Day 6 & 7 LENT

It’s not just about the food.

The cultural and religious references defining lent have been engrained since my early upbringing. Greek culture like countless others, defines the period of lent as a way to “cleanse” the body, and ultimately the mind by abstaining from any meat, eggs, cheese or animal bi-products for 40 days before the coming of Easter, Pascha, Pasqua, Πἀσχα. All organized religions practice some sort of cleanse, renewal, in order to prepare for spiritual and mental advancement, not many follow what traditions ask of us.

For the 20 plus years I’ve lived outside of Greece, this tradition has taken a new meaning for me. Although the mark of Kathara Deytera (the official beginning of lent) as a jumping off point is lovely to partake in, I left behind the idea of eating Taramosalata and boiled Octopus, and focused more on what behaviors, thought processes, ideas and babits I needed to abstain from and ultimately do away with. It’s not just about quitting animal meat, or losing weight, but revisiting what truly unhealthy habits, we must let go of.

If we are to honestly connect with our bodies and minds in a healthier way, we have to make a concerted effort to let go of habits, behaviors, though processes that cause damage, hold us back, and keep us from our highest potential. It may be hard or easy, but ultimately rewarding to remove personal obstacles to our growth.

For the next 40 days make a choice, stick to it. A new goal, a new habit can replace an old damaging one. Removing sugar is not effective if you’re drinking 4 cups of coffee a day and smoking. A short run or a long walk can replace a cab ride, aiming for a meaningful conversation instead of pointless chatter. Abstaining from meat can be coupled with a holistic approach to food and how you prepare it, healthier food choices overall, healthier body and mind choices in the long run. My 40 day cleanse short list I’ll share with you here.

  1. remove all alcohol, spirits & coffee
  2. short run 3 times a week and weight training
  3. writing every day for this challenge
  4. spend quality time with friends and family
  5. schedule a self care session once a week.
  6. Shorten my time online that’s not work related.

write down your short list for lent. Share this experience with your loved ones, ask them to keep you accountable to your journey. See you on the other side.

a dark anniversary

How to acknowledge a milestone such as a year in the Life of a Global Pandemic

Photo : E. Kouneli East Village, NYC February 2021

For the third year running in March; I launch a 27 day posting challenge to celebrate among many milestones, the coming of spring, my birthday, birthdays of very dear and close friends, and above all, my celebration of writing. These are and have been peculiar times. For 12 months now, we have been served something in between a subpena a blessing and a curse.

For (more than) a year the tight grip of our reconnings, came hand in hand with cripling uncertainty and fear. Our circles got tighter and tighter, and the strangeness of this new reality aproached like a title wave. I felt stuck. Unatached like many of us. Not knowing where exactly to run to and how to stand still.

We all stood still.

Still photo by E.K May 2020

There was no way of getting out of this without some serious damage. We went from what seemed to be everyday life, to life interrupted and then back to attempts to “a new normal” (I personally hated that phrase). The mojo all of sudden vanished. I like many of us I went on a collective overdrive. There was so much to be said, and a lot of not knowing where to begin. All my desire to write about anything seemed futile in the grand scheme of things. Words take their time, they listen they form into our minds like sand inside an oyster. This anniversary is a painful reminder that we sometimes have to stop, and take a good look at ourselves. In retrospect, I’m actually glad I took a (forced) step back.

Some things are worth the wait.

Some dishes take longer to prepare.

Some words appear when we need them to.

Sometimes tragedy is the birth of change.

Photo E. Kouneli : Awaiting Spring Feb 2021

What I’ve come to realize is that writing, reading, and moving have always been part of how I see the world. Despite the hikkups the delays, the injuries, the life interruptions, writing and moving make life normal. The muscles have been dormant. In this prolonged winter, many of my passions felt secondary. I would start on a thought, an idea and just stop. Personal and family matters came first. Survival, mental claridy, mental focus, just the facts ma’am. We have all been trying to keep our collective shit together. We have failed (badly) at times. We have broken, cracked, and obliterated the old paradigms, We have a lot more work to do.

