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Praxis Makes Perfect

Mary Poppins has got nothing on my bag. She might have a lamp in hers and some kind of black magic at work, but I’m pretty sure given fifteen minutes I could MacGyver my own lamp AND a handsome set of nesting tables all from the contents of my bag.

Meet My Bag

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Yes, I normally tote around a bag that looks as if it was used on the Pony Express, and yes, I could probably be subletting it out as a LES studio with a sleeping alcove, but I’ve just grown accustomed to lugging it around. The use of my bag has probably funded my chiropractor’s kid’s private school education, but I like to think of myself as an urban-free-thinking-all-inclusive-boy-scout-LMP that lives by the motto, “Be Prepared.” Over-prepared? Perhaps. But my sensible Marc Jacobs denim shoulder tote has yet to fail me.

Everything is in this bag and everything has to be. I’m all over this city doing anything at any given minute and have to have the things that help make “doing anything” possible. Though it can’t just be thrown all in there. There has to be some kind of method to the madness. I’ve organized (of course) all like things into zipper pouches. There’s one for electronics, one for office supplies, and one for sundries (love that word). Here take a look at what’s in this monster of a bag and how I keep it in line.

Meet My Electronics

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I’m MAC-centric… I blame good marketing!

My iPhone is my life line.

My charger is my savior

My MacBook is my rock.

My iPod is perfection.

I keep a microfiber cloth in there to keep my babies looking good!

And the all important USB, a must!

Meet My Office Supplies

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Post-its for quick note taking when I’ve got to remember what’s what, who goes where, and who’s who.

 Binder clips… you’d be surprised how handy these little guys are. Keeping papers and files in line, organizing electronic wires, or an emergency tailoring fix.

Rubber bands always a must.

Sharpie Marker… is there any other way to write?

 Uni-Ball Pen, because you always need a writing implement AND its the best pen EVER!

An envelope and stationary… because you’ll look like a hero when someone needs it.

Scissors… always handy. Just don’t forget to leave at home when going to the airport.

Mini-stapler… because my mini obsession is a sickness!

Super glue, a great quick fix for almost anything and its easier to carry around than Duct Tape (and less creepy).

Highlighter, it keeps you looking prepared for meetings and adds dimension to your doodles.

Stamps… because everyone asks for a stamp.

Meet My Sundries 

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A Mending Kit because sh-stuff happens.

Mints because no one likes a stinker.

Deodorant for those times you’re UNSURE.

Stain Stick… much like that mending kit.

Bacitracin and Adhesive Bandages, because an ouchy needs tending to.

 A Lighter is useful to have on hand to help set some mood lighting.

Tissues for the sniffles.

Chap Stick to keep those lips kissably soft and works as a good cuticle cream in a pinch.

A wine key… because when you need it, you’ll be happy you’ve got it.

With all due respect, take that Mary Poppins.

 

Post authored by Josh Schulteis. 

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Hey 2013! Been waiting for you, thanks a million for getting here. Gone is the December rat race of buy, wrap, give, repeat, and here is the new day we have been waiting for. Much though I love the festive fun that is the holiday season, my involuntary sigh of relief on December 26 was a sign I was more than ready to move on and face the new year, with renewed energy and certainly with some resolutions in mind. Here on Praxis we have mentioned the importance of goals once or a million times, so we can’t help but get on board with the cultural phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions. So what will you resolve yourself to in 2013? Here at BSLM we will work with the concept of ease in action, we will focus in on refining the how, while clearly articulating the what. Uh….what?! Right, so….

There are things you do everyday, habits, that are helter skelter, just admit it. When you get up in the morning do you run to the coffee machine in your pajamas, only to get there and realize you are freezing (which you are every morning), thereby necessitating a trip back to the bedroom and a rummage through drawers for a sweatshirt and a return trip to the morning altar? Try leaving a sweatshirt out next to the bed and putting it on as you sprint to your one true love, ease in action friends. The what = coffee to face ASAP upon opening eyeballs, the how = warmly and without instant irritation. Now you try. Look for places in your life where you experience consistent frustration. How can you make it go away? How can you make it easier?

