Four things I learnt from Dexter

List of Dexter characters

Image via Wikipedia

As season 5 of Dexter draws to a close and I get Dexter withdrawal symptoms, I thought I’d pen down the 4 things I learnt from my favorite serial killer.

Plan: Dexter followed a code when it came to choosing targets for his dark passenger. Once he zeroed in on his victim, he did some thorough planning and surveillance to plan the kill.

Translated to real life: Once you’ve got a goal in mind, do some planning, and draw up some tips and strategies to ensure that you don’t get derailed. For e.g., if you decide to go on a diet, do some research on meal plans, purchase the right foods, draw up weekly menus and prepare as much as you can beforehand.

Focus: When Dexter is on the prowl, he has his eye firmly on the target. So much so that his dates are planned around stalking schedules. It’s all about focus until he has his victim on the kill table and disposes of the body.

Translated to real life: When you want to achieve something, you got to schedule time to devote to the goal each and every day. Some days may be busy, when you may be able to spend just about 10 minutes on working towards your goal. Other days you might be able to devote a couple of hours. No matter how much time you have on hand, constant steps – big or small – will help you achieve your target. For e.g., diet and exercise go hand in hand. If you can’t devote an hour to the gym everyday, try going for a 30 minute (or even two 15 minute) walk on the days you can’t hit the gym.

Dexter Morgan

Image via Wikipedia

Cover all bases: Dexter had all his bases covered when he was out for a kill. A strong alibi, ensuring he got his target without being seen, cleaning up the kill room and disposing the body in the Gulf stream.

Translated to real life: No matter what our grandiose plans or how much we prepare, life happens. Be prepared to get derailed occasionally, but then get right back on to it! Again, taking the example of the diet, if you indulge in a sinful chocolate pastry one day, don’t beat yourself up or just give up. Go back to your plan the next day and keep on working on it with single-minded devotion. Better still, throw out all the foods that are not on your “allowed” list. so you don’t get tempted.

Constant check-in: Dexter’s constant companion and voice of caution was his adoptive father, Harry. Whenever he seemed to deviate from the path, his father appeared to offer words of advise and steer him back on course.

Translated to real life: Involve one or two people who are close to you and will support you in achieving  your dreams. Schedule a check-in at least once a week, when you give them an update on your progress and discuss any road blocks you might be encountering. It’s always easier to go for goal when you have your very own cheerleaders encouraging you along!

Now, I wonder when Season 6 will air in India!

You might also like:

Reflections in the rain

4 life lessons I learnt from my cat

A blueprint to achieve your dreams – part 2

Have you read part one of this two-part series? Go ahead and read it if you haven’t – I’ll be waiting right here!

Answering the questions I posed last week would have helped you identify your current “big dreams.” These aren’t the next logical steps if you continue the way you are, but are the things that make your heart sing. There is something deeply satisfying about having a dream list that is close to your heart because it helps you peel back the layers and discover what you really want in your life.

Listening

Image by Squirmelia via Flickr

Bring out your paper now and read what you wrote down. Slowly. Listen to your feelings as you reach each sentence. If you feel excited, feel your heart fluttering, you’re on the right track. The things that leave you wondering why you wrote what you wrote may not be what you really want to do, but what you think you should do. Cross those off right away.

If you’re truthful with yourself, you’ve had those things on your to-do list since a while and have gotten nowhere with them. You also use that list to beat yourself up about being an under-achiever. So, do yourself a favour and just. let. them. go. really. You’ll feel better. I promise. Unless you’ve written something like take (insert health condition here) medication on time everyday and are about to cross that off. Come on! You should know better, right?

Anyhoo! Now that you’ve got your dream list ready, here’s what you gotta do.

Does Anyone Ever Listen?

Image via Wikipedia

Go through each section and for each, create one or two goals that really compel and excite you when you think about them from the material you wrote.

Then, write one goal at the top of a page, with a separate page for each goal. Set a timer for two minutes and write down why you want to achieve this goal.

Once you’ve done that, create a compelling argument to yourself on why you must do achieve this goal. If you can’t create a compelling argument that makes you ache to achieve the goal, you may need to choose a different one. After all, if you can’t convince yourself in an argument, you won’t have the drive to complete the goal!

