My Favorite Podcasts

When I first discovered podcasts, it was a revelation.

Rather than listening to the same songs over and over again on the radio, or to NPR (which I loved but rarely connected to the material), or to the Dan Patrick Show (unfortunately interrupted by seemingly endless commercial breaks), podcasts provided a deliberate source of education, an entertaining means of distraction and nourishment.

Today, podcasts have become an integral part of my life. I listen to them while walking to class, while on a run, when getting ready, or during pre-bed stretching sessions. They provide food for thought, helpful advice, radical ways of reframing the mind, and various perspectives on a wide range of topics. Podcasts have taught me how to think and have made me more open-minded; they have affected how I live, which books I read, and the movies I watch. In short, podcasts have infiltrated every aspect of my life, and I am eternally grateful for their influence.

Below are some of my favorites, but there are so many I have yet to explore…

  • The Tim Ferriss Show–one of my original favorites. Tim interviews experts and top-performers in various fields. Some of my favorite guests include Peter Attia, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Adam Grant, Safi Bahcall, Kevin Rose…so many good episodes! Tim is also raw and authentic, contributing so much wisdom and insight.
  • Making Sense–Sam Harris is perhaps one of the most intelligent, articulate people I have ever listened to. On his podcasts, he interviews journalists, mediation teachers, psychologists, psychedelic therapy experts, and so many other fascinating people. It can sometime get a bit political, but Sam’s thoughts and insights are worth paying careful attention to.
  • The Joe Rogan Experience–Joe Rogan is a masterful–and hilarious–interviewer. He is curious and friendly, never afraid to admit when he does not know or understand something. I admire his humility and open mind. His guest list is extremely diverse, ranging from comedians to actors to fitness junkies to nutrition experts to journalists to tech people to entrepreneurs…I tend to pick and choose the episodes that seem the most interesting to me, although I have often stumbled upon some unexpected gems I would not have expected to enjoy.
  • The Drive–Peter Attia, a renowned longevity doctor, interviews a host of people with the aim of increasing one’s lifespan and health span. Guests include physicians, nutrition experts, and exercise experts, but also people who have overcome tough mental challenges–such as surviving the 2009 forced landing of a US Airways flight in the Hudson River, for instance–or who have found ways to optimize their emotional wellbeing. Peter Attia is admirably self-aware and curious, curating a goldmine of extremely valuable information for how to live a healthy life.
  • The Kevin Rose Show–Kevin Rose, a friend of Tim Ferriss, has many guests similar to those who appear on The Tim Ferriss Show. I appreciate Rose’s genuine curiosity in addition to his combination of more science-backed interviews with ones that incorporate elements of Eastern forms of medicine. This is a relatively recent discovery, and there are certainly several gems!

Positive Activewear Brands

For many people, exercise can seem intimidating–an activity that promotes low self-esteem, comparison, and an unhealthy sense of competition. Indeed, for a seemingly small population, this is what exercise is all about. This negative ethos surrounding exercise has permeated throughout several gyms, studios, and the like, but there nevertheless seems to be a movement towards body positivity, inclusivity, and community when it comes to physical activity. In fact, a strong sense of community can be regarded as one of the primary reasons people exercise. Various exercise brands have decided to refreshingly embrace a positive culture, one that lifts others up and seeks to promote self love. Exercise, rather than being regarded as a punishment or a path towards a “perfect” body, is viewed as a form of self care. It is a crucial component of taking care of one’s body, yes, but also one’s mind and spirit. Listed below are a few brands that promote a positive view of exercise and work towards empowering people through movement.

Outdoor Voices

If you head to the OV website, you’ll see models of all shapes and sizes, including ones with disabilities. OV’s inclusivity makes them all the more lovable, not to mention their extremely high quality, comfortable, fun, and fashionable workout clothes.

