Tears of joy! Overwhelmed with love and love and love.

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed your entire life.” – Rumi

Just one year ago, I sat with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat on a comfortable, puffy, oh-so-spoiled striped yellow bed at my best friend’s house. The two of us and another girlfriend of ours, and my much-too-furry-and-fat golden retriever, shared a one-bedroom apartment in a hip suburban-Detroit neighborhood. In theory, this was perfect (two broke girls + 1 even-more-broke girl(me) + a dog? We were in made-for-television heaven!)!

You see, I had just returned to Michigan, unplanned and unprepared, after four months abroad, and decided to weasel my way into this cozy home and create a fun, bohemian life for a few months. Well, that didn’t turn out so well.

Within a few weeks of living with this blonde yogi/PR-impassioned/pretty princess and uber-motivated/fiery ginger/goddess pair, I was more lost than ever before. What the fuck was I doing? Who were these women who had somehow transformed from my friends into enlightened beings who were living lives that were somehow sooooo much better than mine, who had it all figured out, who were taking me in just as they would a lost, sad, cute curly-haired little puppy? (Turns out, they weren’t purposely making me jealous, but rather they were just regular, albeit amazing, humans with direction and ambition in a world that seemed to have lost all cardinal points to me.)

So I left. I backed out before things had a chance to get better. I went north. I took another fruitless job in an isolated place, openly allowing myself to wallow and wither away…

But it’s not a tragic story in the end, you see. It’s actually an amazing, enchanted tale full of love and luck and magic!

What started just over a year ago as a period of complete confusion and disappearing dreams turned into a year of trials and tests and grace and absolute blessed goodness!

Who started just over a year ago as a lost child grasping at stranded strings has turned into a focused, inspired, ambitious, balanced woman living on faith and intuition, and loving each moment!

Tomorrow I will be leading my first set of yoga classes in Michigan.

What?! I have somehow transformed from a lost soul looking for guidance, to someone who will be providing guidance and hope and (hopefully) inspiration to sister and brother souls looking for peace and happiness — the same peace and happiness I was looking for, the same that I would never find out there, but rather the kind one can only find within.

So today, I sit sipping mint tea. Happy. In this moment. There’s a set of centering stone rings on my tan fingers, a streak of henna in my hair, a sparkling gem in my nose, and a big smile on my face…

Today, there are tears in my eyes but my throat is free, and my voice is strong, and I can proudly say I'm happy to be where I am
Today, there are tears in my eyes but my throat is free, and my voice is strong, and I can proudly say I’m happy to be where I am.

A year ago, I had tears in my eyes. Tears of sadness, depression, anger, confusion..

Today, I still have tears in my eyes. But now, these tears couldn’t come from a more beautiful place. These are tears of gratitude! Tears of strength! Tears of passion and power and hope and honesty! Tears of joy, and tears of truth.

Today, there are tears in my eyes but my throat is free, and my voice is strong, and I can proudly say I’m happy to be where I am, to have experienced all that I have, and to be headed toward a mysterious place that can only be full of blessings and exciting, welcomed challenges.

Life is good, you know. And life is ever-changing. And anything is possible, always.

Give thanks today for the blessings of yesterday, of now, and of each tomorrow to come.

Thank you, Universe. So very much. xxoo

And thank you, above-mentioned soul sisters for all the kindness and love you showered on this curly-haired puppy left out in the rain on her own (truth be told — she let herself out and then stubbornly refused to come back in. what a silly puppy she was!). I love you, so very much! 

 

Starting the descent: Reflections on going up and going in.

… He who kisses joy as it flies by will live in eternity’s sunrise. — William Blake …

Image

Tomorrow morning I start the descent. Slowly going inward and challenging my body, testing my power over the mind, questioning my soul… It makes me think. I’ve come to an important realization yet again — one I’ve come to many times and one that never fails to bring me peace.

Life isn’t always easy, but it is always beautiful, and it is always a blessing. Life is always a gift.

If we let ourselves be present in each leg of this journey called life, we’ll recognize everything, always, is perfect. The “plans” that don’t go as planned — the events that are less than glamorous — our internal battles that break us, allowing for rebuilding — the tests and trials of our physical and mental bodies — the fear-inducing awakening of the spirit — all is perfect and just as it should be.

