Reconnect | Santa Barbara

Shirt by Beetxbeet

Shirt by Beetxbeet

We all know the drill.
Work, work, work, stare at computer, {insert caffeinated beverage of choice here}, manage relationships, handle chores, weed through traffic (lots and lots of traffic), more relationships business...and then after all that, flickering moments of downtime.

The real question I was recently faced with was,
"the downtime I keep taking, is it the real kind of downtime I need?"

Its a tough question. Like most, my little downtime comes after work and before bed. For years I had a fairly strict workout routine that kept me focused–tired, but focused. Now, I still workout, but I've relaxed my mindset to be more kind and forgiving. I still try to include a workout after work (not everyday as before) but lately, more often then not, it's a couch and a TV. A place where I can mindlessly numb out. My introvert sides loves it, but if my days consist of juggling all of the above, why am I not incorporating more experiences and hobbies that I once loved OR finding new ones to expand my cranium? Going beyond Klean-Slate, beyond my job and beyond the alluring couch. 

For my weekends, I play extrovert more often than not. I do love it, but lately I've been stretching myself thin and not listening to what it is I may really need. Yoga use to center me. It was my retreat and I believe, someday, when I get back to the mat it will balance me again, but until then I can't look at that as my source. 
So what is it that makes me fulfilled? Or at the very least, what is it that I have to do to find the balance in my daily life that allows me to feel less anxious, less dependent and/or less frustrated. Not saying that I always am, but enough of something is off that I need to re-connect to find out what it is. 

Welcome Santa Barbara. A special beach town that is close enough for a quick escape, but far enough to make the city feel like a distant memory. Don't get me wrong, I love my hometown, but LA is a city where you can easily get lost in the daily grind where you forget that your mind and body need more. Scratch that, your mind and body DESERVES more.  It needs outside stimulation beyond numbers, computers and traffic. 

When it came to my Santa Barbara Re-connection Trip, all I knew was the hotel I wanted to stay in. On my last trip, I stayed at the Hotel Santa Barbara–right on State St. It was accessible to everything and the rooms were comfortable–light colors, minimal clutter and jumping-on-bed feels. The hotel itself doesn't offer too many amenities (spas, restaurants, etc), but that's what being centrally located is for and as much as I would of loved to have indulged in a fancy spa, I wasn't on this trip to break the bank.

For my stay, a few rules I enforced:
Pay no extra attention into organizing (Virgo)
Don't worry about cleaning up (not in a rude way, that's not who I am, but take a step back and enjoy not cleaning an apartment for just this brief moment)
Don't fuss, make sure you are completely comfortable in your sleeping arrangements. This rule was a just in case scenario. Just in case I didn't book Hotel Santa Barbara and I went with an unknown to save a buck. No no no! Not this trip. I wasn't going to go crazy and book an obscenely expensive hotel and room, but I wasn't going to make myself compromise this trip to save a few either. I was going to be comfortable damn it!
So that was that. Done and booked. My first sense of empowerment all week long. 

Before starting my road trip, a fantastic opportunity popped up and I decided to incorporate into my "Re-connection Trip". A photo session with the one and only, BEETXBEET for a few of her new tees and a couple of her populars. Not something I do often so this was an exciting adventure in itself. Liberating! 

The high from the shoot cared on. I was driving out and away from LA with a smile on my face.  

From there I pit stopped at Erewhon Market Calabasas for road trip lunch fuel and a few other goodies. 

For lunch I made a hefty, delicious, overly priced sandwich. It was filled to the brim with avocado, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers, Vegenaise and vegan basil pesto on rosemary sourdough bread. I was starting my trip with a hearty bang. 

After downing the sandwich, I made my way North through heaps of traffic to hit Santa Barbara 1.5 hours later. I dropped my stuff in my room, jumped on the bed and headed out. No plan, just walking. 

The room was just right. Old school elegance. 

The room was just right. Old school elegance. 

Instead of power walking (as I do), I took more time to access if anything was drawing me in and as luck would have it, I stumbled upon the Salt Cave. 

As you descend down, a store with a spa and a large Himalayan mineral, relaxation cave awaits you. If you think I hit the jackpot, you are correct. As I roamed the store, one of the sweetest employees gave me the rundown on this mom and pop shop (you can see on my IG video below) and the secrets behind the salt. I was also amazed to learn that the Himalayan salt in the store and in the cave was approximately 200 million years old! It almost felt like I was in a museum! The employee proceeded to tell me the incredible healing benefits you can receive from the salts. 

  • Regulating the water content throughout your body
  • Promoting healthy pH balance in your cells, particularly your brain cells
  • Promoting blood sugar health and helping to reduce the signs of aging
  • Assisting in the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in your body
  • Absorption of food particles through your intestinal tract
  • Supporting respiratory health
  • Promoting sinus health
  • Prevention of muscle cramps
  • Promoting bone strength
  • Regulating your sleep -- it naturally promotes sleep
  • Promoting vascular health
  • In conjunction with water, it is actually essential for the regulation of your blood pressure
  • Assisting in replenishing electrolytes
  • Assisting in alkalizing the body and preventing excess acid

To learn more about the plethora of benefits read here  

I was happy to learn that I happen to walk in at the right moment because a 45 minute, self-guided meditation class was going to start. Perfect timing? I think so. 

As you walk in, the whole cave is encapsulated with salts. From being able to walk on it like sand to looking up and having hundreds of pounds lie overhead.

It was breathtaking.  

As I hunkered into my zero-gravity chair with my cozy blanket, I proceeded to shut my eyes and solely listen to the delicate music playing overhead. Letting the moment sink in while the world slipped away. 

Not an easy feat with a wandering mind, but it was a good experiment. Even if I could not stop the wandering (where is my yoga teachings?!), I was still more present and in the moment that I had been all week long. I was sitting in a "cave", surrounded by crystals, listening to meditative music and breathing minerals in one deep breath at a time. I was right where I needed to be. 

This set the mood for the rest of my walk up State St. I was now more relaxed and settling into my adventure with ease. Wherever I landed next was yet to be determined, but it was OK. And with that, my next empowered moment happened. 

I continued walking, stopping into shops that interested me, until I hit the end–where the shops ceased to continue. I wasn't going to turn back, I was just going to keep walking, but hitting the Bankruptcy building felt omnious. I laughed at the irony and turned around thinking, "I wonder how many people have done what I've just done?"  

On the way back down, I crossed the street and decided I was going to head to the water and see the sunset. 

While passing cute shop after cute shop, my head did a double take as I passed a storefront glittered with colorful canvases. My body automatically stepped inside and I discovered it was an art studio class called The Painted Cabernet. A drinking and painting art studio class!   

BACKSTORY (you can skip on to the END OF BACKSTORY if this doesn't interest you)
A little backstory about me. I grew up painting. It started with my obsession for coloring books and then recreating my mothers sketches (faces and beach landscapes). Then I moved into taking studio art classes after school. From there I was fortunate enough to have a space in my home that allowed for me to create my own studio. It was my safe haven. Throughout high school I was apart of the AP Studio Art class where I was introduced to Photoshop. There I learned about mixing words with art. I became enthralled with recreating movie posters the way I saw them. It was the beginnings of me learning about mixed media and the wonderful world of advertising (some sarcasm here). 

I stopped painting regularly after we moved from the house with the studio. Even with the new home and the new mini studio area I made in the living room, the creativity in the painting arena would not flow the same. In part due to my need to be secluded while I painted (at that time) and my overwhelming urges to be increasingly analytical of my work led to me losing the passion. I still retained my love for Art History and I did end up at an art school for advertising, but when it came to painting, I left in the past. Thought about it often, imagined I would pick up a paint brush again, but never did.

Over the years, many individuals tried to get me to paint again, but I always found a way to brush it off. It finally got to a point where 10 years had passed since I had completed a painting! My nerves had gotten the best of me and the criticism of myself as a painter was still there. This past Christmas break something changed. I dusted off the easel, paints and canvases I still lugged around from apartment to apartment and threw them into the living room. I went to Blicks for the first time in years to pick up the rest of what I needed to begin. Roaming the aisles and musing over paints, brushes and supplies was a comfortable old feeling that I didn't realize I missed. 

When I got back, I spent most of the holiday break painting and listening to the same music I painted to in high school. Oh and yes, cooking and making batches of cookies was a staple during the holidays as well. An artist has to eat.  

