Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Favorite Environment

The mat is the only place where I am truly quiet. That long narrow black piece of plastic I spend a little over an hour on at the end of everyday is the only place I feel completely free.

I look forward to the time I will spend there from the moment I open my eyes in the morning. Throughout my day the anticipation of sitting down on my mat consumes me. Once I arrive at my favorite destination I realize that now it is the journey that really matters as I twist and turn and bend myself through every pose.
Yoga will be without a doubt the best and most challenging hour of my day. I will depend on my breath holding every posture like a newborn depends on a parent’s care.
When I first arrive I prepare I take the opening moments to acquaint myself with my surroundings, I take it all in. This is important so I will eliminate these distractions through the rest of class. I notice the lighting. Are they brighter than I had hoped or do I have to squint to see my toes? I notice the people surrounding me. Is it my best friend in the world who accompanies me to yoga everyday or a friendly stranger who I admire for trying the hobby I adore so much for the first time? I notice the sounds. Do I hear chatter outside the studio or my favorite song blasting through the speakers?
Noticing these things at the onset allows me to entirely focus my attention inwards, drowning out all outside distractions. My entire world exists on my mat even if only for 90 minutes it becomes my magic carpet taking me anywhere I want to go.
I forget about time. Time does not seem to pass like it does when I step off my magic mat.
Why does it seem every chair pose lasts forever and every child’s pose is over in the blink of an eye? The answer: my mind. My mind will want to tell me all kinds of things that are false. I have to learn to ignore it, and think only with what my body feels.
Silencing my mind I concentrate on my breath. Deeply inhaling and exhaling taking in everything I can. Breathing and realizing, my breathe is the one thing that is guaranteed to be with me as long as I am alive. Breathing, the simplest thing you can do will become my greatest ally on and off the mat.
Now I can begin to move, I pass through each movement, not only listening to the teacher say each pose we to move into but listening to the louder more important voice inside my head telling me what pose I need to hold or skip.
The practice does not end when I open my eyes, finish the om, or even when I roll up my mat and leave the warm room I could stay in forever, instead that is where it begins.
Regardless of grade level, major or hometown college students continually feel pressured. Whether it’s the scream hear all around campus in the middle of finals week or deciding what party to go to on any given night or figuring out what you will do with the rest of your life; college has a way of making stressing you out when in the grand scheme of things you may never even remember what you are dealing with now. Yoga acts as a way of relieving some of this pressure even if only for a while.

I love TOM

What a cool idea? The idea of TOMS shoes is one I wish I would’ve thought of to say the least. What a simple yet beautiful thought, shoes for TOMorrow for every pair of shoes sold TOMS shoes gives a pair to a child in need. TOMS shoes chief Giver Blake Mycoskie is said to be a social entrepreneur, as someone who clearly transfers his entrepreneurial abilities into positive change and social responsibility.

I bought my TOMS shoes fully aware of the concept after seeing a friend sporting chic black and white polka dot pair. What I did not anticipate was that my navy blue canvas pair of TOMS shoes would appear attached to my feet to everyone I know. I based outfits and activities around wearing them, I loved them so much in the first few weeks after they were delivered to my house.

Not that I don’t love them just the same now, my now extremely worn TOMS shoes find their way to my feet whenever possible but with every falling snowflake it’s becoming less and less practical. But leave it to Blake to come up with a solution to that problem as well, TOMS now offers “Botas,” their version of a boat.

While my TOMS shoes proved to be the most comfortable pair of shoes I owned, what they represented had an even greater impact on me. The concept of helping everyone have shoes is lovely but when I learned that the leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted parasites, which penetrate the skin through open sores I was convinced TOMS shoes were in fact saving the world one pair of shoes at a time and this is what made me never want to take them off.

I want to be as involved as possible with the movement and I’ve quickly realized I’m far from alone. Whenever I’m wearing my TOMS (in my case every time I take a step) I am constantly complimented or questioned about them. I enjoy being a walking advertisement for this company promoting social change .

