Positivity

Category Archives for Positivity.

Vipassana Part 2: My Experience on the Path of Dhamma

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OR,

Learning Through My Legs

OR,

Busting Through Samkaras

OR,

Vipassana: A Magic Cushion Ride

Note: This post is text-heavy and has nothing to do with points and miles. I’m writing about it here for the same reason I write Trip Reports – to share a new experience. That’s what travel is really about anyway!

In you haven’t yet, be sure to read Vipassana Part 1 to get some background info on an experience like this.

During my time at the Dhamma Siri Meditation Center in Kaufman, TX, the weather actually perfectly mirrored the entire experience. It was uncanny how perfect it was.

Days begin at 4am:

Vipassana Timetable

Vipassana Timetable

You’ll hear the loud gong of a bell at 4am. Then again at 4:20am – your signal to head to the Meditation Hall.

At the Center I attended, they have the light switch next to the bed. That first morning, I flicked the switch – and had no idea what I was really in for.

I got up, one foot in front of the other, and shortly before 4:30am, headed to the Meditation Hall for the first time.

Days 1-3: Going Inward (Rainy AF)

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Vipassana Part 1: Getting There and About the Course

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Last week, I completed my first 10-day Vipassana course at the Southwest Vipassana Meditation Center in Kaufman, Texas.

Now I’m back in New York and beginning to process the whole experience.

The Wheel of Dhamma

The Wheel of Dhamma

There were so many intangible things. It’s nearly impossible to describe the tactile and transformative qualities. After speaking with a few others about the impacts, I’m realizing how radically different everyone reacts to a course like this.

So I’ll outline my experience. Yours might be similar in some ways, but totally opposite in other ways.

I’ll start with some background and info about Vipassana and the Center I attended. Then, in a second post, talk about the coursework.

And also like, wow.

What’s Vipassana?

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Next Week: Heading to Vipassana to Meditate for Ten Days

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Tomorrow, I’m heading down to Dallas again. I’ll work from there for a few days, and then head to Kaufman, Texas, to begin an experience unlike any I’ve ever had.

I signed up for a Vipassana 10-day meditation session.

During that time, there will be no phone, no internet, no computer, no texting or FaceTime or checking the news. And no talking. Days begin at 4am and run through 9pm. The focus is each day is… nothing.

To think of nothing.

2016-03-05_11-01-20I am excited and terrified. But so looking forward to it.

About Vipassana

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Must-Haves of Travel: Calcium Bentonite Clay

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This stuff is intense!

WHAT AN ADVERT

WHAT AN ADVERT

Labeled, “World’s Most Powerful Facial” with a tagline of “FEEL YOUR FACE PULSATE!”

But seriously, this stuff gets down into your pores in a way that’s really incredible, and perfect for clearing out any build-up caused by travel.

What’s calcium bentonite clay?

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ABC + FIRE! (In which life is all acronyms.)

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I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a few months by now. Now here it is!

Yesterday, I made the final payment on my credit cards. Now, I don’t owe a cent of credit card debt!

As you guys know, I charged those puppies up to:

There was a point, a real and scary one, where I felt I’d certainly overleveraged myself.

I wrote about the feeling in Smart Debt: Is carrying a balance ever a good idea?

Side hustle of the millennium

Side hustle of the millennium

And I definitely felt I’d nearly crossed the line into plain ol’ dumb debt.

Digging out of credit card debt is by far one of the most psychologically strenuous exercises I’ve faced. And that moment where I saw the interest get charged felt so wrong, my stomach turned. But I knew I could shoulder a couple of months of interest to make it all back, plus more.

Still, it sucked.

And today is the official turning point where I go full-force into FIRE.

What is FIRE?

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I Haven’t Washed My Hair in a Month – and It Feels Great!

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Yup!

I know, it sounds kind of weird. I was like, “What the hell am I getting myself into?”

But it’s been a month and I haven’t used any shampoo. And it feels great!

What’s No ‘Poo?

“No ‘Poo” is “no shampoo.” I have no idea why it’s abbreviated to “no ‘poo.” Because it sounds like you’re aren’t ever going to poop again.

But nope! No ‘poo means you cut out shampoo once and for all. And replace it with baking soda and/or apple cider vinegar.

There’s a surprisingly huge section of Reddit devoted to people’s experiences with it. And amazingly, you won’t turn into a dirty hippie!

