My 3 Summer Self-Honoring Rituals

In a couple of weeks summer will be here, and while it may or may not feel like it where I live (you never know until you know in the Pacific NW!) I’m looking forward to partake in some of my favorite self-honoring rituals for summer.

If I could encapsulate the feeling of summer in one word it would be joy. The days get longer, blooms are exploding into their prime, and the radiant sunshine gives everyone reason to be outside and be active. Fittingly, play and work become equally important as we plan our summer vacations and find ourselves thinking of any excuse to leave work early. These rituals are designed to enliven and soothe the body so that I can continue enjoying the fair weather as long as it lasts.

Here are three of my summer rituals that I do to make the most of it:

Peppermint Tea Bath

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I enjoy this concoction when I’m feeling drained from the excessive heat. Especially during Ramadan when I’m fasting, I love taking this peppermint tea bath to help restore balance and energy. Peppermint is naturally cooling, chamomile is calming, and lavender is perfect for summer. Here is what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of peppermint tea or leaves
  • 1/2 cup of chamomile tea
  • 1 circular piece of cheesecloth
  • string
  • 4 drops of lavender essential oil

Tie up the tea leaves into a giant tea bag, taking care to leave enough room to allow the leaves to circulate within. As you fill your bath with hot water, drop in the bag and the lavender oil. Let your tea bag “steep” as the water cools down to a comfortable temperature. You may get tempted to stay in until the water gets cold, but dry off to a comfortable temperature and feel relaxed yet energized– not cold.

Take a Hike

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I am definitely not the outdoorsy type, but I still take time to release the expansionary energy that flows out of me during summer. Hiking doesn’t always need to be deep in nature; beautiful landscapes can be found in urban environments. My favorite spot is to walk down to the pier in Seattle during my lunch break and find a spot where I can enjoy a wide and far-reaching view. I’m fortunate to work in such a beautiful city so I love finding ways to make the most of it during the summer months. I focus on breathing deeply, feeling the cool breeze from the water, and feeling the warm sun from the sky. If you don’t already, find time to do some relaxing yet physical activity this summer in the big outdoors. It’s invigorating and balancing!

Fragrant Pillows & Handkerchiefs

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This one is so simple: apply 4 drops of lavender essential oils to cotton cloths and slip them in your pillowcases. The lavender is cooling and calming, which is perfect for those warm summer nights. For a daily afternoon wake-up call when I find my mood slumping, I love inhaling into my white, embroidered handkerchief that has been infused with a few drops of orange oil. Any sort of citrus essential oil will perk you right up, so I invite you to find the one or combination of oils you prefer!

These are the a few of my musts during the summer because of how alive and happy they make me!

What are some of your favorite rituals?

 

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Book Review: May Cause Miracles

I am truly grateful for having found this life-changing book. Gabrielle Bernstein created a 42 day program comprised of morning and evening meditations and journaling sessions that are designed to address the fear that is stopping us from receiving more abundance, peace and happiness in our health, wealth and self.

Bernstein uses “A Course In Miracles” as the foundation for this program. I’ve never read the Course before, I’ve only ever flipped through it enough to know that it was inspired from Christian doctrines. Even though she uses the Course heavily in her program, you wouldn’t know it. The diction is spiritual and not religious so people of all backgrounds can understand the message and participate in it.

What I loved about the program was that it challenges you to write out and observe the fears your ego creates, with love and forgiveness. There were some very deep fears that came out of me that I did not know had such a hold on me. While completion of the program will not transform you into Gandhi or Buddha, it gives you the awareness of the choice we all have between falling into our ego’s illusion or choosing the loving perspective that is real. I was surprised at some of the actual miracles that happened in my life during the course even though the program teaches that miracles should be a normal part of a life centered on love, gratitude and forgiveness. I feel more conscious of when my ego starts to creep back in along with all of the fears, doubts and other limiting emotions, but now I have the knowledge to calm all of this. Unfortunately, there is never going to be a time when the ego will be completely conquered, but I know that I can greatly limit its power over my beliefs.