From the first flutter of the eyelids each day and their first glimpse of the morning sun, to the first breath of air, first sip of water… To the shelter above our heads, whatever it may be, to the clothes and jewelry adorning our temples of flesh… To the simple exchange with another soul, reminding us we’re never alone… All are blessings, and all are deserving of our unending gratitude. We’re blessed to be alive, right here, right now… We’ve been given a gift of grace that allows us to have the simple sweet pleasures of the human life.

 

Anjali = gift of grace. "...This human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected..."
Anjali = gift of grace.
“…This human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected…”

In sanskrit, the word for this gift of grace is anjali. We use the term “anjali mudra” for the hand gesture of placing the palms together in front of the heart center (this is also called namaskar mudra). Each time we press our hands together, we recognize that this human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected… Our lives are designed for giving love and thanks to the Universe for the endless blessings we experience.

This word has been resonating with my heart since I first discovered it a few weeks ago in India. It is the perfect word for this journey… The journey of life, but also my current journey of discovery — inside my mind, and inside the heart of the Himalayas — is truly a gift.

But my insecure mind and fearful self questions this grace… Who am I to deserve beauty? What have I done to deserve sweetness and love and connection and adventure? Why is my life a reservoir for truth, one that is full of the nectar of goodness and hope, one that is designed to share and educate and inspire?

The simple answer is this: I am. I have gratitude. It is.

That’s it! We’ve been given all these blessings in a compassionate offering of love from the Universe. We don’t need to further question or contemplate, because after we start to see our lives for what they really are, we accept that everything is exactly as it should be. Deserving or not-deserving is irrelevant because our lives and experiences are provided to us for our appreciation and growth.

Our only task is to live genuinely, from the heart, guided by intuition and an honest love for all…

Once we make it our pure, heartfelt mission to be the most authentic version of ourselves, always, life will unfold effortlessly to us. All of our lives are destined for greatness and are designed in such a way that we can only follow the unique path so perfectly plotted for each of us. Even when it doesn’t seem to “fit” into the bigger picture, each of our experiences are connecting points on our route.

All of us, each and every one (yes, you!) has a gift to share with the world that will help it become a better place for the other souls sharing this space in this time. Maybe that gift is teaching, or sharing, or entertaining, or caring, or healing… Maybe this is done in a yoga hall as far from home as one could get, or maybe it’s done in a church, an office, a hospital, a home… Scene and setting are constantly changing, but each scene and setting we find ourselves in needs our presence. Each moment of our lives should be an act of selfless giving to the world.

So today, as I pack my trekking bag and prepare for the physical ascent of climbing up to 4,100 meters, I reflect on the descent I’m about to make back into myself, one that will help to further set my foundation, open my awareness, and inspire my physical body and mind to continue on. A solo journey of 9 or so days into the jungles, the farms, the high desert, and the snow-covered mountains of Nepal, and into my heart….

I want to encourage each of you to take a few moments to reflect on your own journey. Where are you in this life? Who are you? …now forget these things you think, and then feel… Now feel where you are, and who you are…

Do you need to peel back a few layers and reveal more warmth? Are you ready to dust off any dirt and grime and polish your spirit? Is it time to let your authentic self lead the way for a change? If you are, let it be… It’s the age of awakening, and maybe, just maybe, it’s your unique time to wake up… ❤

Namaste, beautiful souls. Shanti om. xxoo

Yoga is discipline.

"You will never know who you are if you have not disciplined yourself to know who you are." -- Yogi Bhajan
“You will never know who you are if you have not disciplined yourself to know who you are.” — Yogi Bhajan

Each bone and each muscle in my body aches. I walk with a slight limp because my hamstrings and glutes are tight and painful from a dozen too many parvrtta parvottanasana. My biceps feel as if they’re constantly flexed, and truth be told, maybe they are.

My thinking mind, my ego, does not want to practice this morning. I do not want to do five hours of asana today, or tomorrow, or each day in this remaining week of yoga teacher training.

I want to sleep, to rest, to raise my feet and watch a movie and snuggle with a man…

But, I won’t be doing any of that today. Or tomorrow. I haven’t done this for nearly a month, and I won’t be doing this for the foreseeable future.