Goal Setting

Image by angietorres via Flickr

For each goal, write down three small steps you can take now that will help you achieve your goals. Initially, these will typically be “discovery” steps that will help you get more information about how to go about achieving your goal. If one of your goals is to learn a language or photography, one of your first steps might involve identifying classes that you can enrol for. Make sure that you aren’t setting yourself a huge target, take baby steps.

The key is to commit to something that you really, really want to do. Even if you can spend just one day a month working on that goal, it will change how you think and dramatically improve your life. Promise.

Key

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As you finish a step, cross it off your list. Doesn’t it make you feel great? For every step you cross off, add a new one. Rinse and repeat until you (gasp!) are well on your way to achieving your goal! Crossing off and adding new to-dos helps you keep your momentum going and gives you confidence in your own ability to achieve your dreams.

But what if the number of goals you’ve set yourself has you in overwhelm mode? Prioritize. How? Look at each goal and each argument, read it out loud if you need to, with feeling, and ask yourself if not achieving any of these would leave you with a hole in your heart or filled with regrets. The ones that will are the ones that you should pick up on priority. Easy-peasy!

Another thing that can lead to a slight sense of deflation is the knowledge that it may take you years to achieve some of your goals. But it is important to understand and accept this, and to press on anyway. After all, it’s the journey that matters. And just think of how proud you’ll feel every time you work towards it, and when you finally achieve it!

Also, if possible, enlist the help of family or friends to hold you accountable, someone with whom you can check in say once a month. Your accountability group will be your personal cheer leaders, help you brainstorm if you come up against a wall, give you a little (or a big) push if you find yourself getting complacent, and will totally rock your world when you achieve your dream!

There you have it – the blueprint to (finding and) achieving your most authentic dreams.

A blueprint to achieve your dreams – part 1

flowers in a vase

Image by anna_t via Flickr

A while back I wrote about reclaiming a dream – a small dream it was, of having flowers in the living room at home. Of saying no, I wouldn’t just let my dreams die like that. But just saying no isn’t enough. You have to know what your dreams, and which dreams you are most passionate about. Not each item on your bucket list is as important as the others. While we may not mind letting go of some goals, not achieving others would fill us with regret and sadness.

The best way to determine what’s most important for you is to undertake a goal setting activity. If you already have a process you use and love, go for it. If not, carve out some time for yourself to sit down and evaluate each area of your life – career, home, health, spirituality, finances, relationships – and determine what are the things that you’re truly passionate about.

I identified the following areas of my life that I wanted to work on:

  • Learning/leisure
  • Soulfulness
  • Creativity
  • Health
  • Finances

Here are some of the questions I asked myself in each of these areas:

learning

Image by nebbsen via Flickr

learning/leisure

  • What would you like to learn to do? It has to be something that really makes you excited. How would you learn – online, sign up for a class, etc.?
  • Where would you like to travel? Could be places in your own city or country, or abroad?
  • What would you like to do more of?
    – read more?
    – redecorate the house or office?
    – get out of the house more?

soulfulness

  • What are your mediation goals? Every day? Every week? How much time will you set aside for it?
  • How can you live more soulfully – with more balance, less stress?
  • What do you need to do to feel that you have made a difference in your life?

creativity

Oil Painting Workspace

Image by nimbu via Flickr

  • Which creative areas are you interested in – cooking, home decorating, photography, painting, etc.?
  • If money were no object, but you had to work, what would you be doing?
  • Do you have an idea or a dream you’d like to be living?
  • If you could live another person’s life (living or dead) who would it be, and why?

health/physical

  • What are your weight loss goals?
    – How much weight do you want to lose?
    – How much exercise would you be willing to commit to each week?
    – What changes can you realistically make to your diet?

financial

dollar,symbol,money,shadow,3d,render

Image via Wikipedia

  • What are your financial goals in terms of your needs and desires. For example, you might want to have enough money to pay your rent without stress, buy or lease a new car every four years, etc.
  • If you feel stress about money, what could you do right now to feel more in control?
  • Do you have any bad money habits? Like impulsive shopping? What are your triggers? Think of ways you can stop yourself.

putting it together

Use these questions as a starting point to reflect on what you want to achieve in these areas. These don’t have to be one sentence answers. They can be as long as you need them to be. Feel free to add on or leave questions you don’t like, or to hunt online for other goal setting exercises. But do work on writing down something.