Sweaty Betty

This British activewear company is rooted in female empowerment. Their mission is to celebrate all women through movement because it is nourishing, not because it is a way to “win” or “look better.” They promote self-love, as well as love of others, encouraging women to lift other women up.

Barre3

Barre3 offers mindful workouts that challenge, strengthen, and tone the body and mind. They, too, stress how exercise is NOT a competition and really take the time to encourage us to focus inward, placing our attention on one’s own body and how it feels in the present moment. Their workouts feel like a breath of fresh air, and their clothing and collaborations with brands such as Beyond Yoga and It Is Well L.A. offer fun outfits to move in.

Guide to New York City Part IV: TriBeCa

During my first year living in New York, I rarely visited Tribeca. I knew it was largely residential, with many luxury apartments as well as families. I also knew that it used to be an industrial wasteland–an unattractive and undesirable area of the city. This changed, however, in large part due to Robert De Niro, the incredibly talented polymath who invested in Tribeca property and subsequently transformed the area into a trendy, hip, and bustling neighborhood. I am not too well-versed on the subject, but if I am not mistaken, I believe that his restaurant, Nobu, helped attract an A-list crowd, which thus contributed to Tribeca’s glamorous makeover. My family and I had the privilege of staying here prior to my move back home for the summer. I discovered just how fun Tribeca was and how much more there was to explore. Bits and pieces revealed themselves to me during the year, when I met my brother for dinner, or enjoyed the final day of the Tribeca Film Festival (which just entailed viewing a bunch if movies at a nice movie theatre near Battery Park–not what I expected, but fun nonetheless). Staying here, however, elucidated Tribeca’s fun character, one I believed to be nonexistent, or at least banal in comparison to other neighborhoods such as the East Village or the Lower East Side. Once again, New York proved me utterly and completely wrong.

The Greenwich Hotel: Robert De Niro’s charming, cozy, and delightfully fancy hotel in Tribeca, complete with funky art, a lovely courtyard, a delicious restaurant, and impeccable design. The hotel room doors are wooden with a large knob in the center, and rooms house old books and vintage cameras. Details like these make the hotel so special! The staff is really friendly as well.

Locanda Verde: delicious rustic Italian restaurant at the Greenwich Hotel. Super fun and happening!

Tiny’s: a truly tiny restaurant that is at once intimate, romantic, refined, and delicious. Their thoughtful, well-composed menu contains ample mouth-watering options.

The Greek: probably one of my favorite restaurants in the city. The Greek serves authentic Greek food with a focus on seasonal, local, and organic ingredients. They have an outstanding natural wine list, and most of the staff are in fact Greek!

inside the Greek

Two Hands: though I have not been to their Tribeca location, I have been to their Nolita one, and it was delicious! This healthy aussie café serves up some delicious food with plenty of options for those with any dietary restrictions or those looking for a meal a little more on the healthy side.

Guide to New York City Part III: West Village & Greenwich Village

To be completely honest, I am unsure as to where the West Village ends and Greenwich Village begins. I have a general idea of the area each neighborhood inhabits, but the exact locations and the precise boundaries will likely always remain blurred in my mind. These neighborhoods, to me, do not possess a history that stretches as far back as the East Village and the Lower East Side, for instance, where old tenements and family-run businesses contribute to their unique character–one marked by the stories of the immigrants who moved here long ago, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. That is not to say that the West Village and Greenwich Village are any less special, however, for they possess their own idiosyncrasies. Their history, too, is rich: one may think of the Stonewall riots of 1969, or perhaps the lively music scene, or the tendency of aspiring artists–poets, authors, painters, etc.–to gravitate towards this eclectic area of the city. Indeed, these villages harbor a different narrative, but one that is nonetheless rich with culture and art, as well as the ethos of self-expression and acceptance.

Via Carota : a no reservations spot that is at once rustic, refined, lively, and delicious. Expect to wait, but it is definitely worth it!

Buvette: very French and very delicious. A petit gem owned by Jody Williams, who also helped found Via Carota, along with her partner, Rita Sodi.

