About Me

Hi there. I'm Robin. I am a web developer, writer, photographer, zen buddhist, lapsed yogi, proud introvert, lover of words and visual thinker based in Austin, Texas. I share my thoughts, my mistakes, my lessons-learned and all the other fun stuff in between here. Welcome!

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Please note that the images here are mine unless otherwise noted. Kindly refrain from using any images without permission. We cool? Awesome.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

Confessions of a teeth grinder

Confession: I have been meditating for almost five years now and I still grind my teeth. My dentist was adamant - stop it (she lamented, how many people are not grinding their teeth these days?). I have resisted getting a mouth guard, because, holy shit, that sounds incredibly unsexy. But the truth is, I may need to swallow my pride and just get one. Receding gums, due to teeth grinding, are also incredibly unsexy (not to mention, painful).

In order to protect my teeth and my overall health - because I don't think I'd be grinding my teeth simply for the hell of it - I've started scaling back how much I commit to. It's been hard. I like being busy. I like helping people. And I have a really hard time saying no. I also hate disappointing people, especially those I care about. But I am realizing more than ever that my wish to not disappoint others is costing me a great deal. I am at an age where I can no longer simply push on through. My body is telling me to stop and pay attention.

Finally, I am listening.

At the beginning of the year, I took three days off to completely clean out my closet. Something I had been avoiding for a very long time (understandably). I found receipts from ten years ago, letters, birthday cards, old photographs from high school, magazines I'd kept from my time in the Czech Republic and papers I wrote in grad school. It was unexpectedly emotional. When I was done and I only had a few small boxes left, I felt a huge wave of relief. I felt lighter.

There is something about creating space, both physically and mentally, that is highly motivating and refreshing. Since then, instead of committing to more projects, more tasks, more self-improvement fiascoes (going sugar-free and gluten-free, while healthy, is just not realistic for me), more this and more that, I have decided to commit to saying no, setting boundaries, scaling back, simplifying, giving stuff away and making room for space.

It hasn't been easy, but something surprising has been happening. I'm starting to relax. Slowly but surely. Little by little. Why is it so hard?

We'll see what my dentist has to say...

(What I'm listening to right now: House of Cards by Radiohead)

Tuesday
Dec312013

A Year of Unravelling

This time last year, I found myself on the edge of a panic attack, wondering what the hell I was doing. I stared out the window at Lower Manhattan in February feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, and worried. Could I do this? Would they like me? Will I totally make a fool of myself? Who do I think I am exactly? And yet, despite all my fear and trepidation, I fell in love with every single person in the training program at The Interdependence Project, including myself (hello, surprise). And I fell in love with New York City.

At home, I decided to start the year by seeing a therapist. Something I haven't really talked about here, but now...why not? It was one of the best decisions I made this year and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

I also finally (finally) got out of credit card debt. Woohoo! And it was in part due to this fabulous book, Money: A Love Story by Kate Northrup. Get it. Go get it right now.

In May, I lost my Mema. In June, my Grandmother. I read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and squeezed myself inside out with grief. I questioned death and contemplated my own.

I had my first Photography show at the Austin Zen Center.

I stood up to my father lovingly and honestly. Something I've been trying to do my entire life.

I Bollywood danced.

I nibbled on cereal cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar and wrapped myself in the smell of fresh chocolate at the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory.

I curled up on a warm couch in Brooklyn and watched the snow fall outside (thank you Airbnb).

Just after Christmas I discovered I have hypothyroidism, a condition I will need to treat for the rest of my life.

To say this year has been full would be an understatement. When I sat down to focus on Susannah Conway's Unravelling the Year Ahead and reviewed 2013, I was surprised by how much I've done and how much this year has changed me.

What will 2014 bring? Am I ready?

A few of my favorite things from 2013:

Favorite music: James Blake
Favorite photographer: Rob Lutter
Favorite nonprofit: The Fistula Foundation
Favorite book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

(What I'm listening to right now: Strong by London Grammar)

Tuesday
Dec172013

You can't stop New York City

Bookshelf, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, June 2013

Standing on the L train heading into Brooklyn, I became concerned. The train sped up and appeared to accelerate faster than usual. I looked around, but no one else seemed to notice. The train barreled through the tunnel faster and faster. I almost laughed out loud, it was so startling to me. I thought to myself, yes, this is what New York City feels like. An immense amount of speed, an overwhelming amount of metal and concrete and a whole lot of people who have no idea why you might be freaked out by all this.

Not that I was freaked out. Not exactly. To be honest, I loved it. But I didn't always. It took me a while, and a few trips, to warm up to New York City. I had no idea why people bought I <3 NY t-shirts and why so many professed their love for a city that, to me, appeared overcrowded and unforgiving.