Erin and Josh will give us some insight on how to find ease in very common actions or situations so we can all get off to a solid start. We will get a look at what the inside of a busy NYC assistant’s purse or bag looks like, answering the often exclaimed question “How do you always have what I need?!” in photo essay form. Simply having on hand the things you need to get through your day will make all of your actions easier, trust us on this one.

We will interview a few of our favorite doormen, post office friends and other service professionals to give you an inside look on how to get exactly what you need without resorting to eye rolling, muttered expletives and yelp.com complaints. Believe us, it’s so much nicer when you can easily and collaboratively problem solve with these kind folks, they are not trying to make your life harder – promise!

These are only two examples of how to streamline your life, and find ease in everyday action – but there are so many more! How do you do it? Tell us here, or share with us in Facebook and Twitter. As our holiday lady imparts, wishing you a 2013 with easy assembly!

Post authored by Brooke Stone. 

BSLM Holiday Card 5by7 FRONT copy copyBSLM Holiday Card 5by7 BACK copy copy

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. If you are like me, you stuffed yourself, napped, and went back for more – all while counting your blessings of course. But did you really get in all your thank-you-very-much-es? Did you pause, smile, reflect, and then spread that joy around? Sometimes the holidays move so quickly that we do not really take in fully all that we are able.

Every year we are reminded to be grateful, to give thanks. But gratitude isn’t about a once or twice a year nod to the good things or people in our life. Gratitude is a practice. By incorporating being thankful, we allow ourselves to step back from our hectic lives and really appreciate where we are. That can be where we are on the path of life, in the big picture, or more appropriately, it is where we are in this moment right now.

Try this: pause, take a deep breath, and just notice. Take in your body, healthy or otherwise. Take in your state of mind, happy or otherwise. Just notice that where you are in the moment is pretty good – or maybe it is even pretty great. You are right where you are meant to be.  Notice any little things around you or in you that make you smile or that you are thankful for. It can be as tiny as a warm beverage on a chilly day or as large as being totally in love with your significant other. Gratitude helps us to be present and positive; and a positive outlook can help you take on the world.

So, how do we get grateful more than just once or twice a year? Get creative! There are so many ways to show gratitude. Smile more, say thank you more, and share your abundance to those who may need it more. Take a yoga class. Teachers can help you hit the mat with intention and encourage you to look inward and be grateful for YOU, just as you are. Try to also keep everything you are thankful for close even on those no-good-very-bad days.

Here is one more way. I am a list lover. Since you are reading this fabulous blog I will wager you are too. Lists help you to organize your thoughts and get that gratitude to a more detailed place. There are lots of ways to go about your lists and you do not have to do them all at once. Maybe add one new thing each day and then next year on Thanksgiving you will have a whole 365 days of detailed thoughts to reflect on.

Lots of ways to get inspiration…

  • List your little things. These are those tiny things that bring you joy. Get silly!   Get sentimental! Just put it on the page.
  • List your friends and family. Now put one thing you are grateful for about each  one next to their name. Try and be so specific you do not have any repeat reasons.
  • List challenges you have faced this year. Now list why you are grateful for the experience even if it was a difficult one. Where has it brought you? What did you learn?

When we are grateful we look at the world in a new way. Gratitude brings a little more peace and happiness to our day to day, and helps us to approach every struggle with a positive outlook. Positive people are bold people. Start practicing gratitude because you are ready to take on the world. Call BSLM if you need back up.

Post authored by Rebecca Merritt

Rebecca Merritt completed her 200 Hour RYT Certification at the lovely New York Yoga. After taking classes for many years, Rebecca became truly devoted to her practice after moving to NYC in 2007. Finding that while pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the New School, and working three jobs at the time, yoga was a way to slow the city down and find balance.

