Meditation 101

My landlady (aka housemate aka hostmom) works for a Meditation Center in SF, which means she’s closely connected to the whole meditation culture. Now, being a good housemate trying to build common interests, I did not turn her down when she offered me meditation sessions. Awesome, I thought. I had always been curious on how to meditate and how to acquire a sort of calm mindset that can help you in so many everyday situations. Little did I know, that it is so much harder than it sounded:

05:36 am: My alarm clock rings. Since my meditation instructor (aka landlady aka housemate aka hostmom) has to go to work early every day, this is the time we wake up for our 20-minute session. I lie in bed and my slowly awakening mind is playing the blame game: “It is YOUR fault, that we are in this mess Ari, because of you we have to get up before dawn to go sit on a floor!!”Actually, it’s a cushion, not the floor“, I correct my tired mind.

05:39 am: I walk downstairs. My other housemate, who also got talked into trying the whole meditation thing, is already there. Sitting in the dark. Since we aren’t supposed to talk before or after the session, I don’t ask her about the darkness thing but just go and switch the light on. I see hectic hand gestures in my peripheral view suggesting that something is wrong. “No light!“, she whispers, trying to surpress a laugh attack. It’s just too absurd of a picture that we paint of ourselves here.

05:40 am: The little bell rings and meditation begins. From now until 6am, it’s just about me and my breathing, I’m supposed to push all thoughts away and just focus on my natural breathing flow. But also, I am sitting in the living room on a cushion in my PJs in the dark. Meditating. If my friends could see me, they would drag me home without further ado. Oh, but I’m not supposed to think about that, I should breathe now!

05: 42 am: Don’t laugh Ari, don’t laugh!! Deep breath!

05: 44 am: Oooooh my god!! Imagine I had to burp right now. That would be soooo awkwaar…no. don’t laugh!! Think of something sad like dead puppies or your mom…uh, good one, go me, sad that noone could hear it cause I’m thinking TO MYSELF!

05: 47 am: Ok, this is awkward- my leg is falling asleep!

05: 48 am: Like, really. It’s falling asleep.

05: 49 am: Maybe if I just wiggle my toes…?

05: 51 am: Ok, what could the worst possible damage be that I am doing to my leg right now…?

05: 52 am: Hmmm, I wonder what I should wear today. Also, should I go back to bed? I’m kinda really awake right now. In fact, I feel like my thoughts just got an espresso jump start. Too bad, I’m not supposed to thinkkkk…

05: 55 am: I could totally try this new hair style I found on youtube! Shouldn’t be too har…ok, STOP AND BREATHE!

05: 58 am: Actually, this isn’t too bad. I’m totally getting into my zen right now! I love breathing!!

06: 00 am: Time’s up. Great. Just when I stopped thinking and starting breathing. Of course….

Bottomline: Meditation is hard and requires a great deal of practice. But you also get better each time and after a few days, I didn’t even mind getting up that early anymore (ok, fine, I kinda do on days that I could have slept in until ten) because it’s a great way of slowly starting your day. And I still believe that it’s worth the practice- looking at my landlady, I can clearly see that mediation really helps her be calm and optimistic and real. So, I’m not giving up. If nothing else, I can tell my grand children that I meditated in San Francisco, and that’s kinda something, isn’t it?

Also, I joined my school’s surf club, so let’s see where this is gonna take me 🙂 More coming soooooon!

Peace, Love and Ice-Cream,

Ari

#WhatsUp

Whenever people told me, that SF is a very tech-savy city, I used to just nod and smile. When Alumni told us to definitely get smartphones if we wanted to be taken serious, I just kept scrolling past that on my newsfeed . Why would I, right? In Germany, I had gotten along just fine with only my Laptop, an iPod that could connect to free wifi and a phone that I considered advanced, because it could play music. I almost felt proud that I did not have the need to give into this whole App business. I hated the fact that, once people got themselves a smartphone, they would check it constantly, no matter whether at the dinner table or during a conversation or every five minutes in class. It seemed like, once you had a smartphone, you cut yourself off a bit from socializing.
If you don’t see this behavior in yourself, go to a cafe. The first few days that I was here on my own, I had been trying to make friends by just sitting down in a cafe and starting to chat with people. Well, guess what. I failed. Not because there wasn’t enough material to talk about but because no one would look up from their phones. Jeez, I thought, are you ashamed of being here alone, do you have to hide behind your phone to give off the impression of having a life?!

……..
…..