I recommend this book for anyone who is feeling blocked or scared or is in need of a shift. The program works through different aspects of ourselves that are critical to happiness such as our self-image, wealth, relationships and physical well-being, so if there’s something that’s bothering you, it will come up in due time. There is morning and evening work along with simple daily affirmations to adhere to, but the exercises are quick (no more than 10 minutes, most of the time shorter) and the payoff is big. Of course, as with any spiritual exploration, it only works if you work it, so only those who are open to taking a candid look at themselves will benefit.

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Book Review: Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

This was a first for me; I’ve never read an autobiographical book of a modern-day Muslimah.

Frankly, it’s not a topic that interests me because I feel like I would already know what would be written; que the stereotypical struggles of overcoming racism, oppression of a patriarchal society, religion vs. the modern world, etc. Perhaps that’s dismissive and presumptive of me, but in all honestly, that’s completely how I see it. But this book was given to me as an Easter gift by my aunt (ironic!) who wasn’t sure if it would be offensive or not, but thought it would at least be humorous. I figured it would be a waste not to read it.

The author, Zarqa Nawaz, is a Canadian of Pakistani origin who starts the book with her grade school self wanting to fit in with the other Canadian girls in her class. The only thing standing in her way are her pungent curried chicken drumsticks that her mom packs for lunch. Although after some whining she successfully convinces her mother to pack her PB&J like the other girls, after a short trial period she comes to the conclusion that fitting in is overrated and leaves you more hungry.

As you continue reading, you will see that that is the theme of Nawaz’ life. Although I was doubtful about the impact this book would have on me, surprisingly, Nawaz has gumption which is something more Muslim women should have. At first, due to parental pressure she started going down the traditional and boring path of pre-med undergraduate studies, medical school and then marriage, but she knew she was better than that. Luckily, she did not get accepted to medical school which triggered two desperate quests in her and her mother: Nawaz wanted to get into journalism school and her mother wanted her to get married. Of course, Nawaz finishes her quest first and from there her talent at writing takes her from the newsroom, to producing a couple of short independent films, to the first sitcom of its kind on Canadian television, “Little Mosque on the Prairie”. Oh yes, and she does find the time to get married and have four children in the midst of all of this.

She takes us through all of these milestones in her life and the hilarious events that punctuate them. Her writing is funny in a way that is well-suited to a medium such as film or TV. There were a few times when I felt that she was stretching the humor in a situation (bathroom scene with the contractor, jinn outhouse by the gas station) but for the most part I chuckled along to her foibles. At times she shocked me with her cheeky inattention to social rules (her comments at the dead body washing committee were too much!) but I suppose it’s that same boldness that compelled her to forge the career she did.

This is a mostly light-hearted but meaningful read that explains the common cultural and religious issues that Muslim women encounter at some point in their lives. I was expecting the lamenting of a disenfranchised woman but was surprised to find the smart and ballsy woman for me to admire. Overall, I highly recommend this book to someone interested in seeing a different type of Muslimah than the ones you see on the news — endearingly irreverent though she may be.

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A Beautiful Life Starts With a Beautiful Day

A lot of times we catch ourselves thinking about how our lives could be different and about all of the ways we are trying to improve it to reflect our own self-expression. We can sometimes get carried away with all of the potentiality that we may cause ourselves to be unhappy with our current lives. It can be easy to fall into the mindset of asking ourselves, “When will it be my turn?” or “Am I there yet?”.

I’ll tell you a secret: You’re never there. There will always be something to yearn for, to keep you reaching. There’s no end point, until it all ends. It’s human nature.

To prevent this reality from burning me out, it’s crucial to take experience your beautiful life day by day. It’s certainly exciting to see your beautiful life unfold before you in big, dramatic ways, but most days aren’t filled with highly compelling events (despite what social media may depict). But this doesn’t mean that each day doesn’t bring its own little opportunities for joy and excitement.

For example, I can’t wait for the day when I can finally work from home without commuting to work for three hours a day. But until that day comes I use this time to listen to my favorite podcasts and audio books and boost my mood by singing in the car. I would also love to go back to living in France one day so I find ways to bring France to me. I listen to French songs, read French books, watch French movies, drink my morning café just like how I remember it was and enjoy French treats from a local shop that imports them. Doing these actions makes me feel as if I am living the life I truly want which puts me in a mindset of gratitude and positivity.

The life you envision for yourself will certainly be different, but it’s all about moving closer to the sensations that we wish to experience by finding ways to experience the same delight within the lives we have now. Doing so not only makes our lives shift faster in the direction we want, but makes the process feel easy and fun.

