: the strokes : the new abnormal : album review :

In 2003, my roommate at the time, put a copy of The Strokes’ Room on Fire CD on my desk and gave me the explicit instructions to listen. This set off a fandom that has lasted 17 years and counting. In many ways, the music of The Strokes has been the soundtrack to my adult life.

In the early 2000s, The Strokes were cementing street cred by resurrecting 1970s New York City grit that had once defined a golden age of rock n’ roll. Some argued that The Strokes were a bunch of spoiled private school kids toying with noisy guitars. But for a generation, my generation, they were our hope of climbing out of the late 90s teen-pop sinkhole into a world worth returning.

Hearing songs from Is this It at dingy underground clubs on the Lower East Side was a rush of possibility and youth. My fellow 20-somethings spent weekends frequenting the likes of Bowery Ballroom and Terminal 5 to feel the 60 minute rush of hearing it played live. The Strokes along with their peer group of early aughts rockers had found the winning formula for conjuring Blondie’s CBGB and giving it wings for a second act.

But The Strokes, like their much loved Lower East Side itself, outgrew their roots. Their fans were aging hipsters with corporate jobs and babies. Heck, The Strokes were aging hipsters with corporate jobs and babies. They were adults who were known for their youth. Distracted by domesticity and side gigs, time between albums grew and their outputs were more of throwing a bone to a pack of loyalists for sticking with them for so long than a dedication to their craft or a passion for creating.

The New Abnormal delivers Julian Casablancas’ strained rock lullaby vocals paired with playful riffs and stead drumbeats that prove soothing in their ambient familiarity. The album doesn’t excite or deliver hope for a new era of marching band jackets and late night raves. Instead, it confirms what we all already knew, but didn’t want to accept. As the magical days of of youth have come to an end for The Strokes generation, so to has the hey day of our beloved band. The New Abnormal is a perfectly lovely soundtrack for an evening in. Which ironically, is the antithesis of what The Strokes represent.

The Strokes commendably stay true to giving the people what they want instead of trying to alter their sound to attract a new generation. But their hearts haven’t been in it for years. Every new album gives a glimmer of hope, yet, every listen reminds us that you can never go home again. So much so, that our beloved downtown tribe has for the most part, moved to LA. To quote the Gin Blossoms, the past is gone, but something might be found to take its place. Perhaps that’s a mature, seasoned band of brothers whose lives have diverged, but whose love for the movement they created and each other remains unchanged.

Listen to the full album on Spotify

: meditated : what christmas means to me :

Not just a song covered over and over again since Stevie Wonder piped it out in 1967, but “What Christmas Means to Me,” is a wonderful prompt to take stock of the true heart of the season. 2018 was an especially difficult year for me. While it had its moments of joy, there was a prevailing energy of stress and sadness. Wrapping up the year for the holidays was no exception. It felt like a mad dash to the finish line instead of the idyllic Christmas sold to me on Instagram and on Hallmark Channel. I was competing with the clock to finish my work and Christmas shopping, making sure to thank all those that had been kind to me during the year, and also trying to take some time to unwind, organize, and enjoy the season a bit.

Last Christmas was probably one of the worst I’ve had. But it gave new meaning to the Buddhist concept of being comfortable with whatever arises. As 2018 progressed, two people I care about passed away. This was a harsh reminder of how its far more important to spend quality time with the people you love, even if that time is imperfect, than to fantasize about some ideal scenario that leaves you unsatisfied and disappointed.

Unfortunately, some of those closest to me have yet to learn this lesson. But this year, instead of getting caught up in the swirl of their confused emotions, I have taken a step back. Today, I used my meditation practice to assess what Christmas means to me. I made time for myself to enjoy the holiday in a way that honored my own wishes and helped me to relax. While remembering that family is the focus of the holiday and also making time to share the day with them. Being comfortable with whatever arises has given me space to recognize and find contentment in the perfectly imperfect moments of my life.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year!

