: meditated : 5 tips for starting a mindfulness meditation practice :

There has been a surge of interest in mindfulness lately. Yet many people who want to develop a practice feel overwhelmed and uncertain of how exactly to start. Mindfulness is a skill that is honed through meditation. Like any other skill it is best developed through consistent practice. Below are five tips to kickstart your zen.

  1. Consistency over length – Any meditation teacher you meet will tell you that the key to meditation practice is to be consistent. I recommend committing to sitting at least three times per week and building up to daily. Most people are surprised to hear that a mere 5-10 minutes practiced consistently can have lasting impact off the cushion. The good news is you don’t have to meditate for hours on end, but you do need to be consistent to start feeling the impact of your efforts.
  2. Create dedicated space – I find it helpful to use the same space in my home for my daily practice. For me this is a dedicated cushion that faces a window. Some people find decorating their space with candles, incense, or photos of people or things that inspire them to be helpful.   You can sit on the floor with a meditation cushion or choose to sit on a chair or bench if more comfortable. Over time, having this space will help you form the habit of meditation.
  3. Remember, you can always begin again – Even now, but especially when I first started meditating, I would chastise myself if I missed a day or if I didn’t have time to sit for as long as I wanted or if I constantly found myself distracted from the breath. When this happens remember, “You can always begin again, it’s just one breath.” This is one of my favorite quotes from Sharon Salzberg, a world-renowned mindfulness teacher. Ever since I heard this quote, I repeat it to myself every time I sense the self-aggression creeping up. It keeps me focused on what matters and I hope it will help you too.
  4. Get a guide – Starting a practice can be intimidating. Guided meditations are a great set of training wheels to help you on your way. Do a quick Google search to find a meditation center in your area to attend a drop in Sangha, or community sitting. There are also a plethora of mindfulness apps available on iTunes. Two that I really love are iSleep Easy and Take a Break. Many people I know also find Headspace useful. Whatever your preference, whether live or digital, a guided meditation is a helpful way to focus and can jumpstart your confidence when it comes to practicing mindfulness.
  5. Recognize that mindfulness happens on and off the cushion – In NYC, a city of eight million people and likely the same number of off-putting noises and distractions, I often notice people plugged out wherever I turn. For me, I used to constantly listen to music on my headphones the minute I stepped outside for a walk or a subway ride. One of the biggest changes to my daily life since I began meditating is that I started taking my headphones off and eventually stopped wearing them altogether when walking / commuting. I noticed I was more engaged with my environment and actively seeking out the noises and curious people all around. Through meditation you will realize that every moment is an opportunity to be present and mindful.

As you go on your way, remember that mindfulness is a journey and meditation paves the way. When you first start, you may be asking yourself “Is this is it? Am I meditating?” When you find yourself asking these questions, keep focusing on the breath. Overtime, you won’t have to ask them anymore because the results of meditation will reveal themselves to you the more you engage your mind. Happy meditating!

: meditated : the mindfulness of being a tourist :

Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo credit G.Gupte

I spent the past ten days traveling within Europe. I jam packed my itinerary so that I could fit in all the museums I wanted to see and also take a full day trip to the medieval city of Bruges, known for chocolate and lace. Aggressive planning aside, whenever I take a trip like this where I explore a new city, I find myself returning home with renewed energy for hobbies, life goals, and the present moment. This time around, I found myself pondering why exactly that is.

I live in New York City, a mecca of culture, art, music, and restaurants available all day, everyday. I regularly take advantage of these things, but on my most recent European adventure, I started asking myself – why when I am in a foreign country do I have joie de vivre to go to that one extra museum and see that one last exhibit? And why do I not extend that same energy to all that I do in my daily life?

The answer is simple. Because when I am on vacation I am fully aware of and engaged in the present moment. I know I only have a set number of days to experience all the great things about these cities. Sure, I could come back, but with a bucket list burgeoning with cities across the world, I always wonder, when exactly that will be. So I recognize that I have the time and the spirit now and I go for it.

On this past trip, I spent about four days in Amsterdam. The weather was frigid. Much colder than it normally is this time of year and winds gusting up to 40 mph. In New York when it’s that cold out, I take solace in the hygge-inducing warmth of my apartment with its comfortable sofa and binge-worthy Netflix. But in Amsterdam, I had an overflowing list of museums to see (including one with a Banksy exhibit), food to try (have you ever had a Dutch savory pancake? Delicious!), photographs to take (the frozen canals are an experience unto themselves), and of course things to buy (I was not going to let the trip pass without a visit to the artsy Nine Streets area).

