Practice. Every day.

“Practice. All is coming.” — Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Lately I’ve been thinking about the dualities of life and how there are so many different realities present in each of our lives — in every single day we live in multiple worlds, each requiring a piece of us regardless if we want to hand it over or not.

We may create a safe, secure bubble where we’re free to practice yoga, meditate, or spend time in nature, but this bubble is only so large and can only contain our bodies for so long. At some point, we have to emerge from this space and face a different world. One filled with cubicles and deadlines and traffic and bills. A world that isn’t usually calm, isn’t often conscious. A world that, personally, I’d rather avoid more often than not.

However, this is 2014 and this is life on planet Earth. We have to face that fast-paced, polluted world and it’s up to each of us to develop a strategy for living that works for us. A strategy lets us, ideally, maintain a calm centered space, capable of handling each obstacle with grace. For me, my yoga and meditation practice, my nature hikes and dog walks, and my clean cooking and self-care routines have helped create a solid foundation I can stand on, always, regardless of which world I’m forced to encounter.

Maintaining your center takes patience and practice, but it's worth it <3
Maintaining your center takes patience and practice, but it’s worth it ❤

I work in an office filled with constant stress and deadline pressure, yet somehow, I am almost always relaxed. I sit in traffic with everyone else, with honking horns and white-knuckle wheel grips, but I’m patient. I make very little money, but I somehow have faith and trust that the Universe will provide (and it always does). I am rooted in a world I love, that supports me always.

This isn’t always easy of course, and getting to this point took practice, dedication, and an intentional effort each and every day. It all started with a mindful decision to live better — to think better thoughts, to make better choices, to be a better person. Then, it all came naturally. I started listening to my heart and my body, and living for me instead of for everyone else. …best decision I’ve ever made.

So today, ask yourself if you’re ready to let go of the stress, the worry, the frustration, and if you’re ready to draw in peace, patience, and joy.

It’s possible to be amazingly blissed out! Regardless of circumstance.

But first, you just have to want it 🙂

If you want to hear any tips on how you can specifically change pieces of your life, shoot me an email and I’ll do what I can to help out.

Be thankful, no matter what.

“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” – Unknown

Homeless Portland man holds sign this morning that  reads, "SMILE! If I can smile, so can you!"
Homeless Portland man holds sign this morning that reads, “SMILE! If I can smile, so can you!”

While traveling in Guatemala this spring I met with a female mystic who told my friend and I the ancient Mayan creation story. She said there were multiple cycles of creation and destruction, and it wasn’t until humans were able to give thanks that the destruction stopped. Until people felt gratitude in their hearts and began acknowledging their blessings, life couldn’t prosper and humanity wouldn’t survive.

We live in a world full of entitlement. Yes, we sometimes have to work hard, but there is always an expectation that we’ll be given what we want and need. Life is pretty easy, let’s be real. The vast majority of us in this country don’t have to worry about where our next meal will come from, where we’ll sleep tonight, of if somebody will love us. We’re spoiled. We’re LUCKY.

However, a big problem in this country is gratitude. We’re a take-take-take society, and we rarely give back, let alone give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

No matter if things are going great or if things are pretty rough, there is always something to be thankful for. For one, the fact that we’re breathing and that we’re alive and able to face another day (and therefore, that there is always a chance that today may be the day things get better). For two, the fact that we’ve had both good and bad experiences in life which gave us tools to improve our situations and those of others. For three, that the sun rises and sets each day, always reminding us that there are new beginnings and that we can wipe away the failures from our past and start fresh.

The past few months I’ve made it a point to give thanks before bed each night. I take a few moments to quiet my mind and thank god for the blessings I have and for all the opportunities I’ve been given. Nothing ever seems that bad if I remind myself to be thankful.

If each of us filled our hearts with gratitude and love, this world might not be so tough…

And remember, gratitude grows from gratitude. Give it a shot ❤

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

– Denis Waitley

I survived! 11 Life lessons learned during a quarter-life crisis

I’m turning 27 in a few days and, I’ll be honest, I think I went through this crisis nearly all 20-somethings are going through, have survived, or are just about to start.

I didn’t realize it, but a few months after I turned 25 I started to experience symptoms now labeled as the “Quarter-Life Crisis” which are secretly or not-so-secretly devouring the souls of 20-somethings across the country. This enigma is now plastered all over the internet (on Huffington Post, there are 26,900 posts tagged “quarter-life crisis” alone!), but when I was starting to experience it, I hadn’t a clue others were going through the same thing.

I don’t know why exactly it is happening, but it is, and hey, so be it.

Regardless, at 25, all I knew was that I was unhappy and I was searching for something more, something greater than what I was experiencing… My job was good, my friends were good, my income was good… Life. was. good. But, I just couldn’t shake the desire to rip my hair out and run free, starting with quitting my job and moving to the jungle 🙂

Just days after I turned 26, I did just that.

However, I didn’t do it recklessly — I’d spent months saving and selling my things, weaning my body off prescription drugs, going to therapy, and tying up loose ends and breaking up with my boyfriend (a couple times). I was doing what any responsible, young professional would do while secretly FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.  I was scared — I didn’t know really why I was doing what I was doing, but I knew I had to do something. I seemed calm and collected enough, and could very eloquently tell you why this was a good decision for my future (“learning natural ways of caring for cows and taking care of jungle plants will look great on my design resume!” yeah…).

