The Lovelight Project

Shining the Light on Happy, Healthy Living

Escaping the Maze

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Know what it feels like to be stuck in a rut? It’s like there’s a literal ditch in the ground carving out a walking path. I’ve been there: Get out of bed, go to bathroom, dress and walk to car, into office, out of office, home, repeat. It’s a long, winding maze … leading to unhappiness.

My friends, my friends, I'm in a rut.

My friends, my friends, I’m in a rut.

When you’re in a rut, friends ask what’s new and you just shrug your shoulders. Nothing. Nothing is new. You’re low on energy, motivation, creativity and general joie de vivre. It’s no way to live.

Getting out of the maze is actually pretty simple: Change.

As you know if you read this blog, I have divested all my worldly possessions except for a hope chest filled with mementos, some files and basically whatever fit into my boyfriend’s 32-ft sailboat. It has been a major project, to say the least.

I’m calling it Operation Tighten Up 2015, and what it’s done is pushed me very far out of my comfort zone and from whatever rut I had found myself in. It’s kind of stressful. I’ve had a few people recently tell this to me, and I’m letting it sink in. There’s something very reassuring about a rut. There’s something very disconcerting about change.

Think about ruts: Like in the Grand Canyon, water makes its way in the path of least resistance. If you are mindless about your life, you will be like water and create a tiresome rut for yourself. But, also like water, you can cut your own path. There are a few things you can do if you realize that life is boring you:

1. Look for signs. When talking to your friends, don’t bitch about things. Instead, look at the good in your life. Find gratitude for

If only it were that easy to recognize signs, opened doors and paths ... but it can be. JUST LISTEN TO YOURSELF!

If only it were that easy to recognize signs, opened doors and paths … but it can be. JUST LISTEN TO YOURSELF!

that old hallway while waiting for the next door to open. It’s going to open. But you have to look for where it is.

2. Take a risk. No need to be so dramatic as I’ve been this year, but do something that you don’t know will work. Here’s an example: My boyfriend’s car needed a part changed, and he’s out of town. So I went to AutoZone and bought the part, watched a YouTube video and shuffled up under the steering wheel and did the job myself. I’ve never done car repair before. I just decided it was something I could do because I’m not a complete dummy and tried it. It worked!

3. Take action on your dreams. What do you want in your life? Seriously, what is it? Most people have no idea, but this is why we are here. What do you dream to do? Write it down and don’t judge yourself. Be authentically you – and WORK to make it happen! There’s intention, and then there’s action. You need both to live an amazing life.

It’s also good to realize that there are endless ruts everywhere, waiting to trap us into a mindless routine. For example, like most American women, I used to have a big closet so filled with clothes that it overflowed into another smaller closet. I loved thrift shops, so most of what was bulging out was purchased for a couple dollars and worn quite well. But when I moved onto the boat, all I had was a little locker and some space bags. It was embarrassing, all the clothes that I was holding on to and not really wearing. I had to continue to let go, push myself out of my fashion rut.

So I did some research: Along with watching my fair share of TED talks that spoke to divesting and minimalizing the clutter in your life, I found a great video blog called The Daily Connoisseur. Jennifer L. Scott preaches the feasibility of the “Ten Item Wardrobe.” I purchased some key pieces that were missing, and whittled my wardrobe down.

This reality for so many speaks to the fact that we cannot buy happiness. When we seek happiness in possessions, it'll never be enough!

This reality for so many speaks to the fact that we cannot buy happiness. When we seek happiness in possessions, it’ll never be enough!

Why is this so difficult for women? I believe it is because we are conditioned to wrap our identity around our possessions and our clothing. It’s easier to understand who we are if we judge ourselves and others on what they own and what they wear. But of course when you think about it, we’re fooling ourselves to be so superficial.

And what’s wonderful about Scott’s blog is that she offers the reality of a choice: You can still look cute and own only a few pieces of clothing. She encourages viewers to purchase pieces that are lovely, wearable and diverse. Now I have a few dresses that I could wear on the dock or out to dinner. Since I left my job, I did away with my work clothes. When you simplify your life, it’s easier to simplify your wardrobe.

