Why We Should Meditate

It’s an age old practice. Everyone recommends it, so there must be something to it. But what?

I’m no stranger to meditation, though I’d only classify myself as a beginner. I’ve only ever meditating during distressing times of my life, and stopped as soon as I felt better about myself and my situation.

But after investigating into it, I’m definitely going to start again. There’s certainly a reason for it’s antiquity, and I content its something everyone should do, no matter their degree of happiness. Bad situations will always arise, but sustained meditation has the potential to help you through.

The physical and psychological benefits are beautiful.

Physical benefits include:

  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • A healthy, maintained heart rate
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved control in dealing with stress and anxiety. Meditation decreases cortisol (the hormone that causes stress) production, and maintains lower production hours after meditation.
  • More restful sleep
  • Increased memory retention
  • Increased mental agility and alertness

Having a healthy mindset makes for a healthy body. Trapped stress and anxiety can accumulate into layers around your body’s energy field, and manifest into disease and illness. Meditation can help by releasing these stresses.

Psychological benefits of meditation:

  • Bodily awareness and acceptance
  • Increased confidence
  • Increased self-awareness, acceptance, and empathy
  • Feelings of contentedness with the present
  • Peace from disturbing thoughts
  • Revelation of your true self by letting the subconscious mind speak

When you meditate, your mind takes a vacation from all external and internal commotion. By allowing your mind to rest, even for just ten or twenty minutes a day, you’ll come back feeling better prepared to deal with the commotion. We let our body rest when we sleep – we should take our mental well-being into consideration as well.

Now that I’ve explained why you should meditate, I’ll describe how to meditate, for those of you unfamiliar with it.

Find a quiet space and get cozy. It’s best to sit cross-legged, back straight, and palms facing up. I generally stay in meditation until I feel my legs fall asleep. If your back starts hurting, it may be a sign you need to stretch more – or yoga. Since mediation is all about being present and mindful, listen to the pain. Is it trying to alert you of an emotional connection to it?

Start by taking deep breaths. Focus on feeling the air enter and leave your body. Thoughts, feelings, and daydreams might distract you as your mind tries to stimulate itself. Just keep focusing on your breathing, and eventually they’ll fade away. It might take you several tries, or even weeks of practice to clear your mind. All that matters is your will.

Advice for Creative Entrepreneurs

The best piece of advice I ever got was from my short story professor.  He told me my writing was stiff and unemotional, like I was trying to hide behind it. He was right. I was. If I wanted to connect with people, I had to write like how I spoke. With emotion.

It was this advice to essentially “be more real” that convinced me to take the leap to focus on my creative career more intensely.  I consider myself a creative entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Who does? There’s no rules in this field, and that’s the beauty of it.

To make creative entrepreneurship less daunting, I wanted to share some advice I’ve learned so far for anyone pursuing or thinking about pursuing their creative dreams seriously.

I wanted to make a cheat-cheat for what qualifies as advice versus criticism, but the difference isn’t black and white. There’s good advice and bad advice, just as there’s constructive criticism and plain old criticism. In my experience, anything that makes you see things in a new perspective is worth exploring. But if it makes you feel defensive, personally attacked, or confused, don’t listen. A lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about.

Listen to people who are familiar with you or the industry you’re in. Seek them out for advice.

As my best friend in high school said, “you wouldn’t take weight loss advice from a fat person.”

Nobody criticizes you more than yourself.

Why are artists notoriously hard on themselves? Because our success is dependent on our ability, our will, and our hearts and souls – that’s a scary, fragile thing to carry.

Learn to manage your anxiety and stress.

This is key. Do whatever you have to do, because it will never go away.

Watercolor therapy, one of my more healthy ways of coping.

Follow your ideas through.

Talk about them, record them, write them down – anything to get them out of your head into a physical form. Now you have a rough draft you can work with.

Share your content.

Even if you think it sucks or isn’t perfect.  Remember, you can’t be afraid of failing if you don’t give yourself the chance to fail.

