Laugh it up!

Dear Friends,

I recently met a 70-yr-old woman with a 17-yr-old heart. Literally! Linda is the recipient of a heart transplant. She is an incredible, vibrant person filled with energy and love. We met through Laughter Yoga.

Laughter Yoga is a unique concept combining laughing exercises, child-like playfulness, and pranayama breathing. I was drawn to Laughter Yoga for it’s ability to exercise “right-brain, creative thinking,” as discussed in Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. It also harnesses and amplifies the incredible healing properties of laughter, both mental and physical.

Linda attributes laughter to helping her through congestive heart failure, surgery, and recovery. She is driven to spreading laughter yoga, both as a way of healing the world and as a way to pay forward the amazing gift she received from her donor. Linda has a dream of having a huge laughter group of over 100 people. I am trying to help make her dream a reality.

Linda and I share the same birthday, July 7th. Next Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 7:11pm we will perform a Laughter Flash Mob on Frazee beach in Carlsbad. We will gather near lifeguard stand #38, laugh the notes to “Happy Birthday”, then smile, giggle, and laugh for 7 minutes. If you would like to continue laughing afterwards, there will be Laughter Leaders (like myself) to guide you through a laughter meditation.

When: 7-7-11 @ 7:11pm (come early to make sure you can park, or take the Coaster or bus 101)

Where: Frazee beach in Carlsbad at HWY 101 and Pine Ave

Why: Celebrate life, create world peace, Have Fun!

Please send this to all your friends and help make Linda’s dream a reality!

Be Kind

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
– Plato

This heart-breaking picture is of a real, tangible tragedy, but it made me think about people who may be experiencing similar, less tangible ones. I can think of moments in my life where I felt much like the girl in this photo. These are the moments that most people don’t know about, even when they are close to you.

If you’re feeling frustrated with someone, remember to always speak with compassion and love.

If you’re feeling stressed or angry, remember to look at the world with gratitude and joy.

Thank you for reading my blog, and I wish you much happiness.

goethe-flower

Denver, baby!

Is one week too early to start professing my love for Denver? So far I am having a fantastic time in the mile-high city, even though it snowed yesterday (May, really?!). Preceding the snow were a couple beautiful spring days. I visited Washington Park on Sunday, which was so different from the first time I visited it. When I came a month ago Wash Park was completely quiet. The kind of quiet that can only occur when it is snowing, and everything is covered in a thick, white blanket. This time Wash Park was vibrant, with people everywhere, birds chirping, and flowers blooming all over the place.
It’s kind of like the difference between Denver and South Florida- night and day. People here are so much more relaxed and friendly, there are tons of small, locally owned businesses, and neighborhoods are older and have more character. Speaking of which, my new residence is a 114-year-old mansion in the Capitol Hill area. It’s a bit run down, but I love its quirks. It is exactly the kind of thing that would be torn down and replaced with a mass-produced, perfectly groomed condominium in Florida. How are people not offended by designer neighborhoods where every house is identical? OK, I better stop myself before I even begin this rant.
The mansion was a package deal that included a great community of friends. My new roomies and neighbors are artists, musicians, students and teachers. They brought me along with them for the First Friday Art Walk, and I discovered some other amazing local artists. Denver is definitely a creative hub, and I am looking forward to exploring all it’s little nooks and crannies.

Adventures can happen anywhere

So I was feeling kind of bummed about the incredibly slow rate at which I am paying off my credit card. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to travel again. But wait…how could I be working so hard, but paying off so little of my debt. Oh wait, I know. It’s because I’m spending all my money traveling!

This might sound like a big duh! to everyone around me, but it really just hit me. I just returned from an awesome trip to Colorado and Utah. I visited friends in Denver, then took an 8 day river rafting trip through Cataract Canyon near Moab. A few weeks before that I visited friends in Vermont, and before that it was San Diego. This summer I will be backpacking in Wyoming.

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As I was driving through Colorado (freaking amazing, btw) I realized that I was finally exploring all those places in the US that I always wanted to see, and doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do (hello, whitewater rafting).