When you have fewer items in your closet, it’s easier to pick what to wear. It’s easier to pack for a trip. You just do it effortlessly, and suddenly you have time for the next thing. You have more space in your life to decide which way to go next. You become so light that you don’t wear a path into your life. You start to escape the maze by floating up and away.

Soul Time

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I have a personal mantra I like to say to friends when I feel like they’re starting to freak out about being late: “I’m always on time for my life.”

Granted, I’m late an awful lot for relatively informal engagements (right on time when professionalism rules or for live music!). I honestly think it’s more important to relax and flow through life instead of rush just to fulfill a social obligation of not wasting my friend’s time. I mean, really. Is there anyone who I made wait for 5-10 minutes who were unhappy during that time? If I ever pissed you off, I’m really sorry.

Sorry not sorry! My pal Harvey taught me to say, “Don’t be sorry, be silly!” And that’s because we are all operating on Soul Time all the time, regardless of what the watch says. It’s a beautiful reality that we often forget in this culture of 15-minute billing intervals.

Tangent 1: It’s not just Time, it’s SOUL TIME! (Click that link for this blog post’s first song on the soundtrack, followed by this one!)

Tangent 2: One time I made an appointment with a nutritionist at the local hospital here in my small town, and they said, OK, see

What was great about Google images was that I typed in "plastic food" and a picture of a hot dog came up. Seriously.

What was great about Google images was that I typed in “plastic food” and a picture of a hot dog came up. Seriously. And what is that thing behind Mr. Cheeseburger is this picture? A fat, bloody Kit-Kat?


you on Monday for your hour appointment with the nutritionist. I get there, and she’s showing me plastic forms that kinda look like broccoli and piles of rice to explain to me portion sizes and healthy food choices. I truly learned nothing, but whatever, I had health insurance and paid $35 for the hour. Then I get a bill explaining, it turns out, that I actually made four 15-minute appointments and had to pay something crazy like $300! I fought and fought that, and got them to cut it in half and begrudgingly paid it. If that nutritionist’s time was really that valuable, I’m in the wrong field.

By limiting our understanding of time to the concept of Linear Time instead of Soul Time, we are shorting ourselves dramatically. The Law of Abundance tells us that we have enough time for everything we need, and yet it feels like we can never do it all in a happy, relaxed manner when racing against the clock.

Soul Time also helps us aging gracefully, by accepting that building up Soul Time increases our wisdom and lessons learned in our hearts in such a beautiful way that there is never a reason to feel the least bit upset about visual cues of Linear Time aging. Soul Time aging is awesome! Ram Dass wrote a fantastic book about changing, aging and dying called Still Here. Highly recommended.

Relying on Linear Time also fools us into thinking that we have complete control on our lives. That’s why we are so upset when

"Oh, I am so disgusted with everything! I am so much better than everything around me! My time is more important that this drudgery! I am so mad!" Isn't it better to just chill out instead of suffer like this Spazy McGillicutty?

“Oh, I am so disgusted with everything! I am so much better than everything around me! My time is more important that this drudgery! I am so mad!” Isn’t it better to just chill out instead of suffer like this Spazy McGillicutty?

things change and the situation doesn’t meet our highest expectations of perfection. Ugh, traffic is so bad, you might say, looking at your watch in disgust. But what a wonderful opportunity to meditate or even plan out gifts for friends, think about a delicious dinner to prepare with a loved one or dream up your next vacation. It’s really all about limiting suffering, as far as I’m concerned. So if I’m happy daydreaming, score!

Besides, if I’m behind the wheel freaking out, what’s actually happening is that I’m nervous about what I think is going to happen. Like, when my parents are in town, I know that if I’m more than one minute late, they are standing at the front door of where we are meeting, anxiously awaiting my arrival. I don’t want my parents to be inconvenienced; but who knows might happen on the way there? Maybe they were caught up. Really, by being worried about time and the cultural expectations associated with its perceived lack of abundance is simply creating dramas in our minds.

The idea of Soul Time has really hit home with me in regards to my plan for extended travel on my boyfriend’s sailboat to

The captain of my heart and me sailing S/V Tortuga ... full-time whenever in Soul Time.