Treat it like a job.

That is, if it isn’t your job already. Putting in the time will make you feel more disciplined and accomplished.

Be a nerd.

People appreciate someone who is passionate about something they know well. If you’re a nerd, you’ll meet other nerds who are nerdy about the same things. Now you have friends – or a network, as fancy, official people like to call it.

Disconnect yourself from your work.

In creative fields, the artist is the product, because art is the extension of the artist. I can be a terribly shy person, so I have to think of my work as separate from me. I tell myself it’s a business I just happen to be running. If I didn’t, nothing would ever get posted.

You can’t care about what people think of you personally.  

This is why making that disconnect is important. Let people say what they will about your work, but you can’t let if feel like they’re saying it about you. This is a tricky one, since our work is our art and our art is ourselves. I wish I could say I truly don’t care what people think about me, but I’ve got a lot of heavy meditating to do until I reach that level of freedom.

Recognize your accomplishments.

They may not be monetary. That’s okay. They might just be you completed a to-do list, or posted something, or overcame any of the personal dilemmas listed above. That’s an accomplishment. Recognize it.

Accept the struggle, and love it.

This whole creative hustle is one vague, agonizing process. It’s hard not knowing if all the time you put into your projects will ever be worth it. It’s hard not knowing when, how, or if you’ll ever get paid. But you have to love it because it’s you doing what you love.  Love it because it’s you being you. And if you create work that you like, chances are other people will like it too. They’ll recognize that it’s “real.”

A Must Read for any Creative Entrepreneur

Carolina Gold

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a life-long Alaskan and a newcomer to North Carolina. Instead of explaining the differences I’ve noticed, I’ll save you your time by explaining the similarities instead:

There are none. Except for gold.

Over the weekend, I went to my friend’s house who lives just beyond the South Carolina border, some forty minutes from Charlotte. Cheaper property taxes has allowed them to live on several beautiful acres right on the edge of Kings Mountain National Military Park. A small creek runs through their backyard, where they’ve been prospecting  gold.

After a couple of hours of pumping water through prospecting equipment, I saw a couple, tiny gold flecks.  

I was intrigued by this Carolinian gold, and surprised to learn that the first gold discovery in the United States took place in North Carolina.  I had no idea they were the leading producers of gold until its discovery in California and Alaska. They never taught me that in Alaskan schools.

In Alaska, there’s volcanoes and earthquakes – two things that hint towards gold. But North Carolina is pretty flat, and therefore geologically boring. Or so I thought. Being the geology nerd that I am, I was curious to learn about the ground underneath me and to find out how this gold came to be here.

For those of you unfamiliar with geology 101, I’ve included a list of terms that will help you understand what I’m talking about.

Tectonic Plates

Divergent Plate Boundaries

Convergent Plate Boundaries


Subduction Zone

Faults & Fractures

Lode Gold

Placer Gold

7 pieces of Earth’s crust that travel independently around the globe, causing seismic and volcanic activity. The three plates of interest here are the Eurasian, North American, and Pacific.

A boundary along two plates that are being pushed apart. The Eurasian and North American plates are being
pushed apart by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

A boundary along two plates that crush the plates into
each other. The Pacific plate is moving into the
western/northwestern part of the North American plate.

The layer underneath the earth’s crust that is brittle
(composed of solid rock), and above the asthenosphere –
the layer where rocks are molten from the earth’s

The area where one convergent plate moves under the
other, causing seismic activity, mountain building, and

Breaks in the earth’s crust

The original, large deposit of gold

Fragments of lode gold carried away by streams or
glaciers into alluvial deposits

When I decided to investigate the origins of Carolinian gold, I didn’t realize how complicated it would be.  My head has been wrapped around time tables that extend billions of years, trying to make sense of what happened when and how.

In the process, I made interesting discoveries about the Appalachians.  I’d always lacked an appreciation for the soft hills I considered subpar to the ‘true mountains’ of the West Coast. But now, my appreciation has grown, having had realized the vast amount of geologic activity this region has seen.  I never knew the Appalachians were an ancient mountain range that has been eroding away. I never knew they once resembled the mountains I grew up with.