This one year anniversary feels like the collective red pill. We don’t know how deep this rabbit hole will go. We have seen the Matrix we have been given a chance to be free of it. This is our last chance. The anniversary of this year is our chance to recon with our role in the choices we make, the words we use and the lives we truly wish to lead. The reality is not pretty. What this year above all others has shown is that a perfect storm is needed to unvail the truth about who we want bo be.

We turned to things outside of ourselves. We cooked, we made bread, we coped. We zoomed everybody and their mother, literally. We were (are) scared, frustrated, tired, worried, fearful, angry, bored, fed up, high, low, indiferent and we kept going.

We keep going. I kept going . With the help of many many others who were in my corner, just as much (if more ) as I was in theirs.

What this anniversary has made me come to terms with is that when shit hits the fan, humanity is at the mercy of a virus. The virus mutates, we keep fighting it and then it comes back stronger. We have had for some a rude awakening, to others what has always been there in plain site. This has been a hell of a year. One that has forever changed us, we are all affected by this anniversary. One which will be a hard one for many of us to grapple with for many more years to come.

September 2020 LES, NYC

This year on my March daily post challenge, I hope to take you on a different journey. One that finds the strands of humanity that connects us more than divides us. I hope to bring you into a world that isn’t so unfamiliar and distant as we all would like to believe. I invite you to join me.

March 5th, 2021, Brooklyn New York

A New York Story Part 1.


On November 27th 2012, after two grueling years into the Greek financial crisis that showed no end in sight, I made the decision many of my closest friends made and left Athens, for the second time. This time I was part of a new diaspora; the latest chapter of Greeks leaving for something better, but under very different circumstances than the immigrants before us. This exodus was full of already talented, often highly educated people leaving a collapsing economy after what seemed like a lifetime of stability and security that was literally torn from under our feet. There was no external war to escape or massive poverty to quell, yet ultimately Athens was being systematically broken. Her spirit was broken and so was mine, or so I thought. Life in the early 2000’s was really good in Athens and I loved living there. In her heyday during the height of the 2004 Olympic Games, Athens was a really cool place to be. This gamble with our lives and our money, ultimately put a massive financial burden on my generation. The early noughts were some of the best years of my life, until December 2008.

In order to truly know a place, you have to live it

The tsunami of the financial/housing crisis having left the shores of America, came crashing down on Athens in early 2010 and what was America’s problem quickly became ours. People were losing livelihoods, markets were crashing, banks were foreclosing and people were in massive debt. What I had built over 13 years; my home, my career & my relatively comfortable life, was coming to a slow and painful stop. I came to the realization that If I didn’t leave, I would become stuck, and the one place I knew would get me unstuck, was New York. I recall now confiding in an old friend about the feeling of urgency I felt to leave. Being a lover of all things that grow, The roots that once were our anchor to our motherland, now rotting in a place that was being suffocated by bad financial management, crooked politicians, xenophobia, racism and massive uncertainty. Packed along with my books and clothing were many doubts, fears and anger. I wasn’t ready for her then. New York knew more about me than I knew about myself. She kicked my ass and slapped me around, she exposed me, and left me there to fend for myself, and for that I am now grateful to her. It was the beginning of a very arduous and difficult journey. I still had a lot to learn about myself as a person, a woman, a Greek, an American and ultimately a citizen of the world. In New York my project- Aμerikana was born. She came through for me just like The city did.

In the months and years that came and went, I made it my mission to understand this city and it’s rhythms in ways I couldn’t have done at a distance. In order to truly know a place, you have to live it, and the first place that grabbed my heart was the Lower East Side and all the surrounds it. I’m a nostalgia junky. New stuff doesn’t do it for me. I prefer and look for the old over new any day. For me the Lower part of Manhattan is that fix of nostalgia that has kept me here all these years. I love walking through history soaked neighborhoods finding people who’ve lived there all their lives; generations of New Yorkers showing me their city. I longed to speak to those who’ve seen the trends come and go, and still remain true to the streets, the parks, and the blocks that raised them. I love hearing stories of shops now long closed, art scenes now only spoken of as legends of a glorious punk rock past, and smelling the history in the buildings that still stand in the streets that have vanished over time. New York is unique in her demand of loyalty and devotion by it’s residents. She’s not easy to love, but when you do she loves you back in secret ways no tourist or visitor could ever fathom. This year, although one of the hardest and most daunting emotionally and mentally, I’m celebrating my 8th winter, and the start of the 9th year in New York.