I am a yoga teacher, in training, and I know that to walk the yogic path, one that may lead to greater awareness and therefore to a greater good for all, I must dedicate my days to something larger than myself. I must adopt the practices perfected thousands of years ago — I must walk the eight-fold path the best I can.

I must have discipline.

It’s 5:30 a.m. I woke up at 5:00, drank from a copper pot filled with water, prayed and gave thanks for all the blessings in my life, layered a long tank over a sports bra and leggings…

In thirty minutes, I’ll march, barefooted, up white marble stairs to a long, narrow, window-lined yoga hall above my head, and wait patiently, without complaint, for my Ashtanga master to open the door. He’ll command the room from the moment he walks in. With a red tika ablaze on his skin, still fresh and tight from a morning dip in the Ganga, his brahmin dread will bounce slightly as he breezes past myself and a dozen other westerners from half as many countries. He’ll remove his watch and bracelet, adjust the waistband on his shorts, step atop a teaching platform and onto a long blue mat. Then, he’ll turn to face us. His students.

He’s been awake since 4:00. He’s already done his own self-practice, a physically and mentally challenging style of yoga that he’s been practicing since his early teenage years. He perfected each posture, pose by pose, until his own master said he was ready to continue, moving on to the next position in the primary series. Before he even learned samasthiti, he swept and scrubbed the floors of his yogshala for 6 months — only then did his teacher tell him he could begin to learn the practice we know in the west as yoga — physical asana designed to prepare a body for comfortable seated meditation in which one can turn inward, and leave the physical body behind.

Now, a dozen years later, he still is practicing yoga asana and hasn’t progressed to the next rung of the ladder — pranayama — but yet he is more knowledgeable in yogasana technique, physical anatomy, and the arts of instruction and adjustment than any teacher I’ve practiced under in my six years of studio classes.

This man is a yogi with discipline.

I admire his dedication — something I can only hope to develop through years of faith in this practice, and to living a life based on mindful awareness, each and every day. It isn’t easy, for anyone, regardless if you were born in the birthplace of yoga or in the concrete jungles of North America or Japan.

But who ever said yoga was easy?

Yoga is one path to enlightenment, for all who show up. If followed, with dedication and faith, under the guidance of a guru or teacher (at least at first), each of us can progress past the partial ignorance and clouded minds of our lives and move into a place of peace and clarity — we can attain a one-pointed mind and see with near-full awareness the experience of living.

We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself.
We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself.

But first, we must give ourselves to the practice.

We must develop routine. Devotion.

We must have faith in the practice, then commit — bodies, minds, and spirits.

We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself.

Yoga is discipline. Are you sure you’re ready?

If so, join me on this journey. A journey we can start together but that we must commit to, even if that means walking alone.

Recognizing beauty in the squalor of North India

I’m on the road from delhi to rishikesh. I plan to unabashedly immerse myself in yoga and gods and adventure and love, breathing in the bounties of this blessed land.

But here on the road, for miles
and miles starting about 60km from haridwar, what do I see?

Squalor.

I’m reminded of the worst parts of Guatemala, but in this area I see it everywhere. Never ending. All along the roadside lie debris and damaged buildings and dirt. There is dust flying everywhere — I’m chewing on it, despite my window shutting out the world out there… I’ve never seen roads in such poor shape. Cars and trucks are literally pushed off the roads and into ditches and tree-filled fields because the gaping holes between the cement are too treacherous to drive through. We’re making this drive at night which no doubt amplifies the fear factor, however I wonder if it’s hurting or helping to hide the apparent poverty.

There are road blocks occasionally, something I hadn’t expected nor seen in my travels except once or twice in Israel and then again in Honduras and El Salvador (part of me wonders if the latter holdups were government-mandated or purposely and probably maliciously placed by thugs). These Indian roadblocks are manned by handsome, rugged types with guns and badges, although they’re definitely not military stops. …a mystery I’ll surely dig into deeper.