Despite having a semblance of a “plan” (Costa Rican permaculture farm where I would blog about learning to be a “good person”, about figuring out my purpose and how to take care of myself and the environment better, followed by a move to the Pacific Northwest where I would surround myself with “good people” and get to work on living my purpose), I really had no clue what was waiting for me.

Regardless, in the middle of my crisis, I took off.

Over the past year, this 27th year of my life, I lived in the Costa Rican jungle and worked on the farm (where I did surround myself with “good people”, and I did kind-of-sorta figure out my purpose and how to take care of myself and the environment better), but then I changed course and traveled to Nicaragua and Guatemala and dove into yoga and spirituality, and then (long story short), I came back to Michigan, moved to the ever-hip Royal Oak for a month and nannied for a rich suburban-Detroit family with twin boys (weird life choice on my part), then moved myself to a big farmhouse outside of Traverse City and worked at a winery for a month (good intentions, bad execution), and then, I took a safe, career-style job with Traverse City’s newspaper (where I’m still working) and I recently moved downtown next to a local food co-op.

Life. Is. Good.

I can honestly say that I think (and hope!) my quarter-life crisis is over and that I’ve survived. More than that, I’ve grown and I’ve learned many things that I hope to keep with me as personal truths for as long as I live.

This year wasn’t easy, though. The 27th year of my life was probably the most difficult year I’ve ever had. But, I’m grateful for it. Through this year, filled with sky-high mountains and extremely low valleys (literally and figuratively), I’ve learned many valuable lessons. I want to share each of them with you so that regardless of your stage in life, regardless if you’ve ever experienced a life crisis or not, maybe these lessons will resonate and you’ll decide to incorporate an idea or two into your lives. And maybe, just maybe, we will all have better, richer lives because of them.

Life is AMAZING. And full of lessons. Here are eleven from my very own quarter-life crisis.

11 Life Lessons from my 27th Year

1) Stop asking for your purpose in life.

Let go of figuring out what you should do and just do the things that make you truly happy — THAT is your purpose. Things that bring you bliss will help spark your inner fire and will guide you closer to your dharma, your unique path in life that will enrich this world.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been asking God, and anyone who I trust enough to really listen, what I should be doing with my life. “What is my purpose?” “What is my gift?” “What am I being called to do?” These phrases have been written countless times in every journal I’ve owned, and if God has a catalog of my prayers somewhere I’m sure this is a theme that repeats itself more than any other.  This was one of the first lessons I learned after turning 26 and, although I’ve asked for my purpose again since coming to this realization, I am BEYOND GRATEFUL that I now know this to be a truth for my life.

When I decided to move to the farm pre-Portland, I told myself I’d use this disconnect from the first world to really, really focus on what my purpose is in life. Four months away? Easy peasy. I’ll figure it out then I’ll move to the west coast with a clear vision for my life and I’ll relentlessly go for it, whatever that purpose is. And I’ll never have to ask “what should I do?” again!

Well… I moved to the farm and spent a couple weeks asking myself, god, the trees, the waterfalls, the animals, and probably hinted at it to every person I met. It was obvious this was my goal.

But then, during an amazing massage session one night, it came to me. Clear as my best friend’s voice.

“Stop asking! Just do! Do what makes you happy. THAT is your purpose. Now go.”

And wow, what peace came with that revelation. I realized that the things I genuinely love to do and that make me happy ARE helping the planet and her people, and for now at least, that is purpose enough. So, I’ve stopped asking and I’m making an intentional effort each day to do things that bring me joy and fill my cup. I’m done with should. For now 🙂

2) Don’t be them. Be you.

You can never be anyone else but yourself, who YOU really are. You’ll always be disappointed and unhappy if you keep comparing yourself to others, envying the attributes of others, and trying to be anyone but yourself. Each of us are blessed with our own unique strengths, with gifts that only WE can share, and loves and likes tailored to our own special being.

And, let’s be real, we’re each pretty awesome. So, enough wishing you were anything other than YOU. And… JUST BE YOU!

I think I did a number on my self-confidence through years of trying to be like others. For whatever reason, until late this year, who I was just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t preppy enough, or pretty enough, or graceful enough, or yogi-enough, or hippie-enough, or tough enough, or brave enough, or travelled enough or… the list goes on. Every time I entered a new social situation, I immediately compared myself to everyone in the room. And then, I’d judge myself. “Oh no, I don’t have the right clothes, or I don’t know enough about x and y to be here,” etc. Silly things. We each have a right to be wherever we are, and we are PERFECT just the way we are, and, always, we HAVE ENOUGH and we ARE ENOUGH. And that’s all the matters.

So, let it go and just be yourself. All of yourself. Live you as BOLD as you can!

3) Let your voice speak the loudest!

Everyone has an opinion of who you are and what you should do and why, but really, the ONLY opinion that has any weight on these issues is YOURS. Only you know just who you really are (and if you don’t, take some time for you and make it a goal to figure it out — I’m still learning each day), and ultimately only you have to live with your decisions.

So, starting today, MAKE YOURSELF PROUD.

Most people are only trying to help by offering advice and, like I said above and many times before, it’s normal to want direction and sometimes getting it from others is easier than getting it from ourselves. But really, our hearts know just what to do, so listen. And then do. And it’s ok to tell the other voices, “Thanks but no thanks. I got this.”

I have so many people in my life, most of whom I love, who like to tell me what I should do — this past year was filled with this. I’ve gotten everything from “you should take yoga teacher training right now” and “just don’t pay off your student loans — live here in the jungle instead!,” to “you’re meant to be a writer, so just start writing your book” and “I know in my heart you need to be a missionary — you need to go to seminary school.”