Don’t misinterpret my love for naïveté. My relationship with this city has been far from smooth.

She is relentless, resourceful and demanding. She’s a broad, a hustler and a 5 dollar hooker, all in one. She’s a sophisticated woman who can hail a cab with a trucker’s whistle, she’s a skank and a princess at the same time. She’s a handful and she’s not easy to be with, but deep down she’s all heart and all art. I found myself, here. I found out about what I’m really made of here. I found my deepest sorrows and greatest joys here. I found my love for Greece, and Athens grew here. New York is erratic and resourceful. She’s a hustler and in order to truly “make it” here you have to be as well. It’s not romantic. She’s dirty and ugly and will tell you the fucking truth to your face. Here I found my greatest teachers and most influential mentors. There have been many moments I regretted my decision to come here, I though it was a mistake, I thought I was a fool to let go of all that was easy and familiar to come to a place where, nothing of what I had accomplished in Athens meant anything. Yet here I was and quitting wasn’t an option.

The old me peeled away to reveal someone stronger, more aware, more connected and braver than before. An old astrologer friend said something about coming here to go “back to first grade” and learn the lessons about myself, and life I had not absorbed the first go around. The teachers were many, the lessons I was forced to learn at times stifling. The mounting anger and frustration at not understanding what I needed to learn, left me with a chocking feeling. I would have to fight harder for that gulp of air to keep going. There she was, New York, my biggest teacher of all, she knew I would get it eventually.

After what felt like a lifetime, It became clear just like the light shining through the clouds. It all became clear. We are here to understand each other by making a better effort at understanding ourselves. The more I learned about myself the more I was able to understand the “otherness” about me.

Cheers NYC you tough broad. You will survive this as you have survived before. I hope those that truly love you will lift you up like you have them

Quarantine Diaries: A strange quiet in the Air

How do we learn to navigate this ever changing new reality.

We are weathering an unpredictable storm. Massive life shirts in a matter of days. Every week that passes there is a new norm we must contend with. A quiet space we never had has suddenly been created along with a new rhythm to our lives. Everything and everyone we want so deeply to connect with has been kept away from us. Our loved ones out of reach, our moments of human connection so deeply skewed, distorted and altered beyond any previous experience or recognition. Technology brings us close, when at the same time it keeps us apart. This unending conundrum of how do we stay connected when we aren’t allowed.

This time of forced quiet and self-reflection is deeply needed. If we take this time apart from our daily lives, we can discover something far more important that we have not quite acknowledged. Quiet Time. I live in a pretty noisy neighborhood. Not as noisy as some parts of New York but like any densely populated part of the city; my neighborhood can be very busy. People come and go, cars drive by with loud radios playing and now the whole neighborhood is empty. The cars that used to honk at 7.30 in the morning are no longer there. The line that used to form in front of the cafe down the street is no longer there. No one is going to brunch, no one is hanging out till 2 am in front of a bar. The city is at a standstill. A held breath, waiting to exhale.

It’s a full moon. And I’m sitting in front of my window gazing in awe at this urban sky that for once seems clearer and more serene. More than any other time in the seven years I’ve lived in New York, this city is . Yet I feel an unease that can’t be explained. I associate New York with as much noise as possible and now the silence has given me a moment to really ponder what is important and what is frivolous.

As I grapple with the waves of fear, insecurity, calm, anger, calm, reassurance and back again. The silence allows for the thoughts to dissipate and looking up at the sky that surrounds us all, I’m comforted by the fact that we’re all in this. For how long? Predictions aren’t my game; but whatever the length of this pause, I hope we learn something useful for the next chapter of our lives.

Be Safe, Be Well, enjoy the silence.

27 Day Challenge Revisited- Quarantine Edition Day 1.

Finding balance in uncertain times.

It’s midnight March 29th, 2020. Two days after my 27 day challenge has drawn to a close; I celebrated my 42nd birthday in the confines of my living room, thankfully safe and in good health. Truth be told I’m lucky. I have a place to live, I have my health, and for a brief moment after I wake up, for about 10 minutes before I’m fully aware of time or the day, I allow myself the illusion that everything is normal.

Today was another rainy cinematic day in New York and despite the general fear and uncertainty surrounding our daily lives, I got into my bright aubergine raincoat and took a long overdue walk. I’ve been self quarantined for a full two weeks. The days keep blending into one another. I don’t know about you but the waves of fear, anger, panic, calm, self study, and quiet reflection are on rinse and repeat. I had an image of my self in my mind the other day of trying to stay afloat in the open sea, with choppy water and trying oh so desperately not to swallow sea water again and again. Being able to stay afloat mentally and emotionally is like calling upon all the skills I’ve ever studied over the years and actually putting them into full action. There is no more pretending here, either it will work or it won’t.

I’ve spoken to many of my close friends and one thing that keeps coming up is this deep desire for an anchor, a connection point. We’re all feeling a mixture of extreme feelings of loss, grief of whatever normalcy our lives had, and repeated moments of deep need to connect and be heard. Social distancing doesn’t however mean isolation. We are not alone. You are not alone. Keeping that balance however difficult is necessary, imperative even.

Reaching out, writing about this, on a daily basis as my new 27 day challenge, has morphed into an open diary, discussion hub and reflection center. I welcome anyone who would like to share their experiences in a live discussion that I will set up on zoom in the days to come.

Till tomorrow… ride the waves, and breathe.

Day 19. It’s the simple things.

It’s day 7 of voluntary social distancing here in New York and staying at home has been a challenge and a blessing. Now we have all the time in the world to focus on the things that we could never catch up on before. Time has become a loose and fluid entity these past few days. Hence why I’ve taken a couple of days off the daily challenge to just reflect and connect with my breath and my thoughts and write something different.

I’ve slowed down so much from my previous rhythms, that I’ve had so much more time to reflect on what really matters here and what doesn’t. There are opportunities in this global health crisis we can’t afford to miss. We’ve been either forced to stop what we were doing before but also take stalk of what the hell we’ve been doing to our planet to each other and ultimately our own health. We’re nothing next to this enemy within.

We’ve been told to stay home, help the collective good for once instead of the personal gain. We’re going stir crazy in our forced solitude, and all of a sudden it’s become a reflection on the little things. That is all that truly is on my mind these days. The grind has stopped and sharing a cherished moment talking to a loved one has taken ultimate priority over anything else.

I ( hope) know this too shall pass but we’re at a pivotal point in our existence and the space we inhabit and no amount of analysis will change it. Here’s a few things I’ve taken from the past

In the past week, I’ve cooked a home made meal for me and my housemate every night. I’ve listen to music and read a book with so much attention I forgot to stop at 2 am. I’ve stretched and moved with my friends in Athens who are also cooped up in their homes without any clear idea of when this will end. And all that I am craving is the little things that make life worth living.

The delicate and personal, the memories and the things we share with those we most cherish. The beauty of this planet and the connections we build. The smell of a home cooked meal and the clink of a glass of wine with friends in a shared tavern table just at the foot of the Agean sea. The crisp folding of a page from a book I can’t put down and the feeling of clean air against my face. Quiet mornings sipping a cup of coffee with my family before the day unfolds. No amount of technology can replace it although taking to friends and family daily is of utmost importance. The list of little things is like a treasure trove that we nibble at when all the supplies have been depleted. And here we are cherishing all that we took for granted. Living what we thought was a given and saying all we thought was understood.

Let’s hope we share on those small joys more often.

Onwards to day 20.

Day 9.5 & 10 – Self Care

How does the Body Politic go into the private sphere of influence ?

Public Doubt — Leads to Body doubt and self doubt. Uncertainty about public health, leads to uncertainty about our body’s health and ultimately the health of who surrounds us. It starts small and reverberates to all aspects of our experience.

We are given no choice but to doubt ourselves because someone else is making decisions for us. Taking back our bodies and exercising our self love and connection with our true nature, is an act of defiance. Tipping the balance back to self knowledge self agency and to taking back out true self reliance is almost considered a revolutionary act.

Not allowing the public sphere to infiltrate our private space is akin to moving out into a personal wilderness with little influence from the “civilized” world and connecting to nature and ourselves once again.

some personal tips: and I’m not hear to preach to anyone but keeping a level head requires self discipline and self love:

– Spend time with your body in silence. Listening, breathing, meditating.

– Move, sweat, sing, dance, let go of the tension in both body and mind.

– We are ALL in this, together so helping each other, practice loving kindness even though its easy to blame the world for our problems, resist.

Stay sane and safe dear readers. Tonight Day 11. with a twist.

Day 9- The Body Politic

What are we losing by allowing others to decide how we exist?

We push our bodies to the limit because someone said it’s good for us. Eating, drinking, exercising in ways that are determined by others. Experts, scientists, doctors, all there to give their two cents on what and how we should be. We end up blindly following rules, dogma, routines and health fads with no consideration or self exploration.

Are our bodies really our own? And if so, how are we allowing others to dictate, decide and decode them?

The mere act of self reliance, self discovery and self care is becoming a political and revolutionary act. Taking agency over our health, and our wellbeing is a statement of defiance and solidarity.

Especially as a woman in this moment in time, I’m increasingly being dictated to, and told how and in what ways my body and its functions are still a political and social bargaining chip. Instead of moving towards body independence, we are still being told how to be; what to weigh, what to wear, how to heal and how to express and impress our corporal identity.

Human bodies are a commodity, a major political agenda, and a currency that is far beyond just health and wellness. Multi billion dollar industries are built on re-defining, re-arranging and re-telling of the human form, and for women especially it has become essential that we buy into the idea that EVERYTHING we are starts and ends with our face and our body parts. We are not a sum of our parts, we are just parts.

The human body is under constant attack, surveillance, and scrutiny. We belong to someone else from the day we are born to the day we die. Especially the day we die. We have to ask for permission to exist and we can’t decide for ourselves if we wish to cease to exist.

How can we create change in the world if we can’t claim ownership over our own bodies? How can we claim to be free thinkers, doers and beings if we are told to ask for advice and permission from others on how to exist ?

How can we create personal body freedom?

Till the next episode… Rest, reflect and recharge.

Featured image by : Alexandros Koromilas

Day. 2 – Connected distance

How to be present and disconnected at the same time.

I often find myself getting lost in a story of me. I find that creating stories about myself is a creative coping mechanism, because sometimes it’s just easier than actually being yourself. Mind you dear reader, as you’re browsing the online version of you to see who liked it, ( as I am completely guilty of doing so as well) I see you.

I don’t consciously try to be someone other than exactly who I am. Yet! ( yes there is always a yet) the “naked”, unfiltered, version of ourselves; if we are lucky, is seen by the very few, trusted people who deserve to REALLY know us. ( even more than we know ourselves). That version is most likely hidden under layers and layers of personalities, like layers of paint on doors that don’t shut properly after the 10th coating of acrylic. We therefore create personas that make a composite “acceptable” public image.

On this second day of my writing and personal challenge, I took it upon myself to be more self aware and more self accepting. Yes I know this sounds like some Goop article but bear with me. Spending time being focused on what is within rather than around me and on my phone, gave me an opportunity to quiet the chatter, the endless discussion, debates and arguments I have with myself and allowing for me to be just me, without a reflection of a self I aim to create.

Like many of us addicts weaning myself of this insane device and the image of myself I try to portray on it; is quite often a Herculean task at best. Hell I am on a daily open, very public vulnerable writing experiment on this blog for fucks’ sake! But as I pull back the curtain to my inner world; one of my current daily practices of mediation focuses on not sticking to any one narrative or version of myself, but rather allowing for all to coexist without explanation or refinement.

We should not have to owe anyone an explanation of why or who we are. We don’t have to be any certain way, and we certainly don’t have to show anyone else a version or versions ( public or private) of ourselves that are convenient, pleasing or comforting.

To be present is to be accepting of what is at any given time, because the present is our only certainty. Disconnecting from the story or narrative of who we are at any given time is never easy. Wife, best friend, teacher, student, political activist, girlfriend, woman. Experiment by taking moments away from your public life and see what you can discover in you that no one else knows.

More on the flip side.

March: 27 Day Challenge

What started as a daily commitment experiment for personal growth, self discovery, and a writing challenge, has now become a personal writing tradition. This year I’m hoping I can make this challenge a bit more vulnerable and personal. As done in my last challenges; during the month of March I will be writing a daily post; observation and reflection. This daily posting challenge is a way to push open personal boundaries and redefine my commitment to writing and sharing more of what I see, what I experience, what I am deeply moved by, and how I rediscover the similarities in the cultures I encounter including my own.

This year I will add one more element to the daily challenge that will accompany you; my few but loyal readers on this 27 day journey.

This element, especially in my rediscovery of what it means to be a yoga student, instructor, and a person who genuinely loves guiding people towards better and more self empowered health; is my most challenging. For the past two years I’ve been redefining my own personal practice, and in that light; I will be adding posts and thoughts about my personal physical, spiritual and wellness life, and how it is informed by daily yoga practice, unscripted kinesiology and movement exploration, crazy dance classes, food creation and wellness routines. As my body ages, I realize I’m capable of far more than I had ever tackled in my teens and twenties as a dancer and young yoga student. I invite you to place your own personal 27 day challenges and share them with your friends and loved ones. Motivation sometimes comes from inspiration and I hope this challenge will give opportunity for inspiration and discussion.

Day 1. The Peoples Park

Running on empty.

This past winter, both physically and mentally has been a bit of a challenge. Even though the winter was far less harsh than in previous years; I felt I had to work twice as hard to self motivate. Pulling myself by my bootstraps, as it is often passed around in the U.S, by those who feel the need to show off their unwavering personal resilience to failure. I challenged myself to a biweekly (no matter the weather) run in the park. My body in the last year has gone through some welcome and unwelcome transformations. This morning, as I had done last Sunday, I got out of my winter skin, and with a chilly sunny day, as a backdrop took a very slow run in my favorite park in New York : Prospect Park.

Some may argue that Central Park is better, fancier, more sophisticated, has more to see, and they might be right, but for me Prospect Park has been my sanctuary, my safe haven, my meditation spot, my writing spot, my open gym, my place for self reflection, and where I go jogging from April till November. It’s filled with little nooks, beautiful open lawns, nice shady spots, drum circles and open air concerts. It’s a back yard, a meeting spot, a quiet space and a gathering space. Unlike any park I know in Athens, New York parks are stuff of legends and many stories. Since I don’t have a garden to sit in anymore, the Park has provided a green haven away from everything that reminds you, that you live in a crowded city. Today was no exception. Gorgeous sun reflected off the lake shimmering the waters as people ran, biked, played music and took in a few late winter rays.

It’s a little bit of magic. You will see everyone from the surrounding neighborhoods come together. Kids running through and playing with trees, cyclists whizzing by; re-construction on the old gazebo in the lower end of the park. Today I ran so slowly, even an old grandmother passed me by, but I pay no mind as my feet slowly got used to the rhythm of my heart rate. The Park transports you to places of the past as the trees have secrets only they will ever know. After cutting through the lower half of the park; the wind started to cut through both my hoodies as I walked home. It’s still too cold for me but I’ve pushed through today’s first satisfied with my progress but mostly exhausted and sore.

This for sure will be an interesting month.

Stay tuned…