Cap Beauty: a beautiful all-natural, non-toxic beauty shop with a friendly staff. They also offer wonderful facials and other treatments at their spa!

Barre3: an amazing exercise studio in the West Village. I love Barre3, and being able to practice at this studio was fun, fulfilling, stress-relieving, and provided a much-needed sweat! Be sure to check out their merchandise selection as well as other products such as candles and skin stuff.

Culture: a delicious frozen yogurt shop that focuses on high-quality ingredients and milk from local New York cows.

Loring Place: a trendy spot that focuses on fresh, seasonal, high-quality ingredients. The chef is an abc kitchen alum, so you know it is good and somewhat healthyish.

Clover Grocery: a wellness mecca that provides healthy snacks, condiments, supplements, skin care products, and more. They also have a smoothie/juice bar, though I have yet to try it.

Hemp Garden: they have several locations throughout the city, but I have only been to the one on Cornelia Street. They provide a vast selection of all natural products–creams, lotions, tinctures, gummies, bars, etc.–with the benefits of hemp and/or CBD. The staff is really friendly as well.

Goods for the Study: the BEST shop for all things paper/school/office/writing related, including pencils, pens, notebooks, folders, notepads, and more!

Pink Olive: such a fun shop for gifts and other little treasures such as fun cards, prints, books, notebooks, and so much more. Rifle Paper Co. is a common theme.

Wallflower: a tiny, romantic, chic, and charming restaurant with a small but delicious menu. The perfect place for an amazing meal in an intimate setting.

Guide to New York City Part II: Lower East Side

The easternmost side of New York holds a special place in my heart, as, living in the East Village, it was the area with which I grew the most familiar. This certainly does not mean that I have experienced all that the East Village and Lower East Side have to offer; in fact, I have only grown more aware of just how rich the city is, developing a thrilling sense of ignorant naïveté each time I stumble upon something new, such as a quaint café, a stunning townhouse, or an ancient familial deli, just to name a few. The more I realize how ignorant I am, the more deeply I fall in love with New York. It truly is a cultural treasure chest, possessing infinite gems–some of which have already been discovered, others patiently waiting. Below is a (incredibly brief) guide to LES, at least, the LES I have experienced thus far, as I hope there will be plenty more discoveries to come.

Dimes: a quaint, small, intimate, and healthyish restaurant. They also have a market and deli, which I have not frequented, but they seem just as lovely.

The Fat Radish: a veggie-forward, hip restaurant with a lively vibe.

Ice & Vice: an amazing little ice cream shop with inventive flavors (with seasonal specials) and cones (I had the koala chip– eucalyptus ice cream with black pepper and chocolate chips–on a blue corn cone).

The Ludlow: a chic, hip, and comfortable hotel with rustic and charming elements (think animal skin rugs, leather furniture, funky metallic light fixtures, and gold faucets).

Good Thanks: the cutest Aussie café with beautifully presented, delicious food and a friendly Australian staff.

As I said, this list is extremely brief. I hope to spend more time in the Lower East Side and continue to explore this brilliantly old, idiosyncratic neighborhood of the city.

Guide to New York City Part I: East Village

an EXTRAORDINARY Basquiat exhibition in the East Village

Spending my first year of college in New York City was intriguing to say the least. It was such a gift to possess the freedom to wander around various neighborhoods–the East Village being the most frequently visited due to the fact that I lived there. As one begins to know New York more intimately, one also starts to realize the immensity of what there is to know and discover. The city seems to hide countless gems–whether it be parks, side streets, restaurants, boutiques, and the like–upon which one stumbles periodically only to be reminded of just how rich the city is. New York is not defined by Wall Street or Times Square, but rather, at least in my opinion, by its neighborhoods and the unique cultural and historical elements each one possesses. This is what renders New York a magical place, however cliché that may sound. Below is listed some of the special places I have found in the East Village which embody New York’s spirit, whether they were discovered serendipitously or via previous research, each place adds to the city’s character, serving as reminders of its unique richness and depth. Other areas of the city will follow…