I made it to every museum and art exhibit on my list (with a couple of extra to boot), had a relaxing massage, explored many of the main shopping districts, and sampled some of Amsterdam’s gastronomic hot spots. Every day I made it a point to prioritize sleep. I ensured I had time at the end of each day to unwind, watch a movie, and reflect on the day, making sure to get in at least eight hours of sleep. The next morning, I fueled the day with a solid breakfast and set out on my way. I turned off my cell phone and only used it for taking pictures and when I needed Google Maps! I fully engaged in every painting I saw, canal bridge I photographed, and meal I ate. I left Amsterdam a bit tired, but completely renewed from my experiences. I plan to extend my tourist mindset more regularly to my daily life. Approaching every day as an opportunity and not as an excuse to put off the things that excite and matter most to me.

There is a common misconception for those new to meditating that mindfulness can only be achieved by sitting on a cushion, closed-eyed, and focusing intently on the breath. If you read last week’s post, you have probably started to understand that the ability to bring mindfulness to what we do is cultivated on the cushion, but the opportunities to practice it and therefore fully engage with our world and our lives, are boundless. Travel is a good reminder of how we can disconnect from the noise of the world and reconnect with what truly moves us.

: meditated : the case for disconnecting :

Oftentimes when we use words such as mindfulness and meditation, we tend to conjure the image of a stoic person with the sun gently warming their face as they sit on a cushion and channel the Buddha. In reality, everyday tasks and situations are an opportunity to practice mindfulness and discover within ourselves a true sense of peace by embracing the present moment. With that, I will share a story of my own experience of active mindfulness.

Stress tends to creeps up on you and then one day out of the blue you find yourself burning out. This happened to me for the first time several years ago. I was working in a job I loved, but that required me to make myself available at all hours, including during vacations and holidays. I felt the constant need to be checking and responding to work emails. Overtime, I found myself frequently anxious, fueled by the pursuit of perfectionism and the desire to please. I found it virtually impossible to disconnect, much less relax. Every scroll of my iPhone would send my muscles into spasm. I developed neck and shoulder pain for which I had to go to physical therapy. I began to feel the negative effects of my stress, but still didn’t quite know how to get myself back to a healthy state. I was working long hours and the first thing to go was my fitness routine.

Then serendipity stepped in. A friend of mine organized a ski weekend in Vermont. It would be four days away from the constant buzz of my inbox. I was in. I had skied only once before at the age of about five, so essentially it would all be new to me. I embraced this adventure. Setting out on the bunny slopes of Vermont, I found the speed exhilarating and quickly picked up the basics of meandering down the mountain with control. My more seasoned skier friends suggested we try out a green (for non skiers that is the beginner slope).

We queued up for the lift. I nervously asked several times about the run. My friends reassured me it would be like the bunny slope, just longer. When we arrived at the top of the mountain, there was a slight awkwardness as they realized they had brought me to the top of a blue (the medium difficulty slopes, which in Vermont are really the equivalent of black diamonds or the hard slopes in other parts of the world due to their icy conditions). I had two choices. I could have ski patrol ski me down the mountain or I could let my friends guide me and make a go at it. I chose the latter.

With the steady and patient guidance of my friends, I made it safely down (of course with several falls and popped skis along the way). I was a bit shaken when we reached the bottom, but equally proud of myself for facing my fears and completely embracing the challenge.

After lunch, when the broader group of us had gotten back together to share stories and refuel, we decided we would all do a post-meal run together down a green. I was still a bit jittery from my first run, but figured a green may be a walk in the park after tackling a blue. My initial caution turned to confidence as I easily made it down the first part of the slope. There were slick patches of ice throughout, but I embraced the speed and took in the mountainside and the fresh air, enjoying every minute of it.

At the bottom of the mountain, I felt a wonderful mix of accomplishment and relief. I had been open to a new sport, faced my fears related to it, and enjoyed every bit of the good type of adrenal flow it offered. I didn’t once check my email or think about work. I felt an amazing sense of relaxation even thoug my body was fatigued from the long day of squatting and maneuvering down the mountain.

When we got back to the cabin, I had time to reflect on the day. What struck me most about it was how much I had been able to focus on the task at hand – learning to ski, appreciating the beautiful sunny day, spending quality time with my friends, taking in the gorgeous surrounding views.

At the heart of it, I had found myself able to fully engage in something without the distraction of work. I had found the ability within myself to cultivate mindfulness. Though this trip took place over five years ago, I still to this day remember how the experience made me feel.

