do you mean you ‘don’t know?’” she shrieked.

    “I don’t know!” I yelled, tossing off my blanket and standing up.  “I told you everything I know!”

    She challenged me with her eyes for a few beats before turning and storming out of my room, slamming the bedroom door shut behind her.

    I slowly opened my bedroom door, and we tentatively emerged from behind it.  My heart pounded as she looked down at us from the stairs that led to her master bedroom.  She spoke sternly and carefully.  After a brief interrogation, she dismissed us with a threat to call the police if I bring the woman beside me home again, and she informed me that we were going to discuss this later.  As per usual, there probably wouldn’t be too much discussion.  Numbly, I nodded, and then we raced down the stairs, seeking out safety in my car.

    She leaned over the middle barrier in the car and tilted her head up toward me, smiling.  “Alright, well I have to head home, but text me when you get home.”

    I nodded and leaned the rest of the way to kiss her awaiting lips.  When she pulled away, she smiled at me, causing my heart to flutter.  She looked out the windshield and started talking animatedly about our weekend plans, but then she paused.

    “Hold on,” she said, her eyebrows furrowing as she focused on the rearview mirror.  “What’s that?”

    I looked at where she was pointing.  Behind the rearview mirror was a small, black microphone.  My heart raced as realization struck.

    “Can I pull it down?” she asked.  I silently nodded in acquiesce.

    She turned the microphone over in her hands, raising it closer to her eyes.  “I don’t know if this is a recording device, or if it’s just part of your car.”

    “I don’t know.  My dad regularly works on the car, so I don’t know.”

    She put it back behind the rearview mirror and looked at me.  “I’ll take a look at it more closely tomorrow when I see you.  Try to relax for now.”

    I tersely nodded.  She lifted her hand to my cheek, cupped it and pulled me toward her for a last goodbye kiss.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the one before.  “It’ll be okay,” she murmured.  “Text me.”

    Then she opened the door and climbed out of my car.

    I reluctantly got into the passenger side of my car.  He wanted to take a drive with me to get gas, which was thoughtful but I knew he had an ulterior motive.

    We rode in silence for ten minutes, and after he told the gas attendant to fill it up, he began his speech.

    “I don’t understand you anymore,” he confessed, looking over at me sadly.

    I met his eyes and replied, “I’m just not hiding anymore, but I’m the same.”

    He shook his head.  “No, you hid from us for years.”

    “There was never a reason to bring it up.”

    “You could’ve brought up that you were struggling.”

    “I needed to figure things out for myself.”

    The attendant returned to the driver’s side mirror, and my dad handed him cash.  We sat in silence while the worker counted the change and handed it to back to my dad.  My dad restarted the ignition and pulled out of the station, heading home.

    © 2016, 2018 Vic Romero

    In honor of Pride Month, which has passed but…I thought I’d share regardless. 

  • Yoga

    What I Eat in a Day: Yogi-in-Training

    While I usually eat pretty well, I’ve refined my diet more to benefit my skin, ovulation cycle, and my body! The meals I’ve been eating have been filling and delicious, so I wanted to share them. I only included breakfast and lunch because my lunch is usually leftovers from dinner.

    6:30am Breakfast:

    IMG_9074
    Toast and Berries

    This isn’t just any toast- it’s toast with goat cheese! I don’t regularly eat goat cheese but since I’ve eliminated dairy from my diet to benefit my skit and ovulation, I’ve chosen not to consume cheese from cows. Thus, goat cheese has come into my life and it’s quite good! I purchased a small, spreadable one from the grocery store and it helps keep me satisfied until I finally eat lunch at noon.  Goat cheese and toast was a recommended breakfast in the book I’ve been reading, Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, because goat cheese has some protein and the toast provides carbs. I eat some berries (and take some to go!) to make things a little more tasty.

    By the way: If you don’t already, you should follow me on Goodreads and I’ll follow you back!