Appalachians, near Asheville, NC

The foothills of the Appalachians is a plateau called the Piedmont. Within the Piedmont is the Carolina slate belt that runs parallel to the coast from Virginia to Georgia. The largest portion of it lays underneath Mecklenburg county.  It is in the slate belt that the gold is found.

While there is no set formula for finding gold, lode deposits are typically found along convergent plate boundaries.  Molten gold rises up through the faults and fractures caused by subduction until it cools and crystallizes in chambers underneath bedrock. As the earth around the lode erodes, placer gold is carried down moderate slopes until it settles.

Now I’m no geology major – I’m just a nerd who took a couple classes in college. But from my understanding, the Piedmont used to be a rift basin caused by divergent plate boundaries when the Earth’s geography looked much different than it does today. These rifts were then filled with sediment from the eroding Appalachians and material uprooted from subduction zones.

Sometimes I wish I’d decided to focus more seriously on geology. Then I’d really be able to tell you how Charlotte is built on top of a massive gold deposit. But, one of the things I love the most about writing is that it allows me to explore and learn about all sorts of things. Writing is a great way to find the common denominator between two things that are seemingly uncorrelated.

I liked geology for that reason. Before I got into it, I assumed rocks were stationary and boring. Then I learned about metamorphosis.  Rocks are constantly being recycled into new types of rocks. If the earth can go through changes and produce a beautiful result at the end, then so can people.  

A couple years ago I wrote an essay titled “The Metamorphosis.” It’s about the life changes I was going through at the time from a geologic perspective. I have included an excerpt here that I hope you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

“Let us turn back towards the mountains.  There they stand, exposed and old – a sight to place aspirations upon.  Anyone who’s ever laced up hiking boots knows what it takes to summit one, but what about what it takes for a mountain to become a mountain? The minerals that make up Earth are subject to intense heat, pressure, and stress, all by the force of the planet recycling itself – the living attitude of inorganic material.  And so, these mountains stand, brutal in their creation, beautiful in their being. The rocks once laid on the surface untouched, then pushed down into the heart of the earth, not to be exposed again until their metamorphism was complete.”

Seward, Alaska

Manipulation…and Cats.

I love cats. I always have. I feel like I relate to them more than any other animal, for whatever reason. Growing up I had two cats, Oliver and Yang. They’ve long since passed, but now I have a new kitten. His name is Jasper. He is all black, has blue eyes, and a kink in his tail. He’s adorable, playful, and sweet, though taking care of an animal means a lot more than it did as a kid.

For starters, Oliver and Yang were outside cats. They ate and did their business out there. They could expel their energy freely, thus making them overall less bothersome. Jasper is confined to our apartment. His bathroom is in our bathroom.

It’s up to me to pay for his well-being, and clean up his messes. At least he provides me with entertainment, cuteness, and the sound of purrs to lull me to sleep. However, newfound information has me wondering if the traits I consider to be love are really manipulation.

Cats were never domesticated by humans. They domesticated themselves. Just like how wolves developed a symbiotic relationship with nomadic hunters, cats capitalized off of the agrarian Natufians in Mesopotamia. Cats served beneficial to the crops by ridding them of pests. Since then, cats have accompanied every major society by serving the same purpose.

They are highly adaptable creatures, capable of remarkable independence. But, if given the opportunity, they can be gluttons. I think the cat philosophy would be something like: ‘why work hard if you don’t have to?’

The truth is that cats have learned to manipulate humans. They were able to do so by their cognitive intelligence, and their mental similarity to us.

The feline brain is 90% similar to the human brain. Both brain regions are connected in the same way to the cerebral cortex – the part of the brain responsible for processing sensory data. This implies that cats have similar emotions to us, and therefore enables them to read human facial expressions. They can also solve complex cognitive problems, and have short term and long term memories that can recall up to 16 hours.