All of these may be great options for somebody, but for ME, for my life right now, none of these are what I should be doing. Only I can decide that. So thanks, but no thanks.

4) Choose to be choosey.

This is YOUR life so live it how YOU want to. If it makes you feel good, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Simple. Choose how you spend your time, with whom you spend it with (even if that person is YOURSELF more often than not), what you wear, what you eat, how to exercise, where to live, etc. The list goes on and on, but ultimately, each day we’re faced with choices and if we’re not choosing for ourselves, who is?

I have wasted so much of my life trying to make others happy or going with the flow, sometimes to appease others and sometimes because I couldn’t decide on a better option so why not? Well, this year, I’ve learned to take a step back and ask if something will enrich my life before making a decision. This is a newer one for me, but so far, the quality of my life has increased and I’m more focused on what I want. I also feel more at peace knowing the decisions I’m making are getting me closer to where I want to be.

5) Move! Physical motion is magic.

Our bodies aren’t meant to be sedentary. We have muscles and joints, we’re flexible, we’re strong — we’re ALIVE! The health of our bodies and minds is directly connected and we must make sure to take care of each. For our bodies, the best thing we can do is move. Walking, running, dancing, yoga, swimming… It doesn’t matter the activity, it only matters that we move.

If you’re feeling down, try going for a walk and let yourself be IN that walk. Be present while moving your body and you’ll be amazed how quickly your mood may change. It’s magic.

I am a dancer by nature. I love to move my body, to twirl and twist and leap. Yeah, maybe I’m too old to dance like a toddler in a tutu, but you know what? It makes me happy and I love it, so I’m going to continue doing it until I stop loving it. When I dance or practice yoga or swim, I feel my body releasing tension and I feel light and free! I’m just that little bit closer to the highest version of myself because I’m putting my body to work in a way that brings me bliss.

6) Spend time outside. Every day.

We’re part of the natural world and, to connect more with ourselves, we need to spend time IN the natural world. Be outside, observe the plants and animals, hear the wind in the trees and water lapping on a shoreline, smell the flowers or hayfields, feel tree bark with your fingers or grass between your toes… Just BE outside. This world is pretty amazing, and observing the natural way of things can help put our lives into perspective and calm our overactive, production-focused minds.

I’ve spent a lot of time outside this past year which helped me reconnect with this fact I’ve always known — nature is where we belong. I’m so thankful for Costa Rica and the farm which kept me immersed in nature all day every day for three months, but I’m also grateful for the big lonely house in northern Michigan and its couple hundred acres of woods and fields, and for the beautiful bodies of water in and around this state, and for the trails and hills and trees constantly calling, inviting us to visit. Whenever I find I’m agitated, stressed, heavy, or just off, I’ve learned that if I can drop everything and go outside, I feel better.

7) Listen to your body.

If we listen to our bodies — to our energy levels, to our cravings, to our aches and pains — we’ll gain a lot of insight into what we need. If we honor the body’s intuition we’ll feel better and reclaim balance within. Sometimes we need to take a day off. Sometimes we need some extra protein or water or fruit. Sometimes the way we’ve been exercising isn’t right or we need to adjust our posture. If we listen, we’ll know.

We push ourselves so much, often to unhealthy extremes, and this is only going to wear us down. On the other hand, many of us don’t push ourselves enough. We need to rest, but we also need to recognize that we may have more energy than normal so we should use it!

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to always do as much as I can — I’m a hardworking American girl who can do anything I put my mind to, at any time, right? Well sure. But really, why is this “achievement” important? If my body is tired, then hey, I’m going to take a break and relax. And, if my body is craving sweets (which it does, all the time), this signals to me an imbalance either in my nutrition or in the way my body is processing food. I’m only just starting to tap into my body’s callings, but it’s really fascinating how much I’ve learned already. So… take an evaluation of your body and see what’s speaking to you. Then do what you can to help it out.

8) Prioritize your pleasure points.

What brings you joy? Think about it. Write it down. A few things that REALLY make you happy. Then, make it a priority to incorporate these things into your life and into your daily routine. Each day, don’t go to bed unless you can say you’ve done at least ONE thing that gives you pleasure. Make it happen and trust me, you’ll feel better.

A friend of mine shared this with me a few months ago and ever since, I can honestly say I’ve made sure to include at least one of my pleasure points into my day, EVERY SINGLE DAY. And, I’m a pretty happy gal these days. My happiness has always been important to me, but what really makes me happy? Until recently I knew somethings did and somethings didn’t, but until I thought about it with the goal of identifying actual topics or activities, I couldn’t tell you. Now, I know, and my things are written on little colored notes next to my alarm clock. Each night I see them and each night I can go to bed at peace knowing I’ve done something intentional for my happiness that day.

(Curious what my five pleasure points are? I have five that I can, without a doubt, rely on to bring me joy. 1- Nature. 2- Yoga. 3- Creation (writing, cooking, art, etc.). 4- Sweat (vigorous exercise of some sort). 5- Travel (discovering a new place even if that’s in my home city).)

9) Make peace with your past.

Guilt gets you nowhere, and regret and shame are big roadblocks to self-love and living fully. This is a tough one, but it really is important to accept your decisions, regardless of outcome, and move on.

There are many things in my past I’m not proud of — many times I did the wrong thing, let something go on for far too long, made a decision with costly consequences, and many times I probably sacrificed too much or gave too little. Today, I am thankful I can say, I’ve accepted each event for what it was and I’ve moved on.

And, I’ll be honest, I feel a lot lighter and much more at peace with my present because of this.

10) Happiness happens but so does pain.

Everything is cyclical and our moods are not exempt from this truth. Regardless of circumstance, we will experience bliss, but we will also experience sadness. We can try to contain feelings we enjoy but no matter what, emotions are fleeting and every day will not be a good day. However, there is peace in this truth because, just as happiness fades, so does sadness.

We must be cautious not to get attached to one emotion because although we love feeling pleasure, we must remember there is something so raw, so human and beautiful, about feeling pain. There’s no way around our emotions, and the only thing we can do is just let them be.

I experienced so many highs and lows this past year. I even journaled about what nirvana and enlightenment may feel like because, at one point in the jungle, I could truly say I’d never been happier! It was like a took a bliss pill and was in the middle of a high lasting several weeks straight — happiness without any effort. No sadness or worry or anxiety or pain. Just joy.

But then, sure enough, a mere month or two later I lay face down in a field, sobbing, asking for some relief from the pain and sadness I was feeling. Asking for a way out of the dark place I’d gotten to. I spent days confused, sometimes openly lost and sometimes outwardly collected, while torn and writhing with pain inside.

Regardless of emotion, I can now say I’m grateful for the act of feeling and for the assurance that after every gloomy day or week or month, a good one is sure to come.

11) Manifestation works! 

Think of what you want to happen, what you really want to bring into your life, and ta-da! There it is! Maybe this is mystical stuff and too much for many of us to believe but hey, it seems to work!

I don’t remember exactly when I was enlightened on the power of manifestation but I do remember first putting it into practice this past spring. It sounds silly but so be it, I’m still a 20-something. I was in Nicaragua spending a few days on the beach with my girl friends and I decided that night I wanted to meet a tall, attractive, surfer boy who would sweep me off my feet and treat me sweet all night. I planted the idea in my brain, and then I envisioned and believed it would happen.

Then, I’m not even kidding, a few hours later just as my friends and I were about to leave the the bar and head back to our hostel for the night, up walks a tall, GORGEOUS, Canadian surfer (yeah… God makes these apparently), who says, “Como estas, señorita?,” to which I reply excitedly, “Estoy bien! Y tu?” He tilted his head and said with a half-smile, “Yeah I don’t speak Spanish. Would you like to dance?” And then, we spent the rest of the evening dancing, drinking, laughing, and loving. It was exactly what I wanted.

Each time since, whenever I’ve been able to verbalize exactly what I want and actually start to see it in my mind, IT HAS HAPPENED. Craziness I know. But wow. From people I’ve wanted to meet, to a job I wanted to get, to a place I wanted to live… It’s all happened.

So, dream! Dream big dreams, little dreams, whatever. Just start thinking of what you really want to bring into your life and get practicing — let me know how it turns out for you 🙂

All of these lessons symbolize my 27th year. Thank you for being part of my journey, and here’s to turning 27! Cheers.

Below are some shots of me at 26, doing my thing and learning some lessons. Most smiles genuine 😉 And my oh my, what a year it’s been.

IMG_1720 IMG_2236IMG_2157IMG_1682 IMG_1431

Let’s start with three little things.

How can we all embrace the beauty of living and make this world a better place? Each of life’s many facets is absolutely perfect if lived the way nature intended. Peacefully, tending to the earth and ourselves, acknowledging balance, honoring cycles, and appreciating the awe-inspiring majesty of the Universe. The majesty of absolutely everything from humans and our emotions to the Earth’s land and creatures, the weather, the sun and moon… everything!

We can start by living a bit more intentionally and respecting the balance all around us in nature. Each bit takes what it needs and gives something back, never draining too much from the harmony preexisting it. When we do this, we live our lives happily! Beautifully! Just as nature intended.

Let’s each do our part. Starting today.

Let’s each do these three things. Today.

First, let’s start with being mindful of our next meal. Choose foods that were grown locally, without chemicals, and prepare them with gratitude and love. Then when we eat, let’s give thanks first. The Earth grows everything we ever need to survive, and we should be thankful for this incredible gift.

And then, the next time we need to go somewhere, be mindful of the resources consumed. This is obviously easier in some locations than others but if we can, let’s choose a method that drains as little resources from the Earth as possible. We’ve already been given the gift of food, so let’s try to take a little less of something else, like gasoline, if possible.

Take time to care for yourself and to find solace and peace on this precious planet.
Take time to care for yourself and to find solace and peace on this precious planet.

And then, when we’ve finished our worldly obligations for the day, honor ourselves. Take time for YOU, because you are also a beautiful and perfect piece of the planet. We each have a purpose and a place here, so take quiet time and let yourself be. Don’t turn on the television or go to a movie. Don’t play games on your iPad, chat with friends on Facebook, or mindlessly browse the web. Choose to be still. Go outside and look up if you can see the stars or clouds, look ahead if you can see trees or flowers or hills or grasslands, or look down if all you can see is soil. Find some way to root yourself to the Earth, and then, just be. Breathe and let go of everything you’re holding inside. Just be. And just breathe.

Little by little, small bits of intentional living like this can help make the world a better place. She will become happier and more gentle, slower and more peaceful, and overall, we’ll all see a shift in our existence from one consumed with money and the gaining of tangible objects to one of symbiosis and love. It will take time and conscious effort on the part of millions and millions of people, but we can start with ourselves today. And then after some time, we may choose to share our truths with others and our circles of knowledge will grow.