The captain of my heart and me sailing S/V Tortuga … full-time whenever in Soul Time.

remote locales with currently undetermined itineraries. Originally, the plan was to cruise over to the Bahamas before hurricane season began. Then much-needed projects, money-making opportunities and other parts of life’s realities held up that initial plan, and we have yet to depart three months later.

The thing that I must remind myself is that EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING ON THE EXACTLY CORRECT SCHEDULE. This is my life. It’s not on hold. It’s not “late.” You remember when you were in school and a kid said something like, “Well, I was supposed to be in the next grade up, but I was held back.” Sorry, kid. You were supposed to be in this grade. That’s why you’re there.

It’s all a surrender to the flow. I am grateful for this time, living on the boat yet still near land. I am taking care of so many things that would have gone undone had we left. I clipped a New York Times article that defined flowing as “the voguish psychological term, which refers to the heightened satisfaction and enjoyment derived from clearing out extraneous concerns and immersing yourself, Zen-like, in the task at hand.” Ah, the NOW is an awesome place to be.

As my friend Mary would say when she can’t find her keys or feels like time is running away from her: FLOWING! Just go with the flow, she means. It’s all happening exactly the way it’s supposed to, because we are always on time for our lives. That’s the beauty and freedom with living your life on Soul Time!

“Nothing with a Face or a Mother”

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That was always my mother’s explanation of her vegetarian dietary choice, which she made when I was 14 years old, about three months before I joined her in her vegetarian diet.

My parents and me, about to enjoy dinner. My mom is a vegetarian, like me, and my dad is the founder of PETV, People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables

My parents and me, after a delicious dinner at The District Table. My mom is a vegetarian, like me, and my dad is the founder of PETV, People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables.

And I have followed this way of eating faithfully up until about a month ago, when I ate fish in preparation for my plans to cruise for extended travels in my boyfriend’s sailboat. There will be times when we’ll be a week or more at sea, with food stores dwindling or pricey, and there is sure to be fresh seafood aplenty.

Yes, I ate something with a mother AND a face (yay for a reason to include this Dr. Demento favorite!). But before I get into it, let me provide a little more backstory on myself.

My mom and I were always what was known as the “lacto-ovo” vegetarian, for those not up with the vocab; that means we would eat milk and eggs. Otherwise, no meat, no fowl and no fish, but yes to cheese, butter and all the by-products of the meat industry. For 22 years, I was a strict and healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian.

When I first became a vegetarian, I was so grateful to have my mother along for the culinary adventure. It wasn’t rebelling that way. So many kids are laughed at or worse, made to eat crap and develop really unhealthy habits of sneaking “acceptable” stuff like French fries and Doritos. (Read here about why junk food is so bad for you.)

Sure, there was a fair share of laughing at me. My cousin still makes jokes about Tofurky to this day, more than a decade since we stopped sharing Christmas dinner together. I remember when I worked as a lifeguard at a local apartment complex, some creepazoid tried to endear me to him by offering to “dive down and pick up the leaves at the bottom of the pool for my lunch.”

Insert dummy laughter and my 17-year-old disgusted face.

When a creepazoid tried to flirt with me

When a creepazoid tries to flirt with me

I had chosen the vegetarian diet for a number of reasons. It dates back to sixth grade, when we were dissecting a frog and I learned what meat actually was. It was that little muscle on that little frog leg. Gross, I’m sorry. Barbaric. Why ever would someone think to eat that? That’s the simple origins of it: I have a problem differentiating meat from its reality, and I never thought it was something humans were really supposed to do.

Tangent: When I was in eighth grade, it was dissection time again, and I wasn’t having it. A precocious and socially conscious vegetarian, I wrote to PETA about my quandary. Stoked to have someone join their righteous outrage, they sent me a super-big pile of every paper and collateral material they had. I marched into my science teacher’s room and said I didn’t want to dissect. She asked why, and I dropped the entire pile on her desk and said “This is why.” She had me do some BS computer program instead, and this is one reason why I am poor at anatomy.