*Holiday for Hanging*

: meditated : contemplating hopes and fears :

Prior to writing this, I was lounging on the couch contemplating a framed, signed, and now archaic, CD of Keane’s Hopes and Fears that hangs on my wall. I had bought it circa 2005, waiting in line for their show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. This reminiscence brought me a twinge of both joy and pain. I was reminded of the carefree hopes of my youth, that, as I get older, have been replaced with a more acute awareness of my fears.

I’ve been ripe with existentialism these days, exacerbated by the death of several people close to me in the past year. In moments of trying to make peace with change and trying to understand the context of why we are here, I’ve thought deeply about how I want to live my life and what is important to me.

In her book, The Places that Scare You, Pema Chodron makes reference to the Buddhist concept of groundlessness, equating it to floating in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. When I first read that, it scared me! No one wants to be floating in deep seas with no lifeline. But as the past few months have unfolded, I’ve learned that whether I like it or not, life is exactly this metaphor. While I’ve understood this for some time on an intellectual level, the recent past has caused me to experience it on an intrinsic level.

Where I’ve come to is that I can either let the waves crash above me or I can take a deep breath and relax into that uncomfortable middle space of unease and float. I have also dabbled in fearlessness — acknowledging fear, but moving past it to conquer it. I don’t think it’s possible, except maybe for a rare few, to be fearless all of the time, but my desire for myself and for others is that we look to approach life through the lens of hope instead of through the lens of fear.

: meditated : how injury has helped me reconnect with my body :

photo copyright: G.Gupte

I have a yoga teacher that often says, “your body is a reflection of your experience.”As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the last few years have been an exercise in managing stress and physical pain that has helped me focus more on my spiritual path, finding comfort and relief in yoga and meditation.

A few years ago, I set a goal for myself to a run a 10k. I was a modest runner at the time, taking up the treadmill 2-3 times per week to consistently run 5ks. The 10k felt like a stretch, but a doable one. I downloaded a training schedule from a fitness magazine’s website and got to it. I completed the race alongside two of my friends.

A few days after the race, I had a nagging pain in my hip. This wasn’t uncommon for me, I often had back and hip pain that would show themselves after a run. I figured like all the other times, it would go away on its own, yet, it kept popping back up again.

Four months later, when I started getting some other symptoms, I decided to get it checked out. Tests revealed another health issue that resulted in more tests and eventually surgery. It was a long drawn out process that lasted five months. During this time, I had to halt my workout routine and I gained five pounds. I was loathed with frustration and self-aggression. I wanted to be me again. I wanted to be able to be fit and healthy.

I had days when I realized all I wanted was to be active again, regardless of the outcome. On days that I felt good enough to workout, I stopped putting pressure on myself about how many calories I burned or whether or not I was toning up fast enough. Instead, I started to appreciate how lucky I was to be healthy enough to be there working out. This shift in focus did not come quickly, it happened in the depths of a lot of pain and suffering. Mindfulness allowed me to see where I was stuck and have gratitude for where and when I was wasn’t.

When my mindset moved to this way new way of approaching fitness, I started noticing how aggressive fitness classes can be — instructors pushing you and your body that extra mile, even when it might be too far. I found solace in my yoga and meditation routine. I stopped letting the pressure of instructors guide my intention for my workouts — I lifted the weight that felt comfortable for me, I stopped at the resistance on the stationary bike that felt challenging, but not straining.

After my surgery, I was ready to get back at it. I thought all of my problems would be magically solved. That I would feel great and like myself again. This was not the case. Recovery took at least three weeks. My hip pain was worse than before. Doctors indicated they didn’t quite know what was causing it, but that it was most likely a hip flexor strain and that I should do PT for a few weeks.

I was dejected, but hopeful. I wanted to nurse my body back to health and was glad to have access to PT that allowed me to stay active. I again battled impatience — wanting to be well before my body was ready. I asked several times when I would be better and didn’t get the responses that I wanted. Eight months into PT, I was frustrated again. It seemed odd that my recovery was taking so long and that no one was as eager to get me out of PT as I was. I decided to see my doctor again.

This brings us to the present — unfortunately, I am still waiting for answers and am going through more tests. I am downhearted and slightly anxious that this has taken so long to diagnose. I had just started working out again and was excited to get back to my routine. This has all halted. I recently found myself crying with how frustrated and anxious I am for an answer.