Piece by piece, we can better ourselves and the planet because we truly are all one and all connected, and therefore each bit makes a difference. Now go forward, kind soul, and do what you know inside to be good. Go live life fully, freely, beautifully, and happy. And never, ever look back.

Let’s get back to the way life is meant to be.

I’ve been blown away lately by beauty. Almost daily I tear up just from a gorgeous view, or bird, or river… This world is so beautiful!

The fact that we’re alive and able to witness the beauty and life unfolding all around us is something to be grateful for. We’re beautiful and a part of the sacred cycle of life like everything else. The plants need the earth, we and all animals need the plants, and the earth needs us and the animals. We’re all connected, and we’re all tasked with taking care of each other.

I’m not sure where we all went wrong… Living a full life without taking too much or exhausting ourselves is really quite simple. We need to move away from what we “think” society needs from us, and instead look at the earth and feel its energy, and then use our intuition to determine what it needs from us. Apart from human interference, everything has a natural cycle that is respected. Animals take from other plants and animals only what they need, and usually, this is quite sustainable. The animal kingdom doesn’t participate in overconsumption; animals don’t drink too much water, and plants don’t take too many nutrients from the soil if they’re able to live and grow naturally. Everything in nature has a way of balancing itself out, and there’s no reason to have it any other way. We’ve found ways to commoditize everything. Plants, animals, water… all of it is viewed as a way of making money and spoiling ourselves, regardless of who or what is harmed in the meantime.

But why? Why did we ever (or do we now) think this is ok? Humans are just a natural part of nature’s cycle as well, and it seems like such a no-brainer that we should act as a part of it. We are intelligent beings with the ability to grow and utilize the soil and the animals to help us along, but that also means we have a duty to do it respectfully.

I’m not sure where on the evolutionary trail we diverted from this respect. Hunter and gathering cultures did (and still do, for those who remain) respect the natural balance and the sacredness of all beings. Using each bit of an animal, treating it fairly, and honoring the life it lived and provided for us… How can we get back to that? We’re meant to live like that, NOT the way we do.

Most of us couldn’t tell you where our food comes from. Where our water comes from. These are the two things we cannot live without, but yet we have no idea how our food was grown, where, how it was transported, preserved, processed… We expect everything to be handed to us. Somebody else can take care of the details and we’ll just consume. Well people, this isn’t ok.

In communities, each person has a role. Each person pitches in and each person partakes in the “profits” (in this case, the profits are the food, water, and pleasure items created by the hard work of everyone — each consumer included). This is how it’s meant to be! I may plant some seeds and water them each day until they’re ready to go in the ground. Then someone may transplant these seeds into the ground and water them and weed the soil until they’re ready to be harvested. Then someone may harvest and process the crops and turn it into something we can use for food, clothing, shelter, etc. This is the way it’s meant to be! Everyone has good intentions and everyone does their fair share.

In today’s modern, western societies we are primarily concerned with buying and selling. This consumeristic mindset is not beneficial for ourselves and our communities, and definitely not for the planet. It pins each of us against the other, always in a constant battle to have more than our neighbor… never taking cautions to ensure that all pieces of the system are in balance and thriving… And it destroys our planet. Piece by piece, by having commoditized everything, we’re throwing away the balance that was in place far longer than this new attitude was. It breaks my heart to know that the path we’re on leads to disaster and there’s no way around it, unless of course we change paths.

There are people making it their lives’ work to protect this consumerist attitude. There are people who are silencing voices against this.

Every day it seems I’m finding more energy and drive to fight the good fight and to bring more attention to the big issue at hand – the destruction of our planet and positive communities. Living a sustainable, balanced life creates happiness and contentment. Being mindful of our decisions inevitably leads to respect and balance (in my experience at least, thus far). If we make it a point to think before acting, with both the little and big things, we’ll surely revert to a more natural and beneficial way of living.

So then how… How can we change the course we’re on?

Recently I’ve heard several people say that creating community and togetherness is the only way to do this. By joining together with others who believe in a better, more positive and whole way of life, we’ll be able to share knowledge that will change the planet one person, one day at a time.

At my last job I learned about spheres of influence. By spreading a message with one person, and that person sharing that message with one person, and so on, our influence can be huge. Each of us can share what we know to be true and good, and then eventually almost everyone could be in the know.

… it can happen. But will it?

The only way to know for sure is to try, and we’re in no worse shape by trying. So, let us try! Each of us – let each of us share the good news with our friends and family, our coworkers and neighbors, even a random stranger on the bus or in line at the grocery store! Even if one tenth of those people share the news, our spheres of influence will grow wide and before we know it, we’ll have informed the masses.

Game on, everyone 😉

Taking back my baby-maker and cleaning out the drugs.

The final baby killer pill…

I’ve made a decision to no longer take birth control.

For many this may not seem like a big deal, and to others it may seem quite silly in the first place (the taking or quitting). But for me, it’s a decision that’s been long coming. For years (the past four or so especially) I’ve discussed quitting with my partners and doctors and have faced plenty of resistance. I’ve also been assured time and time again that there aren’t and won’t be any long-term side affects from taking the pill; it’s 100% safe for long-term use and it won’t affect my fertility in the future.

My intuition tells me otherwise. Ten-plus years of pumping daily hormones into my body with hopes of preventing my reproductive system from doing something it’s intended to do? No, I don’t think that can be healthy or without consequence when continued for that amount of time. And, as I’ve just written about, one of my goal’s for 2013 and beyond is to fully listen to and honor what I feel inside. So, that’s that. Enough of the birth control for me.

Just another step toward authenticity

I’ve recently cut out prescription drugs for my panic attacks and anxiety issues; I’ve stopped relying on Ambien as a nightly pacifier for my over-thinking mind and underworked body; I’ve drastically cut back on my use of Xanax and other prescription downers; And, I’ve slowed down on the drinking and caffeine. It hasn’t been just the obvious external stimulants things either — I’ve gone 100% vegetarian and choose vegan more often than not; I’m eating organic and locally grown whenever possible (which is super simple while living here obviously, but even back in the states I made this happen); I’m making time for silence, yoga, and meditation; and, I’m tuning in with my senses and my body’s needs to help guide my nutrition choices and energy use.

Basically, I’m making conscious efforts to make my body and mind as centered and healthy as possible. And now, I’m getting the opportunity to remove yet another major roadblock to being the natural me — birth control.

I’m also at a place where I feel ready for the responsibility of loving with intention. It might be time to say goodbye to one-night stands (let’s be real — these things happen), or relationships with men I wouldn’t dare raise a child with. Sex is a big deal, and it’s totally ok for it to be a big deal. I’ve had many moments in my life where I loved the freedom and fun that can come with sex and, having that safeguard of birth control definitely took the worry away and let me jump in (the sack?) whenever I wanted. Yes, as I grew older these moments became fewer and much, much farther inbetween, but the possibility was always there. I’m ok with squashing that — no more free love from me.

Prepping for the process

While I was withdrawling from the Lexapro I took for over two years (I completely finished this process about two weeks before I left for Costa Rica), I deliberately made myself focus on the fluctuations in my mood, reactions, energy, and physical health and sensations. I tried to never push myself into doing anything — if I felt up for it, I’d do it; if not, I wouldn’t. I ate meals intentionally prepared for what I felt I needed at the time and I chose physical activities and exercises that would compliment my energy stores.

I was tuning in, and that’s exactly what I plan to do over the next couple of months.

What better place to go through this process than in a jungle sanctuary where I can make time for whatever it is I need? And, who better people to be with than those who are willing and wanting to help me transition into a healthier, happier girl! I mentioned to several people tonight during dinner that I was finally stepping away from the pill and it was so beautiful to hear the words of encouragement and feel the love and support from the group. If I get crazy for a couple weeks, I won’t be judged. They’re here to help me with whatever I need, just as I’m here to help them… That’s what community is all about 🙂

So, goodbye little pink pills. I’m taking ownership of this piece, too 🙂

Update — found a great blog post about why we should pack away the little pink pills for good! http://culinarykarma.net/birthcontrol1/

What is life? Firsthand insight into the life and death on the farm…

I just witnessed the giving of four lives — two rabbits and two roosters. It was powerful, peaceful, and intentional.

Everything is cyclical, and therefore where all things begin, all things must end. We’re given a life from the earth and then we’ll give our lives back to the earth. We animals have a heartbeat, and then breath… Then the heart stops beating and the breath ceases.

We’re all energy forms and we all require the sharing and exchanging of energy — humans give energy to the plants and to the animals, and in return the plants and animals give energy back to humans and to each other. The earth has its own natural energy forces — water, wind, air, soil, fire. Each of those are also powerful and purposeful. And oh so very beautiful. Without one element, none of this world can exist in harmony, with beauty.

We’re all one. And we’re all beautiful.

Watching what I witnessed this morning was incredible. Before the animals were killed, I made a morning round to visit all of the rabbits and chickens (the ones that had a potential for death), and I was conscious and aware of their actions. Maybe it was myself projecting calm thoughts toward the animals, but maybe it was an energy in the air. Something was different today.

The rabbits were much more calm, and seemed to move with more direction. The male rabbits were very focused on me. Houdini (the big macho male) was jumping from side to side — a little dance to beg for his life? (Maybe that’s my overthinking lol…) And then the rabbits in the pen were much less frantic than usual and I was even able to spend a few moments with some of them — one of which gave his life only minutes later. The chickens were also less aggressive.

There was almost an air of anticipation surrounding everyone — even us humans.

When the act took place it was done with intention and knowledge. Douwe knew what he was doing and was direct and purposeful in his actions. Two large chickens were collected. Douwe held the breast and body firmly with his left arm and body, and with his right hand he twisted the chickens neck and pulled the head clean off. Then he put the animal down on the ground and held it as still as he could. My tears started to flow. With tightly clenched hands protecting my heart I cried.

Then, Marie placed her hands on the animal and gave thanks for its life and let the world know the life was not given in vain — there was and is purpose for its life and we were/are grateful for the energy provided. …This was so beautiful.

The same was done with the other chicken, except the other chicken’s head did not come off directly and therefore a machete was used to ensure the neck was broken and the animal was dead.

Then, the large white rabbit I’d just been loving on was picked up, and with two strong hands, Douwe held the rabbit’s legs with one hand and the rabbit’s head with the other. From there, all he had to do was stretch the animal. Doing it this way separates the spinal column and breaks the neck. Then, the animal was laid on the ground with care and Marie placed her hands on the animal and pet the fur and gave blessings and words of gratitude.

This is where things got tough for me. The rabbit started flailing – almost as if it was running in mid-air… leaping. Hopping.

Instantly the tears flowed. I was bawling and sobbing and forgetting to breathe. I had to turn away and let it out. I didn’t want to make a scene or spread my energy to the others witnessing the act or even worse, to those who had to help take the lives… I turned away and walked to the edge of the stable area, covered my face with my hands, and cried. I let it all out. I was overwhelmed with emotion — gratitude, understanding, hope, strength, but also pain.

