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7 Steps to A Personal Sequester

*Original posted on my Huffington Post Blog, 3.18.2013

Two weeks ago, what was originally described as "financial apocalypse" or a "doomsday scenario" by many occurred. The sequester cuts, totaling roughly $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years, were discussed in many major media outlets. Yet, it was reported in a recent Gallup Poll that the majority of American's were not interested in this aspect of our national conversation because they were unsure of the personal impact. The irony cannot be overlooked.

Although the sequester dialogue was framed around fiscal and programmatic impact, the underlying theme of the conversation, is a question.How do we withdraw from our lives of over-consumption? If the "new economy" is here to stay, then it is critical for us each to develop an understanding of this question that resonates with our day to day lives.

I suggest a personal sequester.

In January 2011, I needed a reset. Growing up in the '90s I had developed an all consuming thirst for success and activity. As a digital native there hasn't been a time when I wasn't connected and as the pace of the Internet quickened all of our lives, I found my life moving at breakneck pace. Barely able to appreciate my success and accomplishments, I felt deeply pained by my failures and overwhelmed by the constant busy. After a chaotic first two years in NYC, I felt unmoored and disengaged. I realized I was no longer present in my own life, which troubled and scared me.

Although I grew up with a profound faith and access to religious traditions, the desire to feel present wasn't accompanied by a clear understanding of how to get in touch with my own life. Maybe -- I thought -- it would be as simple as being in motion, to be in my body felt logical and compelling.

As I begin what evolved into a daily yoga practice, I realized that I needed to step out of the flow of traffic and noise in order to access my internal still and quiet. This was a tall order. As a recent NYC transplant on the heels of a devastating economic recession, slowing down was extraordinarily counterintuitive. That said, I made peace and self discovery a priority, and as I disappeared from social media, adopted a vegan diet and declined social activities in favor of intentional solitude, I found myself in a new way. In truth, it was the most pivotal six months of my life and I suggest that each of us consider what it would take to feel our lives in a renewed way. Uncluttered, pure, present and free.

The strategic approach to developing a personal sequester involves seven components:

1. Assessment. How do you feel? Taking time to pause in your life begins with setting aside time to have an internal check-in. Are you stressed? Are you tired? How does your body feel? How does your skin look? The human body provides clear indications of disharmony.

2. Acknowledgement. Upon realizing your need, acceptance and acknowledgment are critical in creation an action plan. American work culture posits that exhaustion is a tenant of hard work. As such, many people I know feel guilt, as if the need to slow down is a gross luxury. This is an inaccurate and dangerous supposition.

3. Prioritization. All evolution is possible because of a first step. Choosing which personal needs to prioritize is essential. In my own life, physical wellness (sleep, diet, exercise) were pivotal to become more grounded in my life.

4. Implementation. Once you have discovered your needs and prioritized them, create a strategy for your personal sustainability, which also needs to include how you'll make it work. For example, in choosing to become vegan, I knew that I would have to cook more often to ensure that I had enough choices during the work day. My implementation plan included creating a weekly menu of vegan meals including snacks.

5. Adjustment. Adjusting the goals and the efforts around them is a natural part of achieving success. Initially, I wanted to attend a meditation class. However, due to my work schedule and personal commitments, bi-weekly classes were more realistic.

6. Maintenance. Consistency and self- discipline are the tenants of a life of peace and contentment. Maintenance means developing systems to maintain your personal accountability. I found that leaning on close friends who supported my desire to slow down was valuable.

7. Incorporation. When all was said and done, I had taken a full six months of time to myself, 18 months later I have re-engaged in my social networks and returned to the NYC pace in many ways, but now I am informed by my needs and work to support my sustainability on a daily basis.

Have you paused today? What are you waiting for, because your life is just waiting for you.

Resistance is Futile

The most inevitable fact about our lives is that change is constant. The formidable and brilliant author, Octavia Butler (the first African American woman to receive a MacArthur Award for Science Fiction) has a short poem that so beautifully captures this fact:

“All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.

The only lasting  truth is Change.God is Change.”