East Village

Hearth-a lovely, bustling restaurant with a focus on clean and local food

East Village Organic-a grocery store with, yes, organic produce and goods, an organic smoothie/juice bar, and a friendly staff

Cloak & Dagger-a chic boutique with a well-curated collection of 60’s- and 70’s inspired clothes, as well as unique jewelry, various styles of sunglasses, wondrously feminine dresses, among other fun finds

The Standard-a stylish hotel with spectacular views, funky décor, a fun bar, a delicious café and restaurant, and an unbeatable location

Pylos-an absolutely delicious Greek restaurant; tiny, elegant, and perfect

Narcissa-The Standard’s restaurant serving up a seasonal menu of delicious food in a trendy setting

Union Square Greenmarket-not technically the East Village but close enough, a bustling, year-round farmers’ market with a wide selection of produce, meats (even ostrich!), and other awesome finds

Greenmarket Bounty

Yoga to the People-a donation-based yoga studio in an old building on St. Marks; their ethos is all about focusing within, so it is a non-competitive, very accepting space to practice yoga

YTTP on St. Marks

Winter Self-Care Products*

Self-care is an essential aspect to one’s overall health and wellbeing. With the upcoming Holiday Season and chilly weather, personal wellness could not be more important. Listed below are products that will inspire both an internal and external glow, as well as soothe the body during these wintry months.

Kopari Coconut Melt: This organic coconut oil is meant to be used as a moisturizer. It is perfect for hands and legs–commonly dry areas during this time of year. Kopari is 100% natural and smells divine, making it the perfect addition to one’s self-care repertoire.

Saje’s Sleep Well Oil: This oil is perfect for facilitating a sense of calm prior to bed. It is best to roll it on the inner wrists, the bottom of the feet, the temples, and behind the earlobes. After doing so, breathing in the oil’s lovely lavender-chamomile-valerian scent will help promote an even more restful sleep.

Hemp Garden’s Elevate CBD Lotion: This quaint shop on Cornelia Street sells products containing hemp or CBD, including lotion, candies, and bars. The Elevate lotions contain CBD and are perfect for soothing fatigued muscles. The lotion physically relaxes the body and can facilitate a deeper, more restorative sleep.

The Base Collective’s Magnesium Oil Spray: This spray works similarly to the CBD lotion in that it, too, provides relief for sore or fatigued muscles. The calming effect of magnesium can also help with sleep.

Live-Live & Organic’s Bee Yummy Skincare Line: Live-Live & Organic is a lovely health food/skin care store in the East Village. Its Bee Yummy products contain natural ingredients such as wildflower honey and royal jelly to promote healthy skin. The Bee Yummy Skinfood and Honey Mask are particularly divine.

Marie Veronique’s Gentle Gel Cleanser: This cleanser is perfect for sensitive skin. After using it, one’s face feels soft, clean, and moisturized. It also smells lovely and lasts for a considerably long time, as a single pump will suffice for a thorough and indulgent clean.

*Please note that these product recommendations are based upon my personal experiences. Everyone’s bodies and skin types are different and may react differently. Please know, however, that I have personally tested every one of these products and love all of them. If you decide to try some of these products for yourself, please do enjoy.

La Monde Nostalgique

(Above: Roots and Tree Trunks by Vincent Van Gogh)

What is it about weather that evokes such a powerful emotional response when reflecting on the past?

The view out of the window of crispy leaves dancing in a sudden gust of warm, early-autumn wind. The late afternoon sun rays illuminating such a spectacle.

Falling asleep to the soft whisper of raindrops knocking on the roof and walls. Sometimes the rain would shout rather than whisper, but regardless of the tone, a feeling of total serenity ensued.