If you find that thinking about your dream life is making you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, then try to incorporate one new action into your day that will make you feel as if you’re already there. Like I said, there’s no destination so you may as well find a way to enjoy the ride one day at a time.

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Motivational Monday: Have Low Expectations

You might have heard that one key to finding happiness is to keep your expectations low. But on the other hand you are also told to keep goals and grind, hustle and work towards the life of your dreams.. How can these two attitudes exist at the same time in our heads and why is it important to do so?

Let’s start with the more obvious one which is the purpose of having goals and a vision for your life. If you don’t have a plan, you are almost certainly planing to fail. Goals allow us to focus our energy in a certain direction and know when we are progressing so that we can appreciate all that we have accomplished. A vision motivates us to continue trying when it is tempting to stop, which builds character and resilience.

With all of the benefits that are gained from keeping a lofty vision, what is meant when we are told to have low expectations or to let go of resistance? Isn’t this contradictory to the “never give up”, “keep on hustling” mindset? No. This attitude is not talking about lowering our standards for our life, it’s talking about not becoming emotionally attached to an outcome that is beyond our control. Visions are a combination of controllable efforts on our part and trust and faith that the other parts will fall into place. For example, if your goal is to get promoted to a certain position there are many controllable aspects that you will put effort into such as: discussing a career plan with your immediate manager, networking with people in that department, developing skills that will be pertinent in that position, and beefing up your resume with applicable experience and achievements.  However, there are so many pieces of this goal that are uncontrollable such as: the merits of the other candidates, whether or not the position actually comes available, or even if your interviewer actually likes you or not. Both the controllable and uncontrollable aspects combined bring you an outcome but the only expectations you should have about the process is what is within your control. It is a meaningless expense of emotional energy to attach yourself to an outcome that is ultimately not up to you. Another reason to keep yourself unattached to a result is because you never know what other, better opportunities may be given to you in the future as a result of something not going the way you envisioned. Life is unpredictable, and that includes being unpredictable in a good way!

Aiming high but having low expectations should be rephrased as aiming high but leaving options open because that’s really what it is. This sort of attitude keeps your motivation focused and attracts better opportunities even in the face of less than ideal outcomes. A healthy attitude toward life is to remain open and optimistic because you never know what’s waiting around the corner. Release yourself from unreasonable expectations and focus on your efforts and before you know it, life will be running towards you instead of you chasing after it.

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Book Review: Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster

I’m sorry to say that after reading this eye-opening book that I won’t be able to look at the luxury and fashion industry the same ever again.

Ever since I’ve been taken with purses, I’ve had a suspicion that certain high-end brands with their liberal annual price increases and tasteless limited edition releases were not necessarily in the business of luxury, but rather in the business of making a profit. I know that I am not alone in this perspective; a brief conversation about the topic with any aficionado will bring a similar line of thought.

These suspicions were what drew to me reading this book and with facts, figures, and interviews with owners and designers themselves, Dana Thomas has proven those suspicions to be true.

In an informative and engaging manner, Thomas takes us from Hong Kong to France to South America, into replica sweatshops in Guangzhou to Miuccia Prada’s concrete office in Milan to the vibrant Daslu, a rare and true luxury shopping experience in Brazil. She brings us into the intimate details of the series ruthless and shrewd power moves taken by Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, that changed the direction of luxury forever and through this, narrates the demise of the made-to-order, old world luxury companies and the rise of the democratization of luxury.

But all is not lost even in today’s money-driven and fast fashion environment. Thomas shows how luxury still persists in a few brands such as Hermes, Chanel and Louboutin. Most of the book was horrifyingly candid for such a lover of designer goods like me, but I did enjoy the latter parts of the book that allow these wonderful brands to shine and stand against the dizzying avarice of others.

Christian Louboutin explains that “luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers…about subtlety and details. It’s about service…Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality.”

Cristiane Saddi, a marketing director in Sao Paolo says that clients who frequent Daslu, a luxury fashion emporium, “don’t need the logo entry-level handbag or to wear labels or logos. We buy from luxury brands, but not ordinary products. You can see what is mass and what is special. Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to truly grasp what luxury means and stop being fooled into throwing money away on mass glamour. It’s not about how much money you have or how much or what you buy. One can be more luxurious than the richest socialite in all the world by understanding quality, selecting timeless pieces, and above all an unpretentious naturalness in one’s surroundings.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Karl Lagerfeld that sums it up quite candidly,

Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress. If you don’t have it, you are not a person used to luxury. You are just a rich person who can buy stuff.

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Getting Rid of FOMO

Fear of missing out. We’ve all experienced it. Probably while scrolling through our instagram feed. Ha! I used to experience it when I would use social media and see beautiful pictures of people living it up in foreign countries or drool-worthy walk-in closets filled with luxury purses (purses are my weakness). But now, instead of letting those images fester into jealousy or discontent, I use them as a source of inspiration and celebration and here’s how you can too without avoiding social media.

Reconfigure the purpose of social media

Its up to you to define what purpose social media has in your life. For some people, unfortunately, it can be a source of competition and constant one-up-manship. They spend so much precious time looking at pictures and videos that they create a very negative narrative in their head and it goes something like this: “My life sucks, I don’t have as much stuff as so-and-so, I don’t get to go or do all the cool things that so-and-so does, if I want to live the good life then I need to do/have/be what so-and-so does/has/is”.

The funny thing is even if you were to have the same things or do the same things as that other person, there will always be someone else doing and having “more”. There is a hadith that says,

If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6075, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1048

Instead of letting all those photos let you grow so utterly dissatisfied with your own, see them as a source of inspiration and a celebration of beauty that propel you to find your own beauty in your life. Or, even better just as what it is — a picture on the internet. After all you don’t really know that person or what their life is like in reality. A beautiful life is made in the small moments and details, not by owning all of the things.

 Imagine yourself in that picture

This is a good one. Whenever you see something that is starting to give you FOMO, fully and completely start imagining yourself in the reality of that situation to see if that’s something that will actually bring you joy. If it does, then see the paragraph above and find a way to bring that into your life, but I bet that most of the time it won’t bring you true joy.

For example, luxury cars a big hit on instagram. Girls and guys pose next to their(?) Masertis and Lambourghinis with all sorts of custom work done. It’s looks pretty cool but let’s think of the reality of owning that sort of vehicle.

  1. Insurance costs: A cursory search online shows that a Lambourghini insurance quote ranges anywhere from $5000 to $20000 a year.
  2. Maintenance costs: Again, looking online in 2014 it cost around $30000 annually for maintain a Lambourghini. This includes a $400 oil change. And I thought my $80 oil change was expensive!
  3. The daily realities of driving this vehicle: If I were driving this car, I would be worried about getting in an accident and getting ripped off by the other person. Also, there’s the constant anxiety I would get when parking or leaving it unattended. Some kid could accidentally (or purposely) nick or scratch it while taking a picture of themselves with it to put on Instagram, ha!

This method always works pretty well for me. By the time I’m done thinking about the whole situation I’m content with letting so-and-so have their picture online for me to enjoy and having them deal with the daily reality of that picture.

Know yourself and make a plan

Using the two methods above will allow you to know what truly makes you feel happy and alive. Just because something is popular online (see above: Lambourghini example) doesn’t mean that its what would make you feel like you’re living life to the fullest. In fact, I believe if we allowed ourselves to let go of what we “should” think is cool and fun, but instead explored our own tastes and interests, we would experience so much more than what may be “trending”. So, if you find yourself lusting over someone else’s life, I mean, truly and deeply wanting to share similar experiences, then simply make a plan and allow yourself to have that. Nothing is impossible, most people just aren’t patient enough!

Log off and connect with yourself

This one is self-explanatory. If you find yourself getting worked up and obsessive about some pictures on the internet, simply log off. Do something that you like such as exercise, read, cook some food — just change the scenery. There’s no need to get stressed out about some silly pictures of someone else’s life because your life is too short to be anything but happy and beautiful as often as possible. Bring your emotions back in check and reconnect with your balance. You are what you think about and if you keep approaching life from an angle of lack and resistance, that’s what you will get. Instead, find something that expands and lifts your spirit and you’ll be back to yourself in no time.

This is my advice for ridding yourself of FOMO. Its such a silly emotion that is unfortunately so common these days, but I hope that this will help you or someone else you know start living their own beautiful life instead of observing someone else’s.

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