Basically, this means that cats understand what we feel, and why we feel that way by documenting and analyzing our actions leading up to said feeling. They have all the tools they need for manipulation.

Manipulation by Cuteness Overload

A perfect example is the meow. Cats don’t meow to other cats. They communicate by body language and by marking territories. They only meow for humans because they realized that when a baby cries, the parents pick it up, and give it food. Jasper squeaks and chirps like a little bird. I always thought it sounded adorable. Now it sounds like he’s playing on my primal maternal instincts.

Cats are generally liked because of playfulness, cuddliness, and bonding. But have you ever noticed how a cat’s favorite game is anything that stimulates hunting and killing? Their practicing their skills. They might be cuddling you, not because they love you, but because they can’t effectively regulate their own body heat. And by rubbing up against you, they’re marking you as their territory, because they own you, and not the other way around.

As I said, cats are gluttons if given the opportunity. But so are people. My question is, did cat’s learn manipulation from us? Are the observations that Mesopotamian cats made and passed down in their DNA a direct reflection of human nature?

Manipulation is not about making someone do what you want them to do, but making them want to do what you want them to do. It’s the art of convincing someone that your idea is theirs. By learning their deepest desires, you reverse engineer it against them. The trick is to lead them to the understanding that by doing something, they will be rewarded with something they desire.

Take two people and one piece of cake. The first person wants to lose weight and look better, but also wants cake. The second person wants the cake all to themselves. So they point out how nice the first person’s skin looks since they cut back on sweets. This person will feel pleased even if it’s not true, and become more inclined to decline. The second person is then left to enjoy the cake all by themselves, which is what they wanted all along.

Maybe the cats have gotten to me, since manipulation is generally considered a psychotic and evil trait. Though I’d argue it’s a natural part of survival, at least to an extent. Sometimes you have to be smarter than the other person – or the cat. The cats have demonstrated this by thriving to the point of becoming a registered invasive species. But hey, aren’t humans kind of invasive too? Like, a lot?

There’s things to learn from cats, and things to unlearn. In the meantime, I just want a yard.  I don’t want to deal with Jasper’s excrements ever again, or subject my african violets to his terrorizing. But mostly, I just want to be able to throw him outside when he decides to start purring in my ear and sitting on my head at four in the morning, because he knows I’m weak enough to feed him just so he’ll shut the hell up and leave me alone. I’m onto you, kitten.

probably reading up about all his secrets.

Building a Successful Relationship in the Home and Beyond

When I was fourteen, I watched my parent’s go through a hostile divorce. Instead of it making me cynical towards love, it made me believe in it even more. My parent’s relationship was just a bad example to learn from. And after a couple dramatic trial runs of my own (which are a stories for another time), I found Ty.

He was just as nerdy and weird as me, so naturally we hit it off right away. Our opposite traits balanced each other out, and over time we discovered we were much more alike than previously thought. My relationship with him is the strongest thing in my life, and for that I am very grateful. I know not everyone is so fortunate. 

The first nine months of our relationship were spent apart. I was still in Alaska while he had moved to North Carolina. During this time we went to Europe. After spending a whole month with him under some very stressful situations, it was confirmed that I could handle living with this person. We worked together well. Since then, I’ve learned a lot of things about living with a significant other. I think we all understand the significance of having a happy and healthy home life, so I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far.

The first thing I learned is that you cannot treat all the time spent together as quality time. You’re living together now. There will be chores to do. Petty arguments will arise. You’ll each want your own space and time. Money will be an issue. All of these things are okay, given there is constructive, open communication.

First, don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel. Tell them right away when you’re bothered by something they do.

If you don’t, they will assume everything is okay, and keep doing whatever it is. This will only serve to build up resentment inside you, and will come out at the wrong moment. When this happens, they will be confused, wondering why you never said anything before. Remember, no matter how strong a connection, nobody is a mind-reader.

Pick your battles wisely.

