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Keep calm and carry on

City life can be uniquely draining.
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 14, 2009

City life — even when the city is as manageable as Portland — can be uniquely draining. We haggle over parking spots, wait in lines at stores, dodge drunkards on Friday and Saturday nights, and have our senses assaulted by unnatural sounds, smells, and sights. No matter your occupation, urban life forces you to take some part in the rat race. Earlier this month, the Boston Globe reported on a study showing that just a few minutes on an urban street hinders memory-retention, self-control, and intellectual capacity. Given these truths, we must cultivate and fortify our senses of soul, in order to stay sane and centered. And if you've just moved to the city, and are juggling school, a part-time job, and a new social scene, this can be particularly difficult.

To the rescue comes Urban Soul Warrior: Self-Mastery in the Midst of the Metropolis (Soft Skull Press), a new book by Lalania Simone. The self-help workbook borrows concepts from mysticism, Eastern religion, and new-age spirituality to lead its readers toward "an extraordinary and powerful life." Along the way, Simone asks her readers to participate in meditations and thought exercises related to spirituality, physical health, mental health, interpersonal relationships, and money. "Soul warriors" are instructed to write down and visualize their goals, use spoken intentions and affirmations, and habitualize certain positive rituals (such as spending the first five to 10 minutes of the morning saying "some beautiful and positive things about yourself, your day, and your life"). Simone particularly emphasizes the physical and mental benefits of yoga, and "the power of gratitude."

"Cultivating an attitude of gratitude will have a profound effect on even the most mundane, dramatic, and otherwise unenjoyable moments of our lives," she writes. "Every event, especially and including the ones that bring us heartache and pain, has a gift ... Make an effort to explore any positive effects from the experience."

It sounds hokey — and at points, it is. But Simone's particular brand of self-help jargon is straightforward and earnest, which makes it easier to swallow.

Truth be told, there's nothing especially "urban" about Simone's suggestions. Her program of introspection and positive thinking could apply to anyone, regardless of their physical location. That said, we've compiled some Portland-specific resources to use in combination with Urban Soul Warrior or with the calmness-seeking strategy of your choice.

Portland is replete with PLACES TO DO YOGA. Portland Phoenix readers dubbed the Yoga Exchange (251 Congress St., the best place in town in last spring's The Best poll; there are at least 10 other places for you to explore — choose your favorite.

Urban Soul Warrior, as many self-help tomes do, prescribes a decent amount of JOURNALING. Get a blank book that's equal to your thoughts at Papier Gourmet (26 Free St., or Ferdinand (243 Congress St.,

ACUPUNCTURE is taking off in Portland (even local veterans are getting poked at free clinics, organized by local practitioners, held every Tuesday at the Reiche School). There are at least 15 licensed acupuncturists or acupuncture facilities in the area; check out the Maine Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine ( for more information.

Sometimes all it takes to wind down is A NICE CUP OF TEA AND A FOOTRUB, which you can procure simultaneously at Soakology (30 City Center,

...Or A BIG GLASS OF WINE; try half-price wine Mondays at the White Heart (551 Congress St.,, or go upscale with a glass from Vignola's wine list — Phoenix readers voted it the best in town this year (10 Dana St.,

They say that EXERCISE IS AN ANTIDOTE TO STRESS. In Portland, you can pick your healthy poison: go rock climbing (at the Maine Rock Gym, 127 Marginal Way,, learn some jazz dance steps (at Casco Bay Movers, 517 Forest Ave.,, run on the treadmill (at Planet Fitness, 145 Marginal Way, ... or take it outside (to the Eastern Promenade or around Back Cove), do Cardiolates (at Pure Movement, 1 Marginal Way,, or escape urbanity by enjoying nearby nature walks (find Portland Trails maps at

If, as Simone suggests, you decide to BUILD AN AT-HOME ALTAR ("Creating an altar," she says, "is a way to honor your divine self, to honor nature, love, the Universal Presence, and all things"), obtain crystals for it at Stones and Stuff (556 Congress St.), and candles, incense, and other special items at the Magick Closet (995 Forest Ave., Consult page 79 of Urban Soul Warrior to find out what properties are associated with which crystals.

Hey, we're not suggesting you go all hippie on us. But there's no harm in taking a step back and really thinking about your life, in carving out the time and space to ground yourself. With a bit of perspective, you might be able to enjoy your life in Portland even more. "Urban Soul Warriors have chosen to embark upon a path of self-discovery, even amongst (or maybe because of) the madness of the city experience," Simone writes. "They are discovering that life is throbbing everywhere, even within the steel overhead and the concrete underfoot."

Deirdre Fulton plans to wind down, too — right after this next can of Red Bull. She can be reached

  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Self-Help , Reiche School
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