However it must be known that there is industry of sort — definitely some money to be made. And agriculture. With it being dark it’s impossible for me to tell must what’s growing in the flatlands next to the roadway (I think it’s sugar cane) or what is made (it very we’ll may be the same cement needed so badly on these roads). I do see cows pulling wagons stacked six times their height with bundle canes, mostly covered in burlap…

There are also pockets of people gathered, still awake at 1130 at night on a Wednesday. Some sitting around at the countless little roadside tienda-type-restaurants, and others huddled near small televisions or outdoor fires, simply sitting wrapped head to toe in heavy shawls (men and women alike). I also see people solo, smoking cigarettes (of what variety I can’t be sure), faces lit by laptop screens. It makes me wonder if Facebook dominates the real and virtual lives of this North Indian population, just as it does the American population back home.

I am highly enamored by some if India’s exotic sweetnesses as wel. For example, there are numerous stop-offs along the roads set up like small temples to Hindu gods — my ability to name these by visual cues alone is limited, but i have recognized Krishna, Vishnu, shiva, and shakti (the latter pair I’m nearly positive, based on their perpetual pairing). Also, there are many semi-trucks here (large lorries/box trucks). Maybe it’s the time of night or maybe it’s the route, but at least 3/5 vehicles traveling here are of thos fashion. What makes them so spectacular and charming are the colors emblazoned in bold or delicate patterns on the cab portions (bright mint green, fire engine red, peach, pale yellow…), and the fact that in each of the two split front windows there is a name written. There are two names! The way I understand this is that no man rides alone in these trucks — always partnered, always supported and supporting…

That’s what India is about I think. Really that’s what this world is all about. Making the best out of what you have, every day, and living your life with grace and love. I do not pity these people at all! I’d bet most of these people are genuinely happier than the majority of people I know in the western world. I do have compassion toward them and their struggles, just as I have toward anyone I meet. But I also display what I think to be the most crucial of all character traits, and hopefully I will not be proven wrong about this — kindness. We’re all one — each man, woman, child, animal, plant… Each gust of wind or wave on a shore… We all live with different worldly circumstances but we’re all fighting or flowing toward the same thing — peace and a better life. So all I can do is quietly observe when I can’t speak, ask questions and seek to understand when I can, and lend an ear, a shoulder, or a hand whenever possible, without expectation or requirement for return.

Life is beautiful. Always. Everywhere. In the serene peace of northern michigan, the majestic power of the Orwfon coast, the abundance of life in a Costa Rican jungle, and the chaotic, crusty and dusty squalor of a North Indian roadside town or ten.

Let’s never forget to recognize and appreciate the beauty around us, each and every day.

The photo below was taken today, the morning after this post was written. The squalor soon turned into breathtaking natural beauty — tree covered hills and baby Himalayas, and a mint green, majestic river. The Ganges.

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Surrendering what no longer serves us, and tearing down the wall.

“Remember the emphasis on the heart. The mind lives in doubt and the heart lives in trust. When you trust, suddenly you become centered.” ~ Osho

I have trust issues. Big ones. I hate that I do and I wish that I didn’t, but I accept that it’s something I must work through, to let go of when the time is right, and to be honest with myself and others about.

I don’t remember exactly when or how these trust issues started, but throughout my adult life, inklings of unease have developed into exaggerated and obvious insecurity. I’ve been let down on many occasions, in some pretty powerful, scarring ways, and these situations have surely contributed to my current apprehensive state.

More than once, when I’ve given my heart to another, I have seen the things I cherished very deeply vanish, disappearing right before my eyes and horrified heart, left aghast and in awe of how quickly life can change. Things were ripped from my hands still holding tight to a future I’d dreamt about, to a person I’d selected for a partner, to a grand, great love…

I’ve also been let down by people who promised to help my dreams come true, or who committed to serving as copilot on an upcoming adventure, ensuring I wouldn’t have to face the unknown alone…

Following each disappointment, I molded together brick after brick, created with sticks of anger and stones of sadness and cement resent. I stacked these bricks on the wall surrounding my heart. I slowly and deliberately built a strong and unpenetrable fortress for one. And inside, there I was, making things happen for me, relying only on myself, ensuring that only I could be accountable for my successes or my failures.

 "...If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, ... if you seek liberalization, ... open this gate. ... Tear down this wall." -- President Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, urging him to demolish the Berlin Wall.
“…If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, … if you seek liberalization, … open this gate. … Tear down this wall.” — President Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, urging him to demolish the Berlin Wall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had people in my inner circle, and of course there have always been people who I can rely on, who have always been there in times of crisis, who have always been more than willing to do anything I needed, literally giving me their last dime or shoes from their feet. But for the most part, because of my past experiences, I have maintained sole control and I haven’t expected anything, of anyone, as a means of preventing future letdowns.

This has got to change. I asked the Universe to give me softness just a few months ago, and I’m recognizing that I’m ready to draw this in. I’m ready to emerge from my closed-off castle and I’m ready to welcome in trust and faith.

It’s time to tear down this wall.

The mantra for this morning’s yoga class was, “I am open.” Our yoga teacher, a new dear friend of mine, encouraged us to not only be open to what we can draw into our lives, but also to what we can let go of… to surrender what is no longer serving us.

In past classes, this teacher has talked about how many of our responses — to events in our lives be they positive, negative, or indifferent — are often based on learned reactions from previous experiences, or may even be caused from the stuck energy residue (or toxic ama) in our cells and DNA, passed down from our ancestors. We can reset our response mechanisms, through yoga (practiced while focusing on the chakra system especially), meditation, and conscious effort.

This teacher encouraged us to breathe deeply and say the words “I am open” in our minds as we released the breath. Then, instead of immediately restating the mantra, to let ourselves be void of intentional thought and to see what naturally presents itself in our minds.

On the first release of “I am open,” the words “trust” and “faith” came into my thoughts. I knew right then, that yes, I am ready to let go of this protective barrier around myself and that I am ready to start fresh. I am ready to trust openly, without hesitation and doubt. I am ready to live freely, putting faith in the Universe to handle my hardships and to give and take away as needed. I am ready to release control…

It is time.

Today, I am tearing down the wall and I am emerging from my safe, isolated castle. I am facing the world with an army at my back instead of forcing myself to face the world alone, with only a trusted stallion at my side (whose name is Jax, by the way, and he’s the most loyal golden that ever existed ❤ ).

Doing this can do nothing but help me. Sure, I may face moments of disappointment in the future, but today is a fresh start, just like tomorrow will be, and the day after that. The people and situations in my current life have zero ties to experiences which burned me before, and it’s unnecessary for me to burden others, and limit my own opportunities, by carrying around this baggage. Enough is enough.

Today, I am surrendering what no longer serves me.

Today, I am surrendering my protective barrier of mistrust and isolation.

Today, I am surrendering to softness.

Today, I am…

Today, I am open.

I am ready to let go of this protective barrier around myself and that I am ready to start fresh. I am ready to trust openly, without hesitation and doubt. I am ready to live freely, putting faith in the Universe to handle my hardships and to give and take away as needed. I am ready to release control...
I am ready to let go of this protective barrier around myself and that I am ready to start fresh. I am ready to trust openly, without hesitation and doubt. I am ready to live freely, putting faith in the Universe to handle my hardships and to give and take away as needed. I am ready to release control…Today… I am. 

It hurts to hurt.

I’m an empath. A sponge. I’m the kind of person who absorbs the energy of those around me — good and bad — happiness, pain, anger… Everything.

I can feel negativity because of this. I can sense when things are off. I can recognize right away when tension exists and when there are escalated emotions when there should be, and normally would be, calm.

"Recently, I've noticed negative energy around me a lot. I think I'm not only sensing it and feeling it, but I think I'm the cause. This realization hurts."
Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of negative energy around me. I think I’m not only sensing it and feeling it, but I think I’m the cause.
This realization hurts.

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of this around me. I think I’m not only sensing it and feeling it, but I think I’m the cause. This realization hurts.

I try my best to inspire others to do great things, to push themselves when they can, to relax and rewind when they must, and to love and accept each and every blessing. This world is much too short to sit on the sidelines and watch great things happen to others, so I’ve taken big leaps toward making my dreams come true and it’s my honest intention to encourage others to do the same.

Sometimes, though, people don’t want to hear encouragement. Sometimes people are resentful when good things happen to others. Sometimes people are bitter and brash and downright berating instead of being kind and excited and genuinely happy for the little victories in the lives of those around them.