Playing with the dollhouse in the soft evening light of the Fall, the lamp providing just enough visual clarity so as not to disrupt the cozy and incredibly secure atmosphere of the room.

Waking to the crisp chill of the Winter air. An extra blanket is needed, yes, but the characteristic precursor to a new season is a welcome one–only increasing one’s sense of intimate security.

The soft blue evening light of autumn combined with the cozy glow of the living room lamps.

The gentle breeze tickling one’s face during the final days of summer.

The vast blanket of snow enveloping the surrounding environment.

The lush vegetation and its beautiful cycle of renewal through unique transitory phases.

The sound of birds chirping early in the morning, or of owls calling to each other in the night.

What is it about the natural world that evokes such strong feelings of nostalgia, producing and even stronger and more intimate connection to the memories which we hold so dear?

Love Letter to a Friend

As you embark on your journey, I hope for nothing but the best for you. This is where you are meant to be, where you are meant to go, for the future will present you with an infinite number of new and exciting possibilities.

Now you will not have to engage in mundane things that provide no mental stimulation. You will not have to spend time with people who drain your energy and exhaust your emotional and energetic reserves. Instead, you will finally be able to feed your soul with the profound adventure it has always craved.

This wanderlust has been waiting for you since the day you were born. You were born an explorer, a writer, a poet, and free spirit. You were born to wander and wonder–to ponder the many mysteries of life that many people are simply too afraid to consider.

Yours in an impeccable mind–the perfect combination of passion, spontaneity, creativity, work ethic, and drive. You, my dear, are a beautifully unique soul. Never in my life have I met someone like you.

I cannot articulate in writing, or words for that matter, the profound extent to which you have influenced my life. The way you have spoken to me in difficult times, the way in which you made me laugh or cry tears of joy, the way you have inspired me, and the way in which you facilitated a better relationship with myself have left me in a state of awe at your infinite beauty and goodness.

You, dear friend, have aided me in letting down my suffocating guard which prohibited me from enjoying life. You have burst open the steel door which had remained locked for too long, revealing a world of beauty that I could have never imagined.

You are my ultimate role model. I can only hope that one day, I will have the privilege of being half as free, confident, beautiful, strong, creative, artistic, brave, intelligent, and curious as you. I love everything about you, and anyone who doesn’t is not worth your precious time.

I cannot conceal my excitement when I ponder where you will go in life. Deep within, I sense how special you are and that whatever you accomplish will be deeply incredible and unparalleled.

Thank you for absolutely everything, dear friend. My love for you cannot be described, for it is simply too strong to even attempt to explain it. Nor can I accurately express my gratitude for you and everything you have taught me. I will miss you dearly, but I know that this is not a goodbye.

You are one of the few people in my life with whom I feel a deep connection. No distance can sever this unique bond. In fact, I believe that our journeys will only strengthen it.

So, please don’t forget to share your story with me over some Earl Grey some day….

I love you.

-M

On Cognitive Dissonance

(Above: Untitled by Jean Michel Basquiat)

Routine is comfortable. Developing a consistent routine allows one to seemingly minimize unexpected events and safeguard against discomfort or problematic situations. This approach seems efficient, economical, and safe. The risks are mitigated as one is able to remain within one’s now well-established comfort zone.

The problem with this seemingly innocuous approach, however, is that is prohibits growth. By taking careful steps to minimize the potential for risk, one is minimizing the potential for the unexpected. The unexpected and risk are synonymous, where the only thing that distinguishes the two is one’s mindset. Risk possesses a negative connotation. It is associated with substantial loss–whether monetary, time-oriented, or otherwise–and is seen as a step backwards from one’s goal. The unexpected, while it can still be perceived as negative, should be regarded as quite the opposite. Unexpected events are spontaneous. Most of these events are nonfatal and can actually provide a wonderful opportunity to grow. It is important to remain open to such events rather than trying to mitigate the probability of them occurring, for this will most likely only lead to stagnation.

