No New Friends

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Ode to Drake

For the past 5 days I’ve been in Miami spending time with one of my very good friends, someone I consider part of my “Vegas Tribe”. The Tribe was a concept born from a group of hippy artists I became very close to my last two years living in Vegas. The Vegas art scene is very unique in that it is very small. Because it’s small it’s easier to connect with other artists in a communal atmosphere. It’s common for artists to attend birthday parties and weddings of other artists or for a group of artists to host a Thanksgiving dinner together. There’s more than a few that have gotten together and collectively rented a house. That’s just how we roll.

I don’t get to spend time with my Tribe very often but when I do I’m reminded of how much I need that supportive energy. As much as I love Atlanta the one issue (which also happens to be the biggest issue) is that I haven’t been able to cultivate a Tribe there. Even establishing authentic friendships has proven challenging. I’ve experienced a lot of people who are attracted to appearances and/or what they think they can get from you. They approach you under false pretenses in order to try to use you. There are a lot of fakes in the city of Atlanta.

This has been very difficult for me because I am generally very open and authentic. I take people at face value and have no reason to mistrust because I am honest in all my dealings with others, so I never expect anyone to be dishonest in  their dealings with me.

Yeah…idealistic, I know.

And my idealism has resulted in being flat-out lied to and used, several shady living arrangements, unfruitful business “partnerships”, flaky acquaintances that want to call themselves friends, clients with ulterior motives, and being owed a total of several hundred dollars for work done for a few small businesses. And while I could be upset about these experiences I refuse to be a victim. My participation means that I am a co-creator. And each bad experience has been a lesson on what I need to do to tighten my ship; speak my truth, improve my business practices,  call out bullshit, be discerning, and be discriminating on who I allow into my circle.

And speaking of the circle….

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I don’t need any new friends. An Atlanta Tribe isn’t necessary because my Vegas Tribe is more than enough. I have more than enough love and support from the true friends and family in my life. They know me. They understand me. I don’t have to explain myself to them nor do I have to worry about being taken advantage of.  I am part of a strong collective that ensures that all involved grow and elevate. We honor each other with the up most respect and integrity. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So to anyone new, I’m good. Unless you are of the same caliber my circle is closed and I am ok with that.

Buddhist Reflection: Meeting Others Where They Are & Loving Kindness

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This particular blog post has been sitting in my drafts for at least six months now….

Last month I posted the following status message on FB:

I wish some of the people in my life loved themselves as much as I loved them. That would be a wonderful thing to witness.

Along those same lines , a few days ago I tweeted “Surrounded by so many broken people that I can’t find which pieces go to which puzzle.”

What I’ve learned during my spiritual journey is that the biggest part of Buddhist practice is meeting others where they are. I mean exactly where they are. Regardless of whether or not they are in a good place or a bad one. Such a stance requires a lot of things like patience, a letting go of expectations and judgement, and an open mind. It’s a separate practice all its own. Learning to meet others where they are is a training in abandoning the ego. We all have the tendency to judge others by our own standards. We often hold the people in our lives accountable for the way we think they should be and when they fail to meet our expectations we respond with harshness. But once we let go of our expectations and judgement our hearts soften–we are much more understanding.

That softening of the heart is where the loving kindness comes in. The crumpling of my own personal emotional walls was met with sadness. Sadness because I find myself surrounded by so many beautiful and amazing people who don’t know just how wonderful they are. People who are so hard on themselves, full of self-doubt and self hate. People who are broken into so many tiny little pieces with  no idea how to put themselves back together.

Loving kindness starts with the self. This is why metta starts with the meditator visualizing himself/herself as they recite the mantras of loving kindness. Buddhism understands that we can never fully love another if we don’t love ourselves. Yet, for some reason,  it’s so much easier to love others before ourselves. Though it may be easier

The most I can do is accept the place they are at and meet it with understanding. I still love the people in my life no matter what. It is always my hope that the unconditional kindness I show them is enough to help them realize that they are worthy of the self-love they deserve.

With The Fall Comes…THE HOLIDAYS!!! And Other Great Things.

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Ok so I know fall in Vegas would never look like this. However, that doesn’t stopping me from loving this season. As much as I talk badly about this desert I will admit that it’s absolutely gorgeous in the fall months (October-mid December).

I can’t believe that I’ll be celebrating yet another Thanksgiving. The year has gone by so quickly. Which I’m thankful for because it wasn’t the easiest year for me. Not emotionally at least. Thanksgiving this year will actually be different for me. Instead of going to California to visit family, my mother will be coming out to Vegas. We have plans to go to a buffet rather than me cooking. I guess you can say that we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in true Vegas fashion.  I’ll also have the opportunity to spend time with a friend of mine who I haven’t seen since they moved away back in February. I’ve missed them more than I’m willing to admit. I think that and being able to put up my Christmas tree are the highlights of my November.

The fall/winter month’s are such a dormant time.  Animals hibernate. Insects retreat underground. The earth literally goes silent. I think that’s why I’ve always been the most introspective during this time.  This season leaves me reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’m at, and making plans on where I want to be. I’ve accomplished many of the goals I set for myself last year. In many ways I’ve exceeded the expectations I had for myself and now it’s all about setting higher goals. So what is going to be my focus for the upcoming year of 2012?

First and foremost I’ve decided that I need to take much better care of myself, from the inside out. It’s one of my New Year’s resolutions but it’s something I decided to start now and not wait until January 1st.  I’ve been exercising but my eating habits haven’t been the best. To remedy this I’ve gone vegetarian, something that has drastically changed how I eat. I also realize that I’ve been seriously neglecting my skin. It’s always been extremely sensitive, prone to random break outs. I did some research and found some pretty effective ways to maintain healthy skin, a combination of vitamins, facial cleansers, and natural skin oils. I’m already starting to see a huge difference. Lastly (and most importantly) I’ve decided to start dressing better. Not that I don’t dress nice already. But I’ve lost a ton of weight within the last year, hell in the last three months,  and it’s time for me to dress my size. Most of my wardrobe is over sized and ill-fitting. But I will be replacing my entire closet very soon. Something I am super excited about.

My other big project is my poetry. My friend told me the other day that I am growing as an artist. I found that comment kind of amazing because I’ve yet to see myself as any kind of artist. I’m a person who writes and recites poetry. Toya J is nobody’s “artist”. And yet I’m doing the open mics. People are starting to know who I am and look for me at events. I’m low-key developing a fan base. So I guess that would make me an artist. I recently got an idea to create a separate blog site strictly for my poetry. I was this close to adding another WordPress site. Then I started really thinking about it. I figure if I’m going to take this step I’d better do it right. I’m currently in the stages of putting together a really awesome .com site for my poetry. Not going to give too many details on that because I want it to be a surprise. I plan to launch it January 1st.

There’s also my ongoing goal concerning school and work, and of course traveling. I already have all my trips planned out for 2012, including my annual meditation retreat and my birthday trip to Tokyo. So while I end this amazing year by spending time with those closest to me I’m also planning for another amazing year coming up.