Soooo needless to say, stopping into The Painted Cabernet was a welcomed surprise and I signed myself up for the class that started in 15 minutes. 

The cool thing that really brought me in to taking the class was the freedom the teacher gave me. A theme for the class is picked ahead of time and for the non-conformist in me, I had to ask if I could choose another painting to tackle. I'm a fairly detailed, structured artist and all I wanted to do was something abstract. Something that allowed me to let loose and during this reconnecting trip I knew I had to listen to what my heart was saying. 

"One of these paintings is not like the other one"

I had a blast! The music was spot on and the wine hit the spot. I felt liberated enough to let my strokes flow without too much constraint. The class was everything I needed it to be and with that, my LIGHT BULB went off. One of my takeaways was painting. I needed to bring back painting into my life more than it was. I needed to attack more paintings with less constraint (at this moment in time) and I needed to try a new medium (acrylic) to make the concept of painting in my apartment easier (I'm an oil painter which makes the setup a little tougher as it is more conducive for a studio or a backyard).
It felt empowering to know this was one of my needs. 

From the high of learning this valuable piece of information, I made my way to Galanga Thai (Thai food is always good comfort food) and ordered takeout Pahd See-Yew to close out the evening. Ending the night exactly how I needed and wanted. No bar, no club, just me. 

The next morning, I walked down to the beach and enjoyed a quite moment to myself. Taking in the sounds, the people (wish there were less people), the amazing sea breeze and the gentle heat of the sun. I soaked it up until I was ready to turn back and check out. 

A bonus on the trip, a friend of mine, Sayward (Bonzai Aphrodite) lives in Santa Barbara. We only get to see each other at LA events mostly, as I'm never in Santa Barbara and she is rarely in LA. By chance our schedules aligned and we were able to grab lunch before I left town at Mesa Verde–a spot on my "Santa Barbara Must Try" list.  

Mesa Verde is a beautiful, organic, vegan/vegetarian, restaurant with a menu that radiates. It's the type of restaurant you would picture to be in the Santa Barbara landscape. 

On this day, I ordered the Potato Latkes with tempeh bacon. avocado. dijon. cornichon. pink lady apple and pea tendrils.

Delicious and beautifully plated. Sure, not the easiest item to eat, but Jengas always been a fun game. 

After lunch, I could have messed around SB a little more, but I decided to head back and beat the traffic. I had a wonderful day and a half to reconnect. Of course that will never be enough, but having just that was everything. Listening to my mind and body was essential. I wasn't paying close enough attention until it all came to a head. Lesson learned, pay more attention to how I'M feeling and what I'M needing. I. No one else, just I. Supporting others is incredibly important, but if I'm not feeding myself correctly, the rest will inevitably fall and I'll be helping everyone else, but myself. Not a healthy balance. 

In the end, bringing the weekend into my daily life is going to be key. I can have a great weekend full of awesome activities and experiences, but if my 5 days a week feel like a juggling act and I'm losing parts of myself, then I can do a better job of managing/balancing. 
At the same time, beating myself up over trying to find the perfect balance can cause anxiety while letting it naturally happen can be daunting. The only thing I can do is try to listen. Try to incorporate what I need to make me feel whole. 

From my personal experience, there are times throughout my life that I use to be better at this and of course, there have been times that have been far, far worse. Right now I'm trying hard not to judge myself for the choices that I'm making, but instead, either figure out how to make them work or learn how to let them go while inflicting the littlest amount of stress. I'm prone to anxiety and overthinking so those two things I have to work extra hard at or find situations in which they can lie dormant. 

Learn what yours are so you can be prepared to navigate those situations where instead of them wrecking havoc, they barely make a peep. I swear, learning to randomly smile helps. Trust me. I've been working on that more lately and its true. As well, deep breathing (Pranayama Breathing) has been key to helping me with my anxiety. Here is some good information about it in the Yoga Journal. As well, an app called Headspace is an easy, step by step, meditation app that helps for those with busy schedules. 

Life is more than the daily grind and the daily bills. Take time to reconnect with yourself. It can help you build a stronger relationship with yourself and with the ones you love.   

The video below is my IG story from the trip.