Three Things I learned at the Muslim Jewish Conference

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For the past seven days I’ve been a member of the Muslim Jewish Conference in Berlin, Germany. 
For seven years the MJC has brought students, academics, activists, community leaders, and young professionals from all over the world to discuss multiple themes and issues their communities face. 
Since the conference just ended, I am positive that I have not fully processed what I just experienced. In fact, in this line of work, it seems that I can never fully process these types of experiences (I’m still processing my experiences with the Olive Tree Initiative, and that was over four years ago). 
For now, I’m going to share with you the things that have left the newest and biggest impact on me.  
The European Jewish Perspective 
It would seem that nearly 2,000 years of anti Semitic thought would have died away with a combination of cynadide and a bullet. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 

As an American, anti Semitic rhetoric can come in the form of hate speech and extreme anti Israeli propaganda, but in Europe, the stain of the Holocaust has not been removed even by the best efforts of the German government. 

Virtually every synagogue has security, and individuals have the fear of facing violence. One of my friends who I met, Jack, is a Turkish Jew who experienced a bombing of a Turkish synagogue first hand. It’s a narrative that’s much more extreme and visceral compared to the ones I have heard from the average American Jew. 
The Pakistani Perspective 
I have a few Pakistani American friends, but most of them are first generation Americans. They have Pakistani roots, but they’re as American as apple pie. The Pakistanis I met at this conference offered a perspective that I think needs to be more properly understood by Americans and Europeans. 
When a terrorist attack occurs in a western country, mass media covers it for at least two weeks. But when it happens in Pakistan, you might see a snippet from Al Jazeera, which is exactly what happened this week. 
The threat of terrorism is a reality in Pakistan, and it’s irony lies in the fact that most victims or Islamist terrorism are Muslims themselves. 
Checks and privileges 
I learned that I continue to take the smallest things for granted. 
I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with people from all walks of life from all over the world this week. Whether it was a gay Sudanese man, a Palestinian who lost her cousin to settler violence, to Bosnian and Syrian refugees. I take my home for granted, I take my parents and brothers for granted. I even take my faith for granted. 

As someone who a part of the majority in the United States, it is easy to ignore my privileges, and it’s also easy to check it. 
The hardest part is utilizing those privileges and using them to my advantage to help those who feel marganalized. Ilja Sichrovsky, the founder of the MJC, said in the opening ceremony, “let’s get to work.” 

For me, the work is just beginning. 

The Minimalist Traveler: What I Bring When I Travel

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“You only brought that with you?” The hostel receptionist will point to my stuffed backpack that looks more like it’d be carried by an overachieving 5th grader than someone who’s traveling throughout Europe.

 

It is probably the most common question I’m asked when I travel.

 

I’m the type of guy who brings only the bare essentials when traveling. Why? Because I don’t believe in hauling around luggage, worrying about a missing bag, waiting in baggage claim, and worst of all – worrying about losing my clothes.

 

The more you bring, the higher your chances are of losing something.

 

Since I’m leaving for Germany this Saturday, I thought I’d document what I’m packing. It’s what I normally bring with me whenever I travel, and I get around just fine.

 

3 pairs of moist resistant socks

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I’ve worn these pairs for days on end before having to switch them out and wash them. They work wonders, and they’re exceptionally comfortable.

 

Four t-shirts

 

One lightweight, water resistant jacket

 

Even in cold weather, it is much better to layer your clothing rather than lugging around something heavy. I’ve learned the hard way.

 

Two pairs of jeans

 

One pair of comfortable tennis shoes

 

For those long walks

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One pair of PJs

 

One night t-shirt

 

Two under armour-like shirts

 

They work great in both cold and hot weather

 

iPhone charger

 

Outlet plug adapter

Make sure you know which outlet plugs the countries you are going to require.

 

Travel Journal

 

This is a personal choice. Considering that I constantly write down my ideas and events that took place during the day.

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A tablet

 

It serves as a backup for my phone and is great for e-books.

 

A bag of mixed nuts

 

For those long plane, bus, or train rides.

