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Christmas Eve Traditions

24 Dec

Holidays are tough for many people, myself including. My family lives overseas and celebrates their own holidays the Russian way and visiting usually during spring and summer months.Most of my friends are American and have families, so they gather with them. But for me, it’s just A and I and his family in Maine. Usually we visit them but this year we had them come here, to NJ. One thing we do have is space!

Even when we spend it in Maine, I still find time for myself. It is so easy to get caught in the craze of the holiday season and completely forget about your needs by being wrapped up in needs of others…

Christmas time is a time for me to reflect. I tend not to fall into a consumer Christmas insanity but try to pass my time in a way that brings me joy. Some activities include writing in my diary, taking long baths, making hair and face masks, and doing my nails. Also, I found that blogging, reading Dickens Ghost stories and other books that have been put on a back burner, calling or texting friends, and just reflecting in general- has proved to be valuable in beating the loneliness blues.. I reflect on the past year, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and weigh in on lessons I have learned and mountains I’ve conquered. I make mind maps. I get rid of things. I donate and re-gift books that made a difference in my life.  I make wishes on Christmas Eve.

What about you? How do you make Christmas YOUR holiday without being stretched too thin?

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Beyond Family and Food – Five Non-Typical Things I am Thankful for

27 Nov

It has snowed here, in New Jersey, yesterday and our street has been a true winter wonderland.

Thanksgiving. Today is the day when all of a sudden we take time to be grateful for all the awesomeness in our lives. We thank the Universe/God/ the Source/Mother Nature for our families, friends, houses, cars, food, jobs, money, and health.

I am just too busy to count my blessings, and I am the first to admit that. Moreover, when you constantly count your blessings, they stop, well, being so special. Blessings become norm. Things that are norm becomes things that we take for granted. I am not sure what the ultimate time frame is to count your blessings but definitely not every day. I know, it sounds so anti-self-help!

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for five of a very uncommon things:

1. Electricity. Electricity lets me study, write, enjoy movies, speak to friends, stay warm, and explore opportunities. It lets me do my job well, and be a productive student at Seton Hall. Electricity is the bomb. Have a look at some people in India – zero electricity. Definitely something to thankful for.

2. My mother. My mother has always drilled me: I want my daughter to leave this forsaken country (Russia) and go live somewhere in the West (Europe/U.S.). Well, here I am, for many years now, at least 14. And as much as we do NOT get alone with mom, I am thankful for her pushing me to get a better life. She now resents me for leaving Russia and not taking care of her yet I am glad I live far away. I am my own person.

3. Valentina Nefedova. She is my English tutor and the only teacher I had contact with for many years growing up. I was homeschooled since fourth grade yet foreign languages were the only subjects my mom believed in. I resent her for that because when it was time for me to go to college, my gaps in knowledge for other disciplines were tremendous! But, Valentina really had opened my eyes on the subject that I was gifted in the area of foreign languages and that was my absolute strength. I am grateful that such an individual was put into my path while I was little. She helped me, in her own unique way, go out and get a build a better life outside of Russia. She has sewn the first seeds of my “Westernization”.

4. Myself. I am thankful for myself. I appreciate the way I am and cherish all of the decisions, good and bad, that I have made. All the challenges and difficulties I have faced, all the storms I have weathered out, all the obstacles I had to overcome.  I am grateful to myself for being strong. learning from my mistakes, not being afraid to be humble, and persevering in spite of difficulties. I have a long way to go, and there are days when I still crumble and cry and rage yet I always recuperate, dust myself off, and continue on my life quest.

5. United States. I know, I know, let the comments begin. But I love this country. Although an ethnic Russian, born and raised in Russia, I am honored to be able to live, work, vote, own property, travel all over, and even pay taxes here, in the U.S. I am grateful for the ability to use twitter, to have gay friends, to take doctoral courses, to blog freely, to criticize the President, and ask questions of political leaders. I know this country still has SO MUCH work to do yet it has already made such great strides.