Who doesn’t want to help children in developing countries have shoes? Think about running, playing and just simply getting around completely barefoot. In addition, many schools in developing countries require shoes as part of the uniform, so no shoes can even mean no education. This terrible reality is remedied by SHOES and with this TOMS shoes saves the world, one pair at a time.

This year during the holidays I plan to buy as many “double gifts” as I can. I have already ordered a pair for my best friend’s (don’t worry she doesn’t read my blog, she looked at it once and said I they were too long) Christmas present. A present for Ellen and a step towards a better tomorrow…perfect.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beef and Bacon and Sausage oh my...

Big Macs, chili cheese fries, steak burritos, have become basic staples of an Americans diet diets. Obviously, not everyone eats this way in fact most don’t, but those that do are increasing their ecological footprint as well as their waistline with every bite.

Dipping your T-bone steak into A1 may be inching us one step closer to global warming. Raising animals for food is a cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and global warming.

While some people would rather jump in front of a bus than give up meat for even a meal, for others, like me, the transition to this more sustainable lifestyle is hardly noticeable. Bottom line: if you love meat don’t become a vegetarian, my blog sure won’t change your mind, but if you already are or seriously considering it, or want to become a semitarian [def.(n.) someone who eats less meat than they did before] here are some additional points to the vegetarian argument.

If global warming doesn’t do much for you, this will (or at least it gets me). There is good news and bad news: Good news we have enough food to feed the entire planet, the bad news is we are not using our resources efficiently enough to feed everyone. How is this happening? When I heard this is couldn’t figure out why as a global society we couldn’t figure this one out. We have enough food in the world to feed everyone but billions still go hungry every single day.

According to Rajul Pandya-Lorch, International Food Policy Research Institute: “More than 130 million children who are under the age of five will still remain malnourished by 2020.”

While my own vegetarianism can not reverse this daunting statistic it sure can't hurt.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I want to go to college for the rest of my life...or do I?

We hear you Asher Roth, "We all Love College," but do we really want to stay here for six years? Okay yes most of us do...but do we really have the money to pay for two more years than we expected?

The general consensus seems to be that we all love college, but the grind of homework, exams, and quizzes up until grade 16 seems extreme, can we make it all the way to grade 20? When I picked up today's State News and saw the front page article and read that six years to graduate was becoming the norm among previously four year universities, I quickly examined my current schedule making sure I was well on my way to a four year stint in college.

With massive the amount of university requirements, graduating in four years is more impressive than ever. Do we really need six integrative studies classes? Whether we need them or not is highly debatable, but the reality is we are forced to take them for graduation.

Since we are forced to endure, pass, and pay for these classes that we are not choosing, it should be the university's obligation to teach us the things we need to know to be citizens of the world. That is the idea behind university requirements, fortunately for me, my prerequisites have been some of the most interesting classes with the most endearing professors, who truly love what they do and are enthusiastic about their subject area. I've been taken through eight decades of music, gained a new Vision of the Universe, and learned about the footprint I'm making on just one of the eight planets in the sky.

Clearly, for me my experience in required courses was quite pleasant, unfortunately I’ve heard horror stories from many of my friends. They have taken classes where they do more busy work than actual learning. Essentially, professors can teach whatever they want with in their realm of expertise. So with all these classes we have to take, the question I ask myself is, how is anyone leaving East Lansing without a greater understanding of environmental issues? To me it seems like this timely issue would be perfect to insert into required learning.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

When you tell a friend you went for a run and their response is something along the lines of “no really what did you do this morning?”  It becomes clear that going running (or any physical activity other than yoga for that matter) is as rare of as a two-dollar bill or a good thing happening after midnight.  Well aware of that fact, I put on my hot pink sweatband, yellow neon t-shirt and long black yoga pants (clearly called yoga pants and not running pants for a reason) and embarked on my journey into the neighborhood for my jog attempt number one.  