Routine can certainly be a positive thing. It becomes dangerous when one is unable to deviate from his or her routine when needed. There is certainly an important distinction to be highlighted here. Person A may develop a rather rigid routine but is able to stay consistent and significantly control the probability of any potentially unforeseen setbacks. This rigidity allows Person A to remain comfortable yet stagnant. Person B also has a consistent routine, but when he feels stagnation creeping in, he readily alters his routine, or briefly abandons it altogether, in order to keep life exciting and to preserve a healthy sense of spontaneity. When an unexpected event occurs, Person B celebrates it as an opportunity to learn and grow, whereas Person A is left feeling flustered and hopeless, as he is unable to deviate from his routine in the slightest. In this instance, as in regard to life as a whole, balance is key.

Perhaps it is rather confusing that I have not yet mentioned cognitive dissonance, but I promise that this is all connected.

I believe that a rigid routine is a breeding ground for the limitations of cognitive dissonance. This mental state of mind occurs when one wants to do something that another part of herself feels is abnormal or not okay. There is an internal battle that results. Usually, such a feeling occurs when an urge or behavior contradicts one’s previous beliefs or actions. This is where routine becomes dangerous. When one possesses a strict routine, any unexpected event or other occurrence that may require a deviation from this routine is a major stressor. One will likely lack the necessary mental strength to deal with such events because of the extreme discomfort felt as a result of novelty.

I have certainly struggled with this concept. Routine need not be work or action-related. One can just as easily develop a mental routine. This is arguably more common. Humans are social creatures. We possess an evolutionary urge to find a tribe and thus tend to compartmentalize ourselves in order to fit in these certain specific tribes. In high school, for instance, there tends to be those enjoy band and theatre, those who enjoy sports, those who enjoy drugs on the weekends, and those who are primarily focused on their studies. This is certainly an over-generalization, and now more than ever before, it is increasingly acceptable to straddle different groups, not having to define oneself according to a single stereotype. Nevertheless, high school provides an easy example of the modern tribalistic mentality.

I always wanted to identify with the group of school-oriented students. Thus, I experienced strong cognitive dissonance whenever I was presented with an opportunity that contradicted this rather rigid self-identity. Any party or kickback or social event was off-limits because I considered these as unexpected events–ones which did not align with my self-designated compartment. I had developed a strict mental routine that prohibited me from growing and learning in ways that did involve grades and assignments. Cognitive dissonance prevented me from exploring the other parts of myself. It was simply too uncomfortable and even guilt-provoking to do something that deviated from the “bookworm mentality.” Such a deviation would threaten my very comfortable routine and force me to step outside of my well-established comfort zone.

Well, after maturing a little and after lots and lots of therapy, it became easier to accept the multiple facets of my personality and to appreciates the diversity in other individuals as well. It is important to remember the phrase: both can be true. One can appreciate Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and J. Cole. One can admire the beauty in the art of Caravaggio and Basquiat. One can smoke the occasional joint while also maintaining impeccable grades. One can be the valedictorian but still allow himself to enjoy South Park whenever he feels like it. You can be a good student and attend parties. Both can be true. 

Things are often not mutually exclusive. It took me quite a while to realize this. While I still certainly experience cognitive dissonance on occasion, it is not nearly as crippling nor prohibitive as it once was. A rigid routine enables cognitive dissonance to prevent learning opportunities. It can certainly be a good thing indeed (both can be true)! But more often than not, this universal fear of challenging the traditional perception of oneself is really what is holding back any potential advancements.

So, while routine can be beneficial, please don’t hesitate to deviate from it every now and then. Please don’t fear novelty or the unfamiliar, for this is where growth occurs. And most importantly, please don’t limit yourself to a single rigid perception. Instead, embrace the multifaceted being that you are. No matter how bizarre your conglomeration of beliefs, interests, and values may seem, I assure you that it is the primary source of your impeccable beauty.