 

Three pairs of underwear

 

Headphones

 

An obvious must in the 21st century.

 

Toiletries

 

Included in them are small first aid kit, portable toothbrush, contact lenses, glasses

 

Inflatable water bottle

 

A total lifesaver

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There you have it. That is everything that I bring with me, and I’m able to fit it all in my backpack pictured above.

 

Do you think I bring too little, or too much? Let me know in the comments!

 

If you’d like to stay up to date with my Germany adventure, you can subscribe to the blog, give us a like on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram.

A Few Tips on Being a Conscious Traveler

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“A traveller doesn’t know where he is going, a tourist doesn’t know where he is.” – Henry Rollins

 

Whether you like it or not, when you travel you will be representing your home team, and I advise that you represent them well.

 

When I travel I always like to envision myself as a diplomat. While this way of thinking is due mostly in part to acting as a student diplomat in my past, I think it is a healthy way to travel consciously even after my college years.

 

If you cannot care less about being a representative that’s fine, but you should also keep in mind that you are going into a country that might be entirely different than yours, and because of that, you should be equipped with certain a knowledge and etiquette on how to act in different parts of the world.

 

Here are a few tips to make your travel experience better for yourself and for everyone else.

 

You are a guest, but they are not your host.

 

Cultural respect and sensitivity is real. When you acknowledge this, you need to have no expectations towards how you are treated. Do not expect to be treated any better just because you are a traveler. Some locals loathe travelers; while others appreciate the tourist revenue they bring. Either way, don’t expect that everyone wants you there. If you sense hostility, acknowledge it and walk away, but don’t let it affect the rest of your experience. If you sense true hospitality, then show gratitude.

 

Don’t assume everyone speaks English.

 

While it is daunting to learn the native language of a foreign country, small phrases such as excuse me, hello, and thank you can go a long way; and the locals greatly appreciate it.

 

Listen.

 

You will hear different points of view that will be much more different than yours. You’ll find them in hostels, in cab rides, and on the train. Instead of rushing to defend every action your country does, listen to what the people have to say. I’ve listened to Englishmen critique my country’s police methods and a Serbian who chided me on American intervention. Instead of arguing with them, I listened and communicated to them that I was taking into consideration what they were saying.

 

Don’t Get Upset

 

There are some cultural norms that you won’t be accustomed to. This can be anything from required modest clothing inside of a church of mosque, to the slow moving or fast paced energy of the city. It is nearly impossible to get overwhelmed in these situations, but combat this sense of anxiety by reminding yourself that not everyone lives the exact same way you do.

 

 

And above all else…

 

Don’t be a condescending to your friends and family when you come back. Just as is the case when I said that no one lives just like you do, not everyone has the same privileges to travel like you have. I will elaborate on this further by publishing a piece specifically for this mindset once I get back from Germany.

 

If you want to keep up with my Germany and Austria adventures, be sure to subscribe to my blog to see weekly updates!

Body Shaming Doesn’t Work, But Neither Does Complacency

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As I sit back in this humid heat with my t-shirt and jeans stuck to my pasty Irish skin, I think back to a similar day roughly three years ago. I was on a jog in my neighborhood when some young punk in a car drove by and yelled, “Put a shirt on!”

 

Body shaming has been on my mind for quite some time, but I haven’t found the motivation to write about it until I listened to a disgusting podcast in which a young man was justifying body shaming.

 

“It’s disgusting to look at,” he said as he described seeing an overweight individual at the gym. “Go home first, lose some weight, stop eating, and then you can come back to the gym.”

 

I wish I were sitting down in the interview I could verbally destroy this little man. Why does this upset me so much? Well, as many of you know, I was once very overweight and to this day, as I snack on even the tinniest piece of chocolate, I know that having a healthy body image is something that will continue to be a work in progress.

 

Shaming someone into “getting thinner” or to “lose weight” doesn’t help anyone but make the people who are saying it feel better about themselves. I know because I was on the receiving end of that verbal insult, and it never made me feel good about myself.

