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

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.

20140306-153719.jpg

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

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.

Letting go of defeat: 2 steps to regain your strength.

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

I’ve faced defeat half a dozen times the past two weeks. Even one instance of this can knock me off my path completely, but over the past two weeks, I’ve done my best to dodge SIX deadly bullets. Six times in twice as many days I’ve experienced feelings of inadequacy and rejection so powerful and pointed toward the core of my being that I’ve been blown backward and forced to regroup… Dust the debris, shake my shoulders, and keep moving forward.

I last wrote about an instance where I didn’t get a job, and about how I recognized that the event was helping me learn patience, trust, and walking the talk I so openly write about. At the end of the post and at the end of the day, I was happy. I had recovered from the little defeat and hadn’t lost sight of my goal.

I then did this five more times. Each time became slightly more difficult than the time before as each event softly stabbed and scraped at the fresh layer of scar tissue being built upon the wound. I did my best to bear the pain and push through.

But, eventually, we all come to a point where we are defeated. We realize that those little cuts are plentiful and that we’re bleeding out. We’re no longer able to heal as we could if only one or two slices marked our skin…

Today, I arrived at this point.

Today, I felt defeated.

When we’ve experienced true, lasting, painful depression and sadness, we’re fearful of re-entering that space (despite knowing it will eventually go away) and we often develop strategies for staying positive and dealing with our dark sides. We try to be proactive about maintaining a positive mind.

Through my personal battles over the past eight years, I’ve developed a couple tactics that work well to banish the blues before they take control of my life, of THE LIFE I want to live.

1) A quick and easy way to deal with negative thoughts and feelings is to give ourselves a little pep talk. I count my blessings, remind myself of my talents and the goals I want to achieve, reflect on the experiences I’ve had, and tell myself that I am enough and that I have enough and that everything is just fine. I bring positivity into my life via a few moments of positive self-talk.

2) A more focused, purposeful way to let go of specific moments and to draw in positivity is by holding a simple fire ceremony to seal in your intentions. First write down the negative thoughts, feelings, or events on one sheet of paper and then write down positive affirmations or goals on another (these don’t have to be the rehashing of all bad things in our lives or recreations of our vision boards, but rather simple cues of the bad and the good). Then, burn the lists. Watch the flame devour your moments of defeat and watch the flame grow as it’s fueled by your positivity.

No matter how we choose to regain our strength when we’re feeling week, it’s important to first acknowledge our feelings and to let our bodies and minds fully express our emotions as to not create more toxicity within ourselves. Let yourself cry or scream when you’re sad and upset just like you *should* let yourself smile big and dance when you’re happy and excited! Let it all out, then do what you can to let go of defeat and regain your strength so you can keep moving forward.

Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.
Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.

After a particularly trying day (Christmas Eve of all days), I decided to hold my own little fire ceremony to release the recent string of defeats. I’ve cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past three months combined and I do not want to let this sadness become a staple in my present reality — I’m positive and powerful and destined for great things as long as I stay focused on activities I love. I do not want to waste any time being stuck in sorrow caused by hearing “NO” too many times.

So tonight, I scribbled a few words about each of the six defeats on a purple post-it and set it aside. Then, I wrote dozens of affirmations on another post-it, filling up nearly every violet void with positive statements like “I am enough” and “I am responsible for my reactions” and “I am getting closer.”

I lit a candle and filled a small bowl with water (far too many house fires happen over the holidays and although I doubt many are caused by 20-somethings trying to create a sacred space for strengthening the spirit, I can’t be too careful).

I glanced over my defeat note, folded it in half, and held it above the flame. I watched as the sharpie chicken-scratch letters burned and charred then disappeared above the glass water dish. I let it go…

Then, I looked at the barely legible words on the second note, written on top of each other and numbering dozens more than the measly defeats. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, acknowledging the truth of the words I’d written. I folded the paper and held it above the flame. I watched as the flame took my thoughts — I felt strength in watching this natural force envelop my hopes, taking control of what I gave it, doing with it what it liked — I let it go…

This simple act had a powerful effect on my sense of center. I felt better, cleaner, lighter, and more confident in myself. No longer was my solar plexus chakra feeling powerless and defeated. I regained a bit of my pride, and my head felt more at ease and my heart felt full again.