There are little things Ty does that annoys me, like forgetting to close the refrigerator door, and the way he hangs up towels. I have to remind myself to let these things go – at least he hangs up his towel and doesn’t leave it on the floor. Besides, these things say more about me being controlling than it does about him just being himself. Instead, I let him know what really bothers me and why. He knows I don’t like it when he spends an excessive amount of time on his phone/computer, or when he smokes the Juul. Both these things are easily explained.

Have them help you with chores. You’re not his maid, and he’s not your butler.  Being nice is one thing, but having expectations is another.

Challenge each other. Grow together by setting goals. Be encouraging, and offer constructive criticism when needed.

Don’t take each other for granted.

I’ve taken people for granted before in the past. It’s one of my biggest regrets, since what followed was always shitty. With Ty, it’s easier not to because all I have to do is remember when we were four time zones apart. I missed him terribly all the time. If you’ve never done long distance before, there’s a trick to put your appreciation into perspective. It’s pretty morbid, but it works. Just imagine if they were to die.

Never go to bed angry. Never.

Give each other space to cool off. I like to on walks. Sometimes I’ll grit my teeth and ask him to come with me – fresh air does wonders to diffuse anger. Sending each other pictures of fond memories together is another good tactic. It helps to remind each other what’s really important.

Let go of your pride and admit when you are wrong. Don’t be above apologizing first.

The most important part of conflict resolution is to never look at it as you verses him (or her). It’s always the both of you verses the problem. By putting it into this perspective, finding a solution becomes a learning experience – not an outlet the pass blame or stimulate guilt. If you’re upset because they forgot to do something they promised they would, think about finding ways to help them remember. Make to do lists. Set reminders on your phone. Take gingko biloba.

Be open about finances!

This is the most important component for having a successful relationship. The majority of divorces are due to financial issues, and the leading cause for women staying in unhealthy/abusive relationships is financial dependence. Most couple don’t even tell each other about their financial situation until after they’re married. This is the worst mistake you can make.

Being open about finances relates directly to honesty. In my previous post, “Why I Despise Social Media,” I talked about how people flaunt false presumptions of wealth. The same concept applies for dating in a consumer society. Money often offers the illusion of love, but if that illusion crumbles, the love might as well. When I first met Ty, he was basically living out of his car. There was no illusion of wealth, because he was honest about his situation. Financial honestly implies accountability, and if there is a lack of one, there is a lack of both.

I know his debt, credit score, savings, and income, and he knows mine. We have a spreadsheet to keep track of all expenses. While money doesn’t buy happiness, it certainly buys things that make life easier. Like having the bills paid. Like eating. One of our biggest goals is to someday achieve financial freedom, but until that day comes, no transaction goes undocumented.

Relationships are a give and take, but it’s rarely 50-50. Sometimes one person will pull more weight than the other. One day it could be 60-40, the next it might be 70-30. When we went to Europe, I took care of us when his cards stopped working. I was happy to do so, because I know he’d do the same for me. The give and take extends beyond monetary value. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if it wasn’t for Ty. I’ve been able to focus wholeheartedly on my writing, thanks to his support and belief in me. He spoils me with encouragement.

Living off of one paycheck has been a challenge. But just like with long distance, being broke together has laid another solid foundation to our relationship. They key lies in acknowledging happiness and temporary situations. All the other tricks, like communication and accountability, only work if they are sustained. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to find someone who you click with, appreciate them and treat them well. Having a successful relationship in the home will beget positivity in other aspects of life. The more successful relationships you have, the better person you’ll become. The more better people there are in the world, the better the world will be. After all, it’s the micro that makes up the macro.

The faces that make the story: him and I.

Why I Despise Social Media

I despise social media. I always have. My dislike for it extends from my own insecurities, though my reasoning is justifiable. I wanted to share my opinion because technology is creating a revolution, but in order for it be beneficial, we need to be more authentic. Social media clearly has advantages: it allows countless people to promote their work freely and remotely. It gives us widespread and instant access to resources and each other.  In a sense, it’s made people into resources. After all, it’s who you know, not what you know.