 ― Octavia E. Butler

And despite this impermeable fact when changes occur the majority of us panic and grieve in ways that are not only illogical at times but also dangerous. When you panic, you make choices that are not grounded in what you want, in fact, choices made in panic tend to be completely fear based and direct us towards what we don't want.

One of the most common traits found in high-performing people (athletes, corporate executives, artist, etc.) is that they have high degree of self-discipline and a high-capacity to adapt. In a Forbes November 2012 Article written by Travis Bradberry, he eloquently explains that adaptive leaders have emotional intelligence, integrity, believe in developing others and sharing information.' Adaptive leaders have the ability to step into an environment, develop an analysis and adjust as necessary to reach their intended outcomes.

Have you ever started a job and realized it didn't meet your expectations? What did you? An adaptive leader would asses and adjust. Have you ever made contact with a distant role model only to realize up close that the were imperfect? Did you dismiss their mentorship or adjust your expectation of the interaction? Have you ever been given an opportunity that wasn't what you hoped for? Did you give up and miss out or did you rise to the occasion and embrace a lesson you couldn't predict?

Our expectations often go unmet and then one of two things occurs - we adapt or we leave. As Monday knocks on this door this week - take a moment to asses and adjust. Your life is waiting for you to step into your power and thrive.

Onward and Upward,

Simone  Signature

Photo        Hello my dears, welcome to What's For Dinner Wednesday - althought this won't always be a dinner entree today it is. One of the hallmarks of living as a bachelorette in New York City is having a fridge that only contains a Brita water pitcher and a freezer full of frozen meals. If you're like one of my friends you may have gotten smart and now purchase a weekly 1/2 rotissere chicken to spice things up. This is no way to live.

 As a proud NYC single vegan - I am happy to say that I have a homemade meal for 80-90% of my weekly meals. You can too. If you're looking for something that's quick and delicious and Thai inspired I'd like to suggest a delightful bowl of pineapple fried rice and teriyaki baked tofu.  These recipes are not my own but they sure come out great!

Pineapple Fried Rice (Courtesy of Cheeky Kitchen)

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 3 cloves garlic, chopped 1 red pepper, diced 3 cups sweet brown rice, cooked 3 tablespoons vegetable broth 3 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon curry powder 1/4 cup peas, frozen 1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into chunks 1/2 cup toasted coconut 1 cup roasted & salted cashews 1/2 cup scallions 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped


Heat the oils in a large wok. Add the garlic and red pepper. Cook the red pepper until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Toss in the rice, broth, soy sauce, and curry powder. Heat until the rice is sizzling Remove from heat, add the peas, pineapple, coconut, cashews, and scallions. Stir until well mixed. Top with cilantro and serve immediately.

Baked Teriyaki Tofu

One 14- to 16-ounce tub tofu, drained

Teriyaki marinade:

  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/4 cup white wine, cooking sherry, vegetable broth, or water
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar or other liquid sweetener
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 to 2 cloves crushed or minced garlic, optional
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh or jarred ginger, or more, to taste
  • Fresh or dried thyme (regular or lemon thyme), or oregano leaves to taste, optional

For the tofu, cut it into 8 slabs crosswise and blot very well between clean kitchen towels or paper towels. If you want your baked tofu to be extra firm, you can place a cutting board over them with some sort of weight for 20 to 30 minutes or so. Better yet, use a tofu-pressing device like the Tofu XPress (see review of this product here on VegKitchen, and see how to use it for this recipe, below).

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small container and whisk together. Arrange the tofu slices in a single layer in a shallow container and pour enough marinade over them to cover. Let stand for an hour or two—the longer, the better.

Shortly before you’d like to bake the tofu, preheat the oven to 400º F. If this is the only thing you’re making, use a toaster oven—it’s the perfect size. Otherwise, roast some veggies at the same time (I used the excess marinade to roast eggplant in this photo). Remove the tofu slices from the marinade and transfer to a parchment-lined baking pan in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn over and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the tofu is firm and starting to turn light brown along the edges