I have become one of them. Between writing the title and the first sentence of this post, I literally paused for 15 minutes because I had two Whatsapp notifications, one text message, a nudge that someone drew something for me on “Draw Something 2” and a Facebook like on some random thing. And, of course, all these things had to be checked instantaneously. It. Is. Too. Much.  I know what you think- “First World Problems“. “It’s not like she didn’t have a choice“. “Spoiled Brat“.
Look, here’s what happened: I needed a new phone and the price difference between getting a phone that LITERALLY didn’t have more buttons than On/Off, Red Phone, Green Phone and a simple smartphone was minimal. So here I was, thinking: “Oh, well, a smartphone might be handy in case I really need to check for directions or the bus, right?“. So here I am, stuck with a smartphone. Being all happy with the unlimited call and text option I got with it. And then a bell rang in my head- “What, I can get WhatsApp now! I can stay in touch with my friends and family back home!!!” So, I downloaded WhatsApp. And, while I was at it, I did the same for Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagramm. Because, you know, why just stick to one channel of communication if you can have five different ones…
Then, at my first day of school, every student got a “free” iPad. Why, thank you, I’m certainly not gonna say No to that. iPad and I have become great friends, it has Instagram and Facebook and Facebook Messenger and five different games and a bunch of different MUNI/Bart Apps and YouTube and a wordpress app (you never know when creativity strikes again)….For the first few days, I was amazed. Now, however, I am getting a little overwhelmed. When I set my Skype status on busy on my iPad during class, it syncs with my laptop and I don’t see when my parents are trying to reach me. An incoming Email triggers a whole concert of notification beeps and tweets and my pictures are on four different devices. I started setting my alarm on all four of them, because I am never sure if I might have forgotten to charge on of them and it’s gonna die over night or if one is muted and won’t ring (iPads won’t ring, I learned that the hard way). These things are supposed to make your life easier but I find that I am becoming more and more dependent on them and I don’t like it. I am not sure yet, how I’ll go about it, since I love talking to everyone on WhatsApp and I enjoy making time go by using some of my fun Apps but I can see how, day by day, I am becoming one of them- the lonesome strangers that come into a cafe, spend their time slurping Pumpkin Chai Lattes, scrolling through HONY pictures on their iPhones, commenting “It is so fascinating how everyone around you has such touching stories!” and then get up and leave. It’s great to have access to information 24/7 but especially when splitting yourself between time zones, you never rest. In the morning, I am all excited that my friends are awake so they start telling me all about their days, then my parents skype me, then I go check on news on Europe, then it’s noon. Germany sleeps and it’s time to take care of business here. Checking up on Emails, catching up with friends, making plans, whatsapping random pictures back and forth. Then its night, Germany is getting up and you want to send some good vibes for them across the country…

Maybe, what really bothers me, is that I spend my whole entire day talking to people but automatically shut out so much of what’s going on around me at the same time. Anyways, just food for thought, I know this is complaining on a really high level. Just wanted to explain, why I was too overwhelmed lately to keep you posted on SF. Next post will be more practical, promise 🙂

On that note, I gotta go, beat my friend on Temple Runner!

Pitch Perfect

So, I’m majoring in Marketing but before I can really get started on the advertising and selling, there is something called “Toolbox” all students have to go through for the first four weeks- Managerial skills, Individual skills, Teamwork skills, Quantitative- and accounting skills, tech skills. Basically, it’s four weeks of “How to become more employable in the  business world“. While exploring SF is gonna be a big part of my year, I am mainly here to study. Hence, I thought it was just fair to not only share fun Ari-the-Explari (lame pun, I know) stories but also some interesting insights into the academic side of being a grad student. Today’s topic- Selling yourself!

Selling myself has become the golden threat of pretty much all my info-and introductory sessions in the past two weeks. Both Profs and Alumni keep telling us how SF is so full of opportunities, you just have to network, attend all possible conferences, reach out to people on LinkedIn (after elaborating for half an hour how important a proper LinkedIn profile is), drop by Google, Facebook or Yahoo (“They are right around the corner guys, riiight around the corner!”) and really benefit from the entrepreneurial spirit in the city. To speak quite frankly, it scares the shenanigans out of me! I don’t know how to network!! Networking events, to me, sound like a theater play in which everybody pretends to be all smile and propriety in the hopes of getting the most attention from the audience. I feel needy asking someone to “have a chat about his/her great company that I am so interested in and happen to be an outstanding fit for” and knowing that all those opportunities are out there makes me feel like, no matter where I am, I am never at the right spot, I am always missing out on something. Potential employers could await me at any corner so could someone please get me Hermione’s time turner?! I know that people are right, I AM right next to Google and Co and you do feel this entrepreneurial business spirit everywhere you go, it’s contagious and exciting! It makes San Francisco such a neat place to start your business career….but where do you start looking for the first spark?

Well, today I sat in “Individual Skills”, led by a guy who seems to know God and the world, who has friends working at Facebook, who is bringing in guest speakers who worked closely with Steve Jobs, who just bought himself a new Maserati ladadada and, overall, he managed to hold my attention for three hours straight. His main topic of today: Elevator pitches and how important it is for me, for you, for everybody to have a 30-second speech ready for that one time you run into someone whom you really want to win over. That speech is not gonna be written within an hour and not practiced within half a day, it’s something one should really think about. Whether on a networking event, in a train, on a plane, in the supermarket between kale chips and soda or in an actual elevator, be aware that time is running. After the first “Hello” and a firm handshake you have half a minute to make the best out of your partner’s attention because for them, time is money and at this early stage you might be of interest to them but not enough so that they’d dedicate an hour listening to you rattling down your entire college memoirs.
Here are some bullet points that I gathered from today’s lecture:

  • State your name, your city/country of origin and one thing that makes you stand out from the rest
  • Refrain from vague phrases like “I’m interested in Social Media” (everybody has like 8 different social networks nowadays), “I am creative” (right, did you come up with 50 ways of building faces out of Jelly Beans or what?) or “I like Marketing” (well, that’s good for you then seeing that this is what you got a degree in). Be concrete, applied, concise.
  • Tell a story. Whether in Marketing or in Promoting, telling a story of a product, a company, an idea will stick much better. Try and make the others relate to what you are saying.
  • Speak slow and structured. Although your head might be full of excited voices screaming: “AAAH, this is the opportunity of a life time!!”, don’t let that rattle confuse your presentation. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
  • Be confident (and I hate this part because mine needs work) but not too rehearsed. If you’re too stuck in the way you present yourself, then sudden questions are going to tear you apart and get you out of concept.
  • Be enthusiastic about your topic. Whether you are talking about yourself, a product of yours, an idea or just about the Napoleonic Wars in High School, don’t let your audience fall asleep. Try and reflect good mood and optimism, everybody loves happy people.
  • Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a little but also don’t forget to give examples of your statements, the more the merrier. It’s the applicable things that stick in mind.
  • Stay in touch- after a nice chat, it’s perfectly fine to add someone on LinkedIn, maybe alongside with a short message á la “Hi, this is …., we talked earlier at the ….conference. It was great meeting you, I would love to continue our conversation on hdjfdv in the near future!”
  • Keep in mind: A product is only as good as its kick-off. Even if the first iPhone could have teleported us to the moon and back, few people would have bought it if Jobs had had sold it sitting in a corner of a small stage, slouched into a chair and mumbling into his beard. Sit straight! Stand up! This is YOU we are talking about!

    As an inspiration, watch this 2-minute video. It’s an innovative product by a SF-based start-up, which invented a handy-dandy devise that should prevent you from every looking for your keys, wallets or other precious itema ever again. I had never heard of them before but after only a little while, I had to share it on Facebook, with you guys and make a mental note to look into that. All because of a convincing 2-minutes of presenting really well. THAT’S the power of pitching ideas!

Up until recently, my elevator pitch used to be something like: “Hi, I am Ariane from Germany and I study Management together with students from over 110 different countries, which taught me so much about teamwork on an international level!” Now, this might not be perfect and by all means, keep in mind that I am not trying to sell the ultimate truth here. I am just some grad student who had all this sensation overload today and so many things that keep my brain busy. I am still not sure how good I will be in selling myself once it really matters and networking still scares me like heck. But, it’s good to keep these things in mind when working on it. It’s a progress, life’s a ride and you all hopped on board a while ago, so that was one of many many stops. Next will be a lighter topic, promise 😉

Cheers,

Ari

Lightly.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…

So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…”

– Aldous Huxley, Island

Humans of San Francisco

I believe I mentioned a book full of challenges that my friends gave me as a good-bye present, right? Well, one of those challenges said: “Publish at least three pictures à la Humans of New York where you photograph strangers and tell their stories.” Here goes #1:

“So, what’s the story behind this sign?”
“I was raised properly and I was taught that masturbating is normal and OK. It’s terrible how closed up people are to this topic, so I wanna help ’em ease into it. Also, it’s just great watching people react, I like to hold it up in front of a bus….see, those guys laughed, they know what I’m talkin about!”
“Are you always around this area?”
“I come from everywhere and I go everywhere. Today I’m here, tomorrow I’m somewhere else. I like the people of SF though, they react the best. Very liberal.”