 

Being told to put a shirt on was just one example of body shaming. Unfortunately, I experienced well before that experience. When I was shammed about my body, I didn’t see the point in exercising. Instead I remained as I was: a lethargic young adult who ate terribly and continued to gain weight.

 

But there was also the fact that I was okay with the way I looked. I had a girlfriend, a good job, and was getting good grades. I didn’t have time to exercise. Besides, why should I care?

 

Because complacency can be just as dangerous as shaming, if not more so.

 

You see, complacency doesn’t help with your mental or physical health. Complacency didn’t help my breathing and uncontrollable perspiration when I’d walk to class. Complacency didn’t help my acid reflux. It didn’t help my diabetes scare and high cholesterol at the age of 21.

 

Body shaming led to complacency, and complacency led to complications. It was with the threat of medical complications that I knew I needed to change.
It was this that sparked me to lose weight, not some jerk that told me to put a shirt on. I wanted to feel better physically and mentally, and losing weight helped me with that.

 

Love your body and love all that you are. But if you are suffering physically and you think you need to make a change, there is nothing wrong with changing up your diet and exercising.

 

If you truly loved yourself, you wouldn’t treat your body so poorly.

 

I know, because I didn’t love myself, so I didn’t think my body deserved to be treated right.

 

How wrong I was.

I Have Always Been Afraid to Travel: Here’s Why I Still Do It

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Recent terrorist attacks in Europe are giving me anxiety for my recent trip to Germany.

 

The attacks that began in Paris have trickled down to Belgium, Nice, and the most recent being in the small Bavarian town of Ansbach.

 

People have asked me if I am nervous. You’re damn right I’m nervous. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

 

But there are a couple of reasons why I’m still visiting Germany amidst the preconceived chaos.

 

First of all, I was accepted to attend the seventh annual Muslim Jewish conference in Berlin. This conference will bring people from Muslim, Jewish, and non-affiliated communities from all over the world to talk about conflict transformation, human rights, otherness, art and culture, and historical narratives and identities in these communities. I want to meet these people and hear their stories, and I want to share them with you all once I get back.

 

I travel and I write because I want to break stereotypes and preconceptions. I wouldn’t want someone to have false impressions about me, and I try my best to fight those stereotypes as an American traveler. For this reason alone I feel obligated to still travel and attend the conference.

 

The second reason is this: safety and security are never a guarantee. I was in Northern Ireland when riots were going on over sectarian parades, I was in Haiti a year after the infamous 2010 earthquake, I was in Jordan when Benghazi was attacked, I was in Turkey when the Gezi park protests left the country in a state of restlessness, and I was in the Baltics when Russian aggression in the region was at its highest in years.

 

I repeat, safety and security are never a guarantee. I can die in a terrorist attack in Europe, or in a shooting at my home in California. I can die in a plane crash on my way to Germany, or I could die in a car crash on my way to work. I could die from getting injured in my travels, or I could have a sudden brain aneurism in my sleep. I can’t abstain from participating in something simply because of what might happen.

 

People have told me to be careful, to be vigilant. Well, I’m always careful, and I’m always vigilant, thanks in part to the words my friend and mentor told me the day of the Benghazi terrorist attack. We were in Amman, Jordan, and I told him I was frightened. He simply told me, “just be vigilant.” Those words did not fall upon deaf ears.

 

I am vigilant everywhere I go now. Whether I am at a shopping mall or a movie theater, at home or abroad.

 

The main reason I travel and dance with my fear is because it is worth it. If I stay home not doing what I want to do – which is travel – then am I am not living the life I want to live.

 

If I do that I might as well be dead.

An Interview With My 35-Year-Old Self

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Being 25 years old, I have often thought, “I wish I could go back in time and tell my 15 year old self X, Y, and Z.”

 

I heard about this writing exercise of interviewing your future self, and thought I would give it a try. I intended for it to be seen by my eyes only, but the process and results were so surreal that I couldn’t help but share it with all of you. The way I envisioned it was simple: how do I picture myself in 10 years? What would he say to me? Essentially, I asked myself, what kind of person do I want to be?