Her vigorous Vinyasa flow classes build towards a peak pose, with options for all levels along the way. Classes are sequenced to focus on alignment and riding the wave of the breath. Rebecca will get you to breathe a little deeper, encourage you to laugh, and help you find space for play in your practice.

Rebecca believes in finding joy on your mat. She has seen yoga change lives.

Here we are in November, which snuck up just about as fast as every other month – didn’t it?! This month has a very organic theme of giving thanks, and we will embrace it here on Praxis. Day to day life can be so busy, we sometimes forget to give thanks for all we have, so to be presented with a month where thanksgiving is in the air seems like a pretty lucky, built in reminder.

Gratitude is more than a word to me, it is a guiding principle and core value of my life. Unfortunately, I don’t express it as much as I should, or even in the ways that might be best. Life gets in the way of following all of our precepts to a T each and every day. But this month, I will renew my commitment to embracing gratitude as an integral part of my life, and I encourage you to examine where and how you have room for gratitude in yours. I always find when I do live my life with gratitude in the forefront, I go through my days with a very strong sense of contentedness and feel much lighter – bonus.

Before I go on, I want to take a moment and thank the world at large for the incredible outpouring of support New York City has received in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management employees and clients are recovering, and we wish each person affected by the storm great strength in the rebuilding days to come.

Here are a few things you can do every day to work with your definition of gratitude: 

1. Say thank you. To everyone. Including bus drivers, Starbucks employees (even when they mess up your drink, they didn’t do it on purpose to spite you – I promise), to your parents, grandparents and siblings if you are lucky enough to have them around, to your spouse or partner, to your spiritual force, whatever that may be. Just say thank you. Honestly, you don’t even need to mean it the first few times, but merely saying the words to anyone who helps you in even the tiniest way will soon feel meaningful not only to that person, but to you.

2. Do the Facebook thing people are doing. Write one status update each day this month describing something you are thankful for.

3. Give positive feedback. Telling someone they did a good job, and describing the great parts of their work is a way of expressing not only gratitude for a job well done, but appreciation. Try this, “Co-worker, you did a great job on that project. I thought the way you communicated everyone’s particular responsibilities and outcomes was very clear and I appreciate how available you made yourself for questions. Thanks!”

4. Once a day, at the same time (before bed, when you wake up, lunch time, whatever) say thank you out loud to no one and nothing in particular. This thank you will mean different things on different days you will find, but it will always mean something.

5. Bring a thoughtful hostess gift to the wonderful person who is cooking you Thanksgiving dinner, or inviting you into their home on any occasion. And then hand write a thank you note the next day. These gestures are small, but deeply impactful. My new favorite hostess gift is this Harry & David Moose Munch popcorn which costs under $10 and is beyond delicious. My favorite thank you notes I make myself by cutting a sheet of card stock into quadrants and stamping a “b” on the front with a good old stamp and ink kit.

Now, a few public thank you’s to people in my life who may not hear it enough, in no particular order: 

  • My husband, who has the patience of a god, gives great advice, and loads the dishwasher like a pro. Also he loves me very much, even though I know I can be a handful…or an armful at times.
  • My parents and grandmother, for hosting me this weekend, and for hosting me throughout my entire life. For teaching me pretty much everything and reminding me I still know relatively little in the grand scheme of the world and have a long way to go. And for being there every step of the way.
  • Our clients at Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management, who trust us with some of the most important things going on in their lives and are kind and generous to us at every turn.
  • My friends, who speak to me truthfully, even when I don’t want to hear it, and don’t make fun of me for my eggnog latte obsession.

Cheers to this month of giving thanks, and stay tuned for posts on this theme from our LMPs and a special guest blogger!

Post authored by Brooke Stone. 

I recently went on vacation. It was lovely. Vacation is one of those things that everyone should do in moderation. I say in moderation because if you were on vacation for a large amount of time, you would go crazy. I think we all need to get away, every now and then. That said, I noticed when I left I created new habits for myself. My bathroom routine changed, my sleep pattern changed, the way I ate changed, and how I completed other small tasks were affected.