I may have heard “NO” a few too many times lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always hear “NO,” and that doesn’t mean that “YES” isn’t on its way.

Good things will happen — until then and even after they do, I’ll keep moving forward. No matter what.

Tie-dye leggings and gray dress slacks. A note on bending before breaking.

Today, I’m wearing gray dress slacks I put in a box destined for Goodwill just one year ago. I’m pairing these pants with a black sweater and a pair of modest ballet flats.

And a pair of multicolored tye-dye leggings.

Before I quit my job last fall, I decided I’d had it with business attire. Never again would I wear dress pants to work each day! Pencil skirts and cardigans? Go to hell. “I don’t want to work at any company that won’t let me dress in a t-shirt and flip flops!,” I said defiantly when my mom questioned why I was getting rid of my professional clothing.

Well, maybe this happened by mistake or maybe on purpose (her purpose, not mine), but many of these business pieces weren’t stuck with little blue and green tags and sold to someone who needed a cheap option or someone who wanted to be hip by buying used… Instead, the boxes and bags overflowing with khakis and cable-knit were stacked alongside my distressed denim and concert tees. Now I’m wearing these clothes again. They surely have proven useful, and saved me loads of moolah.

I’ve grown through my 20-something freak out, and I’ve learned that having a nice stable job that asks you to look polished and neat each day isn’t so bad after all. Actually, it’s quite nice not having to decide whether or not my over-sized tank, skinny jeans, and moccasins are appropriate (sometimes yes, most times no… not in the newsroom at least). I enjoy that a little bit of decision making is taken care of simply because I have to build an outfit using “business casual” attire. Black pants? Check. Simple sweater? Check. Nude flats? Check. Done and done.

However, what I HAVE learned is that even though I’m not getting the chance to “express myself” as freely as I could by wearing clothes appropriate for interacting with editors each evening (although, many of my coworkers totally dig this Bonnaroo tee-wearing boho chick and would welcome the change of pace), I’m still able to integrate bits of my personality into my fabric and accessory selections. A printed cami. Multicolored Mayan loafers. Leggings and boots and a way-too-baggy sweater. Black on black on black on black. Things that are “appropriate” but are still me. Bending inside the limits, bending to conform just a bit…

At my last office job, I think part of the reason I BROKE like I did was because I didn’t consider how to remain stable while BENDING… I looked at my situation as an ice block that I had to remain frozen inside of, rather than looking at it as something that could melt and conform to my natural shape a bit better. I could have sought out more opportunities to express myself, in areas like creative design tasks or writing for example. Or I could have accepted my professional job as it was, and expressed myself more freely in my downtime. However, I decided I was stuck and I had to break free.

Now I know, learning to bend rather than break is so important.

Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can't, still be YOU underneath ;)
Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can’t, still be YOU underneath.

But even in my current job there are some days, like today, when I decide to go the very traditional route of wearing black on gray. But, I’m still me and I’m still making it a point to make the child inside happy, the one insisting she wear striped socks over argyle tights with a polka-dot sweater (I just reunited with a younger me who lives on the Oregon coast), even if the expression has to be underneath my varying shades of K. No one knows I’m wearing neon pink and yellow tye-dye leggings but me, and I’m the only person needing to be impressed sometimes 🙂

I’ve now learned how to bend and compromise in so many areas of my life. Doing so prevents many headaches and helps keep the peace. In the workplace, and in my heart.

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

Learning to wait out the storm and find happiness within. Just like the ducks :)

The sun was shining bright this morning as Jax and I walked along the lake. The sun reflected on the water in front of me and beamed on my face, lighting the earth and warming my skin. I felt joy and bliss — it was a perfect morning. I stopped on the trail for a moment, immersing myself in the beauty of it all. I let the sun sink in and fill my whole being with peace. I didn’t care about going anywhere. I was there, and life was glorious. I started to walk again, this time with a little dance in my step, light as air. Happy.

