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Shine - A Passion Celebration (September Edition)


Shine - A Passion Celebration (September Edition)

What is your legacy? Mozart's was his music, Picasso’s was his art and for our Shine event this September we encouraged our Passion Co. community to shape it and begin living it fully.

Inspired by Burning Man and officiated by Anisha Desai), who launched her ceremony business, the event was truly a huge success and challenged everyone present to identify one thing holding them back from their legacy, what they need to do to move one step closer to it and finally to take a marigold blossom – a symbol of passion, creativity and possibility – and make a commitment to their legacy.


The main focus, of course, was our latest group of 15 inspiring individuals, who took to the stage at non-profit community-based arts organization Galería de La Raza to showcase their Passion Projects after completing our 5 week program.

Divya Silbermann launched ‘Brave Stories,’ a website to share personal stories of overcoming loss.

Devastated by the sudden death of her fiancé from meningitis in 2002 after moving to the US from India, she believes that despite the huge number of social networking sites, it's still very difficult to find genuine stories of hardship and grief.

She said: 

My goal is to inspire someone who might be going through something similar. No one is going to give you magical advice that will make you feel better instantly, but you’re not alone.

Sierra Campbell debuted her non-toxic collection of beautifully designed yoga mats, Ventana Yoga.

After working on the line for 10 months, she decided to sign up for the program as she “needed an extra push.”

She said: 

Launching my own company, I felt really isolated and I needed a community. Most of my friends after month 5 or 6, when I would say I’m launching this and I would want support from them, their response would be, you haven’t launched it yet or they would focus on problems. The Passion Co. focused on excitement, solutions and solving things together.

Asked about the most difficult challenge she faced, she said: 

Keeping enthusiasm and finding a responsible manufacturer.


Attendees tucked into the delicious Hummus bar provided by Yamba Hummus and sipped on honey wine by Bee D'Vine.

Amanda Shareghi read a hilarious excerpt from a feature about her love life that she plans to submit to the New York Times’ Modern Love column, while DJ and yoga enthusiast Elliott Adams unveiled, where he shares unique electronic beats designed to blend tempo with movement.


Noelia Ruiz-Angel grew up playing the violin, but life got in the way until recently.

At the beginning of the program she made a commitment to start practicing again every day and wowed guests with her incredible performance at the event.

Sanjana Reddy and Vaishnavi Bodanapu created illustrations for a family cookbook and Aline Rudenisch showed off her unique hand-made fashion items.

If you want to discover or reconnect with your passion, join our next Find Your Passion Program.

Check out our Facebook page to see more pictures from our most recent event!

Written By: Aoife Anderson

Photo Credit: Nina Menconi




The 5 Quotes on Fear You Must Read


The 5 Quotes on Fear You Must Read

Guest Blog by Reem Suleiman

Reem Suleiman is a writer, poet, and Arabic calligrapher. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Comparative Literature and a minor in Middle East and North African Studies. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.



Ever wondered why the guy you are dating avoids commitment, retreating just as soon as things get good? Or why you are still stuck in the job you can't stand? Or maybe why you have to verify absolutely every restaurant pick with at least 100 Yelp reviews? The answer to all of these questions is simply …fear.

Personally as a recent college graduate, the fear of the real world haunts me in every corner. Everywhere I go I am bombarded with the fear of having to grow up. At dinner parties, I have become so accustomed to the ubiquitous question (more like backhanded compliment), “Congratulations on graduating! …So what are you going to do with your life?” Or worse yet, the passive aggressive, “Oh! You majored in Comparative literature…interesting. So what kind of job can you get with that?” 

Like the fear of commitment or dramatic change, the fear of leaving my college security blanket has become suffocating. So as an avid reader, I naturally retreat to my sanctuary—the library.

Although my major may not give me a job immediately, I realize my endless hours finding comfort in the turned pages of my favorite novels were not in vain. They have taught me throughout the ages these five important lessons on conquering fear:

5-year-old wisdom: We hide our fears

I said, ‘I do not fear those pants with nobody inside them.’ I said, and said, and said those words. I said them but I lied them.
— Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches and Other Stories

Dr. Seuss is more than the king of rhymes. He knows very well that when in doubt, sometimes we conceal our fear under a false guise of confidence or beneath a lie. I would argue this is not necessarily a bad thing. I live proudly behind the “fake it till you make it” principle because a little extra confidence never hurt anybody.

12-year-old wisdom: We fear the unknown

It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince

The ultimate literary rite of passage for my generation, Harry Potter reminds us that when moving on to new chapters, we are often afraid simply of the blank pages. At one point, everything was new, including our most treasured memories that we retreat to for security. Embrace the new because it will become old soon enough.

13-year-old wisdom: Be Cautious because some fears are smart

There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t.
— Lemony Snicket, author of the Series of Unfortunate Events

I distinctly remember the candy-coated addiction of the Series of Unfortunate Events books as a young adult, undoubtedly the first in line for the latest edition. There was something intoxicatingly thrilling about reading the horrible experiences of characters right around my age. I suppose it is the same reason we all love watching scary movies—the relief of thinking, “at least it’s not me!”. Nonetheless, the stories remind me that sometimes our fears are very much legitimate, rational, and smart… For example, if a mysterious car has been tailing you for the past five miles on your way back from a late-night party, you might not be paranoid. Never ignore a sharp intuition.

17-year-old wisdom: But whatever you do, don't fear love

Tell him yes. Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no.
— Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

High school brings back memories of the high voltage intensity of first loves/crushes. From our first kiss to our first heartbreak, the “first” tends to be the most vivid, beloved, and painful. In retrospect, on can never regret love, only the failure to act on it.

21-year-old wisdom: And Most importantly, do not fear failure

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Coelho’s The Alchemist has remained my quintessential book on life changes. The fear of failure can be quite daunting, especially when moving on from a really "safe" life chapter and having to start over. During high school, I was definitely a big fish in a small pond. So the transition to a large university was very difficult because I was petrified of being unable to recreate my high school success. That fear proved to be completely unproductive because I spent more time worried of failure than actually attempting to be successful and follow my passions. And it is this same wisdom that I must carry now as I sit comfortably beside my bookshelf, surrounded by my literary friends, peering out over a desk full of applications.

The fear of the unknown is about the opportunity to follow your heart, not the possibility of failure. My heart is calling…and it is about time I take the call.


Shine - A Passion Celebration (May Edition)


Shine - A Passion Celebration (May Edition)

THE PASSION CO. community gathered together for an elegant and inspiring Shine celebration last week, honoring the passion projects of a new group of 15 people, who recently completed our 5 week program.

The evening was a huge success and it was wonderful to see so many new and familiar faces turn up to socialize, engage and support those who made a commitment to push themselves out of their comfort zones and reconnect with their dreams.

Maya Katherine joined the program to help her complete her debut documentary, Hasa Film, about her extraordinary journey to meet her birth mother in Bengal after being adopted by an American family as a baby.

She said: 

I loved being held accountable because it really put a fire under me and that’s exactly what I needed.

“I was terrified and having panic attacks all week, but being able to show the trailer to such a supportive and kind community makes me feel very confident to move forward and show it to the rest of the world.


She added: 

I would absolutely recommend the program. Everyone was super caring and kind; they were my biggest cheerleaders.

Initially uncertain about what passion project she wanted to pursue, Emily Ostendorf opted to flex her adventurous muscles in her own backyard by exploring Bay Area towns she only ever passed through on her daily BART commute, like Richmond and Millbrae.

She said: 

I just wanted to do something fun and not feel under pressure to do something that had a bigger purpose.”

“For me the unexpected thing about the program and what I loved was being able to give other people ideas about their projects. It just felt good to be in the community, share and help them achieve.

Designer Damian Madray signed up to help him reignite his passion project, an organization called TheGlint that hosts gatherings for creative individuals to share ideas and get involved in conversations that promote positive change within their communities.

He said: 

I think it’s great being around people who are doing. It’s also cool seeing people chase their passions; it’s really inspiring and motivating.

Entrepreneur and life coach Lucy Keoni’s project saw her explore her dream of spearheading a social innovation collective.

She said: 

I think the program spoke to this dormant piece of me. I always wanted to change the world, but life took a toll so I never really got around to doing what I wanted to do.

I broke a pattern that was keeping me from excelling in a lot of areas of my life. Now I feel there are infinite possibilities in front of me and as long as I’m connected to my passion and my desire to serve humanity, there is no failing.

More than 400 people have taken the leap and completed our empowering program to date, pursuing passion projects in everything from writing a book and making a documentary, to designing an innovative app.

If you want to discover or reconnect with your passion, join our next Find Your Passion Program.

Beginning on June 2, the upcoming session will be led by esteemed counselor and life coach Carla Bagdonas, who helps people answer important questions and believes there is no better time than the present to start living the life you've been waiting for.

Places are extremely limited so click here to sign up now and check out our Facebook page to see more pictures from our most recent event!

Written By: Aoife Anderson

Photo Credit: Ellen Wildhagen



6 Lessons From 100 Hours of Meditation and 300 of Silence – The AFTER


6 Lessons From 100 Hours of Meditation and 300 of Silence – The AFTER

Credit Celeste Noche Photography

Credit Celeste Noche Photography

The last Friday of 2013, I opened my eyes to a very familiar sound: a sound I had tried to erase from my memory. Another bomb struck a moderate politician in the neighborhood where we pass by every day, killing people and causing destruction; shooting another arrow into Lebanon’s shrinking heart.


As the stress and anger started mounting, I began breathing, feeling my hands and feet and breathing again, until I calmed down. Whether it is a bomb, the daily stresses at work or in your relationships, the feeling is the same and so are the tools I learned at Spirit Rock for dealing with them. 

Lesson 1- Pain is Inevitable

Our society is conditioned to avoid pain at any price. Whether it is taking medicine, or promoting the sole pursuit of happiness. The truth is that life is like a pendulum – and for pleasure to exist, there will be pain.


Sitting for 14 hours a day cross-legged is definitely something my body was not a fan of, especially my injured knee. By day 3, I had had it with pain, and my only option was to give in to it. Breathe and let go of it. All I remember is that the pain turned into an euphoric emotion and slowly faded away.

My knee pain was a lesson in emotional pain. The reason why we suffer so much, as it turns out, is not because of heartbreak, or a job loss or loneliness. The true reason is because we are conditioned to fight this emotion. To become hard on ourselves, to drink, get high, or watch TV and “forget,” in other words hurting ourselves more, making it even more difficult to move on.

Lesson 2 – Pain is Good

The retreat was a celebration of solstice, the darkest time of the earth. For darkness is a symbol of pain, difficult times, the feeling of being stuck, lost, confused or hopeless. The beauty of the solstice is threefold. First, it allows you time and space to reflect and pause. And so does any loss in our lives where you experience intense emotions. Secondly, the solstice also marks the full moon, which is symbolic of the light that comes after darkness. Where your heart turns from stone into stars, as a poet put it. Lastly, the darkness is a time to ask for forgiveness: forgiveness from yourself and forgiveness from others. It is the time to liberate yourself from fear and what is holding you back.


The teachers kneeled down on their knees and asked for our forgiveness by the end of the retreat. It was both humbling and inspiring. And I decided to do the same with the people close to me by writing them after the retreat, and asking for forgiveness.

Lesson 3 - 99% of Our Thoughts are Rubbish

You are upset with someone at work. Your mind starts telling you stories such as they did not collaborate on the project because you are not good enough, or they think they are better, or because they are just bad at what they do. This thought starts causing you anger and anxiety and alters your mood.

One cool thing of being stuck with your thoughts for 7 days is the ability to eventually observe them objectively, and do what is called "mental labeling."


Here is a pie chart of what I found in my head:

6 Things I Learnt From 100 Hours of Meditation and 300 of Silence – The AFTER.docx.jpg

Then you stop and notice that this thought is coming from the storyteller, and is not reality. You can take 3 deep breaths and try to focus on the present.

And there were 5 stories I kept telling myself over and over again. They consumed my mind to the degree that I missed out on the present, I missed out on being creative and imagining.

The truth is that conquering these thoughts was mission impossible. Instead, simply being aware of them and categorizing them gives you control over your mind.

Lesson 4 – Silence is Sometimes a Better Way

The first evening of the retreat, we were allowed to speak; later, during my daily work meditation where I was washing the dinner dishes with 3 other people, we found ourselves to be more efficient on the rest of the days when we were not talking.


"Thank you" and "Sorry" kept popping up in my head, and each time I realized that they were unnecessary. Not talking taught me to notice others’ body language for example, and by end of the retreat I felt as close to my kitchen co-workers as though we knew each other deeply.

We say so many words, overcrowd our speech, we miss out on the unspoken, we waste energy and it slows us down.

Lesson 5 – Start with Intention (vs Expectation)

I came into the retreat thinking that I wanted to relax, resolve some issues and understand myself better. As soon as I sat down, I realized it was all rubbish. My true intention was to open my heart to whatever I am about to receive. Expectations are the mother of disappointment. We set goals, go to meetings, watch TV and do things all day. What if you stop before you start something, and think about what intention you have for it? In other words, realign with the real "why" behind why you do what you do.

We were instructed to do that before every meditation session, and it is a relief to come back to it, when I start feeling stressed, bored or tired.

Lesson 6 – The Real Meaning of Listening

I had lunch with Buddha in the garden, and noticed while staring at his statue for an hour that he has huge ears. Listening is often brought up as a virtue one must have. My silence and focus on my body taught me another type of listening. A heart-full listening.  Being truly present when someone else is speaking. How to do that? A small trick. Coming back to your body which is present by feeling your hands and feet. Try it, it works magic.

The Truth

As humans, we adapt fast. By day 2 I was used to waking up at 6 AM to the sound of the gong, used to 12 meditation sits and used to not speaking. I did not even think of my phone. The truth is, it is not technology that we are attached to. We are attached to distraction. The escape from the now. The escape from the pain. The escape from truth. For truth is found in the stillness of life. And oh how many times do we turn a blind eye to it.


P.S.: In full disclosure, there was one thing I truly, dearly missed. That thing was writing. If it was for one thing, the silence and the meditation bootcamp confirmed to me that writing is indeed my ultimate passion.

Trippers and askers surround me,

People I meet....the effect upon me of my early life....of the ward and city I live in....of the nation,

The latest news....discoveries, inventions, societies....authors old and new,

My dinner, dress, associates, looks, business, compliments, dues,

The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,

The sickness of one of my folks—or of myself....or ill-doing....or loss or lack of money....or depressions or exaltations,

They come to me days and nights and go from me again,

But they are not the Me myself.
— Walt Whitman
Credit Celeste Noche Photography

Credit Celeste Noche Photography