 

Enjoy!

 

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop enjoying a scone and a hot, steaming cup of Joe. Though I should be enjoying this small yet incredible moment, I’m stressing out. I don’t know what to do with my life. Should I apply to more jobs? Look for more freelance opportunities? Market my blog more?   Will I ever finish that TEFL course I spent money on? What about that novel I want to write? Will I ever find someone to tie the knot with? I close my laptop in frustration and rub my eyes. As they adjust to the light upon opening, I look up and think they are playing tricks on me. Is that me standing in line? Yes, it has to be. It’s not just the identical tattoos. It’s that goofy smile and awkward walk. But he looks so much more cool and confident. He notices me, and smiles as he waves. Once he gets his coffee (the same one I’m drinking) he walks over to my table and sits down as if he were expecting to meet me here.

 

I have so many questions running through my head, but I know the space-time continuum might become messy if I ask him any specifics. Instead I resort to asking him for some general advice.

 

25-year old me: What should I do as a career?

 

35-year old me: Don’t do something that makes you happy. Do something that will serve and benefit others. You’ll find happiness in that, and you can always dedicate time to your hobbies.

 

25: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned over the past 10 years?

 

35: 10 years felt like 10 minutes. Don’t waste time on anger, hatred and fear. Relish in the fact that you are alive and exist in the world.

 

25: What’s made you the happiest over the past 10 years?

 

35: The little things: A good, catchy song, mom calling to ask how I’m doing, an extra fives minutes of sleep, holding a lover’s hand. That sort of thing.

 

25: What’s been your biggest accomplishment?

 

35: Saying yes to life. All of it. Including death. You have to accept death as a part of life. I said yes to ecstasy rather than melancholy. All other successes have been miniscule compared to that one.

 

25: Where is somewhere you unexpectedly traveled to?

 

35: A few. Turkmenistan. South Georgia. Arkansas. Random I know! But trust me, you can find interesting and amazing things anywhere.

 

25: Anything else you’d like to tell me?

 

35: Don’t trip. Don’t waste time worrying about what is beyond your control. Fix what’s wrong with you, and don’t get mad over the actions of others. Trust in God. Go back to Church. Don’t worry about finding someone to love. You’re on the right path. Do something that terrifies you. Don’t feel or fear dread. Read good books. Listen to good music. Don’t worry about criticism. Share your happiness. Be kind to EVERYONE. Find Heaven and God within. Always seek peace and justice.

 

 

And just like that he’s gone after a blink of my eyes. Did I just have a vision? Did I just make that all up in my head? I’m not sure, but I’ll take his advice anyway. I just hope I don’t let him down.

 

Again, I found this exercise to be surreal, awesome, and inspiring. Give it a try and tell me what you found out about yourself!  

Six Entertaining Podcasts You Need To Listen To Right Now

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I began this three part series of with last week’s article, Six Inspiring Podcasts You Need to Listen to Right Now.

 

Today I will continue with part two by naming the most entertaining podcasts that I listen to. A little thing about me that a lot of people don’t know: I am very interested in the esoteric and paranormal. Clearly, some you will see a few podcasts on here that you may not enjoy, but lend me your ears and you might be surprised by what you like.

 

 

Lore

 

Lore is one of the first podcasts I ever started listening to, and after hearing Aaron Mahnke’s voice for the first time, you will realize why.   In this 20-30 minute podcast, Aaron Mahnke discusses folklore that has been cemented into our culture, from the eerie to the downright terrifying. Mahnke by profession is a horror author, and because of this he can establish tone and an even flow in his story telling.

 

My favorite episode: Hunger Pains

 

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

 

With four part episodes that can last as long as four hours each, I was intimidated to listen to Dan Carlin’s podcast. It took me two podcasts to get into him, but after listening to one about the Protestant Reformation in Germany, I was hooked. He’s someone who I wish was my high school history teacher, and he also hosts another awesome podcast titled Common Sense.