But then, unexpectedly, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. The sky grew gray and the rain turned to sleet. It pelted my face and made me wince and tuck my head to avoid the sting on my cheeks. I tugged at the bottom of my sweatshirt to help protect my waist and I slid my hands further up into my sleeves. I did what anyone would do that moment — I retreated. My dance was now determined — finish the walk and go home.

As I peered into the water before me, I noticed a bunch of ducks bobbing in the waves. Curious as to how they would react to this change of weather, I stopped to watch them.

They stayed in the water, but they lowered their heads and seemed to retreat into their bodies, into a place of warmth and comfort, just as I attempted to do. Then, they did something I’ve never noticed ducks do before. They disappeared! They tipped forward and dove under the water, but instead of coming back up right away, they stayed gone for quite a while. I was so intrigued by this — who knew ducks could hold their breath for so long. But sure enough, eventually each of the ducks came back up and remained on the water, bobbing in the waves with heads tucked.

And then, almost as quickly as the weather turned sour the sleet lifted to a soft rain, and then after a few minutes, it stopped. The sky brightened and the sun started to shine.

The sky brightened and the sun started to shine.

As I look back through this past year, the situation this morning is quite metaphorical for my life. I too felt the amazing sun shining bright on my face this past winter. I felt the joy and bliss that comes from things going right, from doing good things for myself, the planet, and other people. I explored new places, made new friends, and reconnected with the true essence of myself. I felt the sun shine on my face and I basked in it. I was carefree and I let go of all worries, all plans, all thoughts of a potential storm blowing in…

But then, just like today, the weather turned bad. I became confused. I was lost and worried. I didn’t stick to the plan I’d prepared before the sun started to shine, one that may have helped me when the weather was less than perfect.

I retreated into myself. I went to a place of comfort, surrounded myself with people and places that might protect me from the feelings I felt. But sure enough, I was still facing the pain, the bad weather was still there.

So then, just like the ducks, I disappeared. I dove into new things, new people, played out countless scenarios in my mind that may help me avoid the bad weather not just for now, but for forever. I didn’t want to feel the pain and I was aching for something to pull me out of it. I busied myself the best I could, trying to avoid the bad weather inside of me.

But then, I came to a point of realization as many of us do — even a bunch of ducks facing a sleet storm — bad weather will go away when it’s ready but until then, I would have to face it. I would have to resurface and wait it out.

So I did. I came back up, back into myself and back into the world. I made myself calm my mind and be patient. I waited for the sunshine to come back, having faith that in time, it would.

I let myself feel the pain but while doing so, I made notes of things that I love, that I need, that I want in my life, and I started to make little moves to make those things a part of my life regardless of whether the weather (and my circumstances) is beautiful or not. I started to find comfort in myself and not my surroundings. I came to a point of truth where I learned it’s the inside where happiness lives. Who knows, maybe those ducks floated on the water in bliss despite the sleet. Having wisdom that soon enough, the sun would also shine again.

And it did. On all of us.

After many months and a trying, difficult summer, the sun is shining. Life is good again — I’m back.

I am so grateful for this period of pain and uncomfort because, as I’ve said countless times and written about before, everything is cyclical. This truth was proven once again and I’m grateful for having been reminded of it. I’ve also learned to be patient, to take what’s in front of me and make the best of it. To recognize that things aren’t always ideal, but that with acceptance, peace will come.

And that, my friends, explains why I also disappeared from writing. When I’m at a good place mentally — when I’m happy — I write. When I’m not, I can’t. This summer, I didn’t write, I didn’t paint, I didn’t express myself. But now, I’m back, and I hope to continue sharing bits of this journey with you all. I’m learning many things about this beautiful crazy life, and hopefully you’ll continue to join me.

Peace.

Trust that with acceptance, peace will come.

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