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An Entrepreneurial Journey

I was in the middle of a snotty cry when one of my dear friends suggested to me that I document my process. After considering it for a few hours, I've decided to document this in a public forum such as this blog because I think and hope it will help somebody walking this path too. In 2018, Nelson and I set off on a journey to starting a well-being tech startup. I don't have previous experience in startup or tech - well, not the kind of technical expertise that is required to be a technical founder of a startup. However, I am resourceful, I know amazing people, I am keen to learn what I don't know, and I am capable of getting things done. So I designed our beautiful Neuma Lounge (a.k.a. The Cymatix) and with my amazing crew, we built our first prototype. In that process of building it, a beautiful synchronicity occurred and we were inspired to create Neuma Mind Spa - (our first pivot) - a concept store where you can take the Cymatix for a "test flight" and try our catalogue of Mindfulness Tech gadgets. (See what I did there with the “flight”? 😉 - Yes, you can take off or launch to an out-of-body experience from the Cymatix 😁) We did a few soft launch events to unveil the Cymatix in Nov / Dec of 2019 and opened the doors to Neuma Mind Spa in January. We were just beginning our pilot testing program when the pandemic hit. So we had to adapt. We has to change our game plan in a situation where we really didn't know how long the pandemic would last and how it would affect what comes next, etc. Our first priority was to figure out how to keep the business afloat until we can figure out an alternate plan. You see, Neuma Being is a well-being business. We started this because we want to help improve our world. With so many pressing crises all around us, we knew one of the bigger impact areas was to empower change-makers who care and create for the world. We support each of them to align with the most authentic self, in other words, to establish a deeper connection with Self: for calm, energy, creativity, insight and transformation. Our experience has been that in the process of aligning yourself with your authentic self, you discover or rekindle your passions, your desires, and your mission / purpose: a huge part of well-being. When you align with your authentic self, you establish deeper and more meaningful relationships with your environment and your community. In your most authentic expression you are able to tap into the subconscious creative genius within you. A sense of purpose contributes to your well-being. Side bar - notice how these aspects - mission / purpose, accomplishments, relationships - are identified in Maslow's hierarchy of needs as Self-fulfillment needs and Psychological needs at the top tiers. So, why I am telling you all of this?! Very early in the game, I recognized that a lot of startup founders work like crazy and do unbelievable sacrifices to realize their vision for their startup. And we too have made some crazy sacrifices over the course of the 2 years on this journey. Yet, I did NOT resonate with working crazy long hours non-stop to realize that dream. I was inspired to design the Cymatix, because I was stressed out and getting burned out at my old Architecture gig. I wanted to create technology and environments that support people in their well-being and align with the self. It felt divergent, incoherent or not in a state of integrity for me to lead a startup in well-being, if I can't maintain that well-being myself. How can the leader be stressed and burned out while showing others how not to be stressed and burnt out? When I am stressed and / or burnout, I don't operate at my highest self. My judgement and thinking becomes a bit cloudy. I am not my normal happy, optimistic, and positive self. I am irritable. My past behavior in operating out of fear or scarcity comes up. My insecurities and self doubt bubbles up. So these are all signs I have learnt to tell if I am pushing myself just a little bit too much. When that happens, I know I am actually doing a disservice to this project I am working on. So, I step back. What do you do when you have so many hats you have to wear, so many roles to play, limited time and limited resources, and running against the clock? This is the point where I'm at right now. Our startup has grown too much to operate with one full-time employee (me) and a couple of part-time employees/contractors. There's so much that we need to do in order to get to the next level and grow. But, it's the egg or the chicken scenario. I need people to delegate to do some of the various tasks and roles I'm playing, so that we can grow and serve more people and build traction and revenue. Yet, we need more resources to be able to hire more people. So, in short, I need more resources, so we can hire more people, so we can serve more people, so we generate more funds to do all those things. 😳 I feel a bit stuck in this situation. And yesterday I was snotty crying - like ugly crying with tears and snot all over my face - and there was a very interesting synchronicity. I get on instagram and the first post I see is by my mentor Suzy Batiz, where she talks about being stuck and how to overcome that. I sent her a message asked her "I’m finding it difficult to anchor myself to find the flow of energy" and she very wisely said "Sit with that question. Be patient and let the answer come to you. Invite the answer in rather than seeking it.” I'm going to tell you a little secret about me. I have a problem with control. Seeking is an active pursuit of an answer. This is a way of trying to claim control and this is my normal mode of operation. Last two years, I learned the power of emergence so what Suzy is advising me to do is to get out of my own way and allow for something to emerge. I am going to do just that now. This post, hopefully will become a part of a series of posts, where I document my journey. I hope in the process of doing so, I help a fellow budding entrepreneur. So stay with me, and stay tuned. I will share with you what emerges next! With love, Manori

Creativity, Authentic Self, and Transformation walked into a bar...