Then I remembered my teacher, “your body is a reflection of your experience.” I  have been mad at my body for failing me, but I am starting to realize that my body is showing me how much I have failed it. I have consistently abused it with walking miles in shoes that provide no support, eating and drinking foods that cause inflammation, and not prioritizing self-care over work and other commitments. This is my body’s only way to tell me to slow down.

I recognize now the need to truly listen to the signals my body is giving me. Instead of being frustrated with my inability to run and participate in my favorite fitness classes, I have decided to give my body what it needs — low impact, restorative exercise. I have switched from fast paced Vinyasa Flow to Gentle Yoga and ordered a swim cap and googles so that I can participate in Aqua Boot Camp instead of my regular weight classes. Surprisingly, I am even more energized about my workouts now because I have infused them with exciting new experiences.

While my body continues to remind me to take better care of it, I am no longer tuning out. Instead, I am utilizing the core of mindfulness practice and taking my focus inward to hear what it has to say and adjust my lifestyle to allow it to heal and feel good again.



: spotify : playlist of the week :

One of the best ways to focus in the open workspace is by listening to a well crafted Spotify playlist. I tend to binge on classical music, but recently I’ve moved to a modern version that offers the perfect combination of synthed-up, spa-inspired, electronic beats. This playlist will soundtrack your way through any Power Point presentation. It’s the only concentration playlist that you need. Happy listening!

This entry was posted in music.

: meditated : reflections on a meditation retreat :

This past weekend, I participated in a a meditation retreat as part of my teacher training program. The focus was on fearlessness and meeting the world with an open heart. There is a concept in Buddhism that is discussed often in books and lectures of “cocoon.” My understanding of this phrase, in this context, is that it is a shell we protect ourselves with that may not necessarily bring us joy, but is familiar and feels safe. As the weekend progressed through a series of several sitting and walking meditations, many of the students began to share their experience of cocoon and how it is holding them back.

I enjoyed hearing the teachings, but during the weekend didn’t feel a deep spark of connection to them the way others had. I figured that was where I was in my practice and vice versa and continued on with the experience. At the end of day two, I was quite exhausted. I had been meditating for about twelve hours and was ready to give my mind and body rest. When I finally got around to checking my phone, I saw a voicemail from my dad. I called him back to find out that my aunt’s illness had taken a turn for the worse and she was entering hospice care this week. If I wanted to see her, sooner was best.

I had spent two and a half days in retreat, learning about breaking free of our familiar habits and patterns.  Yet, in that moment, my emotions flooded in. I was caught off-guard and met the moment with a rush of tears. I had prepared myself for this day, but had not expected it to come so soon. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am a crier. That I feel deeply. Often these tears burst out not from weakness, but from frustration and strong emotion – my body’s natural reaction to samsara or the endless cycle of suffering.

I started chastising myself, thinking things such as, “you just completed a meditation retreat, have you learned nothing?,” “this cannot keep being your way of responding,” etc. I was fully there in my cocoon, but wanting to break out. Then I remembered a phrase from one of my teachers that, “the only way out is through.” That was all I needed to understand that what I was feeling was okay. That meditation and mindfulness are not about unfeeling, but rather, about staying grounded in the groundless.

The next day, I took the afternoon off to visit my aunt. Her condition was markedly worse and it was jarring to see her at first. My family had prepared me, telling me it was unlike anything I have seen before. That I should be ready. My biggest fear was bursting into tears in front of her and causing her more pain. I wanted to be the brave warrior or bodhisattva that I have been learning so much about from the teachings.

When I walked into the hospital room, I was prepared for the worst, but I channeled my practice — taking a deep breath, looking deeply at my aunt, then taking another deep breath, looking away for a moment to gather myself, and then I was able to be the bodhisattva, the person that could understand her suffering and that of the family and friends around her and meet it with an open heart. I looked back at her, smiled, and started catching-up the way I would do with her normally.