    IMG_3831
    Chai and Rose Syrup

    I also make some chai in the morning in lieu of coffee so I avoid the caffeine-jitters. The chai I make is from an Indian store and my girlfriend taught me how to make it. It is my absolute favorite morning beverage, aside from coffee, because it is spicy and flavorful. Lately I’ve been adding almond milk to it and a teaspoon of honey. Sometimes I add a teaspoon this rose syrup too, also from an Indian store. It has a flowery taste and it’s quite delicious! I find it important to note that any form of corn syrup is not an ingredient in this syrup, instead, the main ingredient is sugar.

    Lunch at Noon:

    IMG_2862
    Lunch!

    Most of this stuff were leftovers from the dinner my mom had made the night before. Not all of my food is visible but inside this container is salmon, cod, fried eggplant, potatoes, arugala salad, green peppers, and tomatoes. It all can be eaten cold, which makes things more convenient.

    To ensure I get sufficient carbs in my diet, I also bring rice that I make.

    IMG_8954
    Rice!

    This is the rice that I prepared the night before to bring for lunch. It is a recipe my girlfriend taught me and it is my favorite food. It’s soooo good because it’s so flavorful and satisfying! I didn’t have all the necessary ingredients to make it correctly so I had to improvise a bit, but it is still delicious and easy to make.

    For this version of my girlfriend’s recipe, I sauteed some chopped yellow onions and cumin powder in a pan of hot olive oil. Then I added the soaked and rinsed Basmati rice and water. After that, you just let the rice boil and the water evaporate!

    These meals are satisfying and delicious, which has been great since I’ve been expending a lot of physical energy during my training.

    What do y’all eat when you are working out or you spend a whole day adventuring/traveling?

    xx Vic

  • A woman doing camel pose on a yoga mat in an apartment.
    Yoga

    Yogi-in-Training: Cultivating Confidence

    I wrapped up my first week of yoga teacher training on Friday, and tomorrow I am beginning week two. Thus far, the training has been an emotional experience because I keep having to confront my low-confidence. The areas where my confidence has been challenged the most are 1) inversions, or poses where your head is below your heart, and 2) teaching.

    I’ve noticed just in my first week of training how most of the time, whether it be in asanas (poses) or in teaching, confidence is essential to success. While physical ability and knowledge are important too, confidence is mandatory. I think this holds true in most areas of life.

    This theme of “confidence” became apparent on the second day of training when I was trying to do an L-handstand. First of all, I did not expect myself to do any types of handstands throughout this training, but I surprised myself by trying it and successfully doing it on the first day with the guidance of the instructor. On Thursday, I attempted to get into the inversion on my own, considering that I’ve been executing it everyday with the help of someone. Unfortunately, when everyone was doing inversions easily, I became nervous and afraid to do it on my own. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was strong enough, I just didn’t feel confident. Eventually, the instructor helped me but I spent the remainder of the class silently crying. I was upset that I was too afraid to do something I know how to do on my own. On the last day of training that week, during the inversion portion, I had the instructor help me the first time and the second time I got into the inversion on my own!

    The doubt I have in my abilities is probably a combination of the unfamiliarity I have with the poses as well as the intimidation I feel toward the challenging postures. A majority of the class consists of dance students, so they are probably more comfortable with contorting their bodies into different shapes and they are also more comfortable with physical challenges. Although I’ve been practicing yoga daily, I haven’t even been doing it for a year yet and aside from yoga, I have not had to be this in-tune with my body. I spent most of college not doing any physical activity. Before college, I played and taught tennis, but that type of physical exertion is so different from dance and yoga.

    The second time my confidence was challenged was when I taught my first mini class on sun salutations. Once I thought I messed up in my instruction, my lack of confidence consumed me, causing the rest of my instruction to be quiet and full of uncertainty. I know from my experience with my thesis, job, and public speaking courses that I gain confidence from being an expert and with tons of practice. By the end of the training, I expect to be a confident and loud-spoken teacher.

    For my first week of training, I recognize how everything I’m doing is out of my comfort zone, but I am doing it anyway. That in itself is admirable, and I need to give myself more credit. In fact, on the first day of training, one of the dancers found out I wasn’t a dancer so she asked me why I was doing the yoga training. I don’t know if she was asking from a place of cruelty like…why bother doing yoga if you aren’t a dancer? Or if she was asking simply because she just wanted to know how I found out about it and what drew me in but…it’s cool that I don’t have a dance background because I bring something unique to the group as well as to future classes I teach.