Well, here you have it. Now, what are the five non-typical things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Please comment below and have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday Gratitude

24 Nov

Good morning,
It is Monday, again. And although this is a short week for me-two and a half days- I am trying to not look forward to Wednesday 11:45am – when we all get off work.
This Monday, I am simply trying to be thankful for this one Monday. Thankful for the fact that I am up, alive, healthy, warm and loved. That I am not hungry or scared. I am safe, living in a house in an amazing neighborhood. Thankful for the fact that I have somewhere to be- my job and my university, afterwards.
Monday’s are tough for me, period. I work for 8 hours then I go to the university and sit through another 5 hours of doctoral classes. Well, you know. For a while, I stopped seeing the forest through the trees and got disconnected from my life values.
Today I will try to e connected to who I really am, and to go through this day in touch with my life values.
Have a great day, everyone!

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Hello, November

11 Nov

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Fire pit is critical for fall…

22 Sep

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Enjoying the fire last Friday night 🙂 ahhhh it’s the little things in life…

Excited for fall…

20 Sep

Fall has to be my most favorite season of all! And as much as I love summer, fall is the winner in my book.

This year I welcome fall in my new, big, old house. It will be amazing, I can feel it. And although fall season in a condo was also fun, I just cannot wait to start celebrating fall in this house. In fact, I already have:

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I have made a fire in a fire pit two nights in a row. There is something about fire that relaxes and energizes me, I could stare at it for hours on end. Sitting in my back yard is such a treat, really.
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At night the place is full of crickets and other nature sounds which I find so comforting. During the day you can spot many different kinds of birds, squirrels, chipmonks and last week I even saw a fox!
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I have big plans for this fall. My hubby and I have decided that we will decorate the house on the fist day of that holiday month. For instance, for Halloween we will decorate on October 1st, for Christmas on December 1st, and so on…

This month I have also seen some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Here is a sunset on Tuesday, September 16th:

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I was thinking putting pumpkins on the porch, and perhaps some orange and mauve mums here and there. Oh, and, maybe even a corn stock.

This is the first year I am decorating for Halloween in such a big place so I am a little nervous. I will post pictures as time approaches 🙂

Everything else is going great so far. I love my teaching job at basking Ridge, I love all my students, and, with this new curriculum, we are having so much fun. I am so glad we have redesigned it this year.

My doctoral classes are progressing nicely although they take up a lot of my time by means of reading, essays, presentations and research papers. But I am learning so much.

I wish everyone an awesome Sunday tomorrow
Xo

Please meet – Anger, Greed and Ignorance.

17 Aug

Many of you have probably seen a quote by Buddha about anger, that goes something like “When you are angry, it’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person will get sick.” So true, yet so hard to follow.

Last week, during my weekly meditation and dharma teaching session, Sunim mentioned the three poisons that exist in Buddhism and are the cause of all suffering. They are anger, greed and ignorance.

As the website Buddhism Teacher puts it, many of us are apt to be dominated by one of the poisons.  Even when one dominates the other two are always lying dormant, like dry seeds that can sprout whenever nourished.

Anger – one tends to be depressed or obsessed over political views, real or imagined enemies, or any of life’s negative realities.

Greed is manifested by stinginess, lack of compassion, hoarding or self-indulgence.  One tends to be attached to material things, thinking that more is better and that getting things will bring happiness.

Ignorance is present when we are not realizing our potential for true happiness, which is our true nature, our Buddha nature.  Ignorance causes insecurity and a feeling of weakness, powerlessness and apathy.

Greed’s companions are desire and lust, and these passions and attachments cause us to want to “get hold of” things, and to have more and more of them.  Anger’s friends are hatred, animosity and aversion, which cause us to reject what displeases us or infringes upon our ego.  Ignorance, which is “not knowing,” especially not knowing our true nature, paves the way for delusion or in our believing something that is false.

Although the Buddhist path has been extremely hard to follow, it has greatly nourished my spirit and has changed my outlook on life.

Yet, when I evaluate how I measure up when it comes to anger, greed and ignorance, I am terrified…  Continue reading

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