She is not able to talk anymore, but her mind is sharp and alert and through all of her pain, she was communicating with everyone through her hands, as well as her writing. As tired as she was, her deepest wish was to have the people that she loved around her. She kept remembering her friends and family and telling us to call so and so and tell them to come visit. Watching her, in such pain and suffering, yet being strong and present for us, I recognized the bodhisattva warrior in her, who felt our pain and suffering and met it with an open heart.

At this point, all we can do for her and for each other is be there and be present. If we can loosen the cocoon of our habitual responses, step aside from our natural way of dealing with stress and strong emotion, we are able to be present in the most meaningful of ways. Looking around that room, many were holding back tears, replacing them with big smiles and laughter. I saw how lucky we all are to be surrounded by bodhisattva warriors who understand that the only way out is through.



: meditated : four meditation techniques to incorporate into your day :


When most people think of meditation, they think of sitting still on a cushion and Zening out. Yet, there are several ways to meditate that build on the foundational breath meditation and can be incorporated thoughout the day to bring deeper mindfulness to your everyday life.

Breath Meditation (Shamatha) – This is the practice most people think of when they hear the word “meditation.” It starts with taking a good posture. If you are seated on a cushion, your sits bone should be firmly rooted and your knees should be below your hips with your legs crossed in front of you. If you are seated on a chair, you should take a tall posture with your seat rooted and your feet planted on the floor about hips width apart. Hands should rest comfortably on the thighs and your gaze should be four to six feet in front of you or closed, if you prefer. Spine should be long with the chin slightly tucked and the muscles in your body relaxed. Once you’ve done this, start to take the focus to the breath. Don’t try to control it, but really feel each inhale and exhale. When your mind wanders to a thought, taking you away from the breath (which it will do!) gently label it “noticing” or “thinking” and then allow yourself to come back to the feeling of the breath in your body. Continue like this for 10-15 minutes.

Walking Meditation – Walking meditation is one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness. Most of us walk for some part of the day, so this is a great “on the go” mindfulness practice. The focus during walking meditation is on the feeling of your feet or shoes connecting with the earth. Pace is not too fast and not too slow. Your hands are gently cupped and your attention is on each connection you make with the earth as you alternate between left and right foot. If you get distracted, that’s okay. The idea is not to zone out from what is happening around you (that could be dangerous if you’re outside on the street). But allow yourself to notice what has distracted you and then go back to feeling your connection with the earth. How does this feel? Explore it.

Eating Meditation – This practice is one of the harder ones for me, but I love it because every meal, snack, and sip of tea or coffee is an opportunity to practice. The idea is to focus on the process of eating. Noticing the texture of the food, the smell, the colors. Is it hot? Is it cold? Where did your food come from? Eating meditation is a contemplative practice. It allows us to be aware of the interconnectedness of the world. For example, if you’re eating an egg, begin to consider all of the people that worked to bring that egg to your plate — the farmer who raised the chickens and harvested the eggs, the distributor that brought the eggs from the farm to a grocery store, the person that prepared the eggs so you can eat them (this may be you!), and so on. When you start to think about your food in this way, it becomes apparent how truly fortunate we are for all of the wonderful foods we have access to in convenient and easy ways. I like this practice because it promotes a feeling of gratitude for others, especially people we don’t necessarily know personally.

Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta)  – This may be my favorite meditation. It’s a practice that starts with the self and then beams out to others across the board — from those we cherish to those we struggle with to those who are complete strangers. The idea is to think of the person you are sending this meditation to (e.g. yourself, your best friend, your frenemy) and genuinely send them positive energy though the mantra: May you be happy, may you be well, may you be safe, may you be peaceful and at ease. The words and phrases don’t have to be exactly this, but should carry the same positive attributes. This meditation cultivates compassion for ourselves and for others. Once you do it a few times, you will start to notice how it allows us to see others in a different light – especially, people with whom we struggle. It’s a positive and wonderful way to soften our rigidity and reconnect with basic goodness. I often practice loving kindness meditation when I am walking and passing random people on the street. Feel free to incorporate it into your day as works best for you.