 

My favorite episode: Prophets of Doom

 

 

History on Fire

 

Similar to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, albeit not as long. Hosted by author and mixed martial artist Daniele Bolleli, his Italian accent and humor makes it that much more alluring. After listening to his four part series that discusses the life of Native American Crazy Horse, I can call myself a huge fan.

 

My favorite episode: Crazy Horse

 

Imaginary Worlds

 

Anyone who knows me well enough is not surpassed when I say that I am a nerd and proud of it This podcast is my perfect cup of tea. I like history and I like politics, and Imaginary world breaks down Science Fiction and Fantasy in these terms. Themes range anywhere from ethics concerning A.I., to the racism of H.P. Lovecraft.

 

My favorite episode: Economics of Thrones and Starships

 

Strange Matters

 

If you are a fan of the X-Files, you will love this podcast. Three friends Sean, Eric and Ethan created this podcast. In each episode they discuss UFOs, ghosts, cults, and everything else under the paranormal sun. What I like most about this podcast is that they offer a skeptical and rational point of view towards paranormal phenomena, while still hinting at the fact that not everything can be explained.

 

My favorite episode: Cults

 

Here There Be Monsters

 

This show is entirely based on listeners calling in and giving their stories. As a writer, I find this to be a bountiful source for inspiration. It has revamped my passion for writing short horror stories, and continues to fill my world with a sense of wonder.

 

My favorite episode: High Spirits

 

If you like this series, be sure to check out my third and final part in the coming weeks, which will focus on podcasts that I listen to regarding traveling.

 

If you like my posts overall, be sure to subscribe for weekly content!

Youth In Action: An Interview with The I Am You Project

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Part of our core values here at The Get On Up Blog is promoting the work of young people who are trying to make a difference in their communities. This post is the second of its kind, and I hope to continue this series in the coming months. After reading it, I hope it inspires you to get out and get active!

 

I met the founders of the I Am You Project during the 2015 Youth to Youth Conference in Lithuania. The I Am You Project “aims to renew the traditional concept of youth cultural exchanges, utilizing the internet to connect people from all culturesOver a period of two weeks each participant of the Program is assigned a partner from a different cultural background and, through a series of activities, they get to know each other and each other’s culture. This helps them to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, respect, and intensify cross-cultural cooperation.”

As many of you already know, meeting these young social entrepreneurs at the Youth to Youth conference inspired me to create The Get On Up Blog in the first place. I got a chance to interview these awesome individuals in order to learn more about the I Am You Project and gain insight into what inspires them, what they’ve learned so far, and where they see the project heading in the future.

 

 

Q: What prompted you to start I Am You? Was it one event or a combination of experiences?

 

It was definitely a combination of different experiences. After going on an exchange program to Russia as a high school student a few years ago, I had the opportunity for the first time to meet people from all over the world. I was able to speak in a foreign language and to talk about my own country. I realized how intercultural dialog is important, and how all of us young people are actually equal no matter where we are from or what our religious or political views are. Keeping in mind that I am from a small country in Europe that is known in the media usually for negative things, or simply unheard of, I always had this aim in mind: to make people learn more from me, who was born and resided there and who can tell the others the truth you won’t here from the mass media.


So, being part of the I AM YOU Project is definitely a great, interesting and educational way to help young people around the world to better understand each other, breaking ridiculous stereotypes, and to encourage them to make a change. I believe in our project and I’m sure it will make difference one day.
Aleksandar (Serbia)

 

Q: How many people make up the I Am You team?

 

The project came out as a result of the inspiration from six people, with the help of two mentors. With time, we needed help to launch our website, so we had two more volunteers eager to help us. At a later stage a few more people got interested and involved in our activities, so nowadays we have 10 members who work on different aspects. What’s also important for us apart from the fact that they are all volunteers is that they represent different countries and cultures. Olesya (Russia)

 

Q: How has your organization been received from your respective communities?