The idea is that normal shampoo has dozens of chemicals in it, and you’re putting them into your hair every day.

All the crap in an ordinary bottle of shampoo

All the crap in an ordinary bottle of shampoo

So I picked up the shampoo I was using and turned it over. Sure enough, there was a whole laundry list of stuff I couldn’t pronounce.

What’s “Hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride?” It sounds like something that’s gone through a lot of processing.

What about “Methylchloroisothiazolinone?” I’m out.

What I did

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My Best Advice: “You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To”

I’m just read through an old scrapbook from 1991 to 1993. Yup, I still have some things from nearly 25 years ago.

My little brother hadn’t been born yet, and I wrote a lot of letters to my family. Once I learned how to address envelopes and send letters, I sat down and wrote all the time. And when I got a letter in the mail, I’d get so excited. I thought it was the best thing in the world – to get a letter in the mail.

I was lucky to have a supportive family while growing up in rural Mississippi. My Mom was always there to take care of me, and I still talk to her on the phone constantly.

This letter from my Gramma is over 23 years old by now, and I still have it

This letter from my Gramma is over 23 years old by now, and I still think about it

My grandmother taught me about positive thinking early on. I’ll never forget a phrase I read in one of her letters.

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

It was the first piece of advice that really stuck with me, and it was a good one. The letter came on June 4th, 1992. I was seven years old at the time.

The law of attraction

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Must-Haves of Travel: Apple Cider Vinegar

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Now I’ve really gone off the deep end, and am suggesting that you pack a spray bottle filled with… vinegar?

Yup!

I’ve written about traveling with coconut oil. I make sure to have a container of it with me every time I travel.

More recently, I’ve started taking a little spray bottle filled with apple cider vinegar.

Here’s why. 

Benefits of apple cider vinegar

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Gratitude / Life Changes

The times, they are a-changin’ (aren’t they always?).

Ah, the open road...

Ah, the open road…

Thank YOU!

I’m having a great time keeping up with the points and miles community here, and hopefully adding helpful information where I can. So I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone reading.

thank-youI’m continually blown away by the kindness of my readers and how many awesome people there are who are as into points and miles and credit cards as I am.

My links

Also wanted to say thanks for hitting up my referral links lately. They’ve been there for a sec, kinda hanging out in the sidebar. I was accepted into the CreditCards.com referral program – which is awesome because I don’t have to swear allegiance to any card(s) in particular. Most of the good ones are there, though. So thanks for clicking when you’re considering opening a new card. It’s a nice bonus for sure, and I appreciate the support!

Oh, and I have a page of Services I Like, too. I do posts from time to time about a cool service (like Paribus or Evernote), then I’ll post the referral link. I only add services I really love, so thanks for using those links, too!

Life stuff

Sunset in ABQ

Sunset in ABQ

So this kinda goes hand-in-hand with the call-out of the referral links. I’m slowly but surely doing these things with my life:

  • Building up this blog
  • Doing more freelance writing
  • Slowly making an NYC exit plan
  • Paying down my debt and saving up for a house simultaneously

These past 6 months, I’ve had to get a lot of different projects off the ground by leveraging my own money (See Smart Debt: Is carrying a balance ever a good idea?). I’m happy to report that these projects are going well. There have been some hiccups and unforeseen stuff, like there’s supposed to be with new ventures, and I plopped down my credit cards to keep the momentum going.

Sure, I earned some points in the process. But it was mainly a gamble. And I straddled the fine line between Smart Debt and plain ol’ Dumb Debt. So I’d like to ameliorate that.

Then, I’d like to save up a nice down payment for a house somewhere that’s… Not New York. I was thinking a cabin in the woods in Vermont, or a little house in northern New Mexico, or… I’ve been tossing around a few places.

Mountains and lake in Vermont

Mountains and lake in Vermont

I’d like access to American Airlines at the nearest airport, an easy mortgage, and enough services that I can still do my art projects on the side. So that could be a lot of places. Definitely a small to mid-sized city. That’ll be a huge and welcome change.

Future travels

Getting back to travel, I’d like to focus domestically this summer. Yeah!

I was thinking of visiting Chicago, and/or flying into Vancouver, and making my way down to NorCal with stops in Seattle and Portland. It’s been far too long since I’ve visited Chicago, and I’ve never been to Oregon…

And this winter, I was thinking of an extended visit to Central America, a region I’ve never explored.