: meditated : why we love college basketball :

This is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s March Madness, which means that 64 of the best college basketball teams are vying for the bragging rights of “National Champions.”  The team I’m rooting for has had an amazing season and I’m hopeful it becomes THE season on April 2nd. As a fan, I have faithfully and eagerly shown my support by cheering them on at local bars, enthusiastically greeting every free throw and three-pointer with my friends. After a recent game, I found myself contemplating Why exactly do people love team sports? Why do I love team sports? My contemplation led me to the following insights:

They help us see basic goodness in others – At the core of sports fandom is the desire to connect with others. Rallying around team sports gives people an easy avenue for establishing a human connection. In Buddhism, human connection is an intrinsic part of life and the desire to feel and connect stems from our basic goodness.

They reinforce the power of teamwork – One of the things I love most about team sports is the strategy. I find it fascinating how players instinctively know where their teammate is going to be and follow that with amazing passing sequences. I grew up playing team sports and know the level of practice and trust that needs to be build to have those seemingly effortless moments on the court. You absolutely cannot win a game with showboaters. The power of teamwork is a key part of a winning strategy and it comes across strongly in these last rounds of play. Teamwork is a great example of the interconnectedness of our existence and how acknowledging that allows us to be truly present with ourselves and each other.

They inspire – If you’ve been watching this year’s tournament, you know that a Cinderella team rose up in the unlikeliest of places. Loyola Chicago made it’s first March Madness appearance since 1985  in this year’s tournament and has gone on to reach the Final Four (the last 4 out of 64 teams). Why does everyone love Loyola’s story? Why has their merchandise skyrocketed in sales? Because people want to believe in the good of this world. That if you work hard with an open heart, you will tune into the basic goodness of our world.

The subtleties of fandom were a fun and interesting contemplation. Paying attention to and acknowledging them have brought a deeper sense of mindfulness to how I engage with my fellow fans and my team’s competitors.

March On!

meditated : the power of now :

Cancer. It seems to be everywhere these days. Permeating our society until one day it’s someone you love that has it. Two years ago this became one of my aunts. Like others that I care about, I was hopeful that it would be quickly sent into remission with the right combination of surgery, chemo, and radiation. As a family that promotes thinking positively, we all treated it like a hurdle to cross before getting back to good. Yet, two months ago my aunt’s health began to rapidly decline. Her most recent round of radiation has taken a toll and every time we think she’s better the other shoe seems to drop.

Sharon Salzberg, a world famous mindfulness instructor, often says that human beings tend to hold on to what feels good and push away what doesn’t. When someone we love is suffering, we want to push it away and bring back the happier times. Where does that leave us?

What I’ve learned in these two years and through my mindfulness practice is that it leaves us exactly where it should — in the now. We can’t change the past — my aunt has cancer. We can’t predict the future. What we can do is be present for her and for each other now. We can acknowledge the suffering without being consumed by it. In so doing, we can create space for cultivating more love when we each need it most.

Visiting my aunt in the hospital today, this became clearer to me than ever. Her body was swollen and she was unable to talk, but her spirit was alive and well. She even suggested Facetiming my sister. We enjoyed joking around and sharing family stories.

The days are touch and go. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We continue to be hopeful. What keeps us going is staying in the moment, appreciating the time we have together, and sharing it to the fullest with the people we love.


: netflixed : love : the best show that no one watches :

About this time last year, I discovered what I consider to be one of Netflix’s most wonderful hidden gems, Love, starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust. The show follows Jacobs as the lovable screw-up, Mickey Dobbs, a radio show producer struggling with adulting and sobriety; and Rust’s nerdy, but relatively stable, Gus Cruikshank, an aspiring writer paying his bills by tutoring tweens on the set of Wichita. These two delightful degenerates explore what it means to find love in a hopeless place as they smoke and drink their way through an unforgiving Los Angeles. They are joined by a solid cast of characters that supplement the main storyline with one liners that will leave you wanting more. Notable sideshows include Claudia O’Doherty as Mickey’s pushover roommate, Bertie Bauer, and Iris Apatow as the spoiled child star with a twinge of golden heart, Arya Hopkins. If you’re looking for a new binge-worthy show, look no further. Love spans three seasons, with the latest having launched March 9th. The only downside: it’s the final season. Too soon for a reboot?!