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It’s been a crazy Spring around here. We just had the best vacation of our lives (until the next one). It was our first vacation without a lot of baby or toddler gear. We took a stroller, a travel cot, and some nighttime diapers. We only used the stroller as a sherpa and ended up leaving it in a taxi (that’s how you know you really don’t need it anymore). We didn’t need the crib but my three-year old loves it, like really loves it. And I love anything that makes my kids sleep happily. Nighttime diapers, who knows if we need them but I’m not taking any chances. Who likes being woken up in the night to change sheets and deal with a wet toddler. Not me!

Anyway, Cape Town. Seriously, it looks fake it’s so amazing. It’s San Francisco but dirt cheap, it’s Napa, but on steroids. It’s France with lavender and rustic wood but without the French :). It’s Africa, the place in my heart but mixed with the rest of the world. I can’t wait to go back already.

So I came back to a mixed bag of news. My friend’s book was published. Amazing. My best friend is leaving Dubai. Not just any best friend but the friend I met in Starbucks almost nine years ago. She looked tired, freaked out, and overwhelmed. Her son was a new-born, mine was safely tucked away in my womb. Cue too many memories and milestones to tell. Let’s just say I’m going to have a huge phone bill. YUGE!

Ramadan is here and I love the peaceful vibe and the change in our typical rhythm. I’m also having a little middle life crisis with Dubai at the moment. I’ve been here almost ten years and the constant change in the city, people, and the energy is wearing me down. I know I’ll come back from seeing family in September and feel revived. But at the moment I feel weary and what helps is getting in the ocean, exercising, cooking, and getting some extra sleep. The other thing that really helps me stay centered is music. I’ve almost always got it playing in our house and in our car. My kids have opinions now and I get DJ requests.  I’m getting a little sick of Justin Bieber and The Wheels on The Bus.

One of the things I really love about Ramadan is the quiet during the day. As a family, we use the opportunity for extra service in the community and reflection. It’s a time of year that while I dread the inconveniences (often skipping meals or water because I’m out all day) I also appreciate all of the conveniences I am privileged to have. I love seeing the city come alive before Iftar and it’s a time when many communities blend and break bread. Reflecting on our years in Dubai, seeing the city grow before our eyes, and constantly learning new things from new people- these are just some of the things I love about living in such a dynamic city.

Like any normal Dubain I spend a lot of time driving. I don’t love that about my life, but podcasts make it better! As soon as the kids are out of the car, I usually put one on and Ramadan is a great time to take a break from music and listen to other people’s stories. As a writer I find a lot of inspiration when I hear other’s talk about their lives or their creative process.

So, without anymore rambling, I give you my list of favorite podcasts:

This American Life (TAL)

It’ll always be my number one, because it was my gateway drug to podcasts in general. I’ve been listening to it off and on since I was in college. I can still remember being blown away by a stories on it as I made the drive home from my college campus. I could never pick a favorite episode. I believe every American should listen to this current season to get an insight to our current state affairs, you won’t get depressed, you’ll just understand all the different angles. TAL always finds hope.

This is one of my favorite episodes because it’s hosted by Sarah Koenig (before Serial) and it’s hilarious Available Here

I could go on and on with so many links and favorite episodes but I’ll leave it there. TAL might be about death, the tooth fairy, war, embarrassment of first love, aliens, or superheroes. But it’s always a home run. Always.

Desert Island Discs

I’m sure every English person, is thinking duh? As a good Anglophile, I’m not sure how I missed this amazing 75 year old radio program but the good news? I have a lot of archives to catch up on. The premise is the artist, musician, sports star, writer etc. are stranded on a desert island forever. They narrtate their choices of songs/albums to accompany them, prompted by questions by the presenter. But what it evolves into is a beautiful tapestry of their life story, with music in the background. I’ve only listened to three so far and I’m in love. One with musical star, Polly James, from 1974 was mind-blowing. To hear people narrate something so modern in the past is intriguing. Polly was asked what she would miss most about her life if she was exiled from civilization and she said her telephone, but she would also love to be away from it. This made me feel so much better about the state of our world. It’s hard not to feel we’re all going to hell in a hand basket with the direction of technology. I fear we will all end up mindless, depressed, lonely people with very bad posture. Turns out, it was a mixed blessing over forty years ago too. Yesterday I listened to Ed Sheehan and David Beckham and I’m not exaggerating when I say, they changed me, and my perception of music, dedication, and football. I also have a little bit of a crush on both of them. 

My Favorite Murder

What can I say, I have a twisted sense of entertainment. This podcast looks at all kinds of murders: current, historical and even international, although most seem to be USA murders. Maybe we just have more. If you like witty, snarky, irreverent ramblings that make you laugh out loud even though murder isn’t funny you might like this podcast too. I couldn’t pick a favorite one if I tried. Just try one and see.

Modern Love

This podcast features stories from the popular NYT column and it’s just beautiful. Each episode centers on a column read by a famous actor or other notable person. The podcast often has updates from the original author of the piece.  I have to admit I’ve cried while I’ve listened in my car. Tears of joy and sadness, sometimes at the same time. It’s a podcast that gives you a lot of hope and respect for how much love there is in the world, even if it’s misguided or painful.

One of my favorites is ‘The Wedding Toast’ read by Kathryn Hahn. Available Here

The Moth A podcast for writers, readers and lovers of the spoken word. The Moth is a live storytelling event where readers tell a true story without the aid of notes. It’s a mix of improv and stand-up. It’s inspiring and compelling. The podcast features live recordings from stages all around the USA.

Revisionist History  by Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply. The tag line for this podcast is sometimes the past needs a second chance. It features fascinating analysis on a variety of things that may have been misunderstood or overlooked. One of my favorites is about Wilt Chamberlin and Kevin Barry and their shooting techniques. Sounds sporty, but it uncovers a fascinating aspect of human nature. Available Here

Lastly, I give you Mystery Show a fantastic podcast I discovered right after Serial ended and I was afraid I would never love a podcast again. This short series is a cute and quirky take on you guessed it-solving mysteries. My favorite episode revolves around the tv show, Welcome Back Kotter, and it also happens to be the season finale. Available Here

Honorable Mentions:  I don’t necessarily love these any less, but for the sake of a post that will actually be read, I think I should wrap it up!

To The Point  a political podcast for concerned Americans and everyone that is impacted by US politics, so really, a podcast for everyone. 🙂

You Must Remember This  A podcast about forgotten Hollywood history from the 1900s.

Stuff You Should Know  a podcast about how stuff works…

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin  I could listen to his voice for days. This is another podcast with unique interviews with a variety of well-known personalities.





A Beginners Guide To Meditation


(The most zen like photo I could find of myself…)

If I told you I received a mantra from my grandmother for my ninth birthday, you would probably ask what cult I was raised in. No cult. Just your typical suburban upbringing. My grandmother, when she was living, had a lifelong relationship with Transcendental Meditation (TM) and she lived in an ashram during my childhood. I received my mantra from her friend, a TM teacher named Olga on a sunny day in September. I was young enough to accept all of it without questioning it or being worried what my friends would think if I told them. I tried to use it but, like most things a child is left alone to pursue, I couldn’t find my own motivation. I am still grateful for the introduction even though I never continued my education in TM.

Fast forward quite a few years. I used my child’s walking mantra when I thought of it or under times of stress but, like most people, I just didn’t “get” meditation. I loved yoga but, whenever the teacher invited the class to sit with our eyes closed and meditate, my inner dialogue would only accelerate its normal pace. All I could think was “I’m not good at it. It doesn’t work. I can’t clear my mind. I am not able to meditate. I am so uncomfortable. And my favorite: When will this be over!”

It has taken me almost 30 years to realize that this inner dialogue is the point of meditation. Over time, your mind learns to be in the moment for longer periods of time and, when thoughts do float in, you try to accept them and let them keep on walking.

In the last 9 months, I have been exploring the wide world of sound healing meditations in Dubai and I have become a little obsessed. I have gotten a few friends hooked too. We are all texting each other events and clearing our busy evenings when we can. As it turns out, relaxation is addictive.

Sound meditations are like a private concert for your mind and body. If you like feeling a sense of calm, music and lying down with your eyes closed, you might like them too. There are a variety of styles of sound meditations going on in Dubai. Gong, singing bowls and hand pans are the ones I have experienced. The idea is that your body and mind relax so you are able to receive the sound vibrations and bring your body into a state of balance.

It’s not all perfect, like everything in life, it has many ups and downs. Last Spring, I dragged my reluctant husband to a sound healing meditation and he snored so loud I couldn’t get out of my state of distraction and annoyance to find my bliss. Another morning, I arranged a private singing bowl meditation on Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) boards at Surf House Dubai for myself and friends. It was beautiful, but I realized morning meditations might not be the easiest for a frazzled mom after the school drop off. I love being in the ocean on a SUP board and I love singing bowl meditations, but maybe not together. Luckily, there is no shortage of choices in Dubai for timings and venues. My best advice is to try different ones. Don’t judge only on your first impressions. Try to keep an open mind. Lastly, be easy on yourself. Learning mindfulness is a journey, not a race.

To help you ease into the idea of meditation I have created a beginner’s guide of why and how to enjoy meditation, even if you think you will hate it!

1)It’s much cheaper than a massage (costs vary from approximately 50-150 dhs per session) and many meditations are even free, a super huge bonus in Dubai!

2)You don’t have to know how to do it, there are no breathing techniques or methodologies, you just have to sit or lay down, listen and relax.

3)You might fall asleep which indicates a deep sense of relaxation where healing can occur but don’t fret, if you don’t fall asleep, your body is still getting benefits and it may help you sleep better that night.

4)It forces you to switch off. There are no mobile phone noises You are not checking emails or texts and nobody is trying to get your attention. As a mom of three, this is my favorite part. Surprisingly, meditations are one of the few places that people actually adhere to the “no mobile” rule.

5)You are doing something great for yourself. There are immediate effects on your body and mind but the results can also have a larger effect, such as reducing stress, PTSD, depression, anxiety and pain.

6)You may be having a positive effect on the world around you. Studies have shown that large group meditations have a positive effect on the community around them. If you take a large group of people and they are all thinking about peace and love, the positive energy is bound to trickle down to others.

7)You can meet great people. There is no judgement, no exclusivity or rudeness. You will be greeted by kind people who are glad you came.

8)It gives you a new insight into Dubai. Many meditation venues are devoid of the typical glitz and glamour of Dubai. I have developed a deeper appreciation for the special culture and spirituality present in our vibrant city.

9)Meditation, even if you don’t feel like it’s working, changes the way you think and feel over time, and change is an important thing for us as humans. As many people say, change is the only constant in life.

10)There really aren’t any rules. You will hear people around you shifting or coughing, you might even hear some snoring. My advice is to arrive early, find a comfortable spot, leave your phone at home or in the car and relax!

Some Meditation Venues in Dubai


Lastly, if the sound of a group meditation is too overwhelming for you, I can’t stress the amazing side effects of developing a short daily meditation practice at home enough. Think you don’t have time?
Do you have time to sit for five- ten minutes a day with your phone on silent and breath deeply?
If you don’t, you might need to reassess your lifestyle 🙂 I keep headphones in my purse and use windows of time to meditate using guided apps instead of wasting time doing other things that I thought were relaxing (news, anyone?!). I have noticed that I feel more rested, relaxed and calm since incorporating these moments of mindfulness into my life.

These are my favorite apps, they are so easy to use and help me make time for meditation, everyday. Buddhify is the first one I downloaded, and it’s great for beginners, the meditations are short and categorized by specific purposes.