I’m lucky to live in a country with just about every kind of climate/land feature/cultural attraction there is. I may not be learning new languages (although I have no excuse for not becoming fluent in Spanish in Miami), or visiting exotic countries, but my life is still full of adventure.

Check out my pictures here

Make new friends

While I was traveling through Africa it seemed easy to find a balance between spending time with people, and my extremely necessary alone-time. Making new friends was easy, since everyone is eager to interact with total strangers while traveling. If there was ever too much partying going on, I could always just wander off somewhere and read a book.
Since coming back to the States, however, I’ve had an adundance of alone-time (read: bored and lonely). I don’t know anyone in the area, and quite frankly, Floridians are not known for their openness.

So how do you meet new people when everyone is so entrenched in their cliques? Enter Meetup.com!
This site is loaded with tons of people looking to get together with others of similar interests. There are groups focused on movies, dancing, gaming, foreign languages, sushi…anything you can think of. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can create your own group. For me this has not only been a great way to meet people, but also a way to find out about cool places or events in the area.

Another great resource for meeting people has been (surprise!) Couchsurfing. Even though I don’t need a couch, I can still interact with the other CSers who live in the area. This is how I found out about a cool place in Miami that has free salsa on Wednesday nights.

These are both great ways to not only make friends, but become more active in your community. I think it’s so important to be a part of the place you live. After all, the energy of a place is going to affect you and your life, so make sure it’s good!

What am I doing with my life?

I don’t know what beat I’m marching to, but one thing is certain, I can march no other way. For a long time I have been following my own path, however unusual, with little thought to what was driving me. In fact, my motivations often changed on a daily basis. I always thought that I would eventually find something that I loved and wanted to devote my life to, something that would both positively impact the world and provide me with enough money to live comfortably. Now that I am 30 I’m starting to get a little worried that my chance may have passed me by. Sure, 30 is the new 20, but Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Blink that it takes about 10 years to become great at something. Fine for those people whose parents had them learning the piano at age 8, but do the rest of us have to resign ourselves to mediocrity? I also read recently that people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in 10. Should I start planning now to be great at something when I’m 40?

Even if I chose to do that, I still haven’t figured out what it is I should devote my efforts to. I have never found that thing I can focus all my energies on, like swimming all day, everyday a la Michael Phelps. Rather, I see life more like a buffet; try a little of everything. Sure, I get pretty good at each thing I do, suggesting that I could be great if I chose something and devoted more energy to it, but I’ve never been the “focus on one thing” type. I would say I’m a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, except that I have a sheet of paper that says I’m a Master of Science (a point which I find hilarious).

The one thing I can say for myself is that I always follow my heart. Actually, sometimes my heart just won’t shut the hell up. Which leads me to my current situation, wandering aimlessly through Africa. Well, I guess I have a few aims…

1) To show people that you do not need lots of money to travel,

2) To let people know that traveling is not scary! It’s magical and wonderful, and something everyone should do,

3) To learn new skills, and use the skills I have to benefit others through volunteering,

4) To take lots of cool pictures and videos in order to show my friends and family what the rest of the world is like, and

5) To learn more about myself and possibly find something to devote my life to.

I hope I have sufficiently justified myself. The last point will be a large part of the discussion on this blog, since it seems to be a problem widely suffered these days. In fact, I found a great article about the Quarter-life Crisis, which saved my life on one of my “freak-out” days.

If you aren’t convinced, maybe my online journey of self discovery will help you. Or maybe you can just laugh at my stupidity. In the meantime, go download some of my pretty pictures from around the world.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/maureenleemaloney/

Spiritual journey

Actually written May 2nd
I don’t know how some of you will respond if I start getting all spiritual and contemplative in my blog. But the fact is that I have a lot of time to think, and I encounter people with interesting insights. When you are outside of your normally scheduled life, you start to realize that there are other options, and perhaps you can be a lot happier than you are normally. Not that I was an unhappy person back in the States. On the contrary I have awesome friends, and my lifestyle typically included going to concerts, spending lots of time outdoors, eating at good restaurants, and watching movies. My life was considerably better than most Americans. But I always felt somewhat unfulfilled. I can only imagine how most Americans feel, and why they need to escape into the world of television whenever they have free time. I’m not really good at ignoring the inner voice that tells me when something is out of whack.
This is old, powerful land, and I’ve had some amazing revelations since being here at Terrapi. They usually result from me freaking out about something, like money. Boy, do I love to worry about the future, what job will I get, and how will I save so that I can travel some more. I spent 2 days staring at my computer, looking up jobs, and missing opportunities to go hiking. Then my stomach suddenly made this huge gurgle sound. I thought, “What the?!” For the next 2 days I had mysterious stomach pains, and I could not figure out why. Someone had been speaking to me about chakras earlier that week, and it occurred to me that my issue could have a spiritual connection. So I jumped back onto my computer, found some pages about chakras, and looked up stomach problems. What I found was that stomach pains are a result of ‘survival issues’, and coincide with a blockage of the root chakra. This chakra is related to security, job, and money. I figured I was onto something. I found some methods of clearing the root chakra, like meditating while sitting against a tree, and using frankincense and sandalwood oils on the base of the spine and feet. Essential oils can be hard to find and expensive. The crazy thing was that Marce, a friend on the farm, had given me a vial of these oils a few days before to treat some dry skin I had. I wanted to use a little then give it back, but she insisted I keep it. The most helpful advise for clearing the chakra suggested asking yourself what deep-seated beliefs you have that are no longer serving you, but rather holding you back. It didn’t take me long to figure out what that was. Job=money=security. In our society we all believe that money equals security, and money is necessary for security. But I have come to realize that isn’t true. Just look at the oils…they were provided to me before I even knew I needed them! If I am following my path, the universe will provide me with everything I need.
I no longer worry about when my trip will end, where I’ll be, and what I’ll do. I’m working on appreciating every day as it comes. Oh, so you know, I used the oils and meditated under a tree for a while, and my stomach problems were gone!
Even though I’ve been appreciating each day as it comes, as of a week ago I still didn’t know where I would go after Terrapi, or when I should leave. I took a weekend to go to Jeffreys Bay, a cool little town and world-renown surfing destination. I have been shown time and time again that even small ‘coincidences’ have big implications, and so I always look for the messages when coincidences occur. I met a woman named Fortune who works for the backpackers I stayed in, and she is trying to start an NGO to help street kids. She told me about all the work she had done speaking to people and fundraising. The problem is that she needs a project proposal, and doesn’t know how to write one. I told her it sounded really awesome, and that I hoped she would find someone who could help her. Later that day Marce and I went shopping, and Fortune drove the shuttle vehicle. When she came to pick us up, she had a girl who needed to go to the hospital in the next town over. So we ended up eating lunch together and spending a good part of the afternoon talking about her project. When she mentioned her need for a proposal writer Marce pointed at me and said, “She can do it.” I explained that I didn’t have experience writing a proposal of this scale. I mean, she wants to find housing for the kids, start sports programs and job placement programs, get them schooling and health care, and feed them all everyday. This is a big project, and the more I thought about it I realized I was just afraid to help in case I failed. That’s right, I was being chicken-shit. So I agreed. And Tuesday I will be going back to J-Bay to help write a project proposal. Fortune has an extra bedroom that I can stay in for free, and a friend of hers is looking to hire a bartender. Boom! That took care of what to do next.

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Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Goodbye!

Tomorrow I fly to Jo-burg, then on to Madagascar. By Friday afternoon I will be living with my host family. I have met everyone I will be going over there with, and they are all supremely cool. Some people are really worried, but I haven’t a care in the world. Is that weird? Maybe it’s just because I am well within the weight limit for my baggage. Thank God!

I will be out of communication for a while, but I will be thinking about all of you (when I’m not trying to learn to speak Malagasy).

Peace,
Mo