What happens when we peel of layers of learned behavior? 🌟 You can access you most authentic self 🌟 This learned behavior or programming tells us how we should or shouldn’t think, talk, or acting. We are shaped by how our families, cultures, education systems tell us how we should think, talk, or take action. So, we build these layers of personae on top of who we really are, and we start embodying those. Sometimes, we are really even ashamed of who we really are or what we really want to do. However, Creativity has a lot to do with authentic expression. So, every time we numb our true selves and ignore that authentic voice, we go a little farther away from who we really are and from that true expression that’s critical for creativity. There are many things you can do to access and tap into the most authentic self. The most effective and sustainable methods require you to peel off these programmed or learned behavior layers and shed them. Here are some tools that are useful in identifying and peeling off those layers: Mindfulness & heightened states - I regularly supplement my therapy work with Mindfulness and heightened state practices. This allows me the much needed introspection and understand my inner mechanisms. Not only do mindfulness and heightened state practices increase clarity of thought, focus, and help improve relaxation, they can also provide the energy balance that is required to maintain the integrity of one's self. Therapy - It was not until I started therapy that I made progress by leaps and bounds. I have found out that working with licensed professionals is not only great from my mental health but it also supports me tremendously in my personal development. All the aspects that I noticed in myself through mindfulness and heightened state practices were able to be addressed properly through therapy. I went to a therapist first to address some of the trauma and mental well-being. Through working with him, I learned a lot about myself and continue to uncover so many of my patterns of behavior and thinking and use it in my personal growth. Support group - A group of supportive individuals, even strangers, who are committed to uplift each other and hold space for growth to occur can be a powerful tool in this progress. Realizing that I was not alone in going through some of these issues was a big step for me. It gave me the courage to do something about it. These peers also showed me that I can address these challenges in a healthy way, without passing judgement on myself. That judgement can add a layer of unnecessary pressure that makes it even harder to do this transformative work. It feels much easier to do this hard work in a group than trying to do them alone. Mentor or Coach - Having A mentor or a coach can be also be a great source of support through your journey. You can lean on their expertise and experience to give you clues to navigate through this journey. They can often lead you to explore deep within and ask the right questions to look for answers within. My long time mentors Nanci & Wagner offer energy mentoring and training. You can book them here. My new mentor Suzy Batiz has a kick-ass 8 week mentoring program that helped me reconcile a lot of stuff with business and life. I am currently doing the program for the second time. You can join the wait list for the next round here Articulation / Journal - This was an unexpected discovery for me. I only started journaling recently but it has become a very potent tool in self analysis and awareness. The act of writing down requires me to articulate and this is one of the important steps in beginning the healing work. I use a 4 step method in this process as articulated in this diagram: Nelson and I have been working on this for nearly 2 decades now. Both of us independently started our consciousness journeys in our teens without being fully aware this is what we are doing. By our early twenties we had become aware of the raw potential of these mindfulness and heightened state practices but it was not until the last decade that we have fully come to harness the absolute raw power of these practices and the states. So, when we created Neuma Being, we wanted to be absolutely sure that we are hand picking and curating practices that have been the most effective for in being our most authentic selves. And it has been such a rewarding and wholesome journey to create these products and experiences to empower others to tap into their authentic selves. When you start your transformation journey using our ecosystem, we are empowering you to peel of the old programming and uncover the real you. Through this, we hope you use your authentic expression to connect deeply with our world. Together we will uplift our communities and improve our world. If you want to start your transformation journey and don't even know where to begin, well you have come to the right place. Book a FREE 15 minute discovery call with Manori. You can ask questions and find out how we can support you in your transformation in manifesting in your most authentic self. ⭐️ Click here to book your discovery call today! ⭐️ xx Manori

Taking care of plants and animals as a method of self-care

For millennia, humans have turned to gardening as a way of stress relief. Some cultures such as Japan have terms like forest bathing to describe spending much time immersed in nature. But in urban environments, garden spaces are limited and apartments are too small and modern lifestyles make us all too alien to nature. Nelson and I have always lived in apartments since we married and never had the fortune of having a garden to cultivate and grow. My parents, on the other hand, have a large garden full of tropical plants and trees ranging from fruits to vegetables, flowers to spices. Both my parents are gifted with green thumbs. But I used to be the opposite. Plants would come to reside with me to meet their certain deaths.

In 2007-08, I took one of the most life changing courses I have ever taken. The IAC (International Academy of Consciousness) was offering a 1 year course called "Goal: Intrusionlessness". In this course, we had an opportunity to dive deep into ourselves, and identify aspects that are limiting us or holding us back. At this point in time, I didn't have the healthiest relationship with myself. I was stuck at a point of not exactly liking myself for who I was. We had two instructors for the course Nanci Trivellato and Wagner Alegretti. And Nanci was my personal mentor. During one of the personal energetic mentoring sessions, she shared with me a tip to improve my relationship with myself. She said to take care of a plant and to focus on something other than myself. I can't remember if we explicitly discussed the outcomes, but I now understand that this has allowed me to bond with something deeply, therefore allowing for a greater connection to self. There are countless studies such as this one that explores the many possible benefits of gardening and green space on mental and physical health. Some benefits of interacting with plants and nature are: Stress reduction and relief Boost creativity Improves physical health - Boost immune system, lower blood pressure, exercise and physical activity involved with gardening or being in nature Improve your connection to earth and nature. Grounding. Improve your connection to yourself Delight - let us not forget how delight is an underrated basic human need. 13 years fast forward to present, I am a mom of over 50 indoor plants of varying sizes, a cat, and I am also nurturing many meaningful relationships with family and friends. Over the past decade, I have established a great rapport with plants. I hardly let plants die at my hands. Now, I take so much pleasure in connecting with them, intuitively navigating how to take care of them, and helping them thrive. I also propagate and distribute plants among my friends now. Nelson says "not only your plans have plans, your plants have plans" Connecting with plants has allowed me to try to pay attention to their very subtle yet unique "energy". Their life force or chi is distinctly different from ours. I have learnt to tune into the minutiae of even the tiniest plants that I steward, it has facilitated a sort of a precision with even my own energies. This has allowed me to notice the subtle shifts in my mood or my energy. Also I became aware of how plants began to thrive when I cared for them, gave them love and paid attention to them. And something shifted in me and clicked when I realized "what if I nurture and care for myself?! Will I thrive the way these plants are?" - that was such an aha moment. I just had to care for myself the same way I cared for my plants - with love, kindness, and attention. I wouldn't credit all of the progress I made with improving myself to taking care of a few plants. But I definitely give them credit for giving me a beautiful urban oasis that I love to be in, that welcomes visitors to Neuma Mind Spa and  where I can create, recharge AND live the most aligned version of myself. Also they have most certainly helped me connect with myself better in some way or form. Try taking care of a plant today and see what shifts happen within and around you. - Manori

PS: I came across this wonderful resource that has a lot of information about forest bathing. I recommend you read some of it.

Industries Turning to Subconscious Creativity Tech & Techniques

Getting high, without drugs Increasingly, we hear stories about innovators tapping into altered states for creative inspiration and relaxation. Micro-dosing substances like LSD is a thinly veiled secret in Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs’ formative experiences with mind-altering are the stuff of legend. However, such substances could have unpredictable effects, at least in some cases. They are neither a desirable nor viable option for many, such as utilities and construction personnel. Instead, there is a rising trend of creatives turning to mindful techniques and even technology to facilitate altered states. Lucid dreams happen when we realize that we are dreaming while still dreaming and allow us to simulate real-life situations and to let our mind run wild in a sort of internally-generated virtual reality. In a sense, our own mind is a type of Internal Reality (IR) tech that can complement other types of Extended Reality (XR) like Augmented Reality (AR). Research suggests that lucid dreamers tend to score better in creative problem-solving tasks, demonstrating greater predisposition for insight. Research suggests that people who practice mindfulness have more cognitive flexibility, are able to see beyond what they’ve already done, and are better at solving problems requiring insight. Hence, it is clear how altered and mindful states can be helpful for the incubation and insight stages of the creative process: they help develop non-conceptual awareness, going beyond the autopilot, observing things as if seeing them for the first time. Research indicates that people are open to original ideas after a brief meditation practice. The emotional resilience benefits of mindfulness can help us advocate for change, as well. Mindfulness can facilitate more balanced decisions, moderating fight-or-flight reactions, making us less reactive to potential change. Teams can amplify the effect. Numerous inventions, discoveries and works of art have sprung out altered states. For example, the periodic table of elements, Google, Tesla’s A/C motor, Ramanujan’s theta math functions, some of Salvador Dali’s paintings, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon have been credited in part to dreams. Both natural techniques and designed technologies promote the type of “body-mostly-asleep, mind-somewhat-awake” state that tends to accompany these curious states of mind. We should not be surprised to find more and more companies training their employees to have lucid dreams, hypnagogia, and out-of-body experiences, an altered state that has been correlated with lower pain levels. Manori Sumanasinghe, a lifelong meditation and lucid sleep practitioner and architecture graduate, has made a bet in this space with the Neuma Mind Spa & Showroom, in L.A.’s Chinatown. The Sri Lankan-American’s startup features workshops and technologies like the Cymatix recliner, which uses sound and vibration oscillatory patterns that mimic ancient practices. The Cymatix aims to facilitate deep relaxation with partial wakefulness in as little as 25 minutes. The Neuma Mind Spa also features technologies like the Muse brain-sensing headband, one of several “transformative technologies” emerging to facilitate mindfulness, well-being and creativity. Manori aims to design well-being tech spaces like this one in companies, co-working spaces, airports, spas, hospitals, malls, and more. At the Neuma Mind Spa, you can enjoy 25 or 50 minutes of quiet stillness and tech and techniques to reach heightened restful states: by yourself or with a partner. Gift certificates are available and sessions will resume when local authorities determine it is safer. Don’t live near one? Access resources online with the Neuma Being membership program. Adapted from article by Nelson Abreu on Zpryme, an energy industry media and event agency.

Shhh... Awaken your creativity with quiet stillness

In silence’s calm surrounds, we discover the power of imagination and throw open the gates to creativity. – Picasso Many people are finding themselves bored during the COVID-19 isolation. Some feel tempted to drown that feeling with endless streaming of online entertainment, social media, gaming — or by staying constantly busy. Contemporary life has glorified being busy. What if we are missing out on something important, by drowning our boredom reflexively? First of all, boredom may be a sign that you are ready for new inspiration or project. Think back to the moments when some of your best ideas have surfaced. Chances are these were quiet, contemplative moments: while staring out the window in a train, while in the shower, or during a long walk. Letting your mind wander is crucial for creativity. From time to time, embrace the tedium or Bertrand Russell’s fructifying boredom. When we need generative, divergent thinking, we tend to do better after boring activities. If we need to closely examine a problem and produce a concise, effective solution (convergent thinking), we tend to do better after mind-numbing activities. Our brain has the ability to operate in various modes. We can allow altered modes to manifest, by going beyond the normal waking state and unconscious sleep. Some of the world’s top innovators and successful leaders schedule time to just contemplate, tapping into memory, observations, knowledge, experiences, imagination and allowing for novel connections to surface as those light bulb moments. Will you? Excerpt from article by Nelson Abreu on Zpryme, an energy industry media and event agency.

Community Kick-off Event - rescheduled!

Community is a major pillar of the Neuma Being ecosystem. In light of the recent events, set of by the brutal murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless other African Americans in various communities, we would like postpone the celebratory kick-off events scheduled for this weekend. Our new community event launch date is set to Saturday, June 13, 2020 at 2pm Los Angeles (Pacific) time (Saturday June 13 @ 4pm Central / 5pm Eastern / 10pm London / Sunday June 14 @ 5am China / 7am Australia) We want to allow this weekend for our community members to heal and support the Black Lives Matter human rights movement. Here are some activities we will be doing to facilitate this: Education: We invite you to expand your empathy for the communities affected by systemic racism. We wrote a new post in our blog that you can read here. We've shared some tools such as Campaign Zero: a data driven organization looking at statistics that impact the African American and other Minority communities about policing, and these toolkits by BLM-LA. We will continue to share resources in our Instagram stories and posts. Keep an eye out for additional blog posts. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to explore themes of interconnection and interdependence, social justice, empathy, etc. Wellness meditation: Manori will do a few live online guided mindfulness sessions over the weekend. We invite you to participate in them. In these wellbeing mindfulness sessions, we will focus of extending our healing intentions to the affected communities. Session 1: Saturday 9am Los Angeles (Pacific) time / 11am Central / 12pm Eastern / 5 pm London / 9:30pm India Session 2: Saturday 6pm Los Angeles (Pacific) time / 8pm Central / 9pm Eastern / Sunday 6:30am India / Sunday 11am Australia Free Wellness Somatic Awareness Mindfulness Sessions: If you are an African American individual or know a friend seeking support with energy healing during this period, please let us know. We will be happy to donate a session to support their healing. To receive a link to the mediation or receive a wellness session, please email: with your contact information. We strongly believe that the interconnected and interdependent nature of our existence require us to examine where we stand with social justice and equality. Without these basic human rights met, for every single human being alive regardless of race or origin, we cannot move forward and grow as a society. We urge you to take a moment to examine the countless ways we have been blessed with good fortune or "wealth", be it social, spiritual, or financial. This "wealth" is a privilege that movements such as Black Lives Matter are fighting for their historically disadvantaged communities. At Neuma Being, Manori & Nelson stand behind these ideologies and pledge to uplift the hardest-hit communities. We continue to add new content to the community section in the website. We have a few new interesting interviews with Nelson and Manori posted in the Audio + Video Archive. Please feel free to check them out here

Why inequality is a collective challenge

When we started Neuma Being, I wanted community to be a major pillar in this ecosystem. I keep bringing the conversation back to how we are all interconnected and we don't grow alone. Here, I seek to articulate this point in light of current events. It's been a week since the brutal event that led to George Floyd's and Tony McDade's deaths. We didn't even have time to process the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor's when these happened. Countless other lives have been taken too soon in the name of "law and order," by a system designed to marginalize the lives of too many for too long. In response, communities countrywide have been taking to the streets to protest. Some of these protests have turned violent (in several cases, appearing to be instigated by pepole from outside the protests). Less than a mile away from where we live here in Downtown LA, riots have erupted and businesses and residences have been vandalized and looted. Even CA Governor concedes, the protesters are not to be blamed for systemic issues. We have collectively failed the African American community. The backdrop of this latest round of protests and the riots is that the whole world was already under a lot of pressure with the pandemic. Most cities were under lockdown for nearly two months and, as of today, over 371,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. In the US alone, at least 1.85 million people have been infected with COVID-19. Reports have been coming about the disproportionate impact the pandemic and economic downturn has had on African American communities. According to this document from the CDC "current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups." Further more, "among COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, New York City identified death rates among Black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3) that were substantially higher than that of white (45.2) or Asian (34.5) persons." It is not a surprise that the African American community, already heavily effected by the pandemic, probably burdened disproportionately by unemployment due to pandemic, was been pushed to the edge by such flagrant acts of murder. If a person is suffering in a community, it will impact the well-being of that specific individual. In some cases, it may lead to health implications that arise from suffering, loss or absence of delight and happiness, stress and lack due to financial and economical implications, loss of creativity and productivity. Long-term suffering causes chronic stress and burnout. In my previous post about rest, I discuss the effects of stress and burnout, as also illustrated in this diagram, below. Now, think about this affects the immediate circle around marginalized individuals who suffer similar conditions. This may lead to a domino effect, impacting the well-being of the larger community, not unlike a viral epidemic. Roughly 13% of the US is Black, but this community carries an oversized share of poverty, incarceration, illness and more due to systemic oppression and bias that spans centuries - along with the suffering, pain, fear, and hurt that came with it. The stress and burnout these communities experience is unfathomable to others. A large group of people in our communities are hurting. We have failed to address it properly for so long, perhaps because it's "their" problem. Protests and riots make it feel like it's "our problem." If we are truly One People, then it was always our problem. So what do we do about this? How do we come together to address this problem impacting all of us? To begin with, there are a few things we all can do: Immediate solutions: Participate in a peaceful protest or support those who are peacefully protesting Sign petitions Donate to a fund that support bail, supporting black-owned businesses, and supporting the communities impacted by tragedies. Example: Black Lives Matter Los Angeles Chapter Short - midterm solutions: Educate ourselves and improve our understanding about the social injustice facing various communities, expand knowledge about "otherness" Donate to a cause that supports the advancement of African American Communities Support Black businesses Become an ally and an advocate for true reform I've seen so many resources compiling information on how you can step up right now. Some of my favorite resources are Campaign Zero, Black Lives Matter LA Toolkits, the Obama Foundation's anguish and action page. Long term solutions: Research shows that learning and memory can be enhanced with mindfulness practices. Beyond that, Nelson and I are of strong conviction that paradigm shifts are needed to make meaningful changes to systemic problems. We believe that empathy is the key to finding equilibrium in society. Transformative, heightened restful states can result in expansions of consciousness which help us feel connected to others. Our understanding about what it is to be human takes us to a place that sees beyond otherness concepts like skin color or national origin. It can provide us with the opportunity to realize the significance of our action in the larger scheme of things, despite our ever-so-tiny presence in this vast universe. We believe that cognitive shifts and expansion of awareness are the foundation that can facilitate transformation, learning and education. This is the work we develop at Neuma Being. It is important to us, as a brand new company, that we continue to establish an inclusive social agenda. This is why we stand with all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of skin color, race or other characteristics, to realize this dream of a better tomorrow without racial or social injustice. We want for future generations to grow up without the fear and horror of the traumas perpetuated today. This is why, at this moment, we stand with our fellow Humans of the Black community, to help them have their voices heard, help them heal and achieve the necessary changes. As a tribute to our black brothers and sisters, I wrote this small verse last week as protests began to unfold. Verse by Manori May 30, 2020 I invite you to join us in solidarity with our communities, and expand our knowledge so all can be treated with the dignity they deserve as human beings. I leave you with this thought.... If you had immense power to change the world for the better (money, influence, time, and all other resources needed), what would you do, today? Probably, you do not have all of these resources, yet, what concrete action can you take right now to move things in the right direction and improve the world around you? ~ Manori PS 1: If you are someone or you know someone impacted by these ongoing social injustice against the black communities, please reach out. We are here for you, be in for a chat as an ally, or a healing session with out neuro-bio tech!

Embrace the Boredom for Creativity and Well-Being

In silence’s calm surrounds, we discover the power of imagination and throw open the gates to creativity. – Picasso Many people are finding themselves bored during the COVID-19 isolation. Some feel tempted to drown that feeling with endless streaming of online entertainment, social media, gaming — or by staying constantly busy. Contemporary life has glorified being busy. What if we are missing out on something important, by drowning our boredom reflexively? First of all, boredom may be a sign that you are ready for new inspiration or project. Think back to the moments when some of your best ideas have surfaced. Chances are these were quiet, contemplative moments: while staring out the window in a train, while in the shower, or during a long walk. Letting your mind wander is crucial for creativity. From time to time, embrace the tedium or Bertrand Russell’s fructifying boredom. When we need generative, divergent thinking, we tend to do better after boring activities. If we need to closely examine a problem and produce a concise, effective solution (convergent thinking), we tend to do better after mind-numbing activities. Our brain has the ability to operate in various modes. We can allow altered modes to manifest, by going beyond the normal waking state and unconscious sleep. Some of the world’s top innovators and successful leaders schedule time to just contemplate, tapping into memory, observations, knowledge, experiences, imagination and allowing for novel connections to surface as those light bulb moments. Will you? At the Neuma Mind Spa, you can enjoy 25 or 50 minutes of quiet stillness and tech and techniques to reach heightened restful states: by yourself or with a partner. Gift certificates are available and sessions will resume when local authorities determine it is safer. Don’t live near one? Access resources online with the Neuma Being membership program. Adapted from article by Nelson Abreu on Zpryme, an energy industry media and event agency. Photo Credit: Jeswin Thomas from Pexels

5 Simple Tips for Overcoming Creative Blocks

Creativity has been one of the constant sources of joy for me in my life. When I’m going through something difficult, I turn to design as a way of processing those emotions. But I’ve also found myself creatively blocked or drained, at times. This happens to me when I have too many anxiety-inducing ideas in my head all at once. Too many thoughts about all that needs to get done and thoughts about worst case scenario “what if’s”. Then, I start compounding that with negative thoughts that bring up shame and regret. This causes stress and bam! Creative block or drain! Here are some of the tricks I use to prevent this or to recover: 1. Planning & organization: Write down all that I have to do and allocate time frames. Schedule tasks. Note - working with my therapist, I realized I was over-scheduling my day. So whatever I think I can do in a day, I plan 20% less. Also plan for self-care, mental hygiene, and rest / Relaxation time. Then stick by this plan. 2. Now that I have scheduled all the to-dos, I don’t have to carry them on my shoulders anymore. I can make peace with the timeline I worked out. 3. Make sure to rest and relax. Self-care has become such a huge part of my creative process. I have to let things emerge sometimes and this can happen when I give myself the space to just be. 4. When I do these steps, I don’t get into the worst-case scenario thinking as much. I have learned to be vigilant to catching myself when these patterns pop up. Just by becoming aware that I started thinking this way, it becomes easier to address and break these patterns of behavior. 5. Enjoy being in the present moment. Don’t worry about the past that is completely beyond control or a future that hasn’t happened yet. I hope these simple tips help you in “clearing” you mind and giving yourself the space for new ideas to emerge. ~ Manori

What's all the fuss about doing nothing?