Fast forward to today and stress is once again causing that creeping anxiousness that I had all those years ago. Though I haven’t been skiing this season, I’ve used mindfulness as my channel for getting back in touch with myself. I have found that simple things that I tend to do mechanically and without much active thought, such as walking, can truly change my perspective if done with intention.

When I take the time to fully engage in noticing the birds chirping, children laughing, dogs playing, the sun shining or even the rain and wind on my face, I am engaging more actively in my life and simultaneously creating space and relief from the pressures of the busy world. There are no quick fixes involved, but rather incremental moments that get me closer to that wonderful space of equanimity.


: introducing : meditated : a journey with mindfulness :

Paris, France. Photo credit G.Gupte.


In the past five years, meditation has become an important part of my life. My interest in meditation developed through my yoga practice. The last pose in yoga is shavasana, essentially a 5-10 minute meditative pose where you lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out comfortably and shut your eyes. For a long time this pose was challenging. I always had an itch or a twitch and found it hard to keep still, much less center my thoughts. Over time, and through the guidance of my yoga teacher, I started draping a towel over my eyes, which helped me stop fidgeting. Slowly, I began to notice changes — I didn’t always have to act on my impulses to scratch or move. I began focusing on the breath, much like other yoga poses, and breathe through challenges to get to poise.

Browsing a Barnes & Noble in late fall 2013, I picked up a book by Lodro Rinzler, entitled, The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation. It was a modern-day secularized take on mindfulness and seemed to be a good entry point into meditation. Previously, my hesitation with further exploring meditation had been its rooting in religion and dharma. Through reading Lodro’s book, I started to view Buddhism more as a way of life and a practical set of teaches versus ritualized dogma.

From there, I began listening to regular meditation podcasts and reading books by zen masters such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron. I simultaneously started attending a weekly meditation class that followed my yoga class. After doing that for awhile, I decided to start a daily meditation practice — starting with just five minutes per day. I gradually built up to twenty minutes, but ultimately found my sweet spot at ten. I also began journaling my experience — thoughts that distracted me, how I felt, etc.

After immersing myself in meditation for close to five years, I have recently taken the step to apply and get accepted to a nine-month mindfulness teacher training program. Through this program I will have the opportunity to learn from some today’s foremost mindfulness teachers.

I have decided to chronicle my journey on Holiday for Hanging in a series entitled, Meditated. Each week I will post a new article on the topic of mindfulness. I hope you will find it helpful and inspiring and contribute to your own journey with self awareness and connecting more wholly with the world.


: mozart in the jungle : season 4 preview :

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a season 4 preview for Mozart in the Jungle. The event took place at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, providing elegant views of a fog laden Manhattan. The event, sponsored by Amazon Prime and Lincoln Center Young Patrons, began with a light reception followed by press and photos with the cast. It then segued into a back to back viewing of episodes 1 and 2 of the new season.

As always, Gael Garcia Bernal stole the show as the free spirited and carefree Rodrigo. Malcom McDowell and Bernadette Peters continued to shine as the back-up comic relief who stoke the fire just enough to move the story along. Episode 2 took us deeper into the past of Lola Kirke’s Hailey. And while we don’t quite begin to love her, we start to understand the pieces of her past that have made her who she is.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with the cast. This was not the most enthralling conversation, but it provided some insight into who they are as people and the motivations and inspirations for the show.

This season promises a healthy dose of laughter, mainly courtesy of Bernal and McDowell, and a few sides of realism that keep the show fresh. I am looking forward to binging the rest of the season when it becomes available through Amazon Prime on Friday, February 16th.


: sounds for summer : calvin harris : feels :

Strategically dropping his album just in time for the July 4th holiday weekend, Calvin Harris continues to deliver the beats you want to soundtrack your summer. The track,”Feels,” featuring Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Big Sean delivers on expectations with a low key R&B vibe that seamlessly threads together bits and pieces from disco, funk, Motown, and modern day electronic pop. With something for everyone, you’ll be listening to Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 with every sip of your frosé.

: something to tell you: haim tease songs off their new album :

The sibling trio, Haim, are a band I had heard of, but had written off for their membership in a certain teen country star turned pop phenom’s notorious “girl squad.” However, last spring, as I checked out the roster for Gov Ball, I decided to give them a listen. My skepticism was replaced by pure excitement that I can only compare to what I felt when I listened to the synth-pop genius of The Killer’s debut album, Hot Fuss, in 2004. Days Are Gone, evoked the ethereal magic of 70s/80s Fleetwood Mac, with a healthy dose of Stevie Nicks gone solo. It was an album I would listen to in its entirety for several months. Fast forward to spring 2017, and the music world has been buzzing with news of singles from the band’s sophomore release, Something to Tell You, available 7.7.17. 

I’ll start with the good.”Want you Back” kicks off with a nod to the Indigo Girls. Folk inspired vocals work into a Wilson Philips-esque harmony more typical of the band. On the first listen it took me awhile to get into the song, but when I did, I found myself bopping along the way I do to their previous works. On second listen, I was singing the chorus. I’m sure the third will be when I get hooked. Not quite the captivating experience of Days are Gone first listen, but a respectable offering.

Now onto the not quite bad, but bland and  disjointed, “Right Now.” The song, like “Want you Back,” sticks to Haim’s favorite relatable theme of star-crossed love, but that’s where the similarity ends. The track is heavy on the vocals and light on the instruments, creating a somewhat uninviting sound. Frankly, I was surprised this is an album teaser. Seems more like the random track you’re willing to overlook when an album otherwise amazes. It never really comes together. There are hints at a promising chorus that doesn’t transpire. Then there is a whisper voiceover midway through that reminded me of Britney Spear’s awkward Titanic interlude in, “Oops I Did it Again” (yes, I went there, but it’s true). What could have been a polished track to draw in fans and new followers, I can only equate to what sounds like the first run of a brainstorm session with instruments mixed in between waiting to be refined.

While neither single blew me away, I have much respect and admiration for the musical talents of these three women and am still excited to hear the full release in July. Give them a listen yourself on Spotify.


: instant video : oasis: supersonic :

90s alternative rock was a turning point for me in music. It took me from a passive listener to an active music aficionado. I distinctly remember how it drew me in with its reverberating guitars, complemented by passionate vocals. One of the most renowned bands of the alt rock era was Oasis. A band of brothers and friends, whose instability fueled their success, but also catalyzed their demise.

In Oasis: Supersonic, Liam and Noel Gallagher tell their story in their own words, recognizing their missteps, but unapologetically owning their experience. Much like Asif Kapadia’s previous documentary Amy, which chronicled the rise and fall of Amy Winehouse, Oasis: Supersonic takes steps to humanize its characters and shed light on the person versus the persona. Unsurprisingly, The Gallagher brothers grew up in emotionally and physically stressful circumstances, rising above their dealt hand to inspire a generation.

What struck me as beautiful in this story is while sibling rivalry remains an unyielding force in the relationship between Liam and Noel Gallagher, both appreciate and recognize the talent of the other — Liam the singer, Noel the songwriter. Together with Paul “Bonehead” Arthur and several others, they acknowledge that while none of them are the greatest musicians in the world, their music transcended themselves, sparked by a devout fan base, it spread like wildfire across the globe, cementing them in history as one of the greatest bands of the 90s.

Timeless for me are songs such as “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Streaming for free on Amazon Instant Video for Amazon Prime members, I recommend this walk down memory lane for those that lived the Oasis saga, as well as for those who want to understand one of the key influencers of modern day indie rock.

: holiday spirit arrives at lincoln square : winter’s eve festival :



This year’s Lincoln Square Winter’s Eve Festival kicked off with the lighting of the Dante Park Christmas tree at 5:30pm. The party continued until 9pm as a cheery crowd traversed a nine block radius down Broadway and parts of Columbus Avenue. Donning Christmas glow sticks, the festival-goers experienced free concerts, the flavors of the neighborhood from Magnolia Bakery to Boulud Sud, and got a head start on their holiday shopping with discounts from local retailers.

Perhaps most enchanting was Ikebe Shakedown, a six person Brooklyn based Jazz band, that soundtracked the evening with a delightful blend of trumpet, trombone, congas/drums, bass, and guitar. Playing songs from their new LP, Stone By Stone, they pleased a multigenerational audience of wool-capped, hot chocolate sipping New Yorkers.  With the ambient brass and strings filling the air, larger than life puppets gracefully glided across the backdrop of Lincoln Center, circling Dante Park to create a magical experience fit for any Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Winter’s Eve is sponsored by Time Warner and the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. For more information visit: www.winterseve.nyc.

To learn more about Ikebe Shakedown, visit their website at: www.ikebeShakedown.com

: soundtrack your weekend : belles of the ball :

Governor's_Ball_2014_Art_Gimbel -15

Governors Ball is in less than four weeks. Whether you’re going all out for the three day festival or checking out some acts here and there, this year’s lineup will not disappoint. Here are some of my favorites from the bands on deck: