To continue with our series of interviewing fellow bloggers, we caught up with Raffi of citiZENMINDful. He is a So-Cal born and raised Armenian-American with a flair for the arts. He is truly a Renaissance Man in the making. Fluent in three languages and working on being fluent in another, he is a cooking maven, a musician, and a pop culture connoisseur. Oh, and wait, let me not forget. Did I mention he's a medical doctor?!?! And yeah, ladies, he's single!
Quest: Why did you start blogging? When did the blogging bug bite? Why blogging? Why post your thoughts to the public?
... i felt i had much growing to do to become the best version of myself....
Raffi: after reading the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, i began a spiritual journey and quest for enlightenment. i actually practice armenian orthodoxy, but felt i had much growing to do to become the best version of myself. i'd had exposure to blogs mostly through myspace, but also through friends who'd post pics, little blurbs, and miscellaneous garbage. i soon found blogging was simply another channel to utilize to obtain and share spiritual meals to grow. it helped me rekindle my spiritual flames, while re-immersing myself in my religious upbringing. with blogging i found there were other sites with similar m.o.'s and themes and we encouraged each other and improved the blog environment bit by bit for the time. through prolific posts, a blog gains an identity of its own and others become aware of your personality, quirks, and even your current life situation. it's almost a peek into someone's diary or daily journal (not that i'd ever keep one ;), which allows complete strangers to get to know you and the thoughts that make your being. even with the anonymity, one can almost deduce through experience what each bloggers "blackbox" formula will result in when given an input.
... life is already serious enough. we all need a place to let go and be ourselves....
Quest: Give us the background behind the name of your blog. Why did you choose that particular name?
Raffi: the book i mentioned above contained the word 'zen mind', so i added the prefix 'citi-' and suffix '-ful' and whallah... citiZENMINDful was born. often, i refer to myself as "this citiZEN" and hope to have other citiZENs across the world.
Quest: Give us the background behind the name, "Raffi." Why did you choose that name?
Raffi: I didn't. That's my name...Raffi.
Quest: Oh. Okay. (pause) The first post always seems to be the defining moment of any blog. Your blog mentions a lot of New Agey hoopla. Explain that.
Raffi: my "sacrificial blog virgin" post numero uno can be summed up to the disclaimer that 'i'm doing this for myself'. i mention i have no interest in others' interpretation and/or opinions of my bloggage. today, that is not completely true, but i do write whatever i feel is important to me for the time being. my first post also refers to Bruce Lee and his legendary quote, "having no way as the way, having no limitation as your limitation"... the ultimate dualistic existence. that encompasses the general gist of my blog agenda: open/closed to anything/nothing/"other-thing". it may sound transcendental, existential, etc. but in the end it's just about being open-minded, genuine, and innovative.
...laughter is medicine....
Quest: So you're a California native blogging in NYC? Plus, you're a doctor! What do you plan on contributing to the blogosphere?
Raffi: diversity, enlightenment, and entertainment
Quest: As much as you speak/write about your spiritual goals, your blog also has a comedic bend. Do you think you're funny?
Raffi: think? i don't think.... i know :) as i mentioned, my blog initially addressed spirituality with a zen spin. however, i always believed in being myself and as i began commenting on others blogs and cranked out my tasteful/distasteful cool/crude comedy/sarcasm, people started realizing that i wasn't some monk or spirit zealot. life is already serious enough. we all need a place to let go and be ourselves. soon my posts began embarking on more diverse paths and evolved to its current flavor, contributing to my overall blog personality... my real one.
Quest: Were you the one crackin' jokes in medical school? College? High school?
Raffi: always. always. always. of course, with a little help by my friends.
Quest: Were you the class clown?
Raffi: not THE clown, but i did occasionally participate in the role.
Quest: Does comedy play a role in your life, especially now working in the dire straits that is typical in the hospital environment?
Raffi: like i said, life is already serious enough, so i can't always take myself seriously. i enjoy the good laugh. i've always been intrigued by wit.
Quest: You mention karma quite a bit on your blog. What goes around, comes around, etc. Do you think comedy has anything to do with karma?
Raffi: i'm assuming you're referring to talking isht on stage coming back to haunt you? if so, comedy is a dynamic all its own. but for the most part, i feel karma is fed into through intention. if you intend to put people down to hurt them, it is likely one day that will come back to bite you in the a$$.
Quest: Clearly you have a dark side, but you don't let that overtake you. Where's the humor in that?
Raffi: dark side? are you referring to my stormtrooper suit? :) sometimes i get frustrated with the most trivial of things or the world for that matter. when i vent these baffling and mind-wretching thoughts and feelings onto a digital canvas, i feel better. plus the comments make it all the more interesting. overall i'm a good person with a good heart. i'd never do anything deliberately to hurt anyone. i guess that's why i chose to pursue my profession.
... i'm straight sexy....
Quest: I sense a little bit of tension in your blog. Perhaps a massage will do? Would you say that you're an angry bloke?
Raffi: are you offering? i'm a sucker for massages. anger is normal, rage is abnormal. i feel it's normal to be able to express your feelings openly. it's unhealthy to mask them and display the watered-down version for the public. this is not to say i'm an angry person. most people characterize me as laidback and real.
Quest: You mentioned this previously in your blog, but would you mind recounting the eerie story of your encounter with the older indian gentleman who approached you while you were sauntering in the Bronx? Looking back on that, what do you think you learned from that encounter?
Raffi: the eyes are the portals to our soul. i see [the indian gentleman] from time to time, but i think he's a little out there. however, that encounter gives me chills to this day. because [on that particular day] i really was working on my spirit skills and this man picked up on them as if he were the detector for such phenomena. weird!
Quest: You have a quote on your blog, "when i play music, time ceases to exist, thoughts are let free, and i feel truly at peace. i've been told that is "being in the moment". Could you say the same thing about, say, a good laugh or good conversation?
Raffi: absolutely. when engaged in any activity, may it be playing music or sports, eating, having sex, working (when totally involved), etc. and, yes, even a deep conversation or laugh. i mentioned this once in a post: remember as a teenager talking on the phone for like four hours to a friend (usually the opposite sex) and when asked by a parent what we spoke about for four hours, we reply "nothing". our being is usually completely committed to the task at hand and very little will interfere with the main focus. this is the act of being in the moment. being spiritually connected, for me, means being able to live in such a frame of time. i feel that is one of the values of comedy, it allows us to disconnect from the grind of life and to indulge in happiness and laughter. this can only help tone down the negative in our lives.
...for me, karma is based on intention.....
Quest: You mentioned in another post, "it goes without saying, if you can't say it nice, don't say it at all." I guess most people might actually say it, via standup comedy, letting out all their dirty laundry on stage. Do you think karma will play a role in a standup comedian's life, paying particular attention to what they let rip/let go on stage?
Raffi: for me, karma is based on intention. comedy can be tongue-n-cheek, but can also be done in a vindictive and hurtful manner. the latter deserves a fat smack of karma.
Quest: But then you say later on in the blog, "as long as it comes forth from the heart with truth, integrity, and virtue, we will be talking and walking in simultaneous harmony." So really if a comedian is true to their heart, they can't be punished for what they say on stage. What say you, Raffi?
Raffi: i think we all have to be true to ourselves. again, i think the intention/karma rule applies. like when michael richards (cosmo kramer) got crazy on stage, that was outta line. that's spiteful, hateful, evil speak, not comedy.
Quest: You seem to have some residual performance skills. Have you ever played live? Have you ever considered standup comedy?
Raffi: played live music, biggest crowd 200+. i've done various mc gigs. i'm very comfortable in front of crowds. never done comedy, but never say never ;)
Quest: You're really quite a naturist, hiking, watching what you eat? That's not funny at all.
Raffi: simply, "you are what you eat." seriously, you are. every cell in your body is synthesized from the products you put in your body.
Quest: Do you really own that StormTrooper suit from Star Wars? Is that you wearing it?
Raffi: what kinda question is that? of course it's me... not.
Quest: How long does it take you to compose a song? Lyrics? Music?
Raffi: music is very quick. i currently have 11 songs requiring lyrical augmentation. writing lyrics is the hardest part, even if a melody is figured out. funny that i can't come up with lyrics yet i can foam at the mouth while blogging.
Quest: Do you like to laugh?
Raffi: laughter is medicine
Quest: You have even inspired my post on the dreaded "laugh-too-much'er". Would you say denying someone from laughing is denying their true soul, even if it is halfway annoying?
Raffi: denying someone to laugh is cruel. but there is a certain etiquette involved in laughter. those super loud, obnoxious laughers, especially those that laugh inappropriately, should be shot up with some haldol. annoying laughter is okay as long as it doesn't violate the esoteric etiquette for laughter.
Quest: You currently post on two blogs: Vary Video and citiZENMINDful. Why do you need the two? The video blog (vblog) serves what purpose?
Raffi: embedding videos on my citiZEN site slows it down, so i created vary video. vary video is simply videos from various sources (other bloggers, emails, youtube, random, etc.) that caught my attention beyond what i consider common or usual.
Quest: You have a significant numbers of commenters in the 4 months time you've been blogging. What's your secret?
Raffi: i'm straight sexy
Quest: You say, "this citiZEN's mission every moment in life is to be the best version of myself" What part of yourself are you at this very moment?
Raffi: i'm exactly where i'm supposed to be. i strive everyday to work on my flaws and be a good person, aka the best version of myself.
Catch Raffi at either one of his two blogs:
Vary Video: http://varyvideo.blogspot.com/
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