Much ado about nothing... Well, let's explore this together. Rest has become a much sought after, sometimes elusive thing in modern urban society. We are constantly on the run and we are always busy. Worst still, most of us don't get enough sleep every night, myself included. Our bodies were never meant to be constantly working. Over time, we begin to notice side effects of this continual overuse of our bodies. There was a time when I used to feel guilty about resting. If I took some time for myself, I would feel anxious or just guilt-ridden about doing nothing. I would torture myself and even feel exhausted and/or depressed. There is a prevailing attitude in the American professional culture that we must work a lot and incessantly work hard. I've even seen "motivational" quotes about how one must be the first to arrive at work and last to leave if they want to succeed. So, it's not actually surprising that most of us have it ingrained in us that we must work all the time, endlessly and give all of ourselves to work. My battle between my health and my career Two years ago I found myself chronically stressed, burnt out and completely drained, both physically and creatively. I was anxious and had trouble falling and staying asleep. I found myself having a lot more allergy flare-ups, gastrointestinal irregularities and even new pain and aches that became disruptive in my daily living. In early 2018, I had a growing feeling that I needed to take care of my body and mind or I would cross a threshold into a major health crisis. I persisted with work, because I was so close to achieving a major milestone in my life: to be able to finish the points required to take my architecture licensing exams. I wasn't one to give up and in my calculations, if I just hung in there until September, I would be able to save up enough and go on my own as I had always planned. In March 2018, triggered by a loss of a family member and a series of terrible allergic reactions, I just spiraled to a dark place. I got into an unnecessary scuffle with a mentor and friend at work, which made me realize I wasn't myself. Then, I spent April realizing I had to take charge of my life again. So late April, I tendered my resignation and took time off. I was determined to break bad habits and give myself the space to heal and make space to grow. I wanted to feel like myself again. Where it started Looking back at my childhood, leisure activities, rest or “downtime” were not viewed as necessities by my parents. They worked all the time. When they were not at work, they made sure to pack their schedules with cleaning, organizing, social obligations and work. We hardly played together. We didn't take many fun trips together. Part of it had to do with how modest their income was. But also, I think, they thought rest, recreation, and play were a waste of time. Sri Lankan culture also has very strong work ethics. We are taught to work hard and that hard work will pay off. So, I know a lot of my workaholism came from the cultures that I have been steeped in. I was 16 when I decided I wanted to become an architect. My parents couldn't afford to send me to the US to study architecture. I did not give up and sought a viable trajectory. I landed a lucrative job in the clothing industry at 19, because I of my communication skills in English. I was working as a liaison between Nike and manufacturing facilities. I was working 60-75 hours a week regularly and rose into the ranks of management. I also enrolled with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK) and started taking distance learning classes in the remaining waking hours. Then, in 2006, I took a leap of faith. I applied to architecture school in NYC and got in. I went all in and gathered the little money I have saved and paid for the one year of tuition that would at least help me launch the beginning of my architect career. With the help of my amazing two friends I was finally able to go to college in the US to study architecture in 2007. I didn't know at the time that architecture is one of the most demanding degrees and career paths. I had to work a few part time jobs in order to keep myself fed and pay basic bills. So, at this phase, too, I found myself putting in between 90-120 hours a week between school, work, and studies and volunteering. I was barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night. By 2010, I was 29 years old and as much as I wanted to blame it on my age, I knew something was wrong.I was feeling overwhelmed with everything I was doing. My body wasn't as resilient, and I just didn’t feel the same energy as I did when I was younger. I noticed unexplainable weight gain, persistent feelings of depression, and this ongoing feeling of stress. When I finished architecture school in 2014, I already felt burnt out. However, in launching my architect career, I was offered an opportunity to be mentored by two renowned architects in Southern California. Without taking a breather, I took that offer of a lifetime and started working right away —this was only 10 days after I presented and completed my thesis in front of a world class jury for graduation. Breaking the habits: A real break Was I turning into my parents? I had only given myself 2 breaks prior to 2018. The first was in 2003, when I came to the US to visit colleges, and and to plan out my living situation. I was on the East Coast for 7 months. I did a few volunteering gigs and took some courses for 20 hours a week. There was a lot of time for myself because I was not able to work due to visa restrictions. The second “break” was when I moved to Miami with Nelson, my now husband, in 2009. I was waiting for school transfers and worked part-time around 20 hours a week. I volunteered another 20 hours a week. This was, again, my version of a vacation. For the first time in my life, I finally gave myself a legitimate break when I left my job in 2018: intentionally and completely. For once in my life, I gave myself the permission to completely live without structure or timelines. I just let myself be. I woke up when my eyes decided to open, not by an alarm clock. I went to the grocery store to gather my favorite ingredients to cook for my husband and I. The little things that I have taken for granted.I reached out to my friends and families, just to chat with no alternative motives. I took walks at the park with absolutely no agenda. It took me almost two months to start feeling myself again; meaning, getting back my energy that I have once lost, regained the creative thoughts and perspectives, recapture the focus that had dissipated in my brain fog but most importantly, putting myself first before others. Then, I started to slowly introduce structure again. That period has been one of the most healing and transformative times in my life. I had allowed for wonderful new things to emerge. This is how Neumascape Studio, my design firm, came about and subsequently, Neuma Being. It happened because I surrendered to those moments of emergence. The Benefits of Rest There is a growing body of information becoming available about how rest is ESSENTIAL for our bodies and our minds to function properly. A fascinating article by Ferris Jbar on Scientific American from 2013 explores why our brains need downtime. Jbar posits that "throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy." Another study, published in National Institute of Health, found a possible correlation between naps and reduced tension in the bodies of the subjects tested. A Stanford study talks about the positive effects of walking for creative thinking. I recall how I made walking for exercise a part of my routine in recovery. Another paper discusses the value of the incubation period for creativity and the author suggests "that it is not merely the absence of conscious thought that drives creativity, but that during an incubation period unconscious processes can contribute to creative thinking." If you ask any professional athletes, they can impress upon how critical rest is for their performance. Most of them have strict schedules of how they train and when they rest. They understand the role of rest for peak performance of their bodies and mind. Even though most of us don't play sports professionally, we do still perform in our lives. We are required to perform at our jobs, perform duties for our family and friends, and still be able to take care of ourselves and the community. In that sense, we are all "athletes" of life. So why shouldn't ALL OF US prioritize rest? "Quality rest allows the body to heal and recover. Especially, when we reach stage 4 and REM sleep/ deep sleep. Cortisol, a stress hormone can stay elevated for those who don't get a good night sleep and can affect other hormonal control. Good quality sleep decreases inflammation and plays a role in metabolism by burning calories. So overall rest is not just good but ESSENTIAL for our overall health and wellness." - Dr. Amy Lee, Chief Medical Officer at Lindora and advisor for Nucific Rest has many benefits, such as: Better mental health Improved emotional resilience Improved physical health including less pain, inflammation, and improved immune system Reduction of fatigue and exhaustion Reduction of stress Creative insights and inspiration, including those occurring during lucid sleep states Improved clarity of thought Improved level of happiness Improved self-awareness and somatic awareness: a greater sense of connection to one's self, the surroundings, and the respective communities / social groups A greater sense of connection to purpose Improved sense of overall well-being Vitality and vigor Improved productivity, decision-making and performance The list goes on. Take a look at our growing list of studies and articles archived in our Research Vault that looks at the science of rest, mindfulness, and heightened states if you are looking to find more data on this topic. Rest can look like many different things to different people. For some people it's restful to clean. For others it's restful to just sit and read a book. Here are some of the most popular ways most people rest: Sleep / nap A lucid sleep session
(on your couch or, even better, on the Cymatix at Neuma Mind Spa) Read a book Gardening Meditate / Yoga A cool / warm shower or a good soak Self-care activities: Spa day Outdoor activity: Go for a walk / Forest bathing / hiking / beach day Exercise / play a sport / other physical activities Sex and intimacy Watch a movie / TV Cook Clean Play with kids and/or pets Hanging out and other social activities with friends and family Sketching, free-styling with music instruments or playing with Legos In conclusion, I want to emphasize the value of rest and recreation for our existence and our growth. Here, at Neuma Being, we emphasize rest, play, and emotional well-being because we feel that these are among the pillars and the foundation of the work that we do. Our techniques and technology help those who care and create for L.A. and the world, by facilitating deep relaxation and creative states of mind. We also find that these empower our own work! If you need any assistance in working through finding balance between rest, work, and play, give us a call. We are here for you! - Manori Additional Resources: How resting more can boost your productivity by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in Greater Good Magazine from UC Berkley The Rest Test: Preliminary Findings from a Large-Scale International Survey on Rest
by Claudia Hammond; Gemma Lewis. To be more creative schedule more breaks by Jackson G. Lu, Modupe Akinola, and Malia Mason on Harvard Business Review Pause, Ponder, Prioritize by Vala Afshar in ZDnet Jenny Odell on nature, art, and burnout in quarantine: How the artist and writer is thinking about this moment by Ezra Klien on Vox