 

The project seems to be very appealing to the target audience, and communities are very supportive. Though our interaction with it is limited considering that the project is not yet working at full blast, we have almost one thousands followers on on our facebook page, and many people have already signed up for the program. This is amazing to receive so much support not only from our friends and communities, but also from strangers who are as thrilled as us by this project! Olesya (Russia)

 

Q:      Has there been any negative response to I Am You?

 

Well, up to now we did not have a real negative response on the overall project, but there have been a couple of episodes on our Facebook page of people who commented our posts highly criticizing our multicultural approach. Such episodes remind us how ethnocentrism is still largely diffused and how important and impellent is the objective we want to achieve. We truly believe on the importance of intercultural dialogue, and IMU will be a further step forward in promoting mutual understanding among people of different cultures. Daniele (Italy)

 

Q: What’s one of the most interesting, or surprising things you’ve learned about from another culture?

 

In the IMU team we have all travelled a lot, and we had the chance to live in foreign countries for quite some time, until we felt they were “home” as well. Rather than one single experience or story, what I find extremely amazing is the passion with which people introduce you to their country. You can see the excitement in their eyes when they show you around their cities and lands, and you can feel the emotions in their voices when they tell you their national history, and how (often) it is intertwined with their personal one. You learn so much from people! This is what I learned from other cultures, that we are all different, but we all have the same proud for our origins and country. This is what lays at the basis of our exchange project, the curiosity of open one’s mind towards foreign cultures, and the pride to share our own culture with foreigners. Daniele (Italy)

 

Q: What is a country or culture you want to learn more about?

 

Maybe it sounds cliche, but definitely as many as possible. Even the countries where I think I know everything about, there is probably a lot more to be discovered. Since the things I know about most of the countries are those I could hear from my family and friends, or the mass media and the Internet, I’m sure I have a lot of preconceived notions and I would like to break them. Aleksandar (Serbia)

 

Q: What is a country or culture you wish to be more engaging in your project?

Definitely those countries that are less known world wide. There are so many countries and interesting cultures around the globe that most of us know little or know nothing. I would definitely like to have as many representatives from different cultural backgrounds as possible being engaged in our project. As I have mentioned before, I would also like to see young people from my home country being engaged more and represent Serbia in the best possible way. Aleksandar (Serbia)

 

Q: Is there an end goal for the project?

 

Although we really hope that day will come sooner than later, there is too much work to do to challenge stereotypes to foresee a moment where we will have reached an “end goal” for I Am You. Our work will be finished when we will live in a world of openness towards foreign cultures, where people do not judge others on the basis of their cultural heritage.

Meanwhile, we have different intermediate goal! At the end of each single partnership our participants will start a raising-awareness campaign on the issues they care the most as young people, and our objective is to have an impact on their local community through that campaigns. Daniele (Italy)

 

Q: Any countries you want to visit because of I Am You?

 

I definitely want to visit Serbia! As a Mexican, I can tell you that Serbia seems to be very far away from home! Aleksandar always tells me about his country and I really want to go there. If a Mexican seems exotic to people, for me, a Serbian is much more exotic! Serbian and Russian culture is something I would like to know better. Besides, despite geographic distances, I am pretty sure that Mexican and Serbians have many similarities. I can guarantee that to you! I am currently living in Tunisia and I discovered that aside from language, we really have an enormous amount in common! To be honest, I think that we are worldwide citizens, so I will visit as many countries as possible, until people get used to it. People are surprised to see a Mexican woman happily living in Tunis, they joke and say that I traveled the wrong side and that I should be in Europe. This is one of the reasons I want to break with stereotypes, but that is another story. Graciela (Mexico)

 

Q: Are you looking to monetize this project, or is it simply something you are all doing on your free time?

 

More than being an intercultural exchange project, we want to make young people put themselves in somebody else’s shoes to understand the other’s point of view. When our goals for the future is to offer on-site exchanges rather than online discussions. This exchange project is part of a peace building initiative and was inspired from Erasmus and cultural exchanges. We do need to receive funding to make I Am You grow and connect as many people as possible! Graciela (Mexico)

 

Q: I signed up on the website, what next?