And just to be clear, it is overcrowded and unforgiving (or, it can be).

But, that's just it. What I've come to love about New York is that, it doesn't pretend not to be overcrowded and unforgiving. New York is what it is. Take it or leave it.

And the people. The people! So many people. I love them all. The barista at Think Coffee who smiled back at me and asked if I was having a good day, the guy in line behind me who barked an order at the barista without even blinking an eye (and the barista didn't blink either), the waiters at Le Pain Quotidien on Bleeker Street who kindly took my order of green tea and a soft-boiled egg every morning, the countless people who helped me find my way when I got lost (which was a lot), the woman who yelled, "Don't you fuck with me young lady!" at her daughter in the middle of a busy sidewalk, the tourists who asked me for directions (ha!), the young men in Bed-Stuy who gently teased me and asked me if I'd date a black man, my sweet friend, Emily, who taught me how to correctly pronounce Bed-Stuy (thank you, Emily), the deranged guy on the subway platform who reached out and tried to touch my face, the old lady who slowly and carefully lead her young granddaughter by the hand down Bowery, my instructor at The Interdependence Project, Ethan, who encouraged me to find my voice and my lion's roar, and my friends in the Immersion program, Mona, Emily, Alexandra, Ambika, Anna, Anya, Paul, Jacoby, Robert, Monica, Patrick, Ash and Kim Brown, who all welcomed me as if I were coming home, rather than just visiting (I will never be able to express in words how much this meant to me).

The people, I've found, are the very best part of the city. My favorite part. Tough on the outside and nothing but heart on the inside. Treat a New Yorker with love and respect and they'll give it back to you tenfold. Not all New Yorkers, of course (and you better be ready for that). But most of the New Yorkers I met, despite the chaos all around them, revealed bountiful warmth and squishiness underneath their cool and driven exteriors.

Waiting for my plane to take off at La Guardia and to take me home for the last time this year, I stopped in one of the shops to kill some time and grab some snacks. There on the shelf was an I <3 NY coffee mug. Naturally, I grabbed it. The lady behind the counter smiled at me, wrapped my new mug in paper and threw in a few samples of free candy, just for good measure.

I <3 NY.

(A little New York State of Mind)

Thursday
Nov142013

Modern Buddhist Women: An Interview with Kimberly Brown

At the edge of a tall cliff, Bhadda was confronted by the man she had just saved from execution. A man she thought she had been in love with. A man she thought was in love with her. But no. All he was interested in were her jewels. He called her a fool and ordered her to remove her outer robe and wrap her jewels inside.

Without hesitation, Bhadda requested one wish before she died: that she be allowed to embrace him. He agreed. Bhadda first embraced him from the front. And then, after embracing him from behind, pushed him off the cliff.

This was just one story I discovered in First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening by Susan Murcott. Breathtaking, no?

The stories in this book made such an impression on me that I was inspired to uncover the stories of modern Buddhist women. Unfortunately, I haven't found that many. I mean, they're out there, don't get me wrong, but I was disappointed to find that the number of men telling their stories far outweighs the number of women telling theirs.

So. I created a project: Interview modern Buddhist women and share their stories.

For my first interview I wanted to speak with the Executive Director of The Interdependence Project (IDP), Kimberly Brown. Kim has been practicing for about 6-7 years and moved into the role of Executive Director of IDP, a nonprofit organization offering a multi-lineage and secular approach to Buddhism, a little less than a year ago. She sat down with me recently in New York City and allowed me to ask her all kinds of questions about her experience on the path and her work at the IDP.

Thursday
Sep262013

People of New York

Most people like to capture the architecture, the skyline or the iconic images of New York when they travel to this beautiful crazy city. I have certainly captured a lot of these myself.

But what really inspires me?

The people.

Say whatever you want to about the people of New York. Most of my experiences have been nothing short of awesome (aside from that creepy guy who tried to grab my face on the subway platform, but, that's another story…). Okay, yes, this town has a kind of edgy cynicism and people curse A LOT. But there is just something about New Yorkers. As John Skyler pointed out in his HuffPost piece recently, New Yorkers Aren't Rude. You Are, New York's reputation as a rude city is based on some fundamental misunderstandings. Let me just add here that you haven't truly seen rude until you've experienced "customer service" in Central Europe. Just sayin'.

Anyway.

I'd like to introduce you to a few of those New Yorkers. These are some of the most inspiring and supportive people I've ever met. And I've been fortunate to get to know them over the past year in the Immersion Program at The Interdependence Project.

Luckily, they've also gotten used to me sneakily (or not so sneakily) pointing my camera in their direction. How could I not?

Mona

Anna and Mona

Ambika

Robert

Anya

Jacoby

Paul and Ambika

(Currently listening to and loving Save Me by Gotye)