Charles Duhigg is a New York Times business section writer and he recently put out a book in March of this year talking about this exact thing. His book is called, The Power of Habit and details how habits are formed. It delves into the control habits can cause on one’s life and what the effects could yield. However, it also talks about how new habits are created while people take a vacation.

I am sure all of us can think of habits we would like to break. Personally, I need to stop eating sweets after 10pm, and by sweets I mean the strawberry shortcake I had last night at 11:35pm. It can go deeper than just that, in fact habits can be present everywhere in our lives. Habits are essentially shortcuts our brains make for us, according to Duhigg.

Vacation was a great way for me to create new habits for myself. I ate healthier, I woke up earlier and more refreshed, I took less time to get ready in the morning, and the list goes on and on.

So remember when you just thought about those habits you have that you would like to change? Well list them out, right now. Put them in your sticky notes on your computer, smartphone, or if you are like me you have sticky notes on your wall in front of your desk. Make a list.

Use the rest of this week to notice your habits, and then if they aren’t useful make an effort to change them.

Create a staycation for yourself, where you can take in the sights and sounds of surrounding around the parameters of your work. Create new ways to do the most minor things. Find a new way to get to work, a new restaurant to eat lunch, anything!  Then try using the rest of your week to create new and different ways to respond to even the smallest tasks. Try shampooing and conditioning before you soap up or visa versa. Nothing is too small or meaningless to try differently.

If you do this, I think you will notice yourself more refreshed and excited for the day. It is fun to trick ourselves into pretty much the same routine, but with different approaches and shortcuts. It will create for you a freshness, that might have disappeared.

Vacations are great for so many reasons, but until you are headed out on your summer getaway, try this easy trick and see how it works for you!

Post authored by Trevor Worden

It is hard to get a job in today’s world. Economy…blah, blah, blah….unemployment rate….recession…blah, blah, blah. It’s hard. I have friends who graduated in the top ten of their elite and prestigious law,  poly sci and every other graduate degree  programs who are currently working on doctorates at Kinkos in job application filling and resume photocopying. We all have friends, family and peers who are facing this struggle. It’s true, the job market is not an easy place to be. But, what I believe is also true – is candidates can do A LOT to stand out from the crowd, and don’t for whatever reason. I have learned so much from being on the opposite side of the hiring equation, but one thing I see people mess up over and over is the cover letter moment. And if you mess that up, you are done-zo. Here is some unsolicited advice, hope it helps you land that dream job! What does this have to do with productivity you ask? You will be more productive if you do good work, the right way. Duh.

A Bad Idea

I understand writing cover letters is irritating. What most people do is write one “really good one,” that has been vetted by parents and friends, copy it a million times and mail and email it like mad. This is actually a totally awful plan, so sorry to say. It is so obvious to me when I am reading the same cover letter everyone else is, and it turns me off in no time flat. When I read these letters, this is what my brain thinks they say:

Dear Brook, (name almost always misspelled, your email just got deleted)

I’m Clueless. I don’t know anything about your company beside the fact that you may be hiring, and employ people who have a similar skill set to the one I possess…I think. 

I graduated from this great place with this great degree, which means you should probably consider yourself lucky to have me.  

Big words, misspellings, misused commas more big words. 

Something, something, thanks for reading this. 

Sincerely, 

Clueless

That tells me you haven’t researched my company or me one iota. I’m not being egotistical, or not being totally egotistical, but if you don’t care where you work, why do I want you to work for me? This letter could have been personalized by adding a few sentences gleaned from a sensible Google search of me or my company, but you didn’t take the time to do even that – although you probably spent copious time the very same day googling things like “talking cats.”

Now, none of this may not be true of you, but this is what a cover letter like that says about you. And I don’t want to even talk to anyone who doesn’t have time to learn about a place they might consider working. I hire people who care about themselves and their lives and the lives of my clients. From this letter, I don’t think you do actually care about…anything. If you do care about stuff, are a passionate person and have an active desire to join one company or another – stop writing crappy letters lazy people write.

A Good Idea

In direct contrast to the mass mailed, generic, super yucko cover letter referenced above – is this one. I received possibly the best cover letter ever for BSLM a few weeks ago. This well crafted, perfectly targeted cover letter landed the candidate an appointment regardless of my lack of time  (I made time, as she did to write this thoughtful letter) and the fact that I was not expressly looking to hire someone at the moment her letter came in (told her that, she was lovely and I called her as soon as I had room on my team). Here are a few excerpts from her letter:
Greetings from a recession-movie-loving, chronological-list-making, pencil-sharpening college-compatriot of CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE! I recently met him for a lovely gelato and walk in Central Park where, after the requisite recounting of recent romantic rendezvous, we talked about you and your company – CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE had only the most incredible things to say!
           
Since graduating from Yale in 2009 (with a B.A. in Anthropology), I’ve been studying opera at Mannes Conservatory on the Upper West Side. I got a Master of Music degree there, and currently have a scholarship to be studying in a special diploma program that is aimed at being the intermediate step between the cocoon of the practice room and the emerging as a (Madame) butterfly. (Actually, I’m a mezzo-soprano, so I will most likely be emerging as her maid.) 
           
It’s such an honor to be working every day toward (the holy grail) of being a totally honest, generous performing artist (something I discussed at length with CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE as we were rounding back toward Columbus Circle) – but I think in order to fully spread my wings as a musician it’s necessary that I use more than just my musical muscles. And that I have a job which allows me to support my singing habit!   
    
I think your blog says it all. (I confess, I probably would’ve written to you sooner, but got caught up in reading all of the incredibly useful, fun and well-targeted posts – and being inspired to do things like book plane tickets…) In everything from posts about focusing on details in the context of the “big picture”, to letting go of the fidgeting in life, to feeding your passion by surrounding yourself with passionate people, it seems like your company operates through the idea that life and work benefit the most from a deliberate and holistic approach. For the past few years, I’ve practiced yoga myself, and I think it’s truly unique to find a company whose business model seems to operate within these powerfully useful principles – a company which keeps such a deep sense of the big picture in the background, while giving clients a leg-up on the details and practicalities of life. 

In that spirit, I give you, what it doesn’t say on my resume:  I am a laid-back organizer, a pun-making hard worker, a fun-loving natural-born designated driver. I don’t balk at doing any task, large or small, but instead find satisfaction in a task’s graceful and thorough execution. I like to get things done efficiently, but with a sense of humor and a sense of kindness. I am a great confidence booster and listener – while I deal nuts and bolts of editing a speech or a piece of correspondence, I can also coach the preparation to make the prospect of public speaking or participating in a big meeting seem less daunting. I can adeptly scale the internet to purchase a gift or plan a party, but I can do it with a great aesthetic sense that draws upon other information to make it specifically tailored to what would be most personally targeted for the occasion. I can assist on a stressful project – anything from college admissions, to a presentation at an important conference – while keeping a cool head and making the mood light. I know how to sew, knit, crochet and kickbox. If I’ve never done it before, I can probably figure it out. I rock at self-assembly. I have a “Spidey-sense” for bargains and budgeting. I am really good at research. I have torrential brainstorms, so I go through a lot of umbrellas.

Now, this is a person I want to meet. This is a person who has spent time and energy reading our website, blog, asking a current employee pertinent and thoughtful questions. This is a person who is writing in the tone and style of my company! She GETS it. She speaks kindly of our company, but is not gross and effusive. She tells me about all of the things I won’t find on her resume, and is proud of her strengths and quirks. She is funny. This cover letter says to me:

Hi, 

I know who I am, and it seems like you know who you are. I think we are similar. I think I would be a great fit for your company, also I’m funny. 

Talk soon, 

Awesome Person

Be the Awesome Person. Take the time. Do it right. Instead of spending your time photocopying 100 bad cover letters, take the time to write 2 well researched, targeted ones – chances are you will get both of those jobs and none of the 100 you didn’t care enough about to Google.

Post authored by Brooke Stone

I have been an insomniac my whole life. My body has resisted sleep like a petulant child, even when I was a petulant child. I read all the recommended articles and tried all the techniques, yet sleep and I remained contentious frenemies (a word I learned thanks to an insomnia fueled all night Sex and the City marathon).  Not having consistent and restorative sleep led to a number of other ailments as well. I went through battles with migraines, teeth grinding and TMJ, just to name a few. I was sleepy all the time and never truly felt rested.

But then I discovered my wonder drug – which is not a drug at all: The Alexander Technique.  The Alexander Technique is commonly taught in acting programs (which is where I learned it), but I truly believe that it would be more popular than massage and visits to the chiropractor if more people knew about it.  Very long story short, F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor who began to experience chronic laryngitis whenever he performed. When his doctors could not help him, Alexander discovered a solution on his own. He had not been aware that excess tension in his neck and body were causing his problems, and he began to find new ways to speak and move with greater ease. His health improved so much that friends and doctors asked him to teach them his methods. Alexander taught for more than 35 years and continued to refine his exercises, which has now become known as the Alexander Technique.

Well, that was a nice little history lesson, but what is it and how does it work? The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change movement habits in our everyday activities to improve ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It helps you to release unnecessary tension and can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities.

Again, you’re probably thinking “nice description, but what can I do with this today?” Great! Here are 2 simple ways to bring some “Alexander” into your life today. The next time you are walking up stairs, simple tuck your chin down closer to your chest and lead your body up the stairs with the crown of your head versus your eyes and chin.  You will feel like you are flying up those stairs! Seriously! Our heads weigh a lot (thank you kid from Jerry Maguire), so use that weight to your advantage by directing it towards your destination, not away from it. Just tuck your chin and allow the momentum of the weight of your head to start to propel you up those stairs.  You’ve just Alexander’ed!  You’ve made better use of your body and used less energy by working with your body versus against it.

Next up, constructive rest. Never has improving your life been made so easy. It involves lying down for 15 minutes a day. What could be easier?!? Here’s how:

  • Find a reasonably quiet place. Lie on your back on a flat, firm surface, like a carpeted floor, or a wooden floor with a yoga mat or thin blanket beneath you. Do not lie down on a bed, cot, or sofa, these surfaces are too soft and will not allow for your muscles to release.
  •  Place something firm beneath your head, such as a few thin books or magazines, for support. The height of this support will vary with each individual. The idea here is to lengthen the spine, so you want to find a height that allows your neck to stay in line with the rest of your spine, not bent too far back or forward. Try different heights to find the one that feels best to you and allows you to let your shoulders relax.
  • Now, bend your knees to bring your feet flat onto the floor. Keep your heels in approximate line with your hips. It may take some playing around to find the right placement, but you’ll know you’ve found the “sweet spot” when keeping your knees up feels somewhat effortless.
  • Next, bend your elbows to bring the palms of your hands to rest on the sides of your torso towards the bottom of your ribcage. Make sure your hands are not touching one another, and that there is plenty of space between your ribcage and elbows.
  • Finally, close your eyes, breathe and allow the weight of your body to fall into the floor. Fifteen minutes later, you’ll feel practically brand new! (Here’s a great tutorial with a more in depth explanation: http://www.expandingself.com/constructive_rest. And here’s a video to help you out too: http://vimeo.com/170140.)

In a perfect world, we would all do this every day or our lives, but I aim for at least 3 to 4 times a week and still feel miraculous benefits.  I haven’t needed migraine medication since I started constructively resting regularly and my bed and I have become best friends forever! Enjoy!

Post authored by Erin Jerozal 

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