If you love what you do....

... you will never work a day in life"! How many times have we all heard this quote? I have lost count! I'm going to share my story and tell you why this is not the case for me. Since I was 16, I knew I wanted to become an architect. When I was 26, I had the opportunity to finally go to architecture school. 7 years later, I graduated with honors from SCI-Arc, one of the most avant-garde architecture colleges in the US. After I presented my thesis to a jury of some of the biggest names in architecture, I was approached by a 3 different architects to interview at their firms. Just 10 days after presenting my thesis, after years of grueling days and nights of architecture education, I started as a junior architectural designer. I had the privilege of starting at Hodgetts + Fung under the mentorship of award-winning architects Craig Hodgetts and HsinMing Fung. That was on April 28, 2014. Almost exactly 6 years ago. Along the way of practicing the profession that I thought I would love, I was able to confirm that I indeed love to design things, buildings and communities. It sparks such a fire in me when I think about the things I want to do with my architecture career. When I am stressed, I design something and it provides relief. When I feel down, I sometimes envision some projects in it's realized form and this lifts me up. This very process of designing brings me so much joy. However, I also was able to identify which parts of my career in architecture I didn't like so much. There are certain aspects that are an unavoidable part of architecture, regardless of whether I like it or not. Things like going into an existing building that is in disrepair that smells so bad or looks like it's a set of a horror show. Working with the local regulatory authorities or negotiating with tricky 3rd parties are not always fun. Without doing these, there is no doing architecture. That is the nature of the job. I am not a huge fan of these aspects but they do not weigh so heavily to make me consider giving it all up. Precisely two years ago, I started my own firm Neumascape Studio, I wanted to integrate many aspects of the conventional architecture practice that I loved and get rid of some of the parts I didn't like. I also wanted my practice to be a reflection of who I am as a person. I don't easily fit within a box. I am curious about many things, I have many interests. There is more than one thing that I am very passionate about. So, I decided my practice will undertake projects that would intersect my diverse passions: design, technology, and well-being. One of the projects I undertook in the studio spun off into its own startup: Neuma Being. What I love about Neuma Being is that I get to practice a different sort of community building: not the building of buildings kind, but the sort that involves uplifting communities. Nelson and I have mindfulness expertise that we have been wanting to put to good use for several years. And when we thought up Neuma Being, it was an aha moment. A light bulb went off. And we started working toward it. Here we are, doing not only one, but two things that we love, running two different kinds of companies, doing two different kinds of businesses that we love. Both have purpose and impact that motive us. We find meaning in both these companies. So are we absolutely happing doing what we do? Well, it's layered mostly-yes. We love what we do. I wouldn't do anything else other than what I am doing right now. But, this is not to say that it is easy, or that there are things that I don't necessarily like doing, like bookkeeping or going to conferences. Like any other startup at early stages, we do a lot of stuff on our own. Our goal is to be able to hire staff that can assist with these things. We are working with business plans and strategies, crunching numbers, looking at data, preparing for bringing in additional resources to expand. This is what is required for the project. There are some parts that I love about this process and some not so much. And it is work. There are times it definitely feels like a lot - a lot of hard, hard work. But I still love the parts that I love. One thing that is worth noting about this process, is the reframing of the perspective. The things that are tedious are merely things that I need to do in order to do what I love. The things that I don't love will not deter me from doing what I love. I try to avoid doing things that I don't savor, as much as possible. But avoiding everything that I don't like is not that easy or realistic. The burden of things being perfect, will only ensure unhappiness and frustration. The only scenario I can think that of where a person will absolutely love every single aspect of what they do - so much so that it will not feel like it is work- is if they are working on a 9-5 job, doing a job they love to do, with a supervisor that allows them to do only what they love to do because they are so good at it and so passionate. Even that I question. I'm a reformed perfectionist. After nearly a decade of therapy, I was finally able to put aside my need for perfectionism and decide not torturing myself is a much better way of life. In this process, I also acknowledged the fact that for me to like something or love someone (starting with myself), perfection is not a requisite. This liberated me to make mistakes and find simpler joys that made the journey far more interesting and enjoyable. Don't let perfection get in the way of good enough, it is said. So when someone tells me that "if you love what you do, you will never work a day in life" I'm going to call out their b*** s***! I love what I do, but some moments certainly do feel like work. But you can chose to reframe it and make it easier on yourself. If you absolutely hate it, then you are probably not doing what is aligned with your bigger purpose. So go do what you love to do. Just don't expect it make you whole or complete or the sole and absolute source of joy in your life. That joy, that delight, that happiness can be reenforced by meaningful activity and strong relationships, but you can only find it within your heart and mind. You got this! - Manori

Let's talk about cognitive shifts...

What are cognitive shifts? And why do they play a central role in our work? Throughout history, people have experienced transformation when they were awestruck by the majesty of the universe or nature or art. Astronauts report being changed forever by seeing our beautiful and fragile Earth, without borders, from outer-space. A cognitive shift is a major change, expansion or breakthrough in thinking, understanding, and mindset. Such visceral, paradigm-shifting experiences are often accompanied by a sense of awe. They cause us to reevaluate the world and our place and connection with it. They can be profoundly integrative, expanding our sense of oneness with fellow beings, with the very fabric of reality. This is why cognitive shifts are central to the work we do. It enables us to have a deeper connection with ourselves, our purpose, and the world around us. We facilitate cognitive shifts with techniques and technology inspired by ancient and contemporary practices. These include mindfulness, heightened and lucid sleep states such as lucid dreaming, out-of-body experiences, hypnagia, etc. Regardless of the ultimate nature of these experiences, one thing is certain: people have been transformed and inspired by them throughout history. Neuma Being tech can help you achieve deep relaxation and creative “body asleep - mind awake” hypnagogic states. This supports the well-being and ideation of problem-solvers and leaders. However, some times people can experience awe and cognitive shifts that result in a refreshing, game-changing perspective to their personal and professional lives. While these cannot be guaranteed, when the magic happens, lightbulbs go off, and new ways of thinking are born; new mindsets to address problems in communities, organizations and the world-at-large. Join our membership program that we will be launching in early May. We will have talks, discussions, guests, and resources aimed at promoting cognitive shifts. In response to the current pandemic, we are providing 60 days free access to our Pemium membership. Sign up today! You can also purchase gift certificates that can be redeemed when The Neuma Mind Spa resumes operations post lockdown. We currently have a 50% off offer to help our community prepare for the post COVID-19 world. You can purchase a gift certificate here using code RECOVER20X Stay well & stay safe!


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