An Easter Prayer

An Easter Prayer 
God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. 
Lord, I have heard that thou are a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and moreover, that thou are willing to bestow him upon such a sinner as I am–and I am a sinner indeed. 
Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the Salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ, Amen. 
(To be repeated over and over). 
A blessed #easter to everyone. 

My Return to Yoga

Yoga has been an important part of my life since early 2012. I started practicing when I was 21 years old. I got hooked on the way it made me feel every time I practiced. Not only did my body feel more balanced and full of energy after the practices, but my mind was clearer, too. I was in a better mood. I felt calmer, more centered.

It was almost like this was a spiritual practice, as well as a physical one. It was almost like, if I worked at combining a meditative state–a state where I am consciously trying to elevate the vibrational qualities of my thoughts and feelings–with the movement of my body, I could access higher levels of well-being and serenity.

yogini 1

Of course, as I soon came to understand, this was the whole purpose of yoga. To unite–to yoke–the body and the mind.

Today I had my first real practice of yoga after having given birth 3 and a half months ago and after not having practiced yoga in about a year. And I felt it all again. I felt the suppleness of my body, the concentrated effort of my mind, the feeling that I was connected with something higher (GOD IS WITH ME was my personal mantra during the entirety of the practice), that I was not only practicing the muscles of my body but also training the feelings of my soul.

yogini 6

It was wonderful. Honestly, it felt like the first time. Better than the first time, even, because I was returning to something I thought I had lost forever.

I joined Rachel Brathen’s 108 website (Subscription is $14 a month) because I really can’t afford to join a studio right now. The classes are varied and for every level. This seems fitting, since I started out my journey learning yoga at home through online videos, after all. Back in 2012, YogaToday.com was my site of choice. Now it’s Oneoeight.com. I highly recommend both of those sites.

During this interim, I joined a studio in late 2013, and my practice sky-rocketed. My teacher was very good. I learned arm-balances, inversions (LOOK GUYS I’M STANDING ON MY HEAD!) and was even doing a handstand, or getting close to doing one, at least. My teacher trained me and a group of other girls so that we could teach. So we started teaching. I had a core group of students, and soon enough I started teaching Yin Yoga as well as Vinyasa.

yogini 5

But then my teacher became disinterested in yoga. The same teacher that helped me take my practice to another level. She stopped frequenting the studio, until she gave up going altogether. Without her energy, the studio soon closed. The movement could not survive without its founder. So I stopped teaching yoga. I even stopped practicing it on my own. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was dissapointed with the whole experience and how things had turned out. It was only recently that I was able to admit this to myself, and I think that this most likely has a-lot to do with the fact that I stopped practicing altogether.

Then in february of 2017, I became pregnant… something I had wanted for a long time. Life became rosy / rose-tinted again, everything was great. But I also suffered from debilitating morning sickness and got so big I rarely felt like working out. In fact, I never worked out. And so my yoga stayed by the wayside, patiently waiting for me to return.

yogini 13

Today, I finally did. And I feel like I’m on fire. I want to practice twice a day, I want to get back to the level I was, I want to teach again. I want to eat healthy, I want to meditate, I want to keep my practice going. I haven’t felt so motivated about something in a long time. And it’s great. It’s like I’ve totally found my passion again.

I’m back to online classes now (and maybe the ocassional studio class with the right teacher, someone who’s truly passionate about yoga just as much as her students are), and it feels right. It feels so right.

I’m back where I belong.

Or maybe…

I never really left.

yogini 3

Namasté

The Artistic Process

My thing is literature—that’s my domain. Stories often showcase a mix of the beautiful and the ugly; there is a conflict between these two poles which is eventually resolved.

But even in music, poetry and also paintings, I think, we can see this conflict arise and then resolve itself (within the same piece of art).

The world can serve to inspire the artist so that they may faithfully represent this conflict in their art. Every artist suffers… they bleed and feel and are constantly transforming themselves through the conflict that is created when their inner lives confront the outer world.

It is the artist’s purpose to transform this hurt and suffering, this conflict and turmoil, into something that inspires and uplifts the human soul… and this frequently produces and results in something beautiful.

Beauty alone can be shallow or vain, but beauty with meaning can inspire the soul.

The Art of Living #BookReview

The book is translated from ancient greek into easy to understand & modern english, and features the maxims of the ancient greek stoic philosopher Epictetus on the art of living. It is a practical manual on how to practice virtue, happiness and effectiveness in our day to day life.

The key to happiness, according to Epictetus, lies in the freedom to be fully oneself. One can only acheive this by focusing their energy on the things that one can contol: Our Inner Lives.

Everything else, including our wealth, bodies, reputation and even the impression we make on others is out of our control, and as such we should not let our happiness be affected by it. If we have wealth and then lose it, our inner lives should not be affected by it. We should remain calm and go on with our work and life in the way we can. If our reputation is tarnished, but our character and integrity remains steadfast, then all the better, because our character matters more than our reputation and has withstood the test of infamy. If we fall ill, we understand it is the nature of our bodies to grow ill sometimes, and accept this with dignity. If we lose someone, if someone dies, we understand that our flesh is mortal and that dying is a part of life, but our spirit is eternal.

Things that are in control, such as the quality of our thoughts, the energy we pour into the work we were meant to do (disregarding results and monetary gains and working because we love what we do), and the evenness of our temper should be the focus of our daily practice.

The maxims of Epictetus are transcendental and are just as applicable today as they were 2000 years ago. Things that stuck with me were: Making use of everything we have, discovering our talents and putting them to use, using our resources and everything we have been given to better ourselves; not acting merely to cause an impression on others, but acting rightly by doing the right thing regardless of what others think; and the practice of the use of reason and logic to acheive clear thinking.

This is a wonderful translation and a manual I will surely keep using through all the stages of my life.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas #BookReview

IMG_3736

YA Fantasy

When I started reading this book, I enjoyed it very much, thinking I had finally found a new fantasy series that I could absolutely obsess over and love, like I hadn’t in a long time. And the first half of this book is very good. The writing is fast-paced, the plot is well-constructed, the characters are engaging, everything that has to work for a story to be good… works.

But then the second part of the book comes along, and things start, well, not exactly falling apart, but changing. This is supposed to be a re-telling of the beauty and the beast fairy tale, and for the first part of the book it is. But when the second part of the book comes along, something serious starts to happen. It’s the main issue I had with the book, and it is this: Character assasination.

Tamlin, who is supposed to be the love interest of the heroine and main character, Feyre, goes from being strong and protective to being weak and bland. Of course the reader could always blame the circumstances. Tamlin was kidnapped by an evil Fairy Queen and whatnot, but he did absolutely nothing to help Feyre out or to change said circumstances. He became a victim, and went from being an active character who would do anything to keep Feyre safe, to being a completely passive pawn. This change didn’t sit well with me at all, and it felt forced.

Of course the story then takes a different romantic direction by introducing a new character, Rhysand, and making him compelling and interesting in all the ways that Tamlin is now not. It felt like the author grew tired of Tamlin or something, or didn’t want to continue building on the romance and relationship between him and Feyre (the protagonist), so she decided to assasinate his character by making him passive and unresponsive just so she could introduce another romantic love interest and make that relationship strong.

So you see, it’s not at all a beauty and the beast re-telling, but something else entirely. Because the beast and the beauty had true love, while Tamlin and Feyre merely had… a fling. And this is the issue I had with the book. Why get readers (i.e., me) all excited over a relationship if you’re going to make the romantic interest a bland coward by the end of the novel, when at the beginning he was anything but? Character assasination. And I wasn’t okay with it.

Also, the tone of the novel changed throughout the book. At first it was romantic and fantastical, and then it turned gritty and very urban. It was like reading two different books in one.

But alas, I liked the fairy world the story was set in, and the new male romantic interest is compelling and engaging enough on its own, despite how he was introduced (at the expense of the other character), so I will read on. I’ve been told the second book in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, is better than the first, and I am looking forward to see how the story develops. I just hope that the author won’t change her mind about this new guy and make Feyre fall in love with yet another character just because she grew bored or whatever.

I recommend this book to fans of fantasy with romance.

Rating: ***

 

“Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor #BookReview

IMG_3580

This is the first book from Laini Taylor that I read. I had high expectations because I had heard from different sources that Laini Taylor was a spectacular writer. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but it turns out it was a fantasy, which was great because fantasy is my favorite genre. And while I liked Taylor’s writing, the hype didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, Taylor is by all measures a fantastic writer and story-teller. “Strange the Dreamer” was interesting and gripping, even when nothing major happened until the very end of the book. Everything that happened was propelled forward by sheer force of character, and it worked. So no complaints there, I loved the story and will read the sequel for sure.

But the thing is when people hype up a book by saying that the writing is “absolutely beautiful”, I guess I’m expecting some Gabriel García Márquez-level writing… and this was not it. By which I mean, my standards are pretty high. I get annoyed with hype, which is why I’ve gotten more skeptical through the years. People had made it sound like this was some literary masterpiece, but no. I would consider this a well-written and nice commercial read, a compelling genre book with a unique story and three-dimensional characters that are easy to love. But not literary.

The story takes place on another world, and the main character is called Lazlo Strange, an orphan raised by monks who goes on an adventure with a group of foreign warriors to a mythical land. What I liked the most was the mixture between fantasy and science-fiction that tinted the story. The “gods” that appear could actually be aliens, only that the people in this medieval-type society don’t know what aliens are, so they call them gods. It is in this land that Lazlo Strange discovers his true destiny and who he really is, but not before his life gets really, really complicated.

Along the lines of “gods” and “aliens”, I’d like to mention that there is a subtle theme that was barely mentioned throughout the story but that I really liked: the contrast between what is magical and what is scientific, a recurring theme that could be expanded upon in the second installment of this series. Possibly the most interesting theme from a philosophical standpoint. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and like I mentioned before, I would be happy to continue with this read. I recommend this book to fantasy readers.

Rating: ****

Beatriz at Dinner #MovieReview #FilmFriday

beatriz at dinner

Okay so first off, I want to say kudos to this movie for not being stereotypical like I thought it would be, and for not relying on the overused liberal vs conservative tropes. No, instead of doing that, the movie gives us something much deeper. The main character, Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek, is an inwardly tortured soul, genuinely affected by the atrocities of a rampantly capitalistic world, and has much depth of feeling.

Throughout the movie she tries, and fails, to connect with the rest of the characters, who are rich and shallow, but who honestly–and viewed from a commonplace perspective–do nothing so extravagantly evil throughout the dinner as to merit Beatriz’s increasingly incendiary reactions.  They try to humor her, but they are so stuck in their own petty worlds that they fail to understand where Beatriz is coming from, and cannot connect with her wider perspective of things at all.

Interestingly enough, the person Beatriz most connects with is Doug, the film’s antagonist, a billionaire mogul who builds hotels and contaminates the environment and displaces people from their homes and the whole nine yards. They connect because they are opposite extremes of the same pole, and thus understand each other. Doug even has some respect for Beatriz towards the end of the film, recognizing the genuine depth of feeling that she projects, or tries to project, outwards into the world, but he lives by his own selfish philosophy and will not be changed, no matter how much anybody argues against him.

Beatriz, on the contrary, hates Doug and everything he represents. He’s the embodiment of evil, in Beatriz’s eyes.

As the movie progresses Beatriz becomes increasingly aware that she does not fit in with this crowd and that they will never accept her, no matter how much she tries to connect with them. She also realizes how the lives of these people stand diametrically opposed to her own principles and beliefs, and thus her campaign to speak her mind and make them aware of a reality outside their own sheltered homes becomes more and more urgent, which lands her in trouble.

The movie is good, but it falls apart at the ending. Beatriz, instead of becoming stronger with this confrontation, becomes weaker. The ending leaves us wondering, why did she give up? She broke under the force of the perceived evil around her, something that stands in direct contrast with the first two-thirds of the movie, when she refused to be broken or silenced. It is only because of the ending that I don’t give the movie a higher score.

Rating: **