 

That’s probably the first most important step you could do! Soon our website will be ready and we will issue our first call for applications. We are going to inform you by email (check your spam box as well, the first time your provider could send our email there!) and we will keep you update of any new development. So, as we always say: stay tuned, great things ahead! Daniele (Italy)

 

You can visit the I Am You Project’s facebook page, or follow them on twitter at @imu.pro2

 

Six Inspiring Podcasts You Need To Listen to Right Now

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I never thought I would get into podcasts. That is until I was granted the opportunity to listen to them for hours on end. It is now one of my favorite things to do. Whether I am driving down the road, working after hours, or even enjoying a hearty breakfast, I think my podcast habit has just begun.

 

There is a podcast for just about anyone, from the instructional to the entertaining. I try to expand my palate and listen to as many as possible, but listed below (in no particular order) are ones I consider to be greatly inspiring and uplifting.

 

Writing Excuses

 

Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.

 

Hosted by writers Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Dan Wells; this is the first podcast I ever started listening to. With 11 seasons under their belt, they have covered a vast array of challenges the aspiring writer goes up against. It has helped tremendously with my writing, and the writing prompts they give at the end are a cure for any sort of writer’s block.

 

The Duncan Trussell Family Hour

 

I absolutely love Duncan Trussell. A coworker introduced him to me, and after listening to one episode I was hooked. I have written about his influence on me before (link here), but never elaborated as to exactly why I love him. For one, he’s absolutely hilarious and interviews an eclectic group of interesting people. His advice on love, relationships, spirituality, and dealing with the real world get me pumped for the present and for the future.

 

The Tim Ferris Show

 

Another guy I’ve written about in past blog articles, Tim Ferris interviews world class performers with the purpose of deconstructing their habits in order for his listeners to apply it to their own lives. The people he brings on to the show give excellent advice; from negotiating salary, gymnastics exercise (link here), writing, and work ethic. Notable guests include Sebastian Junger, Mike Rowe, Luis von Ahn, and Jamie Foxx.

 

StartupCamp

 

A friend recommended that I check out the Facebook page of Dale Patridge, and after watching a seminar he gave I have been hooked on his podcast and blog ever since. Dale Partridge offers solid advice for starting your own business on his blog, and interviews successful businessmen and women on his podcast. What I like most about his podcast is that every one of them has a specific theme such as “how to keep going when you’re at your lowest” and “how to write engaging content for your blog” among many others. I have learned about (and have read) plenty of helpful books through his podcast, and it has opened me up to a whole new world of places and things.

 

The Joe Rogan Experience

 

I’ve always said that Quentin Tarantino could make a movie of straight dialogue, and I would pay money for it, no questions asked. If he did make my dream film, Joe Rogan should be my dream main character. The man just knows how to talk to people. It is similar to the Duncan Trussell Family Hour by his choice of interviewing an eclectic group of interesting people such as Sam Harris, Bobcat Goldthwait, Gary Johnson and Meisha Tate, (it also helps that him and Duncan are good friends). Joe Rogan doesn’t simply ask excellent questions, he has a talent for making the conversation seem effortlessly organic and strongly informative.

 

Mental Illness Happy Hour

 

A podcast that is definitely not for the faint of heart, the Mental Illness Happy Hour hosts guests who have experienced the worst in humanity. That is exactly why I find it so inspiring. It has taught me that we don’t know the lives of other people, and that everyone suffers. I now look at mental illness in a much broader light, and am much more forgiving to individuals who may not have the same tools I have when dealing with hard situations.

 

I listen to way more podcasts than these, and I would like to share them all with you.   As a result, I decided to divide this article up into different posts with specific themes. Be sure to check back next week for my ‘Most Entertaining Podcasts” article.

 

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I Practiced Yoga For 30 Days: Here are 12 Things That I learned

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I started practicing yoga two years ago. I strained my back at work and a few coworkers suggested that I take a yoga class at a park in Dana Point. After my second class I knew that I would practice yoga for the rest of my life. I felt rejuvenated just as I would have had I ran or done my calisthenics work out. I was calmer and at peace with myself, and I was beginning to feel less stiff and constrained as I once had.