Over the years, restaurant employees have turned from “Um, you can have a salad” to providing all kinds of fabulous meals. A list of awesome vegetarian-friendly restaurants is available at www.thelovelightproject.com, where you might be discovering this blog!

Two years ago, as I was preparing myself for my Yoga teacher training, I decided to go vegan, which is a much stricter diet. That means not eating meat, fish, fowl AND also not eating or buying all the by-products including cream, butter, milk and honey.

Insert endless debate about whether bees are really animals and aren’t they happy and no! they are slaves and hey one time a swarm of bees was in my house, man! Whoa, are you allergic? What were we talking about? Oh yeah, this is total bullshit, right? What IS honey, anyway? I read this interesting article.

So, being a vegan is really hard and takes real dedication, and I honor everyone who is living the vegan lifestyle. Especially those who are living it without being annoying. When I was in college, I was the president of Earth Matters, the environmental and social justice club at NYU, and we were totally in cahoots with the vegan club. I remember our efforts got soy milk in the cafeterias, and isn’t crazy to think it wouldn’t be there now?

Veganism was a lot of work but worth it. I remembered what food tasted like for real, not covered in butter or cheese. Breakfast in restaurants was difficult, but not impossible. I had to get used to drinking my coffee black (I gave up sugar a while ago, but not cream until two years ago), but again, that’s actually what coffee tastes like. Don’t like it? Maybe you shouldn’t drink coffee.

Annoyingly, I gained weight. Am I the only person you’ve met who gained weight when going vegan? I sure was. I blame the over-nutrition: I was so focused on what I could eat that I ate it all! Nuts, beans … hello five pounds!

How could I let an aversion stop me from THIS?

How could I let an aversion stop me from THIS?

Anyway … that was how it was until I sold all my possessions and moved on to a boat with plans to cruise indefinitely with a man who loves to fish. Now before you start judging me as a love fool (who knows, you may be right – stay tuned), there is a lot of spiritual text on this topic that makes sense.

Meat, for me, is what is known as an aversion – the opposite of an attraction. It is a klesha, which are obstacles to realizing our highest self. By labeling myself, I am identifying with my aversion to eating meat products. This is a great way for me to separate myself from others and, frankly, suffer. It’s one way to forget the One Love.

So when my boyfriend shot a snapper on the reef, I ate it. And I felt gross! I had a major tummy ache, but otherwise I was OK. So I bought some enzymes for round two, which happened about a week ago. I had a bite, and the reaction was way worse! It was like I felt all the pain and suffering of that fish. I cried and went to bed early. I really didn’t understand it.

I’ve had a little time to think about it, and it is what it is. At this point, I plan to only eat fish that has been freshly caught by my love and is really necessary for my nourishment. I don’t ever plan to eat fish out at a restaurant. And I guess, for now, I’m going to feel bad as a result. I’m working on that.

I didn’t see the fish’s face, and I don’t think the fish even saw his mother – but I did think of my mother’s rule, wondering the benefit of having rules for eating. What is the root of my suffering when eating a not untasty meal? Is it the energy from the fish? The simple biology of my gut bacteria? Or my own Self-imposed rules?

When Failure is Not an Option

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For a while last year and earlier this year, my friends and I were part of a band that was really more like a movement of art, music, flow and fun called Intercoastal Swell. The gigs we played around town – at the Pineapple Festival, Coffee Bar Blue Door, Arts Fest and elsewhere – felt like a mini festival, as we spun fire and hula hoops in the streets and created live art to original

Joshua the Man and me, during one of the band's rare and wonderful practice sessions.

Joshua the Man and me, during one of the band’s rare and wonderful practice sessions.

music. The name is a homage to the interconnectivity of life on the coast, mixed with the energy of a swell that makes the ocean such a magical place. The band lives on, in different incarnations, and I loved that I will always be a part of it.

The music and flow never ended, of course, but as if by a lunar-influenced tide almost all the members have or are about to make their way to the next phase of their life journey. Joshua, our singer/songwriter extraordinaire, and Didgeridoo Master Jake traveled to Colorado, but then Jake’s car broke down so in the amazingly lovely Manitou Springs they remain. (Seriously, that little town is epic with delicious, sparkling potable springs bubbling in fountains throughout the quaint streets. There’s also a restaurant that makes a mean huevos rancheros, and I can’t wait to return.)