I agree and disagree with that statement.  I would not be in the position I am in today if it were not for the people I knew.  However, what I know has still played a major roll. It has allowed me to not criticize myself so harshly when I’m on social media, which brings me to why I despise it:

Social media is a façade.

I compare it to my impression of New York City. I mentioned in my previous post, ‘Manifesting Iceland,’ that I had a twenty something hour layover in New York. Ty and I killed a lot of time people watching in Manhattan. Just about every man was a derivative of the other: same suit, same leather loafers, same briefcase. I made some comment about being in the midst of successful business people (note I say ‘man’ because with men it was easier to spot uniformity – the women around us were dressed too diversely to make any generalizations).

Ty laughed in my face. “Look again.” He said. “Their walking around in this horrible heat. You can see the wrinkles in the backs of their shirts. And their shoes aren’t that nice.”

In addition to studying political science and economics, Ty has a thing for shoes.

“So?” I asked.

“They’re just workers.” He explained. “They’re not making any real money.  It’s all spent to uphold an image that they’re some hotshot in Manhattan. The people with real money aren’t wearing suits because they don’t have to impress anyone. The people with real money have their shirts pressed.  And they’ll go immediately from the building into a car that’s waiting for them. Don’t let images fool you.”

The same applies for social media. Don’t let someone else’s apparent wealth fool you.

Social media Influencers are actually advised to promote themselves as richer or more famous than they actually are. By doing so, they attract more engagement. Why? Because who wants to engage with just some person trying to make it like everyone else? It can be boiled down to basic psychology. By promoting ourselves as more online than we are in reality we satisfy the natural urge to stroke our egos. Studies show that positive self-reinforcement on social media activates the medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain identified with self-definition. In extreme cases, it can become an addiction and manifest into narcissism.

It’s no surprise that social media makes people feel insecure, anxious, or envious. It’s for these reasons I’ve fallen behind in the social media game compared to my peers. When Instagram and Facebook became popular, I was in middle school. I was weird, really weird, and an outcast. I didn’t want to be judged by my peers online as well.

My argument is mostly based around Instagram. I think we all know Facebook is the epitome of legitimate fake news, and notorious for people promoting their opinions as facts. Instagram is definitely more artsy, and allows people to metaphorically – and literally – filter their lives.

To reiterate my point, I’ll share an instance that happened to me recently on Instagram.

I reposted something from @KeepOnLearning about the benefits of investing. I’ve recently been getting into investing – it comes with the territory when you’re dating an economics major.

The comments I received surprised me. They all said the same thing: that the person who spent $650 on a vacation gained memories, and was therefore better off than the person who invested. I was confused to hear this. Of course memories are priceless.  I understand that very well – I absolutely adore traveling. But that doesn’t mean the person who invested will never travel. That doesn’t mean the person who invested will have to wait until their old to travel. All that means is that the person who invested now can spend $650 and still have $700 left.

But what I think it most important about this post is that you shouldn’t take what you see at face value.  I have to tell myself this when I feel like my posts don’t make me look pretty enough. Or that I haven’t done enough, or am doing enough, or am becoming enough. That’s fucked up. I can’t rightfully compare myself to something I don’t know for certain to be anything more than a façade.

I contend that we need to post more authentic things. We should challenge ourselves to be more upfront about our failures and our shortcomings. I believe that this will incline us to support each other more. I want people to travel – I believe the best gift of all is seeing the world and connecting with it. But that doesn’t mean it should cost us our savings. That doesn’t mean it should cost us our honesty. There’s ways to enhance both.

Let’s utilize social media for all that’s its good for: connecting to each other and utilizing resources. Let’s add a little more balance to our feed.  Let’s let each other know it’s okay to be honest, sad, afraid, and insecure. Let’s let each other know it’s okay to have emotions and imperfections. Let’s relate to each other. What’s something you struggle with? What’s something you’re afraid to say?