Once you’re done, keep the paper safely away. Stepping away from your answers for a while will help you to know if you really connect with what you’ve written when you see them with a fresh mind.

Come back next week, when we’ll refine our dreams if we need to and draw up an action plan to achieve them!

Read part 2 of A blueprint to achieving your dreams

Give yourself permission

Give yourself permission to let go

Image by Capture Queen via Flickr

Today, give yourself permission to liberate yourself from the things that you force yourself to do because you think they “should” be done.

Like forcing yourself to finish reading a book even if it sucks.

Or answering your email as soon as you receive it.

Obsessively checking your Facebook or Twitter.

Thinking that missing a day of posting on your blog will bring about  a catastrophe.

Let go of some of these beliefs that hold you back. You’ll feel liberated. Free. I promise.

For some fun, quirky things to let go of, check out White Hot Truth’s permission slip.

What did you decide to let go of today?

(Click to read older Spiritual Sunday posts)

Create a morning ritual

Tick tock

Image by kalyan02 via Flickr

The loud ringing of the alarm on my cellphone jerks me out of bed and running helter-skelter to face the day every morning. I rush through the house like a whirlwind – brush, bath, get dressed, put out some cat food, grab a cereal bar and race to work. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead of waiting for the last alarm (I have three, in case you’re wondering) to jolt me into action, I can get up with the first, or even the second, and ease myself into the day. On the days when I’ve managed to do that, I make myself a cup of hot lemon tea and do nothing until I’ve finished it. It’s my time to think, dream, imagine…before I go forth to meet the world. I’ve noticed that on those days I’m calmer, more focussed and less stressed out.

But I haven’t really done anything about that observation…until recently. And for that, I have to thank Pilar Gerasimo for her article, Reclaim your mornings. According to Pilar, you need to create a morning ritual

Temple of A-ma

Image by Ray Devlin via Flickr

for yourself and ensure that you do it everyday. Your ritual can be long and elaborate or short and simple, but the key to success is to have a minimum commitment – i.e., on the days when you don’t have enough time, spend at least 5 minutes with yourself before you take on the world. Pilar also shares her sister Andrea’s morning ritual. She…

“lights a candle and a stick of incense, then puts on relaxing music. She unrolls her yoga mat, sits, and — at minimum — takes three long, centering breaths. Generally, those three deep breaths lead her into a gentle yoga practice that may last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. At the end of her practice, she meditates for a few moments, sending loving thoughts to her friends and family, and setting some key intentions for the day. When her mat-based practice is complete, she makes tea, has breakfast, and only then does she turn on her phone, consult her calendar and begin the active portion of her day.”

Her minimum commitment from this long ritual is to “Unroll the mat, sit, take three breaths. That’s it. The rest is negotiable.”

This inspired me to design a morning ritual for myself.

Image By derekGavey via Flickr

I find a comfortable spot to sit in – could be cross-legged on the bed, or on the drawing in the drawing room. I take three deep breaths, and do a short guided meditation to start the day on a positive note. Then, I draw a Card for the day to give me a feel of the vibrations and the things to watch out for.  After that, breakfast, and then I’m ready to face the day. My minimum daily commitment is to take three deep breaths and draw a card for the day.

I’ve been doing this since the past three weeks, and already, I feel a tangible difference in the texture of my days.
What small ritual can you create for yourself every morning, or do you already have a morning ritual? Tell me about it in the comments!

10 things in 10 mins

In our daily busy lives, as we go about meeting deadlines, keeping the house, looking after husbands, pets and children, it can be easy to forget the one person who needs the most care – you. If you’re bemoaning the lack of time, worry not.

Meditation Begins at Birth

premasagar via Flickr

Here are 10 things you can do for yourself in all of 10 minutes.

1. Meditate – The next time you’re online, download a few meditation podcasts, or check out my Spiritual Sunday posts and choose a piece of meditation music or guided meditation you like. Sync it to your music player (iPod) or phone. Next time you need a break, plug in your headphones and tune in to radio: you.

2. Collect images for an idea file/vision board – Dreaming of a relaxing spa treatment, a beach holiday, or something else? Set aside 10 minutes to scan through old magazines looking for pictures that speak to you. Clip them out and stick them into an envelope. Next time you need a mini break, get the envelope out, bring out a sheet of paper and a glue stick, and stick those images to make a collage of your very own vision board. Put it up where you can see it as you race through your busy day.

3. Breath yoga – Known as Pranayam in Yoga practice, are a set of simple breath exercises you can do in 10 minutes (or less, or more).

4. Listen to music – Music can change your mood – relax you, pep you up, make you dance or cry or fall in love all over again. Better still, if you’re at home faced with an unpleasant task (like cleaning up the house), put on some peppy music, turn up the volume, and dance as your clean!

A Sip of Turkish Coffee

Image by Kuzeytac via Flickr

5. Have a cuppa – A hot cup of tea or coffee, a slice of cake (if you want to be indulgent), quiet time for 10 minutes, and you’ll feel shiny and new. Promise!

6. Mini home facial – Put on some soft music – Chopin, Mozart, anything instrumental. Exfoliate your skin, apply a face mask, put a slice of cucumber over your eyes, and lay down for 5 minutes. Rinse. Apply a face cream. Fresh, smooth skin can make you feel absolutely wonderful!

7. A few quick photos – Take your mind off your to-do list. Grab your camera, yes, even your phone camera will do. Frame and fire off a few shots. Admire your mini creations.

Cover of

Cover of Messages from Your Angels

8. Quick 1-card reading – Get yourself an oracle deck – one of my favorites is Doreen Virtue’s Messages from your Angels. Next time you have 10 minutes, do a quick 1-card reading for yourself. The messages on the card deck are very uplifting, and might just help you shift your focus so you can approach your day from  a calmer place.

9. Read a poem/passage you love – I’ve found that reading a poem can help me shift my mood, no matter what kind of a mood I am in.

1o. Make a 5-min cup cake – click here for the recipe. Then snatch another few minutes to indulge in your guilty treat. If you’re feeling super generous, share it with your significant other! 😉

There you have it! A list of 10 things you can do in 10 minutes to recharge your batteries.

Do you have any favorites of your own? Do share in the comments!

Calling: Motivation

I don’t know what’s come over me these days. While planning out my day at work, I also write up a list of to-dos that need to be done after work, but once I leave office, I think “Hell with it all. I’m just going home.” And kiss the to-dos goodbye. It’s not like I have anything pressing to do at home, either. Nor do I go home and get cracking on things that can be done around the house. Interesting stuff too, mind. Like experimenting with photography. Learning the tarot. Cleaning up my art table so I can make some art.

Instead, I go home, change into my sweats, and play Bubble Explode on my iPhone like my life depended on it. That game is evil, I tell you! It has me totally obsessed.

Seriously though, I don’t like this change that has crept upon me. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I have zero motivation. I know myself well enough to know it’s more than sheer laziness (not to say I’m not lazy, but I’m not this lazy!) So, what is it?

A lot of the things on my to-do list are related to long-term goals – like going for a walk and cooking evening supper minus carbs (to lose weight), doing 1 chapter from Learn the Tarot (to, of course, learn how to read the cards), clean the art table (so I can start creating art once again).

I know from experience that long-term goals can change sometimes, so the first thing I asked myself was if I still cared enough about said goals. I do!

Since it wasn’t as simple as sheer boredom with my goals, I knew I needed to dig deeper. Time to bring out a notebook and a steaming cup of tea.

Goal Setting

Image by angietorres via Flickr

I listed each goal on a separate page, then wrote the words “I’m afraid I won’t be able to achieve this because” underneath, and without stopping to think or analyze, I wrote down all the thoughts that came to mind. For e.g., under the goal of losing weight, one of the things I listed out was that since working out regularly for 6 months gave me no tangible results, I was destined to stay overweight.

Once I had repeated the exercise for all three goals, I went back and confronted my demons head-on. To counter the fear of never being able to shed the excess weight, I checked my food diary from when I was exercising. Based on Gary Taube’s book Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, I now see that I was eating too many carbs and hidden sugars back then. So it is worth my while to try out a course correction in my diet combined with a moderate workout to help me achieve my goal of slow, steady and permanent weight loss.

