Day 20. Defining Oneself.

How to be “common” and still stand out.

One thing I’ve realized as I get older and more secure in who I am is; Finding my identity is a journey that cannot be rushed. I’ve changed, transformed and evolved over the years, and I’m sure this vessel that’s carrying this woman I was, and will become has more transformations in store. We are not monolithic, and should not be made to believe that we have to adhere to labels, stories and caricatures of who we are. Uniqueness is not a weakness.

I never saw myself as particularly pretty growing up. Ever wanting to blend in instead of standing out (a losing battle); it took me a very long time to embrace this quirky, person that wanted to come out. Much like many of the people I’ve met who genuinely struggle fit the mold; I was very badly bullied in grade school and middle school in Greece. I felt lesser, I felt ugly I felt stupid and I recycled these images of myself as someone who had absolutely nothing to offer. This is not uncommon among young teens all over the world. We all have heard the stories. Young boys and girls who were locked in this cycle of pleasing others, seeming normal and not ever discovering their true identity until in some cases it’s too late.

I’m not a “normal woman, and in reality who is?

One of the things I tell people struggling to find their voice (as I did for years), is that whatever is considered strange or not normal about them makes them incredibly unique. Not in the “we’re all special” type of unique, but in: being able to reflect our own personal perspective on the vastness of conformity, normalizing and image making that surrounds us.

We’re all bombarded by lifestyles, examples of what’s pretty, what’s attractive, whats beautiful, what’s manly, what’s feminine and what’s acceptable behavior and ultimately what passes for “normal”. This rings even more loudly for women, who have been constantly told who, what, in what way and how often they should exist. Hiding behind titles of description was never my strong suit.

We are not monolithic, and should not be made to believe that we have to adhere to labels, stories and caricatures of who we are. Uniqueness is not a weakness.

Existing, defining, redefining and allowing ourselves to be who we are is not and will not be dictated by anyone else. Sure we all may need guideposts, ideas, and inspiration but the allowance of personal identity CANNOT be scripted by anyone else but US.

So GO ahead.

Show us who you really are.

stock photograph: Lady Gaga Inspired!

Featured Image ( on the heading) taken by: Robert Valenzuela, who is a gifted photographer, war veteran and all around crazy guy. Please give him a follow on Instagram : @the3rdrealm

If you want to make a difference; I recently came across the Born This Way Foundation and will be donating on the day of the last post of the series (March, 27Th). If you care to join me; log on, donate and make a difference to young people struggling to find their way.

Day 12. Lent- Σαρακοστή

How an old tradition translates into the modern age.

Every “clean monday” which is the first day of lent prior to the celebration of Easter in Greece, heralds the period of 40 days of preparing our bodies and minds for the coming of Easter. Even though I’m not in the least bit religious, I have followed a version of this transition over the years and especially while living in Greece.

Every Καθαρά Δευτέρα (clean monday), Greece celebrates this season of lent with cooking and serving foods that don’t have any blood in it  (fish, animal meat and it’s derivatives- dairy and eggs). Shell fish and mollusks (octopus, squid) are served in abundance, including fish roe salad (taramosalata), beans, greens (χόρτα), olives, and a shit ton of tahini. (no it’s not a condiment).

Aside from indulging in the amazing cuisine, I’ve always taken a moment to take out, take a break and reassess three things that I can definitely do without for 40 days. This period of time between our carnival season (απόκρεω – which literally translates to obtaining from meat) and Easter is a time for self reflection, removing of heavy foods that tire our digestion all year and removing things, ways of thinking and habits that no longer serve a purpose. With all the modern fad diets out there, claiming they are the next best thing. This simple ritual cuts through the overwhelming information out there about “juice cleansing” and magic pills, and brings attention to our personal responsibility to live well, treat our bodies with respect and find moments for quiet self reflection. 

With that in mind here are the three things I’m giving up for lent, and three things I’m replacing them with. 


  1. No sugar and alcohol or any processed foods.
  2. Engaging in harmful, gossip like conversations.
  3.  Electronic screen time or eliminating all screen time aside from my work and writing.


  1. Daily Yoga and Meditation practice
  2. Make time to have more meaningful conversations.
  3. Reading and researching about the subjects that inspire and enrich my knowledge. 

What can you do without for 40 days and what would you replace it with?

I look forward to hearing stories about your personal “lent”.

Day 9 and 10- The art of doing nothing.

How to master the art just being.

This is of course a battle I often lose, so let me preface this post, by clarifying; I’m absolutely incapable of doing nothing. This very challenging task of course brought up the idea to place myself in a battle of the wills, and force myself to do nothing.

I failed miserably.

As we all know forcing anything is still the act of doing something.

I decided to take another stab at it this weekend. I started by taking a walk, with no particular route in mind and just walk. Even though I had a particular map in my head about where I would end up; I kept my mind on just walking and breathing.

This has probably been the most difficult thing I’ve ever undertaken. I’m not known for being able to stay idle and even on my days off I always find something to do. (even writing this post I had to set aside for anther day)

Living in a city that never sleeps, one often finds that it’s almost never silent. Given the task of not doing anything and being in as much silence as possible; my path took me to one of my favorite parts of New York.

Prospect Park, in Brooklyn has long been my sanctuary from the craziness of New York. Other than walking along a beach front anywhere in the world, the Park has become my “do nothing sanctuary.” There is where my mind relaxes it’s right grip and just IS. Finding that connection and being able to just exist with out a task or project in mind has been very difficult to even fathom, but as my body became more vulnerable to stress and exhaustion from overworking, this idea of non action has been a necessary remedy.

Everyday find a moment where you are task-less and quiet. Bring yourself the gift of doing absolutely nothing.

And don’t share it with anyone.

Happy ( almost) Spring.

Day 5/6 Hey! Look up from your phone.

I’m a slave for you- Britney Spears

This is somewhat a departure from previous commentary and posts because it is as much a self reflection as an observation of others.

About a month ago I started a social experiment and a personal challenge.

After realizing how much time I spend on my phone (thanks to that pesky new “oh look you loser you spent a total of 8 hours on your phone today” reminder on my device), I decided to make a point of leaving my phone in my bag while I was on the subway, in public places, while walking on the street, and whenever I had the urge to “check” my social media. Something that would seem rather obvious and self explanatory became a “task” or a personal project. The reason being;

I was constantly on my phone, and apparently I’m not the only one.

Before arriving in New York six years ago from Athens, I would say I had a relatively “healthy” relationship with my now constant companion. As technology changed, so did my relationship with my phone. (yes relationship – and everyone else I’ve seen seems to have the same one too). In sharp contrast to the past, my relationships consisted of close uninterrupted conversations with friends on a regular phone, arranged face to face meetings with people I had not seen in a long time and many many long emails with my loved ones who were far away. Now at the click of a button I’m connected at any moment, I get instant responses to my pictures, writing, comments, and observations. I’m constantly reachable; even when I don’t want to be.

All these characteristics of technology are not a mystery or shockingly new to any of us who use our phones as personal assistants, friends, connecting devices, social media giants etc. What did give me a rude awakening is that nearly ALL of the people I encounter on the street, in the subway, in their cars, with their friends at a dinner table; is that the phone is starting to become an extra appendage. EVERYONE is on their phone, ALL the time, and not when they are alone; but walking, eating, getting their hair done, waiting for the train, waiting for their friend to arrive, sitting at home watching a movie, eating at home while on their phones. ALL THE TIME.

The reason I gave myself this task of unhinging my every moment from my phone is purely to walk the walk as I talk the talk to my students about mindfulness and being present.

The absence of “having something to do” at every single second of the day is becoming something of a necessity as our time becomes more and more overwhelmed with technology, social media (the sewage of the internet as was so aptly put by Lady Gaga in a recent interview) and the idea that idle time with your mind focused on just being quiet and present is seen as laziness. For the next few weeks I challenge you all as I did myself; to get off your phones for the better part of your day and see what you notice. Take pictures, read a book, get off twitter, and enjoy a fine meal without looking at your facebook profile. ENJOY.

Till then here are some pictures I took today while I was walking around noticing the world around me instead of being glued to my phone.

I encourage you all to do the same. Take a moment to look up.

*the art featured is

1. Banksy- Mobile Lovers ( Bristol, UK)

2. Bkfoxx- (East Village- Nyc)

Day 1. Your First Memory

Μνημοσύνη- Mnemosyne the goddess of remembrance and memory.

What is memory and when does it begin?

I had a discussion with my parents last weekend about which memories we clearly remember as our own and which ones are the telling of others. We concluded that recalling our first memory was a much more interesting exploration of self.

After looking back at various random events in our lives, all of us recalled or brought to light our first conscious awareness of our surroundings; what was happening and who we might have been with.

Each one of us almost felt that somehow, in that moment our brain just woke up and started recording our history, like the light was turned on in our consciousness and we began to form memories, personalities and a self. For all of us it also was nothing dramatic or traumatic ( for others maybe) just a moment in time that stuck to our memory bank.

For me the biggest question of our discussion was:

Why is it that we can’t recall anything before our third or forth year of existence?

I’m sure there are plenty of amazing neuroscientists around the world who know the scientific answer to that question.

For those who are curious, pass the question along. And while we’re here;

Do you recall your first memory?

Weathering the Storms

beach clouds dark dark clouds
Photo by Josh Sorenson on

All storms pass.
No matter how destructive they might be. The clouds gather ominously the rain falls,
the wind blows, the trees bend, and sometimes their branches break; but they endure.
Even when they leave us rattled and disoriented; storms pass.
Even though they are brutal and cause chaos wherever they go; storms pass.
And like the trees, if we are deeply routed in who we are, where we want to be and
how we want to live our lives, storms can never up root us.
We all live through mini storms, and major hurricanes. Our very existence is questioned,
our moral fiber tested and stretched to the point of ripping, yet there we are; resilient to
the winds and the daunting times of our lives.
This is not a pep talk.
This is a realization. One that I have come to after many storms, many mistakes, and
I burned future chances for happiness and joy, because I thought the
storms of my life were far more destructive than they actually were.
Category 5 disasters… now gentle reminders of how far I’ve come,
how far we have all come.
Whirlwinds, title waves of emotions leaving us bare, raw, naked, worn.
But we get up and we keep going, because storms are there to remind us of our higher
than the any storm.
“When the Roots are Deep, There is no reason to fear the wind”

Phantoms and Ghosts

Picture by Robert Valenzuela (@3rd.knight)

What role do our memories play in how we hold on to people?


I romanticize my exes.

Even when years have passed, they cross my mind. I do this just enough so I can trick my self into thinking how I regret losing them.

 I’m surrounded by phantoms; ghosts of lovers past who I tap into every time I want to feel wounded about my crap choices in partners, lovers and men who are far from perfect in reality; yet I paint them in very different and much more favorable colors.

I’m the painter, it’s my canvas I’ll cry on it if I want to.

I’m content with how my life is right now, and after some time has passed, I’m fine with my choice to not seek any further romantic involvement, with all my failed romantic escapades. Yet… my skin feels the touch points he touched, I romanticize this imperfect and quite ridiculous person into some prince charming when he was far from it…

I clung for years to my memories of these imperfect men like little nuggets of a fairy tale gone horribly bad. 

Of course they were imperfect, not what I truly wanted or needed in my life then or now. My loneliness played tricks on me, and we all do this; I projected characteristics, reactions and romantic comedy bull shit scenarios to these toads, who adorned me with fancy words, and over the top flattery.

Rhinestone Cowboys I like to call them. You know the type of men who will pretty much say anything just to get recognition, a smile, vulnerability, and ultimately power over you. And you let them; despite all the cautionary tales, and your friends telling you he’s full of shit, and your own brain trying to avoid another collision course, because it’s inevitable you will fall for the ones who tell you what you want to hear.

When we sit down and take stock of our past failures in relationships with people who on the surface may have seemed “perfect for us”; ultimately what we lament is not the loss of these seemingly perfect people, but the loss of ourselves, in them.

We must not lose ourselves for the whims and wants of others. 

We must not lose who we are, we must not lose who we want to become, or hold back to please other peoples idea of us. As hard as that is, as challenging as it may seem, holding out for those who meet us half way or all the way for that matter are far more gratifying, appealing and beautiful.

There is no time for false narratives, bad stories and fake vulnerability. Holding on to ghosts as backward as it may seem to many, has at least helped me know what I definitely don’t want. And for many, recognizing even that; is a start to letting go of the ghosts and the phantoms of the past.



How you project yourself may not be how other people see you.

Photograph by Eric Snell (@esnelldesign)

We’ve all had that moment.

We are projecting one version of ourselves, yet a completely different person is being reflected back at us.

We see ourselves one way and others see us in a completely different light.

Where do these two perceptions clash?

Most of it is based on people’s own stream of consciousness and not what we project.

We think no one is noticing us, while there are clearly people drawn to us, our energy, and who we are. Or the idea of who we might be in their head. We hardly notice or welcome people’s gaze, attention, or reflections of us, in a society where everyone is on social media posting every aspect of our lives.

Yet… with all this communication, there is clearly a big deficit in actual communication.

I’ve done this many times and I’m sure everyone does. 

I fantasize about who people are, rather than actually seeing them for who they are.

My exploration of these dual realities and images comes at a very pivotal time. I have only recently discovered what I can simply call “my authentic self”. I am still battling with my perceived awkwardness of the pimply shy teenager I used to be, the one no one wants to talk to, and everyone makes fun of, and there are plenty of times I think I’m still that awkward girl. I often hope I go unnoticed, lurking in the shadows observing others.

I battled that fear of exposure, and people taking notice of who I was, or who they thought I was,  when I posed for various photographers in the five years I’ve lived in New York. Some nude, some for Yoga purposes, some for fun. I continue to be open and vulnerable in my recent work performing my poetry in front of complete strangers. (that was a challenge!)

In every instance I haven’t seen myself as particularly attractive, interesting or photogenic, but more theatrical and obscure. A curiosity.

Yet the response I get from people, is that of someone who is quite different. After I turned 40 all the shyness and awkwardness of my youth has slowly faded away.

Claiming space, claiming my worth, my voice, beauty, or image as a woman; has been a very interesting exploration. But I’m still baffled at how others perceive me.

How we see ourselves may not be hour others see us. 

We are shaped by a myriad of references. Cultural experiences being one of them. I grew up in Greece in the late 70’s and 80’s  and then again in the early 2000’s. Despite my American accent and passport, everything about who I am and have become is shaped by my life in Greece. Recently a friend said to me “oh you’re such a Greek-American!” which is a blatant fact. I belong to two worlds, two camps, two realities. Often opposing each other vehemently. Depending on my surroundings; like a chameleon I absorb cultural references I grew up with, and mold them to my current reality. You never know what you’re going to get!

Yet time and time again, others who observe us, will see something purely based on their own perceptions. We ALL do that, sometimes to our advantage, sometimes to our detriment.

Next time you observe someone, before you impose your idea of them, let them unfold in front of you unobstructed by your own perceptions.

You might be surprised by what you receive.

Nobody is Perfect

Γηράσκω δ’ αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος.

I grow old ever learning many things. — Solon of Athens.


For as long as I can remember I’ve fought against a perpetual ideal, the constant striving and constant self critical cycle of wanting to be the best at something ( or die trying??) and missing out on what my failures are teaching me in order to become better.

Well Yes “No one is perfect.”

We are taught at a very young age to strive for betterment, perfection, ideal, the “best” of something and at something. We fight for grades, we pull all nighters to get a degree, we deprive ourselves of comfort, sleep, and sanity to reach a higher goal and achievement. And when our flaws are pointed out to us or we fail at something we tried, so hard for, we repeat ourselves its ok… “Well… no one is perfect”. And often we give up.

Yet, perfection or the attaining of it in its original form is a flawed premise. It defeats the purpose of a teachable moment, its gives us an excuse to stay focused on an unattainable unreachable ideal rather than the beauty of constantly improving and learning from our own imperfection. We have to keep saying : it’s ok I suck at this and I’m not good enough right now, but I won’t give up”. We give in to this ideal in our minds,  yet perfection isn’t what we should be aiming for in the first place.

Of course no one is perfect. There is no such thing.

Perfection isn’t the point. It’s the mastery, improving, evolving and learning from our mistakes. Perfection is a fallacy, it’s a mirage. And those who battle with perfection, reaching it, attaining it or embodying it, are losing on the beauty and necessity of imperfection.

One of my favorite Ashtanga Yoga teachers is in my eyes absolutely perfect. He is my ideal practitioner and teacher. He is kind, loving, supportive, funny and a really cool dude, as well as probably the most accomplished Ashtanga Yoga teachers worldwide. I credit a lot of my teaching ethics to him ( I won’t say his name cause that’s not the point). Yet one day, during a workshop I was attending, this seemingly perfect teacher with all the answers, said that he still struggles with a pose I find absolutely excruciatingly difficult, even though it’s not considered that challenging.

And I felt a wave of irony and laughter filling my lungs.

What??? This guy is not perfect? He has flaws, he struggles with poses, but he’s like a god! And all of a sudden, the way I saw my own practice and of course my whole relationship with yoga changed. I no longer aspired to be the best most perfect practitioner of all time, (which wasn’t a realistic goal to begin with) but to be the most empathetic, supportive, driven, and disciplined I could be with all my physical flaws and imperfections.

Let’s be honest; when someone tells you “well you’re not perfect… but….”  run far away. Because perfection is stagnancy and a bad excuse for not trying harder, not evolving and improving on what you already have. Perfection as a measure of character is also unrealistic and this pervasive thought that if you’re not perfect you aren’t good enough; isn’t helpful for betterment.

Challenging our boundaries, finding ways to advance our craft, our selves, our way of thinking means fully accepting that we’re all works in progress, constantly improving and learning.

We will never reach perfection and that is just perfect.

Day 21.5 — Perseverance

Day 21 of 27.

When you’re determined to get somewhere even a snow storm won’t get in your way. Today, yet another snow storm covers New York in white. The streets of Soho where I took this picture were eerily quiet, as I have seldom seen them. Shops were closed for the day and a few brave souls were out and about ( mostly tourists!) Yet this image of a man on his bicycle, undeterred by the snow or the slippery streets; steady and determined on his path; reminded me of how much we will all go through to get what we want, to get to where we want to go, and to achieve our highest potential.

Sacrifice is inevitable and often necessary and even though we will lose friends, comfort, and sometimes our sanity; if we are sure of our goals then it’s all worth it.

I sat with a friend who’s a gifted photographer for a quick impromptu coffee. We weren’t supposed to meet and I had not seen him in months. I said this to him, because like him I lose my steam and my determination when faced with self doubt. I reminded him as I do myself over and over again ( yes I talk to myself all the time ); keep focused on the destination, and keep steady on the journey despite the mishaps and the trials along the way.

Our goals are only as far as we are willing to go to fulfill them. On this first day of spring and the beginning of Aries season… keep going and even if you fall, you will get there.

What is standing in the way of your goals and your path to them?