I’ve felt this nastiness recently, and it’s consumed much of my thoughts. I’ve tried to convince myself I’m imagining it — if someone had a problem with me and my actions, they’d tell me, right? I’ve tried to let it roll off — more slicker, less sponge. I’ve tried to accept it, to force myself to swallow and suppress the pain and unease rising in my chest and throat when I enter a room filled with obvious animosity. But, the empath inside won’t let me do this. The empath inside will continue to feel the negative energy until it’s gone.

In this morning’s yoga class, the Universe lifted this burden from my shoulders — it provided a solution my soul so desperately needed.

Our yoga teacher read Chapter 30 from The Tao Te Ching. The words helped me realize that I can only do my very best, each day, and that I cannot dwell on the outcome, whatever it may be. I can only live honestly, with integrity and good intention, and that the reaction from others to my life cannot be my concern.

I am happy with who I am. I am grateful for the good and bad in my life, for the tiny miracles and the big bummers alike. I am proud of the person I am and the person I’m becoming. I refuse to let someone’s anger or sour response bring me down and cause me guilt and shame or make me feel undeserving of grace and goodness. I’m worthy of life’s blessings, as are they, and my hope is that they’ll realize this as well. My hope is that they’ll work just as hard to live a good life, and that they’ll reap its beautiful blessings, just as I have.

My hope is that my hurting heart will heal and that I’ll always remember the lines from the Tao Te Ching, and that I’ll continue to believe in myself, to be content with myself, and to accept myself, just as I am.

And that one day, sooner than later, they will, too.

The Master does his job and then stops. He understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others. Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.     — From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Tao Te Ching
The Master does his job and then stops.
He understands that the universe is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.
— From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Tao Te Ching

We are worthy of our dreams.

“If we believe ourselves worthy of our dreams, then we become instruments of God.” — Paulo Coehlo

During a yoga class last week, our teacher moved us through a simple meditation on our chakras, using hand mudras and mantras to help tune in and awaken our energy centers that may have been a bit too still or under stimulated.

We started with our root chakra, gaining awareness of our tribal roots, our right to exist, to have things, to be here… We then moved to our sacral chakra, feeling our pleasure center, the joy of being, of lusting, of bliss… Then, we moved to our solar plexus chakra — our third chakra, located in our stomachs right behind our belly buttons. I remember her using the words “personal power, self-confidence, self-worth.” And then she said, “this is where we feel worthy of chasing our dreams.”

My calm and cool yogic composure dissolved in this universal truth that had been waiting for the right time to present itself… I broke.

Almost immediately I was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears welled up in my eyes and my stomach started to fold, almost as if my third chakra was collapsing in on itself. Almost as if something I’d known, somewhere deep within, had been stoked, sparked, and reignited — given life and given a voice.

I became aware of the truth in her words. I realized, powerfully, that we (me, you, every last one of us!) are worthy of our dreams. Our guts know it. Our guiding centers buried deep within our bodies know we are worthy of everything we want for this life.

My third chakra spoke loud and clear to me, so loud that I haven’t a clue what was said or what we were instructed to do as we moved through our remaining chakras. I was glued to this truth about dreams… about the power we each have to make our dreams a reality.

Since this class nearly a week ago I’ve tried to come up with a way to describe this feeling, this empowering push I have to make my dreams come true, to make even the most “far-fetched, too-good/too-crazy/too-beautiful” dreams become my reality. I haven’t a clue what’s the best way to describe it, so I’m just writing whatever comes out, in hopes that the Universe will provide the words that will connect with someone reading this. That will inspire them to run after their dreams. To help them realize that they are powerful, and that they are capable of having absolutely everything they want. No matter if they understand the path to get there or not — it will happen. If they’re able to dream it, then they’re able to have it… Whatever it is ❤

The first step to reaching our goals is for each of us is to recognize what the pulls are deep inside our souls… What do we want? What do we wish for? What is it that may compliment and excite our unique selves — that thing or set of things that are so perfectly crafted for us, for our simple beautiful beings?