Finally, I asked myself if there were any other thought patterns that were pulling me back and keeping me de-motivated. Surprisingly, I found that I am actually overwhelming myself by over-thinking things. Take going for a walk, for instance. How hard is that? Not hard at all, right? Now, start thinking and imagining these steps – fight through traffic to get home, keep purse in its designated place, drink some water, maybe have a fruit, change into tracks and tee, find socks and wear running shoes, lock the house, go for a 30-45 min walk, come home, shower, change into sweats…Doesn’t the very thought of the entire process overwhelm you?

Note to self: Do NOT break down a simple walk into a thousand steps ‘cause it does not help! Instead, just think get home, go for walk. See, that’s so simple!

What about you? Ever felt like you were lacking motivation? What did you do to overcome it?

I believe…in magic!

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen

Image via Wikipedia

I believe that our beliefs change as we age. When I was around five, I believed in the fairy godmother and the tooth fairy, I believed that wicked witches and jealous queens existed, that there was a forest somewhere filled with enchanted creatures that can talk, and that mushroom rings meant that there had been a council of fairies…

But of course, as I grew up, I lost the magic somewhere. Life became a what you see is what you get deal.

Neale Donald Walsch: Handsome Guy! (or: How b...

Image by ToastyKen via Flickr

That changed again, when I met the wonderful man who was to become the hubby. We got married despite great odds, only because I believed that this was going to be. Since then, I have slowly opened up to the mysteries of the universe. I read a lot of great authors and some wonderful books, especially Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversation With God series. Now, again, I believe in magic.

I believe that we have a loving, compassionate God. That we are made in his image so we can go out and experience life, embrace it, warts and all.

I believe that things happen because we choose them – the good as well as the bad. Our thoughts shape a lot of our life experiences, so I believe in choosing good thoughts.

angels are here

Image by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

I believe that angels exist. They don’t have to be of the winged variety. That stranger who found an envelope with office money that I had left at the phone booth and came running after me to return it was an angel – I didn’t have enough money to replace what I would have lost that day.

I believe that we can see God in the natural beauty around us, in the moment before dawn, in the innocence of a child’s laugh.

These are some of the wonders of the universe that I believe in.

What do you believe?

Are you killing your dreams?

Kant said that we require three things by which to measure happiness: someone to love, something we like to do, and something to look forward to.*

Look closely at this statement, and you’ll realize that most people have someone to love and something that they like to do, it’s the something to look forward to that we sometimes forget .

When we ignore our dreams, our life feels withered and empty

I know, I forgot about it too, recently. Life goes along smoothly…we work, spend time with family, meet up with friends…life has a steady rhythm and we don’t do much to shake it up…happy to maintain the status quo…not realizing that we just might be killing our dreams in the process.

Paulo Coelho

Image via Wikipedia

So, how do you know if you’re exactly where you need to be right now, or if you need to challenge the status quo? I got the answer to this question by chance, just when I needed to hear it the most, as I was scrolling through my Twitter steam. “Killing our dreams: the three symptoms” flashed out at me that day – an article by the master himself, Paulo Coelho.

The first symptom is the lack of time. Ever looked at those super busy people and wondered how they find the time to fit so much into their day? They’re living their dream. It’s those of us who say we’re too busy to do this or that who are actually shying away from fighting for what we believe in.

The second symptom is our certainties – a false belief that we are being wise by not demanding more from life. When we look at others striving hard to achieve their dreams, we choose to retreat into our own daily existence, not realizing that the fight is what excites and rejuvenates.

Angel of Death Also Dreams

Image by Yuliya Libkina via Flickr

The final symptom is complacency. Since we’re satisfied with the way our life is going, we get comfortable in our daily routine. We brush our grand dreams under the carpet, believing we are “mature” in seeking only professional and personal development, and are surprised when we hear others saying they want still more in life.

When we renounce our dreams, we go through a short period of tranquility because we buy into the illusion of comfort. But our dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being. We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychosis arise. What we sought to avoid in fighting for our dreams – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.

And these don’t even have to be really big dreams. They could be small ones too.

I always wanted to have a vase of fresh flowers at home. It makes the entire room just come alive, doesn’t it? But as time went by and life got busy, I found myself waiting for those special occasions when the hubby would bring me flowers, and that dream of always having fresh flowers fell by the wayside.

But recently, I’ve picked that dream up and dusted it off, examined it and decided that it isn’t something that I want to give up on. So, I have decided that I will buy fresh flowers every week during the winter and monsoon months. It’s rather pointless to bother is summer, because flowers just wilt away in a day.  Here’s the bunch of blooms I bought myself this week – pretty, aren’t they?

Sit down and ask yourself: what are your dreams? Are you living them, pursuing them, or have you given up on them?

* Thanks to the Designer Wife for sparking this idea with her post on Measuring happiness

Technological spirituality: 6 ways to tune into you

Info from the English WP http://en.wikipedia.o...

Image via Wikipedia

Technology has been evolving at a rapid pace. Remember the days of yore, when we used to call the telephone exchange to place STD calls. You had to wait for the telephone company to connect your call, you never knew how soon – or even if – your call would go through. Fast forward a few years, and we had the ability to place STD calls ourselves without having to go through the switch-board. A few more years later and mobile phones emerged, allowing us to make STD and ISD calls on the go. Fast forward to the present, and you have multiple ways to stay in touch – phone, email, internet calls through Skype, Facebook and even Twitter.

This ability to constantly be in touch, in real time, is a boon when your family stays far away. You’re now no more than a phone call, e-mail, status update or tweet away. It’s also become possible to stay connected to the office while on the go. Look around, and you’ll see people in the gym handling office-related phone calls, busy executives sitting in the coffee shop with their laptop updating an important presentation or checking and answering work e-mails.

But in this constant race to be up-to-speed with everyone and everything around us, it has become increasingly difficult to find time to connect with ourselves, with our spirituality, with God. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

The very technology that has connected us to friends and family around the world has also given us myriad tools to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. Here are six ways in which you can tune in to you even when you’re on the go.

YouTube: Most smartphones these days can connect to and play YouTube videos. The next time you’re in the train commuting just log on to YouTube, look for meditation, scroll through the numerous options that come up, plug in your headphones and hit play. You can also visit the Soulful living page here on Modern Gypsy to access a collection of hand-picked meditation music or guided meditation videos and find yourself. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get a new meditation video every Sunday, along with a lot of other interesting content on a variety of topics ranging from book reviews to travel stories to observations on daily life.

Twitter: There are a lot of spiritual gurus and motivational speakers on Twitter who send out inspiring tweets everyday that can give you a nugget of wisdom in 140 characters or less. They also post links to relevant content on their blogs or other sites that you can visit whenever you have a few extra minutes, or favorite and go back to later.
Twitter

A few people to follow: @paulocoelho, @DalaiLama, @RockSolidAdvice,  @RevRunWisdom. You could also follow my Inspirations list on Twitter.

Mailing lists: There are a lot of websites and blogs that offer spiritual content and insights online. Subscribe to a few of their mailings lists and you’ll have some thought provoking articles to read the next time you’re stuck at the doctor’s office or in a nasty traffic snarl. You can even save them on your smartphone using apps like Instapaper, which allow you to save webpages for offline reading.

god_wants_you_to_knowFacebook: Have you come across the nifty Facebook app called God Wants you to Know? If you haven’t, I suggest you check it out. It gives you a new message from God everyday – daily bite-sized pieces of inspiration that at times are exactly what you need to hear.

Apps: There are a lot of religion and spirituality apps available that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet. You can download The Bhagwad Gita as a book or in audio; Buddha-in-a-Pocket offers powerful insights from the teachings of the Buddha; The Life Purpose App, which provides full access to Dan Millman’s bestseller The Life You Were Born to Live and calculates and provides details about your life path.

Podcasts: There are a lot of meditation podcasts available on iTunes that you can download the next time you’re updating your iPhone/iPad/iPod apps. Spend 10 minutes before you start your day to meditate, or listen to vedic chants while commuting and see the difference it makes to your day. You’ll operate from a more calm, focused and peaceful state of mind, and if you make it a regular practice, you’ll notice that you aren’t as stressed out as you used to be.


I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface of the millions of options out there. Are there any tools or apps that you use to connect with yourself?