 

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Undefined…

“So, I met this super cute guy on a dinner party the other day and we hit it off from the start. I’m going out with him tomorrow and I kinda have a crush!”
– That was me last week.

“He is an asshole, forget that I ever mentioned him, I feel so alone in this new city and how will I ever manage to meet the right guy, he seemed so promising, AAAAAH!”
– That was me yesterday.

So, what triggered those sudden changes of mind and heart? Reality did!
Disney movies, friendship necklaces in high school, mushy songs about relationships, they all hammer one eternal need into our minds: We need the one-on-one. There is someone out there who is the salt to our pepper, the John to our Paul, the Noah to our Allie (sigh now for Ryan Gosling!). And mostly, we are aware that finding this special someone will take up lots of time, hurdles, effort and (probably) a few heart breaks. It seems like there is no easy way to leading us to the One, no way to go about it without compromising something. The height. This one pet peeve in your partner you thought you could never live with. The list goes on and there is one other problem: How do you know that your current date or crush is The One?! Exactly, you can’t.

Last week I went on two dates with the same guy and they both were great. Having drinks in a bar in the trendy Mission District of San Francisco. Hiking up Twin Peaks to enjoy the view over the city at night only to throw ourselves into the hustle and bustle of the Castro Crowd afterwards. Lots of kissing and flirting and long, great talks. My crush grew by the minute.
After 4 margaritas (they were 2 for 1), we walked back to the MUNI station and got into the long good-bye kiss. Then he planted the bomb: “I feel like I should be honest with you: I am seeing someone else besides you. But I really like you. But I’m not looking for a relationship at the moment, I think.” I said good-bye as gracefully as I could and cried my way home (the margaritas were reaaally gettin to my head…) only to be pittying myself all of next day (thank awesome friends for helping me through this part). I felt so stupid thinking that after only a few days in San Francisco, I could be lucky enough to find this great guy, enjoy myself so much and not have a single catch to it. And I felt resented only thinking about the fact that he was dating another person, like…does he not realize that I am awesome enough to be enough?! Well, the truth is, he probably really doesn’t. And maybe, just maybe, that’s because we have only been on TWO dates. Having spent most of my dating life on a college campus, I am completely new to the real dates and the real talks about exclusivity and labels and going steady and I hate it already, it’s so confusing. But even I know that two dates is not nearly enough to ask someone to close themselves down to all other options. I was not a happy camper after hearing him say all that he said… because it burst my bubble! The bubble that safely held the idea of having him be the person that cares for me like no one else, who will always be there for me and I will always be there for him and oooh, can anyone else hear wedding bells in the background? We fault our partners for not being on the same page, but in my case, I needed this burst of phantasy because here is the reality: Neither of us knows the other one well enough to picture anything going anywhere at this point. And while I am generally ready for a relationship again, who knows if O. is the guy I want to have a relationship with? Him dating others will allow me to do the same, explore my options, go out and mingle without putting pressure on anything until I know for sure what I want.
Of course, there is always the risk that I am wrong. That there is this guy somewhere, to whom I am not one of several dates, who is on my level from the start, whom I don’t have to wait around for because he would never leave me hanging. Yeah, maybe I am wasting my time with O., maybe it’s really stupid to think that dating without labels isn’t setting me up for heart break. I guess I have to remind myself of my own previous blog post of advice on how to listen to myself. Being both attentive to yourself and realistic is really tough. No matter how this ends though, it’s good to have a reality check every now and then, to prevent yourself from setting sail to cloud nine only to find yourself on rock bottom.

“I like you and I really like spending time with you but we’ve only been on two dates and I feel like it would be sort of crazy to decide to be exclusive or to try and predict where this is going (or not going).  I wanna get to know you better and see how things flow before I’m making my mind up on you. So, at this point I am far from asking you to stop seeing other people or getting yourself into something you might not be ready for…mainly because I myself have no idea what I’m ready for either. In case I notice that we are headed into different directions entirely, I’ll make sure to speak up but how about we cross that bridge if ever we come to it?”
– That’s me today. Let’s see which disasters this is gonna get me into….

Cheers,
Ari