With the Daft Punk playing at a deafening level, I was pumped, I felt like I could run to California.  Talk of triathlons and marathons seems to have been abundant around me the past few days, it seems everyone I know is training for something whether it’s a half-marathon or beating a mile time in time for soccer season, it puts my goal of jogging around the block into perspective rather quickly. 

As I walk out the door, I decide to lose the sweatband and replace it with some sunglasses making me more incognito and less like the girl version of Richard Simons.  It is very possible I am the healthiest person on earth, I haven’t so much as coughed in over three years, how hard can a jog around the block a few times be?  Hard.  I quickly remap my jogging territory since I figure I should run through the path in my neighborhood so trees will surround me and deter any of my fellow pedestrians from catching a glimpse of my jog attempt.   I find the path much creepier than I remember, but in retrospect the eerie path became my ally forcing me to run faster for fear the kidnappers in my mind are chasing me but I can’t hear them gaining on me because all hear is “music’s got me feeling so free, we’re gunna celebrate, celebrate and dance so free…”   Before the song ended I had made it through the path, a tell tale sign of how short my jog was. 

Inhaling deeply felt like someone was punching me in the chest, still feels that way now actually.  As a biker rolled by I quickly bent down pretending to tie my shoe, although I really wanted to lie on my back right there in the street for at least five hours regardless of who was passing.  Fortunately, I came back to reality realizing that was not an option and made my way home.  Across the street I saw a young kid driving his John Deer play tractor and seriously considered begging him for a ride. 

Finally I was home and everything from my lungs, to my feet, to my On-the-Go playlist were completely exhausted.  Obviously, I’m not running a marathon, or even a mile anytime soon, but as long as my legs allow I might as well use them.  Although my accomplishment is humble in comparison, when I took the step onto my driveway I felt like I had just crossed the finish line in the New York Marathon.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lets Go GREEN!

MSU football season has arrived and this past weekend the banks of the Red Cedar were filled with students shouting "GO GREEN!" With the environmental revolution on the rise, students are finding another reason to shout their school color.

    With a new school year comes new beginnings, new classes, new home, new friends, why not new outlook on environmental issues? Might as well add another new right?
For me the new school year is a fresh beginning almost more so than the actual new year in January. So this year I made a new 'school' years resolution: be more environmentally conscientious and work on shrinking my ecological footprint.
        This new endeavor of mine came from my summer ISB 202 course, with Gabe Ording. Of course I was aware of the environmental movement, how can you not be now with famous musicians including Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews behind it? However, after this course I was genuinely shocked by some of the information I discovered. 
Including, the uneven distribution of wealth.   20% of the population controls 80% of the wealth. To me that statistic was so staggering it made me want to jump on a plane fly to Africa and feed the all hungry.  Why should I live such a easy life when millions of people struggle for food and water and other basic staples I take for granted?  How can this be? How is the world like this?  
  Throughout the summer I could not stop talking about issues like this and what I learned each day in my class with my friends and family, and anyone who would listen for that matter.  At that point I decided I needed to be heard. I wanted to shout GO GREEN, like I was cheering on the Spartans in the Final Four game.
On the last day of class before the final the professor asked us three profound questions:
  1. What do you think the biggest problem in the world is?
  2. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
  3. How are they connected?
He told us that when he asked himself those very questions he said the biggest world problem was the impact we as humans have on the environment and what he saw himself doing in 10 years was teaching about this issue. Then he filled the PowerPoint screen with a picture of a pond, he explained that teaching this class was his way of being heard, and by teaching us he was tossing pebbles into the pound and he hoped each of us, as pebbles would make ripples in the pond and take what we learn out into the world.
When I ask myself those three questions I am not positive of any of the answers, but I do know human impact on the environment is depleting our resources before the earth can renew them and this is one extremely large problem in our world. I also see myself writing in the future and why not kill two birds with one stone and write as a way get my voice heard about an important and extremely timely issue.  So exploring environmental journalism seems like the next logical step.  

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