Whatever it is — being a writer, a painter, a mother, an actress, a fashion designer, a teacher — traveling the world, creating a community of likeminds in our cities, educating others on health and wellness, knowing all there is to know about absolutely anything! — we are worthy of it.

Something far greater than ourselves planted a seed inside our souls long before we existed. We’re on a lifelong journey to recognize the potential life in these seeds, to plant them once the conditions are right, to nurture and care for them each day until they blossom, and then to marvel and awe in their beauty as the grow and surpass any limits we were foolish enough to place on them in our limiting lifestyle prior…

Our dreams are beautiful.

We are beautiful.

You already have all the strength and power you need. Your dreams are yours already -- just trust. Then, go for it <3
You already have all the strength and power you need. Your dreams are yours already — just trust. Then, go for it ❤

Our dreams need our bodies and our minds to manifest. It’s up to us to let the magic flow, to let the passion pour out of our hearts and into our dreams… It takes personal power and self-love and confidence and bravery to run after our dreams, but I guarantee, once we decide to dream the big dreams and chase after them without hesitation, we’ll live lives full of beauty and majesty and excitement and grace.

And, we will be, instruments of god. Instruments of a good and truthful power far greater than we will ever know… But we will be living truly, honestly, and in line with our unique purposes on this planet…

So today, dream a big big big dream. Take some time to quiet your logical mind, to soothe your overworked and overburdened soul. Turn inward and to let the light within you reignite in the beauty of your desires. Let your gut, your manipura chakra, tell you what it is you want. Let it light you up and fill you with passion! Let it sing and shine through you! Dissolve your ego into this truth, and then be you as big and as boldly as you can be.

Live your dreams, beautiful souls. Let us each live exactly as we’re meant to live. Let us know what it is we’re meant to know. And let us do each and every thing we want to do. Because that, my friends, is why we’re here and that, my my friends, is what will make this world a better place for everyone now and everyone to come…

Shine on, you crazy diamonds ❤

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

Just dance!

When I feel most in my element, when the things that govern my natural self are aligned, I move! My body naturally starts to sway, to tap, to flow… I dance. The beauty of life swells up inside of me and I’m compelled to dance. In my kitchen, on a walk, in a yoga class, in the shower, at my desk… I dance! This is me and my way of being, but I’ve witnessed others really come alive when they start to move.

So today, let yourself dance. To the music in your head and in your heart. Just dance through your day…

We’re alive and that’s reason enough.

It’s such a funny thing to me how the seasons in our lives play out. Up, down, driven, distracted… We’re always experiencing bits of the same (we’ll never really leave ourselves), and bits of newness (new people, places, food, hobbies). But yet, the changes of mood and ambition and willpower will always happen. We may be headed full force in one direction and something plops down in front of us and we’re forced to stop, to change, to reflect. Or, we may be stagnant and confused, not venturing too far in any direction in fear of failure. But then, something happens, and we start to move again. We give up thinking that we have to KNOW which way to go before we move, and we just start moving… We start dancing… We start listening to that little call from within and we flow, naturally, just how we should. Then, before we know it, we’re headed full force in one direction again. All good things 🙂

So today, regardless if you’re already moving or if you’re stagnant, take some time to pause, to feel, and to let that love well up inside of you, and dance… You’ll experience today a bit better if you do. Try it 😉

Feel the flow and move ❤

A week on the beach – grooving with the good life.

If you’ve never done morning yoga on the beach, nearly each morning, just after waking, I suggest you do it. And then, after a good yoga session to get the blood flowing, go for a swim in the ocean. Clean your suit and your soul, and then waltz back to breakfast of fruit and agua dulce (hot water, splash of milk, sugar = yum). Relish in this beauty, and then start your day.

Life is amazing! 

This life is possible, and being lived by so many people in this beautiful little Costa Rican city (Uvita). There are plenty of Gringos living alongside Ticos, and everyone seems to be living the good life. Flowing with the sun and moon, we’re living with the heat by staying out of the sun mid-day, by taking naps if we need to, by going to bed early and waking up early… and by simply taking it easy.

Everyone finds a way to work here and get by — some more successfully than others. But everyone seems to live the same way — happily.

Once I’m done with farm life I just might come back to stay for a while. As in, indefinitely.

xxoo.

Some shots from Uvita: