The Sensational Life of Iris Apfel

iris-apfel-documentary

In a previous blog post I mentioned that I love the hands of sculptor Louise Bourgeois. They are weathered and dimpled like a prune, full of spots and marks of victory and failure. It’s why I love them. It means that she tried, and she lived — she used all that she had; herself and life itself. (Louise was prolific and dedicated to her work until her death at 98 years old.) Louise is no longer with us in physical form, but her legacy and lessons live on.

I remember having a conversation with my mom, about whether or not Mom should return to school and become an interior designer. At the time she thought it was a crazy idea. Mom exclaimed, “I’m too old. By the time I finish I’ll be 44!” In my mind, it was a fabulous fresh new start for her. It was a wonderful idea. In her mind, she felt she needed to be more established. Being in your 40s is the time to show what you’ve accomplished, not what you’ve just started. But today she thinks differently. It’s over 20 years later, and she can see the youth and potential in any age.

Last week my mom and I went to see the new documentary called IRIS. It’s about the celebrated New York fashion-world starlet named Iris Apfel (formerly known as an A-List interior designer). I’m sure you’ve seen her before. She’s been in all sorts of print ads and commercials over the years. Her trademark glasses make her memorable and unforgettable.

iris-apfel-homeThe movie was great. My mom & I really enjoyed it. After the movie we went to a cafe to chat about it. We talked about how inspired we were by how courageous Iris is. At 93 years old, Iris is being being Iris, and she’s boldly sharing her life of creativity & style with the world. Iris doesn’t do anything because it’s trendy or ‘with the times.’ She does what she loves and what she feels inspired to do (regardless of what people think.) The result of that is pure artistic genius that others admire.

One thing that stands out about Iris Apfel, that resonates with me personally — is she knows what truly matters. At the end of her film, she said that health is all we really have that’s truly worth something. She also calls ‘peace of mind’ the greatest luxury that someone can attain. (That comment was made at the New York Times’ International Luxury Conference, to a room full of people that live for famous name brands and evolve their lives around them.)

In the film IRIS, the famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber asks Iris Apfel why he never hears her harshly criticizing the way other people dress. With her elbow bent and hand tossed in the air, Iris replies, “It’s better to be happy than well dressed.”

It’s clear that Iris is not a superficial person living to personify anything. She is simply being herself. It’s also evident that she is absolutely clear on what truly matters: Loving Relationships, Peace of Mind, Joy & Happiness, Contribution & Connection, Living Boldly & Honestly — they are all at the top of her list. Iris Apfel definitely has her priorities straight.

“Some people work so hard, at trying to be happy — and trying to do everything they think they’re supposed to do — that they’re very unhappy. It’s just kind of silly. Pressure is a terrible thing. Societal pressure is an awful thing.” – Iris Apfel

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Too smart for your own good?

albert-einstein-miracle-quote

There are so many people, that are so smart — so knowledgeable about what is going on in the world (or other important topics); but at the same time, they have allowed their brilliant mind to paint them in a corner. They fully acknowledge the power of knowledge, but they have completely forgotten the power of a miracle.

“Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.”
– Pablo Picasso

We could say that religion diluted and twisted the use of the word miracle, to use it to their benefit. Most religions paint a picture that miracles happen through God (a god they labeled and created), or through their religion, or through some dogmatic concept. As a result, many people lump miracles in with religion and think that both religion & miracles have little to no merit. Some scientists have also influenced people’s view of the word miracle, they have trivialized it or view it as hogwash. For them, because they can’t fully comprehend it and because it can’t be repeated over and over and over (and predicted), it simply doesn’t exist. How many things have happened for you that you couldn’t fully understand, or that you couldn’t repeat or predict? I find that life is full of unexplainable and unpredictable situations and things. Life itself is a great example. “Why are we here?” seems to be an unanswerable question, even for the brightest mind.

albert-einstein-lifeI think that the best way to form an opinion about something is to get to know it personally. To meet it in life, to experience it firsthand. Not by writings or findings by others, not by data or theories or tradition, but to see it with your own eyes, or feel it through your own body. For it to happen to you, while you are fully aware.

When I look at my life, I can see so many miracles. Things that happened that seemed impossible initially. Things I couldn’t predict or create. Things that I or others said “no way” — that later happened with ease. No crazy work or insane pushing and pulling to cause massive change or to make something happen, just a steady flow in the right direction. Sometimes that flow starts with small consistent steps, sometimes that flow happens by simply getting out of the way (which usually means, getting your mind out of the way). In either case, without us dominating or manipulating a situation — things happen. Incredible things.

“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control.”
– Albert Einstein

I personally think that in years to come (maybe many — but eventually) people will fully embrace miracles. They will be able to tune into them and work with life’s flow & power. This is a quote from Why Science Can’t Accept Miracles (Even if They Really Exist):“Since earliest times, people had regarded lightning as supernatural. Benjamin Franklin showed that lightning was electricity and furthermore devised a way to control it. For the first time, a phenomenon went from supernatural, not just to natural, but to something controllable by humans.”

When I say miracles, I’m not speaking to any specific ones. I’m definitely not speaking to any biblical ones, or any based in tradition, or mythology, or storytelling. I’m just addressing: the things that happen just in time; the things that happen when all hope is lost; the things that happen so perfectly that they seem intentional; the things that seem to only make sense in hindsight; the things that make us scratch our heads; the things that make us humble; the things that make us give thanks with full gratitude. If you are familiar with any of those things, that is what I am referring to.

Albert-Einstein-HappyIt does take a certain amount of awareness to experience or acknowledge miracles. Being on autopilot, being distracted or constantly busy, feeling your life only happens according to the ‘facts’ you learned in school, thinking that you always have bad luck, and great things or easy solutions only happen to other people, living from a place of preoccupation with fear or cynicism — all of those will bring down your level of awareness, and will cloud or dull your abilities to see/feel/hear in subtle, yet very powerful ways. Also, instead of experiencing the depth of a multidimensional existence or multidimensional reality, you might dwell in a boxed-in one-dimensional mindset, which creates your sense of reality and limits you.  Like the Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

I’ve met many people that say they have no idea how to follow their intuition or to listen to their gut. I’ve also encountered people that question why adverse things happen to them over and over again. I think both challenges have to do with a level of awareness. Being still and going deeper, practicing more expansive hearing/seeing/feeling, learning to make space for subtle sounds and clues to be acknowledged — all are very important. When subtle feelings or clues go unnoticed or unheard for too long, they can turn into something very dangerous and alarming. Often, health scares were present as subtle clues, long before they turn into life threatening situations that can take over one’s life — or take one’s life altogether! The same goes for relationships. Minor problems unacknowledged (unheard/unseen) early on, turn into major unavoidable problems that can take a lifetime to fix, or can end relationships forever.

  “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. ”
– Albert Einstein

The state of our planet is another example. Our level of awareness was (and still is) minimal. We didn’t see/hear/feel what we were doing to ourselves or to the planet early on. The result is, eventually it will be alarming (it is already in many ways.) It will change our lives drastically and take a lifetime to fix, or …we’ll just be wiped out eventually. Humanity will be a thing of the past, as the planet goes on and heals itself without us. But if we were more subtle, more sensitive, more aware, more observant early on, in the early stages, we might have changed the way we were being to avoid the mess that we are in now. But then again, it takes a certain level of awareness. And again, miracles could happen at the very-very last minute to our benefit. But one never knows.

“We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts.”
– Ray Bradbury

I don’t recommend waiting for miracles, and I don’t recommend dismissing them either. A healthy sense of balance between the subtle and unsubtle is all I think it takes for one to live powerfully. (It’s like being a perfect balance of spirit and form.) I think taking action (small steps consistently) and living with a sense gratitude for everything, is very helpful and very transformational. As well as, practicing being still. Slowing down (the body and mind, this includes all fears). Making and taking time to just be. Practicing hearing/seeing/feeling, learning to make space for subtle sounds and clues. All that I mentioned are excellent ways we can raise our level of awareness. Our culture is so dominated with loud sounds, constant movie watching, video game playing, TV viewing, as well as, shopping, eating, socializing and working in excess — that one rarely has a chance to get still or just be. To be quiet and to listen, not only to the subtle sensations that are there, but to the clues, answers, or gifts that are being given everyday.

We can sometimes be so preoccupied, so programed, so afraid, so hasty, that we can simply gloss-over everything — even our own life. Including all of the once-in-a-life-time opportunities that come with it. We are living in a very interesting time. Things seems to be happening faster than ever. And as a result, I believe that people are learning and adapting faster.  I’m very excited about all of it. If there was any time to think that miracles exist, now would be a good one. If there was any time to get humble and ‘tune in’ to the existing power of that which can’t be predicted or explained, now is a good time. But regardless, one can always benefit from a bit of unlearning. Abandoning old pattens that no longer serve one’s life, as well as moving from a heavy way of thinking and being, to a lighter more refreshing one. Being open and flexible not only feels good, but it can make space for amazing things to happen — inside and out. Enjoy how expansive your mind and your life can be. Try it, and see what happens.

[This blog post was originally written and published in June 2013, but I thought it would be good to share again. Sometimes revisiting old blog posts are great reminders. Living with more awareness is something I always need to be reminded of.]

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The Brilliant Mind of Laura Berger

brilliant mind

Last week my sister sent me a link to some really funny notecards for sale. They were very creative and refreshingly candid. My first thoughts was, “Who is making these? They’re brilliant.” I quickly found the artist’s name — it was Laura Berger of Chicago, Illinois. I’m so happy I found her work, and I’m thrilled I get to share it with you today.

I’m going to share a few of her notecard images from her Etsy shop (the actual notecards are paper, not digital — and there are 60 more to view or choose from!) In the shop there are also art prints and other goodies for sale (I fell in love with this lil’ notebook and bought it for a friend). You can also visit her website , there’s lots to see there as well. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot… you can find her on Tumblr too.

Laura Berger etsy

Laura Berger art

Laura Berger card

Laura Berger

Laura Berger artist

Laura Berger notecard

Laura Berger artwork

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Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. — Round 2.

laura miller vegan chef

laura miller raw vegan not gross

laura miller vegan recipes

laura miller vegan

Here I go again, talking about Laura Miller and how much I love her and her show, ‘Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.‘ I’m so glad the show has returned for a second season, and it’s on Tastemade (a Youtube foodie channel).

Below are a few of my favorite episodes from her recent batch. Enjoy! :) …Be warned, all videos are vegan, but not all of them are raw.

Field Trip & Hands-On Travel Recipes:

Baked Falafel Tahini Wrap Recipe:

Banana ‘Nutella’ Pancakes Recipe:

Recipe for On-the-Go Snacks:

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Sita Sings the Blues

I posted this movie 5 years ago… but it’s so great, I am sharing it again!

“Sita Sings the Blues” is based on the Hindu epic “The Ramayana”. Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina Paley is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of torch singer Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.” It is written, directed, produced and animated by American artist Nina Paley.

For more about the film and about Nina Paley’s other work, see: http://sitasingstheblues.com

For more about how retroactive copyright restrictions almost prevented the release of the film, see this interview with Nina Paley: http://questioncopyright.org/nina_paley_sita_interview

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I have a question…

i have a question _

I often feel guilt for being who I am. It’s something that I’ve struggled with for many years. I wrote this email to a friend, earlier in the week:

From: aimeelovesyou
Sent: Wed 4/15/15 12:20 PM
To: SK

I often feel so much guilt. I have for years. Guilt for not making better use of my talents; Guilt for sometimes not wanting to go through the monotony of life; Guilt for abusing my body in the past; Guilt for not saying what I feel or guilt for hurting people’s feelings when I do; Guilt for not being more grateful for all the love & luck I have in my life. There is much more that I could mention — but it’s basically a resistance to life. Some sort of internal struggle or fight. I am not embracing, accepting or allowing what is. I’m turning it into something good/bad/right/wrong/better/worse. And none of it matters. None of it’s real. Real beingness is effortless. It feels like spaciousness and unconditional love. It feels open, indifferent and empty, yet intimate, and timeless. I know it. I am it. But only between the words, and only in moments of spontaneous allowing (non-resistance).

Each year of my life I feel like I allow more, and struggle less. But there is still a fight. Still a part of me that goes kicking and screaming. Still a part of me that refuses to allow, and looks for a way to shake things, until they settle in a formation that suits me better. The effort it takes to control or fight life, is the very thing that prevents one from living it fully.

It’s like being on the floor, sweaty and bloody, with your opponent, side by side. Completely spent, completely vulnerable. Looking at each other in exhaustion. Feeling foolish for having expended all that energy in the fight. In that state of surrender, what the fight was about is immediately forgotten, and completely irrelevant. At that moment, one can experience the bliss and effortless of being. The joy of just being with what is. Accepting that one is only fighting life itself — which is who and what we are.

I’m babbling. ;) But I just wanted to share my thoughts. To accept all that is. To allow myself to be me, and life to be life (which is also me). I’ll have to ponder this more, and maybe turn it into a blog post. ;) For now, I’m just going to focus on having an effortless day, full of life living life.

Love,
A.

Shortly after that email, I received two emails in the same vein, from two different friends. They were not related in any way, had no idea what I was feeling or communicating earlier that day, and live on opposite sides of the USA. One email was about an ‘inner light’ and acceptance. The other email was about embracing vulnerability. My life is often synchronistic in this way. Whenever I open, and become vulnerable and true to myself, the Universe sends me flowers. It sends me messages and signs. Confirmation that I am on the right path.

After spending more time on guilt, and why I find it challenging to truly embrace myself — which is to embrace life. A few things came to mind. Why do I make myself wrong so much? Why do I always view myself as ‘the bad guy’? I think I do this because I see myself wanting different things than most people (obviously we all want to be happy and loved, but we choose different ways to address that need — my way is often considered odd). Living in a way that’s not the norm. Thinking things that aren’t necessarily mainstream.

There is a quote that comes to mind: “If everybody likes what you are doing, you’re doing it wrong.” (I’m not sure who the author of that quote is. It’s seems unknown.)

I wouldn’t say wrong — I would say why? Why are you doing things just like everyone else?

Instead of feeling guilty for the choices I make, I should question myself: Who gave me the idea of how things should be done? Where did I learn it?

I question what it means to be a friend.

I question what it means to be a lover/partner.

I question what it means to be an artist.

I question what it means to be a family member.

I question what it means to be loving.

I question what it means to be compassionate.

I question what it means to be loyal.

I question what it means to be honest.

I question what it means to be human.

I question what it means to be alive.

I question what it means to be me.

Is it possible that I can create my own definition of those words? Could I not love people in my own way? Could I not be an artist in my own way? Could I not be a friend or family member in my own way? And if I did, and I fully accepted myself….. Would I ever feel guilty for being me? The question itself sounds absurd. I’ll have to question myself more often. To remind myself that life is not a program. And being human doesn’t have to be a blueprint we follow.

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Getting Honest & Being Authentic

unprotected presence honest authentic

This week (with the support of an awesome friend) I tried a 100% honest day. Which meant, if someone said, “Hey, can we talk later tonight? I’ll call you at 7PM, Okay?” My reply would be, “No, sorry. Weekends are actually better for me, I have unlimited mobile minutes. Can we talk then?” Another example is, “Would you like to come to dinner? A group of us are going out.” My reply would be, “I’m more of a one-on-one person. I tend to enjoy intimate get-togethers much more. But have fun — and thanks for the invitation!”

After the 100% honest day was over. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! It was really no big deal. I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. I think people prefer honesty. And they wouldn’t (especially friends) want me to do anything that I really wasn’t keen on.

I’m excited to keep the honest & authentic train rolling. :) It will be a nice experiment for me at first, and a lasting habit in the long run. I will be so much better for it, the world will be too.

Here are a few videos (below) to inspire you, and me, to be more honest.

Oh! And one more thing. This is the best definition of what it means to be authentic. By far, the best definition I’ve ever heard/read: Being authentic means showing up as unprotected presence. (Quote by Roxanne Hai)

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