    I am proud of myself for continuing to try things I’m scared of and for having an adventurous spirit. I’ve never followed an expected path such as being a dancer with a side gig as a yoga instructor or studying economics with a math/finance/stat/accounting/business minor. I studied economics and women’s and gender studies, and I’ve never met anyone else with that combination before. I’m also a “normal” person (a non-dancer) that is aspiring to be a yoga instructor because I wanted to learn more and deepen my own practice that has transformed my life and continues to transform my life. That’s amazing.

    Anyway…I want to write a blog at the end of every week to reflect and to set an intention for the upcoming week. I’m doing this specifically for the yoga training to ensure that I gain the most from my experience, but perhaps I’ll continue to do it afterward too.

    My intention for the second week is to practice confidence and to meditate on the confidence I want to cultivate. I also want to practice teaching sun salutations and study the asanas so I feel more comfortable with them from a teacher’s perspective.

    Do you have any reflections for this past week? What are your intentions for this week?

    xx Vic

  • Yoga

    Living with Uncertainty

    Despite how heavy my foot was on the gas, it felt like we were driving in slow-motion. I was weaving around the cars in my way and tailgating them as my dad clutched his side and dry heaved into a plastic bag. I had never driven so recklessly and aggressively.

    I pulled to the front of the emergency room and he pulled himself out, hobbling toward the door. I quickly parked in the deck and with shaky hands, I put on my sweatshirt and sprinted to the ER after him. He was already inside, sitting in a wheelchair and checking himself in when I arrived. He had stopped shouting in pain and was relatively calm as he sat there.

    They told him a room would be available in a few minutes as they wheeled him to the side to wait. Suddenly, his calm expression broke into one of agony and his mouth opened wide to verbally release the torture his body was causing him. I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe deeply, hoping it would pacify him. It did not. He continued to cry and shout in the waiting room while people checked in. Then he started vomiting into a plastic bag. I got him tissues to wipe his face and I asked the administrator when the room would be ready. I was impatient at this point.

    Fifteen minutes later, a nurse slowly meandered over and wheeled him to the room he would spend the next six hours in. Ironically, it was the same room he had spent nine hours in, the same time last year. That time was for a different emergency though.

    After several hours, multiple doses of pain medication, and many tests, the doctor diagnosed him with kidney stones. He was able to pass it in the hospital and be released the same day.

    Life is obviously uncertain, but it didn’t use to scare me as much as it does now. My cousin’s death has completely transformed the way I perceive the world and it has caused me to raise questions that I otherwise wouldn’t have asked or even considered. While I feel like I have more compassion and gratitude for life, I have also come to recognize as life as being very fragile. This has caused me to develop fears that I did not use to have. Some of the fears are silly while others make more sense but… I haven’t seemed to overcome them all yet.

    The terrifying experience I had with my dad on Monday as well as the volcanic tragedy in Guatemala, among many other tragedies that people experience, has caused me to reexamine the reality that life is fragile.

    I had shared this realization with the grief group I used to attend about two years ago now. Many of my peers had solemnly nodded their heads in agreement as I shared my concerns and worries about this fact. The therapist, however, raised the question: how do you deal with uncertainty?

    One method for coping that my peers came up with included acknowledging the challenges we had faced previously and that anything that comes next can be overcome too. Another idea was to focus on the present rather than worrying about what might never occur.

    Since I’ve been learning more about yoga philosophy for my yoga training, I’ve learned another effective method for challenging my fears is to be in a state of mind that is described in the Yoga Sutras, which is upeksha, or “indifference.” I learned about this idea in an article from The Yoga Journal written by Frank Jude Boccio titled, “Calm within.”

    Boccio deems it is more apt to regard upeksha as “equanimity” rather than “indifference.” He defines equanimity as “a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion.” He adds that it is a balanced state of mind and heart. It allows one to experience pleasure and pain without clinging to it or condemning it. In other words, equanimity is about experiencing life and different situations without judging it as good or bad and therefore, maintaining an emotional detachment from it.

    For example, my dad had kidney stones and needed to be hospitalized. It’s not good or bad, it just happened. He was able to get the care he needed to alleviate his pain through hospitalization, and he was working from home that day which enabled me to drive him there. So..while it may seem unfortunate that he had to be hospitalized for this condition, it was actually perfect timing and everything panned out well. In the moment, however, it was scary and awful but it needed to happen this way. If he was at work, he would’ve been taken to a hospital that was further away and it would, therefore, take the rest of my family longer to get to him.

    Equanimity is also about realizing that while you can’t be responsible for nor can you control what happens in life, you can control your reactions. I controlled my reaction by driving him to the hospital, and I let the doctors take control of the situation.

    The last aspect of equanimity as Boccio describes it is that you have to open your heart while simultaneously letting go of expectations and attachment to results. This aligns with what I’ve been reading in the Bhagavad Gita, which is Hindu scripture traditionally written in Sanskrit. It is part of several books of epic poetry.

    The god, Krishna, tells a warrior, Arjuna, that it is important to act for the action’s sake, and not for the results, whether that be success or failure. This equanimity is yoga. (The physical aspect of yoga that is the most popularized is only one limb of yoga philosophy. Yoga is actually a more comprehensive philosophy with eight limbs).

    I believe this type of mindset and state of being would be beneficial to me and it is something that I would like to practice in both my asana practice as well as in meditation. This way I can keep a level head when difficult situations emerge and I can also live with less fear than what I live with now.

    How do y’all feel about equanimity? How do you live with uncertainty?

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Faith + Bravery: Taking the First Steps on a New Adventure

    My aunt took me and my sister out to lunch, and as per usual, we had a wonderful conversation.

    She had recently returned from a trip to Memphis with her husband, and they went to several Civil Rights museums. I confessed to her that the things I must do in order to get to the next chapter of my life seem impossible, so she told me this quote she saw in the museum that blew her away:

    “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

    ― Martin Luther King Jr.Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices on Resistance, Reform, and Renewal an African American Anthology

    When she shared it with me, I was also floored. This quote is obviously in regards to civil rights, however, it also encapsulates exactly what I need to do that would answer my own questions:

    How do I get a car so I can be independent? How do I get a job but also prepare for the GRE’s and figure out what doctorate program I want to do? How do I make new friends since all of my closest friends are moving away? How do I become a self-sufficient adult even though I’m afraid to do so?

    Between these worries and fears as well as my disastrous room, which seems to reflect my inner turmoil, I have been feeling so overwhelmed that I haven’t done much to move forward at all. Naturally, I’m not going to get to the next chapter if I’m not taking any steps at all…thus, I should trust the Universe more. I should also trust myself more.

    Evidence of the Universe conspiring to support each individual is evident in my own life in the past, as well as in my girlfriend’s life currently. Per Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life” :

    “You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

    I’ve sited this quote what feels like 10 times now on my blog, yet I always need to be reminded of it. Perhaps I should make it one of my mantras in addition to the Sanskrit mantra, Ananta Swa Bhava, I repeat for my japamala meditation. It means my state of being is infinite and boundless.

    I am infinite and I am a child of the Universe too so…I need to have a little more faith.

    So the first steps I will take until my yoga training starts in a little over two weeks will be to apply for at least one job a day and to finish organizing my room. Instead of watching endless YouTube videos at night, I will read material that will inspire me especially because I have an obscene amount of partially read books on my Kindle. I will also allot one hour each day toward researching doctorate programs that I may be interested in.

    By the time my yoga program rolls around, hopefully, my personal space will be less cluttered and more organized and I will at least have some ideas percolating in my mind in regards to future education plans. Then I can write them down in the new journal my aunt got for me! It’s a beautiful journal and I’ve never had such a nice one before!

    IMG_4438

    I hope you can see the gold detail on it in this photo above!

    IMG_3439 It also has beautiful quotes throughout the book too!

    Anyway…that’s all from me for now. Let me know in the comments if you have any quotes that inspire you!

    xx Vic

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