So I still need to update y’all on my latest trip to Iceland (!) but until I’ve got the pictures all sorted out, I’ll start with this post. I uploaded a couple Iceland pics on my Instagram though if you are curious, you can check them out here. But last night I saw Dr. Strange with my family while back in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving. And I have to say, it was awesome.

I’ve never read comic books (except for Archie comics come to think of it..) but the Marvel team has done an amazing job turning their comic book heroes into Hollywood movies – my favorites now have to be Deadpool and Dr. Strange. I had absolutely no idea what to expect when we went to see the movie except that it looked a little trippy in the previews. I didn’t know that Dr. Strange’s whole story would be centered around meditation, Buddhism and spirituality.

If you haven’t seen it yet, to sum it up, Dr. Stephen Strange is a highly-skilled neurosurgeon who injures his hands in a terrible car accident and renders them useless. Thus his whole sense of self is lost. He can’t imagine a life where he’s not a neurosurgeon so he embarks on a journey to heal his hands only to find himself drawn into a world of mystical arts founded in mindfulness, meditation and essentially Buddhism, though they don’t say that outright.

The future of our nation is uncertain. If there’s anything last night’s election tells me, it’s that America is divided and we now have a very controversial leader about to take the most powerful position in the world. Regardless of your political affiliation, you know Donald Trump is extremely controversial and very inexperienced politically. So, yes, there is massive uncertainty brewing.

Martin Luther once said “Nothing in the world causes so much misery as uncertainty.”

You got that right Mr. Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King Jr.)! This Martin Luther was actually a Christian theologian and Augustinian monk. So, on an every day level there is uncertainty in every choice we make – we are uncertain about sending an email, which route to take to get somewhere on time, saying yes or no to someone, which job to take, which candidate to vote for. On a deeper level, we as human beings are uncertain about life itself. What does it mean to be human? What are we here for? What is our purpose? On Amazon alone there are over 11,000 books on the topic “purpose of life” with thousands of reviews. See, everyone is wondering why we’re here! No matter who you are, you’re uncertain about something, big or small. And uncertainty leads to anxiety, stress, depression, regret, misery, and ultimately disconnect from ourselves, from others and from the power of Universe.

Hey everyone!

Quick post for today but I wanted to let you all know that Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge starts up again today. He releases these every couple of months and I have found all of them to be really well done and helpful. If you haven’t tried meditation before or you think it’s just not for you, I URGE you to try this out. They are very simple, guided meditations that each focus on a different message and learning for 21 days straight. It’s also 100% free (love me some free shit)  and you can listen whenever you want. If you’re asking who the EFF is Deepak and why should he guide me in a meditation? Because Deepak is the fucking MAN. Straight up yo. At least, he’s really resonated with me. I love what he’s all about. Don’t believe me? Check out what other people have to say:

“My country has been enriched by the contributions of more than a million Indian Americans, which includes Dr. Deepak Chopra, the pioneer of alternative medicine.” – President Bill Clinton, March 21, 2000 – State Dinner – India

Time Magazine heralds Deepak Chopra as one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century, and credits him as “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.”  – Time Magazine, June 1999

Wine Tasting & Apple Picking in SLO

Last weekend my USC girlfriends and I took a trip for a girls weekend in San Luis Obispo to get some much needed #GirlTime ♥.

After graduating, half of our friend group seemed to move up to San Francisco while the other half nestled here in pockets of West LA. So San Luis Obispo is the perfect half-way point for us all to meet – we can all drive there in about 3-4 hours and spend a weekend there without taking off any time from work, which is awesome. The LA girls packed into my friend Dasha’s car while the SF girls loaded up in my friend Lisa’s car that had a UCLA license plate holder…pshh lame! I guess she drove her sister’s car – boooooo. Just kidding, it’s really a great school, nothing against it…many of my friends went to grad school there.

We leave Friday night and about an hour into the car ride my friend Ashley, who planned the whole weekend trip, texts all of us and asks if any of us are allergic to cats. Well, me, sort of! My skin issues are aggravated by animals and I’ve always been slightly allergic to cats. Plus, cats seem to hate me, I think they can sense I’m a loyal dog person… So I text back that I am and so begins the tale of our weekend petsitting Lenny the cat. Apparently, our Airbnb came with a cat that no one had seen in the listing (there was 2 sentences about it in the middle of the listing). It wasn’t until the night of our arrival that the landlord texted Ashlie and asked if everyone was OK with the cat. Merp.

We’re all pretty confused at this point. Who the EFF leaves their family pet with a handful of Airbnb strangers!? Unless he’s an evil cat that they really don’t like any way. We are not getting a good feeling from ol’ Leonard the cat at this point. We dig into the welcome email with the “House Rules.” Buried at the very bottom are Len Len’s instructions:

The first time I tried homemade almond milk hot-cocoa myself was a total shit-show. I was doing a little nature retreat by myself in Lake Tahoe (story coming soon), where my grandparents have a cabin that they let all us grandbabies use. My best friend Dasha (who you learned about here) gave me the idea to spend the week I had up there juicing to see if it would help my skin (so I did and I’ll be sharing that experience soon!). She had just recently watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead about this man who lost tons of weight and seemingly cured his weird skin rash by going on a juice cleanse for over a month. I know we’ve all heard of three and five day juice cleanses but 30 days?! Then he turned it into 60 days!!

What a nut lol. But, hey, he said he felt great and he was getting frequent blood tests and being observed by doctors, so hey if it works for you, more power to ya. I have a friend, Suzanne (actually Matt’s sister in law), who always says “You do you, Ali, you do you.” I love that saying. She usually says it when I’m doing something weird (this happens quite often) which is appropriate because only the weirdos do things that require such a statement. Personally, I like “whatever floats your boat, girlfriend”. Or, in the words of the great Oscar Wilde:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

So do whatever feels good and right to you and don’t let what anyone else thinks or says have an effect on you. Only you know what’s best for you. But back to my almond milk experience. I looked up a few recipes and decided it sounded simple enough. 1 cup of almonds soaked overnight, 3 cups of filtered water, 2 dates, a pinch of sea salt, and vanilla beans/extract all thrown into the juicer. Mmmmm yeahhh…if any of you have used a juicer before, you know this didn’t go well for me.

Growing up I was never introduced to “working out” because we played sports and that was enough exercise to not have to worry about it. Let’s just say I played enough tennis every day to blow through an evening of all-you-can-eat pasta and breadsticks at Olive Garden and still be at an average weight – though I was never skinny, I was always the “athletic” build. And no, thank god I never did the Olive Garden trip – but just saying, I could’ve…I do love pasta. So when I got to college I wasn’t playing as much tennis, maybe 5-6 hours a week on the club team, and the weight started to slowly creep on. It wasn’t the freshman 15 or anything, but over the next 3 years the late night ice cream sandwiches (my favorite drunchie – drunk munchy for those of you that don’t know the cool college kid lingo),all-you-can-eat cafeterias, and of course the all-you-can-drink booze that accompanies the college lifestyle caught up with me.

Then at the start of my spring semester of junior year, I broke my wrist badly snowboarding and had to have surgery. I had 2 pins stuck in my right wrist for about 8 weeks so it was impossible to exercise –  even walking made my blood start pumping and it would hurt. I didn’t change my eating habits either so without exercise my weight started piling on even faster. By the summer of my junior year I was up to 180 lbs!! I’m 5’9″ so 180 isn’t obese or anything for my height, but I definitely needed to get back closer to 150 which is about what I weighed going into college. I’m going to show you a picture…as much as I hate it. It’s one of those pictures you instantly de-tag yourself from on Facebook (you know the ones) and now I’m sharing it with the world. Lol, I guess there are worse things.

This is the story of how my soul became punch drunk. 2016 has been a one-of-a-kind year so far. In many ways, this has been the worst year of my life. In other ways it’s actually been the best, most enlightening year of my life. I guess that’s how things tend to happen if you can manage to seek the good in the midst of shit. It’s like what people say – there can be no light without darkness, no good without evil. Sometimes it takes a hard, painful experience to truly realize how precious and amazing life is.

Let me back up a little. I’m Ali Daniel (hello, hello!) and I started this blog to chronicle my journey to finding health, happiness and ultimately myself (whatever that means) through trial and error and lots (and lots) of reading. Why did I embark on this “journey”? Well, for many of the same reasons that others, including maybe you, have. I was tired of days passing and not feeling like anything happened. I felt like life was flying by and I was just watching, helplessly unable to slow it down. I felt content, but not fulfilled (again, whatever that means). It wasn’t something I could easily describe or put my finger on. There wasn’t anything specific I could blame or say “This is what’s wrong.” I just felt like there was more to life, more out there to experience that I just wasn’t doing.