Most visitors to New York City are there for the big sights, the shopping or the clubs. But the city offers far more than only these things. It is a dynamic hub of creative energy, a centre for art and inspiration. If you are looking for the kind of peace found under a palm tree on a deserted powder-white beach, then NYC may not be for you. But if you are looking to find your inner self amidst the artistic and innovative workings of this most fascinating of cities, then New York holidays offer the chance to be inspired and reinvigorated. Here are five ways to feed your inner muse in the Big Apple:

Explore the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG)
Wander along the meandering paths of the Azalea Garden, an area of striking colour and beautiful textures, from the soft pink of spring-flowering rhododendrons through the vivid tones of summer and the plum colours of autumn. Or visit the Herb Garden, with its aromatic, silver green herbs and gentle, restorative energy. At the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden you can find over 4000 rose plants, while the Rock Garden is a sanctuary of woodland and alpine plants, with a cascading waterfall and tranquil pond. The Garden houses regular exhibitions on topics such as medicinal and edible plants and particular garden styles.

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Check out the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
Whether you want to catch a show, admire contemporary dance performances or participate in a musical theatre or creative writing workshop, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has it all under one roof. There are also music-inspired talks and stand-up comedy performances, while professional and graduate dancers and actors can take part in a variety of master classes.

Take a meditation or holistic living class
Many places in New York offer free or low-cost classes on subjects related to holistic living. Check out the New York Open Center for classes on spiritual enquiry, meditation, hypnosis and shamanic healing, as well as soap making, herbal medicine, massage and reflexology. Classes range from evening workshops to certified courses.

Take a tour at the Guggenheim
One of New York’s most iconic structures, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is internationally renowned for both its architecture and collections. A range of special exhibitions and projects unfold throughout the year, and there is a busy calendar of tours, talks and discussions from artists and critics. There are also regular performances and film screenings. The jewel in the heart of New York’s cultural crown, the Guggenheim’s modern art collections cover various styles, from abstract and Surrealist to Impressionist, Minimalist and Conceptual.

Visit the Socrates Sculpture Park
An outdoor art gallery, the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens combines the function of a public park with that of a museum. Various sculptures and multi-media installations can be viewed on a wander around this free institution, while the programme of public events includes tours, farmer’s markets, yoga, dance and outdoor film screenings. There are also wonderful panoramic views of Manhattan.

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Image credits: NYC Botanical Garden, Socrates Sculpture Park,

Bio: Aaron Carter is a travel addict who loves to write and relax in exotic destinations. He gets a particular thrill from finding great budget holiday packages.

 

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Which Option to Choose

Imagine that after a difficult year you're desperate to bring joy back into your life again. You review the following 3 possible tactics for creating it: 1) Self-pampering, 2) Immediate Pleasure and 3) Difficult Challenge.

If you were to speculate which single option would most likely result in sustaining joy, which one would you pick?

Most people I've asked chose numbers 1 or 2. I used to agree with them, but recently I've moved tactic 3-difficult challenges-to the top of my list.

Experts & Friends' Advice

A year after losing a husband to cancer, I was ready to reengage in life and most of all experience exuberant joy again. I followed experts' advice to pamper myself, and friends simultaneously encouraged me to indulge in immediate pleasures. Dutifully I followed their advice. Among a long list of things I did was: bought a stack of jazz CDs, knitted thirty scarves, enjoyed previously forbidden rich desserts, scheduled massages and turned off my alarm and slept in late.

Mainstream Answers Fail

Activities following tactics 1 and 2 were pleasurable while I was doing them, but afterwards the happy feelings faded requiring the next new fix. More importantly, all lacked the kind of sustaining joy that-the mere remembrance of it months or even years later-brings back the joyful feeling again.

Radical Over-reaction

Eighteen months after overachieving at following the traditional advice paths of numbers 1 and 2 that weren't working, I decided, it was time to initiate something radically different. I signed up for a 2,500-mile motorcycle road trip down America's Pacific Northwest Coast riding a Harley. The problem was that I didn't know how to ride and had only thirty days to learn.

Joy's Response

Four weeks of riding practice was inadequate preparation for the 10-day rigorous motorcycle road trip. Daily on the journey I'd faced new difficult challenges – jumping into Vancouver rush-hour traffic, riding up a long steel ferry ramp, maneuvering across a gravel road filled with washed-out gullies and riding up the side of a volcano at night on a road covered with black ice were just a few of them. Facing each, I'd strongly question if I could possibly do it, as I battled my fears, fought desires to give up, and rode white-knuckled through them.

As scared and intimidated as I was by each challenge, as soon as I'd survive each one, I'd be flooded with exuberant joy. A new self-trust grew, proving that I could count on life and myself again.

Fountain of Joy's Source

What I learned from the motorcycle adventure was that the source of tremendous joy isn't just succeeding at accomplishing a difficult goal; it's also the erasure of a life-constraining fear that limits what we think we can do. I returned home from that motorcycle road trip with an expanded horizon in which to live life more fully.

The real treasures in life can't be bought. Expanded self-esteem isn't for sale. It's self-earned, and the journey is usually a bumpy one and devoid of guarantees of success.

The Joy Formula

So my advice is that if you're looking for tumultuous joy, challenge yourself to a difficult task; and be ready for setbacks and failure, since they're a part of every learning process. But see if choosing the "Difficult Challenge" tactic doesn't end up with you discovering joy in unusual places.


 

Linda Crill is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and thought leader on mastering the new leadership skills: reinvention, resiliency and chaotic creation. She is the author of Blind Curves-One Woman's Unusual Journey to Reinvent Herself and Answer What Now? A story of reinvention where Crill trades her corporate suits for motorcycle leathers in a moment of rebellion on a quest to answer "What Now?" For more information visit http://www.BlindCurves.com. This book is available in both softback and eBook versions from all major online booksellers as well as orders placed by your favorite bookseller.

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The other day my four-year-old daughter Lucy was skimming down the sidewalk with her kick scooter.

Normal.

She was gripping the handlebar with one hand and holding an open umbrella with the other. While wearing a bike helmet and snow boots. On a sunny, seventy-three degree day.

Weird.

It's so weird that I'd bet anything that of the six billion plus people in the world, not one other person was doing and wearing the exact same thing. That's as weird as it gets.

It was also a great big life lesson.

You see, in Lucy's head, there was nothing weird about it. She was in the moment, free of pretense, and free of shame. She was living life the way it was meant to be lived.

Oh how I wish I could be that free again.

In fact, we all were, in the beginning. But eventually someone sees us living our bliss, decides it's weird, and shames us. We get made fun of in the schoolyard, on the bus, or across the diner table. For the first time, it occurs to us that some of the things we do might be looked upon with contempt by another person.

From then on, we start paying attention. We start noticing what's "in" and what's not. We take heed of the the things that could get us ridiculed, singled out, and shamed. And we stop doing those things. We smooth out the rough edges and start hiding our weirdness. And one by one, little parts of us die.

It's quite possibly the greatest tragedy of our lives, as we end up spending most of it conforming to the world around us, all to avoid that feeling of shame ever again.

Once in a while, you'll see an elderly person who quit buying in. They're livin' la vida loca, carefree and without reservation. On the surface, it's easy to write them off as possibly experiencing early-stage dementia. But if you look closer, you'd see that they have all their wits about them. They've just decided it was too expensive to pay attention to what everyone else thought, so they stopped trying to hide their weirdness.

They discovered that people only have the power to shame us if we give it to them.

Well I don't want to wait till I'm seventy to embrace that truth. I want to live my life like Lucy: free, in the moment, and gloriously weird.

Won't you join me?


by Jason Kotecki

Stacey with Turkeys

Back in 2002, when I took my job with Doctors Without Borders in Mexico I had to pack up my comfortable life in the United States and move to a part of the world that had no running water or electricity.

To an area where there was centuries-long, deep-seated conflict between the indigenous people and the Mexican government. To do a job for which I had no experience.

It was definitely the weirdest thing I had ever done. I had no real idea what I was doing. But I believed I would figure out a way to do it.

I've learned that what looks "weird" to other people, feels like excitement to me. I've learned that it's the wisdom of the world speaking through me. And trusting the wisdom feels like a huge leap of faith.

So I've learned to leap. Before the voices of self-doubt keep me stuck. Once a leap has been taken, or a path has been selected, momentum takes over and there is little time to indulge self-doubt or fear because there's work to be done. So you get on with it.

But here's the really cool thing. You take the leap and do the work, but you're not doing it alone. The Universe also starts to conspire on your behalf. You don't have to take my word for it. Listen to what WH Murray, a Scottish mountaineer and author of The Scottish Himalayan Experience:

This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

It wasn't until I was sitting in the airport in Amsterdam (where the Doctors Without Borders headquarters of my project was located), about to board my flight to Mexico City that I suddenly wondered whether I would actually be able to adjust to life in such a foreign environment. (Did I mention there would be no electricity or running water?)

Would I really be able to do the job I'd signed on to do? But even in that weird and wobbly moment, I knew that I would find a way to manage.

Why?

Why was I so certain?

There are lots of reasons. And none of them are because I'm braver, more talented, or smarter than you. Because I'm not. I promise.

I'm scared of public speaking, and parties of people I don't know, and difficult conversations or phone calls.

But despite my very ordinary fears, over the years enough people have asked me where I find the courage to make my bold choices, that I've come to see that although we are all inherently brave, some of us forget how brave we can be.

I've come to see that my path through life has equipped me with certain tools that help me make the daily decisions that add up to a courageous life.

I can see how my experiences have taught me to have faith that everything will be okay, and most importantly that even when everything is not okay, everything is actually okay.

I've been getting really curious lately about how I came to acquire those tools, because I want to share them with you. Because I want to offer them to anyone whose self-doubt is getting in the way of their good work in the world.

One of the things I've learned about courage is that we can "positively reinforce" our own courageous choices by taking time to notice them, recognize them and actually give ourselves some credit for them.

So today – please take five minutes to give yourself the credit for how weird and courageous you are.

And then make a habit of stopping to notice the small (and large) ways you are embracing your weirdness and choosing courage every day, and of giving yourself credit for it. If it helps, you can imagine you are talking to a good friend: How would you tell or show her how proud you are of her weirdness and courage?

Now, tell or show yourself how proud you are of your own willingness to be weird.


by Stacey Curnow