I know now, without doubt, that I will live my life without taking animal flesh. I can live my life fully, in good health and spirit, without eating an animal. These animals lived their lives in peace. They were taken care of with positive energies, by people who love and respect them, with food that is neither chemically treated nor unsustainable… But still, seeing the animal offer its life for us, when I know full well I (and all of us who choose to do so) can live without that energy, makes me realize that I do not want to take in the life of another breathing, sentient being.

But I’m grateful that I witnessed the giving of life. The respect that went into it, and the respect that will carry throughout the full process of cleaning, cooking, eating, and then in turn that will provide strength and more positive energy for this circle of life we live… Beauty.

…Then I went to the waterfall and cried, and gave thanks, and prayed for a blanket of love for all of the beings on this farm and throughout the world.

…Then I sent lots of love directly to Douwe and Marie.

…Then I came back to the house area, and straight to Douwe (who was boiling the birds and cleaning the rabbits) and hugged him as tight and powerfully as I could. I respect that man so very much. And I appreciate the strength and focus he has to do what he must, to provide for others on this farm, and to respect the animals and ourselves.

What a morning. And what a way to end 2012.

Fairy in the Middle

A few months ago, this farm started a tradition called “Fairy in the Middle,” which I think may be one of the greatest traditions ever. It promotes unity and openness, while also helping each person relax and feel more comfortable in their own skin. So what is it? A massive… group… massage 🙂

I was the “Fairy” for the first time last night, and I can’t even explain how freaking amazing it was. But I’ll do my best 🙂

The process

Every other night, one to three people (depending on the amount of people on the farm) prepare a bowl of either coconut or sunflower oil and then choose some essential oils to mix in, like coffee and peppermint (which are the oils I chose). Then, select a playlist, like some soothing Ray Lamontagne (again, my choice), and lay out the massage table and mattress in the yoga studio. Then set a timer for 15 minutes (or don’t, like I chose to do in hopes of extending the goodness), and relax…

Before you know it, there will be a dozen or so hands massaging your entire body… From the crown of your head to the tips of your toes, your stomach, your chest, your back, upper legs, forearms… everything! Talk about an experience to remember… Even the baby, Kaya, helped out on me last night. His baby claws (or um… nails) were a bit much at times, but by having all parts of this place involved really made it special.

There were times I was tempted to open my eyes and see whose hands were where, but then I reminded myself to get lost in the experience and let Ray’s voice and my new family’s hands do all the work. And my what glorious work it was.

I reminded myself to get lost in the experience.

For a couple months leading up to this experience, I’d been saying that I really needed (and wanted) a massage. I kept my eyes open for local massage deals and checked into some newer places that may offer specials because I just couldn’t bring myself to pay the big bucks for a nice massage… But then, FAIRY happened and it was exactly what I’d been craving.

I was a bit nervous about it because how very strange it is to have near-strangers touching your entire body, but as soon as I laid down and the first hand touched my head, all was well. It was amazing — a flurry of love and happiness and compassion surging through my entire body. Blissful, joyous… Truly wonderful.

Experiences like this really bring us together. We’re meant to live in community with one another, and to be open and connected with everyone else. On the farm, we take care of the animals and plants, and they take care of us. We cook food and clean for everyone else, just as everyone else does for us. It’s hard work and takes a lot of time and energy to do these things, so the Fairy in the Middle process helps to revive and refresh our physical bodies, but also our minds and our hearts.

Fairy in the Middle is wonderful. Big smiles in this place. 🙂

Learning patience, whether I like it or not.

It’s a Tuesday night. And I’m not getting ready for work. And I’m not making myself dinner. And I’m not doing laundry. Or paying bills. Or bathing the dog (which rarely happened anyway, what am I talking about…) And I’m not stressing about what’s next.

Instead what am I doing? I’m sitting on a patio (seemingly built for one) enjoying a fresh organic banana milkshake. I’m waiting for my vegetarian lasagna and caprese salad, and watching the hustle and bustle of San Jose’s rush hour traffic go by. …and there’s a Burger King next door, but let us forget about that 🙂

What’s important is that I am taking time for me. By myself. To really reflect on the past week of farm life. I came to San Jose to fix my computer (which doesn’t seem like it shall be fixed — but should I buy a new one?), and I’m deciding to stay a couple days to do ME.

The farm is tough work. Physically and mentally, a lot of strength goes into this process. The first couple of days were quite stressful and bewildering with always so much going on and it’s difficult to feel like it’s ok to NOT be moving when there’s always work to be done. But, I’ve had to remind myself, I’m here to learn and push myself, but I’m also here to focus on me and what it is I want out of life. Where do I fit in the big scheme of things?

In these past couple of days I was able to do more of the less labor-intensive work like cleaning and watering plants and checking to make sure everything is in working order… And shredding coconuts for three hours (seriously — what a new thing that was haha). But, I was still helping to keep the farm running and the people fed and happy, but I wasn’t kicking my own ass and wearing down my mind in the meantime. It’s been better. And I’ve been happier. And I love that.

But for me, for now, I’m still trying to put all the pieces together of the life I’ve lived until now and use that puzzle to hopefully make some sense of what I want to continue with and what I want to cut out and replace with better things.

For one, patience. I’ve realized in just one week that in the states we live in a very fast paced, high-production world. I’ve asked several times when learning a new thing, “Ok so how long should it take to do this?” Or “can we do this faster?” And, I’ve always been responded to with a simple, “however long it takes to do the best you can,” and “all we have is time.”  Such a different view, and one that I think we could all benefit from if we kept that in mind.

“however long it takes to do the best you can.”

Also, going from a remote farm in the middle of a jungle to a city like San Jose takes time. A lot of time. First, get a ride or walk (seriously) the 10-15 kilometers to the closest bus stop. Then take a bus about 1 hour to another bus stop. Then another bus to San Jose. Then walk to find a bus stop or a taxi. Then good luck finding your destination because addresses really don’t exist here. But… If there’s a will then there’s a way. And there’s no sense in rushing a process that requires its own pace… So, I’m learning and living patience.

I’ll be writing a couple more posts soon, so stay tuned. And let me know what you think I should do about writing (as in.. should I purchase a way to do that?).

A few of my favorite recent shots

Best friend - the basil plant.
Best friend – the basil plant.
The nicest produce stock picture.
The nicest produce stock picture.
beautiful costa rican view near puriscal
This is what the view was today. Amazing.
The simple things are the best. Like this "crema" I had today.
The simple things are the best. Like this “crema” I had today.

Jungle food

Today I really felt at home in the jungle. I was able to cook, and I ate some really yummy variations of the typical rice and beans Costa Rican diet.

Recently everyone has really been into cooking ‘dosa’ which is basically fermented rice and beans (2:1). This is a big deal and quite the treat for everyone living on the farm because you can turn dosa into a bread-like dough… and there isn’t bread here 🙂 No wheat or wheat products because wheat isn’t produced in Costa Rica.

all local. all the time.

I’ve learned how to make butter, kefir yogurt, kefir soda, dosa (of course), fried yuca patties (this was delicious last night), and twice-fried plantanos. This morning we made crepe-like dosa pancakes with dosa, milk, bananas, sugar, salt, and cinammon, with fresh papaya jam. Yum!

My computer is still out of service so for now I can’t blog as planned, but I’m still writing everything I’m learning and will blog when I can. So stay tuned 🙂

Cheese

  • Fresh cow milk. Heat to a light froth, then remove from heat and add a type of acid really slowly (stir and pour really slowly) — lemon or vinegar used here —  you must play around with this to get the right amount of milk/acid. In the jungle with kefir vinegar and milk, it’s about 6ish cups of milk to 1 cup kefir vinegar/lemon. If you’re using white vinegar, it’s much stronger than kefir vinegar and you will therefore need much less.
  • The curds will naturally separate from the whey as you stir. Scoop out the curds.
  • Hang curds in cheese cloth to naturally drain the remaining whey.
  • Add herbs or other flavors to the cheese.
  • Voila!

Kefir Yogurt

  • Mix live kefir grains with fresh cow milk (about 1 tbsp live grains to 1 liter of milk).
  • Let this mixture sit for 2 days.
  • Strain the kefir from yogurt. (Add fresh cow milk to kefir grains to restart yogurt process.)
  • Let the yogurt sit for a few hours.
  • Skim off all the whey from the top. Discard (or try to find something to do with whey!).
  • What’s left is fresh, pro-biotic, good-for-you, organic, and delicious yogurt!

Dosa

  • 2:1 white rice to garbanzo beans.
  • Soak in water for 1 day.
  • Grind the mixture really fine — almost like flour.
  • Stir and let ferment for three days.
  • Mix with whatever you would like (bananas/sugar/salt/milk for a sweet crepe-like consistency, salt/pepper, etc).
  • Fry, bake, add to bottom of casserole, etc

The jungle can sure take its toll.

Dead computer?

The jungle may have killed my computer. Day two at the farm and my Macbook has died.

There are plenty of computers here to go around, but I´d really like to use mine to document all the wonderful new things I´m learning. Stay tuned, but feel free to follow me on Instagram or friend me on Facebook (I can access these from my phone quite easily).

IG — robinstremlow (www.instagram.com/robinstremlow)

Facebook — Robin Stremlow

Revived Robin?

I´m learning so much and am trying to take it day by day, and I´m feeling great. It will take a while to get used to this lifestyle, but I´m trying to listen to myself and respect it, moreso than ever. It´s truly a whole new world here, but already I can feel the love from everyone around me and the plants and animals sharing this place. It´s going to be a lot of work, but I´m sure I´ll be a better person after a few months at VerdEnergia.

These past two days have been wonderful — farm work including horseback riding and cow milking, a permaculture farming technique to help protect freshly planted trees from the jungle downpours, yoga, dancing, cleaning, a bit of relaxing, and, what seems to be, a hell of a lot of eating (everyone thinks I´m quite strange for giving away my food lol). So far some form of beans and rice for every meal, and fresh veggies. We´ve also had eggs, and cow milk that came out of the cow only minutes before (in part thanks to me!).

Tomorrow will be great, too — playing sous chef for breakfast, will be learning rabbit care and chicken care, will do some cob dancing and some wall making (a great technique for sustainable construction here), and hopefully more yoga and dancing, and plenty more food. Maybe even a swim in our pool (life here is rough – not).

Hard to believe I was sitting behind a desk just 9 days ago… Although I really enjoyed all the people I met and many of the skills I learned back home in the States, I can´t imagine NOT working with my hands, and traveling, and living and loving life with people from all over this planet. …my colors are coming back 😉

Sending so much love from the jungle.

xxoo, and pura vida!

But please, send good vibes or prayers for me and everyone here. And my Mac (if you´d like to read about the good times).