Ditta the artist moved back to New Jersey, and beautiful spirit Maddie is finding herself in Orlando. Alex, our lead guitarist, is moving to Philadelphia for love. Vocalist, videographer and vibranta Brittny and multi-instrumentalist Malik are heading out this week to meet Joshua and Jake, perhaps scooping them both up and heading onward to San Diego. Wilkie, my favorite uke and beat box beast, and Firestarters JT and Sean are holding it down on the Treasure Coast.

As for myself (I played a variety of percussion and specialized in good vibes), I am a handful of weeks off from cruising with my love to places known and unknown. Of us all, I will be the one most intimately enjoying the literal intercoastal swell.

So, as Brittny and I were jumping around in the super-low tide of the shore pound recently, to honor her last time at the beach for a minute, we were talking about this beautiful, liminal moment almost the entire band was in. Are you familiar with the concept of the limin? That’s when you’re at the crossroads, actually moving through a threshold of life. The limins are those times that you look back and say, oh yes, that’s really when I realized that things were changing. That’s when you make those decisions and say, yes, I’ll go that way, not that way. You go down the path you’ve decided is right for you. You pass through the doorway. You are on your way.

I guess some people believe it takes a lot of guts to do what we are doing, because frankly we are all living the bohemian lifestyle. Oh! Theme song for the blog post time. But I don’t think it’s a matter of guts, because for all of us, the big adventures we’ve created for ourselves isn’t anything that’s scary. The journeys are actually obvious. For each of us, it’s exactly what we know we are going to do. So there is no reason to be worried or scared. At all. Really. It’s called being alive and realizing how you want to live your life.

Because failure is not an option! Let’s dissect that concept a little bit. Technically, you could say that Jake and Joshua “failed” because the car died and they never made it back to that

This quote was on my refrigerator for quite a while.

This quote was on my refrigerator for quite a while.

rental in Stuart, Fla. But why would you think that? They are hiking and meeting people and spending time with Joshua’s nephews and generally having big ole smiles. It doesn’t feel like failure to me. Alex, who is traveling because he wants to be with his love, may feel like it’s a risk. Is it really? Isn’t a bigger risk deciding NOT to try a life together with someone he feels so strongly about? Wouldn’t it be sad if no one made big moves for love? What a sad world this would be.

It’s all a matter of perspective. I suggested this to my parents, who were understandably worried about my plan to sell all my worldly possessions (look Ma, no storage!) and move on to my boyfriend’s sailboat. What if it didn’t work out? my mom asked. Well, here’s the backup plan: Pack a bag and buy a plane ticket. Hey! Now I’ll have great contacts in Colorado. And I have friends in Charleston and Mount Shasta and Woodstock and Atlanta and Pittsburgh and San Francisco and Portland and the Jersey Shore and Idaho who I would love to see. That doesn’t sounds like failure to me, since my general plan is travel and love anyway. And yes, love is everywhere.

I have a mantra for creating success. I live an “active, no expectations lifestyle” – or at least I try. (Sometimes I fail … see what I did there?) The active, no expectations lifestyle is a sure-fire method for reducing suffering. If you have no expectations, chances are you’re not going to be disappointed. How will it be for Alex? Or Brittny or Ditta? Or me? If we all have no expectations for how life is going to be, we’re never going to be sad that it’s not another way.

Yay! Congratulations to my friends moving to Colorado this week! High love!

Yay! Congratulations to my friends moving to Colorado this week! High love!

But the word “active” is in there, too. We need goals. We can’t just wander around, floating on the intercoastal swell. That’s no way to reach our highest self. We need to set goals. For example, I had a goal of ridding myself of unnecessary possessions, and that’s still a work in progress. I have a goal of writing a book or two. I have a goal of experiencing new people and places, thinking about new ideas and allowing myself to swim in the depths of love like I’ve never done before.

If I’m not active in these goals, they will never be realized. So I remain active, but detached from outcome and expectation. The big-picture goal, of course, is not to suffer, right? Sounds good to me.