In general, I’m assessing my priorities and figuring out what I can do with this writing and blogging stuff. I’m working to fit everything in and to grow everything together.

Bottom line

So that’s it. Just wanted to say thanks for using my links – it’s been a real boost and a great support for me these past couple of months, especially as I figure out what’s next and how to grow from here.

Thank you – one of the most powerful phrases there is!

Must-Haves of Travel: Coconut Oil

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Here’s my pie in the sky for weekend. And I promise I’m only a little bit crazy in recommending that you travel with a small measure of coconut oil.

Here’s why.

I have written about coconut oil before in how it relates to overall health, specifically with the practice of oil pulling, which I am happy to report I still practice religiously (today, in fact).

Benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil does so many great and beneficial things – I basically want to turn into a coconut.

Here’s a short list of the health and beauty uses of coconut oil:

  • Make up remover
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunburn relief
  • Pre-shave and aftershave
  • Deep hair conditioner and split end treatment
  • Burn relief and scar reduction
  • Toothpaste (baking powder mixed with coconut oil)

Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants and helps enhance the lipid barrier on your skin to keep in as much moisture as possible. It’s a natural skin-softening moisturizer and contains emollient, which helps reduce wrinkles that have already developed. It’s also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

It soothes bug bites, speeds healing of burns, helps with rashes, gets rid of flaking skin, softens and shrinks wrinkles, protects against sun damage, keeps tans longer, etc. Seriously, Google it. You will be amazed by all you can do with it.

How to use coconut oil while traveling

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The Two Most Powerful Words in the Travel Industry

…or any industry. 

thank-youThank you. 

When to thank

People often ask me how I sometimes score upgrades on an airline, get my flights changed for free with no notice, get retention offers on credit cards when others have reported not having success, or get awards changed to better routings without paying a fee.

I’ve read the articles about wearing blazers and showing up early to the gate, the $20 trick, and how people say they will close their credit cards to a retention specialist to get more points from banks. Maybe they have some merit and maybe they don’t – but my approach is to be nice to everyone all the time, and say “thank you” with gratitude.

I believe the feeling of gratitude is one of the most powerful feelings a person can experience – more powerful than any negative emotion could ever be.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in life – especially in the travel industry. There are many moving parts and much has to happen for everything to go smoothly. I am constantly amazed at just how cool air travel really is.

Sometimes things happen. There is weather, there are delays, flights get oversold. Every day this happens. Yes, it sucks, but you’ve got to roll with it.

Here is when I like to thank: I state my business, ask my question, tell them I appreciate them looking into it, and say thank you. Then I hush up.

Something like:

Hi, I see there is a flight leaving sooner than the one I’m supposed to be on. Would it be possible to switch onto that flight? I don’t have any checked bags. I’d really appreciate it if you could see if it might be possible. Thank you.

And then I wait.

I think of it as putting my wish out into the world, and then releasing it. I figure if I can get something better by simply asking a question, I am in a better position if I get what it is I’ve asked for, and no worse off if it doesn’t happen. So there is never anything to lose.

When thank you has worked for me

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Time to Set New Travel Goals

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gooseneck_03

Goosenecks in Utah

The first of the year is always a good time to reassess everything in the FF universe. All the clocks have just been reset to zero and we hang onto our statuses until the end of February. I’m going to lose Platinum with American. It’s my first time in a few years not having status with any airline.

I also have to decide whether or not I want that British Airways Travel Together certificate. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons – and as of right now, it’s not looking so appealing just due to the dang fuel surcharges. I’m also not sure if I want this year to be as Europe-centric as last year. My travel goals are pulling me to Asia and back to South America, although there are still many European countries I’d love to visit.

With all this in mind, I’ve begun the process of writing down my goals for the year.

I have four categories that I set up for goals:

  • Personal
  • Career/Business
  • Health
  • Travel

I set up a file in Evernote and type everything out, stream-of-consciousness style, in no order at all.

Then I go through and polish it up a little, connect the dots, expand, and refine.

I also did something this year that I’ve never done before: I wrote a letter to my future self, with a reminder set for one year from now. This is my way of holding myself accountable for the goals I set, and it gives my subconscious something to strive toward. It was also surprisingly cathartic.

I find that writing/typing out a goal is much better than keeping it in “the back of my mind.” If you don’t have Evernote, it’s a great thing to have even if you just use it for this one purpose.

Travel goals

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