 

Even with all these good things, I couldn’t bring myself to practice more than two or three times a week. Things changed this June when iHeartYoga, the organization that offers the classes at the park in Dana point, challenged their members to attend a class for 30 days. I decided to make it a personal challenge and see if I could practice yoga for the entire month of June, whether it be at home using an app or Youtube tutorial, at the park or at the studio.

 

Here are 12 things that I learned since June 1st.

 

 

All good things come with practice

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This is a reaffirmation more than a revelation. I first noticed this after my second day during a class in which I was attempting to do a chair pose. I always dreaded this pose because it made my legs feel as if they were being packed with charcoal. But on this particular day they did not burn, because I never developed the strength to hold it before then.

 

I am now much more in tune with my body

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I’ve always loved hip opening yoga poses, and that is because most of my stiffness, whether it was from walking, sitting, or sleeping too long, stemmed from my hips. Yoga taught me to pay attention to what my body was telling me. Now I am much more mindful of how my body functions. I started to apply this at work when I would crouch and balance on one foot, putting more pressure on it. Once I balanced both of my feet and adjusted my position I was not straining myself and no longer stressed.

 

 

I am now much more patient

 

Because so many of my yoga classes focused on simple poses held for long periods of time, I simply learned to accept my position and embrace the feelings and emotions I was experiencing. This was felt strongest during pigeon pose, and now I try and apply it to everything: traffic, sleepless nights, even my computer running slow (which is by far the biggest challenge).

 

I breathe better

 

Not just in my yoga practice, but all the time. Whether I’m running up a flight of stairs, meditating, or sitting down to type this out. I am much more aware and in control of my breathing.

 

Yoga can be done it just about anywhere

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You don’t need a teacher, a soundtrack, or even a yoga mat. Some days I would go behind the building at work and do a gentle flow during my lunch break. I would sometimes do it in front of my T.V., in my cluttered room, or even in my hallway. This fact killed all excuses for me not to participate in the challenge.

 

I sleep better

 

Breathing definitely helps with my sleep, but I didn’t realize the power of practicing yoga and how it relates to my sleep until I did an extremely simple yoga practice right before bedtime. I had to wake up in five hours, and normally I’d be groggy if I didn’t get more than seven hours of rest. But the next morning I was up and ready to get my day going.

 

Family, friends, and even strangers are more encouraging than I thought

 

When I would practice yoga outside in my backyard my mom would go “wow, look at you go!” My friends and instructors would compliment my improvement, and even strangers at a class or on Instagram would give positive reinforcement. Personally, I think it holds weight to the belief that people like to see the success in others more than they like to see public failures.

 

I underestimate my own mental strength

 

I was always terrified to do a headstand pose. That was until I took it slow, meditated, and slowly breathed into the pose. I fell time and again, but I was able to hold it for a brief period of time. I realized that I could take the physical leap, but not the mental one. We can do so much more than we think we are capable of doing once we take off the mental weight of fear.

 

My arm balance progression is still in the infant phase

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A year ago I couldn’t hold a crow pose, and now I can and I am so happy about that. But after taking an arm balance tutorial on Youtube, I was humbled to realize that my arm balance progression is just beginning.

 

Staying grounded and balanced is just as important as strength and mobility

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Flexible poses and fancy arm balances are cool, but I discovered balance and composure are not only more important, but more rewarding as well.

 

I now stretch religiously

 

I stretch throughout the day without even noticing it. This works great for me in particular because it helps me avoid potential injury at work.

 

I now want to do it every day

 

I can and I will practice yoga every day. I may not have time for a whole one-hour class, but even a short gentle flow before I start my day, work, or going to sleep is better than nothing.

 

The funny thing is, I thought that this 30-day challenge would be the whole journey, but now I view it as the itinerary before I set off for the real thing.

 

If you’d like to see my story, please take a look at my Instagram account that documented every day of my yoga challenge. If you’d like to learn more about The Get On Up Blog, consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter!