Thank you for visiting Current Living Blog. Through much feedback and by going with my gut, I have decided to merge two of my blogs– this one and “Where She Stops, Nobody Knows” which focused on writing, popular culture, arts and more. I am taking several posts from this blog and transferring them to…

SOUL LAB!

Yes, Soul Lab is both a blog and a radio show. From spirituality to pop culture, and from parenting to the environment, it is my mission to get to the heart of why people do what they do… and what that means for the rest of us. I strive to inform, entertain and inspire with interviews, reviews and commentary that is authentic, irreverant, uplifting, soulful and funny. Soul Lab is not just my platform… it’s for you. Enjoy.

Go here for the blog…

Go here for the radio show…

And welcome to Soul Lab!

Jesse Jacobs, Founder Samovar Tea Lounge

Jesse Jacobs, Founder Samovar Tea Lounge

Everywhere I go, people tell me how horrible it is to be drinking so much coffee. I get it. Extreme coffee experiences can put your whole sense of well-being out of whack even if it does jolt you to your basic senses first thing in the morning.

So more and more, I’m substituting my coffee routine with tea and I’ve rediscovered a long forgotten passion that began steeping in my soul since my childhood. Growing up in Texas, I was raised on iced tea. Huge tumblers of frosty deep amber tea with lemon. Tea has always been in my life in one way or another. And when I spent a summer in Winchester, UK when I was 14, my admiration for tea culture was officially born. I found the perfect teapot for my mother and I ritually drank my tea while reading Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia. Later, when I went to college in Boston, I had boxes of herbal teas stashed in every corner of my apartments just to help fend off the biting, inhuman cold. Later, I lived in a Zen Center in Hollywood, where I enjoyed the art of tea ceremonies during retreats and using hot tea at every meal to clean our eating bowls.

So it was with great pleasure that I recently discovered Samovar Tea Lounge. Based is San Francisco and shipping around the globe, Samovar recently put together a custom blend prepared for His Holiness The Dalai Lama called Ocean of Wisdom. The tea accommodated The Dalai Lama as he traveled to various art institutions exhibiting the project “The Missing Peace.” Samovar has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today rated Samovar teas as one of the top ten teas in the US.

Jesse Jacobs founded Samovar six years ago. I recently had the chance to ask Jesse some tea-related questions.

JHR: We live in such a dense coffee culture, but it seems like tea drinking is on the rise. Is that true and, if so, why? Also, can people really “get going” in the morning with a cup of organic, hand-crafted, artisan tea? Isn’t espresso, you know, faster?

JJ: In the ’90s, the specialty tea industry made $1 billion. In 2007, it was at $7 billion, and its forecasted by 2012 it will be at $14 billion. So, the tea industry is definitely on the rise. Samovar Tea Lounge has grown 300% in last 3 years. Tea has caffeine, and yes it can be used “as a get up and go beverage,” but with less jitters, and more focused awareness. It doesn’t have the same amount of caffeine as coffee, but artisan teas naturally carry caffeine and L-theanine, which induces the alpha state. Its scientifically proven that L-theanine aids in a state of relaxed awareness. This is helpful for the start of your day.

JHR: You’ve created a culture of mindfulness in your business. How important is mindfulness in the hectic life of a business?

JJ: Its very important because life is hectic and can be a frenzy, so there is more need for focus to get things done. I think mindfulness is the same as awareness. Awareness is the key to living fruitfully because if you are aware, you know what’s going on around you. You are sensitive, you can listen to the marketplace, to your customers, to your vendors, to yourself. And if you can listen, and hear, you can make effective and adventageous decisions. Interestingly, awareness is intrinsic in the practice of tea. So, the practice of tea aids in a successful practice of business.

Business is never ending, it is literally a practice, like meditation, or yoga or a martial art. It takes continual refinement, and as a practice, it requires mindfulness. Any study on mindfulness whether it be in meditation, drinking tea, yoga, martial arts, it’s helpful in achieving a better handle on how you approach business. I spent all of my life studying mindfulness practices, on the mat, on the cushion, in the martial arts dojo. Now, this business is just another manifestation of my mindfulness practice.

JHR: It seems like having tea is a time to slow down, connect and regroup. If someone wants to plan the perfect tea time, what are some important elements?

JJ: The important elements are having the freshest, best tea you can find. Having good quality hot water. And, having a moment to manage brewing the leaves, a mini-ritual to slow you down, stop you in the moment, and allow you to consciously take your next step.

JHR: What are some of the health and well-being elements of tea?

JJ: The scientifically proven health benefits of tea are that it is full of antioxidants, there are cancer fighting elements, and numerous vitamins and nutrients. Thousands of studies have been conducted on the benefits of tea. Additionally, a benefit of tea is that is it delicious, it pleases the palate, but also allows for a sense of setting a mood. It serves as a gentle awareness inducing uplifter. Tea brings people together, it serves as a natural social lubricant today just as much as it has when it was discovered several thousand years ago. It brings business, family and personal relations together, and today we really need togetherness. It creates ritual in our highly digitized, fast-paced, frenetic world. We are lacking ritual… the ritual that offers us to slow down, make us healthy, and connect us to the earth, and our humanness.

JHR: What is your current favorite and why?

JJ: Organic Masala Chai: I love this tea because the taste is very complex: spicy, great fragrance, nutty, sweet, aromatic, and earthy. Cooking the chai at my home or at Samovar, it fills the entire space with these overwhelming aromas. The caffeine is a natural and stimulating uplifter.

JHR: You started a podcast series called Passage to Peace linking tea to promoting universal peace. How did that come about and what has the reaction been?

JJ: It came about by looking at what our customers, and therefore the world needs. They need peace. This is part of our mission. So, I thought it would be interesting to connect the people involved in the tea business (i.e. carpenters of peace) to the world at large through a multi-media, educational visual medium. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, which has motivated me to continue the series in an expanded new direction. We are launching a new video series.

JHR: What ignited your passion for tea?

JJ: My need for slowing down, and having time for myself and for my friends and family. And a remembrance of my childhood on the East Coast where I grew up with being surrounded by constant tea culture. I was always exposed to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and European influences.

JHR: Can you share five books that have either influenced you or that you just like to read with, well, a good cup of tea?

JJ: Shibumi: Trevanian; The Sun Also Rises: Ernest Hemingway; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi; The Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi; Body and Mature Behavior: Moshe Feldenkrais and Carl Ginsburg
The Executive In Action: Peter F. Drucker

Note: Samovar Tea is nationally available for purchase at http://shop.samovarlife.com/.

Earth Day 2009 is fast approaching and in celebration of Mother Earth, Disney is releasing an epic nature film aptly titled “Earth.” If you buy a ticket during the opening week, they will plant a tree for you! And when I saw the trailer, I was completely excited about this. Check it out:

I was traveling through Beliefnet.com which is something I do when I force myself to have a few minutes of totally uninterrupted “self-care” time when I feel overwhelmed or stuck. I stumbled upon five really nice articles that speak to a sense of wonder, hope and optimism that I always try to cultivate in myself. So take a few minutes and check out these inspiring pieces.

8 Ways to Recognize Archangel Michael by DoreenVirtue

10 Ways to Find Happiness in Front of You by Addie Johnson

Great Books to Give Kids by Sherry Huang

How to Attract Abundance by Wayne Dyer

The Wise Quotes of Paulo Coelho

Enjoy!

Lately I have been thinking about some true life stories of women who have tackled the tough task of leaving it all behind and embarking on incredible journeys of self-discovery. I stumbled upon a book I once loved and it got me thinking that I’ve always loved these stories and soaked them up like great fiction. But in these cases, the stories are documented and real, and here are just a few I highly recommend.

on-the-way-to-satori1On the Way to Satori was written by Gerta Ital, a German-born actress who entered a Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery late in life. She recorded her experiences in two books, The Master, the Monks and I: A Western Woman’s Experience of Zen, and the one I read: On the Way to Satori: A Woman’s Experience of Enlightenment. Both books were published in German in the mid-1960s, but were not translated into English until much later. She recounted the physically and emotionally harsh conditions of being the first Western woman admitted to a Zen monastery.

sorcerers-crossingThen there is The Sorcerer’s Crossing: A Woman’s Journey written by Taisha Abelar with a forward by Carlos Castaneda. Abelar, an anthropologist, recalls the mysterious and mystical journey which took her on many leaps of faith into the world of sorcery. In the late 60s, she was sketching in the mountains around Tucson, Arizona when she met a Mexican woman named Clara Grau. With intensity, gravity and fortitude, Grau convinced Abelar to visit her house in Sonora, Mexico– right then, and right there. Facing her own feelings of being directionless and confused about her future, she went. What followed was a powerful entry into a family of sorcerers which produced powerful healers and wisepeople like Castaneda.

eatprayloveAnd more recently, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert hit a major nerve with women seeking purpose, meaning and real clarity in their lives. Though she didn’t shave her head or become inducted into a secret world of magic, Gilbert did have life-changing moment after moment in a global trek which spanned Italy, India and Bali.

The bottom line with all these fine reads is that the real experiences of these brave women have produced books that are as mesmerizing, surprising, enchanting and deeply inspiring as any novel you could crawl into. Check them out.

Take a minute to just rock out with this cockatoo and Ray Charles. Go ahead… shake your tailfeather.

42-15453033

My sister and nephew used to live in Italy and I had the pleasure of visiting them for several weeks at a time in my late 20s. Positioned just a few miles from the center of Pisa and only a five minute walk to the Italian Mediterranean coast, they lived in a huge and comfortable house in Livorno. But the first time I went, it took me about four full days to totally mentally disconnect from my cell phone, my voicemail, the internet and cable TV. I literally had to detox from the mechanics of my very modern life and fall helplessly into a pattern of living that seemed unusually slow. I thought the situation was disquieting, but I realized that I was approaching a quiet way of life that my soul desperately longed for.

When the plumber came to the house one day, he checked the pipes in a leisurely way and my sister had told me very specifically not to let him leave until the leak had been fixed. I thought it was funny she was so adamant about it, but when he turned to me and said “domani, domani” I knew he meant tomorrow or the next day and I had to block him from leaving. He laughed and found another way out, lighting a cigarette and gliding without a care in the world down my sister’s driveway. Though he did come back two days later, I realized that the leak was not so bad that it couldn’t wait and all was really OK.

That sort of attitude reminded me of my college years in many ways. Yes, I am old enough to say that the internet didn’t exist when I was in college. We did not have e-mail and absurdly cheap long distance plans. I didn’t even have a TV most of the time I was in college, and when I did it was basically furniture and a place to put my books. Like Italy, days and nights were for reading, walking, eating and being with friends. I profoundly enjoyed this sort of slow living which, in many repects, was not slow at all. It was colorful and rich, brimming with new conversations, experiences and people. You floated along in life with a wondrous sense that anything could happen at any moment. And life was meant to unfold and be discovered rather than worked to death and made into something else.

Now that I am a mother, I want to instill this sense of slow living into my son’s reality. Though Mom and Dad are crazy busy, there are several hours in the day that can be devoted to being with my son in a fun, conscious and totally random way. “So… what do you want to do?” I ask my little guy. Sometimes it is “park” or “store” or “walk in the woods” or just “play trains” and that’s what we do. Now I am understanding how life can be free again. How the wonder and randomness of life can be reignited at any moment through creativity, play and just setting the intention to have more joy in one’s life.

This is why I absolutely love the ladies at www.slowfamilyliving.com. They not only understand the deep need to live presently, but they’ve made a movement out of empowering families and individuals to take regular stock of the emotional life they’ve created. Just slow down. Be, you know, more European and student-y about it all. Know that this, right now, is your life happening right before your eyes. Savor it.

Wow! Finally the first official movie trailer for the live action version of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, directed by Spike Jonze!! Looks incredible and I can not wait. Coming out Oct. 16.

Let Yourself Feel Supported

Let Yourself Feel Supported

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all the years I have spent with my spiritual practices, it seems there are still times when the whole system crashes and you fear you’ve lost everything on your metaphysical hard drive. Perhaps it’s one major thing that happens suddenly that can derail you, or a perfect storm of many areas of your life that seem to come to a head all at once.

For me, I’ve sort of experienced both in the last few weeks. I go through my journals, ask my guides, recall some great advice, meditate, connect with friends, read a book— all in an effort to understand not just why something happened, but how miserably I am dealing with it.

What I do know is that nothing is black and white. We are a society driven by consumption and turning to external sources to resolve or remove bad feelings. It’s all very extreme– we’re either inundated with negative outlooks, people, images and experiences or we’re struggling to always be “in the light”–in that zone of hyper positivity and gratitude in order to ward off bad vibes.

But we need that negativity and adversity in our lives (what Abraham calls “contrast”) in order to really understand what it is we want in our lives. We need to experience the full gamut of human emotions in order to grow– I believe that’s why we’re all here.

In that spirit, every person who comes into our isolated worlds can be our mirrors, our greatest teachers. I know this to be true, but in the midst of conflict it’s very difficlut to really embrace that. But I’m pleased that the time between conflict (inner and external) is collapsing quickly. This encourages me and makes me believe that the work I’ve done is having a positive effect on my life.

So what happens when things (relationships, finances, career, health) literally just fall apart? Some people theorize that when this happens, a soul is begging to grow and get to that next level of acceptance and clarity with oneself. There is an opportunity to go in the direction of fear and self-loathing, or go in the direction of faith and love. I believe we ask for these experiences on some level in order to reach the mountain top, so to speak.

But I think the key to moving through troubled times with grace, strength and compassion is to have support. This is a major lesson for most people… to learn to reach out and be with like-minded and hugely supportive people. This reinforces the universal code that exists in all people: we are one. And when adversity bears its teeth at us, it is the tribe of friends, family, support networks and spiritual guides that can shield and protect you from your own spiraling negativity.

So if you’re in a negative frame of mind, or something is appearing that causes you great pain and stress, it’s OK. It’s OK to feel that way and know that you’ve attracted these experiences into your life to ultimately help you. Don’t get me wrong– there is a huge difference between “causing” something to happen and simply “attracting” something. There is no blame or judgement when universal laws are at work. No one “deserves” to be in pain. Because it is everyone’s birthright to be joyful and free and totally in tune with the beauty that surrounds us.

So, yes, I definitely ask myself “why did I bring this into my life?” and “what the hell is going on?” But now, the work lies not in THAT anything happened but HOW I choose to deal with it. So how do I feel today? Not that great… but better since I began writing this post and reminding myself of the power of self awareness and self care. It’s Monday, and I have a million things to do– but nothing more important than being kind and gentle with myself and easing into the day.

I first discovered Ainslie MacLeod when he was interviewed on Oprah’s Soul Series last fall regarding his 2007 book, The Instruction. The interview series itself was relatively new, and I felt encouraged and excited that Oprah would extend her already expansive content repertoire of self-help, spirtuality and personal development into the realm of psychic awareness.

Certainly, many of us believe in intuitive abilities and connecting with guides (angels, higher self, universal intelligence, etc.). But to have Ainslie MacLeod sit front and center talking about how the text for The Instruction came into being as a result of direct communication from an army of guides– well, it felt like a turning point in how mass consciousness was softening to the idea that we all have access to small, still voices that are designed to guide us daily– if we choose– to our life’s purpose. Ask most people, and they’ll say there is something to it all– that personal experience directs us to find out more… carefully.

So it was no surprise that MacLeod came clean to his readers from the get go. He was a reluctant psychic. So deep was his reluctance to accept the mantle of “psychic” that he actually ignored the tell-tale signs of his advanced gifts for many years.

But through intensive work and his eventual and total transition from commercial illustrator to psychic, his own life purpose came into crytsal clear focus: help others understand themselves. And he does this through his powerful and evolving work with his guides. Oh, and we all have them– and he helps the rest of us find them.

I recently asked Ainslie about how he helps people realize their life’s purpose.

CL: Initially you were sort of a self-described reluctant psychic who felt compelled by personal experiences to explore new spiritual territories. How did you make that transition, and how has it changed your life?

AM: I was definitely reluctant when I first started doing psychic readings. I was conscious that there were a lot of charlatans around and I didn’t want anyone thinking I was one of them. I felt like I was telling the world I was a freak.

the-instruction4What initially helped was going through the process I take my clients through now. It wasn’t called the Instruction back then and my spirit guides were not the same as the ones I currently use, but they steered me through the same steps to self-acceptance. They helped me to see that this really was going to be my life, and convinced me that since I’d eventually embrace my calling, I might as well start right away.

Being a psychic has certainly changed my life. I feel like a round peg in a round hole. That old reluctance has gone. I keep learning new things about the soul and how the spiritual world operates, and I get to meet great people through my sessions. I often say that once you step through the spiritual door, there’s no going back. That was very much how it felt to me when I accepted my own destiny.

CL: The Instruction describes ten doorways that readers pass through to understand their life’s purpose. Is it always important for people to identify their soul age and their soul type in order to get a firm grasp on what his/her life purpose is?

AM: I believe that if you’re going to understand your life, you need to start with the basics. Your soul age describes the source of your beliefs, and your soul types are how you can understand the core of your personality. Everything else follows from that. Knowing these two elements of who you are helps to do everything from finding the right relationship or job, to creating genuine self-acceptance.

CL: Some people might find that their soul purpose is in stark contrast to what they are currently doing as an occupation. What are some recommendations on how to make a successful transition to living your soul’s purpose?

AM: First of all, let me say that your life’s purpose may not be all about your day job. There are often many activities that can be considered your purpose. Raising kids can be as significant as anything you do during those eight hours in the middle of the day.

When it comes to careers, however, I’ve met many people who ended up in unfulfilling jobs because of other peoples’ expectations. It’s essential to consider your own desires, not those of your parents or teachers, for example. By taking the time to meditate, call in your spirit guides, and ask them for clarity about your life plan, you’ll be doing more than most people ever do. Sometimes spiritual acts, volunteer work for example, can be a great way of creating a stronger sense of purpose in your life, and can help the transition.

CL: In writing The Instruction you received information from your guides. Can anyone access information from their own guides? If so, how?

AM: Spirit guides are like opinions and certain body parts – we’ve all got them. The problem is most of us don’t actually use them. Asking a simple question is a good way to start working with your guides. Find a quiet spot, ask your spirit guides to be with you, meditate for a good ten minutes, then ask them a yes/no question. Pay attention to your gut feeling. Even if you don’t get words or pictures, you’ll get that simple intuitive feeling that something is right or not. It may be subtle, but practice will help you recognize the signs.

CL: Why do you think so many people have such a difficult time in understanding and living their life’s purpose?

AM: There are many reasons, but one common problem is that our lives are so noisy it’s hard to hear the small, still voice of our own soul. I’ve heard people say to me that they can’t hear their guides or their soul’s direction. It’s sometimes simply a matter of switching off the TV and getting some real tranquility.

Your soul is continually nudging and urging you to follow your life plan. To live the life your soul intended it’s essential to slow down, and pay attention. And if there’s one thing I hear from my guides over and over again it’s this: “Meditate, meditate, meditate!”

CL: Are you working on another book? If so, can you tell us about it?

AM: I’ve just begun working on my next book. In it, I describe my spirit guides’ view of why the world is the way it is, and how you can develop your spirituality to help you be part of the coming shift in consciousness that’s going to change our world. The publication date is sometime early next year. As with The Instruction, the publisher is Sounds True who have been terrific to work with.

CL: Are there any books that you particularly love that would like to recommend to our readers?

AM: I read all the time, so it’s really hard to choose. I love Dr. Ian Stevenson’s fascinating book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. He was a scientific researcher who traveled around India examining the stories of children who offered amazing evidence of their past lives.

In the introduction to The InstructionI tell how, many years ago, a psychic in Atlanta gave me a booklist that really helped to open me to the spiritual world. The list included The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which jump-started my flagging creativity; Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, which is an intriguing insight into past lives, as well as Life After Life by Raymond Moody and Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss.

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